The likenesses of 12 Memphis-area pastors are the focal points in “Visible Portraits of Light,” an exhibit reflecting the collaborative effort of Memphis artist Larry Walker and B. Visible Magazine.
An Opening Exhibit & Unveiling Reception (Feb. 26) hosted the honorees and their guests and afforded the pastors the opportunity to see their portraits for the first time.
An appreciative audience applauded and cheered as each canvas was unveiled.
“This is our first such event,” said Walker. “I chose the number 12, like the disciples. I initially came out and took photos of each pastor and worked from the photos to get the lighting and shadow just the way I needed.
“But for the intricate detail, I had each one come and sit for half an hour. Only one did not come and sit. Probably, no one will notice that one, but the eye of a trained artist can look and tell exactly which one it is.”
Photos of the honorees headlined the cover of the latest installment of B. Visible, and featured expositions from each recalling their beginning in the ministry: When I Knew God Called Me.
With this self-styled, self-ordained exhibit, Walker is moving into a new phase of his career. Rather than submit endless inquiries to galleries to exhibit his work, Walker selected Top of the Line Banquet Hall in Hickory Hill and staged his own unveiling and exhibit.
The artist bills himself as “The Amazing Mr. Walker.”
Walker is publisher of the magazine and his wife, Sharonda Walker, is editor-in-chief.
In a profession where honors sometime are bestowed few and far between, the pastors were grateful to have been chosen and all expressed delight with their portraits.
“Heretofore, I had not been a fan of pastoral portraiture,” said Dr. Kenneth T. Whalum, pastor of The New Olivet Baptist Church in Woodland Hills. “There’s something morbid (I know, unreasonable, right?) about walking into the foyer of a church, and seeing the pastor’s likeness, especially before he is dead! But meeting and listening to the artist … convinced me that his gift deserves to be shared.
“And when my 6-month-old grandson stared at the painting as though he thought it was actually me, I was convinced the finished product was worth it.”
The exhibit ended on Monday, Feb. 27.
Walker said pastors will receive their portrait as a gift.
“One pastor came to sit for me and asked how much the portrait was going to cost,” said Walker. “Well, the portraits will be given to each pastor, a gift from me. It’s like God gifted me with a paint set, right? Well, with the gift God has given me, is it not my right to gift them.”
Dr. Bartholomew Orr, senior pastor of Brown Missionary Baptist Church in Southaven, appreciated taking part of the inaugural event.
“Being part of a historic event especially during Black History month, was so special to me,” said Orr. “And the fact that the community chose the pastors to be honored made it even sweeter. I’m humbled and grateful to Larry Walker for his generosity. Larry and Sharonda are, certainly, a blessing to the community.”
Walker also held an art contest for students in middle and high school. Four winners were selected from high school entries, and three artists were awarded in the middle school category.
“It’s all a part of encouraging young artists,” said Walker. “The Best Visible Portraits Art Contest will always be announced at this annual event. I remember when I won my first honor.”
Walker continued, “I was in the ninth grade, and our teacher said everyone who entered this art contest making bookmarks would receive a letter grade higher.
“That would mean I could get a “B.” That’s why I participated, and I ended up winning third place. When my name was announced, I just went deaf, walking to the front for my prize. I didn’t hear anything else. I just knew that my art had won a prize. That first time winning changed everything.”
Walker added it was important to announce the young winners, not in a “place,” but as equally talented, equally chosen winners. All young artists received the same reward, a $200 prize.
More self-appointed exhibitions can be expected from Walker.
“I’m not just an artist,” said Walker. “I am a master artist. For any apprenticeship, 10,000 hours makes one a master. That’s what I am. I’m ready to claim it, own it, and truly share my God-given gift with the world.”
In addition to Whalum and Orr, also honored were:
Pastor Myron Donald, Greater Lewis Street Baptist Church; Dr. Walter Green, Friendship Baptist Church; Dr. Orlester Johnson, Greater Faith Tabernacle, and Pastor Melvin Jones, Victory in Christ Christian Church.
Also, Apostle Perry Maples, Apostolic Deliverance Temple; Pastor Marquis M. McPherson, New Birth Missionary Baptist Church; Pastor Keith Norman, First Baptist Church-Broad Street; Pastor Dorothy Jones, New Faith Bible Church; Dr. J. Lawrence Turner, Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church, and Pastor John Wallace Jr., Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church.