Wednesday, April 29, 2020

John Feodorov: The Present Moment

John Feodorov Gods of Industry, 2020. Oil on canvas, 64 x 68 inches.

Of mixed Navajo (Diné) and Euro-American heritage, John Feodorov grew up in the suburbs of Southern California in the city of Whittier, just east of Los Angeles. During his early life, he and his family made annual visits to his grandparent’s land on the Navajo Reservation in New Mexico. The time he spent there continues to influence his work.
 His Diné mother converted to Jehovah's Witness when he was two years old.  His father was Russian, so he was aware from an early age of the different perspectives in belief systems. This lends his acute art an edge of sarcasm as well as absurdity. The present work, completed during our current crises follows closely on his series Desecrations discussed below.

John Feodorov: The Covid19 pandemic broke here in Seattle as I began working on this painting. The imagery feels like a summary of what has been happening in this country for the last few years: border wall, pipeline expansion, the rolling back of environmental policies, a growing sense of helplessness, and of course, the current pandemic. Even the rainbow is absent of color and is stopped at the border. This painting is merely a reflection of my ongoing concerns. It is not dystopic futurism, but a response to what is happening now. While I may be criticized for not creating hopeful visionary art in the midst of such conditions, I would counter that the silhouette of the coyote In the foreground actually is hopeful. Though a phantom, it still survives despite everything that is happening around it as it exits the confines of the frame.

Susan Platt: John Feodorov often examines disjunctions and destructions. With the added lens of the Corona Virus epidemic Gods of Industry continues on the subject of  his 4 part  Descecrations, recently acquired by the Seattle Art Museum. Descecrations addresses the despoliation of Indigenous reservations through coal and oil extraction, pipe lines, and uranium mining. He painted the images on specially woven white Navaho rugs created by Navaho master weaver Tyra Preston.

Feodorov explained that as he painted on the rugs, he felt he also was committing an act of desecration, even though they were created for him specifically to use for his paintings.
“The series responds to ongoing environmental threats to traditional Diné lands and communities (including toxic pollution caused from uranium mining, coal burning, and fracking), as well as the exploitation and pollution of indigenous land around the world. But, it also refers to my hesitation in painting upon Tyra’s beautiful weavings.
 “Just as Native lands are under constant threat, so are Native cultures. For me, these rugs act as metaphors for both land and culture. By painting upon them, perhaps I have also desecrated them? My mother taught me that weaving is a sacred art, taught to our Diné people by Spider Woman. So it was with some hesitation and great respect that I decided to undertake this series. Understandably, Tyra asked many probing questions of me before agreeing to participate, as well as consulting with a Navajo elder/medicine man from her community. I wish to thank Tyra Preston for weaving these gorgeous rugs, without which this series could not have been realized.”

 no 1 The Coal Plant

 no 2 The Pipelines
No 3 The Yellow Radiation House

No 4 Fracking Cracks in the Earth
The reverence that the artist expresses toward  the weaver of the rugs corresponds to the deep respect that native people feel as they understand our connections to the land, to all living creatures, and to community, understandings that are deeply embedded in their psyches, but not understood by our profit driven society. Those connections are being severed by the virus as much as by extractions. In fact, the virus is clearly the result of the same disruptions, but now that disruption is inside our bodies. But since mainstream science sees humans as separate from nature, it does not accept that tearing apart the earth leads to breakdown of our bodies. Certainly our scientists are accepting that they understand little of what is happening with the virus, perhaps a step forward to thinking about our bodies in different ways, thinking about our bodies as part of the larger disruptions of the planet, The painting includes  the arbitrary walling off of an invented border that does not exist for birds, animals, plants and humans, only for nativist politicians. 

The assumption, that it is possible to actually understand and control the workings of the planet and the human body, is now in question. Feodorov's human heads, one that sucks oil, the other spills it out of his head, even as he wears a mask, is set in a desolate lifeless landscape in which only the shadow of a coyote survives.

Here is Faithkeeper Oren Lyons, Onondaga Six Nations, " We forget and we consider ourselves superior, but we are after all a mere part of creation ... and we stand somewhere between the mountain and the ant. Somewhere and only there as part and parcel of creation." ("A Call to Consciousness on the Fate of Mother Earth," Indian, Fall 2007 .)

Mark Auslander: As the artist notes, Coyote in the lower right quadrant of the painting breaks through the frame of "Gods of Industry", and this act of visual transgression does seem to be the most hopeful and encouraging aspect of the work.  In violating the frame, Coyote, the ambiguous trickster hero of Dine (Navajo) mythology, manifestly counteracts the soul-crushing constraint of Trump's wall, which aligns with the left hand frame of the picture. As Susan notes, the overall image evokes a world deeply out of balance, as Mother Earth has been ravaged  by extractive industries, including fracking and uranium mining; the viral pandemic can be understood as a symptom of these broader, systemic patterns of environmental degradation. The gray stalks descending from the above into the ground  can be seen as pipelines carrying the fruits of hydrofracking, a technology that forces water into the earth to extract petrochemical resources, poisoning aquifers and posing risks of oil spills on vulnerable lands and waterways. We could equally be witnessing in this stalks the invasive protein spikes of the SARS-CoV-2 virus penetrating a human cell, hijacking its internal mechanisms to transform it into a factory generating new pathogenic strands of RNA, that will in turn invade thousands of other cells. In this sense, Feodorov's title, "Gods of Industry," may refer equally to rapacious corporate CEOs and the novel coronavirus itself.

Coyote here seems, as befits a trickster, to take on protective coloration, sharing the same shadowy black color as the oil spill, the visible scar in the body of Mother Earth.  Yet one senses  that Coyote's exuberant, restless imagination, so often celebrated in Navajo storytelling, may transcend the routine, regularized modes of conventional thinking: at a dark and profoundly troubling moment in history,  Coyote might just blaze a trail in a thoroughly unexpected fashion, across a battered land, taking us all to a better place. 

The Babu and the Virus: Bhaskar Chitrakar

Overview:  Writing in The Wire (26 April 2020), Ritika Ganguly reports on the South Asian artist Bhaskar Chitrakar based in South Kolkata, who has created a five part series of paintings, engaging with COVID-19 through the centuries old local art form known as Kalighat pata.

