Vision Test for America:2016, this dense little assemblage, was my way of coping with the events of November and December of 2016. Last week, in How Can I Create Now?, I shared how, for me, making art is a primary way to forge meaning from a sometimes chaotic world...and like all of us, I needed to try to find some meaning in this troubling time. Though I've never thought of myself as a political artist, I've been changed by what is happening in the world and I'm feeling fiercer about saying what needs to be said - in whatever form that takes.
Because this is a particularly detailed piece which is difficult to really see in the studio pictures, I thought I'd offer a tour. (And, if you like the idea of making assemblages or shrines (on any theme- no pigs required), please join me for my hands-on assemblage-making workshop for beginners coming up in February!)
So, let's get the ugly bits out of the way first, shall we? In the inner left hand box, the King Pig stands atop a tower of broken glass (or ice?) which itself is atop a pedestal. Our chunky pink friend hasn't touched anything warm or real - maybe ever.
Embedded in the ice tower you can see evidence of the people he's destroyed on his way up - their bones (in the form of plastic skeleton bits) are visibly protruding. King Pig's world is filled with fool's gold, and the mirror/eye with three teeth above it allows him to see his narcissistic self endlessly repeated.
I purposely left lots of space between the haphazard gold leafing, and filled in those spaces with dark paint - it strikes me that there is rot wanting to come through all of that fake gold veneer. The three red skulls (beads mounted on pushpins) stand guard. Though the names of these henchmen may change, it seems our Ice Pig will always have merchants of death willing to do his bidding so that they might bask in some of that corrupt faux-gold light.
And now, let's peek into the contrasting little space on the right. I've had this small embroidered panel of flowers knocking around for awhile, and I like that it feels feminine and handmade and humble. I stitched in the word TRUTH in red thread partly because it has become an endangered value, and partly because I've been so moved by the ways in which women particularly have stepped up to speak their truth in fierce new ways. I couldn't resist also adding the safety pin; an obvious allusion to the safety-pin movement that grew up as a way to signal ourselves as safe, non-harassing, kind people.
The quail egg in the rough nest feels to me like a symbol of the still un-realized potential of the promises of America, and of course it is a symbol of life itself - which it is our job to nurture and cultivate and protect. There's a little silver bee reminding us of all the species which are endangered, and a little turquoise frog which speaks to me of those treasures which come from the earth and which connect the stuff of the earth with the color of sky. The grey rock in the corner has a perfect white circle in it - another emblem of cycles and wholeness and life. In general, I wanted this space to have a grounded, authentic, simplicity to contrast the phoney-baloney fantasy world of the other side.
The horizontal water rolling across the bottom of the piece, and repeated behind the top-piece, relates in a literal way to the events of Standing Rock and the water protectors. To have those events unfolding simultaneous with the election seemed to me to just deepen the sense that we are facing hard and dangerous work to stand up for the most foundational of resources and values - and that we can only do it from a place of integration with the land and with each other. For me, the waves are also the current of history which is sweeping us all along (and which, you may notice, is always flowing toward the side of truth).
And all along the top ledge there are a row of white and brown "pawns" representing all the real, diverse, embodied human beings whose lives are at stake as the dynamics of disembodied power play themselves out. (As long as I was going for it with the on-the-nose symbols, I alternated hearts and equality signs on their heads so that they literally can be read "love = love = love".)
And finally, of course, the giant eye at the top and all the little spectacles represent my dearest hope that some higher wisdom will ultimately prevail. I placed the traditional eye chart images (up, down, sideways) on the left and the more complex symbols (plus, triangle, etc) on the right, because it seems to me that we must be moving in the direction of exploring new languages for expressing what matters most.
My prayer is that we somehow find a way to correct our vision so that we can see a path ahead that emerges from and responds to the needs of human beings and our earth, and leads us away from our shallow, cruel fantasies of wealth and celebrity and control.
So, that's the tour!
If you'd like to see Vision Test in the flesh (along with other new assemblages by me and work by other talented Whidbey artists who use recycled materials in their art), it will be for sale at the C.R.A.P Show, a fundraiser for the Whidbey Island Center for the Arts, which opens March 3 from 5:00 - 7:00pm at in Langley, and runs through March 12.
And, if you'd like to learn to make your own assemblage or shrine, do join me in February for Enchanting Little Worlds: A Hands-On Introduction to Assemblage-Making.
Let's keep the waves rolling toward truth, shall we?