America's Whispered Truths

Updated: Oct 4, 2020

America’s Whispered Truths

This installation uses pieces from my former exhibits; Nodder Doll/Living Doll, In the Hood and In Mixed Company, and the artwork of Renee Billingslea.

My work celebrates my rural upbringing while documenting a fading part of the American landscape. According to essayist Bill Gaskins, Little is "the viewer, listener and participant of his environments, paintings and assemblages. The work has been presented in a wide range of experiences, observations, and sights from this skilled, spirit driven artist storyteller, editorialist and native son of the American South.

I apply and then remove many layers of oil paint, wax medium and rust medium in my abstract paintings to create surfaces that appear scraped, gouged, beaten to look like they may have been found in a dig.

Assemblage and installation pieces are layered with humor, irony, complexity and contradiction. Found objects come alive in the work as they speak with an unabashed honesty. Compositions engulf environments with a surreal sense of reality as they critique portions of America’s social dilemmas. They invite us to open our minds, hearts to seek unexpected truths.

Nodder Doll/ Living Doll --2018

Nodder Doll Living Doll In the series Nodder Doll/ Living Doll, the nodder (bobble head) picaninny banks, made of ceramic and chalk were in the Japan in the 1950's. They were marketed and sold to white America as souvenir, a novelty, as Black Americana. I defiantly reclaim, re-present them; to elevate and celebrate their beauty from the ill-conceived form of degradation they originally represent. The assemblages sit proudly beside large-scale figurative portrait-like paintings on canvas and wood panel. The work hints and suggests the pieces could be living, breathing modern day adult manifestations of today's Black woman. The pieces become a trumpet or a mouth piece, speaking to the subversive nature of racism in the past and present. I reclaim the disrespectful and insulting fruits and use found objects to embrace today's real-life issues and struggles to evoke today's Black woman's challenges, strength and her resilience.

In the Hood-- 2014

In the Hood exploits the KKK’s symbol of racism in America.

Through socio-political satire the work alluded to the irrationality of America's nouveau KKK (a vocal extreme right faction of the new Tea Party) and its rise to the mainstream with its shameless, divisive rhetoric and obsession with race, blame, and hyperbole.

In the Hood contrasts elements of the defiant, ever present, mocked, ridiculed, yet copied Hip Hop culture, with the phenomena of the (then) new emerging Tea Party. The farcical parody is the juxtaposition of this unlikely pair. The union weds the KKK with the very culture it may hate so much, thus becoming perhaps its metaphorical worst nightmare.

In the Hood has been funded in part by a 2010 grant from the Pollock Krasner Foundation.

In Mixed Company-- 2008

My multimedia work, In Mixed Company, explores the phenomena known as the “privileged conversation” – those true southern tête-à-têtes spoken only intra-racially and never in mixed company. Often where black and white farms of my childhood stood side by side, the prejudices and notions spoken on one side of the fence were vibrantly echoed on the other --- never together.

Moreover, this works notion is to opens the arena of the kitchen table, behind closed doors, shocking, funny, in your face, those stereotypical intra-racial conversations, never meant to be shared with those of any other race than their own.

My desire is to explore the essence of the ‘fence’; to reveal its power; or lack thereof, to appreciate the capacity of the fence to provide protection and strength versus vulnerability.

Funding made possible by a 2006 Pollack Krasner Foundation Grant allowed me to realize a portion of my vision of the project.

Exhibit at Clark College Vancouver, WA

Willie Little is a Black artist and storyteller from North Carolina who currently splits his time between Oakland, CA and Portland Oregon.

© 2018 Willie Little

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