Pamela Allara:  Indian artist Bhaskar Chitrakar is a Kalighat painter, who uses this traditional art form to explore contemporary Bengali life. Emerging in Calcutta in the 19th century, the Kalighat painters were so named because they created their works, often depicting the goddess Kali, near the Kalighat Temple. Initially the kalighat paintings (pata) were sold to Hindu pilgrims, but later they depicted secular, everyday life and were marketed as souvenirs to tourists as well as pilgrims.
Here is a You Tube about the tradition of Kalighat painting and its transformations. It includes a quick view of the five part series discussed below.

Bhaskar is descended from a long line of patua (cloth painters), and his most recent series of five paintings on paper, as described by anthropologist Ritika Ganguly in the accompanying article from The Wire, depict the coronavirus pandemic in a deliberately humorous fashion. His familiar cast of characters: the babu, (a middle class clerk), his wife (bibi), their tanpura playing musical cat, and a curious black dog, each play different roles in a drama designed to provide some respite from unrelenting anxiety and sorrow via a moment of light-hearted entertainment.
 In the first painting, the babu and his wife, seated across from each other in traditional garments, attempt to offer one another a token of their love, a rose. However, standing between them, also elegantly garbed, is the interloper, coronavirus. Babu and bibi are wearing protective masks, which render their facial expressions unreadable. Love in the time of coronavirus has been reduced to an empty gesture.

In the second of the series, the virus has taken over the babu’s chair, which in every culture constitutes an enormous insult. Three crows attempt to come to the rescue with a vaccine,

but clearly their attempted cure is for the birds, as in the third painting the virus has grown to twice its original size and has forced the babu to flee in fear.

Kali dispells the virus. Bhaskar Chitrakar

In the fourth work, the human protagonist has vanished, and the imperturbable feline, now surrounded by scattered viruses, sticks out her tongue at the largest, while she protectively wraps her paw around her tanpura.  However courageous her gesture, the cat cannot scare the virus away.

Such power is only available to Kali herself, whose fearsome profile, emitting a deadly ray of  light, at last causes it to flee.

Traditional stories, in contemporary form, are a comfort, and these paintings, whose delightful details provide endless edification, not only provide some solace, but also the opportunity for commonality with a culture with which many may be unfamiliar. Secluded in Calcutta (Kolkata), Bhaskar Chitrakar has sent a gift to a world in isolation.

Ellen Schattschneider: I am struck by the imagery of eyes in this wonderful series.  As Diane Eck famously observes in Darsan: Seeing the Divine Image in India, the act of painting an eye in votive images in South Asia opens up a transformative gaze, a powerful exchange of energy between divinity and worshiper.  These visual exchanges can at times be life-sustaining, and at times dangerous, especially  in the case of the painted eyes of demons. Ultimately, through the act of looking at a sacred painting that depicts the triumph of a sacred being over a demon, the devotee is enlivened and enriched.

So too in Bhaskar Chitrakar's series. In the initial image, the married couple's mutual gaze is interrupted by the virus. The demonic virus has a terrifying eye, and at first seems unstoppable. Then Kali comes to the rescue. As a Shakti Devi, one of the goddess of power, Kali possesses a third eye, placed on her forehead, concentrating her infinite wisdom and intuition. The one eyed bandit demon virus has no chance in the face of Kali's ocular magnificence. The eyes have it!

Tanis S'eiltin: Powerful Women Prevail!

Tanis S'eiltin  Luk nax adi  Kwáan
 6’ high by 36” in diameter

Industrial Marino felt, metal grommets,
metal snaps, glass beads, mother of pearl beads,
zippers, nylon braiding collection of the artist

Commentaries by Susan Platt and Mark Auslander

Susan Platt: Tanis S'eiltin's  Luk nax adi  Kwáan(Tlingit, Coho Clan, Raven Moiety) celebrates powerful women prevailing. In this COVID 19 era  her recently completed coat suggests protection, resistance, pride, and strength, all qualities that we need in our present moment.

Based on the 10,000 year perspective as a native from Alaska, Tanis creates multi media installations, prints and wearable art, while respecting and incorporating some of the media of the community based art of her heritage.   She addresses the survival of culture in the midst of great stress, as experienced in the past and present by the Tlingit. That is exactly our challenge today. 

Much more powerful than our simple face masks, Tanis presents a protective garment that contains the legacies of ancient cultures and survival in spite of everything. That is the message that she gives us in her work. 

Today, with the COVID 19 virus we all see laid bare how the obsession with profit has enabled the spread of the epidemic in our privatized health care system, decimating our communities, our cultures, and our society. We need not only protection, but hope.  

Tanis Statement 1
The coat references many cultural aspects, past and present. Most importantly it represents the desire to gather and instill cultural wealth and in doing so, pay homage to our (Tlingit) social structure which is matrilineal. Its presence  pays homage to my mother and great grandmother hence the octopus design on the back of the ruff or collar and teal strip of felt on one of the cuffs.   . . . The villages of  my ancestors, Klukwan and Dry Bay, are in mind and present throughout the creative process. Their cultural wealth is in strong contrast to our contemporary lives that are quite vacant. The coat . . .is heavy weighing approximately 18 pounds – which is another indicator of cultural wealth as is evidenced in customary regalia.

Specifically this aspect of weight is present in Chilkat Robes such as the ones my mother created prior to her passing in 1995. Her name is Maria Ackerman Miller.

This coat is in honor of her, as well as all those elders and others who have passed and are passing in our present moment of stress.  

Tanis Statement 2  in reply to my query " Could your statement  "it represents the desire to gather and instill cultural wealth" be thought of in terms of preserving ( gathering)?"

"I have a slight aversion to the term “preserving” as it implies “objectivity” or stillness, and the act of rendering an idea or object stagnant, perhaps petrified within an anthropological manuscript or within a glass case.  In our Tlingit culture, concepts regarding  at.oow   such as my coat or masks for instance, are equated as being alive, a “living entity”  a term which is very difficult to translate into English. 

And although we know that such items are inanimate they are bearers of our histories, and vehicles that propel us into the future be that a worldly or cosmic existence. . .it instills a  . . .way of knowing and represents as well a vehicle of pride, perseverance and continuance. 

An analogy can be made with regard to metal armour in a castle, its presence marks a victory over adversaries, and for us, a victory may be one of survival beyond a pandemic (think Spanish flu of 1918), or victory on many fronts beyond political ignorance."

