While imperiled by illness, confined to a bed and no longer able to paint artist, Juan Miro began cutting shapes of paper and pasting them together to create art. This was the beginning of the collage painting technique. Inspired by Miro, many Black artis from the WPA period utilized and modified this technique in their work. Noted among them is, Romare Bearden, Allen Stringfellow and DR. Margaret Borroughs. In my painting, The Empty Space, I found myself interested in exploring elements of collage as a narrative vehicle to help develop a layered conversation about African American history, our present day community and imaginings of what our future might look like.
This painting is created in three panels... Each one representing different elements of time: past, present, and future.
o The left panel symbolizes the past with it's layered collage elements of historical documentation of wanted posters for runaway slaves and photos of Black chain gang workers in the southern states. These are pasted over a roughly painted surface which hides a thinly veiled inscription of the word slavery underneath.
o The right panel was painted in the same manner. However, it is also layered with a purple hue to further hide it's corrupt underbelly and finally, pasted on top are newspaper articles that document and highlight, modern day racial profiling, the exploding Black prison populations, and the corruption in the criminal justice system.
o The middle panel represents a query of the future... Which is dominated by a checkered pavement on which we see the silhouette of a child playing on a swing. However, the image is upside down to signify the oft-distorted childhood so many Black children experience.
Surrounded by drugs, violence, and poverty many children of color question the idea of equality... Is it Justice or Just Us?