Love and Light at Raleigh Union Station

A new installation by Hank Willis Thomas, the first project from arts advocacy group Artsuite, offers a timely, positive message.
by Colony Little

Love Over Rules by Hank Willis Thomas | courtesy Artsuite

This fall, the entrance to Raleigh’s Union Station will be illuminated by a new public art installation by Brooklyn-based artist Hank Willis Thomas.  

When unlit, the clear neon sign spells out two words: “LOVE RULES,” but when the sign shines at night, it flashes a sequence of phrases from “LOVE RULES” to “LOVE OVER RULES.” The clever word play is also reflected in the title of the work, Love Over Rules, which is a quote that emerged in the aftermath of a tragic event in the artist’s life. 

The piece is a tribute to Thomas’ cousin, who was killed twenty years ago in a robbery. At the time of his death, his final words were “love over rules.” In reflecting on the life of his cousin, Thomas remarked, “I thought about him and how his last words could inspire people every day, reminding them to be generous. Love is a verb of action… not an action of receiving, but an action of giving.” For Thomas, the piece is also intended to provoke the viewer to look inward. “My question is: what do you do to give love? How is love breaking the rules you have in your life?” 

Hank Willis Thomas | courtesy Artsuite

Love Over Rules was commissioned by Artsuite, a newly-formed arts advocacy group based in Raleigh led by Marjorie Hodges and Allen Thomas, Jr. “The message of the power of love is incredibly important right now,” says Hodges. “I have known Hank for years and have been looking for the right place and time to bring his work to the city I love.” The installation was made possible with the support of the artist, Jack Shainman Gallery in New York, and the Glas Studio in Raleigh who fabricated and installed the work. 

Artsuite creates inclusive, accessible experiences with visual art by connecting artists, galleries, collectors and the community through its online platform and innovative programming that extends art beyond the white cube. Love Over Rules prompts important personal questions and its public location at the heart of the Warehouse District will undoubtedly become a beacon for photo bloggers and an important gathering point for civic engagement. All who visit are encouraged to reflect and act on the artwork’s very timely message. 

You can view “Love Over Rules” now through June 2021 at 302 S. West Street.