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Art Senior Showcases Stigmas, Injustices in Ellender Memorial Library Exhibit

THIBODAUX, La. — When Rodney Woods came to Nicholls, he thought he would pursue criminal justice to aid people. But ultimately, he found through his art a better medium for helping the world.

Recently Ellender Memorial Library hosted an event for Black History Month celebrating the work of the art senior, who has been displaying his work in the library for four years. 

“I’ve loved working with him over the years for our Black History Month displays,” said Elizabeth Layton, Access Services Librarian. “When I found out this was his last year, I couldn’t resist a ‘Greatest Hits’ display to showcase the impact his art makes in the campus and community, in addition to the fantastic new work he has been creating.”

Woods’ most recent work depicts the stigma that has been placed on African Americans in society. He blacked out the models’ faces to emphasize the labels people put on African American men, such as beasts or monsters. He also used a bear trap to emphasize still being trapped in 2023. 

“The trap for me symbolizes being trapped, while not physically, we are still trapped in the same mindset in society,” he said. “We are trapped in the present day stigmas that are oppressing us.”

The first piece he showcased in the library was Black Tears, which he put together the year George Floyd was killed by a police officer in Minneapolis. The list of names included has since more than doubled. 

“I wanted to create an homage to the people that have been killed by police brutality, but I wanted to do it in a subtle way,” he said. “I thought about the emotion I felt, and it made me want to cry. I wanted to show that like ripples, like tear drops.”

His second year display was called African-American Queens, in which he wanted to showcase the beauty and intelligence of African-American women.

“In today’s society, there are unrealistic stigmas and values that have been put on African-American women,” he says. “That they have to look, talk and dress a certain way, but I wanted to show that regardless, they are black queens.”

In his third year, his inspiration came from traditional African art, like that which had inspired Spanish painter Pablo Picasso. 

“People look at those pieces and call it quick and easy work,” Woods said. “If Picasso’s work can be considered great, how is it that work from a person of African descent can be looked at as quick work?”

Woods says seeing the work together like this, he can see growth in his artistic expression over time. At first, he thought it might be problematic to show how he felt on the inside, but over time, watching all the wrongs happening to African Americans, he thought it was important to put his emotions into his work.

“This is how I hold my peaceful protest,” he said. “My art is how I can speak about social issues and injustices. I have always wanted to help people, and I found that I can help people through my art, by speaking out about these injustices, these inequalities, the things going on in the world.” 


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