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Moon over Harlem, detail
William H. Johnson

This detail from the painting Moon over Harlem by William H. Johnson shows a black man being arrested. The detail includes several bottles. Without further information you might infer that the man being arrested is intoxicated. Why is the man being arrested? What do you think is the whole story?

Perception can be influenced by stereotypes and by visual clues such as the bottles in the detail. Selection of this particular detail influences the viewer to percieve a meaning that does not reflect the artist's intent.

To see the entire painting and learn the whole story, read an excerpt from Homecoming: The Art and Life of William H. Johnson.


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