Personality is a paintbrush; the art of Moe Brooker

Growing up in South Philadelphia amid gangs and violence, Moe Brooker was known for being able to draw. It helped convince people to leave him alone.

But it didn’t mean he couldn’t fight, he said to crowd of art admirers last week.

Brooker, who is now a Germantown resident and professor at Moore College of Art, spoke to a group of about 30 at La Salle University, where his collection will be on display through June 13 at the art museum.

According to Carmen Vendelin, curator of art at La Salle, the school has been interested in showing a collection from Brooker for years because of his engaging personality and how easily that can be seen through his colorful art.

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Though, as Brooker revealed, his work didn’t start as a reflection of who he was.

At first, his pieces were somber and serious. They were realistic paintings of what he knew, such as a portrait of his roommate who had fallen asleep on a chair. But soon he felt that these realistic pieces were not challenging him.

“For me, everything begins with a question,” he told the audience last week. “Search will bring about discovery.”

And he started looking to different things to inspire him, like graffiti, which reflected a sense of place and self. This is something, he said, that had been lost by African Americans’ ancestors.

Brooker also used the birth of his son in his art. Men were being openly allowed into the delivery room, and he was intrigued enough to try to capture the scene.

His methods of producing art also tend to change from work to work. He goes from canvas to plain paper or oil painting to pastels, he said.

“I cannot remain in one place,” Brooker said.

Brooker shared a lot about his life, which was something Veronica Ventura, 21, a student worker for the art museum, appreciated.

Ventura has attended other events where artists speak about their works, and the background they provide is mostly historical, not personal. She also noted that Brooker’s work was colorful and that other abstract pieces she had seen by other artists tended to be darker.

Similarly, Chamille McKay, 18, was drawn to the colors Brooker used.

Her favorite piece was a portrait of a 6-foot-5-inch man standing in front of a no parking sign. She thought it was a great depiction of a man who felt uncomfortable with all the attention he garnered because of his size, she said. 

She was also interested in Brooker’s use of graffiti, she said.

“I’m young, and I like graffiti,” she said. “Some people consider it trash.”

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