Black Velvet Paintings Through A New Lens

An exhibit opening this weekend takes a cultural and historical look at black velvet paintings.

The exhibit is called Black Velvet – a Rasquache Aesthetic. It features more than 100 paintings. Some are historic. Some were made made for the show.

Elena Herrada is a co-curator of the exhibit. She said black velvet painting has been called kitsche, low art or bad art, but those judgments were colored by race and class.

You know we grew up with black velvet paintings — and our parents and grandparents,” Herrada said. “It was an art form that they loved.”

Herrada said black velvet paintings often have religious or pop culture themes.

It ranges from the Virgin of Guadalupe to Jesus to Elvis to Marilyn Monroe. My most recent acquisition is a Michael Jackson.”

The exhibit is being held at 2835 Bagley in Detroit – a spaced formerly used by DTE Energy. Doors open at noon. At 1 p.m., MSU’s Diana Rivera will talk about the history of black velvet painting.

Image credit: Elena Herrada

About the Author

Sascha Raiyn

Reporter & Producer

Native Detroiter who grew up listening to news and music programming on Detroit Public Radio.

sraiyn@wdet.org   Follow @raiyn

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