Shared Strength

Strength is not a pillar. It is not one large, imposing figure made of marble. It does not stand firmly and stand alone. It does not succumb to the threat of being toppled. Rather, strength is a web; it is a network. It is made of lines which spread to connect and connect and connect at joins throughout the whole structure. The web, sticky and taut and far-reaching, is almost invisible.

Almost. But not quite.

So when one line tears, when it can no longer hold itself together and it breaks, the rest of the web holds it up. Strength has a domino effect – each part leaning on the others, surviving through togetherness.

When the pillar is attacked, even its marble cannot withstand the blow. But the web stretches and supports. Here, against all odds, shared strength wins.

Here you are safe.

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Aftershocks and Art

The Whitney currently has a portrait show on view in its expansive sixth and seventh floor galleries. The show features all types of portraiture: from the iconic pop works of Andy Warhol such as Ethel Scull 36 Times, to Howard Kanovitz’s very Mad-Men-feeling New Yorkers I. Even the artists themselves are featured, as in Alice Neel’s Andy Warhol. The show also includes less conventional portraits (ie those not featuring a face). One of my favorites – “unconventional” or otherwise – was Saul Leiter’s Shoe of the Shoeshine Boy, which was a photo of exactly what it sounds like. Lovely.

Yet despite all of the beautiful and strange and vibrant things around me, I was captured by a different piece altogether.

Four large faces stared out from the white wall, looking over the other pieces occupying space in the gallery. Four young men of Robert Beck’s Thirteen Shooters.

Three years ago a shooting resulting in two deaths took place in the district where I went to school. I was under lock down for three hours, hoping for the safety of my friends and neighbors and doing my best to stay composed. And continuing to do my best to stay composed. Only in the past year have I really come to terms with the fact that I am allowed to feel it – allowed to have experienced fear in the moment and pain and loss and confusion afterward – even though I wasn’t in the same building.

Even though I wasn’t there I felt the initial aftershock. And the aftershock of the first time the PA system came on after, with a reassurance that it was just standard announcements and everything was okay… And the aftershock of an emergency alarm… And the aftershock of shooter in the area text…

And the aftershock of a piece of art.

Art makes you feel. It forces you to confront life, even the hard parts. Art stirs you up and wrings you out. Standing in front of those over-sized portraits (none of which I could describe now, their traits replaced with feelings), I felt. I remembered. And it was hard and it hurt but I am grateful for it nonetheless.

Art shocks us and keeps us human.

It reminds us that underneath all of our strength, we are terribly, wonderfully, deeply fragile humans.

 

Human Interest: Portraits from the Whitney’s Collection is on view until February 12, 2017

Hush

There is a certain time of night that is magical. Some people call it the bewitching hour. Others describe it as a time of fairies. At its onset, parents send their children off to dreamland. The subconscious overcomes its daytime counterpart.

With this shift from day to night, or night to deeper night, with this slip of incandescent sun to subtle moon, the mood changes.

The world hushes. Dark slips into the nooks and crannies, muffling space and time and sound. Movements slow. Voices drop. Eyes blink more slowly, dilating to let in what light they can. People slide closer, mediating the hush, minimizing the space that dark occupies as a third character.

Everything becomes more intimate.

The body sends a rush of chemicals. It attempts to drug itself to sleep. A person must resist the pull, fight the natural tendency to submit to rest. This defiance is an act of love.

In the dark, the quiet, the unknown within the known, or perhaps the unknown within the unknown, in this space being occupied, everything settles. The doped-up, half-off brain yields to less quantifiable forces.

Here, magic exists. Here, in this intimate darkness, it is boundless.