Taking Wax to the Max

by Tiffany Santiago Photos by Johnny Holmes

On December 7, 1996, Angel Colon, Johnny Holmes and I visited the first and only African American Wax Museum of Harlem. The founder and owner is Mr. Raven Chanticleer. Mr. Chanticleer lives next door to the museum with his wife. 

Raven Chanticleer was born to a prominent family. His mother was born in Barbados, and his father in Haiti. He has one sister and one brother, his brother was born in Haiti. His father was a principal. 

Some of the wax figures he has made includes David Dinkins and Martin Luther King. It takes Mr. Chanticleer about one month to finish a figure. He uses paper mache and plaster from the feet up. 

Dr Martin Luther King, Jr and Honorable David Dinkins, former NYC mayor

Raven Chanticleer made a lamp out of popsicle sticks and it took him about a month to make it. Besides running the museum, he writes for a newspaper. He used to teach at a college but found it more interesting to teach younger kids. He is now writing a book called “Taking Wax To The Max”. 

Raven Chanticleer

Mr. Chanticleer’s dream is to make his museum bigger and to install a computer room. Right now he is working on a figure of Bob Marley. He says that making wax figures and art objects is what he always wanted to do, that this was his calling.

Story behind the Art

I went to the metropolitan museum. I started doing a person on the street (pos). I interviewed a couple of people to get there perspective on the metropolitan museum and here are my answers…

(Me):Do you like the Met museum

Emma:I love the met I live down the block and I come here all the time

Me: is there any art here that you like

Emma : I have a favorite painting here that I have to see every time I come to the Met. its a picture of Joan of the arc . Joan of arc belived that the voice of god was telling her to fight for her country.

Me: Is it an inspiring piece of work

Emma: I think so. I’m a writer and I think about it a lot when I’m writing about her kind of power that she has about painting

Me: Thank you so much for your time.

Next interview

Me: Is there anything about this museum that you like

Aisha: yea its big so its a place to walk and learn at the same time

Me: is there any art in particular that you like

Aisha: I was walking around I just got here and so far I like that glass wall

Me: would you visit this museum again

Aisha: yes I will when I come back with my daughter

Me: thank you for your time

Next interview

Me: do you like the museum

Artist: of course It’s a wonderful museum I love it

Me: is there any art here that you like

Artist: there is many things that I love in this museum I’m a painter so there is a lot of paintings that I like especially in the European wing but I also of course love sculpture. but I like this piece of art right here(Memory).

Me: what do you like about this piece of art

Artist:I think that she’s very elegant and i love the facial expressions and the shape of her face and also the pose . It’s called memory so if you look closely she is holding a mirror in her hand but if you look carefully she’s not looking at her self she is looking at something behind her. So it’s kinda about looking at things that already happened back in time.

Me: wow that is really interesting i didn’t notice that

Me:would you visit this museum again

Artist: yes i would I’ve been here many times and I’ll be coming here once a week till may.

Me:Thank you so much for your time

Next interview

Me: Do you like the museum

Wimping: yes but it’s too big

Me:is there any art here that you like

Wimping: i like the European painters

Me: which painters do you like

Wimping: leo divinci ,vango,

Me:would you visit this museum again

Wimping: yes im coming tomorow cause its so big you need to spend at least 2 months to see the whole thing

Graffiti Then and Now

Early on in the 1970’s, Graffiti art began to appear as one of the most creative arts in the 20th century. It has since become a vehicle for expressing artists’ thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

Back in the day, subway cars were the canvas of choice for most graffiti artist, but today artists are choosing to decorate subway cars, walls on buildings, streets in the neighborhood, or any other place where their work can be seen. The only limitations to where graffiti work can be put up are physical. Anything the artist can reach can become a canvas.

Graffiti art has been created to serve many moods; it can serve as a memorial or function as a role model for the community. Companies to promote a product have even used graffiti such as Coca Cola. There are many legitimate uses for graffiti in today’s society, but graffiti remains illegal primarily because it involves the “defacing” of private property. Groups such as the Nograf Network, make it their mission to try to rid the community of graffiti because now of days gang use it to claim territory or just to vandalize property and also because the graffiti artist rarely has permission to mark the surface they choose to write on. 

So, in some respects, they have a point. There are some legal outlets for street art (for instance, some communities cover unsightly building walls and pull-down gates with murals by graffiti artists) and a graffiti artist can always try to translate their vision onto a real canvas. The bottom line, though, is that while most graffiti is a valid and sometimes beautiful art form it is still illegal so it would be a good idea to do the art on your own property instead of someone else’s unless you can get that person’s permission in advance. Now a day a person can get at least the maximum of 10 years in jail for graffiti on property without the permission from the property owner.