Sign in Joe Light's yard

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    Photo: William Arnett, 1987

Joe Light needs to communicate. His God has defined the ideal world, and Light feels compelled to pass along the definition. For more than thirty years, Light has searched for ways to make God comprehensible. First, Light wrote biblical-sounding pronouncements on sidewalks, and on walls beneath expressway bridges. Then he began painting signs in his yard: signs instructing parents to nurture their children as flowers in a garden; signs that complain about sex education in the schools, which Light is convinced turns teenagers into pimps and prostitutes; signs complaining about the lack of support for blacks by other blacks; or reprimands to the government for lying to its citizens and mistreating its minorities. The signs are always challenging and sometimes threatening, yet there is another side of Joe Light. His yard is completely enclosed by fences. "I don't want nobody coming in," Light explains, but he really doesn't want anybody going out, either. It is a voluntary self-incarceration. He worries about his eight children when they leave the house for the outside world. He senses that they are safe inside the house and imperiled outside the gate. He knows what lurks out there, so he stays home as much as he can.