July 27, 2023 – September 9, 2023


An experiential, participation-based exhibition, Ballad of Bella Noches: A Surreal Odyssey Thru Black Nightlife presents a visual archive of Black social culture, comprising paintings, graphic prints, and 3-dimensional interactive installations. Thisnew body of work – developed from Dammit Wesley’s own recollection and his exploration of 70s – early 2000s social nostalgia – celebrates the stories and experiences of African American nightlife and entertainment in the American South, via the lens of Afro-Surrealism.

Societally deemed as “ghetto,” the individuals and cultural touchstones affiliated with these themes are the conceptual highlight of Ballad of Bella Noches, which aims to elevate and venerate them. Recognizable and iconic motifs act as connective threads throughout the series.

Cars/Car Door – Repeat this chant with me: “Swing down, sweet chariot, stop and let me ride”. Our vessel to infinity may have four flats and an empty tank, but she is a reliable transport for our journey.

Polo shirts – the Polo has always been a staple of Black fashion. Braggadocious in nature, the Polo signifies power. The bigger the horse, the bigger the flex. During the business casual era of clubbing, while Black, it was essential to keep a spare Polo in your trunk. In the early 2000s, the Polo was a one-way ticket into the hottest clubs in any city (if you had the right shoes on).

Barber Chair – there are certain rituals required to ensure your safe passage on this Odyssey. One such ritual is the preparation of your crown. Much like our Abrahamic ancestors who presented themselves as clean to commune with God. We must cut and style our hair to transition to the higher plain that is Bella Noches. This spiritual journey can only occur with a fresh fade and a scalp that smells like spritz.

Black joy. Black community. Black expression.

Through the dignification of people and practices that have been cast aside in the name of “respectability,” Ballad of Bella Noches illustrates a rich odyssey that exists exclusively within the shared Black experience. Accompanying the main exhibition is a display of photographs; curated imagery from a wide variety of community submissions and stories highlighting the history of spaces like The Excelsior Club & Club 935. Celebrating marginalized people who have lived as unsung trailblazers and trendsetters, Ballad of Bella Noches will center low-brow African American culture and its position as the impetus for contemporary pop culture.