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
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.