Daily Art Moment: Willie Little

Image descriptions: Little’s Grocery (Shack #4), Willie Little, glazed ceramic, 9 ¾ x 7 ¾ x 10 ¾. 1. A three quarter view of a ceramic house with pentagon shaped ends, long sides and a sloped roof. The terracotta-colored roof has vertical ridges with deep gray and light beige portions creating a worn look. The broad side of the house is a dark brown with lighter shades of terracotta showing through. The words “pickled pigs feet” is painted on one broad side and “penny candy” on the other. The lettering is done in a lowercase, free hand style in a crackled, uneven, near white glaze with bits of terracotta showing through. The end of the house at right has a stairstep pattern rising from the gable, ending in a square shape at the peak. The short end of the house features lighter and darker terracotta colors that create texture and pattern.

Created during his residency at Ash Street Project (@ashstreetproject) in Portland, Willie Little worked in ceramics for the first time, creating a series of shack structures based on his father’s grocery store/juke joint, Little’s Grocery. Text on either side of the structure indicates popular store items—penny candy and pickled pigs’ feet. Little used the grain of the wood and the ridges of tin to create textures reminiscent of the original building. In this piece, the artist applied a rich glaze to emulate the rust on the tin surface. Little says he wanted to create ceramic pieces that captured the essence of his father’s “thrown-together with spit and a prayer” grocery store/ illegal liquor house and add a little bit of love of his home and upbringing to each piece in the series. Born in rural North Carolina, much of the artist’s transdisciplinary work is inspired by his memories and experiences of growing up in the South and as a gay, Black man.

Grace Kook-Anderson, The Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Curator of Northwest Art

The reverse side of house showing a similar ridged and distressed look on the roof and walls. The eaves on this side end in a wavy, rounded fashion as opposed to the other sides straight, crisp eave line.

Willie Little (American, born 1961), Little’s Grocery (Shack #4), 2019. Glazed ceramic. Gift of Joanna Bloom and Thomas Orr, 2020.35.1. Photographed by Aaron Johanson.

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