Willie Little's series of ceramic shacks, created during a 2019 residency at Portland's Ash Street Project, is based on his parents' tobacco barns and grocery store (which doubled as an illegal after-hours liquor house) in North Carolina. The multimedia artist's first foray into this medium, his slab-built structures are glazed and textured to evoke the weathered facades of tar paper and corrugated tin buildings of his childhood, and they serve as a setting for rich stories of individual and communal lives in a Black rural America of the past. Accompanying these sculptures is a series of two-dimensional works on wood panel that echo the stepped-gable storefront of Little's Grocery; surface patinas and treatments of rust, green oxide, graphite and dried, prickly cockleburs are likewise suggestive of places that have withstood and borne witness to much.
According to the artist, the Jerry-rigged shacks his daddy built were put together Bazooka blow-gum bubble gum, spit in a prayer, yet held up through hurricanes and tornadoes. These shacks were also put together with a love for home and family, off Sticks Road, near Little Washington, North Carolina.