“Brian Dovie Golden: Silver Lining”

Elephant Room Gallery


Primarily a watercolorist, Brian Dovie Golden uses painting and drawing as an introspective tool for understanding issues of identity, race, gender and mental health and as an attempt to reconcile himself to the harsh realities of life..

The works in “Silver Lining” include eleven portraits—realistic, personal and attractive images of young, African-American men and women, all with cartoon-style inclusions somewhere within the picture plane.

Golden might be a new artist on the scene in Chicago, but he’s not just another pretty face off the elitist art school treadmill. Already in his mid-thirties, he just began to present his work to the public in 2013 after receiving a BFA from the International Academy of Design and Technology.

He may be late out of the gate, but Golden already has enough life experience to motivate any artist’s muses to action. An exhibition statement mentions the loss of his son two years ago and generalized anxiety disorder. There’s also the reality of growing up and living as a black male in racially and economically segregated Chicago.

Some of the people portrayed in BDG’s paintings are real people who seem to show evidence of personal connection: …that sinking feeling or something like it purportedly depicts the artist’s wife, underwater up to her nose but quite stoic.

Cartoonish and sketchy elements depict angels, halos, devils, ropes and ribbons that bind and unwind, claws that cling, faces in crowds and huge teeth clamped like bear traps. Some of the works are untitled, and a few reference biblical passages.

Golden started adding patches of gold leaf to some of his works in 2014. It works. Black and gold is visually high contrast, with plenty of potential for metaphor and a touch of humor (his name, after all, is Golden).

Golden does not blank out faces with simple blackness as does Kerry James Marshall, nor does he abstract and stylize them like Jacob Lawrence, Archibald Motley, Jonathan Green or Chris Ofili. Golden’s direction is towards a more traditional and illustrational kind of work, closer to Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald, creators of the official Obama portraits.

Whereas Marshall usually places his figures within a landscape or architectural setting, BDG blanks out backgrounds. His work doesn’t rely as much on stylized pop as someone like Tyrue “Slang” Jones, nor does it have the overt politics of William Walker’s Wall of Respect. A couple of dead white artists also come to my mind: Gregory Gillespie and Norman Rockwell.

Golden is onto something that is his own. It’s beautiful and powerful as graphic design, painting and human testament. He’s somewhat of an outsider, safe from the group think of the MFA crowd, while offering some serious and emphatic work.

Portrait painting has a long history and is very competitive; it’s not an easy field in which to develop an original style and get to the top of the game. I’ll be keeping my eye on the work of Brian Dovie Golden and expecting more good things to come.


Bruce Thorn


Bruce Thorn is a Chicago-based painter and musician. He has degrees in painting and drawing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is a Contributing Editor to the New Art Examiner.


“Brian Dovie Golden: Silver Lining” is on view at the Elephant Room Gallery, May 12 through July 7, 2018.






Brian Dovie Golden, …that sinking feeling or something like it, watercolor on paper, 24.5 x 30.5 (Framed). Image courtesy of the Elephant Room.

Brian Dovie Golden, The Passion of Anxiety, Watercolor, acrylic and ink on paper, 26 x 27.5 (Framed). Image courtesy of the Elephant Room.

Brian Dovie Golden, Promises…promises, watercolor, acrylic, and ink on paper, 47 x 73 (Framed). Image courtesy of the Elephant Room.



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