Hank Willis Thomas & Deborah Willis:

Headshot portraits of the artists Hank Willis Thomas and Deborah Willis

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Hank Willis Thomas ‘98 (BFA, Photography & Africana Studies) returns to the Tisch School for its Day of Community on Friday, October 21, 2016 for Love Overrules, a conversation with Deborah Willis, Ph.D., University Professor and Chair of the Department of Photography and Imaging. In addition to being a noted art photographer, one of the nation’s leading historians on African American photography, and a curator of African American culture, Dr. Willis is also Mr. Willis Thomas’ mother.

"I'm thrilled to welcome Hank Willis Thomas as our artist-in-residence, and I'm grateful to Hank and Deb for their vision, leadership, and message of love," Allyson Green, dean of the Tisch School of the Arts, said.

Mr. Willis Thomas credits his mother as one his biggest artistic influences, and has quickly amassed a body of work that includes photography, conceptual sculpture, and public performance that has been seen in museums around the world. He also co-founded For Freedoms, the first artist-run super PAC, to use art to inspire deeper political engagement for citizens who want to have a greater impact on the American political landscape.

Mr. Willis Thomas says Love Overrules will be about community striving towards an intersection than a division.

“We are concerned that people learn how to love. If we talk about love more, that will overrule adversity,” Dr. Willis said.

Truth, Mr. Willis Thomas says, is unique. “There will always be different perspectives. Rather than fighting, we should bring more truths out there. We need to focus on what unites us rather than what divides us.”

With the 2016 presidential election weeks away, Mr. Willis Thomas noted that 100 years ago women were fighting for voting rights, and today a woman is a nominee for a major political party.

“The values we hold today will not be the same we hold 100 years from now,” he said. “It’s upon us to get off on the right start.”    


This event is for NYU Tisch School of the Arts students, faculty, staff and alumni. Seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis.