Glenn Ligon, View of an Artist

1. What is Ligon’s philosophy in his profession? What is he trying to communicate through his artwork?

Ligon has said of his work that he wants to "make language into a physical thing, something that has real weight and force to it." His bodies of text-based paintings describe or quote writings and speeches of influential and diverse persons. He explores American history, literature, and society to express questions of identity, race, and history. His work seeks to give a realistic and intimate look at life. Even while addressing slavery in his runaway slave prints, he mentioned personal attributes about the person in the artwork such as height and sexual orientation. His work seems to describe and bring conversation rather than preach.

2. How does Ligon’s work differ from other artists?

Although Ligon's pieces include sculptures, prints, drawings, mixed media and even neon signs, they are dominated by large, text-based paintings with repeated phrases that fade out. He frequently uses evocative text and quotations from culturally charged and historical relevant material, both as a source of imagery and a statement.

3. What are your own personal feelings about this artist’s work?

I feel he accomplishes his goal to give language a "sense of weight." His work is an example of art that is internalized. It is possible that a blind person could find value in his insight as well as a seeing person. He draws attention to the art of words and makes art valuable for more than merely atheistic qualities. He even manages to use a sense of witty humor through self deprecation and irony in his choice of text. I agree with one writer that his work does not hold a condescending nature, but rather a thought-provoking quality. Beside this, I feel that his use of mixed media is truly creative and tasteful in its simplicity.

Sources and References:

** For Art100, Grapic Design, Portland State University, Spring Term, April 2012 **