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Imo Nse Imeh, Ovation, mixed media/canvas, 2018; [Source: artist / Readywipe Gallery]
Imo Nse Imeh, Ovation, mixed media/canvas, 2018; [Source: artist / Readywipe Gallery]

17 Years Boy: Epilogue
Works by Dr. Imo Nse Imeh

“ To me, this new body of work symbolizes the challenging, yet beautiful journey down the path of healing, to transform the horror of unspeakable tragedy into a renewed sense of life and celebration, I wanted to make something new, I wanted it to be reflective of a dark past, but also hopeful for the future.  It needed to be about healing and the celebration of Black boys.”

Imo Nse Imeh

Following a disturbing rash of racially motivated incidents at Westfield State University, Dr. Imo Nse Imeh, an associate professor at the college, launched a live multi media performance that reexamined the travesty of the death of 17 year old, Trayvon Martin. Using the span of Martin’s life, Dr. Imeh painted a large scale portrait of Trayvon Martin as a video taped performance that culminated in the destruction of the portrait in the final 17th hour of the show. This final hour mirrored the life of a 17 year old boy whose life was cut short for no other reason other than racial hatred. Over the course of the next year, Dr. Imeh created 17 new works, each one integrating fragments from Trayvon Martin’s portrait saved from the first performance.

These new works, and a continuous loop of the video, painting, and performance comprises the exhibition, 17 years Boy: Epilogue. Most of these paintings/drawings are monumental in size—some 7 feet by 11 feet—and are powerful in content and rich in execution. Dr. Imeh intended these images to place Black boys and men in a dream-like existence as monarchs and angels. Erasing the distinction between drawing and painting, celestial figures emerge from spiraling abstract inky washes in singular colors or in a range of grayscale hues. The figures are drawn in a predominately classic style using basic drawing materials. This juxtaposition of techniques imbues each piece with an overwhelmingly powerful message of the loss of grace, intelligence, and beauty while driving home the inhumanity many Black boys and men endure. On viewing this exhibition it is critically important to recognize that Trayvon Martin and other Black boys and men killed for no apparent reason, are not just metaphors but were living, sons, fathers, husbands, and friends. We have lost too many people; lets begin to cherish those in our midst. Dr Imeh’s compelling artwork has brought that message to the fore. Try to see the exhibition.

Opening reception, Readywipe Gallery, 17 years Boy: Epilogue; photo by Sara Farrell Okamura.
Dr. Imo Nse Imeh, left, at the opening reception of 17 years Boy: Epilogue at the Readywipe Gallery; photo by Sara Farrell Okamura.

Readywipe Gallery is located at 532 Main Street in the Arts and Innovation District in Holyoke, Mass. This building and gallery harkens back 30 to 40 years ago when industrial mills abandoned and left for demolition in urban areas were transformed by artists into laboratories of creativity. Since that time real estate firms have appropriated these spaces and converted them into luxury condos. Readywipe is attempting to reinvigorate the initial goal of providing suitable studio space at reasonable prices while creating an arts community in the Heart of Holyoke, Mass. Readywipe hosts monthly installations, exhibitions, and performances by established and emerging artists. Their mission is to open a dialogue between the past and the present and to use culture and creativity as a catalyst for positive change.  

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