KERRY JAMES MARSHALL, many mansions, 1994

Many Mansions comes from Marshall's series, Gardens, where Marshall highlights the irony of public housing titles having the word garden in it like, Wentworth Gardens, in Chicago. As we know, public housing is far from looking like or smelling like a garden. 

The red banner at the top of this painting says, "In my mother's house there are many mansions," possibly playing off the bible verse from John 14:2 when Jesus says there are many rooms in his father's house.

I wonder if Marshall is hinting at a deeper meaning behind  that phrase. Is he alluding to public housing being sort of like a mansion? Or is he speaking to the amount of space his mother (a Black woman)  has for others? Like, the single mother. Which I like to think is recognizing the amount of  space Black women have had to make for others, even though we have been given so little. When looking at the apartment complexes in the background, is there a parallel between too many people in one space and the Black woman's ability to create more space for others even when there is none? 

Looking at the bottom half of the painting, there are three black men, in crisp white shirts, black dress pants, and ties, gardening in front of  these apartment complexes. There is a sort of irony there too.  Black people have been in service roles since arriving to this country. We have been responsible for making things look  clean and nice when they are extremely ugly. We have been burdened with this absurd routine of "keeping up an appearance," an appearance that hardly reflects the environments we live in. Many Mansions to me, can also symbolize the beautification of the harsh realities Black people face everyday. 

Either way, this painting is a think piece and can mean whatever you want it to mean. 

Read more  from The Institute Art of Chicago 

 Diego rivera

The Arsenal is one of Diego Rivera's most famous murals. He displays his support of the Workers movement in Mexico, painting the people coming together and gearing up for the Agrarian revolution, with Frida Kahlo as the central figure handing outfire arms.

In the red banner at the top of the painting we see the words from a Corrido (a popular narrative metrical tale and poetry that forms a ballad) song written by Rivera called, “So will be the proletarian revolution.” 


This mural exudes a rawness , a realness, and a moment in history.  It is not only empowering, but it offers a visual plan on unifying the people. Playing with colors, I feel like the people in blue represents in a way, a calm collectiveness, while the red represents a power and passion. I love that the two women (Frida Kahlo and Tina Modottiwith, the wife of Cuban revolutionist, Julio Antonio Mella) are in red and passing out guns and bullets. They seem to be the only women in the painting and I wonder if Rivera is saying that men need the support and help of women for the revolution. 

Again, either way, this is a think piece and I love how I saw this mural and found a connection between Rivera's and Marshall's work.

Read more about The Arsenal

DIEGO rivera, THE ARSENAL, 1928