One look at Charles County native Maps Glover, and you can tell he’s a creator. He’s typically wearing an original piece of art, like the hand-painted jacket, pants and shoes that grace the cover of this issue. As a painter, illustrator and performer, Glover views his personal style as yet another medium to express his ideas.
“It’s a protest,” he says. “It’s a response to the world. It’s definitely a response to the box Black folks are put into when it comes to their fashion.”
Glover remembers being told how he should and shouldn’t dress by everyone from his employers at art institutions to his own parents.
“Even my parents at times would tell me I wouldn’t be able to get to certain levels of success because of the way that I dressed.”
Now, through his performance art and his everyday style, he’s turning heads in a positive way. Over time, his mom has come to appreciate his stylistic vision.
“There was one time in high school [when I wore] some basketball shorts over top of some long johns.”
His mom’s response?
“She looked at me like I was crazy. Like, ‘Why the hell would you wear that to school? That’s insane.’ Ten years later, Kanye comes out with the shorts over the joggers. So, my mom literally called me and apologized. She was like, ‘I didn’t realize that you were ahead of the fashion curve.’”
His self-embellished garments often come about because of one of the occupational hazards of being a painter.
“As soon as I would paint, it would get on my clothes,” he says. “What am I going to do now? The paint is already there.”
It’s also a way to upcycle tired pieces.
“I like to take clothes that I’ve worn for a while, and after they’ve gotten to a point of like, I either throw this away or I revamp it, [I ask myself], ‘How do I bring this back to life?’ And so, I’ll paint on it.”
Many of the expressive outfits Glover wears have also been used as costumes for performances. The pants pictured here, with a piece of computer hardware sewn into them, were originally created for his performance at the Superfine! Art Fair.
“I had a mask on and wires all over my body,” Glover explains. “People could only talk to me through social media, but I was physically there walking around with a sign that said ‘Follow me.’”
The jacket is his answer to the times we’re living in.
“I feel like we’re literally in flux, and this feels like a battle cry in a way. This feels like I’ve been through it, but somehow it’s dystopian.”
The back of the jacket reads “Protect Black Women,” a statement reflective of Glover’s concern that Black women have not been protected enough in society.
“It just brings me so much anger and also sadness. I just wanted to bring that to light in the fashion.”
Issues of social justice and racial equity are now at the forefront of public discourse, but Glover has been working in this realm for much longer.
“I’ve been creating work that responds to police brutality for the last five years,” he says. “It feels like, ‘Oh my God, you’re finally listening to me.’”
One of his most powerful performances last year was a protest and tribute to those who lost their lives at the hands of law enforcement.
“I documented all the people – Black, white, Hispanic, men, women – who have been killed by police brutality, and throughout the year, I was jumping in honor of those people.”
He jumped for each of the hundreds of deaths, and fellow artist Timoteo Murphy photographed him at the peak of the jumps.
“It was really like their spirits are levitating out of their bodies,” Glover says.
His work is also centered on the idea of freedom and the internal dialogues that he has as a Black man.
“It’s a lot about identity. It’s a lot about freedom and wanting to express the truest nature of myself and of people who experience life in a similar way that I do, whether it be people who have an awesome relationship with their mom [or] people who love eating crabs on Sundays – just the range of it all.”
Whether he’s drawing, painting or performing, he sees boundless worth in the act of creating.
“Creativity is probably one of the most undervalued skill sets in this country. It is the ability to make something that was invisible visible. It’s the opportunity to turn a light on for someone in a way that [they were] never able to see or hear or absorb.”
In its truest sense, he views creativity as a tool to bring people together.
“Creativity is the key to innovation. It’s the key to our evolution. It’s the key to us really seeing each other and uniting as people.”
Learn more about Glover and follow his work at www.mapsglover.com or @mapsglover on Instagram.
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