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William Haile (Mississippi)

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William Haile (1797 - March 7, 1837) was a U.S. Representative from Mississippi.

Born in 1797, Haile moved to Mississippi and settled in Woodville, Wilkinson County. He served as member of the State house of representatives in 1826.

Haile was elected as a Jacksonian to the Nineteenth Congress to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Christopher Rankin. He was reelected as a Jacksonian to the Twentieth Congress and served from July 10, 1826, to September 12, 1828, when he resigned. He was an unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1828 to the Twenty-first Congress. He served as delegate to the State constitutional convention in 1832. He died near Woodville, Mississippi, March 7, 1837.

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  • ✪ “As Luck Would Have It” with Kerry James Marshall
  • ✪ Slavery in Jamaica, Part 1
  • ✪ The Juneteenth Book Festival Symposium on Black Literature & Literacy


DANIEL DIERMEIER: Good evening. My name is Daniel Diermeier. I am the Provost of the University of Chicago. And it's my great pleasure to welcome you to the Logan Center here tonight. I am thrilled to welcome the Rosenberger winner, Kerry James Marshall, to the Logan and to the University of Chicago. He was awarded the Rosenberger medal in 2016 to honor his work in the field of painting and his contribution to Chicago. We were also honored Kerry conducted a master class here this afternoon with our students and with our artists in residence. I'd like to thank everybody who participated to make this evening possible today, especially the Office of Universal Events and Ceremonies, the Department of Visual Arts, the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture, and, of course, the Logan Center faculty and staff for organizing today's event. I'd also like to acknowledge Jackie Stewart, professor in the Department of Cinema Media Studies at the college who will be joining Kerry James Marshall for question and answer periods later in the lecture. And now it's my great pleasure to welcome Jessica Stockholder, the Raymond W. and Martha Hilpert Gruner Distinguished Service Professor and chair of the Department of Visual Arts to introduce Kerry James Marshall. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] JESSICA STOCKHOLDER: Hi. My pleasure to be here to introduce Kerry James Marshall. In 2016, we at the University of Chicago were thrilled to name him as the recipient of the Rosenberger Medal, given for outstanding achievement in the creative and performing arts. This evening, he's going to deliver a talk titled, "As Luck Would Have It." Marshall was born in 1955 in Birmingham, Alabama. He grew up in South Central Los Angeles and studied there at the Otis Art Institute where in 1978 he earned his BFA and in '99 an honorary doctorate. And he just told me this evening that he as of today has another honorary doctorate at SAIC. Marshall moved to Chicago. [APPLAUSE] Yes. Marshall moved to Chicago over 30 years ago. And he taught at UIC for many years where he garnered a reputation for being an outstanding educator, which I heard ripples of on the East Coast long before I moved here. And at that same time, over those years, he produced the extraordinary body of work that he's now known so widely for. Over the years, Marshall's work has been featured in more prominent institutions than I can reference, including the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, the Secession in Vienna, the Vancouver Art Gallery in Canada, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio. In 2014, Marshall was the recipient of the Wolfgang Hahn Prize, an award given annually by the Gesellschaft fur Moderne Kunst at the Museum Ludwig in Cologne. In 2013, he was one of seven new appointees named to President Barack Obama's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. In 1997, he received a MacArthur Foundation Grant, and in '91, a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2007, Art Forum noted that Marshall was the star of documenta 12, the renowned international survey of contemporary art that takes place every five years in Kassel, Germany. His work has been profiled in numerous international art magazines and journals. And there have been many monographic publications dedicated to his work. His work is included in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art here, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the National Gallery in Washington DC, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, and the Whitney Museum in New York. In the wake of his mind altering retrospective, which many of us here in Chicago were privileged to see last year as it originated at the Art Institute before traveling to the Met Breuer in New York City and then to the LA Museum of Contemporary Art. It was at the MCA, right? Yes, sorry, sorry. [LAUGHTER] And then-- and we were really glad it was there. [LAUGHTER] And this year, Time magazine included Kerry James Marshall in its listings as one of the 100 most influential people and described his work as follows. Black is his dominant color and his persistent, consistent, and masterful use of it in all its palettes defines, engages, and draws countless viewers to each creation. He forces people to assess the American experience through the black experience. In so doing, he has established himself, not only among the giants of the black art milieu, but as one of the most influential American artists anywhere. Personally, I'm struck by the enormity of the ambition in Marshall's work, as it details the personal experience of the painter, the particularity of the African-American experience in the context of both local and national communities, while at the same time, through masterful use of paint, composition, and reference to wide swaths of art history, the door is left open to the possibility that painting might be able to speak past the origins of the author. At this moment in which the globe seems to be getting smaller and smaller, Marshall's work insists that wants on its regional particularity and on keeping the lines of communication open between us all. Marshall has a stated mission to populate museums and galleries with representations of people of color throughout the United States and around the world. It seems that he is having much success on that front. And I for one am rooting for him and for all of us, hopeful that we can pull up many chairs to the global table. So I welcome Kerry James Marshall. [APPLAUSE] KERRY JAMES MARSHALL: Well, thank you so much, so much, for such a warm welcome. Everybody came out and made their presentations, and then they went behind stage and left me out here by myself. So well, we got it to spend about an hour or so going over a couple of things. And then Jackie Stewart and I are going to sit up on this stage. And we're going to have a few questions from the audience that she's going to moderate. But I'm going to sit there, I'm going to let Jackie do all the work [LAUGHING] because I'm a little tired. This has been a long day today. I think Jessica mentioned in her opening remarks that I'd just come back from the Art Institute of Chicago's commencement, graduating commencement, where I was given an honorary doctorate degree this afternoon. And I had to make the commencement speech there. [APPLAUSE] So you can get a little talked out after a marathon weekend like the weekend I just had. And so with a little bit of energy I got left, I have some prepared remarks I'm going to read to you. And then I got a lot of pictures to show. And the pictures that I show are designed in some way to kind of set the stage and give a kind of context to the things that drives me, that motivate me, that lead me to do the things I do, and how those things in some way have kind of led me to be here on this stage as the recipient of the Rosenberger Medal to give this presentation. And so that first slide that's on the screen now, I mean, really is the framework in which I operate. It's the context in which almost all the things I do have to be or should be measured against, because my ambition as an artist had always been, in one way or another, to either be a part of the narrative that these kinds of histories represent, but to arrive at the place that these histories codify on terms that I set for myself and to get there without having to compromise my own desire and what I think my own objectives, which are not inconsistent with the objectives that are defined by these histories that we come to know and understand as the primary histories that define the parameters of the world of art that we, who are participating in it, want to be a part of. So I'm going to leave that up there for a while. And when I get to the slides, though, you have to bear with me because I have a lot of them. And there are too many to say anything about all of them. And so I'm going to go through some of them fairly rapidly, because I want to give you a sense of the scope of what I think my project as an artist has been. In the beginning, I think I'll say a little bit more about the first set