Shades of Brown


SHONNA MCDANIELS, is the Executive Director of Sojourner Truth Multi-cultural Art Museum & Development Center in Sacramento California.


Background: I went to an art exhibit in 2008 at the California State Fair and saw a collaboration piece done by three Caucasian female artists that really inspired me. The idea was to have depicted the style and expertise of each artist; the painting took on new life and meaning with each artist contribution. I thought to myself, I would like to do a similar piece, and include three African American artists from SOJO Multicultural Development Center.

I approached two artist Debra Ledet and Joyce Carley, to share with them the inspiration I got from this project, after Joyce shared the same excitement, we immediately started to do some research and came up with the idea of having images of three African Women and images in the surroundings that would reflect pride in our culture, history, our strengths, and pride in our beauty.

I drew some sketches of ideas I was envisioning and met with Joyce to garnish out her ideas and opinions? We both agreed on images for the mural, sketched them out, she asks her husband Ed Carley to build a screen for the surface.

I discussed with Joyce the idea of me working in oils since I’m an oil painter, she working in acrylic paints to focus on the background. Joyce and I both are mixed-media artists, and we both use fabric in our art. With this project the collaborative commodity was the use of fabric, and incorporation of African shells; I painted all the images of the people as my expertise is in photo realism, and my medium being oils.

We unveiled “Shades of Brown” at the Sacramento Convention Center, during Sacramento City Council’s Black History Program in February of 2008. The piece has exhibited again at the Kuumba Gallery, Downtown Second Saturday out door exhibits, and returned to the collection of Sojourner Truth Art Museum where is was on display through 2009. We agreed that the original art was valued at $10,000, which was posted on all labels when exhibiting the painting.

Unauthorized Removal of the painting from the Art Museum:

In the middle of 2009 the piece was in an exhibit at the Sojourner Truth Art Museum, Joyce walked in and removed it from the wall, along with some other pieces that she actually had on exhibit. I have not seen the piece since! Joyce has since been making prints, tile pieces and plates with just her signature on it. Finally, one of the last attempts to reach her over the phone she finally said that the piece belongs to her, she designed it she painted, she invested money into the having her husband build the screen. It was her project, and belonged in her collection.

“I still consider it to be a collaborative piece because that was the purpose and plan when we started the project.”