‘Skiing Is About Joy:’ Park City Artist Takes Black Representation From His Canvas To The Mountains
A new series of paintings is celebrating what it means to be a Black skier or snowboarder in a world that has traditionally been overwhelmingly white. “Skiing in Color'' features large oil paintings that show Black women, men and children decked out in gear and enjoying the slopes. The series is the creation of Park City-based artist Lamont Joseph White. He grew up in New York, and said it wasn’t until he was in his 20s that he first tried skiing.
Caroline Ballard: Tell me about the first time you went skiing.
Lamont Joseph White: No one in my family skied. No one in my family really skis now, even. There were kids in my neighborhood who went skiing, but it wasn't something that was really on the radar of my parents. But it's something that never left me — the desire to do it. So, once I was able to just get my own lift ticket one day I went for it. It was all icy, and I went with some friends who were kind of novice skiers. We discussed the pizza and French fry, early learning stuff. But just committing to the movement was what really probably helped to hook me here right away.
CB: There are a lot of barriers to access to skiing. It's expensive. It requires gear and someone to teach you and lift tickets. It's out of the way. That's the same for a lot of outdoor activities like hiking and camping. What's it like to be a Black man in the ski world?
LW: I think it's pretty similar to places where you find yourself to be more of an extreme minority. There's no extreme pushback or anything like that to being Black and going to the mountains, but you do sometimes feel perhaps some implicit bias with the looks or questions or comments that you get along the way, and just the general atmosphere of not typically seeing someone who looks like yourself. When we see one another on the mountain, unexpectedly, we notice it's like, "How are you doing? I see you." So, I would say that's what it's like, and that really was part of what inspired me to start this collection.
CB: These paintings depict Black men and women and children in ski gear out on the slopes. The more I look at them, the more I think they look like superheroes almost. There's a sense of power and confidence that shows through. They've got these ski suits and equipment. How did you envision these characters as you were creating them?
LW: It's really cool you say that, because my initial emotion was that people show up — still — while being a minority. So in showing up, there's a certain determination. That was my initial emotion in creating the pieces — even though there are a whole myriad of emotions and fantastic things about being in this space on the mountain, much of which is why we all love skiing. Right? Just being in the mountains is a wonderful thing.
CB: What has the reaction been like from other Black skiers that you know?
LW: Oh, gosh, it's really been nothing but positive. There are several nonprofits and Black ski groups, many of which have been around for decades, obviously because they found the need to show up in numbers back in the 60s and 70s. When members of these groups, such as the National Brotherhood of Skiers saw my series of paintings, I was really just incredibly touched by their response to know that it made them feel welcomed and seen. Not just seen on the mountain skiing, but also represented in hiring, in some of the wall art, in some of the ad campaigns and some of the marketing. I think that's part of the conversation that's going on right now in the decision makers in the ski industry.
CB: This has been a heavy year and a lot of the focus on racial justice comes down to policing or just the right to exist. But your work celebrates fun and play. What do you hope people take away from Skiing in Color?
LW: It's about celebrating and feeling comfortable celebrating in that space. I'm hoping, like in regards to the term of "Black joy," that it'd be more normalized that we can feel comfortable going to these places and that that joy does not get interrupted through any type of biases or lack of representation. I'm hoping I can do my small part to give a green light to more joy, because skiing is about joy.
Six paintings from the Skiing in Color series are on display at the Ski Utah headquarters in Park City.