Q&A With Hank Willis Thomas

Artist Hank Willis Thomas will be presenting a free lecture at the museum on Saturday, January 28 at 2:30 pm. We had the opportunity to ask him a few questions before he gets here. Hopefully, it will inspire you to come up with a few more. See you there!

From Cain't See in the Morning til Cain't See at Night, 2011 by Hank Willis Thomas

Q1: Who inspired you you to pursue photography as a career?
A: My mother, Deborah Willis, was my first influence. It was really fascinating to watch someone else write history the way she did. I was drawn by the power of photography to create evidence of how things exist.

Q2: Who are some of your influences as an artist?
A: My mother and her peers. I grew up around Carrie Mae Weems, Lorna Simpson and Jim Goldberg.

Q3: What advice to you have for students interested in pursing a career in photography?
A: The most important thing to consider is that it is a not realistic career. It is not a safe career. There is no realistic or safe route in being an artist. It is about taking risks.

Q4: What are you working on now?
A: Question Bridge: Black Males is a transmedia art project that seeks to represent and redefine Black male identity in America. Through video mediated question and answer exchange, diverse members of this "demographic" bridge economic, political, geographic, and generational divisions. It opens this month (January 2012) in 5 venues: the Brooklyn Museum, Oakland Museum, Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, Chastain Art Center in Atlanta and the Sundance Film Festival.

Q5: How do you see the art you are creating now situating in this period in history? Why have you chosen to talk about race in your most recent projects?
A: Most artists like their work to be contemporary and timely. I really see my work as an opportunity to talk about the things that popular culture glosses over. My biggest problem with conversations about race is that a lot of people on the right don't want to talk about it when in fact they created it. There are large groups of people struggling with an identity structure that we did not create.

Q6: Where do you find inspiration?
A: I find inspiration in everything and everyone that I encounter.

Q7: What do you hope that people experience when viewing your work?
A: I really hope that my work inspires people to have conversation. Good design tries to answer questions. Good art tries to ask questions.

-- Kesha Williams




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