Free Within ourselves
Jason Wallace is an American multidisciplinary artist working with consciousness, perception and public policy. The signs and symbols series deals with mathematical signs as a way to describe human geometry by examining systemic structures of values. The work traces how one perceives themselves and the correlation to others. The work attempts to challenge the viewer on perceived systemic structures of one’s self image and value as well as values that are assigned.
The name for the exhibition ’FREE within ourselves’ is an excerpt from a published article, “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain”, by Langston Hughes. The poet is examining a quote from another well-known Negro poet, "I want to be a poet - not a Negro poet,". Langston explicates, claiming the importance to see value in oneself, community and others that look like them as oppose to escapism that drives a more accepted narrative of assimilation. The poem ends – “We younger Negro artists who create now intend to express our individual dark-skinned selves without fear or shame. If white people are pleased we are glad. If they are not, it doesn't matter. We know we are beautiful and ugly too. If colored people are pleased we are glad. If they are not, their displeasure doesn't matter either. We build our temples for tomorrow, strong as we know how, and we stand on top of the mountain, FREE within ourselves.”
The closing passage is one of criticality that steers the notion for acceptance of oneself and others allowing for respectful disagreement. Challenging the premise of how and from whom do we receive freedom because WE ARE “FREE within ourselves.”
The Nation. Modern American Poetry. 1926.