Wesley Clark’s show “The Prophet’s Library” is deeply engrained with symbolism, metaphor, and his experience as an African American male in this country. He began this body of work by making a stream of consciousness list of words that came to him when he thought about his experience which culminated in “Table of Contents”. He created this list of words that now make up the top of the crossword before writing out the clues which allowed him to expand what could be a clue for each word. The words are also grouped together in order to create links and imagery that can be tracked throughout the rest of the show. He invites our imaginations to move piece to piece stitching together the narrative of this prophet. With the series of books that inspired the show title he presents the audience with four cases designed to hold books yet to be written. The exterior of each of these books has been carved, painted, and stained to be representative of the made up titles on the front. What is exciting about these titles, and subsequently these carvings, is that these can be seen as revisions of the current history or simply retellings of those narratives from perhaps a more accurate perspective. This is especially true with “Master Sowers” as it is analyzing the creation of civilization. One side contains an image of Lake Tana which is the source of the Nile river in Egypt which many can argue was the seedbed for civilization and technology as we know it. While the other side depicts two hands holding a mound of dirt with fists erupting from that dirt surrounded by a few symbols including an arrow and some stars. The idea behind this is that once you can defend yourself you can start to think about stars, science, etc. Another piece that spurs our imaginations is the “My Beautiful Black Unicorn(s)”. Which once agains plays with our imagination as well as historical references. Each horn is engraved with the name of slave revolt leaders including: Nat Turner, Denmark Vessey, and Toussaint L’Overture. In theory, these people are unicorns in that they should never have existed in the world in the role of revolutionist. Many people believe that the unicorn was the East Indian Rhino but through word of mouth that narrative was skewed leaving us with the mysterious unicorn we know today. This degradation of the truth can also be tracked onto the experience of the African American as they are often portrayed in the media in a negative light. Each piece in this show has layers and layers of meaning that require the viewer to approach the work with a willingness to spend time with the work. Time spent looking at this show is extremely rewarding as there are so many hidden gems of powerful text, image, or symbol that are lost with a superficial viewing. Wesley has created a show and a body of work that is imaginative, powerful, and truly meaningful within the social and political climate of today.
posted by– 06/16/17 @ 11:23am