Art Imitates Nation: A Conversation with Hank Willis Thomas


Meeting Method:
Associated Program:
John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum

The American national narrative relies on stories of overcoming a racial past — presenting a country continuously outwitting injustice. Integral to the successful adoption of this narrative is the hypervisible representation of Black people and culture in the public eye. 

Award-winning conceptual artist Hank Willis Thomas experiments with representation and national narrative. His art shows that if aesthetic representation is necessary to craft a national narrative, it can disrupt one just as well. Thomas’ works — which span photography, sculpture, installation and textile — interrogate how art, systemic racism and the commodification of Black struggle became intertwined with American culture. Among his permanent installations is ‘The Embrace’, memorializing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King in Boston Commons. 

On April 8, join us for a conversation between Hank Willis Thomas and Sarah Elizabeth Lewis, John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Humanities and Associate Professor of African and African American Studies at Harvard University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences. 

In the style of a fireside chat, this conversation will explore questions including: How does art shape and reflect narratives around race in the United States? How does power affect the way we express ourselves? And how might art contribute to a more just, equitable society? 

This conversation co-hosted by the Institutional Antiracism and Accountability Project (IARA).

Please register with a valid Harvard email address to attend in-person. All JFK Jr. Forums are publicly livestreamed on our YouTube channel.


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