About the exhibition
In my family we grew up learning a lot about our roots and the time of slavery. And we were hearing about God, too. We were learning about the symbol of Jesus all the time. I like the word “praise” because what we do at church is dance for God—for the meaning of God—and we call it praise dancing. I had a solo in my dance group, and I danced to “The Best in Me” by Marvin Sapp. I cried. This is how I let it out: I dance and I cry.
I let myself out in my art by thinking of ideas and putting them in a print or in a poem. I've been inspired to make prints about Obama, Maya Angelou, Angela Davis, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, and Harriet Tubman. I like all types of nature: flowers, trees, and ducks. I’ve drawn at least two ducks before with pencil. I’m also a fashionable type of girl and I like makeup and handmade jewelry best. I love to use images from African Art a lot, and the African mask is part of my ancestry. In places like Ghana and Nigeria, they wear masks and I see power in the masks—the symbol of power is the mask. It’s kind of the same power I see in Angela Davis’ face, and in her Black Power fist.
I’m really inspired by Angela Davis. She’s an activist and novelist and she is so powerful. Her work with the Black Panthers for me speaks to what Black leaders and Black heroes are all about.
On Juneteenth, I will definitely be thinking about Angela Davis. And I’ll be thinking about my favorite poet Maya Angelou, and her words “I know why the caged bird sings” and “still I rise.” At NIAD we’ve talked about protesting, making signs, and making a mural with the names of people who were killed by the cops. I would also put their faces on the mural so we can keep the memories of those folks here. That’s powerful.
About the selector
Halisi Noel-Johnson is a printmaker and textile artist creating work at NIAD Art Center. For this exhibition, she paired her own works with those by her peers to tell a story about personal inspiration and symbols of power.
Halisi grew up practicing American Sign Language, and is eager to teach classes that will help others learn to communicate through sign. She would also like to lead a workshop on quilting and writing poetry. Halisi has exhibited work at Steamboat Springs, CO, and both NIAD Art Center and Richmond Art Center, Richmond, CA. Currently, a selection of her works on paper are on view in a group exhibition of NIAD art in the office suite of Tom Butt, Richmond's Mayor.