Some People of the Tide: Raven, Coho, Octopus 18” L X 9” W X 3” H
Industrial Marino Felt, metal grommets, glass beads, thread, leather

"This bib is also made of industrial felt and is embellished with a beaded abstract clan symbol of a wave. This embellishment references our matrilineal clan know as Luk nax adi, or Coho

Mark Auslander: In reference to the indigenous Kayapo people of Central Brazil, anthropologist Terry Turner spoke of human-created coverings (including body paint, adornment and clothing) as "the social skin":  in diverse cultural orders, the dynamic threshold between a person and the wider world is a profoundly meaningful space, which can both represent and performatively transform the relationships between self, community, and the invisible forces of the universe.  The person may be enhanced and extended across varied categories of existence through adornment, even to the point of communing or exchanging with those who are no longer physically alive, but who become co present with the living through value objects that may themselves, as the artists, be experienced as living beings.

In this instance,  Tanis S'eiltin's beautiful full body size object of bodily enclosure and adornment is both protective and connective, linking her to a line of women, past, present, and future, through principles of matrilineal descent.  At a time of social and environmental crisis, this substantial covering presumably encloses the artist and other women of the clan or community within the protective embrace of fore-mothers , binding the implied wearer to those who are not conventionally visible but yet may continue to sit and walk with her.  One senses, perhaps, that the work, now endowed with a  kind of life itself, helps enable the artist-wearer to take on the very shape or essence of the human and animal persons whose forms are embodied here.

Given the imagery of enclosing, binding, and transformation I am particularly fascinated by the octopus motifs on the ruff and a cuff extension, and on the bib that honors the peoples of the tide--Raven, Coho, and Octopus.  On the back of the ruff, a single octopus seems to be propelling itself through the water; on the bib we may behold a great school of octopi.  Speculatively, the octopus, a being who can move between different media, underwater and clinging to rocks above the surface, may for Tlingit peoples be evocative of powers to move across key cosmological thresholds. As it happens, a  beautiful shaman's head ornament held in the American Museum of Natural History is composed of the figures of a land otter and an octopus' tentacles; speculatively perhaps this imagery signals and concentrates the shaman's ability to move across, and bind together, the varied planes of existence.  In turn, a famous Tlingit shamanic mask at the Metropolitan Museum of Art depicts the shaman's mouth as that of the octopus, evocative of Octopus' ability to change shape and color in pursuit of prey.

At the current moment, as the Covid-19 pandemic poses particular urgent challenges for Native and indigenous communities on the Northwest Coast and elsewhere, it is deeply moving to see these graceful works of art, evoking the power of waves,  the life-sustaining rhythms of the tide, and the shape-shifting beings, manifesting  themselves in animal form,  who dwell along these coastal thresholds.  The novel coronavirus, after all, imposes soul-crushing separation and alienation in the communities that it threatens, just as it throws out of balance the normal integration of the body's own organs and systems.  One senses, in the powerful curves of these Tanis S'eiltin's stunning and gracefully balanced objects, a deliberative in-gathering of energy,  a bringing together of water and of breath, that might sustain the community though this and future storms.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Joe Feddersen: Petroglyphs and Power

Joe Feddersen Echo 14, monoprint 
Joe Feddersen (Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation): Echo 14 (monoprint) and Omak Lake 2 (monoprint)/

Overview: The Art Beyond Quarantine team has been deeply interested in Native and indigenous artists whose work speaks to the profound vulnerability of their communities to Covid-19. Although Feddersen's Echo 14 and Omak Lake 2 were created prior to the pandemic, they characterize a set of conditions that constitute sources of resilience as well as danger experienced on the Colville Reservation during the pandemic. Both works employ the ancient symbolism of petroglphs, for millennia inscribed on the rock formations of the Okanogan, while alluding to newer intrusions on the landscape including power lines and environmental degradation. 

Artist's Statement:  Echo speaks to the land and a personal awareness of our surroundings.
The array of icons and symbols creates a history, which incorporates past images, such as petroglyphs, with newer symbols like the bio-hazard signs or high voltage towers reflective of the world around us.

When returning home to the Okanogan, I noticed the increase of parking lots at the big box stores, high voltage towers standing on the bare ridges, and the prevalence of bio-hazard signs.  The frequently seen bio-hazard signage being a direct result of the increases in type II diabetes found in our tribal communities.  This overlay of icons and symbols mimics a petroglyph wall of various layers obscuring previous ones in an ongoing dialogue between the past and the present.

Joe Feddersen Omak Lake 2 monoprint 

Susan Platt:  Joe Feddersen lives in the center of Washington State on the Colville Reservation, in an area known as the Okanogan. Driving through there, I experienced it as a dry and desolate place. It is, in fact, historically a land rich with resources for hunting and fishing,and a long history of indigenous life. Because of its remoteness it was occupied by white settlers very late. White occupation was further encouraged by the irrigation provided by the Grand Coulee Dam which was originally intended to provide irrigation for small farms. Today, that land is owned by corporate giants.

Feddersen (who is a retired Professor of Art of The Evergreen State College), addresses the complexity of the relationships of native people and the environment. While Indigenous artists and activists are taking a lead in protesting environmental destruction and climate change, others are working for those companies or encouraging and inviting power companies onto their land for desperately needed jobs, jobs that often sicken them.

Feddersen is acutely aware of these conflicts. He worked for power companies earlier in his life, and you see in both these works the geometric abstract form referring to the giant electrical transmitting towers that dominate the landscape in North Central Washington State.  Those towers carry energy from the Grand Coulee Dam which destroyed many fishing grounds of the traditional Colville Indian Reservation during its construction and the subsequent flooding that followed.

The construction of the dam is narrated from the perspective of Feddersen's tribe in Lawney Reyes’ book B Street.How the building of Grand Coulee Dam Changed Forever the Lives of One Indian Family and Devastated an Entire Tribe. (University of Washington Press, 2008).

In both monoprints Echo 14 and Omak Lake 2 we see the overlap of contemporary electrical towers with disconnected images of people and horses based on ancient petroglyphs. There is a feeling of disintegration of the relationships of the past and present, of the chaos of contemporary life, but interspersed in Echo 14 are images of circles and connections with arrows, as perhaps representing a connection to the past and to community. In Omak Lake ( based on the area that Feddersen lives, Omak is a saline inland lake) the figure seems to reach out toward the ancient animal imagery. The looming  tower both enables and destroys life.
A sense of scattering and isolation in Echo Lake contrasts to the desire and will to overcome it,  in Omak Lake in the subtle spatial relationships and colors.

The background of Echo 14 is drawn from Feddersen's tour-de-force glass installation Charmed. 2013 that includs the same references to contemporary hybrid native culture. The installation hung across one long wall like a blanket.  Its fragility, as well as its intricate scale, confronted us with an overwhelming assertion of the state of the planet, of life and of native understanding of our current condition. 

