Edward Cushenberry

Edward Cushenberry

Edward Cushenberry lives in the Los Angeles area where he splits his time between photographing his life and drawing everything else that's going on in his world, in an attempt to merge real life with romanticism.

Elizabeth Bayne: In ArtCenter’s 90-year history, there have only been 300 black alumni — does that surprise you?

Edward Cushenberry (BFA 12 Photography and Imaging): No, not really. I can't really put my finger on it, but when I heard that fact, it made sense.

EB: When did you decide that you wanted to be a photographer?

EC: I was really into films, and for some reason, I applied to the photography department instead of the film department. I read somewhere that all cinematographers are photographers first.

EB: Was it a hard decision to explain to your family?

EC: My mom and dad love my work. They love me. I'm really fortunate to have very supportive parents. Before I started ArtCenter, my dad gave me a talk about how he had a lot of regrets, and one was not following his dreams. He told me that whatever I wanted to do, he would totally support it as much as he could.

EB: What inspired you to choose ArtCenter?

EC: My two teachers at Golden West College went to ArtCenter. When I was in their photography class, we took a tour here. I'd never seen painting, illustration and graphic design until I saw the gallery. It just seemed like a really cool place to be creative, open and free.

EB: Did you have a favorite teacher?

EC: Anthony Zepeda. I took his class three times. He's the reason I still draw today.

About the Series

In ArtCenter's 90-year history there have only been approximately 300 Black alumni. Impact 90/300, a documentary by Elizabeth Gray Bayne, profiles 25 of them. This series revisits each interview from the film, originally created for ArtCenter DTLA's 90/300 Exhibition.

I feel like it's nothing but Black artists just dying to have a chance. Give us a chance, pay us, and we'll give you art.

Edward CushenberryPhotographer/Artist

Selected Photographs

From Words to Action

ArtCenter's Commitment to Black Lives

EB: What was the worst grade you ever got, and how did it make you better?

EC: Worst grade, F. I deserved that F. I had a mental breakdown, took a term off. I went back and got 100 in the class. It helped me realize that: A. I should pay attention. B. I should know what I'm going into. C. I should ask for help.

EB: Did ArtCenter prepare you to find your identity as an artist?

EC: The school really prepared me for life after ArtCenter because they gave me a work ethic. They gave me the tools to make good images, to write an email, you’d be shocked how many people don’t know how to write an email, to read a contract, to work on a project for four years and know it will come to fruition.

EB: What does it mean to be a Black artist?

EC: Oh God damn, man. I don't know how to really answer that question. I think it's necessary to acknowledge the fact that I'm a Black artist. I think it's necessary to have different artists of color to express what they've been through and their journey. I spent four years photographing my very close friends and family in a book that was recently published. I saw my dad go in and out at the hospital. My best friend lost his girlfriend. One of my close friends got cancer. At the time, I was trying to document what life means and what it means to lose someone you care about — what it means to see your dad, the first positive role model in your life, to basically die in front of you. And none of that had to do with me being Black.

Selected Artwork

EB: Why is it important to have more Black artists so we can expand people's perception of the Black experience?

EC: It's important to see different stories, so you realize that, even though this person's Black, I can relate to this person. Or even though this person's gay, I can relate to this person. It's 2020. It's really not that hard to find really talented artists of color. I feel like it's nothing but Black artists just dying to have a chance. Give us a chance, pay us, and we'll give you art.

EB: Would you like to see more Black artists have that opportunity? How do you think that will happen?

EC: I just gave the formula: Chance, plus pay, equals good art. That's how it's going to happen. Most people don't fuck up. If you give them a chance, most people will step up to the plate.

*This interview was edited for brevity and clarity.
Photo credit: Everard Williams