Since I believe that a lot of writing takes place in the mind, before a finger is laid to a key or a pen to paper, I am going to expand my definition of my daily commitment to writing to include observing visual texts and discourses in my environment that contribute to the ethos of AOTH, which is to explore our social environment and understand its parity with, or breaks from, democracy and the humanity we hope to live with.
Today I visited a volunteer-run gallery in Somerville, Massachusetts named The Nave Gallery, a one-room space housed in a Presbyterian Church near Tufts University. The exhibit that drew me there was entitled “Truth Telling: Art in Search of Social Justice” and the pictures I’ve posted below are a sampling of the diverse, bold art that I didn’t expect to find on a Saturday afternoon in a church.
Varying in medium (sculpture, painting, photography, digital art, textiles), subject (ranging from immigration to racism to Palestine to the female body to American symbology), voice, and message, the pieces hang together in their call to the viewer to take a second, third, tenth look, and compare his/her view to the inner self-view that develops in gazing. My personal favorite – of many interesting, sometimes introspective, sometimes outrageous pieces – is “Constitution Found Poetry: A Nook We Can Mirror” by Neil Horsky. The artist took a simple book-based copy of one of the most sacred documents in American history and selected words and fragments to create a new narrative and a commentary on America then and today, at its creation and its current incarnation, a country imagined and a country in crisis in many ways. Even the act of cutting into such a document – similar to “Faded Glory” by Adrienne Sloane, the American flag formed from a mosaic of cut-outs of men hanging right-side-up and up-side-down – has a performative quality we take from the act of creating the art itself. Changing these hallowed symbols of American-ness – or in the case of other pieces, inviting the observer into a shared space of many voices, some screaming, some soft – creates a mischief, a sorrow at the loss of preciousness, and a rawness formed of violence, curiosity, perversion, and hope in a new narrative.