Profile: Chaz Guest (1961-)

Chaz Guest is an American artist who works in the mediums of painting and sculpting. He is described by the Huffington Post as “an American artist of profound inventiveness.”

Life and career

Guest’s parents are Algirtha Guest (born 1933) and Rev. Theodore James Guest (born 1922 – 2006). Guest’s father – Rev. T. J. Guest, is a World War II Purple Heart recipient. Guest is the 7th of nine brothers and sisters. Guest graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Graphic Design from Southern Connecticut State University in 1985. Guest grew up in a quiet community in Niagara Falls, New York with his family. His parents divorced when he was ten years old. After the divorce, he moved with his mother and siblings to  Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Guest has two sons, one born 1994 and one born 2003.

Guest received a Gymnastic scholarship to go to the Southern Connecticut State University (S.C.S.U.), to study Kinesiology and pursue a degree in Graphic Arts. He subsequently competed successfully in the U.S. Olympic program. After graduating from S.C.S.U., Guest moved to New York City, where he enrolled in a fashion design curriculum at the Fashion Institute of Technology. It was during this period that he honed his formal skills in drawing. While at the Fashion Institute, Guest made the acquaintance of Antonio Lopez. Lopez inspired and influenced his decision to seek work as an illustrator. Guest studied at the Fashion Institute for nine months.

In 1986,Guest moved to Paris, France to work as a freelance fashion illustrator. Guest joined Joyce Magazine as an illustrator for their magazine covers, and was responsible for the illustrations of the JOYCE magazine covers for the 1987/1988 season. It was while working at Joyce Magazine that Guest met Christian Lacroix. Lacroix encouraged him to apply his illustrator skills to painting, after Lacroix saw one of Guest’s illustrations of couture designs done for Joyce Magazine. After the 1987/1988 season, Guest left Joyce magazine and moved to Dax, France where he started painting.

After leaving the Fashion Institute of Technology, Guest began studying the paintings of Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali. Guest also studied the paintings of Balthus. In 1991,Guest sold his first painting to a passerby outside his Soho apartment.

Guest’s first museum exhibit was a group show “Decoding Identity: I Do it for My People” (January 23, 2009 – March 22, 2009) at the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco (MOAD).

Notable works

In 2004, while at the home of Mattie and Michael Lawson in Hancock Park, Los Angeles, Guest was struck by the presence of Barack Obama, then running for Senate, while interacting with the guests. This image stuck with him, and he created a painting of The President based on that mental image. The President saw the painting of himself at a fund raiser at the home of Oprah Winfrey in 2008.

Guest’s painting of  Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall hangs in President Barack Obama’s Oval Office at the White House.  On October 11, 2005, the then Senator Obama sent a note to Guest thanking him for the painting. Guest has also authored a serigraph series of President Obama. Subsequently, Guest was invited by Kouji Matsuzaki San, Mayor of Obama, Fukui prefecture to present the serigraphs.

On February 24, 2010, Chaz Guest presented the President of Gambia, Yahya Jammeh a portrait of the Gambian President. During his visit to the Gambia, Guest discussed with the Gambian leader the renaming of James Island and Juffereh in the North Bank Region. Guest proposed to the Gambian leader for the Island to be renamed ‘Kunta Kinte’ Island. On February 6, 2011, James Island, the former British Slave Fort used for the slave trade of Africans which sits in the River Gambia in the North Bank Region was renamed by the Gambian President to Kunta Kinte Island. At the renaming ceremony of James Island in 2011, Guest revealed the miniature replica of his 30-foot statue of Kunta Kinte that will be displayed on Kunta Kinte Island.

Guest created two paintings to help the family of Trayvon Martin, an African-American teenager who was killed in an incident in Florida in 2012, to support Martin’s younger brother. Guest donated the proceeds from the sale of the paintings to the Martin Family. Mr. Guest also did a painting of Troy Davis – a man sentenced to death for the murder of a Georgia police officer in 1991, for Amnesty International, USA.

Guest was named the Goodwill Ambassador to the Republic of Gambia, West Africa in 2011, and the U.S. spokesperson for the 2014 International Roots Festival in Gambia.

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