of couplets that come up, because I think it's important to talk about the reasons why things are the way they are. But let me start, since the title of my talk was "As Luck Would Have It," and, of course, as luck would have it, I find myself standing on the stage in the University of Chicago's auditorium trying to make a speech about my work that brought me to this place. And so the beginning of this talk may seem a little disjointed, but I think this first set of comments is kind of an important way of thinking about how we move through our lives and arrive at places where a reassessment of who we are and what we did seems appropriate. And so I'll just start with this, and I'll go through these things. And at some point I'll start flipping through some of the slides. So the way I'm going to start is this. So time is what I'm going to start with. So time, I'm going to say, is the bane of our existence. At birth we are inaugurated into the regime of time keeping since we have no working concept of the utility of time. But from that moment on, we began to run out of time. But we cannot know how much of it we will have. But still many of us don't make good use of our time until the end of it seems near. Making time doesn't add one minute to the time of a day. Although wasting time, leaves you less of it for completing tasks that must be finished on time, but which all too often are mostly done in the nick of time. So in this year, with a major retrospective of my work finishing its time at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, after being at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and opening here at the MCA in Chicago, this seems to have been my time to shine. So I've just this morning received the third honorary degree of my career from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. And now I'm back at the U of C to complete requirements that came with the Rosenberger Medal I received last year at about this time. So the thing is if I did not have art making as an occupation, I probably would have become a professional gambler. Indeed, for anybody who knows me, it would be a gross understatement to say about me that I love winning. But what I love more than winning is I love the game. I love the competition. And winning is all the sweeter when you beat the odds in a game you already know is stacked against you. So what appeals to my sensibility is developing a strategy, testing its efficacy, and measuring the degree to which its implementation succeeds or fails its intended purpose. So it can now be told that I have been gambling for most of my life, just as I have been making pictures for most of my life as well, and that both these interests seem to have merged at the same time and, therefore, have had profound effects, each on the other. My first high stakes play for money was a card game called tunk. Now some people in the audience may know that game. So I learned to play this game at about age 6 or 7. My father had staked the pot with pennies that my brother Wayne and I could win as we played with him. We had nothing to lose, of course, but when Wayne had bench 5 cents, he was done and announced his plan to hit the corner store for some candy. With no windfall to my account, I was crushed, of course. So comforting my wounded spirit, my dad played on, taking a few dives so I could experience the thrill of victory that my nickel and celebrate with jaw breakers, M&Ms, and jelly beans of my own. Now, you might be tempted to think that this was only fair. What else was a father to do? After all, he would have just had to give me the money anyway. Besides, Wayne was just lucky because it's not like there was any skill involved in his winning. But the lesson I learned from that memory was that you need to be better up front so there's no need for kindness and accommodation if you come up short. Of course, we all know expertise at tunk, poker, craps, and other games of chance is largely an illusion, but not totally. So just as the fabled subjective nature of art is mostly myth, the value of things within a culture is determined by their position within established frameworks and structures. If the rules are agreed upon ahead of time, knowledge, skill, and attention to the odds, probability theory, can get you a little bit closer to something like certainly than ignorance of the rules would. So example, the composer John Cage has described the difference between his use of chance and the making of his work and that of Marcel Duchamp. And he describes it this way. He says, I am not interested in any kind of chance Duchamp is interested in, where almost anything can happen. Instead what I try to do is set up a set of conditions wherein the thing that I am looking for is more likely to happen than not. Now back in my gambling youth, as I've said, betting is a big part of my life, my unwillingness to admit to the vicissitudes of dumb luck was hardened when I first learned the rules of Vegas style blackjack. So even short of counting cards, it was clear to me that here was a game in which the decisions you made clearly had an impact on how well you performed. And so this was the game for me. And except for a go at the slot machines for some reckless fun, it is the only game I play when I go to a casino. So I had learned that there was a strategy you could use when you went to the blackjack table and that it had to do with how many people were playing along with you in the game. So I discovered that when you play the game with just yourself and the dealer, which requires an incredible amount of courage, because the losing could be fast, just as the winning could be fast. So that if you are playing a game and it was just you and the dealer, that the odds in the game seemed to shift in favor of the player as opposed to the house. But the more people who came and sat down at the table, the more the odds shifted away from you and they shifted towards the advantages that the house had, because the way the cards were counted the odds were always in the house's favor. So I learned to play at a table where it was just me and the dealer. And you go head to head. And you had more than a 50% chance of coming out on top in an exchange like that. And once two or three people sat down at the table, it was time to get up. If you stay there longer, attrition would eventually wear you down, and you will end up losing almost everything you had. So that approach to gambling and my approach to art have a lot in common. And the odds that I'm trying to negotiate when I making my artwork come from what I understand to be the principles under which these histories of art that we have to read to learn what art is worth are built around. And so the questions end up being, in the same way that John Cage's questions end up being, can I set up conditions in which the thing that I am looking for is more likely to happen than not? And if that is the case, then how do I do that? And so the way that I do it-- that's just another book, sorry, a part of that thing. And we'll come back to this DARPA thing. Maybe I won't come back. Let's do this now. So how many people in here know what DARPA is? What it stands for? The Defense Advanced Research Projects Administration. It's an arm of the military industrial complex. And the motto, the principles under which DARPA was organized, their motto is to prevent technological surprise-- to prevent technological surprise-- which means that you set up a structure in which you try to guarantee that no other entity, no other person, no other country is able to develop technological advances that you are not aware of and that you don't have a counter response to. Because being on the short end of that kind of an exchange, the consequences are unacceptable and almost unbearable. And in the same way for me, when I was looking at the way the art history books were written, being on the short end of the art historical exchange was also unacceptable and something that I couldn't leave to just dumb luck or to just chance. There had to be a way in which you could guarantee that you would never be on the outside of this exchange, but it had to be something that you controlled as opposed to something that other people imposed on you. And so I made a decision to take charge of the way I would participate and the way I would operate in whatever arena I was going to be a part of, that there was not going to be areas within the art world or within the art history that I wouldn't be aware of and that I wouldn't have something to say about. So this is the way I started out. So and this is the way you sort of erase the consequences of not knowing or not having abilities and leaving oneself vulnerable to simply being lucky. And so the question ends up, then how do you negotiate the meaning the between the difference between the image on my right, your left, and the image on the right? Those two things made by the same person but at different times. Could those two things have been made for the same reason and to perform the same function? Well, the appearance of them suggests that it could not be. But the difference between those two things, in their differences automatically demonstrate that the person who