My family was brought here from Africa through the slave trade, a very painful experience, where families were sacrificed and separated. There was never talk about the effect of slavery on our family. Somehow we survived and prospered by maintaining a sense of hope and spirituality through the years.
Although Ive researched my familys history extensively, there are some empty spaces. Regardless of the stories Ive discovered, I want more. I want the stories that make sense to me. Through the process, I learned how precious time is, for when we die, our stories go with us. During this past year, several family members who were a part of my project passed away.
Ultimately, I discovered that I do exist as a part of a family despite many complicated circumstances. The collection of photographs, school yearbooks, letters, and objects from my grandparents home testify to this sense of family. Whatever stories and memories Ive gained are now for me to write, draw, and paint so I can pass them on to others. My new work is a result of this journey.
What is still missing? What can I put in the empty places to bridge it all together? These are the questions I ask myself everyday through my art.
Michael Massenburg was born in San Diego, California and studied at California State University, Long Beach and Otis Art Institute. Massenburg has exhibited in galleries and museums throughout the country, completed several private commissions, and worked on public art projects throughout Los Angeles. He is the recipient of grants from the Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department and the California Arts Council and his work resides in many private collections. Massenburg is the current President of the Board of Directors of Sheenway School and is developing a Cultural Master Plan for the Inglewood Cultural Task Force that will bring the arts to the city of Inglewood. Massenburg is Lead Chairperson for the Inglewood Cultural Arts program and recently co-founded The Collective, a support group for African American artists and community development.