We tend to hide from or disguise what we don’t want to know. I’m trying to shed light, widen the cracks, and show the stains. Caritas and Disguised Relief are inspired by the statistics of poverty and images of miracles related to feeding, particularly from Flemish painting. Napkins rest on an empty table, waiting for the endlessly deferred feast and the conversion of water into wine. Bread turns into wood shavings to disguise charity frowned upon by the prosperous (according to the St. Godelieve legend). A carpenter’s wood plane suggests the manual labor that, today, is often not enough to provide a basic living. Indifference and inequity do not stop at the domestic front. Further abroad, war crimes are committed. Cana, named after the site of Christianity’s first miracle, connects to Qana, the Lebanese town that suffered numerous civilian casualties from IDF air strikes; the feet of the dead poke out from under its blood soaked table linen, exposing atrocity amidst the daily routine. Standing on the Bones is titled after the words of John Rucyahana, a former bishop of Rwanda: “We are preaching hope, standing on the bones of the past.” Desiccated bone meal covers a series of documentary photographs of genocide in Cambodia, Germany and Rwanda. But the cracks insist upon our remembering . Leonard Cohen’s moving Anthem urges us to forget our “perfect offerings.” He sings: “ There is a crack, a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in." We need more cracks ... and more light.
Susanne Slavick is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Art at Carnegie Mellon University and editor and curator of Out of Rubble, a book and traveling exhibit featuring international artists who respond to the aftermath of war. She has exhibited most recently at Accola Griefen in NYC and Bernstein Gallery at Princeton University.