Steven M. Cozart is an artist, educator, and documentarian that loves to draw and, despite being colorblind, enjoys painting. Most of his work is figurative and reflects thoughts and musings regarding his own life, circumstances, and interactions that he’s experienced over the years.
Steven’s recent work reflects on his thoughts and feelings about race and identity in America, focusing on stereotypes of the African American male and female within the paradigm of the African American Community. Specifically, he’s noted the use of codecs (devices that compress and decompress data to enable faster transmission of that data) within the community to quickly pack and unpack information about African American men and women amongst themselves. These codecs have taken and may take many forms, such as a brown paper bag (related to skin tone) or a pencil (related to hair texture). The tones, textures, and even features of the individuals also serve as codecs.
The goal of the work is to begin a conversation within public spaces about why these ideals are so prevalent within the African American community, given the community’s history in the United States. Using various codecs (brown paper bags, Snellen eye charts, scissors, value scales, etc.), he records these accounts of skin tone, hair texture, manhood, womanhood, etc., as a complicated issue and experience: different for each African American. The hope is that the conversations lead to a transcendence of the system of colorism among the African American community as a whole.
His ongoing body of drawings, paintings, and mixed media collages refer to such things as the historical practice, in African American communities, of colorism (prejudice or discrimination against individuals regarding their skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group), texturism (the idea that certain types of natural hair patterns are more desirable or than others), and featurism (the social acceptance and preference of European facial features over African facial features).
“This is of interest to me because of the irony of the situation,” stated Steven. “The history of the African Americans in this country is a dark, inhumane one that has its roots within the same type of ignorance. Why, then, would it be repeated within the same community that suffered it?”
Cozart’s work has been exhibited at the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA), Weatherspoon Art Museum, Greenville Museum of Art, The Nasher Museum at Duke University, GreenHill Center for North Carolina Art, the African American Atelier and the Durham Art Guild, and he has received grants and awards from the Central Piedmont Regional Artists Hub, the Fine Artists League of Cary, and was the recipient of the Dorothea Lange-Paul Taylor Prize from the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University.
Steven, born and raised in Durham, North Carolina, now lives and works in Greensboro, NC. Cozart received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Art Education with a concentration in Printmaking and Drawing from East Carolina University. He currently teaches Visual Art and Computer Graphics at Weaver Academy for Performing & Visual Arts and Advanced Technology and has been a visiting lecturer for Syracuse University, the Weatherspoon Art Museum, Duke University, East Carolina University, North Carolina A&T State University, and Guilford College. Steven is a 2021 Artist Support Grant recipient of ArtsGreensboro.