Hank Willis Thomas's mixed media work presents a portrait of an evolving country, one actively affected by the agency of its citizens. Using reproductions of photographs by James "Spider" Martin, Thomas presents an installation of images on distressed, mirrored surfaces. Martin’s photographs, taken for the Birmingham News, documented the events of the Selma to Montgomery civil rights marches in 1965. As a white, Alabama native, Martin was able to move freely during the protest marches and captured the events in detail. Some of the images show civil rights activists under extreme duress, such as on "Bloody Sunday," March 7, 1965, when they were gassed and clubbed by law enforcement officers as they attempted to cross the Pettus Bridge in Selma (middle row, second from right). Thomas also selected images of strength and defiance, such as Hosea Williams and John Lewis leading marchers as they faced advancing troopers on Bloody Sunday (middle row, third from left, and far right), and Martin Luther King, Jr. giving his triumphant speech upon arriving in Montgomery (bottom row, second from right). By placing mirrors behind Martin's images, Thomas pulls viewers into the work, including and implicating them in the events they see. In fusing the past and the present, Thomas forces the questions: what has changed since 1965, and how do we each play a role in creating history?


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