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Visual art is very personal to me. Whatever draws my eyes to a particular work is personal. It is what I see reflected on the chosen canvas that is mine, and mine alone. No amount of interpretation can reduce the impact a particular work has on me. And that is the beauty of visual art. That beauty is magnified dramatically when what I see is a reflection of myself – the gracious hues of my skin, the glint of my eye, the color of familiar soil, the expressions of my experience, the strokes by hands that have also touched something familiar to me at some point along their journey. These are personal emotions conjured by art that is abundant with memory wrapped tightly with inspired vision.

In the way that land acknowledgments give voice to the truth of stolen properties, Truth Be Told II is a trumpet song of existence and the relevant abundance of Black artists in the Pacific Northwest. On these pages, we celebrate and honor the artists whose truth is laid before us. They are men and women, elder and young; humans, from all parts of the Pacific Northwest and Alaska, and they invite your exploration of their truth through this book.

The artists reflected in this book touch my spirit in very personal ways. None painted for me or at my direction, yet the shared experiences are a signal of their vision for the future and their resilience from their own histories and mine alike. These artists are out of the shadows of obscurity and triumphantly take watch over our communal love and respect for our humanity. The canvases they paint upon are like the red soil of Namibia bursting through native anthems that proclaim our presence in this sacred space we share. Like the onyx black stone that is hardened out of the earth with strength and purpose, these artists are strong, intentional, and purposeful.

The artists of Onyx Fine Arts Collective are our griots making use of traditional and non-traditional objects as tools to keep our stories circulating and our memories vibrant. The audible and silent vernacular of Blackness is spoken in the gallery and in this book. But be not mistaken – the subject doesn’t need to be Blackness when Blackness resides brilliantly in the hearts, minds, and wrists of the artists. There is soul here – yours and mine.

TRUTH BE TOLD II – Coffee table book Forward

September 2021 by Vivian Phillips


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