identity

I’ve read two really awesome texts recently, Langston Hughes’ The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain and James Baldwin’s The Devil Finds Work.
From Hughes:

So I am ashamed for the black poet who says, “I want to be a poet, not a Negro poet,” as though his own racial world were not as interesting as any other world. I am ashamed, too, for the colored artist who runs from the painting of Negro faces to the painting of sunsets after the manner of the academicians because he fears the strange un-whiteness of his own features. An artist must be free to choose what he does, certainly, but he must also never be afraid to do what he might choose.

From Baldwin:

In any case, in order for a person to bear his life, he needs a valid re-creation of that life, which is why, as Ray Charles might put it, blacks chose to sing the blues. This is why Raisin in the Sun meant so much to black people — on the stage: the film is another matter. In the theater, a current flowed back and forth between the audience and the actors: flesh and blood corroborating flesh and blood — as we say, testifying.

And it made me think of the Preface to my MFA thesis (that I’ll post in it’s entirety shortly):

My mouth, my face, my body, my voice, my observations, my thoughts, and my relationships are the images of ‘human’ and ‘life’ in my artwork. Someone once said to me that others might see my art as narcissistic; however, in addition to approaching my work as place to muse on my own experiences, I see my work as a corrective to the ubiquitous and yet ‘invisible’ image of the white man who is the ideal human in this society – an image that, in this white/black, male/female, on/off, good/bad binary system, is the antithesis of my own… Visual art and academic writing – as with all images and written text – are comprised of subtle symbols like representative human faces or capitalized identifying labels that can reinforce, critique, or disturb accepted social norms. This thesis and the artwork it supports are my attempt at critically considering the narratives of the norms that shape my life and the lives of other members of my communities.