Aaron Coleman “Our Kin” and “Black Star”


About the work:

These paintings are executed upon actual pages from a 1950’s coloring book entitled Around the Year. Each page contains an image of two white children engaged in leisurely activities or the spaces in which these activities take place. The images are accompanied by a narrative describing the scene, while providing instructions as to how one should color the page. Originally white, the brittle pages have “yellowed” due to the non-archival quality of the paper and resemble my biracial skin tone. Using black and white acrylic paint I reduced this “skin tone” to a binary of its black and white make up. Strategically masking parts of the image, I am able to address stereotypes and notions of racism and bias. I have redacted text from each narrative to create conundrums, poems and stories of personal or global history and identity. Traditional, African Kente cloth patterns emerge from the scarred surface of the paintings to evoke the homeland of my ancestors revealed through the results of my father’s recent genealogy tests. The crumbling pages, housed in hand-made frames that resemble colonial windows are now permanently altered and literally held together by my visual interpretations of history, tradition, trauma and tragedy.

Our Kin presents an account of someone describing their family being rounded up by members of the KKK. The narrator’s kin are represented as black wildflowers in a field of whiteness and the text explains where each of the family members were found. References to the field, the side of the road and the pulpit illustrate the simple fact that during the Jim Crow era, no place was safe for Black people.

Black Star illustrates a black house isolated in a white landscape. Considering the practice of redlining and segregation the family inside the home find comfort only in the black stars in the sky seen from their window. The text explains that they couldn’t see much outside, a metaphor for the lack of welcoming and/or hope to be found among their neighbors but offers salvation in the stars above.


My studio practice comprises an amalgam of creative processes and historical research. I utilize printmaking, painting, collage, sculpture, and installation to create works that address how mundane and seemingly anodyne artifacts embody the complex and pervasive history of race/racism and class/classicism in the United States. Employing a multi-media approach, I rework and re-contextualize images and objects to foreground their interactions – both past and present – in this history. The objects (e.g., picket fences, coloring books, embroidery or pop-culture ephemera) are visually or physically juxtaposed with contrary or jarring images that release uncomfortable truths and suppressed stories which are both personal and political. Visit the artist’s website.

Our Kin Acrylic found on coloring book page 10 x 13 in [unframed], 2021

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