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Artist Ment Nelson using Gullah Geechee heritage as inspiration

Clementia Nelson paints portrait in Hampton County (WCIV)

(This story is part of a series featuring African American artists in the Lowcountry. They’re making their mark in history by creating timeless pieces.)

“I just come out here and paint all day.” Ment Nelson said.

It’s easy to trace Clementia ‘Ment’ Nelson’s world of colors on a wooden table, under an old tree, in Varnville, South Carolina.

“I make a conscious decision to include some of my Gullah Geeche heritage, some of the Lowcountry scenery, things that I know will make me difference in the art world you could say,” Nelson said.

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Art has been his way of life.

“Really, it was just my gift ever since I was a child, before I started elementary school. I was already drawing,” Nelson added.

He expresses his thoughts, on any canvas, in any form.

“I used to be part of a hip hop rap group in SC, I also do R&B/jazz, real soulful. I like to say the type of music I make is black music,” he added.

Yet it’s his paintings and his Twitter page that gained him national attention.

“One of the churches that he burned down was called old Sheldon church and right across from it is a place where you can go crabbing and fishing, so I used that title for this particular piece and now it’s included in a traveling exhibit with the Smithsonian Institution called Crossroads: Changing Rural America and it will be on display for the next six years,” Nelson said.

Every piece isn’t centered on his Lowcountry roots.

“It’s just such an interesting time to me because you have a president of the United States and a rapper having a meeting with one another and we’re watching on live television," Nelson said. "Like, I don’t think that’s ever happened before.”

The piece sparked some outrage, but Nelson believes his mission was accomplished.

“If you’re not being controversial, people probably don’t notice you," he said. "While Kanye was there, I kind of wanted to channel all the emotions that I saw on social media. Like how people we’re looking at that situation, I wanted to make a depiction of it.”

Nelson says chasing his dream has been humbling.

“Truthfully, my priorities are personal priorities, like moving out, getting my own place, so when stuff like this happens, it’s cool but I’m like what I really want I haven’t accomplished yet,” he said.

Nelson knows his mark on the world started with Lowcountry creations.

“Don’t let your location make you feel like you have to be limited on how far you can go because I’m in the middle of nowhere and what it comes down to is your talent, your gift, what’s inside of you," he added.

To learn more about Ment Nelson, visit www.mentnelson.com.

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