in percival everett’s 2014 short story “Tesseract,” the unnamed narrator, a painter, announces, “I favor referring to colors by name rather than by sample. I do not like charts depicting gradations of colors or hues.…They tell me nothing.” Naming is germane to these paintings by Everett, a selection from a show called Once Seen, which act as a companion to Everett’s 2021 novel The Trees. The works are titled after American lynching victims, such as James Pippin, who, according to The New York Times of June 27, 1867, was “hung to the limb of a small oak tree.” Leo Tse Wing was one of twenty-three Chinese miners killed during the Rock Creek Massacre in Wyoming.
Using oils, watercolors, and photographs, Everett collages these figures back into existence. His highly physical compositions—punctuated by turns with joyous or violent color—make fresh the damning facet of American history to which these men have been forever and unfairly yoked.