 Charmed 2013 glass wall
Increasingly I am thinking about the intimate relationship between COVID-19 and environmental and biological degradation.  Capitalism's obsession with profit leads to shaping and destroying the natural world and our own bodies. Feddersen's work points to this connection. He mentions diabetes among the Indigenous people in his tribe.

It has been demonstrated that those suffering from poor health such as diabetes are more prone to die from the virus. Likewise air pollution and the degradation of lungs leads to death from the virus.

 Charmed, detail of glass wall
Mark Auslander;  The petroglyphs and pictographs that Feddersen incorporates and honors in his work speak to a profound understanding of the ancient circulation of life-giving energies and flows binding together ancestors and descendants, landscape sites, and persons and non-human beings, including those who manifest themselves in animal form. These symbolic forms do not simply represent other beings but directly access and channel sites of generative energy on the land which for untold generations have nurtured webs of life across the region,  binding persons and natural beings to one another in highly permeable, interdependent ways.

This imagery,  evoking permeable fields of energy and responsibility that move across persons, space, flora and fauna speak a deep ethos of inter-relatedness, which is both a source of strength and vulnerability, especially in the context of epidemics, introduced from far away, that have long afflicted Native communities in the region. A deep ethic of generosity, hospitality and mutual care is a beautiful and enriching aspects of life in Native worlds, yet this has meant that maintaining quarantine and social distance is difficult or even impossible at times; one simply cannot refuse care and shelter to any member of the community is distress, and caregivers are highly vulnerable to infection, and may become, in turn, sources of infection to others. As Susan notes, pre-existing condiions, including Type II Diabetes, hypertension and asthma may contribute to significant co-morbidities in the age of the virus.

The electrical towards in these works allude different forms of energy that now crisscross the landscape, bringing new risks in their wake.  Frontline electrical work is an important source of employment on the reservation, yet maintaining the power grid  during the Covid-19 pandemic means  that electrical workers often have to bunk together in extremely close quarters, in shared trailers, tent clusters, or motel rooms, and must at times travel long distances together confined in the cabs of electrical repair vehicles.

In Echo 14, appropriately, the central pylon at the image's central base looms in semi-anthropomorphic fashion over endangered persons and animals In turn, in  Omak Lake 2, Elk, Wild Horse, and a being that may be both human and turtle are interconnected not only through ancient webs of life and spiritual energy, but now through a giant electrical power pylon that dominates the entire image.  We do not know for certain the long term health impacts of high voltage transmission lines on human and animal life, but there is no doubt that massive hydroelectric projects on the Columbia and related rivers have profoundly altered regional ecosystems.  Dams interrupt life giving fish migration routes, flooding has submerged ancient hunting grounds and settlement sites, and inundated ancient petroglyph and pictograph that served as semi-permeable boundaries between invisible and visible worlds.  The power tower that dominates the image might even be regarded as the site of a latter day crucifixion, upon which the  Okanogan's ancient residents are subjected to continuing regimes of suffering. A deep openness to the forces of the universe, so brilliantly evoked in the petroglyph tradition, now signals vulnerability to potentially devastating infection, dangerously compounded by the forms of structural violence that have long stalked this stunning landscape.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Gratitude: Laura Chasman

Laura Chasman, Ediri.  2007-2008
Laura Chasman, Gratitude,  2007-8 Posted to Facebook: April, 2020 gouache paintings on museum mounting board, each 12 x 11”

Artist Statement: Nurses and Nursing Assistants.  I came to know these nurses and nurse’s aides while working as a social worker in a nursing home in the Mission Hill district of Boston. They are part of a larger series I painted in 2007-2008.  How relevant these portraits are today, as we experience this global pandemic. Where would we be without these healers and caretakers? 

Over the course of the ten years I worked in this setting I came to know many of the nurses and aides quite well. I knew about their personal lives, and I observed the ways in which they carried out their daily tasks, their moods, the uniforms they wore, as well as their strength and endurance to do their jobs. Nurses- giving out medications, injections, setting up and administering i.v.’s, feeding tubes, medicating, and bandaging bedsores, and their interminable paper work, documenting every aspect of care and observation, while nurse’s aides attended to the daily care of the residents- showering, toileting, incontinence care, combing their hair, and feeding those who could no longer feed themselves, making up their beds. The capacity to offer compassion, the patience to go slowly with people who can no longer act and move efficiently, is a gift not all possess, and at this moment in time, I am filled with gratitude.

Pamela Allara:
Laura Chasman’s work occupies an interesting niche within the genre of contemporary portraiture. Although the genre as a whole may be considered a bit ‘old fashioned,’ as Alice Neel commented many years ago, it maintains a vital presence in contemporary art, no doubt because the human face will always retain its fascination as a reflection of one’s times. In general, the works of her peers, whether Elizabeth Peyton, Chantal Joffee or Maria Lassnig, continue and extend the expressionist tradition, one that emphasizes psychic instability or insecurity. Although until her retirement she was a clinical social worker, Chasman does not pretend to delve into her subjects’ psyches to expose its hidden recesses; rather, she uses the sensitivity to facial expression and body language she has gained as both a health care professional and an artist to extend an invitation to the viewer to become acquainted with a stranger. Collectively, the portraits speak to tolerance and acceptance, and significantly, to the importance of taking the time to become acquainted with others with whom you cross paths, if only in order to better understand ourselves.

Laura Chasman, Gloria, 2007-2008
For the most part, each portrait introduces us to a person Chasman has come to know well, either through work or family. On April 17, Chasman posted on Facebook 4 portraits from her 2007-8 “Nurses and Nurses Assistants” series with a one-word description: “Gratitude.” Since the start of the pandemic, both average citizens with homemade signs and major media outlets have expressed a similar sentiment in general terms, but these portraits bring us into immediate contact with those on the front lines. The women are professionals she knew when working at the Benjamin Nursing Home on Mission Hill in Boston over a decade ago, but they are assuredly representative the current medical community nation-wide.

One of the nurses, Ediri, is dressed in scrubs and so is easily identified as a medical professional., whereas only after seeing the stethoscope around Chantal’s shoulders can we assume she is a nurse. Both Gloria, in a teddy bear-patterned shirt, and Mabel, in scrubs, are nurses aides. It is important that their clothing is not an indication of status; they are simply professionals working together to save lives.

