Joyce Gordon Gallery, Oakland, CA
My work as an artist began when I was in my 40’s as way of coping with the long-term effects of childhood sexual victimization. But clay became not just a way of restoring my own wholeness. It also taught me that the desecration that occurred in the small sphere of my home was a microcosm of larger political and social desecrations.
This piece is called “Ship Of State." It is an image of the state plowing through the waters. The emblem of the ship, its flag, is a dollar sign, the captain of the ship is a bullet. The ship’s mission is to plunder and destroy. It is decorated with bottle caps painted red, white and blue, representing both the degradation of our food and health, and also the poisoning of our minds with an emotional appeal to a kind of patriotism designed to deny the reality of plunder, violence and lies. Look inside the ship and you see the human cargo, us, broken and commodified.
I read a lot about the history of the migration of humanity from the earliest hominids until now. Our earliest ancestors lived on an earth which provided them with immense abundance, and, contrary to the popular myths, they were able to provide for their needs with minimal effort and enjoyed a great deal more leisure than we do.
For hundreds of millennia, over 95% of our time on the planet, our ancestors lived in a world of diversity, egalitarianism and trust. While most of us have been taught that the development of agriculture led to more food, leisure and cultural development, evidence shows that people living in agricultural communities work harder, have greater food insecurity, poorer nutrition and more diseases than hunter-gatherers, not to mention suffering the burden of soul-destroying hierarchy, domination and theft.
The migration of our species from hunting and gathering to agriculture based statehood was one from complex diversity to simplification and uniformity. It is the migration we continue to march along, taken to the extreme today by the attempts of groups like white supremacists to dehumanize, discard or enslave everyone who doesn’t fit into the male, melanin-deficient, heterosexual, able-bodied box. Many wild species of animals and plants have vanished forever, their lives and homes plowed under beneath identical rows of wheat, corn and soy, most of which is fed to animals in factories. We ourselves are reduced to such trivial producers and consumers of meaningless waste that we are easily replaced by robots. No wonder people turn to drugs to cope with the immense pain of what has been lost.
But many of us have a deep memory of our origins and recognize the urgent necessity for diversity, curiosity in the face of complexity, respect for the sacred, and empathy for ourselves and all our relations, and as we awaken to this deep memory, we begin resisting the direction of our migratory voyage. The only question is, can we turn the ship of state in time?
Nov. 11, 2017