Painting Possibilities: St. Louis Artist Depicts African American Fathers With Their Children
For the past year, artist and businessman Cbabi Bayoc has attempted to create a portrait a day of a father interacting with his kid.
The resulting project, titled “365 Days With Dad,” goes beyond showing fathers who go through the motions of parenthood, and shows engaging and teachable moments.
Originally from O’Fallon, Illinois Bayoc began this project as a means of stability, but over the course of a year it morphed into a means of preserving memories and encouraging parents to be their best selves when with their kids.
He has also used social media to create a following of his work. Bayoc posts his completed images on Facebook, allowing viewers to contact him to recreate memories shared with their own fathers. The images vary from the fun and lighthearted (going fishing, piggyback rides) to the bittersweet and solemn (returning home from war, saying goodbye to a parent).
Though Bayoc fell short of completing 365 photos in 2012, he plans to finish the project this winter and find a place to exhibit his work.
St. Louis Public Radio’s Erin Williams talked with Cbabi Bayoc about the memories he has with his own father, who died when he was twelve, being a father to his own three children, and using his talents to promote a positive image of fatherhood.
Here is an edited excerpt:
On deciding to focus on “father figures” as well as typical dads:
“That’s something I struggled with in the beginning too – ‘Is it just going to be dad?’ [But I realized] that’s not everybody’s reality. In order to heal what’s going on in the community it has to be more than concentrating on dad. You got pieces that are more about the uncle or the older brother who stepped in, or your granddad. It’s really just about the male figure who’s been important in your life. Letting kids know ‘Dad’s not home. You can’t make him come home, but I’m sure there’s somebody around you who has either tried or you need to seek out somebody you honestly and sincerely can trust to be that figure that you need to show you the way.’”
On using his work as bonding time with his three children:
They are always around. I paint right in the dining room of the house. Several of my kids have actually helped me paint some of the pieces. They do the underpainting, they’ve blackened the canvas, they go to Kinko’s with me to ship the paintings off. They’ve been immersed in it. They’re 7, 9, and 12. I’m sure they’ll be able to express themselves more about it when they’re 20 or so and they get it. But right now, that’s all they’ve known – Dad as an artist. We might not go to the park as much, but we’re always right there."
On painting the future:
"The very reason I did it - there are a lot of dads who are present and doing what they’re supposed to do, even though it always doesn’t seem so. On a practical level, I want kids to know you can be an artist and make a living, make an impact, do something responsible with your time – just that you have other options. A lot of kids come into [Sweet Art] and see the paintings or they’ll see me in the corner with the easel and they’ll be shocked. I don’t know where they though where the pieces come from or who’s doing them – to see them, they’re just amazed…that I’m doing it now, means they can too.
Just showing that art’s still important, and imagery’s still important. Sometimes it’s important to paint what we want to have happen as opposed to just what we always see and think. You can paint possibilities."