Originally posted on July 13, 2020
Award-winning actor (Carol Christine Hilaria) CCH Pounder is known for her roles in TV series NCIS and The Shield and movies like Avatar, but did you know she’s also a home restorationist and interior designer, as well as an avid art collector. Her curated exhibit titled “Queen,” a mixed-media exhibit displaying paintings, sculptures and more showcasing Black womanhood, beauty and empowerment, was previously featured at the Charles H. Wright African-American Museum. During the exhibit, One Detroit’s Will Glover caught up with CCH to talk about the culmination of her 45 year career as an actor, the inspiration for collecting the artwork in her exhibit, and the growth of Black representation in public art spaces.
Will Glover: Let’s get started with where we expect to get started. You are a wildly successful actor. You’ve had success from Avatar to the NCIS series in your career. You beautifully restore homes around the country.
CCH Pounder, Actress & Art Collector: Thank you.
Will Glover: That I, but I genuinely enjoy that.
CCH Pounder: Oh, thanks.
Will Glover: And you are a very well-respected art collector. Does it just come naturally to excel in other forms?
CCH Pounder: Well, I don’t know about everybody else, but for me, it came fairly naturally and it kind of was hand in hand. Interiors, my mother bought a house for $27,000 and made all of her children paint and fix it up for the summer so that we could have money to go to school.
Will Glover: Oh wow!
CCH Pounder: Lessons learned because it wasn’t as if opaqueness and no-no-no. Get the corners, get that, and so an attention to detail started very, very young. I wanted to be an artist, a visual artist in the beginning, and I had this conflict with wanting to be an actor. I had a mentor, Stella Carr, and I always give kudos to her because she said Cease, well, Carol, acting’s for young people.
CCH Pounder: As long as you have your hands and your eyes, you can be an artist. And so I said, well, then I’ll do the first half of my life as an actor and then the second half of my life as an artist. Well, of course, it doesn’t really all fall together like that.
CCH Pounder: I mean, acting took a long time to manifest itself as a working person. And then all of a sudden it was there and it was there relentlessly. For what now? Forty-five years straight.
Will Glover: Mm-Hmm.
CCH Pounder: So I haven’t stopped acting professionally, and while I was doing that, I started to introduce my friends who were artists to people who did movies, to people who became chefs. So immediately there was a kind of, you ought to know so-and-so and she ought to know you, and he can put that up on your wall of your restaurant and…
Will Glover: Right.
CCH Pounder: We have this wonderful sort of symbiotic activity going on within the arts. And so that’s really how I started and how I continued.
Will Glover: Does your acting and your experience through that the career so far? Does that influence how you interact and approach with and pick art?
CCH Pounder: No, it’s not the same, except in the sense that when you see the work downstairs, you will know that I’m interested in storytelling and you can see it in almost every single painting that there’s a story to be told. And it’s not particularly complicated because there is strong emotion in almost all of the works.
CCH Pounder: And so that is obviously my attraction. Where I see something that speaks to me and I can literally almost feel the story. And that’s what makes it, I think, really perfect for the type of audience that sees my work.
Will Glover: And is that what about the pieces that you select?
CCH Pounder: Mm-Hmm.
Will Glover: That what is it? What is it about those pieces that makes you say, this is, like I have to like this is the story that I have to have. I get that tingle down my spine.
CCH Pounder: Well, I remember my late husband saying to me, I’m only married to one woman. Look at all these women in here. And I tend to gravitate to the female subject, and I feel as if the emotion of the painting that I’m seeing, gives me a story that I can tell.
CCH Pounder: And I can actually translate it even into characters that I’ve played…
Will Glover: Right.
CCH Pounder: I’ve even gathered strength from paintings. Like there’s an incredible painting of Harriet Tubman. And it’s a mean painting. So she’s standing over a man with a gun, and she’s basically saying, if you don’t get up and get us north, I will shoot you myself. And you can see it in her face. And I said and I just have to take that home. So there is a moment that I connect that’s deeply personal.
Will Glover: What was the motivation in bringing or if it wasn’t a motivation, what was the reason for bringing this collection to the right here in Detroit?
CCH Pounder: Well, obviously Neil Barclay, and I’m not saying that just because he’s in the room, but obviously I had a relationship with Neil Barclay in New Orleans. I knew him then and when he ran another institution and he introduced the unusual and I was somewhat fascinated by that. And when he came here, I decided that this was a great place to start a completely different phase of my collection.
CCH Pounder: Because I had been talking about, I don’t want it to end up in a basement. I don’t want it to be part of my will that ends up in the basement of a museum. And that gets trotted out Black History Month or a particular happening. And then it’s like, Oh, wouldn’t it be appropriate if we went and got a couple of those paintings?
CCH Pounder: I wanted the idea that this was living matter and it could be seen now and it could travel and other people could see it, be inspired by it. Take a look at how we looked back then and what we’re doing now and what the future holds for us. Within the collection, all three of those things exist. There’s the historic, there’s the present and there’s the future.
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