Baton Rouge artist Taufeeq Muhammad loved music and wanted viewers to get a glimpse of that love by painting musicians in an animated style that made him well known in the arts community.
“It’s almost like connecting the dots,” friend and fellow painter Christopher Turner said. “He painted what he loved, and the viewers could be a part of it, but the musicians could also see that he understood them.”
On Jan. 9, Muhammad died at the age of 39.
“He was paying his water bill when he collapsed. He couldn’t be revived,” Turner said. The cause of death has yet to be determined.
Muhammad was known for his paintings of jazz and blues musicians, and he was working on the series before he died.
Muhammad was a native of Decatur, Illinois, and grew up in Dallas. He attended Prairie View A&M University before moving to Baton Rouge, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Southern University.
“He’d been visiting some architectural firms in New Orleans, but he was an artist first,” Turner said.
Turner was director of the Kress Gallery when he first met Muhammad. Muhammad exhibited in the gallery and eventually joined Turner on the local live painting circuit, where artists create a painting during a live music performance.
The LSU Tiger Marching Band asked Muhammad to create a live painting during one of its annual Tigerama concerts. Muhammad also painted live at a Dr. John concert in the Manship Theatre.
“He and I were painting live at the Baton Rouge Blues Festival,” Turner said. “He started painting live first, so I held back to let him get started. I remember he was painting (Louisiana bluesman) Henry Gray.”
Turner remembers fans gathering around Muhammad. They were joined by Gray.
“Henry Gray started talking to Taufeeq, and the next thing I see is Henry Gray signing the canvas,” Turner said. “It’s those moments that you remember.”
Muhammad’s animated style brought notoriety to his musician paintings.
“He was very diverse,” Turner said. “He was painting in a cubist style when he first started exhibiting at the Kress Gallery, then he moved into the musicians. It was his mission, as well as mine, to make art accessible for everybody. A lot of artists are about the competition, but in our conversations, we were more about being part of the thread.”
Muhammad also exhibited his work in New Orleans, Dallas, Chicago, Atlanta, New York and Washington, D.C.
A memorial service is set for 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Thursday for the artist at the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge, 427 Laurel St.
A funeral service took place in Dallas.