Mark Steven Greenfield's Hey-Lo Series

Mark Steven Greenfield's most recent body of work, Hey-Lo, tells the stories of Black folk-saints, martyrs, freedom-fighters, survivors, magicians, visionaries, and even a few scoundrels. Many of the figures are from the 1400s-1800s, a timeframe that corresponds with Europeans beginning to use racial distinction as a tool to justify slavery. In this series, Greenfield puts halos on historical and contemporary figures alike, highlighting remarkable stories on enslaved Black figures as well as people who are seen as modern-day saints in their respective communities. "I am reimagining what a saint is," Greenfield says. "Maybe by studying their stories, it can inform us on better ways to live."

 

Hey-Lo is a rich representation of the complexities of the historical Black identity. The figures in the paintings emerge from a variety of geographic locations, time periods, ethnicities, stages of life, and levels of freedom — each representing a person who was nearly blotted out from written history despite their incredible feats or attributed miracles. Greenfield honors their simultaneously astounding and disturbing existences by bestowing them with halos, which are theological symbols of adoration and respect. The lustrous gold leaf backgrounds and mantra discs help lift the figures to a place in the heavens.

"Balthazar" by Mark Steven Greenfield

Balthazar

"Medicine Woman" by Mark Steven Greenfield

Medicine Woman

"Richard Potter" by Mark Steven Greenfield

Richard Potter

"Xica da Silva" by Mark Steven Greenfield

Xica da Silva

"Black Caesar" by Mark Steven Greenfield

Black Caesar

"Queen Nzingha" by Mark Steven Greenfield

Queen Nzingha

"Saartjie Baartman" by Mark Steven Greenfield

Saartjie Baartman

"Yasuke" by Mark Steven Greenfield

Yasuke