There is a lot of hesitancy on my part in posting about this work. I recognize that old master, the stay quiet, keep your feelings to yourself, don’t show initiative or courage or emotion. Go to your room, sit back, look pretty, don’t speak, no one cares what you have to say, don’t embarrass the family, don’t talk about personal things and never ever speak about anything controversial. Keep your mouth shut. These were not just words of my programming but by the white privilege culture in general.
No growth ever comes from playing it safe. In fact, stagnation comes from playing it safe. Stagnation and fossils grow from these outdated rules and old threats. None one challenges them. They just keep playing by the same rules, because that is all they know or they are too scared to learn differently. Nothing good comes from it.
Growth only comes from stepping way outside the comfort zone. Growth comes from allowing myself to be embarrassed and humiliated for how people of color have been treated by people of privilege for far too long in American history, let alone world history. Growth comes from worrying about saying the right thing, so as to not make the situation worse. So, I put on my big girl panties and post my work, which undoubtedly will embarrass or humiliate those I know who still play by the rules. Growth is painful. It is cumbersome and full of missteps. But I am stepping out, taking baby steps in my size 13’s.
When George Floyd was recorded as he was being asphyxiated by a white cop in Minneapolis on May 25th, like many I reacted not only to the brutality of his murder, but to his dying words calling out for his Mama. I doubt any mother in touch with her humanity did not feel that heartbreak. Those moments were the inspiration for this new work about black lives matter. I researched the numbers of black people killed by police in America and sadly learned over 28,000 people (of all nationalities) had fatal encounters with police in this 21st century. I gathered names, states and causes of death of over 4700 African Americans who died of gunshots or asphyxiation from police encounters.
The center section of this piece reflects the printed names of the 76 black lives extinguished by police asphyxiation and/or restraint between 2000-2020. The surrounding names are but a tiny percentage of the over 4700 black people killed by gunfire in encounters with police. I found this information to be so profuse that I really struggled with who to include, who to exclude, as if I were extinguishing their flame a second time & also how best to honor all these lost lives. How to create an artwork to honor all these murdered black people? It seems very apparent to me that more, larger works will follow. This work is titled Somebody’s Child, (click for larger view) as all of these folks had Mamas. Many mamas are mourning.
It is not lost on me how traditional this piece is, in shape and design. It was not intentional, but the shapes of the components really created it. Another old master, perfectionism nearly caused the piece to land in the trash a few times. Once I was able to get out of my own way, and ignore the errors I made in technique and construction, I was able to recall the passion of my intention. After all, it is not the messenger but the message.
Besides that old rule, about perfectionism can work to my benefit, allowing me the opportunity to make more work on this subject…until I get it right! Sadly there is endless inspiration.