When I was five years old my grandmother, Ardis Butler, said to me one hot muggy day in Mississippi in the shade of a big oak tree “You ARE an Artist!” looking at a drawing I had made in the dirt. Deacon Joe Cook said to me “You ARE Going to Be Somebody.” My fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Elsey, used my drawings to teach health and anatomy. The principal of my high school allowed me to run all AV equipment and drive the school car. I was chosen to design class rings for two years during my junior and senior years of high school. Churches in Southern Mississippi gave me church mural commissions. As a sophomore in college, I became president of the art club, chosen by the members then during junior year, I became assistant to the Chair of the Art Department at Jackson State University (JSU.) Beyond all this, my 7th grade history teacher, Mrs. Richardson, drove my sister and I 90 miles to JSU to seek a scholarship to attend college. My 9th grade math teacher, Mr. Matheus, let me use his car to go get my driver’s license. I was a dirt-poor farmer – a nobody – yet somebody who was somebody said I was somebody. So, what does all this have to do with my work? Community and opportunity let me know I was somebody going somewhere and that was affirmation. I owe a lot to community, my community, and it is my goal to fulfill a commitment long made to vibrant people to caress their spirits in my works.
Butler’s art addresses the human capacity to engineer self-reflective change. This ability to change our beliefs, our habits and ourselves is however among the most difficult things we can do as humans. Butler’s attempt in his art to expose issues that challenges our basic survival and erode our ability to engineer change.
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