Spartanburg Artist Raymond Floyd’s Work Exhibited at SMC

Spartanburg Artist Raymond Floyd’s Work Exhibited at SMC

Spartanburg artist Raymond Floyd is fascinated by people’s candid reactions to everyday experiences. Children at play, family members interacting, workers doing a job – these moments in time capture his imagination.

“I just find people interesting,” he said, “especially when they’re not posing.”

Floyd has been painting scenes of life in Spartanburg since the 1960s. His collective work provides a revealing look at local history and culture – especially of the African-American community of which he is a part.

Floyd was an art teacher at Carver High School, which served black students in the days before integration. The school became a junior high, and Floyd continued to teach into the 1990s. One of the students he most admired was Kris Neely, who now works as Professor of Art and Director of the Interdisciplinary studies program at Spartanburg Methodist College.

“If I’d had a thousand kids like Kris Neely, I would have been happy,” he said.

Neely is a fan of Floyd’s, as well. He is excited to be spearheading a show of his former teacher’s work on the SMC campus. “It was really great to reconnect with Mr. Floyd,” he remarked.

Floyd’s art will be on display in the galleries of Ellis Hall, on Spartanburg Methodist College’s campus, Feb. 28 – April 3. Floyd will give an Artist Talk in Gibbs Auditorium of Ellis Hall at 7 p.m. Feb. 28. Both events are free and open to the public.

Neely noted that Floyd has “an extensive portfolio” and said, “I’ve asked him to show work that demonstrates his connection to the community. When you look at his portraits, you’re seeing distilled moments of his experiences in Spartanburg.”

Neely described Floyd as a teacher with “reserved kindness and gentleness.” But he said Floyd had passion for his work and a sense of adventure, even engaging the students with work in some of his preferred techniques.

He was influenced as a young man by Leo Twiggs, who served as Floyd’s cooperating teacher when he was still in school. Twiggs went on to become an acclaimed South Carolina artist, using an ancient method known as batik. It typically involves the application of wax on textiles – a time-consuming and somewhat complicated process that creates layers of colors.

Floyd has adapted the style with the use of tempera paint, an innovation that for Neely brings to mind “a teacher’s eye for how to improvise and make do with what’s available.”

Floyd taught for 30 years in Spartanburg County School District 7. Children continue to inspire his work. He recently finished a series called “Children Being Themselves.”

He’s excited about other projects, too, including illustrations for a book about a famed Spartanburg street musician known as Trotting Sally. Floyd is also working on a series he calls “BMW – for Black Men Working.” He paints images of men laboring in menial jobs as well as those in professional, white-collar jobs.

He said he hopes those who see his paintings “would find things they identify with.” He added, “I would hope they not forget about the contributions of African-Americans here and nationally. We are a very integral part of society.”

Raymond Floyd holding up painting of boy with dog

Spartanburg artist Raymond Floyd holds one of the batik paintings on exhibit at Spartanburg Methodist College in February. The painting is a self-portrait of the artist as a child, along with a beloved pet.

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