By Franklin Abbott
Painter Marvin K. Omede says he was born lucky. In many African traditions, twins are seen as good luck and his mother had two sets of twins. He was in the first set and says he is the eldest having sent the younger twin out first to make sure the world was ready for him. Being a twin in Nigeria also brings prestige. People give him gifts and women hug him to tap into the blessing. Twins are believed to be closer to spirit and spirit has been an important part of Omede’s work as an artist.
Omede is currently showing work at Gallery Miriam, a new gallery in Decatur that specializes in contemporary works by West African artists. Curator Jean-Patrick Guichard, himself a native of Guinea, travels regularly to the countries of West Africa to visit his artists and discover new ones.
Omede loved to draw as a child and could get lost in drawing comic book characters. He excelled at school and everyone thought he would become a scientist or a doctor. But his love for art continued to emerge and friends and strangers alike would admire and purchase his work. He learned how to sculpt from neighbors who were artists. But his father, who wanted him to be a doctor, would destroy his sculptures. He studied chemistry in college but made extra money by doing portraits in pastels. The more time he spent with art, the more he knew that it was his destiny. Omede says, “whatever you love you don’t struggle to do.”
While living in Northern Nigeria, his paintings and portraits caught the eye of a gallery owner in Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city. The gallery owner began to sell Omede’s paintings and Omede knew for the first time that he could make a living as a professional artist. His work is very popular in his native Nigeria and he is represented in the U.S. by galleries in Washington and Atlanta.
Omede has slowly evolved as an abstract artist. His book, “Rediscover Yourself – The Abstract Way,” is both about his own journey as an artist and a guide to moving from the figurative to the abstract in painting. He talks about how he found his own voice as an artist and how essential it is for an artist to paint from her or his own deeper knowing. Once an artist has made this connection their work changes radically. Omede says a painting should speak back to the painter and when it does it has a soul. A painting without a soul is incomplete and the artist must push through any confusion about the painting for its soul to emerge. Thus a painting takes on a life of its own and becomes a source of inspiration for whoever takes time to behold it.
For more information, visit gallerymiriam.com.
Franklin Abbott is an Atlanta psychotherapist and consultant, writer and community organizer.