I saw an amazing art installation the other day in Concord, MA during a walk with a dear friend. I'll be honest, I don't frequent art museums (but I have vowed to visit all of them in my area this year as my husband and I become empty nesters with the two kids off at college). My friend does. We were walking the streets, enjoying the sites of the Alcott House and the Old Manse, and we passed an The Concord Center for the Visual Arts and went in.
The installation ( Lyssa Palu-ay, Stephen Tourleutes, Rashin Fahandej, Keith Morris Washington)started on the first floor and then went up to the second. We weren't really paying attention to what we were seeing at first. We were chatting, simply excited to be out and about with each other on non-rainy New England Day. Then we got to the second floor. Call it the spacing, call it the high ceilings and the vastness of the room, but we both fell silent as our feet hit the last stair.
The installation was minimal. A few black and white photographs, a few large murals, and a 3 screen digital media of rain, blackness, and an older African-American man singing "the Father's Lullaby." Perhaps it was hearing his voice up there lofting into the rafters that caused our talking to cease, I can't be sure. All I know is the hair stood up on my arms, and my soul settled into a place that it rarely finds.
It was called (un)seen. The four artists said it represented their "personal and collective grief we have experienced during the racial and global health pandemics of the last year." The photos were of penitentiaries, the murals had stories of lynchings attached to them, the digital media- the absence of fathers, the chalk on the walls connecting grief.
It's here that my words are not adequate to explain how I felt within this installation. I would like to assume I felt exactly what the artists hoped I would...a part of all humanity and experience: torn, ripped, empty, connected.
Lyssa Palu-ay, one of the artist, explained how she became involved in the project and ended with a quote from Ross Gay. His words explain what mine can't.
"What if we joined our sorrow, I'm saying.
I'm saying: What if that is joy?"