Artist Hopes UK Students See His Grandfather’s Ability to “Turn Hate into Love”

Artist Hopes UK Students See His Grandfather’s Ability to “Turn Hate into Love”


My name is Imar Hutchins, my grandfather
was Lyman T Johnson, who sued for admission in 1949 and became the first
black student here and I just was commissioned by UK to create a portrait
of my grandfather that’s gonna reside in the residence hall named after him. You
know, I’m very proud of it, you know, I think it’s a special piece of art. He’s
using the materials, paint, paper, also archival imagery, photography and is
bringing those things together to make a kind of not just portrait in terms of
how someone looks, but adding in information which is about who they are.
The name of the piece is, “I Lived Half of My Life in the Darkness and Half in the
Light” and this is what he used to say at the end of his life, roughly 45
years in each. What he’s saying is that he lived to see the same, you know, kind
of power structure that threatened his very life, naming schools and streets and
things after him so the piece, when you look at it from a distance,
you know, it’s bright yellow. It’s almost as if he’s bathed in light and like
squinting at the light so he’s in the light but when you get closer upon
closer examination you see that it’s all made up of hate mail and death threats
that he got and the most vile and vicious things that you can imagine are
what make it up, so it’s about how he transformed hate into love. It rewards
you upon very close inspection, you know, say 10 feet, five feet, you’re not going
to read the information, the letters, in some cases very troubling language
related to race and identity and I think what the work addresses in a way is the
frame of mind and sets of experiences of the period in which this person lived.
Showing this hate mail is just an example of
telling what happened, not saying what happened doesn’t change the fact that it
happened, you know, but maybe saying it allows people to learn from it. So, I think
when you see and know the history of this person, you know he navigated this
with great thought, great grace, it’s an interesting role model for us to look at
how we conduct ourselves, you know, with ethics and morality and generosity. So, I
like to think of it as it’s commemorative but it’s also a kind of challenge. I
think I learned something about his, you know, how steadfast he had to be. What
he’s kind of challenging us to do, you know, is to like rise above it, right, so
how could someone endure all these things, you know, and not be hard-hearted
like the person who might have done it? Some of the stuff on the pieces from
the 70’s, 80’s, you know, it’s not, and I have stuff be up from the 90’s, so it’s
not ancient history by any means but he still, you know, maintained his spirit
despite all that.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,