Mary Jo O’Connor of the Madison Art Club and Malik Hairston measure photos Tuesday as they prepare the gallery wall at Art on Main. (Staff photo by Brett Eppley/beppley@madisoncourier.com)
Mary Jo O’Connor of the Madison Art Club and Malik Hairston measure photos Tuesday as they prepare the gallery wall at Art on Main. (Staff photo by Brett Eppley/beppley@madisoncourier.com)
A young artist from Washington D.C., will speak about hope and the human experience during an arts event honoring Black History Month.

The Madison Art Club’s annual exhibit will feature the photography of Malik Hairston during February. A reception and gallery talk will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday at the Art on Main Gallery, 309 E. Main St.

The event is free and open to the public.

Hairston, a senior at Hanover College, is studying studio art and has curated a collection of his own photographs to pair with poetry created by a friend for the exhibition titled “Down But Not Out w/ Joshua.”

The exhibit will feature six photos along with poems selected by Hairston for each piece.

“It’s built off this idea of hope in the black community,” Hairston said.

“Photography’s my best thing to do because you can capture moments of history ... moments in time. And that’s how history is documented in the creative sense.

“So this allows me to feel like I am a part of that history, even though I know I am, I know, by birth. But just being able to photograph my friends in certain situations and stuff... There’s a person putting all of his hope into the words that he writes and then being able to perform it, that’s history.”

Featured photos were taken over the years and feature events including marches in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, the women’s march in Washington, D.C., earlier this month and a rap concert.

Hairston said he felt that including the written word would help “communicate the visuals” as a way to redirect some viewers’ way of thinking, especially considering the way rap music is thought of.

“Rap in itself, as a genre of music, comes of violent, angry, misogynist – it’s a part of the culture. But aside from that, you have to understand that there’s a deeper message to it as well.”

By removing the music, by leaving behind the words, audiences that aren’t familiar or dislike the genre may be more open to the piece.

Joshua, the writer of the poems, is incarcerated and therefore would like to remain somewhat anonymous, Hairston said. However, the choice of poet was deliberate as part of a theme of “the falsifying image of black males,” and again to the concept of hope.

“My work is definitely beyond black history too,” said of his inclusion of photos from the women’s march last month.

“That’s humanity as a whole, we all play a part of that. We all play a part of history, it’s not just one specific group of people that make historical moments, that’s not how it works.”

Hairston said that each person’s impression of the exhibit may differ, but that’s the nature of art.

“I’m just a person who’s given the blessed opportunity to talk about what the work I do means to me.”

For additional opportunities to view Hairston’s exhibition, the gallery is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.