made those things had choices, and that the choices they made must have some reason and that those reasons have some kind of consequence. And so operating between these two spaces is the space in which the value that we assign to art sort of finds its full measure. And the same is the case with two woodcuts. One on the left, on your left, done before the one on the right. And a person who is making the work that's been done on the left, why would you then make a work that looks like the one that's on the right? What is the purpose of that difference? And it's negotiating the reasons for those differences that have driven almost everything that I do. And when we look through the rest of the works that I show, these kinds of differences become a key part of the reason why all of the things that I do look the way they do. And they have something to do with whether or not I feel like the choices that I'm making are the ones that put me in a place where I can participate more fully in the construction of the narrative of art history or whether I am at the mercy of somebody else's generosity. So the first two pieces and this painting are all sort of-- this is a self-portrait. So there are three self-portraits you've seen in this array of pictures that have come before. Each one of them different than the other. And each one designed because they explored a very different kind of idea in a very different way in which the idea representation can be modulated. So now when I'm going to sort of go through the speed round, because I think I have about 40 minutes to talk. And then I don't know exactly what the time frame is when we're going to start the Q&A session. Somebody is going to have to give me a cue, because if you don't stop me, I'll keep going. But these are some very early works. And they simply have to do with the way in which you understand the different functions of different modes of representation or image making or object making or painting making. And I had made it my mission from early on that the only way I was going to be able to get where I wanted to go was to know everything that everybody else who seemed to be interested in art knew. So that in a single individual that I would be capable of having a conversation with anybody, no matter where they started, no matter what they were interested in, no matter what they thought was important, that I would have I would be able to be there and I would be able to have something to say about that too. And so I made sure I could do anything that could be done or anything that had been done within the parameters of what we call this idea of art making. And that meant that when I started school in 1977 at Otis and conceptual art was the dominant mode of operating for artists at the time, I understood what that was about too. But there was still something else that needed to be done, there was some unfinished business that needed to be addressed. And that if I was going to solve the problem that I felt existed within the whole historical construction of art history, that the only way I was going to be able to solve that problem was to resolve that first issue first. And that first issue was a kind of invisibility around the representation of blacks objects in painting. And that once I was able to resolve that, then as long as I knew and understood all of the other modalities then I was free to move on to those other things when I needed to and at will. That because I was doing figurative work I wasn't trapped in figuration. Or if I was doing abstraction, I wasn't trapped in abstraction because I couldn't do figuration effectively. That every one of the things that I did had was done because I took what you could call an instrumental approach to what it meant to be making art, that I made art based on its use value within the historical narrative of art making and the function that it could perform in helping to resolve a certain series of inadequacies. And so where minimalism as a kind of device could be used effectively for a particular idea, I adopted that strategy because it seemed to be the best way to communicate that particular idea. So this is a painting called "Two Invisible Men Naked." [LAUGHTER] So and the way in which that those ideas of invisibility are figured have to do with the way HG Wells wrote the novel The Invisible Man and the way Ralph Ellison writes the novel Invisible Man. And the distinction between those two concepts of invisibility matter. And they have something to do with the structure of the picture that I'm going to make. One is an optical invisibility. The other is psychological invisibility. So it's that way of thinking through the work I'm doing, that's how you do work without being lucky because the work is directed and it's self-conscious and it's instrumental in trying to resolve a problem which is all the idea of making art is organized around in the first place. How do you solve a problem about visibility and about representation? And these are just some examples of other things. So there are always phases in which you do a lot of experimentation. And the only way you can understand how some of these things operate is to do them so that you understand how they work from the inside out, as opposed to from the surface and its appearance. So I did a series of improvisational projects that were based on "seven African powers." And these are all monoprints. There are a combination of monoprint and wood cut, where I would do a monoprint and then look at the monoprint and decide from the monoprint what kind of woodblock needed to be cut to go along with it and print those both those things just one time. So there's a series of those. This would be the one that's SU. And this one's actually in the show, the Mastry show that's traveling. So anyway, you're starting to get the picture. So by the time I started art school in 1977-- so I graduated from high school in 1973. And I was born in 1955. I think Jessica said that. But if you think about what was possible-- so what was available to artists to do in 1955, which was the year I was born, 1955 was a good 41 years after Duchamp had used the ready made object as the emblem of an artwork, when the idea that an artwork wasn't something that had to be made by an artist. It was simply something that could be selected by an artist. That was 41 years before I was born. They had already exhausted almost all of the strategies that were developed out of cubism, surrealism, futurism. All of that stuff had already been exhausted before I was born. Abstract expressionism was almost kind of on its last legs by 1955 when I was born as well. And so all of the options that artists could deploy were already codified and were already on the table. So it wasn't a question of people inventing new things, because if you look at what's happening in the art world from the 1950s on up to now, we're not really talking about the invention of new things, we just simply talking about the way in which things that are already available to us are now deployed for purposes that they hadn't been used for or utilized for up until a particular time. And so when all of-- as somebody had written, you know, writers like Foucault, Benjamin Buchloh, I mean when they write about the way in which all of the options are kind of already on the table and that at the moment in which people arrive at conceptual art, we're engaged in what they call endgame strategies, where you're doing a sort of shifting a little bit here and a little bit there, but you're essentially doing things that have already been codified and defined. I mean, at that moment, then the question becomes how do you choose from the available options you have to do things that those options hadn't been used for up until that time and then to solve some problems or answer some questions about representation that hadn't been asked before? So that's what the question actually becomes at that point. And for me, so the notion of the artist that's the kind of singular expressive individual who is invested in a kind of internal dialogue with himself of which the manifestation is a kind of artwork, that kind of question and that kind of argument that seems sort of out of play. And that at that point, when you know so much about the kinds of things that can be done, you can't make the claim that you don't have a clue when if you are making a work and you end up-- you go through a process and you end up with this thing in front of you that you can't somehow define, that just doesn't work for me, because I don't think you can make that kind of claim any more that you have engaged in a kind of mediumistic practice wherein you go into a kind of a trance, you do some things and when you wake up, there's this thing in front of you and then you subsequently can't define it with language. This doesn't appeal to me. And the history of what I do sort of suggests that. You can find a lot of motivations, a lot of reasons for and a lot of things that will help you to generate a new artwork. So these collages actually happened to be based on the refrain in a poem by Aime Cesaire, called "The Notebook of a Return to My Native Land." They don't look like it. But they are based on this refrain. And