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Solidarity: Two Practices of Displacement
“It is through the recognition of our displacement...that we start forming community and living compassionate lives.”
- Henri Nouwen, Donald NcNeill, and Douglas Morrison Compassion: A Reflection on the Christian Life (2006)
The paintings in Returning to Water and Active Currents engaged with the challenges of COVID-19 and legacies of racism in downtown Richmond, and especially on my campus at that moment. I wondered, how do we as a community respond to injustices, when the way to show compassion, ironically, is through actions of physical and social distancing? I work through these questions of solidarity visually, and find embracing the complexity of these challenges can lead to a deeper sense of order. As the community of forms on the canvas merged into one another and the hard lines that once separated shapes disappear, I learned how to notice unjust structures I may take for granted in daily life and the need to dismantle these through intentional gestures and actions of solidarity.
“Where I come from we cleanse ourselves in the river. Not like a bath with soap. I mean: the water makes us strong and able to move forward into what is set before us to do with good energy.”
- Natalie Diaz, “The First Water is the Body” from Postcolonial Love Poem, 2020
Active Currents interrogates the spiritual practice of pilgrimage that has shaped my worldview. On one hand, pilgrimage challenges me to engage deeply with the reality of the places I inhabit--both with the joys and challenges, strengths and opportunities for growth that come from being in community. On the other hand, calling myself a pilgrim also carries the Catholic Church’s troubling legacies of colonialism. Working through these tensions is a pilgrimage in itself - by pulping bulletins from Ash Wednesday 2020 into paper, I build up layered topographies that expand spiritual community beyond the physical church while also referencing the pilgrimage rituals of Stations of the Cross and the Lenten season of the liturgical calendar.
Returning to Water
not as separate streams
but as countless currents in a single flow”
- John Philip Newell, Praying with the Earth: A Prayerbook for Peace, 2011
These oil paintings each evolved from plein air watercolor studies. I flatten the shapes in the landscape into interlocking forms and transfer the composition to the canvas in yellow ochre washes. Then I build up the forms, retracing pathways over and over so that they dissolve into one another and become a kind of aerial perspective map of flows that are contemplatively active.
Returning to Water
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