By Shirley Hawkins
LOS ANGELES — Carlos Spivey could be described as a true Renaissance man.
A former gymnast who attended the U.S. Olympic Trials in 1980, he went on to become a stunt man in Hollywood, exhibited his daredevil moves in such blockbuster films as “Robinson Crusoe,” “The Amistad,” “Nutty Proferssor II: The Klumps” and “Cool Runnings,” about the first Jamaican bobsled team.
He also worked at Disney as an animator and a storyboard artist. His animated films have been featured in Spain, Australia, Uganda, Italy and elsewhere.
Art lovers have viewed his work at the Watts Towers Art Center, the William Grant Still Art Center and the Joyce Gordon Gallery.
His mission continues to be to portray African Americans in all art genres with grace and dignity.
“I am an artist who celebrates African-American experiences,” he said.
His latest interest is the art of quilting. On June 12 he will be holding a quilting workshop at the Craft Contemporary Gallery on Wilshire Boulevard
“We will be providing all of the materials,” said Spivey, a multicultural artist who holds a degree in fine arts from UCLA in painting and drawing. “We will be using fabric and glue, and there will be needles and thread for adults who want to do their own sewing.”
Spivey said that the quilting workshop is open to all ages.
The artist, who is recognized for his colorful mosaics and stained glass pieces as well as his animated films, discovered quilting seven years ago.
“I got into quilting because I’m always interested In exploring different mediums,” he said.
According to history, the art of quilting dates back to medieval times. Early examples of quilting came from Europe, India and the Far East and the word “quilt” was first used in England in the 13th century.
In America, slave women sewed codes into the quilts to help navigate how a slave could escape the plantation to join the Underground Railroad.
“Quilts were used as a code language to tell the slaves where the safe houses were,” Spivey said. “The quilts were placed on fences in plain view. A lot of the symbols they used were Adinkra symbols that came from their particular cultures in West Africa.”
According to the book “Hidden in Plain View: A Secret Story of Quilts and the Underground Railroad,” by Jacqueline L. Tobin and Raymond G. Doband, African-American quilts were referred to as a “fabric griot” which is a West African word for historian, storyteller, praiser, singer, poet or musician.
Slave women would sew messages in a quilt such as one that depicted broken chains. It was a secret message that told runaway slaves once they escaped to the north to not jump off the street when they saw a white person approaching but to act like they were free men and women.
“The codes were never broken and the slave masters were never able to figure the code out,” Spivey said.
Spivey got into quilting after a woman at the Calude Pepper Senior Center in South Los Angeles taught him to quilt in 2015. Many of his creations are featured on his website carlosspiveyart.com, depicting African Americans in regal as well as in everyday poses.
Spivey, 64, has been drawing since he was a child.
“When I was born in 1958 there weren’t a lot of positive images of African Americans,” he said.
“I try to create works so passionate as to move one’s heart from joy to tears by capturing various facets of the human experience. My artworks are populated with big Afros and children dancing, lovers and Atlantean warriors, angels, black butterflies, women with attitudes and the pulsating rhythm of drums, strong men and sister friends.
“My stories are filled with love, beauty and sacred totems,” he added. “My vision is one of hope and of cultural victory. I depict in my work the undying intent of the spirit and the coiled inevitability of evolution. Growth. Some call it potential. I call it destiny. “
Spivey’s quilting workshop will be from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. at Craft Contemporary, 5814 Wilshire Blvd.
Shirley Hawkins is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.