the refrain and the poem goes, "and at the end of the wee hours." And it's the way in which that poem sort of sets up this kind of magical moment in which a certain kind of clarity about the reality of the world becomes available to you. And so he repeats that refrain over and over and over again. And each time he repeats it, the next stanza of the poem sort of launches into a kind of political exploration of the conditions of black folks in the Antilles. And so I did a series of works based on that poem. They're sort of inspired by it. And they're trying to be evocative of this kind of magical moment. This one, of course, which is what I think one of the best collages I ever made. But it comes also about asking a series of questions that have to do with the history of art, too. So in this collage-- and maybe it would take a little bit more examination to uncover than I'm going to be able to give now, but the fundamental question for me along with the impulse to make the collage from the Aime Cesaire poem, the question was, if you took an analytical cubist painting, like those ones that Picasso and Braque made where they sort of strip down the image, broke it up into fragments, reconfigured it into this sort of flat, two dimensional kind of plane thing, if you took the strategy of analytical cubist paintings and put back in everything they took out, but preserve that fragmented picture structure at the same time, what would that image look like? So that really was the kind of project that these collages was built around. What would an image look like that had that same fragmented structure but put back in all the color, all the detail, all the references, all the other stuff that those paintings stripped away in order to highlight or amplify the structure of those paintings they were trying to present? So that's just a way of thinking about how you do what you do. And you can do a lot of things with collage. Now, later on, I'm going to tell you why I stopped doing collage. One reason of which was that on some level, a collage is just too forgiving a medium to work with. I mean it lets you off the hook in a lot of ways for a lot of things. And at this point in the way I'm doing my work, I'm not interested in being off the hook. I'm actually more interested in the things that make it more difficult for me to continue doing the work that I want to do than things that make it easier for me to do it. And at the commencement address for the Art Institute of Chicago, Jerry Salz was there, and he made some jokey kind of comments about the way in which this kind of rarefied language about art that shows up in magazines like Art Forum, you know, promulgated by people like Benjamin Buchloh, how that's a really pedantic, jargon heavy, indecipherable kind of language that muddles understanding more than it clarifies it. But there's actually something that I really like about that language and I like about the writing of people like of Buchloh, because it makes me feel on some level like I shouldn't be doing what I'm doing. And that if I want to keep on doing it, I better find a good reason to go on. And then if I can find a good enough reason to go on it, that good enough reason might be might provide a solid enough foundation that the picture I make will supersede the closing down of any kind of possibility. That if you can break through the resistance to the representation and make representations that operate really effectively within the culture, then you've actually achieved something that's worthwhile. And so I like going up against those kinds of odds and going up against in some way that kind of authority, because if you are defeated by it, then you end up nowhere. So anyway, so these comics, there's a reason for them. There's a value for them. We'll go into that later. But anyway I'm going to go through a couple of things. This just sets the stage. It kind of puts things in kind of a context. And then you start to understand why the difference between-- you'll start to see why the differences between these things start to matter more. So anyway, but from those comics, I ended up doing a puppet performance project in Ohio at the Wexner Arts Center, in which we took a Japanese style puppet performance, called bunraku or ningyo joruri. And we had 20 high school kids from the Columbus area compete for 20 spots to learn how to operate the puppets, do the narration, and do the performance. And so we picked 20 out of 90 kids who showed up to try and be a part of it. And the series of competitions between two teams that were picked randomly by drawing people's names out of a bag, so that nobody who showed up could be pre-selected or have any advantage over people who-- so people who were not interested in art didn't have a greater advantage over people who were interested in art, because it was at the Wexner Center. And so the process of getting kids chosen for the project was actually as important, in some cases more important than the project itself, because it gave kids a chance to not only work as a team with strangers they didn't know, but to compete for something where it demonstrated how well and effectively you worked as a team had a higher impact on whether you succeeded than people who were unable to work as a team. And literally the teams that couldn't get coordinated and do their stuff together, those were the ones that were out of the competition early. In spite of that, though, we still gave the people who couldn't cooperate a chance to win in the final competition, so that the point spread in the final competition was high enough so that the team that had the lowest score still had a chance to win. So everybody stayed in the competition all the way to the end. And at the end of the whole process, even the kids who were on teams that lost, said they had never experienced anything like that. And just the participating in that competition was enough by itself to make them satisfied with the experience they had. But it also says something about the fact that what you know does actually matter, and what you can do also actually matters. So if anybody ever approaches you and tells you that there are things that you should not know, or things you cannot know, that's a person that you should be running as far away from as you can get and as fast as you can get away from them. So and, of course, those puppies are all made based on the characters in the comic strip. So, oh, painting, painting, painting. You know, I'm just a guy, I make a lot of paintings. And they do various things. But they all get made for a reason. And one of the reasons that pictures I do get made is because I also consider myself something of a history painter in the classical mode or in the classical sense. And so as a part of what I do as a history painter, it is to make representations of figures who have a presence in history, but of whom there are no existing images, but whose place in that history I think is significant enough for them to be noticed, recognized, looked up, and remembered. So this is a painting and the title of the painting tells you exactly how you should think of it, "It's Believed to be a Portrait of David Walker, circa 1858" or something like that. I don't remember the date I put on there was. But for people who know who David Walker is he wrote a pamphlet called his address to the colored people of the world, but in particular those of the United States. And what that pamphlet was was a critique, so in its time of the Declaration of Independence and a certain kind of hypocrisy that was operating in the contradiction between the space between the condition of black folks and the promise that the Declaration of Independence was written to articulate for American citizens. And I thought, well, David Walker, well, that's an important-- if you read the document, it's actually a really important document. And I thought, well, there are no pictures of David Walker. So there ought to be a picture of David Walker so that people at least are clued into who he might have been. And maybe once you know his name and you see that picture, maybe you will look around and see why somebody would have made a picture of him, what was importance in history. In the history of decapitations, of which there are many, what you never see is you never see a black subject as the avenging angel in a decapitation narrative. So we've got lots of Judith and Holofernes pictures. There are lots of David and Goliath pictures. So this is my painting, a portrait of Nat Turner with the head of his master. And so it's that thing, you say, why is it that black subject is never allowed to engage in the same kind of vengeful retaliation that other subjects become heroic for? And likewise, so Harriet Tubman, this is "Still Life with Wedding Portrait." So this is the wedding portrait of John and Harriet Tubman, which is an attempt on my part to give back to Harriet Tubman her femininity, her womanness, her desirability, because she was married. Her name Tubman comes from the fact that she was married to a man named John Tubman at a time. But when you think of Harriet Tubman, you only think of Harriet Tubman as a symbol and a representative of the Underground Railroad. You