2016. Free-hand sculpted glass head, hands and arms, metal, fabric, epoxy resin, gold leaf. 35in H x 14in W x 24in D (90cm x 36cm x 60cm). Photo Credit: Evert Van Laere. Private Collection.
When Reason Fails
When Reason Fails is inspired by the recent epidemic of police murdering black youth. More importantly, the piece is about the media interpretation and discussions that follow these crimes. Somehow the victims are portrayed in such a way that the killing can be justified. I.e., Eric Garner was selling illegal cigarettes, Tamir Rice was threatening police, Michael Brown stole cigarettes from a convenience store, etc. Even more shocking to me were conversations I had in which the discussion of the rise of police murders of unarmed people of color was completely written off with the statement, “the number one killer of black youth, is black youth.” As if this statement somehow justifies the hundreds of years of inequality and power struggles that have culminated into a situation where those who are meant to serve and protect have become instruments of fear and repression.
When Reason Fails… emerged from the above thought process while following concepts of martyrdom that I previously discussed. The features of the figure are loosely based on Tamir Rice; I used an image of his face for inspiration while sculpting the head and the scale is very similar to a child of the same age. He looks confused and afraid, wearing a golden halo of bullets suspended above his head. His kneeling position symbolizes both an act of submission and obedience while at the same time referring to classical religious imagery. His arms are raised, referring to the slogan “hands up, don’t shoot”, while the slightly bloodied hands are placed in a similar pose to those often found in images of the sacred heart. He is wearing a hoodie, alluding to Trayvon Martin, which has an altered image of a Shepard Ferry poster - also protesting police brutality. The boxer shorts are peaking out beneath the oversized sweatshirt to show a Warholian interpretation of several victims of police murder. Again NIKE appears in the form of sneakers, originally pure white, but now tainted with dirt and blood. There is small wound in the abdomen, completing the stigmata. The title of the work refers to Crime and Punishment - “When reason fails, the devil helps”. When one wishes to do something evil, one will find a way; therefore when one cannot justify an act of killing, one must just vilify the victim.
The theme that ties my most recent work together is sacrifice, not in the traditional modes of self-sacrifice or offerings, but with the idea of the sacrifices we are making as a society in order to continue justifying the existence of our society.