This post is my effort to chronicle my recent show, Voices of Resistance, which was featured at Perspective Gallery during February 2019. The show featured work from my Voices of Resistance and #MeToo series and my residency at the Francis Willard Museum. During the show apart from my artist statements the walls were void of titles and descriptions, this information was compiled in a booklet for visitors to read at their leisure. I have been asked by a number of people if they might be able to revisit the content of the booklet, compiled here is much of that content. To begin is a brief personal and project background from my artist talk, and following are descriptions of some of the pieces. For information on the work made during my residency at the Frances Willard House please see the following post and for information on the abortion pieces which were the first images made for this show, please see my post of February 2017.
On February 21, 2019 Perspective Gallery hosted a conversation with the artist where I presented this project. After the talk, where many of the audience members shared their interpretations and responses, it felt as if this was the beginning of a conversation, one that revealed the deep pain we carry in our bones with the weight of the past, one where healing might occur as we wrestle and reckon with who we are collectively. It is an emotional journey to make work from a place deep within and have so many people relate to it on a meaningful level. One of the questions asked repeatedly throughout the run of the show was where will this be shown next? And I would love to share this show far and wide, but I’m not quite sure how to make such a thing a reality. So for those who weren’t able to come to the show in person, I hope this gives you a glimpse into the experience.
Personal and Project Background
Like so many I went to bed on the night of Nov 8, 2016 in disbelief, allowing myself to sleep only because I still had hope that the outcome of our presidential election would be different than it seemed to be. And until the electoral college confirmed our collective fears, I continued to hold on to the possibility of a different outcome. When reality was confirmed, as it has been so many mornings since November 9th, 2016 I continued to hope that it was only a matter of time until something shifted faster than the course of a presidential term. There was a collective sadness, a collective outrage, a collective disbelief and there still is. My coping mechanism in the face of challenge and turmoil is to make or do something tangible, physical, from what we can not touch or hold or immediately control.
As a college student my reaction to learning about the injustice of the world was to become actively involved in the causes that moved me most. I remember learning about the Puerto Rican Political Prisoners and the movement for Puerto Rican independence, a resistance movement against colonialism that began in the days of Spanish imperialism in Puerto Rico in 1898 and later about the case of Mumia Abu Jamal and writing letters and marching and holding rallies. I quickly found myself on the frontlines of the battle for human rights working to address the intersecting issues of poverty, race, education, healthcare and incarceration in the United States. I spent a summer working with Angela Davis, formerly of the Black Panther Party, on the Critical Resistance: Beyond the Prison Industrial Complex conference, and during my later college years working with Civil Rights attorneys Staughton and Alice Lynd on conditions of confinement cases in Supermaximum security prisons in Youngstown, OH. Later I worked for the Southern Center for Human Rights on class action lawsuits addressing human rights violations in prisons and jails in Alabama, Georgia and Louisiana. Having spent my formative years working with people who lived the best example of a passionate life, fully devoting themselves to using the skills and education they were privileged to have to doing their best to change the world for the better, when the shock of the 2016 election settled I felt a necessity to address the blatant disruption and undermining of the nation we hold dear through the medium that I hold dear. There were letters and phone calls to members of congress and marches of resistance in solidarity with my fellow progressives, but it all felt intangible. And so, Voices of Resistance was born to grapple with and make, in some way, tangible the effort to salvage and reconstruct our social fabric of decency and democracy as many of us envision it.
I have looked to the past for inspiration in this project because history has such a wealth of knowledge to share, because there there is hope for transformation, because there there is insight to the long game of dogged commitment and slow change. I have looked to history to understand the struggles, gallant efforts and endurance of the unsung women who came before us, to find inspiration in the work they did to lay the cornerstones of who we are today; to build a bridge of conversation between then and now in order to connect more deeply to those who were ignored and devalued in the past, so that we might imagine a more inclusive future for generations to come.
Although we are confronted daily with what seems impossible, with the nepotism of an unstable tyrant, with lies and contradictions and inconsistencies, there is hope in the steady convictions and sentencing of those close to the President through the Mueller Investigation, there is hope in the growing pool of democrats running for President in 2020 and hope in the new class of democratic congress women who were recently sworn in. Just as there is a tremendous amount of work to be done now to ensure transformation, we are hopeful as were those engaged in the long-game of socio-political transformation in the past.
This show consists of a number of interlinked projects each reflecting fears and inspiration of the past two years. Immediately after the elections I found myself thinking about upcoming supreme court appointments and the conservative justices who were sure to be sworn in and the impending potential for Roe v. Wade to be overturned, then there was the women’s march and reflecting back on women’s organizing through out history, and an incredible never before seen image of Harriet Tubman and mass shootings and the Black Lives Matter and #MeToo campaigns, outgrowths of so many prior movements for social change, but with possibly greater platforms. Each of these moments and movements captured my imagination and compelled the making of images. Through slow steady stitching of costumes and props, painting of backdrops and researching my family tree for a personal history of immigration to visiting prop houses and the Lyric Opera to borrow costumes, this has been a journey of making and gathering. But most importantly it has been a journey of connection and community. In a time when people feel increasingly isolated and disillusioned, I felt the need to connect in person and make something in the spirit of togetherness that might reflect the weight of history and the possibility of change.
A Song For A Woman Who More Than Mattered (Above photo & letterpress piece)
This is an homage to all the black women throughout history cut down before their time, silenced and subjugated. This image speaks to the courage and solemnity of movements for Black freedom in the United States. Throughout U.S. history from Abolition to the Anti-Lynching Movement to the Civil Rights Era to the Black Panthers and Black Lives Matter campaign people have banded together to stand and fight for the rights of Black people because we continue to live in nation and a world where all people are not treated equally. Women have been the backbone of these movements.
Letterpress prints made in collaboration with Ben Blount, http://benblount.com/