never think of Harriet Tubman as a woman. And "Who Paints?" You know it's the figure that says I paint. And in all of these paintings it's a way of negotiating the space between stylization, abstraction, representation. So this is one of those works that-- so this break, I mean, in the midst of the kind of diversity that the rest of the works in the slide presentation have demonstrated, this kind of break is further evidence of the way in which you sort of understand the language of representation and the uses to which it can be put to examine certain questions that have to do with the history of the United States and the way in which what has come to be called, since the last Whitney biannual, the Black Death Spectacle, wherein there was a history of postcards of lynchings being made circulating through the postal system, traded amongst people who enjoyed and appreciated them. I mean there was a book called Without Sanctuary. There was an exhibition that came. It was here in Chicago, probably-- was that 10 years ago or so, Cheryl? Or more. But Without Sanctuary was a book, a collection of over 150 postcards that were collected by a man who saw some and just thought they were interesting and started collecting them. And he did this exhibition. And then they published a book. And in that book, it's just a collection of the postcards of lynching incidents, but wherein you can see how in these incidents-- I mean, a lynching event was like theater on the one hand, but it was a form of entertainment for a good segment of the population that attended those things. And the fact that these people who were at the lynching are all accessories to a double murder-- they are all accessories to a double murder-- but they are not at all concerned that their picture is being taken by a photographer who is standing outside the frame and that these people are looking at. Now, this picture of a lynching doesn't foreground the trauma and the violence that's done to the black body. It foregrounds the participation of the spectators who benefit from that kind of terror and that kind of violence that's visited on the body of a black person. So it's like where you properly locate the focus of attention is important. So everybody knows it's tragic and traumatic for the victims of lynching. But what we don't really spend a whole lot of time asking questions about is what about all those people who are standing there getting their picture taken while they're at the double murder. And since there is no statute of limitations on murder-- there's no statute of limitation on a capital crime like that-- those people, you know, if they were still alive are still subject to prosecution. But the piece is called "Heirlooms and Accessories," which sort of tells you everything. So you can do that and then you go back to doing-- I mean, it is not inconsistent for me to go back and forth from one of those things to the other thing, to move from one mode of representation to another. I think these are in here twice. Or am I going-- let's just make sure I'm not going backwards. Oh, here we go. But that's the thing. So it's not inconsistent for me to go from one thing to another thing, because everything that I'm doing has a reason for being made. It has a purpose. And I think it has a utility in terms of the way it operates in relationship to, the way it inserts itself into the narrative of our history. And so this is kind my meditation on a Fragonard painting, called "The Swing." And this is the fun part, the kind of motion picture part of my presentation, because I always like to do this. It's a series of five paintings that constitute one painting. But the thing is it's that swing around is the embodiment of the idea of the swing. But it doesn't have to look like Fragonard's picture, "The Swing," which is also another key element in terms of my approach to making artworks. So these vignette paintings have a lot to do with the way in which they engage the idea of the Rococo paintings, as a kind of 18th century French genre of pretty pictures. Wherein the device that's used, apart from the subject matter, but the device that's used is the vignette. These are all called vignette. But the vignette as a device was something that was an approach that was designed during the 18th century in France as a Rococo device. And it's a way of creating a kind of irregular shape that's primarily a decorative function, but in some ways isolates the image from the field on which the image is painted. So anyway, I've played around with a lot of things like that. And for me the glitter, the color, all those things-- that pink-- all of those things are reflective of this kind of florid kind of quality that people seem to despise so much in Rococo painting. But we know everybody loves that stuff. And you see those Bouchet paintings and those Fragonard paintings, and that stuff is masterfully done. There's no denying it. So anyway-- I do have some things that are in here several times-- but you can see how stylistically I'm sort of moving through a variety of different treatments of the subject, while at the same time incorporating, not only elements of the way in which culture is transferred through the diaspora, the way black communities are linked through certain religious practices, through certain beliefs, through certain mythologies, the way they are linked, but also the way in which there's a kind of confrontation with another kind of idealized form that is not yourself and not an idealized form of you're making. And how periodically, you know, the way in which history repeats itself gives artists an opportunity to engage with history and with culture, but not in a way where you can do pictures about current events. I mean, to do pictures about current events always leads to political cartoons and/or propaganda posters. But if you really want people to take advantage of the thing that an artwork can do, which is allow you the kind of space for a certain kind of meditation on a subject, that requires a lot more investment of time, that's not about something that's happening in the immediate environment or in the immediate moment. This is all that paintings and artworks can do really. I mean, photojournalism does a much better job at getting you fired up about things that happened today and yesterday. Paintings don't do that so well, because they take so long to make in the first place. So if they take so long to make in the first place, then-- yes-- OK, so anyway, OK, here we go. Come on. You can come up. You can come up because I'm going to stop. But anyway, I'm sure a couple of these things. There's a lot of stuff in that painting. It's a black painting, but there's a lot of stuff in it. Just installation as an art form is just another modality. And a group of paintings, there's a triptych that are based on a Barnett Newman painting called "Who is Afraid of Red, Yellow, and Blue." I did a painting, an exhibition at the Vienna Secession, called "Who's Afraid of Red, Black, and Green," in which these are all paintings that are exactly the same size as the Barnett Newman painting. And they do all the same things that the Barnett Newman painting do, but then they add another dimension besides. So it's a text-based painting, all red, black, green, red color field painting. But it's a way in which you don't allow for the pure transcendental experience that color field paintings are supposed to elicit. So the red one, the black one, and there's a green one. And there are things about James Baldwin that figure prominently in this one and the first one. Then photography, that color, there's something important about that color. That's Naomi. That's Cheryl. And then, so you make objects that perform a certain kind of way. You know, so those Nkisi figures from the Congo, the things they call nail fetish figures, I mean, those things that accumulate all this material over time. So can you make contemporary artworks that look like that but don't try to do the same things those do? I'm not driving nails in nothing. But you can use other ways of arriving at this accretion. And every image that's in the accreted encrustation on that matters because each one of those images is selected because it performs a particular function. You can end up with something that performs the same way without it having to mimic or having it look exactly like the thing that it's based on. And so this is the way in which you can use photography. Doing photography and using photography are two different things. I mean, and that gives you some idea of the kinds of things you can embed within an object like. William Tucker was the first black child born in the United States. He was a child of one of that first 19 sold in Jamestown in 1619. Of course, that was me, one of my high school photographs. But since we don't know what William Tucker looked like, he could have looked like me. But anyway, various kinds of configurations-- power to the people. More vignettes. Paintings about the ways in which paintings as objects become commodified, "Red Hot Deal." You know , this says, low, low price. And I'm going to go faster actually. I just wanted you to get a close up view. So anyway, these coins are actually