“I am not interested in painting pretty pictures to match pink and blue walls. I want to paint things that knock holes in the walls.”
When Joe Jones burst onto the art scene in the 1930s, it was for anything but "pretty pictures." His paintings were visceral, controversial and stopped people in their tracks.
Such was the case with "The Struggle in the South," a mural which covered the walls of the dining hall at Commonwealth College near Mena in 1935. It featured graphic portrayals of overworked coal miners, struggling sharecroppers, even a lynching — hardly the stuff of polite dinnertime conversation.
But that was the point. Jones used his art and his drive for social justice to make people uncomfortable, to make them talk, to notice the holes in the walls. And it worked, for a time.
The mural was eventually dismantled and, unbelievably, used as building material in a closet in a house nearby, earning the mural a storied past of its own. Now, after decades out of sight and years of restoration work, "The Struggle in the South" is on display once more in the newly opened UA Little Rock Downtown.
And yes, the effect is still the same: visceral, controversial, stopping people in their tracks.
I invite you to see it for yourself, every disconcerting panel of it, and begin a new conversation: deciding what walls in your world are begging for a few new holes. Then start swinging.