In Lavar Munroe’s painting “Two Birds and a Stone,” a man, glowing red, stands thigh-deep in water, seemingly unfazed by the huge snake floating before him. Trappings of the holy and the ordinary shape the central figure. A golden halo, faint wings, and his upright stature (while wielding two macaws in either hand) give him a saintlike aura. His basketball shorts and party hat bring him back into the material world, along with the nylon strap stretching across his chest and holding an actual mousetrap and a sentimental plaster angel ornament like mundane, protective amulets.
Many of the objects that Munroe embeds throughout his mixed-media paintings previously belonged to family members—the nylon harnesses that recur in many of these works, in particular, belonged to his father, a Bahamian parasailing instructor who died in 2015. Repurposing these objects in his accumulative, allegorical paintings allows Munroe to contend with and remain connected with the people close to him who have passed away.
Born and raised in Nassau, Munroe now lives and works in Baltimore. He uses images from specific memories, symbols, and materials in his work to tell stories and examine relationships to people, spiritual beliefs, and cultural markers that have shaped him. In this collection of work on view in the Sondheim Finalist exhibition at the Walters Art Museum, Munroe focuses on his relationship to Black single fatherhood—through his father, who raised him alone, and his own role as a single father. There’s nothing singular about that subject for him; the works branch out and then reconnect widely, intimately.