Behind the Portrait: Eleyes Reeves
A Greatriarch is a longtime community member who has served their neighborhood well. They are the people you know riding their bike down the street, offering a trusted hand during an emergency, or picking you up when you need a ride. They are trustworthy friends, caring neighbors, and wise mentors. For the past two years, artist Abi Ogle, has painted thoughtful portraits of the Monon16 Greatriarchs. The Greatriarch project reminds us that every neighbor has a story that deserves to be heard. These community members were included in this series because they have invited us to bear witness to their stories.
From the Artist, Abi Ogle
“These neighbors shared their stories with me at porch parties and in conversations in the Monon16 area (where the Hillside and Kennedy King neighborhoods come together), and in return I hope to enter into a conversation with them through art that is dignifying, tied to art history, and honoring. Each Greatriarch is painted purple, a color that is associated historically with royalty. Every portrait has an intentional art historical reference in an effort to pay homage to the work of an African American artist. The first round of Greatriarchs were created in 2017 as portraits and were displayed as public art during the inaugural PreEnactIndy performance on 16th Street. This second round of landscape-oriented portraits, created in 2019, will be shown on 16th Street in October during PreEnactIndy to expand the conversation and depict the ways these Greatriachs have served and are seen by their neighbors.”
About Eleyes Reeves’ Portrait
Rain or shine, Eleyes Reeves can be seen gliding swiftly through the neighborhood on her bike, her hat waving in the wind. As a long term resident, she has built community by encouraging young artists and inviting them into neighborhood history by unearthing forgotten narratives. Her ideas are endless, as she writes plays, draws portraits, and connects people to opportunities. She is a neighbor who is quick to zip over on her bike, eager to wave at those passing by, or to have a conversation about the projects she is a part of.
This piece was important for me to incorporate into Ms. Eleyes’s portrait because of the strong female presence that is both narrative and tied to vernacular practice. Faith Ringgold’s work is hand made, and tied to powerful history. Miss Eleyes is someone who is always adventuring into the next story with open arms, but is also looking back to the history that came before her in order to share stories.
BONUS!! Check out this video starring Miss Eleyes!