MY OWN WITNESS:RUPTURE AND REPAIR
“What is a portrait, if not an acknowledgment of a human encounter: an opportunity to imagine the life of another?”
During the years following the 2016 presidential election, I initiated portrait collaborations between those who – through race, sexuality, gender identity, age, ethnicity, and/or disability – felt they had been deemed invisible and un-entitled to their place in this American moment. I asked my sitters to turn themselves “inside out” and to use pose, gesture, and gaze to express their emotional truths, visually assert their identity, become their own witnesses, and invite the viewer to a visceral face-to-face encounter with their humanity. While the American flag has become a complicated symbol, some sitters reclaimed and reimagined it to express their defiance and respectful hope for the return of democracy. As a series, the shared black velvet background and chiaroscuro lighting join each individual in the collective.
Channeling the injuries brought on by the pandemic and the further erosion of democracy, I ripped the original portraits to create “wounds” reflecting individual and collective trauma. Inspired by the Japanese practice of kintsugi, an ancient craft that repairs broken pottery with gold lacquer, I restored the torn portraits with stitching and golden rice paper. Metaphorically, kintsugi honors the acceptance of injury as part of the object's life and gives material form to the history of experience. We acknowledge and pay attention to our violent past in the future so we don't repeat it. These injuries are our losses to be witnessed, mourned, and transformed into social justice.