Laura Chasman, Mabel, 2007-2008
In all cases, the women are posed so that they address us directly, as unique individuals first, and then as representative of the roles they play in society. Placed against a plain ground rather than in a hospital setting, we do not experience the anxiety that such a setting can induce.  Gloria, Ediri, Chantal and Mabel are off duty, so to speak, so we can meet them one on one.

The vivid personalities we confront in these portraits demonstrates how much we lose in terms of human experience when we are removed from face-to-face interaction as we are at present. We certainly do feel gratitude for the tireless work of health care professionals during this crisis, but Chasman’s portraits also bring to the surface the sadness that enforced isolation has caused.

Laura Chastman, Chantal, 2007-8
Mark Auslander:  Looking at these heart warming works, I do find myself thinking of the history of portraiture in Boston, including works hung in places of honor in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. For generations, these images celebrated the city's elite, including those who might have been founders or patrons of the city's hospitals and orphanages, rendering the actual workers essentially invisible, at best glimpsed in the shadowy background. How important that these women, in contrast, were honored for the important work that they performed more than a decade ago, and that they now return to the light, as it were, , when we are across the world so conscious of how much we owe to all frontline health workers.  Even now, we must not forget, nearly of these individuals labor without adequate compensation, sick leave or medical insurance; they may be the safety net for the more privileged among us, but they themselves are deprived of the social safety net that should be every person's fundamental human right.

Laura believes that three out of four of these women were born overseas. Ediri's name suggests her background is Igbo, from southeastern Nigeria, and Chantal and Mabel are probably from Haiti. At a time when the Trump administration is engaged in a fullscale war against immigration, it is so important to remember, through art, the vital roles played by immigrants in health care and so many othe fields. In the now immortal words of the musical Hamilton, "Immigrants, we get the job done!"

Having said that, there is something deeply haunting about the portraits, in the midst of our plague year.  Reading every day of the infection rates in nursing homes and other congregate facilities, one shudders to think what these women and their colleagues may see every day, as many of their patients face the prospect of serious illness and death alone, without the presence of their loved ones.  The faces immortalized here, on the faces of their colleagues, may be the very last thing Covid-19 patients may ever see. They remind us of the best of humanity, at such a terrible time of peril, a time that more responsible and compassionate social and public health policy could largely have mitigated.

These faces look out at us from a different time, but, seen through our current eyes, they gaze with the fierce urgency of now: what will we all do to protect them, and their charges, as the crisis unfolds? 

Susan Platt: Thank you Laura Chastman for these portraits and for your statement. They fill me with both awe and a great sadness. We wonder where these women are today. The first thing I see is their dignity. They stand facing us, looking at us, and we feel their own strength as they do that. The fact that Laura knew them is crucial to the portrait relationship and gives them a deeper presence, that of their personal day to day empathy for others. Empathy is so crucial today, and I think we are all feeling it especially for those who are losing loved ones whom they cannot touch. But we outside the medical community do not feel it close up, necessarily. We do not feel it physically. We know that the medical people serving in hospitals are feeling that every minute of every day. It is hard to believe that they do not have the protection they need. These women, pre virus, did not need to cover up from head to toe in plastic, a very uncomfortable situation that reduces physical and emotional contact. We are reminded of that new reality as we look at these women in scrubs, but we also know that caregivers today, in spite of their coverings, and their fear for their own health, are still sharing themselves above and beyond what we can imagine. Many of us spend a lot of our time worrying about every little sore throat or cough, trivial indicators or impending death we think. The caregivers today do not have that luxury.
We have not had the real numbers on caregiver deaths, but it is appalling that we lose even one of these precious people. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Hands Protection: Lucas Nkgweng

Commentaries by Pamela Allara, Mark Auslander, and Susan Platt

The Lockdown Collection: Lucas Nkgweng’s Hand Protection Series

Title: Hands Protection (Series of five unique monotypes)
Medium: Monotype with collage printed objects. 350mm (w) x 500mm (h) each.

Artist's statement; This series explores a combination of objects and multiple layers of my Monotype Printmaking processes. The work is inspired by the present global reaction that has psychological and economic impact caused by the COVID-19. South Africa, among other countries, was forced to stay indoors from Thursday, March 26, until further notice, as a National lockdown. The government has set and implemented the “Lockdown” regulations in order to prevent and combat the spread of Coronavirus. People have been advised to take precautionary measures, such as keeping distance from others, cleaning hands and disinfecting touched surfaces frequently, not touching eyes, nose or mouth, covering coughs and sneezes with elbow or tissue. 

As an artist and educator, through my work, I felt an urge to engage and encourage people to comply with the Government’s regulations to help flatten the curve. The Lockdown is a new reality that I have accepted and adapted to. It has provided me with an opportunity to reconnect with myself.

Pamela Allara: At the conclusion of The Lockdown Collection’s Aspire auction on April 19, 2020, a few last-minute additions were also sold, including 5 stunning monotypes with collage printed elements donated by artist Lucas Nkgweng.

The artist states that, ‘…through my work I retrace and reflect on my childhood journey which contributed significantly to my career and profession as an artist and art educator…I remember as a little boy, my peers used to ask me to create toy wire-cars to play with…This really unleashed my potential as an aspiring artist!”   His love for creating brought him from Limpopo Province to Johannesburg, where he studied at Artist Proof Studio. After graduating in 1998, Nkgweng began teaching there; currently, he is the First Year Coordinator and First Year Facilitator in Printmaking. In other words, Nkgweng has the challenging but rewarding talk of overseeing the progress of the 30 or so entering APS students each year.

In addition to his teaching load, he has continued to develop his own work. He writes that initially his art revolved around “socio-economic and political issues that affect my community on a day to day basis…[ Recently, however], I have opened myself up to a window of freedom where I express myself freely and tap into my subconscious.”

Lucas Nkgweng, “Road Crossing,”2001,etching,  28x 26 cm.
Nkgweng’s early figurative work, continuing  the legacies of both Township and Resistance Art, retains its power. For instance, in the etching, “Road Crossing” (2001), a ghostly figure wrapped in blanket and carrying a staff appears about to walk past us in the dark on what we sense to be a mysterious, somewhat ominous journey--in this instance to an initiation ceremony. The traditional rituals and the spiritual worlds of South Africans are embodied in this single figure, who we intuit will emerge from his blanket transformed.

