Black Face and Arm Unit, 1971
Jones acknowledges the vibrancy of the body as the medium for creative expression. This installation consists of 30 life-size plaster coasts of faces and arms decorated in dots and stripes of different colors and patterns. The patterns resembled those of African body-paint traditions. Body painting was used in African societies to denote social status and religious beliefs. The piece combines abstract expressionist versions of painted African masks to suggest scarification with detached crooked arms. The installation represents the black body as a temple of creativity. The sculptures are portrayed with one eye opened and the other eye closed perhaps suggesting the links between the living and the dead and also the dual nature of artistic expression itself (between the world of matter and the world of spirit or conscious and unconscious). Jones’ interest in religious rituals may have inspired this installation, but it was this installation that inspired Ben Jones to look deeper into his African roots. The use of canvas for the faces and arms represent the ideology of African skin often regarded as a black canvas. One could look at this installation as Jones’ blank canvas—a canvas that he intended to fill with knowledge of his African roots.