(birds chirping) (water lapping) (slow pensive music) - My primary voice and focus as an artist is I just always wanna create something that is astonishing.
I always wanna create something that is going to serve as a catalyst for someone else, that's gonna communicate an idea to someone and inspire them in some way, shape, or form, or open up a space within the viewer so that they can receive a new vision, a new inspiration.
My paintings just, they call to me every waking moment.
(slow pensive music continues) So when I first started painting, I think a lot about what colors I'm gonna use in my palette.
Sometimes if I want my colors to behave a certain way, I might start with a ground color like red.
And so that red will activate the colors that I lay on top of it.
I may want my colors to be more vibrant.
I may want my blues to sort of vibrate and play off of the red in a certain way.
You know, when I think about blue, I'm always thinking about water.
One day, I got around to painting water, and I just absolutely fell in love with just the process, the physical process of painting something that is always in motion.
(water lapping) Growing up as a city boy, I realized that so many of us are disconnected oftentimes from our natural environment.
And so I realized that me painting water was really more about a yearning and me being more connected to water.
(tranquil music) (tranquil music continues) I realized that painting water meant much more to me than just the exercise of depicting water on a canvas visually.
And I started thinking more about, you know, am I hydrated on a daily basis?
Do I drink enough water daily?
Do we in Detroit have access to clean water?
And so all of those things began to play a much more important role in my work and how I approach water as a subject matter.
Have you ever had one of those moments where you're like, "Oh my God, what did I just get myself into?"
(laughs) It's big in the studio, but this, in the context of like a museum space, you know, it'll shrink a little bit in size.
You know what I mean?
It looks big 'cause it's in this space.
It's taking up so much room in here.
So I have to keep telling myself that (laughs) so I won't be so overwhelmed.
But, no, I'm excited.
I'm ready to paint.
And for so long, this was like a dream or like a grand vision.
(water lapping) But, you know, there's safety in something just only being a dream.
(poignant jazz music) You know, people have always have had, since I've been alive, have always had a very skewed point of view when it comes to Detroit.
The story of Detroit in recent years has always been told without having those things put in proper context.
(attendees chattering) I'm inspired primarily by the arts community in Detroit, quite honestly.
I do think that we have a responsibility, though, to tell our own stories and not rely on anyone else to create a narrative for who we are and for where we come from.
(poignant jazz music continues) Say grace?
Lord, we thank you for this food we're about to receive to strengthen and nourish our bodies in Jesus' name, amen."
- [Family] Amen.
- [Senghor] Growing up as a Black man in Detroit was, to me, a total privilege and a blessing.
I couldn't imagine being anything other than a Black man.
Art in my life has been a way of life.
- First day of spring.
- Today's the first day of spring.
My dad is an art collector and had his own radio program, jazz radio program.
And so my childhood was filled with art, culture, music, dance.
Every day growing up being surrounded by creativity, it was only natural for me to be creative.
(gentle jazz music) I wouldn't have wanted to be born or live in any other city but Detroit.
- Otherwise he would've been out here too.
- Trying to find some food.
- Like the fried shrimp.
- Doing all right, man.
- [Senghor] I'm one artist among many who are making art that will in some way, shape, or form enrich our community and make it better and make it stronger and make it inspirational.
I don't know, in Detroit, it's always about love and support and supporting each other's vision, and that's just so important.
(tender poignant music) (tender poignant music continues) - Oh boy, look at this.
(Senghor laughs) Looks nice.
- [Senghor] For over 20 years now, my mother and I have shared a studio.
There's like a handful of people who I feel like in some ways I paint for.
And my mother's number one, for sure.
And most other people, I could care less.
(laughs) I feel like painters in Detroit really attack paintings.
(laughs) It's almost like a- - [Shirley] Yeah, I know.
- There's just a fearlessness in approach.
- [Shirley] No hesitation.
- No hesitation, yeah.
My mother is an artist, an educator, a community leader.
She runs an arts organization.
She's just such an inspiration as an educator and as an artist.
(laughs) My favorite day of the week.
- [Student] Friday?
- Yes, today is Friday Eve.
Thursday is the day for pre-turn-up, right before the Friday turn-up 'cause it's the weekend.
(Senghor laughs) My teaching and art have always gone hand in hand.
To be able to collaborate and work with young people is truly a privilege.
I can't imagine making art without also being an educator.
I don't know how I could ever teach and not make art.
(laughs) (insects chirping) (water lapping) My art is usually coming from a very happy place.
And in more recent years, I've been sort of challenged to make art from other emotional spaces.
The trajectory of my life shifted dramatically.
- [Crowd] I can't breathe.
I can't breathe.
I can't breathe.
I can't breathe.
- At the end of 2020, I got divorced.
All of these emotions kind of happening were happening like all at the same time.
I had to allow myself to sort of hit rock bottom.
I initially started having anxiety and panic attacks.
There was one day where I felt like I hit the bottom, like I literally hit the ground, and my body was paralyzed.
From that point on, I realized I was climbing my way out of this, you know, deep, dark hole.
My art for me in that moment became my vehicle for moving forward, moving upward.
And I started painting differently.
That was the moment where I started to rise again.
(gentle hopeful music) (gentle hopeful music continues) When I am immersed, physically immersed in water, I feel an incredible sense of joy and an incredible sense of gratitude.
When I'm in water, I feel myself healed.
It's like I've painted this painting, and I get to walk into it.
I feel like I am in this incredible place.
I feel present, fully present, in the moment in a place of total vulnerability.
I kind of figured out a way to reconnect with myself.
It's like I'm in this incredibly effervescent space.
I'm just preparing myself with what may come tomorrow.
I'm making way for tomorrow.
(gentle hopeful music continues) (waves crashing) (gentle hopeful music continues) (gentle hopeful music continues) (no audio) (clapperboard claps) (solemn dreamy music) (solemn dreamy music continues)