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Westfield State to host live painting performance to highlight subjugation of Black boys in America

Visual artist and educator Dr. Imo Nse Imeh will present 17 Years Boy, a live painting performance highlighting the issue of the subjugation of Black boys in America, at Westfield State University. The performance will occur from Monday, February 5 to Thursday, February 8 in room 127 of the Catherine Dower Center for the Performing and Fine Arts. The event is free and open to the public.

Inspired by the life and untimely death of Trayvon Martin, 17 Years Boy will use visual art, music, historical installation, and elements of theatre to honor the lives of Trayvon and other Black boy victims of American racial violence past and present.

“I want to humanize these boys and provide a platform for honest conversation about the ways in which American Nationhood and a sense of belonging are not afforded these young men,” Dr. Imeh stated. “These are portions of a feast from which Black boys cannot partake.”

Dr. Imeh will create a six-foot portrait of Trayvon Martin, to be completed over a 17-hour period of time, each hour marking a year of his life. The 17 hours will be divided over the course of four consecutive days, each day representing one of the four seasons in a year. Accompanying installations will include curated documentations of public social media posts about Trayvon Martin, and a commemorative portrait gallery of 17 other American Black boys—present and past—who have befallen a fate similar to Trayvon’s.

“Dr. Imeh’s timely and thoughtful work speaks to the precarious nature of being a young Black male in America,” said Dr. Christina Swaidan, dean of Undergraduate Studies. “His paintings invite a conversation about oppression and the strength and divine beauty of the oppressed and forgotten.”

At the 17th hour of the portrait’s development, the audience will be invited to take part in the performance’s dramatic final step. A moderated conversation with the artist about his goals, the project’s outcome, and the subject of racial equality and justice, will immediately follow.

For the complete performance schedule, visit: www.iamimo.com/17yearsboy.

About the Artist

Dr. Imo Nse Imeh is a Nigerian-American visual artist and scholar of African Diaspora Aesthetics. He is an associate professor of art and art history at Westfield State University and author of Daughters of Seclusion: the Ibibio Aesthetic in the Staging of a Female icon.

Painting & Performance Schedule

February 5 and 6, 1–4 p.m. and 6–8 p.m.

February 7, 1–3 p.m. and 6–8 p.m.

February 8, 17th hour and discussion, 4–6 p.m.

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