Richard Mayhew


1924, Amityville, New York

What color is love? Fear? Desire? Richard Mayhew discusses the connection between emotion and color. Learn more about the mystique of his landscape paintings, how his work connects with his Native American and African American heritage, and his involvement with the Spiral, a New York–based collective that formed in the mid-1960s to discuss the role of African American artists in the civil rights movement and American culture.

Audio Stories

Connecting paint, identity, and landscape

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Paintings are based on emotion. I use landscape image as a metaphor for the feeling of time and illusion. I drove across the United States from New York to San Francisco three times, and every time I went across the country, I see nature differently because I’ve learned from one trip to the other and understood what I was looking at. Being influenced by Hudson River School, the landscape painters, and respecting what they’re doing about their illusion, they invited me to go paint in this plantation in Georgia.  

There’s a whole big, bushy area around me, and I was looking and I said, “I wonder what happened in that area down there?” How were the slaves being treated?” So I did a painting of that area. My paintings, in terms of Afro-American and Native American, their blood is in the soil of the United States. So that’s part of nature. And so that combination is why I paint landscapes. 

You can’t just look at a painting and see one thing. There is this other element going on. There’s a whole understanding of Native Americans in terms of the phenomena of nature, because Native Americans just survived and lived for years, a very healthy existence just by nature. 

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