Tampa artist uses historical symbols in artwork to talk about Black life

Spectrum Bay News 9

By Dalia Dangerfield Tampa | UPDATED 7:24 AM ET Feb. 02, 2024

TAMPA, Fla. — One Tampa artist is on a mission to preserve Black history and empower a generation.

Jeannette Bradley focuses on abstract African American art. Lately, she has been painting cotton in a vase. It’s part of a series she wants to create.

Cotton was once an economic driver for the United States. It strengthened the grip of slavery and fueled the civil war. Bradley hopes her paintings of cotton make people stop and think.

“In all my paintings, it really talks about some aspect of Black life,” Bradley said. “Right now, I feel compelled to talk about Black life from a historical perspective and instead of using people, using the symbols of the time.”

The 2024 theme for Black History Month is African Americans and the Arts. There was a time when the contributions of Black artists were minimized. But artistic and cultural movements like the Black Renaissance and hip-hop have created popular trends that influenced the world.

Bradley hopes to continue that trend with her abstract art. She adds pieces of newspaper to all of her work. It serves as a reminder of how word was primarily spread at one time. And on the back of every piece, she writes a brief story so everyone understands why she created the artwork.

Some of her work hangs at the Carrollwood Cultural Center.

“It gives me chills,” Bradley said. “I think it’s kind of exciting to think when people walk in, they can see my work.”

Soon, Bradley plans to open an art studio in East Tampa. She wants everyone to come by and paint the issues that impact them.