The monotypes Nkgweng donated to The Lockdown Collection are initially more abstract, but they are equally rich in connotations. The layered images consist primarily of discarded rubber gloves and face masks. Thus, Nkgweng’s “Hands Protection” series, like Walter Oltmann’s wire sculpture “Frontliners” in the TLC collection, pays homage to the health care workers whose hands have soothed and cared for the bodies of those suffering from COVID-19. In “Light at Coronavirus Tunnel’s End,” an image of the virus, in red, is contained by the masks. But is it contained or escaping, ready to reappear once the lockdown is lifted? The series offers layered interpretations as well as layered images.

The used, scattered objects are indicative of the repetitive, exhausting labor endured by those directly confronting the virus. Because the prints initially require that we take the time to unpack these layered images, we are also encouraged to contemplate their significance. Worn by caretakers, they serve as roadblocks against the transmission of the virus more broadly. The raised gloves
in “Where Are You Going” and “Hands Protection” convey the warnings that no doubt have accompanied their care.  Ironically, the masks and gloves are often found discarded in parks and streets, their protective potential trashed.

All of the quotations in this text are from “LUCAS NGWENG: ARTIST STATEMENT,” shared with this writer on April 20, 2020.

 Mark Auslander:  Lucas Nkgweng's Mask-I and Mask-II are powerful interrogations and reassemblages of the shape of the face mask, now a globally recognizable image of  protection, however imperfect, in the age of the virus.  Both prints incorporate similar motifs: a blue and white face mask, attaching strings, a lighter lattice work evocative of the mask's breathable surface, a yellow field (perhaps signaling caution), a vertical form, partly or entirely brown, that might signal a human body or limb,  and a black and white intricate form that might evoke a crinkled face mask or perhaps the swarm of the virus itself.

In Mask-I,  the major brown vertical form has a single splotch of red in its upper center, perhaps signaling an infecting virus. The brown form bends, perhaps reminiscent of an elbow, into which we are now warned to sneeze or cough.  We see a small figure in the lower left, with an arm outstretched  towards the major brown vertical form. I believe we glimpse a squarish head on the figure, partly obscured by the mesh of the mask.  Perhaps we are meant to see a vulnerable patient being ministered to by a masked frontline health worker.  The blue and white face mask might even resemble the profile of a human face, looking down at the patient. Alternately, the blue and white mask might reference a vulnerable beating human heart,  perhaps evocative of the fundamental threat to all human life posed by the novel coronavirus.

I am especially struck by how these elements are positioned in the carefully composed Mask II. We see the blue and white mask at the base, and. above, a more detailed examination of the mesh of the composite nylon, through which strands of the attaching mask strings wend their way.

In this image, the limb like-form seen in Mask I I now changes hues as it rises, from darker, to lighter, passing through the  yellow field, a familiar sign of caution. At the very base of the brown form is an overlaying whitish element, perhaps a pathogen.  Perhaps we are glimpsing a figure in various stages of infection,  the darker bottom invisible to onlookers.  The top of the form, in a gunmetal gray, recalls he head glimpsed in Mask I in the lower left; it  might evoke a medieval knight in armor,  its defenses vanished, now shedding the virus swarm from its eye slit. 

We may even read the blue and white mask surrounded by the dark browns and warning yellow,  as an image of planet Earth, seen from space, a vulnerable blue marble in a dark sea of encroaching danger.

In "Hands Protection" (the title work of the series) the brown gloved hand becomes an active agent, not only protecting frontline workers but in halting the transmission of the virus by enforcing the lockdown orders. A single hand is held up, ordering the shadowy presence in the distance to stop and stay at home.  "Hands Protection" thus is a play on words; the hands are protected by the glove, and the hand itself protects all of us by stopping foolish behavior, and the virus, in its tracks. Yet, these actions  are not without risk: the left fingers of the gloved hand share the darkness of the approaching gloom perhaps suggesting, as in Walter Oltmann's "Frontliners," that the medical worker is already infected. Similarly, the face mask on the left is tinged with pink, a possible signal that its defenses too have been breached.

 A blue gloved hand also is held up in "Where are you going?"as a bid to arrest movement, blocking a looming dark shape that recalls the background of  "Hands Protection." The title might also have a double meaning.  The phrase is an implied imperative: you had best stay home, unless you have essential business to undertake.  Alternately, it could be read as a broader question asked to all of society: where precisely are we going as a nation or a community, when so many are left precariously at risk in township and underserved rural areas at a time of crisis?   Here, the white mask at the print's base and foreground is in distinct contrast to the approaching ominous dark mass, perhaps signaling the light of hope in a time of darkness/

Imagery of light and dark are explicitly played with in Nkweng's fifth, beautiful print, "Light at the End of Coronavirus' Tunnel".  A single bright red SARS-CoV-2 virus, with its distinctive protein spikes, is surrouuded by white (which Pam sees as a mask), within a large black mass. Perhaps we see a white blood cell from the human body's immune system attacking the virus. Suspended above are a protective blue and white face mask and a twisting string that perhaps holds the mask in place.  The patch of blue and white might be suggestive of hope, indicating that the storm clouds of the pandemic will finally break and that blue skies await.  The swirling brown, reds, whites, and black between the virus and the blue mask thus might herald the gradual dissipation of the pestilence.

Or perhaps not. At least to North Americans' ears, the phrase "light at the end of the tunnel" is invariably ironic, recalling its thorough discrediting during the Vietnam War by the Nixon administration, which often prematurely forecast the imminent end of that long running conflict. It may be that Nkgweng is sounding a caution against overly optimistic readings of our predicament.  The glowing red virus could be read as a burning fire smoldering deep within the crater of a seemingly inactive, steaming volcano, just waiting to release a second wave of infection --which was, in the case of the 1918 influenza pandemic, considerably more deadly than the first wave. The image could thus be read as an injunction to remain vigilant, lest we once more be consumed in the coming second eruption of nature's fury. 
Susan Platt: This art work suggest discarded masks, and although there is "Light at the End of the Tunnel" in the final one, I see this as the opposite as the virus lurks there ready to re emerge. In the idea of disposal lies the huge issue of re-contamination, and the delay in disposal, as health care workers wear the same mask all day.

