At Levine Museum, Charlotte, NC 2008
Yourself in a gallery space that could just as easily be a surreal clearing of cryptic relics.
The essence of the real and mythical fence metaphorical barriers of prejudices typically found in the South between black and white.
The true brilliance of In Mixed Company lies in its irony. As the many recent public statements made by celebrity figures over the last year reminds us, the social codes of civility, discretion, and shame that In Mixed Company seeks to recall and represent are woefully absent from too many public and private relations across lines of race.
Snatches of Jim Crow songs and Negro spirituals wash in and out. A continuous loop of rustling leaves, chants, footsteps, stories, and the humor of poignant truths constantly fill the air.
On "privileged conversations" that may have easily transpired in the "front room", dining room, between friends and even on a schoolyard.
A floating forest of fourteen 6-foot tall walking sticks hypnotically hovering above the ground. Wrapped, jeweled, and adorned in cockleburs reminiscent of the celebratory defiance of African hair, the walking sticks, in opposition to fences and barriers tendencies to erode the spirit, serve as icons of strength, resilience, and support for the renewal of our collective humanity.
The lids of boxes layered and filled with treasures meant to tickle your psyche and jumpstart your heart.
In Mixed Company
"The true brilliance of In Mixed Company lies in its irony. As the many recent public statements made by celebrity figures over the last year reminds us, the social codes of civility, discretion, and shame that In Mixed Company seeks to recall and represent are woefully absent from too many public and private relations across lines of race." Bill Gaskins
Bill Gaskins is an artist, essayist and professor of art in the departments of photography and critical studies at Parsons The New School For Design in New York.
In Mixed Company is a multimedia installation that explores the phenomena artist Willie Little refers to as the privileged conversation those southern tête-à-têtes spoken only intra-racially and never in mixed company. Often where black and white farms of Little's youth stood side by side, the prejudices and notions spoken on one side of the fence were surprisingly echoed on the other yet never together.
Funded by Little's receipt of a 2006 Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant for artists of unquestionable merit and considerable longevity, this installation explores the artists rural NC childhood and urban adult relationship to the parable of the black curse.
Evincing the poignancy of intra-racial unspeakables, the parable reveals how the Black Man supposedly received the curse of his nappy hair. It was told repeatedly and to great effect by an elder on the Little family's Pactolus township front porch and its dubious social and cultural implications still have significant impact for the artist today.
The goal of the installation is to:
Explore the essence of the 'fence'
Reveal it's power or lack thereof
Appreciate the capacity of the fence to provide protection and strength versus vulnerability and weakness
Appreciate and convey the real and unexpected truths learned through parable