"Without a doubt, if all black children were daily growing up in environments where they learned the importance of art and saw artists that were black, our collective black experience of art would be transformed." --bell hooks
I recently read an essay by bell hooks called "Art Is For Everybody"* which addresses the problem of black identification with art - why, in her words, "black folks have tended to see art as completely unimportant in the struggle for survival." Shortly after reading the essay, I came across this photo in my Facebook newsfeed. Never before have I seen one image which more embodies the importance of black representation in art. My friend's daughter Elizabeth clearly saw something of herself in Mickalene Thomas' Three Graces: Les Trois Femmes Noires at the North Carolina Museum of Art, and this, folks, is how we solve the problem of black identification with the art establishment.
Cultural institutions, take note: representation matters.
Photo by Catherine Allison of her daughter Elizabeth (shared with her permission).
*I haven't been able to find the essay online, but you can read it in the book Drawing Us In: How We Experience Visual Art.