Words are magic. It never ceases to amaze me that little black lines, bent into letters and organized on a page, can transport us through time, in and out of felt experience and into other people’s shoes.
I am striving to harness some of that energy in “Black as Light.” The racial scars in this country are deep and long. And the path ahead to a more just and equitable society is complicated. But I believe it begins when a person can look across the divide and recognize the humanity of someone on the other side.
In “Black as Light” we are asking people to stop and consider another point of light in the constellation of Black perspective as captured by Porsha Olayiwola, Boston’s poet laureate. And by transforming her words into public art, I was curious about what will happen when we read her words together, as a community, instead of doing so in private. How does it change the reader’s experience when words about race are embraced enough to be emblazoned onto the walls of prestigious institutions like the MFA?
To dive deeper into the themes of Hanukkah and “Brighter Connected,” I chose to make Porsha’s words flicker as if they’re being illuminated by light from a menorah. And they are. The dynamic light and color used in the font is from video I recorded of a candle flickering in the dark. When Orthodox Jews pray, they often rock back and forth. It is called davening. And it is said that in doing so they are an embodiment of flame. I love that image.
This is our flickery little prayer in the darkness, and belief that we are, indeed, brighter connected.
“Black as Light” will be on display at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston from Dec. 9-18 as part of JArts’ “Brighter Connected” public art series. Learn more here.
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