Kerry James Marshall’s work often explores themes of racial identity, community, and belonging. Our Town is part of his Garden Project series, in which low-income housing projects are ironically rendered as idyllic places. The carefully painted houses, manicured lawn, and bright sky coexist uneasily with graffiti scribbles and trees tied with yellow ribbons, suggesting war or tragedy.

Marshall contrasts the tidy scene, dominated by red, white, and blue, with deep black paint and minimal shading on the figures. Here, he emphasizes the blackness of his subjects in an art world that notably lacks images of African Americans. Our Town further evokes Thornton Wilder’s 1938 play of the same title, posing the question: for whom does this American ideal really exist?


  • Title: Our Town
  • Creator: Kerry James Marshall
  • Date Created: 1995
  • Physical Dimensions: 101 x 143 in. (256.5 x 363.2 cm)
  • Provenance: (Jack Shainman Gallery, New York, NY); to Private Collection, 2003; to (Christie's, New York, NY), May 13, 2009, lot 47; purchased by Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR, 2009
  • Subject Keywords: Children, Boys, Girls
  • Rights: Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas
  • External Link: Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
  • Medium: Acrylic and collage on canvas

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