In recent months, artists throughout Nashville have been exhibiting work inspired by the social events now shaping our society. With work that considers politics, systemic racism and the novel coronavirus pandemic, the city’s creative community has clear points of view on the state of our country.
As the latest entry into this oeuvre, Nashville artist Omari Booker’s “Need A Hug” showcase is particularly noteworthy for its hopeful message and positive perspective. The exhibition, on view at The Black Box Gallery in Germantown’s The Local Distro, is an attempt to rediscover human connection at a time when that basic need can feel so difficult to fulfill. In particular, it seeks to emphasize that connection for a group that feels particularly dehumanized right now.
“‘Need A Hug’ explores the vulnerability that is integral to the human condition, alongside the incredible isolation and loneliness so many are experiencing in this moment,” Booker explained in an email to Art of Nashville. “Minimal human connection impacts our ability to empathize with each other. Social media, camera phones and news outlets have continued to expose police brutality. We are inundated with images of public assault on the black body. This body of work humanizes black people, contrasting the violence and brutality inflicted on black bodies.”
To create much of the work on view, Booker asked friends to send him their favorite photos of people hugging. Many of the pieces were ultimately inspired by these photos. In work like Sisters, fabric and oil are combined to add texture and make use of negative space on the canvas, creating an engaging and warm effect that truly humanizes the subjects.
All told, “Need A Hug” offers a positive lens through which we can think about some of our time’s most glaring realities.
Booker is native to Nashville and serves as an art instructor at the University School of Nashville. His work has been featured in local shows for years, as well as exhibitions throughout the Southeast.
The Black Box Gallery in The Local Distro is located at 614 Garfield Street in Germantown.