Friday, April 9, 2010

Second set of eyes

Regardless of how prepared you think you are, there is always something you overlooked. Perfect example, this painting. After the awarding of the commission, I scouted the walls of the School of Government building as though there was gold hidden within and they said I could keep what I found. I finally settled on the ground level wall opposite the cafeteria and after meticulous measuring and a pile of photographs from every angle, I thought that I had every contingency accounted for. Hardly.

My last post included an image of a lynching scene and I wrote about the reasons why it will be included. After that post I received an email from one of the staff members of the SOG whom agreed with the reasoning, but questioned the potential discomfort that may be created by having that particular segment of the painting in direct view of the entrance into the cafeteria. After all, who wants to enjoy a meal with that scene staring back at you! I agreed wholeheartedly with his concern and asked that he measure the entrance in relation to the wall where the painting will be mounted. He did so and I calculated the distance and photoshopped what portion of the painting would be visible from the entrance. It so happens that the lynching scene will be located about 15 feet farther down the hall. Thank goodness. I was prepared to move the scene to a different segment if it turned out to be aligned within sight of diners.

This is one of those moments where some asshole of an artist would have stood on the pious grounds of 'artistic and compositional integrity' and opted to create controversy where none was needed or necessary to supposedly get one's point across. 15 years ago, I might have done that, but the kinder, gentler Quashie has grown and come to the sad realization that he doesn't know everything. :-( . I was actually surprised that I had never considered this while working on the layout and thanked the gentleman for pointing this out to me. As I stated in the email,
"The goal here is to commemorate and not offend or cause unwarranted controversy that would overshadow both mine and the SOG's efforts to make this a successful venture."

Once again, sir - thank you for the heads up.

The painting as will be seen from the interior of the cafeteria

A question also arose about the chef's attire worn by the Greensboro Four in the painting. The rationale behind this is in direct correlation to the location and the layout of the painting. My first concern when approaching this commission was setting. After receiving a list of names and events important to North Carolina history, the first question that popped into my head was, 'what setting is appropriate to congregate 30+ people from disparate era's that would make visual sense to the viewer?' Two events immediately peaked my interest - the Sommerset Plantation reunion and the sit-in at the Woolworth lunch counter. Since I had my eye on the long blank wall opposite the cafeteria, the food oriented connection between the lunch counter and cafeteria was obvious. This decision was strengthened by the fact that students often line up in the hallway and would have to walk the length of the painting before entering the cafeteria.

The physical structure of the wall (8' x 53') dictated the length of the painting which fell in line with the extended length of many lunch counters. Anyone who has eaten in a diner or at a lunch counter know it's the perfect location to find yourself sitting next to a stranger. Pure synchronicity. This easily connected the final dot - the Greensboro Four as chefs at the lunch counter.

I contend that the moment the four brave souls decided to sit at that counter and demand service, they were, by extension, demanding service for the greater African-American community. By refusing to leave they took proverbial ownership of the establishment, hence the chef's uniforms. The official title of the painting is 'Service,' which is what they demanded and in so doing 'served' a cause greater than themselves. Get it?

1 comment:

  1. Great post. I get it! and hope that some of that explanation ends up on a plaque or in an explanatory leaflet/handout alongside the painting.