(American, b. 1980)
We Are Still Searching…, 2019
Plywood, Xerox prints, acrylic, spray paint, canvas and bandana on 9′ x 14′ x 7’ plywood platform
Fabricated in collaboration with Patrick Renner and Frantz Jenkins.
August 2021 – February 2022
YardWorks launched in the Summer of 2021 with Tay Butler’s We Are Still Searching…(2019). Tay Butler is a multi-disciplinary artist based in Houston, while teaching and studying in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Currently an MFA candidate of the University of Arkansas’ Photography and Studio Art program, Tay received his BFA in Photography and Digital Media from the University of Houston. His work utilizes photography, collage, video, music, installation and performance to identify and confront history, migration, memory and identity.
We Are Still Searching… revisits the Black Great Migration, centers the current Re-Migration back to the South, and connects them both to each other. Family, geography and memory are the vehicles explored, as people come and go from one place to another, often leaving behind so much. As Butler notes, “my great-grandmother wasn’t thinking of annotating and documenting her daily experiences in Mississippi, she was just trying to survive. Since I am dealing with migration, and the effects of slavery and Jim Crow, and memory-retention and perceptions and how media and popular culture contribute to those ideas, there is no medium better than collage and installation.”
The billboard speaks to movement, as both the Great Migration and current Re-Migration take place on railroads and highways. To imagine the millions of Black Americans who have traveled America looking for “home,” is to also imagine the billions of billboards passed by along the way. In We Are Still Searching…, the artist sought to synthesize all of these passages into one singular structure. Not necessarily looking to be comprehensive, but more relative to the travels through “Middle America,” cutting the states in half as countless Americans traveled from Mississippi to Chicago or are now making their way from Wisconsin to Texas. Collage is transferred to wood, then mounted to a 14-foot platform, similar to billboards we see every day. Messages are both literal and subconscious. Viewers are encouraged to find their own relations. The audio work that accompanies the billboard supplements the visual with the audible experience of changing stations to new frequencies as you lose access to the past. The sound piece itself collages commercials, interviews, and music from multiple eras.
In 2021, we are still searching.
University of Houston
Louise J. Moran Fine Arts Courtyard
Artist Talk at CAMH
Learn more about artist Tay Butler through this 2020 artist talk at CAMH in conjunction with the exhibition Slowed and Throwed: Records of the City Through Mutated Lenses, held on March 7, 2020.