John Getting Graduated

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    Photo: Stephen Pitkin/Pitkin Studio
c. 1983
Found wood, nails, paint
24.5 x 7.5 x 11.75 inches
Collection of
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco museum purchase American Art Trust Fund and gift of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation

John Getting Graduated, one of Griffin's early works, places a coal-black body into specialized robes to make a point about assimilation; John the root-trickster, the product of one cultural wisdom tradition, infiltrates another tradition without renouncing his dangerous, seething blackness. It may be pertinent that the gown is painted in a color known along the Georgia and Carolina coast as "haint blue," a color associated with the interdiction of malevolent spirits (and also the color of the water from which the root graduates into Griffin's oeuvre). John, Doctor of Conjure, teaches what African Americans in Bastrop County, Texas, are also recorded to have known: "White man got de money an' education, De Nigguh got Gawd an' conjuration." The root goes out in the world to shake things up, silently.