Today I was walking around the campus of Davidson College and came upon the large scale stick installation I participated in creating over the winter. As I walked through the sculpture I thought: Gee how much has changed in the world since those few months ago. No sooner did that thought cross my mind did this other thought follow: No it hasn’t. And then I thought again: Yes it has. Ok, enough of the merry-go-round. I will explain.
Highly contagious disease is nothing new to a good part of the world, nor are Pandemics. It is our good fortune that we have really not had to deal much with them. So it is not new, it is only new to us. Racial injustice is also nothing new, many of us have just been blind to it.
So what is new then?
Lately, I have taken a great interest in Buddhism. One of the principles of Buddhism is that suffering is part of life. This sounds like a really depressing concept until you dig deeper and understand that suffering also leads to compassion. And more compassion, in the long run, leads to less suffering.
One of my favorite definitions of compassion is from theologian Marcus Borg who equates (and I am paraphrasing) compassion with a deep, gut level connection with others. This is the kind of feeling that once experienced, is hard to ignore.
It is easy to become complacent again once we are all healthy, back to work, and the news is only telling us things we don’t mind hearing. But once we feel compassion, it is hard to look away and feel ok about it. Feeling compassion is to be truly human. It is a good feeling. So maybe that is what is new.
Awhile back I posted digital images I worked over along with some thoughts on over development. Since then, I have decided to expand on the theme and construct an actual physical piece. The Fallen pays tribute to all creatures that are victims of over development but I continued to use the image of the toad. I choose a triple panel structure that is reminiscent of alter pieces and deliberately used a house shape as the panel format. I repeated the use of the red outline of the toads’ bodies as I did with the digital images. If you did not see the original post with the digitally reworked images, you can see that here .
Walking around my neighborhood last summer, I regularly noticed many strangely flattened shapes along the road. Upon closer inspection, these shapes turned out to be toads that were run over by cars. One day, while standing in one spot, I counted four toads that had been run over within a small radius of where I stood.
When I describe my “neighborhood”, it is important to know that I do not live along a highway or even a regular street but an apartment complex. My apartment complex, and the surrounding four shopping centers and medical complex, were not here as little as ten years ago. Behind my apartments are a creek and greenway where it is typical to see many birds, groundhogs, deer, raccoons, and (very recently) an otter. Not very long ago, where I live was a very rural area that has turned into a massive suburban sprawl.
I found myself needing to record the demise of these creatures. Art is not always a comfortable, beautiful subject. It is also meant to shake people up a bit. Though I photographed many toads, I decided that less is more so I am presenting just two images in tribute to these fine creatures we have displaced.
I have talked on and off about installation art and mentioned a few pieces I have done in this medium. One of my favorite installations I have made is Any Back Yard. This installation was on view at the University of the Arts Window on Broad for the month of April, 2006. The “window” is a deep space (think department store type window space) that faces a busy street. The installation is about attracting birds to an urban yard.
Personal symbols in artwork is another topic I touched on and laundry is another such symbol for me. Laundry hanging out to dry is an everyday site in a city so it is no wonder such imagery was stuck in my mind.Read More »