August 3 – September 3, 2023
Opening Reception August 3, 5:30-7pm

I Do Not Want What I Have Not Got

Written by Sinead O’Connor, sung by Bettye LaVette

Watch the installation video

Artist Statement

Having time to reflect during that pandemic allowed me to make choices regarding my practice:

  • To find my origin
  • To make work more affirming to humanity (after seeing George Floyd murdered for most of the world to see).

This work reflects those choices.

Willie Little – 2023

Location

Russo Lee Gallery
805 NW 21st Ave,
Portland, OR 97210
(503) 226-2754

Monotypes

I spent over 20 years making work, a self- discovery, making sense of who I am, and where I come from a Black American perspective. My new monotypes are part of a new journey to self-discovery and enlightenment, via using icons of my origin from the perspective of my origin, my source. With that shift, I made a choice to protest the gun violence imposed upon our Black American citizens by making work affirming our survival, despite all we endure. This is part of an exploration, using icons, Adinkra symbols from Ghana that encapsulate evocative messages conveying traditional wisdom, aspects of life, or the environment.  

The monotypes reflect my journey to seek my roots, where I come from. I like many Africans born in America have no recollection of our origins.

Willie – 2023

Monotypes Gallery

Click an image for gallery view

Walking Sticks

Words, they can sting, can hurt. This installation is a metaphorical and spiritual journey to enlightenment, we as a nation must take to heal the divides of race and class in America.

Where I grew up, Black and white farms stood side by side, divided by fence. Things said about race on one side of the fence, were equally said on the other: just never together.

These majestic African inspired walking sticks could possibly be fences, barriers, African scepters to protect, to exalt.  They could be emblem of nobility, an instrument of battle or ritual. They could possibly suggest, we all as humans move beyond hatred for one another and embrace our commonalties. We were all born with the capacity to love, have compassion for one another. Hate is learned.

These majestic sticks are adorned with cockleburs, prickly seed pods that could represent African hair in its natural state. Once a racial epithet, our hair is considered a symbol of strength and resilience.  As many of us embrace the texture of our hair, we can say today, as we many echoed in the 60s and 70s, our hair is beautiful. Blackness is beautiful.

The 4 symbols crown my mystical sticks: The halo (female), horn (male) could represent the characteristics we as humans all share. The (flame) could light our way on our life journey. The (diamond)—oh, the riches; for there are many that have little to do with money. My family grew up poor, but we were rich at the same time, lived off the soil; didn’t want for nothing. We tilled the soil. The earth, in turn, gave us a bountiful harvest that made us rich, rich as the soil beneath our swollen feet. I do not want what I have not got. That is the truth as I see it. Having compassion for one another as human beings and having the capacity to love is the first step to having all one needs to survive.

Willie – 2023

View Walking Sticks

Russo Lee Gallery