For almost three decades, Dr. Hubert Massey has graced the city of Detroit with large-scale works of art that tell the story of that community. On Wednesday, March 14, the accomplished artist will discuss his journey and what it takes to do what he does during the Lourdes University Art Department’s 2018 Sister Jane Mary Sorosiak Art Lecture Series.
Setting the scene
A walk through any Detroit landmark structure will likely reveal a large piece of Massey’s artwork, including a large-scale fresco-style piece at the Cobo Center or his piece at the Detroit Athletic Club. The award-winning muralist has spent nearly 30 years uplifting the Detroit community with his artwork.
Massey studied with apprentices of the famous Diego Rivera while attending the Slade School of Fine Art at the University of London in the late ’70s. After graduating, he began working in Detroit as a sign painter— back when all billboards were hand-painted. It was the perfect training ground for anyone interested in being a professional painter because “we painted 40 to 50 hours a week, every week,” says Massey.
By the early ’90s, billboards had gone to large scale printing or became digital, putting sign painters out of a job. By then, however, Massey had already started doing public art pieces in the city.
A wide range of styles
“I work in tile, terrazzo, oil, mosaic, stained glass— about five or six different mediums,” says Massey. His most notable style, however, is fresco, an old-school technique that involves painting directly onto wet plaster.
“The frescos lend themselves to being outside because they can be seen at any angle,” he explains. “They have a matte finish and the sun doesn’t reflect like it would on mosaic or tile.”
Telling a story
Having lived and worked as a professional artist in Detroit over the course of his career, Massey has witnessed firsthand the transformation and revitalization of the Motor City. “It’s been pretty amazing. A lot of artists come from all over the world to be here, and we’re seeing a lot of public art being brought to the city,” he says.
In his lecture, Massey will talk about his journey and what inspires him. “I like to tell the story of the community,” he says. “I hear amazing stories from people in the community and I take that inspiration and put it into my artwork. These mediums last forever, and it lends itself to a greater purpose of doing the art.”
He’ll also talk about the process of making public art and what it takes to make a living as an artist. “People say you can’t make a living doing art, but I’m proof that you can. It just has to be done a certain way,” he explains.