For five decades, T.J. Reddy has challenged, educated and inspired the Charlotte community and beyond through the power and beauty of his paintings and words.
UNC Charlotte’s Projective Eye Gallery will present a retrospective of Reddy’s life of creativity in “Everything is Everything.” This exhibit will be on view Friday, June 30, through Sunday, Aug. 20, with an opening reception from 6 to 8 p.m., Thursday, July 20, at UNC Charlotte Center City. The display will include imagery from many different bodies of work – “King Warrior Magician Lover,” “Psychological Castration,” “Blues Men and Women,” “Scenes for the Teacher,” “Family Portraits,” “Havoc in Haiti,” “Savanah Scenes,” poetry books and papers – all made during Reddy’s life as an activist/artist, poet and performer.
Born in Savannah, Georgia, Reddy moved with his family to New York City when he was 14. He came to Charlotte in 1964 to attend Johnson C. Smith University but ultimately graduated from UNC Charlotte, receiving undergraduate degrees in history and sociology and a master’s degree in education. While at UNC Charlotte, he helped form the Black Student Union and the Africana Studies Department. In the 1980s, he studied art at Winthrop University.
A civil rights activist, Reddy was convicted in 1972 in a civil rights case known as “The Charlotte Three.” He received a 20-year sentence but was released from prison in 1979 after his sentence was commuted by Gov. Jim Hunt.
Reddy is an active poet and has published poetry in numerous journals and collections. His papers, including letters, articles and legal documents pertaining to The Charlotte Three, are housed in the J. Murrey Atkins Library Special Collections at UNC Charlotte.
Exhibitions of Reddy’s work have been held in many cities in North Carolina, as well as in Los Angeles, Houston, New Orleans, Detroit and Orlando. His paintings are in a number of public and private collections in all regions of the United States and throughout the world, including the Netherlands, Puerto Rico, Jamaica and Senegal. Notable collectors include Maya Angelou, Ben Chavis, Ben Vereen and former U.S. Rep. Mel Watt. In Charlotte, his works are in the collections of the Mint Museum, the Harvey B. Gantt Center for Afro-American Arts and Culture, the Levine Children’s Hospital and UNC Charlotte.
There are four magic ingredients in every Reddy painting: color, symbolism, narrative and transformation. His work is often categorized as a kind of social realism; a better description may be a social surrealist with a propensity toward nature and narrative.
In Reddy's world, a person is never just a person; they are the sum of their experiences. The figure is always transparent, in the process of blossoming into other forms. Multiple characters are continually woven into intricate archetypes, and there is an omnipresent sense of the divine feminine. Everyone is there, together as one tapestry in time, weaving allegory and paradox; the knowing gives way to the creative journey of mystery.
“There are more works in progress – subjects of domestic violence and abuse, jazz, and sculpture,” said the artist. “Where I go from here is not a foregone conclusion. It is all, from beginning to end, still and yet a vision within the scope of the all, the concept of everything is everything, uniquely and irrevocably intertwined and combined into creative resolve and life sustenance.”
Reddy will speak at the July 20 reception.