Have you ever seen a work of art that’s almost too difficult to view? (I am not referring to work that is badly executed, or manipulative, or too clever by half, but an artwork worthy of attention.)
I felt that way when I saw The Hanging Tree by Joe Minter at the de Young Museum in San Francisco.
The Hanging Tree, 1996, Joe Minter, welded found steel
The museum information label read:
de Young Museum, San Francisco
I was overwhelmed by the historical facts presented. I focused on the shadows at the base of the artwork, not wanting to accept what I had read, and what was before me. I attempted to process the information, as I was deeply shocked by the facts. There were recorded lynchings as recently as 1981???
I was also overwhelmed by the beauty and integrity of the sculpture in response to the brutality suffered – unfathomable events, repeated hundreds of times, with little or no repercussions to the perpetrators. And yet – despite these unspeakable acts, this violent history towards African Americans – Joe Minter says We have went through tribulation, but from that experience we learn patience and develop the strength of hope.
The Hanging Tree (shadow), Joe Minter, 1996, welded found steel
This sculpture was part of the exhibition Revelations: Art from the African American South at the de Young Museum from June 2017 until the end of March 2018.
Even as I write this blog, my heart rate is elevated. It’s difficult, and challenging to face the reality of our society’s inhumanity and ongoing injustices. But – face it, and act to change it – we must. We can’t look the other way.