…from US Senator to Nike, Goddess of Victory, to Silenced Spokesperson to a collection of Others Who Have Been Silenced
I am an artist. Much of my work involves imprinting what is going on around me onto paper. Reacting. Chronicling. Preserving. Re-mythologing. Art is always a process. Often I know what I am thinking about when I work. I know how I started thinking and when I finish I know more about what I am thinking.
In the winter of 2017 I was artist in residence at Mass MoCA in North Adams, working on the printing press at Maker’s Mill. I was doing mono prints of the head of the Greek Goddess Nike, the image being based on the 420 BC bronze head of the goddess (now viewable in Athen’s Agora Museum). I thought I was exploring the imprints of antiquity on modern life and the meaning behind the Goddess: from the Victorious Female who rode in the chariot next to Zeus to a word and a swish on a sneaker. In addition I was exploring the meaning and hallucination that goes along with looking at a ‘head,” particularly the image of the first head we humans see and become visually attached to—the head of the mother who looks over the infant.
Putting all the intentions into the mix of being an artist-in-residence who had no responsibility to be a householder, who is free to obsess about art making and nothing else, to being in the print studio very early in the morning, at dawn, with fresh coffee and few sounds: the artist passes through the wall into the next realm.
As the day and work progressed I turned onn the radio. Our U.S. Senate had gathered to discuss Trump’s attorney general pick, Jeff Sessions. As I worked Senator Elizabeth Warren read a letter, written by Martin Luther King Jr. ’s widow Coretta. The letter detailed Session’s history of racism and civil rights violations. The Speaker of the House shut Warren down; the Senate voted to silence her.
I dropped a black ‘ink’ hood over the face of Nike; and I kept going. The Monoprints I made are now on exhibit at SILENT. SENCE. SILENCED. at Atlantic Works Gallery in Boston, through November 2017.
The black, hooded icon consumed my work for several days, initially expressing censorship; female censorship; and then moving on to reference historical and present-day images of racism, terrorism, and public degradation as realized by a simple, stark, isolated hooded black face.
A hood/sack placed over a human head silences; humiliates; deprives a person of soul and individuality, while at the same time identifies that person as a single member of an oppressed group exploited by those more powerful.
Warren made a comeback. After she was silenced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the rest of Senate Republicans for impugning a fellow senator’s character, Warren took to Facebook Live to finish her remarks. The Republicans’ move outraged Democrats on social media and triggered the hashtag #LetLizSpeak on Twitter.
We all know Jeff Sessions has gone on to be the Trump administration’s Attorney General, who, by pleading ‘hazy memory’, denies lying about whether or not he colluded with Russians during the Presidential campaign.
President Trump continues to insult Warren by calling her Pocahontas: intending to be a racial slur, for sure. He has taunted Democrats by telling them “Pocahontas is now the face of your party.”
Perhaps my next mono print series could be to see what develops from the image of Native American Pocahontas— better yet, why not an image of an inflamed dog-ear politicians?