Lucas Nkgweng, Mask-I (2020)
All I can think of in looking at these masks is the catastrophe in the US and around the world of the inadequate protection for healthcare workers who are forced to reuse masks and gowns over and over. Suddenly, two months into the epidemic, we hear that this or that place or designer, or person, is making masks, some ready "in a month". It is a truly horrifying  that rich societies are not only failing themselves, especially the US, but failing others. We should be supplying the test kits and antibody blood tests and masks and gowns around the world, instead we are trying to buy them from around the world. In the US our particularly corrupt capitalist health care system and mind boggling incompetence at the top,  means governors are competing with each other. I am not familiar with the South African health care system, since they have "lockdown" which is beyond "stay at home" and even "quarantine" perhaps, that the central government has been responding aggressively to contain the virus, even as we hear that the rest of Africa will be the next hot spot.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

The Landscape is Sanctuary to Our Fears: Marion Wilson

Marion Wilson's temporary home studio, New York City

"Two months ago, my father died of complications from pneumonia. It could have been a case of very early COVID-19. We won’t ever know, and it doesn’t really matter. I stayed with him during his last days, sleeping with my sister on a small hospital cot like when we were little kids. As his lungs were filling with liquid and right after he died, I photographed him. A month later, I began to paint these very intimate portraits of him, as well as his funeral bouquets.

Last week, I was diagnosed with COVID-19 by my doctor. Since that time, my world has gotten very small. Although the severest symptoms seem to have passed, I still feel lethargic. Unable to travel to my studio, I begin to look around my house for supplies. First, there are all those herbs that I am taking for my immune system, then there are the spices, the teas— and suddenly my bed is my studio table. Although my geographic footprint is small, my imagination keeps expanding. I seem to have discovered my shadow side — which is not to say I feel sad or lonely. Rather, I am noticing different details in my shadow; there is a kind of intimacy with myself in the quiet."

The Landscape is Sanctuary to Our Fears at William Paterson University
Photo by Jessica Talos
Wilson's beautiful, multi-layered exhibition, "The Landscape is Sanctuary to Our Fears," opened January 27, 2020 in New Jersey's William Patterson University galleries. It closed prematurely due to the state-wide shelter in place policy, brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.  The exhibition endures in the memories of those who saw it or subsequently learned of it.  In retrospect, many aspects of the project, which incorporates Wilson's drawings, photographs, and installations of artifacts and herbaria, may be understood as anticipatory of the current state of emergency, and as proposing a glimpse of the new world, yet to be, that might just emerge in the wake of our transformative global moment, as so much hangs in the balance. 

Marion Wilson.
2020, Jacquard machine punched cards
Courtesy of the artist
The Landscape is Sanctuary to our Fears explores bodies of water in and around Patterson, NJ and the broader northeastern United States, as a meditative encounter with personhood, remembrance, environment, and urban space in the era of rapid climate change.  Her point of departure is the long-form poem Paterson. by William Carlos Williams. in which the poet characterizes the city as a man, in constant opposition to subordinated nature. The city of Patterson emerged, in Williams' telling, through the mechanical domination of the water flows of the Passaic river's Great Falls (referenced in River, 2020), to power its silk mills.

In contrast, Wilson considers the city as a woman inextricably woven into the liquid webs of nature. While classic patriarchal visions of the city understood the polis as dominating bodies of water--Athens or Venice as lords of the seas, London commanding the Thames, New York towering over the Hudson--Wilson envisions urban space as inherently fluid, protean, even liquid-like.  Her cities stand not in solid opposition to nature or to the acquatic, but as ebbing and flowing with the rhythms of the tides, the lapping of waves, and the unexpected channels cut by streams, rivers and storm surges. Her cities are not solid, up-jutting solid masses, but spaces of circulation and re-immersion, inviting us into dreamlike memory palaces that continuously reconnect us with other times and places, binding us to earlier struggles as we navigate our way forward.

Seen through the lens of the unfolding pandemic, Wilson's project may be understood as an important corrective to the habits of thinking and practice that over-determined, one might argue, our current crisis. The fantasy of the city, or of civilization, as impermeably rising above nature and simply dominating the waters upon which all life depends, is clearly untenable. The rapid expansion of the neo-tropics in the age of the Anthropocene, massive logging and destruction of old growth forests, manifold assaults on biodiversity, unplanned urban sprawl, military conflict and ecocide that drive global refugee migration, and the wholesale international trafficking of endangered species, all combine to increase the likelihood of zootics, as emerging viruses and other pathogens jump from animal species to human hosts. Economic systems predicated on the domination of nature and the relentless extraction of labor power from low income workers produce circumstances that virtually guarantee the production of viral hotspots, ravaging precarious human communities of laborers. (Consider, for example, the much discussed status of meat packing plants that primarily employ new migrants under substandard conditions, as accelerated petri dishes for the dissemination of the novel coronavirus.)

Marion Wilson
40.9503 N, 72.4052 W
(Lake Hopatcong, NJ), 2019

Digital print on painted mylar
17x26 in.
image courtesy of the artist
In contrast, Wilson plunges into pools of collective and individual memory to recover an alternate history of labor, from the important 1913 strike in Patterson (in which 1,800 strikers were arrested) to the activist sensibilities she imbibed from her own progressive parents. She honors equally the labor of micro and macro-invertebrates in the fresh and saltwater bodies of water from Maine to New Jersey, who have long helped cleans toxins and replenish local ecosystems. Work, as experienced in her interwoven installations of human and non-human organic processes, is, or at least could be, predicated not on hierarchies of exploitation but on coordinated integration of energies, organized through a delicate choreography of reciprocity, exchange, and emergence.

Marion Wilson, Red Mulberry Tree, 2019
Thus, her Red Mulberry Tree, 2019,  honoring the lifeform that sustained the silkworms that produced the silk threads that generated Patterson's wealth, is not a towering solid form but a quivering, pulsating matrix of energies, in which spreading leaves and munching silkworms merge into one another, birthing the lines of silk thread radiating from the tree's trunk. 

Work in this deepest sense is intimately bound to the labor of memory; in an exhibition component, the Waters of my Childhood, she takes us on deep dives into bodies of water she knew growing up, immersing us in visions of delicate, life-restoring balance that might guide us through the coming deluge. The artist's process rests on collaboration with scientists, historians, museum professionals and activists, a reminder of the webs of solidarity, imagination, and insight we will need to solve the coming crises born of climate change and environmental destruction.

Marion Wilson
Untitled, 2020
Artist’s work samples, 2019
Variable dimensions
Courtesy of the artist

Wooden textile cart
Early 20th century
33 3⁄4 x 48 x 19 inches
Courtesy of the Paterson Museum
Along the way, we encounter new visions of what the process of art making might become, as we move from fixed, hierarchical sites of cultural production to more peripatetic, circulatory, and distributed modes of creation. I am particularly enamored with Wilson's old textile cart, filled with art supplies: in the era we might be about to enter, this could be read as a call for art creation in extemporaneous, improvisational modes, as art-making is no longer confined to a few privileged sites but rather constantly on the move, the common right of all humankind.

