By Jabulani Leffall
As this site and others examines the life and work of Thornton Dial, who I just recently discovered, I am immediately struck by the title of Mr. Dial's exhibit at the Indianapolis Museum of Art: Hard Truths.
As the African diaspora examines a long history of degredation and pain, I think about the hard truths that I myself live with and endure through - this along with what I observe.
Massive unemployment, self-hate, mental illness, continuing violence against each other, continual misunderstandings that lead to intra-racial conflict and the gumption and tendency to air our dirty laundry in deconstructive ways.
I know just as well as anyone that the truth hurts. This is especially when it comes to cultural indentity and racial, gender and class politics and the staggering mental and physical effects these factors have on all of us.
We find it hard to live in pain everyday of the week so it's our visual, audio and performance art that we turn to, helping us sweat and bleed it out.
This is both an objective observation on my part and a personal testimony when I examine my paintings and some of my essays and my personal missteps in interpersonal relationships.
One word: Pain.
Laura D. Nelson. The pain of the family of Laura and LD Nelson, a mother and son lynched in 1911.
We usually see men in these types of images, but this is a woman, who as it turns out had a young son.
Interestingly enough, this image was recently on display, like Mr. Dial's exhibit, at the Indianapolis Public LibraryWhat are we to make of such an image? What are we to surmise concerning the nature of our stormy love affair with Western ideals?
Some may and will see this photo and this post and say it was a long time ago.
What I say to that is the story and image are new to me and the picture I'm sure, will be new to you.
This is not, however a post where I want to lament and lean on pain or make excuses. This is a post where I as an artist, writer, father and son, brother and uncle examine how this image stirs me to action.
And as a man of African ancestry, such images, such notions, such hard truths about myself and the world around me, compel me to do some deep, deep digging and turn my pain into beauty.