KNOXVILLE, Tenn.- Displaying alternate perspectives is what the Light of the Truth Exhibit is hoping to achieve. The touring art exhibit in Knoxville draws attention to the struggles African Americans still face today.
The exhibit came to the University of Tennessee during Black History Month and carried into the end of March with its message available for anyone who wished to see it. According to the UT School of Art, the artists were trying to bring light to activism, leadership and sharing perspectives.
The gallery was a statement on the treatment of African Americans. Attendees were often alone in the gallery, looking at the displays and feeling the emotions connected with the art. Images of past and present struggles lined the walls and filled the room. Attendees like Dominic Reynolds were affected by the questions posed by the gallery.
“It made me question myself a bit, made me question perspectives of other people,” said Reynolds. “I found myself thinking about what a lot of pieces were trying to tell me. I didn’t understand most of them but it made me feel like I had a lot to learn.”
Other attendees, like Kevin Pham, connected to the emotions associated with the gallery.
“It made me feel sad, not in the way like it’s a sad movie, but more sad in the way it just reflects society,” Pham said. “Like how the struggle .… of African Americans in America. I can definitely empathize with that. As an Asian American, I do get moments like that of inequality living in this society.”
The theme of the gallery was a reference to Ida B. Wells’ work. Wells was a Civil Rights activist who was originally born into slavery and became a writer known for exposing the truth about lynchings. She was a pioneer in African American and female journalism. She dedicated her life to bringing truth into the light, which is why she was the inspiration of the gallery. Even the name of the exhibit came from her, with the collection of her writings being titled “The Light of Truth: Writings of an Anti-Lynching Crusader.” The gallery follows Wells’ memory as it shines a light on what has and is still happening today.
Wells was an important activist in the Civil Rights movement. Even artists entering the gallery who were unfamiliar with her, like Hei Park, found her admirable.
“Honestly I did not know her very much but as I entered this exhibition, I found her effort of being a leader through her writing for civil justice inspiring and respectable,” Park said.
Park’s piece, “The Fog: Unbearable Lightness,” is a video installation, inspired by a photo by Justin Wan from the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020.
“In that newspaper, there was a series of photographs of Black Lives Matter protesters,” said Park. “Unlike other photos which presented anger and active protesting, Justin Wan’s photo conveyed soft colors and passive gestures. This photo strongly resonated with me and stayed in my mind a long time.”
Park’s piece uses dance as the language with sheer layers of fabric working as metaphors for different injustices. The video is divided into five segments with each segment representing different emotions through color and music changes. Even the music has recurring themes and variations that form a pattern meant to reflect injustices in society, according to Park.
The Light of the Truth exhibit was an event with a meaning. The air in the gallery was somber, and the challenges it was meant to represent were evident throughout the pieces.