nineteen sixty nine: an ethnic studies journal
- Author(s): Williams, Antoine
- et al.
Something entirely fictions and true, that creeps across your path hallowing your evil ways. –Amiri Baraka
My art is an investigation of my cultural identity through the exploration of power as it relates to social stratification. My desire is to create art pieces that serve as a backdrop for a mythology on which I question the ecology of low income communities of color and their relation with other social classes as well as the perception of the people within those communities. My work is heavily influenced by sci-fi literature such as Brave New World and Fahrenheit 451. I believe themes in science fiction are analogous to the contemporary Black experience in America. Being the descendants of a people who were stolen from their home- taken to a new distant world and over generations evolved to survive their extreme circumstances. Therefore, I have created a world of mythical beings in a number of different mediums that personify the complexity within hierarchies of power in everyday life.
These entities which are hybrids of appropriated 19th century animal illustrations, objects within my and environment and my hand drawn figures from contemporary Black culture, are in the vein of the Dadaist, who appropriated and recontexualized images from society in order to make “anti-art”. Namely Hans Arp, who considered the destruction of “signs” as a subversive act. The signs I’m interested in are the tropes associated with the Black body within the American psyche.
These entities are inspired by personal experiences from a rural working class, upbringing, in Red Springs, North Carolina, such as seeing childhood friends mutate into drug dealers then disappear into the streets. I am creating a mythology for my hometown in these gods and goddesses that are the personification of a psychology that is a result of one’s particular placement within the social ladder. Inspired by Amiri Baraka poem “Something in the Way of Things”, these beings live in the intangible spaces that exist between the nuances of class and race. They are both born of and perpetuate the actions and thought processes due to social reproduction. Within my paintings and collages, we have these mythical beings interacting with each other to suggest a narrative. They exist in an abstracted purgatory.
The deities themselves are collages of signifiers of contemporary Blackness and tradition western colonial motifs. In my installations, the use of a found objects such as shovels, sheet-rock and tires can signify the industries of agriculture, construction and factory labor that are specific to my memories of Red Springs. These utilitarian objects are placed with the wheat-pasted figures along walls. Wheat-paste which has a history of being a lost cost method of political activism that communicates a particular ideology to a large number of people. The deities enchant and interact with the 3 dimensional objects, activating them in way that speaks to socioeconomic conditions of a specific geographic region.