Dave Harris – “Universal Experiences”


The painter Felrath Hines
wanted his imagery to remain universal and not to be seen as having relevance
exclusively to black social causes or to African Americans. As a result, he refused to participate in the Whitney Museum of Art’s
landmark exhibit, Contemporary Black Artists in America. Draw straight black lines
on sharp white linen. Right angles and boxes
to separate the colored space from the clean fabric. Dry red liquid enclosed in black, surrounded by white,
squares on a rectangle. The body is a box. The body goes in a box. Everybody knows the names of the boys who I now assume are buried in boxes. A box is just colors and lines
and right angles, on fabric. There’s nothing to art but imagination. Everyone has that. Think about it. The wallet is a gun. The cellphone is a gun. The hands, raised and open, is a gun. He reached for the paintbrush and drew. Bang. A child died on canvas. I am not a black artist; I am an artist. No. I am not an artist; I am black. No. I am not black;
everyone else is white. No. I am clean; the canvas is dirty. My paranoia taught me
to see the color in everything. Every word has its tone. Do you think precision can protect you? A balanced stanza. Don’t play the music too loud. Paint with an open hand. The world is defined before you. I can lose and find myself in shapes. The artist stands outside
and draws the lines. The reader fills them. Imagine if white were a color too. Draw straight white lines
on sharp colored linen. Erase the white, and find the natural
where we all began, like The Big Bang, or jazz. First there was nothing,
and then everything. Oil paints on history. Imagine how it might look
to step away and blend with our bright boxed universe. (applause)

7 thoughts on “Dave Harris – “Universal Experiences”

  1. I usually don’t understand most of the poems but I still feel like I’m learning.

  2. damn i related to the part where he talks abt seeing race in everything out of paranoia

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