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Triptych by Willie Little

Chivas Regal Perspectives in African American Art in the permanent collection of the Harvey Gantt Center Charlotte, NC

A Door to American Culture is an examination and celebration of the black woman as one of the paths to understanding American culture. The work embraces some of the roles and realities that the black woman has played in nurturing American Culture.

Multimedia oil and Wax with AK 47 8ft tall, 2016/ 2018 Category: Race/Black Lives Matter This was my first portrait for my Nodder Doll/ Living Doll exhibition, a series wherein I reclaim and re-present ceramic negrobilia pickaninny bobble head dolls that sit alongside portraits of beautiful contemporary Black women. In this series I pose the question, what if the work represented living and breathing Black women in the 21st Century, what challenges would they face? As I reclaim and re-present the bobble head dolls, the degrading and insulting fruits become symbols of liberation and resilience. I was excited to participate in a residency to make this piece during a Pop-Up Residency at the McColl Center in Charlotte in 2016. This piece responds to America’s obsession with guns, its issues with gun violence and race. The figure appears to stare with knowing eyes as they follow the viewer. She sports Bantu knots symbolizing Black pride and wears a Victorian Bustled gown inspired by the Hottentot Venus’s exploitation and the influence of Black culture on world culture. The chained blood red AK-47 begs to ask is she chained as a victim or is she using the chain as leverage? The gun is made with several 1/4 inch laser cut aluminum pieces with an AK-47 as a template. While completing the piece in the wee hours of the night leading to June 12, I had no idea the devastating Pulse Nightclub massacre in Florida was occurring. This fueled my emotion and notion that America’s obsession with guns is irrational and inhumane.

Photographs of a mammy, a nanny and a representation of Sally Hemmings as well as a portrait of a “woman as door” become symbols that speak to some of the specific roles. The black woman has been the mammy, the nanny, midwife and secret lover to America. Symbolically speaking, she has raised America. The inspiration for distressing and burning the doors symbolizes the abuse and desecration, yet ultimate resilience and survival of the “door”.

The division of keys and door locks on separate doors is a powerful metaphor that suggests that people unconsciously “pass through” or “use” doors everyday, yet fail to consider a door’s significance when no key is necessary to enter.

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