Speaking Out with Art
As last summer’s wave of police violence escalated against people of color, the call for action intensified across the nation with Black Lives Matter. The names Elijah McClain, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd haunted me and so I turned to my art to decry this racial injustice. The process of sculpting with clay was cathartic – it was my outlet for expressing outrage.
As an arm and clenched fist took shape, ways of sharing this art swirled in my head. After waiting two months for the sculpture to dry, my dreams of sharing this piece were shattered when it exploded in the kiln. There were just two parts left intact, a section of forearm and a fist -- everything in between was in unrecognizable fragments. Rebuilding the sculpture looked hopeless, but a painstakingly long process ensued sorting, fitting and gluing.
Stoking the Fire
My original plan was to smokefire the piece, which would give it a brown and black skin, but there was a chance the flame from the fire would melt the glue. If it fell apart this time it would be irreparable, but only a smokefire could achieve the desired effect. Keeping the flames small and temperature low helped reduce the risk. Stoking the fire till it burned down gave me hope.
After the piece was cooled and removed from the metal bin, it was a great relief to see the glue held and the sculpture’s porcelain white “skin” had darkened just as I had envisioned. Photographing the smokefired sculpture using natural light and shadow allowed me to emphasize the atmosphere and texture of the work. It was an effective process that reimagined the art in a new dimension.
Rising from the Ashes
The images of the resurrected piece with its scars and cracks, created a more powerful message than it ever did whole. It was ironic that what destroyed the piece is also what made it stronger, reminding me of the fiery reckoning being experienced by our justice system.
My dream of speaking out through my art came to fruition in the names of two virtual exhibits: Art Saint Louis’ exhibit Hope and Art Against Racism’s exhibit Memorial.Monument.Movement. You can view the art at the two links below.
"Clenched Courage" in Hope (Art Saint Louis Virtual Exhibit)
(Click on image to view post.)
"Rising from the Ashes" in Memorial.Monument.Movement (Art Against Racism)