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Spiritual Longing in the Aftermath of Violence

In this time of violence in our country and especially in communities of color between young men of color and the police art is stepping in the forefront. One of these amazing talented artist is Johnetta Tinker one of Roxbury’s own. She studied under the great John Biggers as she grew into her own as an artist.


I have known Johnetta Tinker for over 20 years and her work always speak volumes about her as an artist and what she sees around her. Her accolades include Top Boston Artist, on the Clara Database of Women Artists and has retired from her position as Community Programs Director at the Isabella Gardner Museum after 15 years. Now Johnetta Tinker is in this place in time where violence is overtaking communities of color and she is speaking out through her art. Her art is in her dreams and culture rooted in symbols, rhythms and natures movement and patterns. Her dreams, her conversations and her heart felt passion for those who have lost loved ones as well herself to violence is what she recreates in her art.


This “SPIRITUAL LONGING-IN THE AFTERMATH OF VIOLENCE” all of this creation is rooted in Black & White and if I’m not mistaken the reasoning behind it is that violence has no color. Tinker transfers her ancestry, memory and visions into each one of this series.

This series speaks to those left behind through violence and those who have been the victims of this violence giving them a voice. In a conversation with Johnetta around her preparing these works she specifically talked about the piece “Hope Reigns Supreme” was originally horizontal until a piece of backboard fell creating a breeze and the piece became vertical. When she awoke the next morning and looked at it she thought “here it is” and left. She knew as she always does her guides are the earth, spirits and symbols were in charge. The piece went from “Hands up don’t shoot, to Hope”. This is how the whole exhibit went. The last 7 pieces of this series show the faces of the families, their pain pray for the souls of their children. I learned while listening to Johnetta Tinker talk about this exhibit that there is a “Talk” that needs to be given to our children before they go out into the world each and every time they leave home to protect themselves because the clothes they wear and the color of their skin is a factor in how they are received and/or treated. We must always pray for their safe and whole return home.

Her use of black and white was her beginning, black and white pencils and drawing from comic books. These pieces done in black and white took a dramatic situation and created an imagery. Each piece in this series were created using a number of textures and forms from rice paper, stencils which Johnetta made herself. Fruit baskets, bubble wrap and doilies, scraps of paper that she used until the pieces were so small she had to pick them up with tweezers. She also did rubbing which she layered one on top the other and was her own printmaker. I loved the statement Johnetta Tinker made about the piece telling her when it was finished not her thinking it was finished.

I am ancient and contemporary. My influences are strongly rooted in the symbols, rhythms and movements of nature's surrealistic patterns. Visions from dreams and personal life experiences provide an outlet for my imaginative and spiritual growth. This allows me to "build truth in the hidden memories." My art is an extension of my ancestry, which deeply guides my artistic expression.

~ Johnetta Tinker

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