Robert Linsley: Wilfredo Lam- Painter of Negritude, Judith Wilson: Sargent Johnson- Afro-California Modernist, Cornel West: Horace Pippin’s Challenge to art Criticism
Elizabeth Stuart, Hope College 2018
These three essays seem to address a common theme that most black artists seem to face, the idea of having to create art that appears only to be valued due to its existence under the label of “black art”. This issue rings true with what we have previously read from different sources, that art that does not belong to the traditional cannon of acceptable art, appears only to exists due to the labels. Art is being labeled as “good black art”, “good feminist art” or “good native american art”. When really art should be classified based on its ability to convey emotion, thoughts, or even technical skill.
A couple of sentences from these essays really stuck out to me within the context of this course. The idea that the white gaze “reduces black people to mere reactors to white power” (West) for not only does this showcase the limiting factors that have been placed on black artists, it invalidates everything that they have done. If their art is done simply in response to white power, then it makes their art seem like it is only created because white art existed first.
While the general tone of all of these essays was disheartened and unsure on the standing of black art, I felt a personal connection to two positive quotes in particular:
“God must have loved common folk since he made so many of them.” (West)
“The tree, profoundly rooted in the soil, is for me the symbol of a man who is self rooted” (Linsley)
While the second quote is melancholy in the sense that it is referring to a man with out soil to put down roots, both of these lines so a resiliency that is to come in the future. A desire for better things to come, and a belief that they are possible.