An online art exhibition exploring the N word with lighting and color

THE Im(proper) noun

Oil Painting on Canvas (8 in total) + Smart Lighting
Artwork created by Andre Woolery
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Improper Noun art collection explores the N Word and what it means for Blackness



"Language is an interactive phenomenon" - Charles Goodwin

This project started as an exploration of the "N word", in all its formats, as a playground for Blackness.  It has remained bound to Black people and now is property that we 'own' so what comes from that interactive exercise? 

Using colored lighting, the artist repeatedly places viewers on opposing sides of the word.  This process is meant to force us to reconcile the space in between the word's pronunciation, spelling, meaning and contexts.

In an exploration of Blackness, the N-word is debated territory. Historically, the word was forced on Black property and now it has become Black property. What could this word reveal about Blackness? By triangulating the word's multiple contexts, it's meaning to our existence may show itself.  

The historical context of nigger was used for White supremacy against Black existence.  The current context of nigga is used by Black people to connect Black existence. We have generationally altered its spelling, pronunciation, and varieties of context. Right or wrong, the control has shifted from a Blackness that was in opposition to White power and now it represents a Blackness that aims to control its own power on its own terms.  The tense interaction around the N-word shows how the two worlds of Blackness overlap and are in constant motion, just like in the artwork. 

The N-word isn’t static. If language is an interactive phenomenon that reveals how we create our societal world, this word is a pinball in the machine. It has been morphed, remixed, censored, banned, discussed, sung, rapped, hated, and loved.  In these interactions, ownership has transitioned from White to Black people shaping its context.

The word exists in a transitory state that spans a wide spectrum that the art needed to reflect. The "lighted" artwork projects a colored perspective and makes the other side of Blackness more prominent.  It emerges when you saturate one perspective. In a world of Niggas, Niggers appear. In a world of Niggers, Niggas appear. It’s an interesting paradox that illustrates that our identity isn’t fixed or situated in one place. The N-word lacks stability and so does Blackness, it changes from moment to moment.  History stands firm while the present is in constant evolution.  This is what the art process revealed.  A word being held captive by notions of Black identity, when Black identity cannot be held captive by a word. 


This project places art and science together on a canvas.  Leveraging the principles of color subtraction and addition the art gained movement.  The paint pigments paired with colored light allow the eye to perceive something altered. The paint appears darker when the colored light does not share complementary colors. This allowed the artist to overlay words and then isolate them as the colored light changed using Philips Hue lighting and Lightbow App to program the lights. 


Dimensions: 16" x 20"
Oil on Canvas + Smart Lighting

The Ying and Yang of Blackness. The widest spectrum of love and hate and everything in between.  This duality is part of the complexity of Black existence.



Dimensions: 16" x 20"
Oil on Canvas + Smart Lighting

The hateful history of the word is always present in the debate of the word.  The notion that the word filled with hate has crossed over into everyday life.  In this scenario, it seems a line has been drawn in spelling and possible context.

Dimensions: 16" x 20"
Oil on Canvas + Smart Lighting

The word Negus presents a way to move from the current vantage point of the word and travel back to Africa to discover a phonically similar word. Negus translates to royalty in Ethiopian Semitic language.

In this scenario, the passage to the United States marked the negative beginning of the word. Taking a passage back can be a way to claim a new meaning



Dimensions: 16" x 20"
Oil on Canvas + Smart Lighting

The Black experience has been shaped by being forced into slavery.  The struggle is a constant push towards freedom and the one thing we do own is this word.  We dictate the conversation around its usage.

Dimensions: 16" x 20"
Oil on Canvas + Smart Lighting

The word has a long story to tell that ranges centuries.  That story is filled with historical context that follows the Black experience in America.



Dimensions: 16" x 20"
Oil on Canvas + Smart Lighting

The way the word is used can trigger a feeling of belonging or otherness.

Dimensions: 16" x 20"
Oil on Canvas + Smart Lighting

Somewhere in the word's timeline, there was a shift.  In the past, when the word occupied public space it was meant as slur and in the present, its occupancy in public space is primarily for slang.



Dimensions: 16" x 20"
Oil on Canvas + Smart Lighting

Some say it's the same word even if spelled or pronounced differently...

Hand painted artwork that responds to LED lighting


Oil Painting on Canvas (8 in total) + Smart Lights

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