Wilmer Wilson IV
from Who Do You Think You Are? Series
As submitted to the 2008 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards:
“I am an African American teenager.” This phrase is as incomprehensible to me as if it were part of a coded language. But it has dictated a large portion of my being since even before I realized it. It dictated the uncomfortable things people said around me; it dictated that slight hesitation I had before I chose my clothes every morning; and it dictated a perpetual uneasiness that followed me in just about anything I did. I have by no means conquered this unmapped region of myself. With photography, however, I have attempted to gain a new perspective on that which is still left inchoate by language.
These pieces were chosen because of the way they capture most effectively the complex (and simple) questions and incomplete answers regarding the world, race, and its relation to my American youth. Though we may never understand ourselves completely, these pieces try to point out that we may not understand ourselves as much as we presume to.
I want my viewers to look at my work and come away feeling a subtle uneasiness. Going into the work thinking about questions such as “What color is the person in the picture?”, “What is he doing?” and “How is he positioned?”, each person should try to capture that evasive first opinion after viewing each separate piece. After looking at all of the pieces, the viewer should try to determine the overall tone of the work, and how it relates to the idea of race. Doing so will highlight misguided yet commonly accepted shortcomings of the widely accepted definitions of race. It should also leave the viewer pondering questions not only of him or herself, but of society as well – for this work certainly will not provide answers to many of the questions of our reality.
As I have grown, art has played an increasingly instrumental part of my life. It is a tool of articulation. Things that had been difficult to fit into words could be said through the visual language of art and still retain meaning; often the meaning is expanded (sometimes greatly). Looking at art has also been an amazing source of ideas – different pieces reveal countless perspectives in nearly every aspect of my life. Making and understanding art will be a continuous and perpetually incomplete pursuance; I am eager to be introduced to as much of it as I can. If my work provided perspective to anyone, then it has succeeded.