The Reader and The Learner

I don’t know about you, but as someone who often spends my time looking at pieces from artists that are long gone I tend to forget that amazing and impactful art is being made today. Whenever someone looks at me like I’m crazy because I study Art History, I try my best to explain that it’s like learning the depths of history through a picture book. But, instead of seeing dates and play by plays you get to see what was important to people and how they wanted to be remembered (and how weird some of the hair was). It’s hard to take a step back and see that no matter how far we’ve come in means of evolution and apples becoming more than fruit and exploring the depths of space, we still create art the same way. Aren’t humans kind of adorable in that way? I wonder what the aliens think of that.

Regardless of extraterrestrials, the Everhart Museum here in good old Scranton, PA is showing an amazing exhibition that I feel really captures what I feel art history is all about–capturing the mood, response, and dignity of issues we face as a whole. From now until December 31, 2022, The Everhart is displaying a fantastic collection of work titled “The Reader”, created by local contemporary artist Travis Prince. These 11 works highlight black readers reading black authors in various settings, positions, and contexts. Seeing these in person was so impactful, especially along with reading about Travis’ story as a young reader growing up, craving to read authors that looked like him. I’ve had the really cool opportunity to meet Travis (he held a ladder for me last year, I know you all are jealous), but the light inside of him is contagious and he really found a way to convey that through his style of painting.

From what I understand, Travis is completely self taught. So, when you look at how complexly he combines photo realism and abstracted texture your mind is absolutely blown. There was an incredible attention to detail, down to the positioning of each finger, the eyeline, and the books chosen. Even when the backs of these books were shown, he wrote out the words that would be on the back in tiny little text. I wish I had had more time to look, because these were the types of works you could stare at for hours and still find something new.

Along with the works on the wall, the books featured in them were on a table in the center of the room. This aspect of physically interacting with the same objects that the people in the paintings were holding was incredibly impactful, and really got Travis’ point across. Sitting there, holding the books in my hands, I couldn’t help but try and recount all of the books I’ve read and how many of them were by black authors. In that process, I was immediately inspired and awakened to the fact that the few I could recall were not enough. Each piece was also paired with a quote from the book featured, and you could really see how these words took form in the people holding them. Ultimately, I think Travis Prince is a genius and I desperately want to see more.

If you have a chance to stop by the Everhart Museum, I can’t recommend it enough. Not only would you be supporting an incredible black artist, but you would be opening your eyes to someone else’s view of the world. Take some time, read some of these books (I know I will be), and take the chance to reflect about what other eyes’ see. Congratulations Travis, I can’t wait to see what you do next.

All pictures were taken by me in the exhibit (They’re a little dark, but hopefully they’ll get my message across)! Further proof you should definitely go see it.

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