Children of the Sun presents two formally distinct sets of works: a group of twelve serigraphs of varying sizes featuring the doll-like figures and a pair of color lithographs. The color lithographs – Black Boy Hope I and II – respond to the wrongful execution of an innocent fourteen year old African American boy, George Stinney, who was falsely accused of murder with very little evidence (his conviction was canceled in 2014, seventy years after his death).
“Historically, the black body has continued to be maimed, justified, raped, attacked, targeted, protested, kidnapped, mistreated and mocked in the media. Black Boy Hope’s lithographs portray a bright future that we hope will ensure for all African American children. Floating and visually without anchoring in tangible realities, the subject has the freedom to be happy, tall and can determine his own future without prejudices or stereotypes. The footprints are made up of various visible layers that represent the everyday experiences of African Americans as victims but also as resilient survivors. “
On a personal level, Mack-Watkins cites her experience as a mother of two young children (at the time of the pandemic her daughter was four years old and her son two months old) as a fundamental influence on her recent work as a whole. .
“I am always looking for positive ways to encourage my children to play and use their imaginations. Growing up in South Carolina, the stories and children’s toys available did not represent my community or represented it as “other” or “less than”. So today, I see the benefit of finding toys that look like my daughter to give her confidence. I am always on the constant search for books, coloring books, reading books, and dolls that have a positive portrayal of African American children. The Book of Brownies resonates so much with me because it was the first content of its kind to uplift, promote self-esteem, and educate about the contributions of African Americans. In preparation for this exhibit I wanted to do the same, so I focused my research on the African American experience with regards to oral history, memory, literature, childhood, and fashion. era.
Mack-Watkins, who holds an MA in Printmaking from Pratt, favors the printmaking medium to explore this subject, as it allows him to engage in layered complexities in ways that other mediums do not; also specific to engraving, “the prints exist as multiples, which allows them to be part of a larger dialogue”, explains the artist.
“For these works on paper, I chose the medium of printmaking because of my fascination with the process of layering elements, textures and colors to create a uniform image in sequential steps. I believe in the beauty of printmaking and its history of being a source of communication. In my prints, I combine hand-drawn elements with digital methods to create stories based on particular ideas. I use photographic images from magazines, advertisements, newspapers and vintage literature to counter the way the media and popular culture flood society with negative stereotypical perceptions of my culture.
Children of the Sun is curated by David Rios Ferreira (visual artist, independent curator and director of public programs and curator of contemporary art at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan).