By Cynthia Anderson
NASHVILLE, TN — A gifted artist and civil rights activist, Joseph Love uses his paintings to give a face and a voice to those unsung African American heroes who history has ignored or forgotten.
His collections of original paintings have received international recognition for their focus on unique African American subjects—particularly his prized paintings of African American Formula One race car drivers.
“My race car art work sells more around the world,” Love said in reference to his “Black Speed” collection of paintings of Formula One races. Formula One is the highest class of single-seater auto racing sanctioned by the International Automobile Federation and has been one of the premier forms of racing around the world since the 1950s.
“People who are interested in Formula One find my paintings online,” Love said.
Subjects of Love’s “Black Speed” Collection include Charles “Charlie” Wiggins, an African American auto racing driver and mechanic who won prestigious auto-racing competitions but was barred from participating in white-only events—including the Indianapolis 500.
It’s these unique subjects that make Love’s work, more than just paintings. They often tell the story of how African Americans have struggled to assimilate in the United States.
“As an artist, I feel like our history is not told,” Love said. “I paint about this history of African Americans in areas such as auto racing because people don’t know about it. If someone sees a painting with a black person behind the wheel and they ask ‘what is it that about?’ I can explain it to them. My art is telling the story of our history. That history is not in the history books.”
A New Jersey native who later moved to Kentucky with his family, Love served in the United States Air Force and is now working as a real estate broker in Nashville.
Love’s parents inspired him to become a painter and he learned to draw from his father at an early age. Artistic talent runs deep in the Love family. Love has three sons, Joseph Love III, William Love and Vincent Love. Love’s oldest son, Joseph Love III, is part of the Norf Art Collective, a group of Nashville artists responsible for numerous murals, signs, and outdoor art in Nashville such as the mural on the Elks Lodge at 2614 Jefferson St. that pays homage to the guitar battle between Johnny Jones and Jimi Hendrix.
Love uses oil to paint his subjects. This texture allows him to paint very detailed images that can feature less noticeable symbolic images in the background and intermingled with the dominate images.
In Love’s painting “Empire State of Mind” the faces of a man and women are shown in the foreground, however Love points out that the colors in their faces turn into the shape of Africa.
“Most people think it’s about a building, but it’s not,” Love said. “I always uses buildings and put a lot of hidden meanings in my artwork.”
Love sells his paintings to buyers all over the world. Prices range from $20 for a print to up to $3,000 for some of the original painted pieces. He sells prints and original paintings and is available for commission work. Many of Love’s original paintings, such as those in the “Black Speed” series, are often used in public displays and art exhibits.
This year, Love’s art was featured at the African Street Festival in Nashville and also at the Jefferson Street Jazz & Blues Festival. His work has been featured in Sports Illustrated and numerous other magazines and newspapers, and also in solo art exhibits at Tennessee State University and Vanderbilt University.
Currently, Love is keeping busy with requests for commission work from buyers who are requesting portraits and other art such as his abstract paintings and paintings of historic buildings. Love has also painted portraits of African American heroes such as Muhammad Ali and Barack Obama.
Love’s next major series will focus on African American athletes who took a stand against racism when it wasn’t popular, such as Colin Kaepernick.
“Through art I want to educate and let people know we all have relevance and we all see beauty in our own way,” Love said.