We Wear the Mask

We Wear the Mask

WE wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.

We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!

-Paul Laurence Dunbar

Selected pieces featuring masks, currently on display at The Studio Museum in Harlem in the Exhibition “Concealed” until June 18, 2015.

Speaking of People

Johnson Publishing Company was founded in 1942 by John H. Johnson and started with the publication of the Negro Digest. Eventually, the company would publish their flagship publications, Ebony and Jet.

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Speaking of People: Ebony, Jet, and Contemporary Art is currently an exhibit at the Studio Museum of Harlem that features art informed by the information in these pages.  The title of the exhibit gets its name from a monthly feature in Ebony Magazine where updates on prominent African Americans were featured. The catalogue for the exhibit features essays by prominent artists.   Artists featured in the exhibit include Ellen Gallagher, Theaster Gates, Lyle Ashton Harris,  Glenn Ligon, Kerry James Marshall, Ayanah Moor, Lorna Simpson, Martine Syms, Hank Willis Thomas, and  Mickalene Thomas.


Recent news that Johnson Publishing Company is selling it’s photo archives, makes the exhibit even more resonant.

Speaking of People: Ebony, Jet, and Contemporary Art is on display at the Studio Museum of Harlem through March 8, 2015.