Give a piece of black art with your gifts this year.
Flint-born artist James Thigpen Jr.'s recent line of greeting cards feature snapshots of black life that capture the spirit of us in designs that look modern, but feel familiar and nostalgic. In a set, discover five simple black and white images, like a little boy shooting a basketball, a milk crate fixed to a utility pole acting as the hoop. This one is named "662," after Thigpen's grandmother's address, outside of which he and friends spent countless afternoons playing this same makeshift game. "It's what I deem as black culture, it's something a lot of people relate to," he says.
Thigpen moved from Flint to New York City in 2013 and began the pieces that would eventually become the faces of these cards, but he found that many of his peers didn't consider the digitally-designed works fine art. "Of course, I took offense to that." Even when people did take interest, Thigpen faced what many other artists – especially artists of color – encounter, which is few people willing to shell out the cash for what's still widely looked on as a luxury. He wondered, "How do we create these pieces that can gain respect that people will cherish as a traditional art form?" And how could it be accessible to everyone? Greeting cards would be the solution.
In October 2017, Thigpen and his new family moved to Detroit, home-ish but still someplace new, and here he says he found something new. "I didn't know what I was getting myself into, but my tribe is definitely here. I feel like the energy is mutual, that people here respect and, mostly, understand what I'm doing," he says. "People just got it. It wasn't anything that I really had to explain." He credits the city itself as inspiration. The greeting card collection was birthed earlier this year. "People keep greeting cards; that's something they hold onto." You'll find them at Source Booksellers in Detroit and at Detroit is the New Black, and expect additional retail partnerships and more images to be added to the collection. He says, "I don't think anyone has tapped into the stories that I'm about to tell and that I've been telling for some time."