Our Town

In the image "Our Town", Kerry James Marshall both addresses the concepts of Colonialism and the 'other' while simultaneously trying to diminish the divide between a patriarchal art view and inclusion of others.  By appropriating art commonly associated with Dick and Jane, a reading program targeting elementary students of white ethnicity, Marshall replaces white figures with those of black children.  ""What was your town has become our town," Marshall said of the racial transitions many American neighborhoods experienced in the past half-century." The notion of 'your' town refers to the white populace; 'our' town being the replacement and/or integration of blacks into an American stereotype. Otherness can refer to belonging to a particular group but also to the exclusion experienced by a person or group of any segment. In other words, the experience of being an outsider qualifies as being an "other".  Marshall tries to address these concepts by using art as a mechanism to represent an equality among ethnic populations. He also uses the work to initiate conversations about what the new stereotype looks like in the current time. "Marshall has long spoken about what he has called “a social responsibility” to tackle black America in his work. But Marshall pairs this sensibility with a deep engagement with the art of the Western tradition, both its pitfalls and its triumphs."  In doing so,  Marshall uses his work to highlight the black aesthetic while also promoting the new reality for African-Americans.   

By looking at Marshall's work it occurs often that critics engage in discussion of other as it affects a particular group:  LGBT, Women, Secular vs. Religous or competing religions, Senior vs. Youth. It address the yin/yang, two opposites that work in concert or in opposition. "Our Town" could easily be identified as a piece that begs the question--and seeks answers.

Our Town, 1995. Kerry James Marshall.

Our Town, 1995. Kerry James Marshall.