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Portfolio: Batik Paintings

Leo Twiggs’ “We Have Known Rivers” series is born of the confluence of personal history, African American heritage, and contemporary events. Inspired by Langston Hughes’ poem, (“The Negro Speaks of Rivers”), “We Have Known Rivers” builds on Twiggs’ personal iconography of ancestral faces, nature, and the undulating lines of rivers. The artist sees waterways as the vessels of African American experience – ancient, past, and present. A great many of Twiggs’ African ancestors were intimately intertwined with agriculture, both in Africa and in the new world. Agriculture was inextricably linked to water as sources of nourishment, growth, and transportation.

In this body of work, “We Have Known Rivers,” Twiggs presents a tripartite composition of earth, sky, and water inhabited with faces and people that reference both the artist’s legacy and the contemporary world.

Twiggs works in a batik technique, a process that he developed after several years of experimenting with the traditional medium. Batik is a way of making images with pigment on wax resist. Used mostly for decorative arts in Indonesia, Africa, and ancient Egypt, Twiggs was a pioneer of using batik in the United States as a narrative high art form.


Special thanks to Hampton Gallery III and Sandy Rupp in Taylors, South Carolina, who represent Leo Twiggs.