Artist Lamont Joseph White (lamontjosephwhite.com) started painting portraits of Black skiers and snowboarders, a series called Skiing in Color, in early 2020. “I’m a snowboarder and a person of color who happens to be an artist,” White explains, and he wanted to express “the merging of all those things, and my reflections on often being the ‘other’ in a lot of white spaces…on canvas.”
The reaction from the series’ first public showing at the Christian Center of Park City in December of that year was positive, with many local groups acknowledging that they could do more to expand the diversity and accessibility of the predominantly white sport. According to MSNBC, less than nine percent of US skiers are Black. With his series, White wanted to celebrate and welcome more people who look like him on the mountain and challenge biases off it. Like any skier, “we’re there to have fun, we’re not there to talk about these things,” he says. “But I wanted to highlight the condition that exists, and that’s just one of sharing culture in a common space.”
After graduating from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, White worked in illustration and art direction in the fashion industry for many years. His art incorporates “a mashup of influences,” he says, from the 1980s and ’90s. “New York grit,” to graphic and graffiti elements, to impressionism and classicism in his use of paint and technique. He started skiing in his 20s, having never had the chance to as a city kid growing up in Baltimore and Brooklyn. He began visiting Utah to ski and snowboard every year for 12 years before moving to Park City in 2012.
“The mountains have always spoken to me, and have been a place of reflection and joy, unlike any other setting. So being able to either mountain bike or snowboard through them is always a dreamlike experience for me,” White says. He hopes to expand that opportunity for others through his art, and will be showing paintings and prints in two exhibits this winter, at the Park City Library in December and at Salt Lake Community College in January.
“When you show up to the mountain, you bring your culture with you,” White says. In addition to his paintings of contemporary figures—many featuring strong, confident closeups against mountain backdrops—White also wanted to use the series to highlight some of “the broadness and spectrum of Black culture” through portraits of civil rights leaders like Rosa Parks, and rappers such as Tupac and Biggie.
The historic figures are among White’s favorites in the series because of what they represent: “While they were so distant from the wonderful experience [and] luxury of taking the time to enjoy the outdoors, they also provided stepping stones to build the path that allowed me to get to the mountains.” And now, his art continues to broaden that path for others.