Experience the visuals, sound, and emotion in a large-scale video installation created by Jamaican-born artist Ebony Patterson. Shown slowly in reverse, Patterson’s film portrays a trilogy of three men, each on a separate screen, dressing themselves while tears quietly roll down their cheeks. Like the triptych paintings often found on the altar pieces at the front of churches built during the Renaissance, these figures occupy a chapel-like space where viewers can sit and contemplate their presence. The voice of a young boy reading the poem “If We Must Die,” by Jamaican-born Harlem Renaissance poet Claude McKay, frames the scene. McKay wrote his poem, published in 1919, following weeks of race riots dubbed “the Red Summer,” in which hundreds of African Americans were killed during attacks on Black communities in several cities across America. One hundred years later, Patterson reiterates McKay’s words as a soundtrack to her visually arresting work, exposing the continued vulnerability of Black bodies in our present society.

… three kings weep …, 2018, Ebony Patterson (Jamaican, born 1981), three channel digital color video installation with sound, 8 minutes 34 seconds. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Kathleen Boone Samuels Memorial Fund, 2019.240