January 7 - February 14, 2021
From the Nasher Sculpture Center:
“Taking its title from a lyric of “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” the Black national anthem, Vicki Meek’s Nasher Public installation Stony the Road We Trod offers a contemporary shrine dedicated to the Black community. Drawing upon the culture of Yoruba belief, Adinkra symbols of Ghana, and other metaphorical elements, Meek has transformed the Nasher Store Gallery into an uplifting space of healing and encouragement.
Meek’s shrine brings together colors, objects and emblems with long histories in her work and deep roots in traditional African cultures as well as American history. On the walls, panels are painted blue, a protection color in African art; photographs of resistance and resilience offer testimony to the “stony road” trod by Black Americans, given physical form in the marble chips below. Peat moss, a substance used for healing wounds in natural medicine, offers a symbolic balm for these trials. White turtles emblematize continuity from past to present, while twelve white roosters stand for the ancestors, eleven of which are labeled with the name of one of the tribes of West Africa that were the main African groups to be enslaved. In addition to these, Meek includes a twelfth—African Americans, because, as she points out, “we [Black Americans] became a whole different tribe, based upon the way we were thrown together.” Adinkra symbols stand for the values of resilience, unity, love, and Sankofa, or the ability to connect to the past. The presence of a Mende helmet mask provides a beneficent connection to what Meek describes as “Mother Africa.”
Described by the artist as “her personal acknowledgement that Black Lives Matter,” Stony the Road We Trod exemplifies Meek’s artistic practice and its roots in deep historical research. For three decades, she has turned to the history of African art and culture—particularly the regions of West Africa whose populations comprise the majority of those taken into slavery—to create a visual language that forges connections between contemporary Black communities, the “stony road” of their diasporic history, and their African past. The sacred sites she creates from these elements provide places of access to ancestors and their healing wisdom. Her very creation of such sites is a restorative act, providing respite and comfort, aesthetic and spiritual sustenance, and a heightened awareness of Black Americans’ connections to a profoundly rich ancestral history.
A key to the symbols used in Stony the Road We Trod is available here. Visitors are invited to write an affirmation to the Black community on slips of gold paper provided at the table near the entrance to the gallery.
Vicki Meek on the Foundations of Her Art
“As an artist obtaining a Master of Fine Arts at the height of the Black Power Movement, it is not surprising that my work embraces a political outlook, especially given that my artistic idols are Elizabeth Catlett, Jacob Lawrence and Romare Bearden. The aesthetic I developed includes both the notion of utilizing text and symbolism derived from West Africa and other parts of the African diaspora, while striving to educate the viewer on lost history and social issues. I’ve explored imagery that is not rooted in polemics, but that prompts dialogue around cultural memory and identity.”
On View: January 7, 2021 | 1–5 pm
2001 Flora Street
Dallas, 75201 TX
(214) 242-5100Get directions