Why - a question Lamont Joseph White often hears when people view his art series, ‘Skiing in Color.' Why is that? The artwork flips the status quo of the snow industry through larger than life canvas paintings of Black skiers and snowboarders in the mountains. The art invites the viewer into a conversation about diversity, equity, and inclusion in an industry that lacks all of the above. "If I painted white skiers, there wouldn't be questions as to why, but because I am painting Black skiers, they ask why," he noted, though the question is always met with a kind response and an explanation about privilege. "No matter how many Black skiers I paint, it'll never reach the volume of white skiers that are depicted in art."
Park City-based artist Lamont Joseph White with artwork titled 'Slope Dreams'
Originally from New York with a degree in fine arts, LJW has lived in Park City, Utah for the past nine years and has been snowboarding in the Wasatch Mountains for even longer. As part of his art design business, LJW began painting skiers and snowboarders in the mountains for ski resorts. Initially, these figures represented the typical light-skinned snow industry look. He quickly diverted to painting a more diverse set of characters, uncertain if there would be an audience for the pieces. "I've visited many mountain towns and currently live in one, so I thought that we should mix it up more," he explained. "I wasn't sure what the reaction would be - mountain towns show a certain line in which they are comfortable and don't necessarily want to rock the boat with the tourists coming into town."
As it turns out, a handful of the Utah entities were willing to join the conversation about race, though it still remains a polarizing topic. "Several leaders of the community in Utah have embraced me such as SkiUtah, VisitUtah, and Snowbird. They see me and have collaborated with me." He added, "I've also gotten support from Park City that believe in representation and believe in the power of it, but from other identities in Park City, I feel like they want to steer clear of it."
'Squad' by Lamont Joseph White
The series began back in January of 2020, before the murder of George Floyd, which notably sparked nationwide conversations about systematic racism through protests for Black Lives Matter. "By the time I did my first exhibit, we were pretty far along in the conversation about what equality and discrimination means," said LJW, noting that as a nation, there is still a long way to go. "I still experience many implicit biases - 'You're not that black, you speak well, what are you...' Even though they're not as explicit in quantity as they used to be, those comments still lead to the degradation of Black and brown people."
One of his goals is to help normalize Black and brown faces in not only skiing but the outdoor industry in general. "There's a couple of people who have been inspirations for me in the outdoor spaces as creatives such as Stan Evans and James Edward Mills." Evans is an outdoors photographer, and Mills is a journalist for outdoors publications. He's created an organization called The Joy Trip Project and authored the book, The Adventure Gap, Changing the Face of the Outdoors, following the first all African American expedition to attempt summiting Denali.
'Color Coordinated' by Lamont Joseph White
Both kids and adults are depicted in his series. One of LJW’s pieces, 'Color Coordinated,' details a young Black girl smiling in her pink ski goggles with pink skies. It's an image unlike any other, representing a new generation of joyful skiers in what has primarily been a white space. "I've had the opportunity to speak with children about my artwork. I've seen their eyes open to all the possibilities. They think, 'Hey, I can do that!'" LJW said. "I see you on the mountain, but I also see you getting to the mountain one day."
A portion of the sales of 'Color Coordinated' goes to SheJumps. "I've got two daughters, and I believe in the importance of the outdoor world for humanity. I'm a champion for inclusion, diversity, and representation and saw how SheJumps was putting in the work," explained LJW. "I see SheJumps as leaders as creating safe spaces for those who are underrepresented. The goals align because that's exactly what I'm trying to do."
SheJumps is an inclusive organization. We welcome all women and girls (transgender and cisgender) as well as non-binary people who identify with the women’s community. SheJumps strives to be an ally in the fight against racism and acknowledges that our events and programs take place on traditional, unceded Indigenous lands.