Skip to main content

Art & Social Trauma and the role of Black artists

What does it mean to be a Black artist in the age of social consciousness? The protests, the unrest and the BlackLivesMatter movement is sweeping the nation causing a shift in the national consciousness and shining a light on the disparity of privilege and mass incarceration. Thousands of people are marching in the streets demanding that America, a country built on the premise of civil liberty speak out valiantly that justice and accountability must be afforded to all its citizens equally.
 As an artist and a human being I'm drawn to the visceral affect of the faces I have seen on TV and in protests marches. I am mortified when I see some of the news media demonize and cast protesters as sub-human and not people who are angry, desperate and unable to breathe under the oppression of a system setup for them to live in the margins of society. While we are familiar with this narrative it's important that the images that are thrust in front of us are not just media driven. Is it the responsibility of Black artists and artists of color to respond to social unrest and trauma? Should our artistic practice be in service to the community? I believe so. We know that during the sixties, Black artists were out front illustrating and painting the Black experience.
The notion of how Blacks are viewed is a deeply personal one for me and It should come as no surprise that my work is addressing the latest social trauma polarizing the nation. I've heard many Black artist say, "Why can't I just be an artist?" or  Why do I have to be a Black artist? Some push against it, while others embrace it. A few Black artists have claimed, "It's unfair, this is not asked of white artists!"  It is a pressure they feel is not put on any other group. I don't feel that pressure, but thats me.
Whether, political or romantic Black art is based in our history, the communities we grow up in and our faith, it's inextricably linked to the long history of cruelty and notions of otherness.  The Black experience is complicated, vast, deeply rich and deserves many voices.
Blacks have a shared history, but should this shared history create generations of artists positing the same societal message of Black trauma? Our futures are tied to this country and if only one homogenized narrative is allowed to exist then we as artists are forever placed in a very tight monolithic box unable to breathe

Check out this wonderful article on the Whitney Museum anti-lynching images.
Painting by Barbara Jones Hogu of Chicago and AFRICOBA


Popular posts from this blog

Modern Art Notes Podcast

The Spelman College Museum of Art is showing "Deborah Roberts: The Evolution of Mimi" through May 19. The exhibition features work Roberts has made in the last half-decade, work that uses collage and girlhood to examine issues of race, gender, and America's present condition. It was curated by Andrea Barnwell. San Francisco's Jenkins Johnson Gallery just opened an exhibition of Roberts' work called "Uninterrupted." It's on view through March 17.
Deborah Roberts was recently included in the group exhibition "Fictions" at the Studio Museum in Harlem. Her work is in the collections of the Studio Museum, the Blanton at the University of Texas, and the Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University.
The Spelman College Museum has uploaded a conversation between Barnwell and Roberts. Part one is here
The Modern Art Notes Podcast is a weekly, hour-long interview program featuring artists, historians, authors, …

About last year

Last year was a crazy, exciting and exhilarating year for me, I went to the Volta Art Fair in March and everything I thought I knew as an artist changed over night. All of a sudden everything I always wanted happened, that magical sun light found me waiting for my moment. I have always honored my practice, did what was necessary and let the works move me in the direction it need to go. I've dealt with disappointments, failures, missed opportunities and fear of change but this isn't anything unusual, most artist go through these things everyday.
I'm nothing special, I think this can happen to any artist who works hard and is passionate about their work and accepts that its not about them but the work.
I told myself the other day when I felt exhausted from travel that the other side of success is poverty and I've done that, so get up and go work in the studio because while nothing last forever and it's up to me to stay focus, keep my feet planted and to continue to …