part of a sculpture piece called "The 99 Cent Piece." It's 99 cents in change. The 99 Cent Piece, also known as $136,000 in change. So it's the discrepancy between what the image that is represented and what it cost to produce it, because those pennies are actually four feet in diameter. The quarter is five feet in diameter. And they are also gilded brass finish. Those two things have something to do with each other. And then what's up with that? What's up with that? We'll talk about it. I had a funny story about that, but maybe I'll tell you later. So anyway, you get the picture. Back to photography again, this is a piece that sort of-- it's like a video, but it's a video that you can see all at once. So it's a series. These strips of photographs are 4 inches by 8 feet long. And it's about 140 feet in running length. And it has all of the features that a video that runs on any kind of device, like a DVD or videotape. It has white noise. It has glitches. It has jump cuts. It has repetition. It has all of the things, but you can stand in one spot and see the whole thing from beginning to end all at once. And you can rewind by walking backwards through it. You can jump to one spot or another. But it's all out there available to you. And this is just a collection of those things. And it's all images that are taken from the neighborhood in which I live. Everything that's within a block of my house or two or three blocks from my studio. So part of the whole point of projects like is you can make fantastic work from wherever you are. You don't have to be in a special place to find incredible things that are worth paying attention to and then making some work about. Photo installation, those two photographs, the big photographs are these images. This is another piece, one of the first pieces that I did when we moved into the neighborhood we live in Brownsville, which used to be overrun by gangbangers. You know, these are all tags on buildings that were in a within a block of my house. But then the implications of those are much larger than just the tags themselves. Policeman, da da da di da, and a drawing. And that's it for the slide portion of my talk. [APPLAUSE] So I think now, if I didn't use up all the time, we can talk about a couple of things. So anyway, thank you. JACQUELINE STEWART: Thank you. Thank you. That's incredible. You know you had me sit up here, but actually the experience of looking at your work like this is not unlike the way that I normally encounter it in a museum. Your work is overwhelming. I mean, I don't know if other people have that experience. But it's not just in terms of its scale, but in terms of the larger project that you're engaged in. It is intimidating sometimes. And I guess, in light of what you said about being a gambler and trying to maximize your odds of winning, and the way that you've thought about that in terms of your place in the art world and in our history, I wonder if you could talk a bit about how you think about the audiences for your work. I mean one remarkable thing about seeing Mastry in a couple of places was how many black people were there. And I don't know this for sure, maybe somebody from the MCA is here who could say this, but I think folks really turned out for that show. And there's a way in which you are engaging in so many layers of critique of art history, let alone social and political history, I wonder how you think about the kind of emotional impact you want to have on your audiences. Do you think about who your audience is? Are there different segments of it that you're trying to speak to? And are there particular things that you're trying to say to African-Americans who are looking at your work? KERRY JAMES MARSHALL: A lot of questions packed into one set of statements. So do I think about the audience? I do. I mean, as an artist, artists don't operate in a vacuum. So we are parts of communities. We come out of families. We have political affiliations. We have ideological leanings and tendencies. And we have all these things. So a part of what I think that what I just outlined there is a way of trying to operate in the world as a whole human being, allowing for all of the things that I feel, all the things I believe, all the things I think, all the things I know, the things that I am afraid of, the things that I'm happy about, to allow all those things to be a part of what I do as an artist and to show up in the work that I make, so that it's a reflection of what it means to be a whole human being operating in a complicated world. And so in terms of what the audience, what I hope audiences come away with from work-- and we have to say that-- I mean, different audiences have different needs. I am not a person who believes in this sort of universal appreciation, that artworks don't come out of a space in which that kind of universality is a real possibility, because everybody is not at the same place. We didn't come under the same circumstances. We don't have the same desires. We don't have the same needs. We just find ourselves operating within the same social structure. And people are differently situated within that social structure. So it's unreasonable to expect that everybody would want to or should be able to react to respond to the same thing in the same way. So I don't expect. One of the things that I hope the work does for an audience, for audiences-- and this has something to do in a way with a variety of things I do is for it to normalize the presence of those black figures in the kinds of paintings you see them in. So that it's not that black folks belong in certain kinds of pictures. You know, they don't only belong in pictures that are about trauma. They don't only belong in pictures that about being disadvantaged. They don't only belong in pictures that are about abjection. They don't just belong in those kinds of pictures, even though on some level, we think the media sort of presents us with those kinds of things more often than not. We're not always great athletes. We don't all sing. We don't all dance well. You know, so what about those people in between? What about those average folks? You know, the ones who are just sort of-- they're satisfied, but they're not reaching for the stars. What about them? I mean, is it worthwhile to represent those people too? Or do we always have to represent people who are either celebrities? Do you have to be famous in some way or another? So there's a way in which this kind of normality, sort of the way in which pleasure and normality can co-exist in the representation of a figure, that's something that I'm really interested in. And I think for a lot of-- I mean, from what I hear from black people, and this is because people often come up to me and they say things to me about the experience they had in a show-- I was in Germany 10 days ago and a woman came up to me there and said she saw the show in New York and that the work in the show moved her, that it spoke to her. And that picture that I said I had a story about, the woman sitting on the blanket having her picture taken, so my studio in the South Side the man who cut my grass, VL Barnes was his name, Mr Barnes. Mr Barnes was 71 years old just this-- he retired from doing yard work and moved down to Mississippi so he could be closer to his family because his wife had a stroke. Now he thought well now it's time to get kind of get down there and be close to his sons, and things like that. But when I was getting ready to have a show that that painting was in, Mr Barnes and his crew-- he have two young men who worked with him-- they wanted to come in the studio and see the work before it went out for the show. And when he came and he saw that painting of the woman on that blanket, Mr Barnes said, she's so cute, she talking to me. That response-- I mean, that is a priceless response. And on some level that's the response I would like to elicit in a lot of the work that I do from somebody who is not particularly invested in art, who is not-- I mean, except he did ask me if I would do a sign to put on the side of his truck-- [LAUGHTER] JACQUELINE STEWART: Did you do it? KERRY JAMES MARSHALL: I did. [APPLAUSE] No, because he was going down TO Mississippi for A family reunion. And they had a contest where you decorated your car, your truck. And you drove in a parade for the family reunion. He asked me to do it. He told me this is what I want on it. JACQUELINE STEWART: I hope he holds onto that sign. KERRY JAMES MARSHALL: I mean the reason I say that though is because I mean as an artist-- I mean, I live where I live for a good reason, because I am not apart from the people who are around me. And so I can make a lot of work from the things that are happening in my environment, in my neighborhood, within my domain. I mean, this is where I can make work, and you can make magnificent work from there. And you have to demonstrate that all the time. Otherwise people forget that it's possible to do so, because if you just watch television, which is so celebrity focused, or if you just read a lot of magazines that are also highly focused on celebrities, you start to get the impression that the only people whose lives really matter are celebrities who we don't