Hank Willis Thomas, "The Truth Is I Love You" at the Austin Central Library

Dedicated in November 2023, Hank Willis Thomas's sculpture "The Truth Is I Love You" occupies a prominent space at east entrance of  the Austin Central Library overlooking Shoal Creek.

The Library Foundation acquired the artwork, donating it to the Austin Public Library. Thanks to donors Greg Wooldridge, Suzanne Deal Booth, and Kathleen Irvin Loughlin, whose contributions played a pivotal role.

"The Truth Is I Love You" derives  its name from a collaborative artwork and poem written by Thomas with artist Ryan Alexiev

Standing at 15-feet tall, the tree-like artwork sprouts speech bubbles that, like leaves, adorn six jagged branches. Each double-sided bubble features words in Spanish and English:" truth,  you, I, is, love, the" and "verdad, te, es, amo, la, que."

Depending on the viewer’s standpoint, people may see “the truth is I love you” or "la verdad que es te amo" or other phrases.

Common to Thomas’ creative practice, the meaning of the artwork ultimately resides with the viewer, giving the sculpture a strong sense of inclusivity and accessibility that encourages and promotes tolerance and respect for a diversity of viewpoints. .

According to Thomas, the sculpture is a symbol of our ability to accept that even when people’s truths are different from ours, they are still inherently valuable.

“All of my work is about framing and contexts,” says the artist. “Depending on where you’re standing, it really shapes your perspective of the truth, of reality, and of what’s important. I’m honored to see this work grow in a place like Austin.”

"I believe libraries are among the few public spaces dedicated to our growth, and to finding the truth."

 

 

Hank Willis Thomas

(b. 1976, Plainfield, New Jersey; lives and works in Brooklyn, NY) hankwillisthomas.com

Hank Willis Thomas is a conceptual artist working primarily with themes related to perspective, identity, commodity, media, and popular culture.

Thomas often uses recognizable icons from popular branding and marketing campaigns, encouraging the viewer to question commercial consumer representation and the racial stereotypes they perpetuate. Characteristic of his artistic process, Thomas looks to the ways popular imagery informs how people perceive themselves and others, comparing this practice to one of a “visual cultural archaeologist.”

Thomas’ most recent project, “The Embrace” (2022), is a memorial inspired by an archival photograph of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his wife, Coretta Scott King, embracing after he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. The 20-foot tall, 32-foot-wide bronze sculpture was unveiled in January 2023 at its permanent home in Boston Commons where, in 1965, Dr. King led a march from the Roxbury neighborhood to the downtown public park.

His collaborative projects include Question Bridge: Black Males; In Search Of The Truth (The Truth Booth); The Writing on the Wall; The Gun Violence Memorial Project; and For Freedoms, an artist-led organization that models and increases creative civic engagement, discourse & direct action.

Thomas is a recipient of the Gordon Parks Foundation Fellowship (2019), The Guggenheim Fellowship (2018), AIMIA | AGO Photography Prize (2017), Soros Equality Fellowship (2017), Aperture West Book Prize (2008), Renew Media Arts Fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation (2007), and the New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship Award (2006). He is a former member of the Public Design Commission for the City of New York.

Thomas is a recipient of the U.S. Department of State Medal of Arts (2023) the Guggenheim Fellowship (2018), AIMIA | AGO Photography Prize (2017), Soros Equality Fellowship (2017) and is a former member of the New York City Public Design Commission.

Thomas’ work has been exhibited throughout the United States and abroad including at the International Center of Photography, New York (2013); Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Spain (2015); Brooklyn Museum, New York (2016); and the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, Cape Town (2016). His work is held in numerous public collections worldwide, including the Kadist Art Foundation, Paris; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Smart Museum of Art, Chicago, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; and the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Thomas earned a BFA from New York University, New York in 1998 and an MA/MFA from the California College of the Arts, San Francisco in 2004.

He received honorary doctorates from the Maryland Institute of Art, Baltimore, and the Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts, Portland, Maine, in 2017. The artist lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. hankwillisthomas.com