This innovative and ambitious project holds nothing back. Tackling an impressive range of subjects, it makes us confront reality in all its starkness.
The exhibit grabs your gut, it discomforts your soul, and challenges your brain. Working in different medium—sculpture, collage, fable, maps, tapestry, even a clothesline—the art depicts how far we’ve fallen from attaining the goals of true democracy and equality in America.The sculpture of racism — evoking slavery, Emmett Till, the 1968 Olympics, and the prison industrial complex — is startling. The collage of the women’s movement and resurgent sexism stops you cold. The painting of a woman on welfare forces you to deal with stereotypes. The clothesline of propaganda, where airs the dirty laundry of the corporations that pollute our political dialogue, brings home the everydayness of this contamination. A map of gerrymandering shows the ludicrousness of political conniving. The fable on the power of money to distort our democracy is accessible to people of all ages. An immigration tapestry pulls and tugs at you as the knowledge sinks in of the crisis that children face on our border every day. And finally, the jangly globe of iron lets you know that the world is still ours, dangerous as it is.
Kelly Parks Snider is a friend of mine. She brought me into this project at the beginning, and I’ve been amazed to watch how she has imagined it, prepared it, and unwrapped it.
I’m no artist. I’m a word guy. And in our discussions together, the one word that we kept coming back to was “line.” I’ve riffed on it; she’s riffed on it.
Across the line., back of the line, bad line., behind the lines, between the lines, bloodlines., blurry line, borderline., clear line, clothesline, color line, correct line, county line, cut in line, district line, do a line, down the line, draw a line, heart line, headline, hotline, in front of the line, lifeline, line of demarcation, line of fire, line of march, line of progress, line of sight, line your pockets, out of line, poverty line, redline, state line, stay within the line, voting line. Wait in line.
In poetry, we talk about “near rhymes.” Here are two: “Lies” and “Alliances.” Kelly Parks Snider deals with all of these. When words can no longer rally us, art steps in. As Howard Zinn once put it, artists “wage the battle for justice in a sphere which is unreachable by the dullness of ordinary discourse.”
There is nothing dull about this exhibit. Quite the contrary: It’s got sharp edges, and a vibrant heart. Experience it for yourself, and march on, in front of the line and behind the lines.