know. Really, we don't know these people. We like some of the things they do. But we also don't like some of the stuff they do. But that's not the world, because what you don't want to do is shut down the belief that the capacity to do those things is in everybody who wants to do it. And so somebody has to say, look, I built my studio in the neighborhood where I live because I didn't want to be associated with the idea that success meant getting away from that neighborhood. [APPLAUSE] JACQUELINE STEWART: I'm going to ask one more question. Then we'll throw it out to the audience. You mentioned the thing about celebrity culture. And I was thinking about that in relationship to your projects in which you picture people for whom we don't have other kinds of images. And I guess I'm wondering if you could talk a bit about your research process, how it is that you collect information, ideas about the things that you treat in your work. I mean, we're thinking a lot at this university right now about the role of the arts in relationship to scholarship. It seems like you manifest that in your work. You're doing a kind of scholarship through the visual. So could you talk a bit about how you do research or how you envision the writing of different histories through your practice? KERRY JAMES MARSHALL: Well, I mean, if you come by our house-- and Cheryl will tell them-- it's like we are wall to wall books, wall to wall. I never saw a book that wasn't worth picking up and looking at. And the thing is, I mean, this really does go back to some sort of foundation experiences. I mean, I have to say my kindergarten teacher made me who I am. Really, she made me a compulsive image collector, because she collected images and kept them in a scrapbook. That made me a compulsive image collector. And I had been doing what they used to call-- for artists, used to collect pictures that they used as source material for artworks, they called it a morgue. It's folders of body parts. You know, you get a hand. You get a leg. So they called it a morgue. So I was doing that, too. But I just took it to another level. And when I came to Chicago, you know oddly enough-- so, well, let me back up just a little bit. So I studied a couple of things. So I studied children's literature when I was in junior college before I went to school at Otis. That is I wanted to be a children's book Illustrator at one time. And part of the reason that I wanted to be a children's book Illustrator is because when I went to elementary school, there were books that I was never introduced to. And I didn't start reading them until I was in high school or later, like Treasure Island, you know, stuff like that. And once I started reading those things, I was thinking there was so much that was being missed. So I wanted to be connected in some way with a world in which you are presenting that kind of material to other, younger people. And so I started out I was going to be a children's book Illustrator. But I was really interested in the whole history of book illustration and the way books sort of came to be what they are. So all of those things were interesting. But when I got to Chicago, there was a chain of secondhand stores. And I go to a second in store, because my mother used to run second hand stores. And I loved going with her to the auction houses and buying big lots of stuff and then sort of going through it and seeing what's all in it. It was like treasure hunting. So I developed the habit of going to second hand stores. Anytime I go to a city, I do two things. I find out where the comic book stores are, where the second hand stores are, and where the used bookstores are. So I did those three things. I picked up the phone book, when they had phone books, and those were the first three things I looked for. And I tried to go and see what every one of them had. But when I got to Chicago, there was a series of second hand stores, called The Village Thrift Store-- AUDIENCE: Mm, hm, yes. [LAUGHTER] KERRY JAMES MARSHALL: And so going in there, books were $0.5 apiece, any book, five books for a quarter. I bought about 1,000 history books, encyclopedias, anthropology books, science books, geology books, all those things. And I cut pictures out of those books. But in order to cut pictures out of those books, you got to look at every single page in the book. And when you're looking at a page in a book, you can't help but read what's in it. And reading across that range of things-- I mean, literally, it's really across that range of things. And then I started collecting encyclopedias and encyclopedia yearbooks. And I started comparing the way in which narratives of certain events were told across a range of encyclopedia yearbooks. So you can read about when Patrice Lumumba was assassinated in Funk and Wagnalls and World Book and Encyclopedia Britannica and in Collier's. And there were some obscure ones. So you can read the same narrative across all those different histories. And it's different from one to the next. That gives you some idea of how history gets shaped and structured. And then you start to understand that you got to be reading across a wide spectrum of things before you can even get the basic understanding of what's really going on in the world. You can't just read from one source. And so it's that combination of buying those books primarily to cut them up, but having your hands on them and being in contact with that information, you are compelled to read it. And so that's how the scope is-- so I literally, I'm telling you I'm not even exaggerating. And I've gotten rid of a lot of that material. But there's a piece that's in the show, in the Mastry Show, called "The Baobab Ensemble." And it's remnants of some of those clippings that I've been doing over the decades. But the thing is I still have in my studio eight different iterations of encyclopedia yearbooks that go back from 1940 to 2006, 2007, when they stopped making encyclopedias the way they used to. So I still have them, and I use them. I use them all the time. So for me, there's no information that's not worth engaging with, because if you need it to compare it to something else, well, that's the only way you can make the comparison is to have two things to compare with each other. JACQUELINE STEWART: All right, let's take a couple of questions. We see the answers are long. KERRY JAMES MARSHALL: Well, they don't have to be. JACQUELINE STEWART: So I'm going to ask you guess to keep your questions brief. Please-- KERRY JAMES MARSHALL: I'm going to be brief. I'll be succinct. JACQUELINE STEWART: Ah, I think that's Samuel over there. AUDIENCE: Yes, it is Samuel. I wonder if you could speak a bit about the production design work for Daughters of the Dust. I was wondering because I'm not familiar with your work to know if you've done production design work outside of that. I didn't know if you were interested in it primarily because your wife was working on the project or also because, now that you mentioned about the whole history in art and that's a period piece, if that's kind of what drew you to it? KERRY JAMES MARSHALL: Well, I was a production designer on Daughters of the Dust" because I was a painter that the cinematographer, Arthur Jafa, AJ, thought had the sensibility they wanted to have as far as the aesthetic of the film was concerned. He had read an interview with me in LA Reader. And he we have a friend in common, Ben Caldwell, who is a part of that LA rebellion group that Jack has been working with. So Ben Caldwell and I were working together at Brockman Gallery in Los Angeles. And AJ read this interview and he was talking to Ben and he said, you know this guy Kerry-- and so I had said some things in that interview that impressed him. And Ben gave him my address. He came by my studio. And we met that day and became instant friends. And he decided from that moment that I was going to be the production designer on that film. And I had never done production design before. Now, I had a friend who taught folklore at UCLA at the time, Beverly Robinson, who is now deceased. But I had worked with her on Folklife Festival that was organized to highlight the developments of black communities in a place called the Furlong Track in LA between South Central LA and Watts. And I did field research with her. So my production design work comes in part from the fact that I happen to be-- I mean, this may sound a little like boasting, but it's not-- [LAUGHTER] I happen to have a unique set of skills that made me the perfect person to be a production designer on a film with the kind of budget that Daughters of the Dust had. Not only was I painter, but there's almost nothing I can't do. So why do I say that? So when I went to school in Los Angeles during high school and high school, during the golden age of public school education, the golden age, so when I was in fifth grade-- we lived on 14th Street between McKinley and Avalon. I don't know if people know where that is. That's just two blocks from where Carver Junior High School is. Carver Junior High School was on 45th Street. Vernon Avenue borders it on the north side. Wadsworth on the east and McKinley on the west. During the Summers, the industrial arts classes at Carver Junior