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’s contribution. So, I thought I would like to do a similar piece and include three African American artists from SOJO Multicultural Development Center.

I approached two artists, 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 pictures in the surroundings that would reflect pride in our culture, history, our strengths, and pride in our beauty.

I drew sketches of ideas I was envisioning and met with Joyce to garnish her thoughts 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 working in oils since I’m an oil painter. She works in acrylic paints to focus on the background. Joyce and I are mixed-media artists, and we both use fabric in our art. With this project, the collaborative commodity was the use of cloth and incorporation of African shells; I painted all the images of the people as my expertise is in photo realism and my medium being oiled.

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 outdoor exhibits, and returned to the Sojourner Truth Art Museum collection, where it was on display through 2009. We agreed that the original art was valued at $10,000 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 details that she actually had on display. I have not seen the piece since! Joyce has before been making prints, tile pieces, and plates with just her signature on them. Finally, in one of the last attempts to reach her over the phone, she said that the piece belonged to her; she designed it she painted, she invested money into 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.”