Art Close-Up: Fighting & Expressing Racism Through Art

February 23, 2015

Good Afternoon. Last week of February and have things lined up for the week. Let’s look at this month’s Art Close-Up.

I really wanted readers to know how I feel about the subject of racism. Let’s face it. It’s the 21st century and racism still exists. It’s a sad and very frustrating problem. I was watching a little bit of The Book of Negros on BET last week. This program and several films about slavery are hard to watch. Mainly because it tells the hard, cold truth of how slavery was for our ancestors. Taken away from their homes, crossing the Atlantic in the most despicable conditions no human can simply imagine. Even so, we still need to know how hard they fought not only for freedom, but also that future generations know what sacrifices they made for us.

Our ancestors were free, but it was still an uphill battle, especially in the American South. Look at the Harlem Renaissance. The prevailing theme was racial consciousness. African-American writers, artists, musicians, poets, even those in the political arena not only developed, but challenged the world about African-American culture and stereotypes. It was the beginning platform for those involved to express the injustice of that time. Langston Hughes, W.E.B. Du Bois, and others were the key players. By the time the Black Arts Movement came to play in the mid to late 60’s, it was full on force. This movement took a new level of expression. Maya Angelou, Wadsworth Jarrell, and Nikki Giovanni became a new generation of writers, poets, and artists to express their views on our culture.

Film makers like Spike Lee, John Singleton and others are showing movie goers about the everyday lives of African-Americans. Honestly Hollywood has and in my opinion, still in denial about the fact that there are not only African, but Hispanic, Asian, Native American talent out there that would love to tell their own stories….it’s getting there, but unfortunately, at a snail’s pace.

The way I see it, they all have one thing in common and that is their expressing their form of life through art. You see it, you read and you hear about it. Most people can relate. Some are disturbed by it, others are fascinated, or just plain confused, or just disgusted, but that’s what the arts and every form of it is supposed to do! You can look away and cover your ears or just shut it all if you want to, but it’s there.

Example, Kara Walker experienced some controversy when a piece of her work, The moral arc of history ideally bends towards justice but just as soon as not curves back around toward barbarism, sadism, and unrestrained chaos caused a bit of commotion for a few Newark Public Library employees. According to an article, some employees felt that this particular piece of art should not be in a public library. Walker visited the library to discuss not only the work, but the controversy surrounding the piece, and she did not back away from the difficult subjects associated with the work. Do I think the piece was appropriate to hang in a public library? Not too much really, but then again, it gained the attention to talk about it right?

It’s not only African-Americans artists and writers expressing their life and experiences through art. Asians, Hispanics, and other minorities are doing the same thing. We’re trying and will continue to break the stereotypes of our culture. These creative forces have put their mark in the world of art and literature so that future generations can take note, understand, and be inspired.

Yes, racism still exists, but we’re still doing something about it.

Here are two of the articles about Walker’s piece: Censorship or common decency? Newark Library Covers Up Controversial Artwork by Barry Carter/The Star-Ledger, December 2012 and Kara Walker Addresses Art and Controversy at the Newark Public Library by Jessica Kramer/Huffington Post, March 2013.

featured image courtesy of Bryan from