High School were open to any kid in the neighborhood who was over 10 years old. You could come in and they taught you how to take raw materials and turn it into something. So me and all of our friends met at the plastics shop at Carver every single day. And we learned how to make laminated plastic objects, using drill presses, sanders, all those things. Learned how to polish those things. We made rings. We made picture frames. We made all those things. And the man who taught that, Mr. Costa. So it was open. And the materials were free. Anybody could come. You got one safety course on the first day and they let you go. They let you go. So from there I did plastics then. But I took metal shop, wood shop, electronics shop, audio visual, body and fender. I took every shop class they offered. And I worked on a remodeling project with the architect teacher at Jefferson High for a HUD project they were getting ready for a low income family. I learned how to do plastering, plumbing, electrical, roofing, drywall, carpentry. [APPLAUSE] But here's the thing, so when you know those kinds of things-- and on top of it, my father was one of those tinkerer kind of guy. He liked to buy watches, but high-end watches, Patek Philippe, Baume and Mercier, Piaget. He was buying those watches at pawn shops, reconditioning them, and then putting an ad in the paper and selling them to people who would come into our house to buy them. And he studied auto mechanics when he was in school. And so we would go out into the yard and do auto mechanic work. And my father told me, Kerry, if there's something that another human being made, then you can make it too. If you don't know how to do it, you go to the library. There's a book in there, a manual, that will tell you how to get it done. So when the head gasket blew on my 1961 Chevy, I went and rented a torque wrench, bought a head gasket, sent the head that was on there to a machine shop. And when I came back, I went to the library and got a book, the Chevy manual showed you what the pattern of tightening those bolts was and how tight to put them. You needed a torque wrench for that. I put the head on myself. So you learn that there's nothing that can't be known and there's nothing that can't be done. Anybody can do that if you want to do it. And so the golden age of education was a moment in which it gave people the confidence to know that you can take a piece of raw material and turn it into something just as well as anybody else can take a piece of raw material and turn it into something. You don't have to always just buy your stuff out of the store that somebody else made because you don't know how it was put together. That's the way I operate in the world. And so when you hear me talk about the way I approach my artwork, you hear the same thing. I'm saying the same thing. And artwork ain't nothing really. [LAUGHTER] Think about it. I mean Maurice Denis was right. A painting a nothing but lines and colors arranged in a certain order. That's all it is. Now, the order you arrange them in, you know, that's something else you can talk about. But it ain't no great mystery. Those are the things that people do. And anything that people do is a thing that can be understood by other people. [APPLAUSE] One last thing, I was also a production designer on Sankofa for Haile Gerima. So I did that too. JACQUELINE STEWART: So we have time for one more question. I'm going to look to this side of the room. Hello. AUDIENCE: Could you speak a little bit more about your comic art? KERRY JAMES MARSHALL: Not you James. We're not doing you, James. AUDIENCE: You know I have to talk about-- AUDIENCE: We can't hear you. KERRY JAMES MARSHALL: OK, but we'll let the woman in the back, she's got the mic this time. AUDIENCE: Sorry, could you speak a little bit about your comic work that you showed on screen? Could talk a little bit more about that in depth? KERRY JAMES MARSHALL: In depth, huh? [LAUGHTER] JACQUELINE STEWART: Semi in-depth. [LAUGHING] KERRY JAMES MARSHALL: OK, so, yeah, that project comes out of-- the overarching project was called "Rhythm Master." So I mean, it really is another one of these instances in which I'm trying to resolve what I find to be an inadequacy. And part of that inadequacy has to do with who occupies the space of the superhero. And whether you can develop a black-centered, fantastical, superhero narrative that has the capacity to claim a space in the culture that is the equivalent of everything that we understand about the superhero pantheon that was created by Marvel Comics, from Spiderman, the X-Men. From DC you got Batman. You get Superman. Those superhero characters are institutionalized. They have a global hold on the imagination of young people around the world. Those heroes play well anywhere in the world. And the narratives that they are operating within have an infinite number of permutations. I mean, they can go on in perpetuity. You know, the original creators of Batman and Superman don't do Superman and Batman anymore. Anybody else can plug into it and use those characters to further the mythic status of those superheroes. To date, there are no black characters that do that thing. And there are certainly no black characters that were developed by black comic book artists that do that thing. Now, it matters to me that you can do that, because this, again, says something about the capacity of one community or another or one group of people or another to create characters that can operate with that kind of global scope. And so the "Rhythm Master" narrative is an attempt on my part to create a narrative structure and a series of characters that can achieve that same sort of mythic status, the same levels of complexity, the same levels of sophistication, the same level of fantastic sort of achievement. All of those things have to be met. And so I'm thinking of the "Rhythm Master" narrative-- I mean it has to be like a Star Wars kind of epic. I mean, you have to be able to serialize it over generation after generation after generation and have a buy-in by every generation of kids who will help perpetuate. And the thing for me, it's not enough-- and so this is always the things. So I did do a review of Ta-Nehisi Coates's Black Panther run for Marvel. But this is not the answer to me. I don't care if Ta-Nehisi Coates does Black Planter. I don't care if anybody does Black Panther. I care whether you can invent a character that has the same power as the Black Panther, that has the same power Spiderman. You need to be able to not just sign on to do what somebody else has already invented. That's not the answer. And so to the degree that you are able-- because it says something about your capacity to invent. And the only way you can demonstrate that is to enact the process of inventing a thing and then to see how much power you can invest it with and whether it can take hold. So what I mean to do-- so I started the "Rhythm Master" project, it's first iteration came at the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh, where Madeleine Grynsztejn, who is now the director at the Museum of Contemporary Art, was a curator of the Carnegie International. And I did that project at her invitation at the Carnegie. But it wasn't really about the comic per se, it was about some other things. But from it, it's evolved to a place where it needs to now become a graphic novel, which I'm working on now. And then from there it could be either an animated feature film and then from there a live action feature film. All those things have to happen in order for it to achieve the status that I think it really needs. And it was based on-- I mean, it started with the plan for transformation for CHA housing. So the whole narrative is set against the demolition of Robert Taylor Homes and Stateway Garden. That's where it starts. And everything that happens in the narrative is within four blocks of where my studio and my house is. And there's a building down the street from my studio, which is the place where the Rhythm Master resides. It was on the block, it's called the Ancient Egyptian Museum, right next to the Chicago Rib House. All those things are important. But that's the thing. So the scope of the project, I mean, it fails if it doesn't become as mythic in status as all those other entities that I mentioned. And if it fails, then that's a weakness on my part, an inability of me to construct a framework in which my imagination can have that kind of free reign. So that's the thing. I mean, so anyway, that's in depth enough. [APPLAUSE] JACQUELINE STEWART: So I want to invite everyone to join us for a reception that's taking place out in the lobby and the courtyard, where we can continue this conversation. Please, just me to thank Kerry James Marshall. [APPLAUSE] KERRY JAMES MARSHALL: Thank you, all. Thanks. Thanks.


  • United States Congress. "William Haile (id: H000022)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Christopher Rankin
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Mississippi's at-large congressional district

July 10, 1826 – September 12, 1828
Succeeded by
Thomas Hinds
This page was last edited on 20 May 2019, at 08:17
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