(Click on thumbnails to open slideshow.)
Photos and article by Patricia Halligan-Manley

"Kids are chaos coming to a wall. You just try to make sense of it." ~Lacresha Lincoln

Lacresha Lincoln was trained to be precise, rigid, conforming, and in charge. It’s what you learn when you serve for eight years as a Logistics Specialist in the United States Marine Corps. Her military training has served her as well with the technical aspects of two family businesses and raising her four children ages 3 to 16. You need to be tough to be a parent in this day and age.

Lacresha, however, has another side; in addition to her technical military training, this vibrant woman is also a 2009 graduate of SVSU with a BFA in painting and drawing. Her business, EB Photography, is set up in her beautiful 100+ year old home, surrounded by her sometimes larger-than-life artwork.

In April of 2008, Lacresha worked on a digital art project for Saginaw High School and painted a group mural at the gym at the Trinity Center. I met Lacresha at the Saginaw Boys and Girls Club on Remmington Street in Saginaw, where she created a large, three-wall mural with the help of seventeen kids ages 12 to 18.

"Making sense of kids' ideas for a mural, putting it down on paper, putting paint brushes in their hands, and letting them go at it—well that takes a lot of faith," Lacresha said. She was also forced to let go of a lot of control, which, according to the artist, was perhaps the hardest thing to do.

Lacresha’s art is full of color and depth. She uses the human form to express her feelings of social injustice, her struggle with the disparity that exists in the black community, her own experience with lack of access to art history and exposure to famous artists’ work in her formative years in school. Given the fact that she came to the arts without any kind of background in different styles, she has developed her own rich color palette that is reminiscent of early abstract expressionist works, such as those by William de Kooning, Wassily Kandinski, and Jackson Pollock.

I was especially impressed by a nine-foot tall triptych that is situated in Lacresha’s living room. The three gigantic pieces sit on the floor waiting for a wall in the stairwell to be painted so it can be viewed in all its sensuous curving lines of humanity. According to Lacresha, the untitled work represents Man’s struggle to get to the top and find that he is still not happy. All the while, everyone below him is trying to pull him down. At the bottom we see that man is unconcerned about whom he hurts.

Lacresha is the first to admit that sometimes she isn’t thinking of anything while painting. It just comes out. There is no special meaning to many of her paintings. She is looking for artistic freedom, yet struggles with her desire to express social commentary and portray injustice in the black community.

"Painting allows me to translate many physical experiences into a single art piece or a series of works. Rules and limitations of any piece are only those that I have placed upon myself, and yet they may not be set in stone. It is those frustrating and yet liberating periods during the creative process, when set rules are broken and the artist is not limited by the color palette that is before him, that the true concept of contemporary art is understood," Lacresha  said.

When asked to describe her art, Lacresha said, "A lot of my ideas come from what I see as social injustice. I love every color, bold imagery, memory, things I see."

Patricia Halligan-Manley: Have you always been creative?

Lacresha Lincoln: Ever since I can remember.

PHM: Has anyone ever told you your art was wrong, you know, that you were doing it wrong?

LL: Oh, no, no one, but I did have a teacher, Professor Zivich (at Saginaw Valley State University), who said that I shouldn’t limit myself to black art; he said I should make my art universal.

PHM: What has been your experience working with children?

LL: Kid’s are chaos coming to a wall. You find yourself making sense of it all. Kids own their painting; you just step back and let them paint!

PHM: Where do you want to go with your art?

LL: Murals. They mean freedom to do what you want to do.

PHM: Is there anything you would be afraid to express in your art?

LL: I would not do anything that would be exploitive to children, but otherwise anything at all.

PHM: What mediums do you work in, are you most comfortable in?

LL: Mosaics and photography, but I wouldn’t be afraid to try anything. I enjoy artistic freedom.

PHM: Has your military background influenced your artwork?

LL: I’ve dropped the military persona. I’m just real—with some structure.

PHM: What kind of a response are you looking for when people view your art?

LL: The wow factor.

PHM: What else do you like to do?

LL: I read a lot, audio books. I love sports. I’m a soccer mom, and I coach basketball, garden, watch the weeds grow.

PHM: How do you encourage your children to be creative?

LL: I encourage them to be creative by encouraging them to explore their world, to think, and not be afraid to try new things.

PHM: What’s your next project?

LL: I’m going to do a mural for the YMCA in Saginaw.

By giving children the freedom to express themselves artistically, Lacresha has managed to make a difference in the lives of the children she touches through her murals. Let’s hope she continues creating murals all over Michigan, one gymnasium, one YMCA, one Boys and Girls Club at a time.

Patricia Halligan-Manley is a writer, artist, and entrepreneur living in Mid-Michigan.

© Patricia Halligan-Manley, 2010