DALLAS — Stony the Rod We Trod: A Shrine to Black America — it’s more than just an installation. The new exhibit on display until February 14 at the Nasher Sculpture Center is renowned artist Vicki Meek’s love letter to the Black community.
“I think that when people see it, hopefully it will be beautiful, it will be calming [and] it will be a statement on Black lives mattering,” said Meek. “This is my way of saying, ‘Black Lives Matter,’ to say that we come from a very strong and determined and a persevering people and we need to always acknowledge that as we move through the various sundry difficulties that we may face.”
If “Stony the Rod We Trod” sounds familiar to the ear, it’s because it comes from the Black National Anthem — “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” written by James Weldon Johnson, who was the leader of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People at the time.
“The verse I think best describes the journey that African-Americans have had coming to the shores enslaved and then our liberation and then our current situation where we stand,” said Meek. “So, I decided I would use that particular line as a motivation to create a shrine to Black America. The elements that I’m using in the shrine are the things that I think relate specifically to the need for us to always be connected to our ancestors, because I feel like our ancestors are where we gather strength.”
The installation sits in a space that at one point housed the museum’s gift shop. As visitors walk in, they’ll experience what Meek describes as a “memorial room” to the ancestors, encompassing many different pieces to create a place of healing and worship. The white rooster symbolizes the ancestors, while the white turtle represents continuity and longevity. Blue, which can be seen throughout the exhibit, means protection in African art. Symbolic of the road we trod, Meek used marble chips at the base of her installation. The peat moss used connects the ancestors as a “method of healing.”
“All of the symbols that I picked relate specifically to the idea of resilience and perseverance and unity and struggle but triumph in struggle,” said Meek.
The fourth exhibit in the Nasher Sculpture Center’s Nasher Public Exhibition, Stony the Road We Trod draws on the African diaspora as components of the Yoruba and Adinkra culture are weaved into the artist’s work. In addition to her exhibit at the Nasher, Meek also has a collection of mixed media at African American Museum in Dallas titled, Vicki Meek: Three Decades of Social Commentary. For the past 30 years, Meek has used her love for art to connect Black communities with their ancestral history and has permanent collections at The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, Paul Quinn College, and Norwalk Community College in Norwalk, Connecticut.
As part of the Nasher Public installation, Meek found a way to incorporate guests into the artwork, and she’ll read notes left by visitors during an Instagram Live event on Valentine’s Day, February 14, at 6 p.m.
“I’m always interested in having people kind of participate in my installations,” she said. “So, there is an element of that. In this installation, you can take a gold piece of paper and write an affirmation to the Black community and put it in one of the baskets so that I’m gathering positive energy from whoever visits the installation to pass on to the Black community.”
For more information on Stony the Road We Trod: A Shrine to Black America visit nashersculpturecenter.org or call 214-242-5100. Additional details about Vicki Meek: Three Decades of Social Commentary can be viewed at aamdallas.org or calling at 214-565-9026.