Black and Blue: Portraits of America’s Working Class by Detroit Artist Mario Moore

Mario Moore’s “The Work of Several Lifetimes” arrives via Princeton University as a digital exhibition at the David Klein Gallery.

Mario Moore
Mario Moore

The Detroit art world is growing digitally with efforts to fundraise for local artists and exhibit their work exclusively online.

Etchings from Detroit artist Mario Moore’s “The Work of Several Lifetimes” are now on digital display via the David Klein Gallery, which has two physical locations in Birmingham and downtown. The gallery recently announced a wave of digital-only shows.

“At the same time they’re celebrating the jobs, they’re not really supporting them with all the things they need to make it through this time.” Mario Moore, artist

The simple portraits help tell the stories of black blue collar workers Moore met while on fellowship at Princeton University, where he currently teaches and where this work originally debuted last fall. 

After striking up a brief conversation, Moore would capture a look of purpose and humility on the faces of his subjects — a woman who works in the dining halls; a man who works in the facilities department.

Many of those same university employees have been deemed essential during the COVID-19 global pandemic, adding an extra layer of urgency and purpose to Moore’s work that explores their role and value in society today.

Mario Moore
Mario Moore

Moore says this series was inspired by his own working class upbringing led by his father — a former security guard at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

“Those people have become family members to me,” says Moore. “I really wanted to talk about how we recognize these people without ostracizing them. I think that’s what’s really important about the show. You see each individual person as a person. They’re not just their job title.”

During a Q&A on CultureShift, Moore talks about the methodology behind “The Works of Several Lifetimes” and how COVID-19 gave a sense of urgency to his portraits.

Click the player above to listen to the full interview with Detroit artist Mario Moore.

The online exhibition of “The Work of Several Lifetimes” by Mario Moore is on display at the David Klein Gallery website through Tuesday, April 21st.