Black Man Reaching

Black Man Reaching

Black Man Reaching

I am assuming my reading of Ta-Nehisi Coates Between the World and Me is what prompted this drawing.

I have been thinking about color – in art and as a descriptor of a person or people. It has always been amazing to me as a biologist- that a a simple cell, the melanocyte, driven by its genes to create a certain type and amount of a pigment, melanin, could account for, out of complete proportion, so much of our projections and “understanding” of another.

To me, as the artist, words such as “black” and “white” are simply the anchors, or poles, on each end of my options. In their “all” or “nothing” manner, they hold the place for all other colors.

It is interesting we would choose these word to define entire groups of people. There is something so solid and uncompromising about “white” and “black” to an artist. To choose those colors next to one another, you are basically indicating you want a division, a demarcation- “here” and “not here”. There are nothing subtle about the use of pure white and pure black from the palette of choices.

I wonder as we continue to reference “black” and “white”, as if these were solid, immutable entities, are we choosing colors that speak to division and demarcation? The answer is, “Yes, of course, we are.”

Just to show you how this has played around in my mind. The picture above was the last picture I did. I call it “BlacK Man Reaching”, yet the only thing black is the enlarged left hand, the face it white.

Two previous pictures I had done are below.

Artistic Merit

Artistic Merit

Note the white face, but enlarged right hand, that is darker in color.

And this one is entitled “Artist”. No real face, but the enlarged right hand.

The right hand is the hand of the “literal”. Am I speaking to the idea that my artist is my “literal” power?



I am, I think, trying to play with the idea of how we express ourselves in the world. Do our hands (our creative principles) have size and weight in this world, or are they hobbled by weakness?

What is the size of your creation in this world and does it matter if you are black or white?

Is your power literal (right hand) or creative and symbolic (left hand)? And before you speak of such power, do you first have to look to see the color of your hand?


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