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Archive for June, 2015

Building For Us All

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015

building for us all

I felt like I had gained a new understanding over the course of 2014. It started in the summer when I read Tony Morrison’s Beloved and watched the TV series Orange is The New Black. It continued over the fall when I learned more about how prisons affect families and communities today by attending a fundraiser and launch for the book Locked Down, Locked Out: Why Prison Doesn’t Work and How We Can Do Better. My understanding deepened as I participated in a march in Oakland that called for justice for Michael Brown and Eric Garner, two black men who had been murdered by police. I was really feeling the violence that exists in our society today. By December I made the connection that the way we’re treating our environment has been culturally acceptable because it’s part of a larger pattern of socially accepted exploitation.

My first impulse was to want to share this connection that I made by making art that shows how this culture of violence and exploitation is causing climate change. If everyone saw how certain behaviors are damaging to our planet and to many communities, we would understand and change our behavior, right? Perhaps. But I’m not sure how effective this “calling out” strategy would be. I wanted to try something more positive, something that could inspire us all to collaborate. I’ve always been inspired by the Queer Pride movement that shares the love and strength of the Queer community, which has drawn me in, rather than showing me bad behavior. Similarly, I wanted my art to be filled with love and light.

I started asking myself “What does it look like to have a healthy relationship with our environment, to really care for our earth and all of its inhabitants?” and “What does it feel like to build the kind of society that we all want to live in?” I wanted to paint what this place would look and feel like, but I also recognized that it’s not up to just me. It must be empowering for all of us. That’s where the idea for my piece Building For Us All came in. I could make the building blocks for us to build the world that we all want to see. So I did just that; I made bricks out of paper-mâiché and painted them in my colors. The piece is meant to be collaborative, and I’m inviting viewers to come and make their own sculptures and formations with the bricks.

Here are some images of me working on the piece as part of a live art demo at Pro Arts Gallery a few weeks ago, during the preview party for East Bay Open studios. I’m also sharing some images of sculptures that viewers created during the event.

photo credit: Robin Beck