Art is the symbol of the two noblest human efforts: to construct and to refrain from destruction.–Evelyn Waugh
But how can that be? You take a closer look at the tables, and realize the grass is real. It is growing from a layer of earth wedged between the tables, which are arranged to create paths. As you meander through the aisles, you start to feel uncomfortable, uneasy. And then in a flash, there’s a chill of recognition. You understand the artist’s message. You are walking through a grave site: each table is a casket and each blade of grass is a symbol of hope.
You walk into the next room, filled with a long row of shirts–plain white, neatly stacked one on top of the other. But each pile has a long nail driven through it.
You take a closer look. Again, that chill of recognition. You realize that the shirts symbolize loss. They belonged once to anonymous victims, who are missing, killed.
In the next room, you see wooden doors, dozens of them. But they are broken, fragmented, and reassembled in odd ways. Several have a child’s dress caught between the boards, as if it were a ghost, a memory of a loved one.
This is the power of Doris Salcedo’s art. She creates installations filled with ordinary objects, which are turned into symbols of loss, of mourning, for the victims of violence: murder, drug wars, gang warfare, terrorism. She believes that we all have been anesthetized to violence, so she creates spaces where our loss is visualized, made tangible, as fragile as blades of grass. She reminds us of the lives of our dead friends, relatives, leaders, frozen in memory, like their clothing still hanging in closets or the empty chairs where they once sat.
Art can only be truly art by presenting an adequate outward symbol of some fact in the interior life.–Margaret Fuller
I was fortunate to see the Doris Salcedo exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago two months ago and was fascinated by her artistic vision, mission, and creative process. Her installations are the result of meticulous research, interviews, and construction. Somehow, they create the impossible–a piece of art that can be apprehended on both rational and emotional levels. And they confound us with by bringing to life the impossible– like a pavement etched with the names of people who were killed in violent incidents in Colombia, the letters of each name filling with water that bubbles up from the ground in individual drops, much like tears. Doris makes us realize that symbols can be drawn from ordinary objects that resonate with us in powerful ways and can bring us healing. Like her, I believe art has the power to heal and transform and is needed more than ever–in a war-torn world filled with too much bloodshed and hatred. We all help spread this message of hope here on Word Press –writers, artists, photographers, musicians, visionaries–a community of creative people who are reaching out to others around the world.
To learn more about Doris Salcedo and her work, click here.
To view a video about Salcedo’s public works, click the link below:
To see more interpretations of Jen’s symbol theme here at Word Press, click here:
Have a great week, everyone!