Presciently named, The Landscape is Sanctuary to our Fears sadly closed its doors before its time. Yet as a memory picture--of earlier city-human-water-nature integrations, and as a prophetic vision of how we might yet reweave our troubled world--the exhibition remains a life-sustaining gift to us all.  Our fears right now are enormous, and surely tempt us to retreat into private walled, fortress city-states, hidden away from nature's chaotic energies. Alternately, inspired by Marion Wilson's memories of water and the shimmering life forms nurtured within it, we might venture forth to help build that better world, of a civilization that itself is an endlessly expansive sanctuary, predicated on labors that ebb and flow with nature's own fluid cycles of death, transformation and the regeneration of life.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Annabel Daou "I will worry for you" a performance from dawn to dusk April 3-4, 2020

Annabel Daou 
April 3 2020 615 PM
Drawing document of performance "I will worry for you.
Susan Platt:  Annabel Daou, originally from Lebanon, created a 12 hour performance in which she walked back and forth in a hallway with worry beads and offered the opportunity to worry for each of us for a fifteen minute time slot that we signed up for advance. The piece was inspired by a man who lived in her apartment building in Beirut during the Civil War who walked in the hall with his worry beads.

(Beginning on Saturday, April 18 a new iteration of the performance, I will worry for you (from today until tomorrow) will take place each night from 11:30pm until 12:30am. It will be live-streamed for the duration on instagram (@the_lobby_nyc and @signsymbols).

I asked her to worry for my niece Lucy Mckensie who is working on the front lines of the virus in a London hospital

 Here she is, Lucy,  in her protective gear.

Here is the video of the artist walking back and forth :
 As I watched the performance, I found it deeply moving to see the silent repetition, the concentration, as she went through the beads. These are not prayer beads, they are simply beads that help with stress. Initially in our restless world, I felt that watching for a minute would be sufficient, but as the performance went on, I felt layers of feelings, as I thought about Lucy and her commitment to caring for Coronavirus patients. Her hospital ward was the first to be converted to a COVID 19 only ward.

The drawing was given to me by the artist, virtually. She holds the original for each time slot, although it is my drawing as she said:

"The drawings are a kind of record and also another way of connecting with participants. The drawings stay together, but each one is made for the participant and only for them and belongs to them in all ways except that they can't physically touch it. It's a way of remembering the moment that was shared, by recording the time and the date as a bead in the chain. The whole project deals with exchanges, and modes of sharing (particularly at a time when touch itself is prohibited) and ownership/responsibility with respect to our burdens and our care for each other. I don't have a clear idea about this project, but I've set it up as it is and will let it be what it is to each person.  That may change over time. The structure is like the worry beads, they are pushed repetitively along the cord and tap each other lightly as they move along."

Mark Auslander:    One senses that the multiple beads of the strand, all bound together, are rather like the way that all of us, scattered around the world, are equally bound together by the artist's compassionate meditative performance. Similarly, the various drawings are each virtually "owned' by her clients/participants, but remain united together in the artist's apartment/studio.  Physically separated, we are strung within a single flexible strand of being and becoming. 

It would appear, if I am reading  this correctly, that each drawing has a handwritten date and time indicating precisely when the meditative walk on behalf of Lucy, in this case, was taken.  Each bead then is not only indicative of a person, but of a unique moment in time, bound together to other unique moments of time. At a disorienting period in history when we are confined anxiously in place within our dwellings, and the flow of time seems indistinguishable (how many of us remember the correct day, half the time?) Daou offers each of her participants a discrete oasis of time, a temporal completeness that is fixed for all time, as it were, on the surface of her lovely drawings.  It seems all the more appropriate that she preserves this silver moment for us, this memory picture, on our behalf---we cannot touch it, but we know it is is a distant vault, a moment that can forever be retrieved, rather like Marcel Proust's lost moments in his In Search of Lost Time, which have passed forever, but which can be regained through art.

The artist's project also puts me in mind of  Marcel Mauss's masterpiece, The Gift, written precisely a century ago, as the world emerged from the horror of the Great War and the 1918 global influenza pandemic.  Mauss asked, in the shadow of the violently fragmented old world, how social solidarity could be rewoven. His response, oddly enough was to look at the modern legal and economic form of the contract, which is usually taken to be the epitome of individualized atomized self-interest.  Yet Mauss discerned in the contract the echo, or soul, of the ancient spirit of the gift ("le don"), found in indigenous and classical societies the world over.  Gift exchange binds us all together in part because each gift carries within it the spirit (or extended personhood) of the donor, which comes to rest, at times uncomfortably, within the personhood of the recipient, who can only free him or herself of this weight through acknowledging the gift and giving a counter-gift of approximately equal value, to that the moral weight or essence of the recipient in turns comes to dwell, in effect, within the personhood of the original donor. This dynamic is for Mauss (and later for Claude Levi-Strauss) the foundation of all human society, allowing all of us to be interconnected in ways that are profoundly difficult to disentangle and which often transcend the intentions of any specific donor or recipient, or of their respective social units.

Similarly, the artist gives us the gift of meditating upon our loved one, of walking back and forth silently on their and our (and their) behalf, and creating a time-stamped drawing of that precious unique moment in time, impressed upon the singular drawing forever. Each recipient of that gift in turn reciprocates the gift (the aspect of the artist that has come into our very souls, wherever we might be) by in effect gifting that drawing back to her (although we never even touch it) so that a part of whom we are (and whom the subject of the walk is) now travels back to the artist, co-existing within her and her place of dwelling.  In this way, the ancient spirit of the gift, which is inherently dynamic,  circulatory,  and inter-relational, intimately binding persons and souls in a great chain or strand of being, is resurrected at the most unlikely of times. 

In this time, we all shelter in fear a different kind of transmission and circulation, the movement of the invisible novel coronavirus, which is itself a strand -- a strand of RNA that is not quite alive, and yet which hijacks our own cells to reproduce itself, spread itself and bringing death in its wake. Yet through Daou's artistry, something better emerges as we become different kinds of "hosts": our fluid overlapping personhoods, all dependent upon one another, continue to be preserved on a drawn strand which we may never hold within our hands, but which, paradoxically,  enlivens and enlarges us.


Mauss, Marcel. The Gift: Forms and Functions of Exchange in Archaic Societies. 1954 (1920)