‘Empathy is the most radical of human emotions.’ - Gloria Steinem
Talking with people conversationally about my work in an art fair or gallery show always seems to help me better understand my own process. I haven’t previously shown any of the flag pieces from Shared Spaces formally, but one of my long-time dealers was showing at SOFA Chicago sculptural art fair, and twisted my arm to bring two of the Shared Spaces studies. (Shared Spaces Study #1 and Shared Spaces Study #5.)
The good news is they’re generating lots of dialog and there was that classic question yesterday: What was your inspiration? Here’s a paraphrasing of what I was able to piece together:
“I’m responding as an artist to how things are out there in the US these days – to the fractured dialog, the mistrust and anger. Here’s how it works: I bring my clay to communities around the US and invite people to bring and select objects which we help them to imprint into the Shared Space of the American flag. This literally forms the mold into which we cast blended plaster and ground marble to create a community-owned wall relief sculpture.
By pulling together these flag works, filled with all kinds of different meaningful objects and symbols, in communities which themselves may be diverse and filled with lots of competing values and points of view, I’m hoping to learn more about how these things can all live alongside each other in some kind of whole. When you stand back and look at the piece, I hope you’ll also feel it—that it all comes together –all those bristling powerful symbols and objects are all there, but somehow you feel the whole.
“I was a Middle Child, so I know all about how to live alongside other people’s agendas. That feels like it has something to do with Pluralism, Diversity, ways of accommodating all sorts of different ways of being American. My hope is that by participating in a Shared Spaces event, or by viewing these works, especially once we can get six or eight of them together in a room, with videos of people talking about the things they are choosing and why, that we can learn something more about all the different ways of being American. It’s like America is an invention, and we have to keep figuring out what we are and how to do it, every generation.”