Those few days renewed my hope in humanity. I was deeply moved by the testimonies of activists, journalists and artists committing their lives to solidarity and fighting for social justice.
I was captivated by the tenderness in their stories. I was in awe of the courage in their truth telling. And I was inspired by the clarity in their vision for a more just world.
In this piece, “Beyond Our Fear,” I found a home for that tenderness, courage and clarity.
I started out with the image from WAT’s direct action and combined it with a quote from an old journal of mine, “Beyond our fear, we are free.”
And I chose to return to my piece, “A Revolution of the Heart,” originally intended to be a mural design.
I sought to re-create the themes of interconnection and the use of symbolism from that piece in the creation of “Beyond Our Fear.”
And I began to reflect on fear and freedom, violence and peacemaking, systemic injustice and community-based alternatives.
Fear and Freedom
In reflecting on fear and freedom, I began to ask the question, “Who and what does society teach us to fear?” I recalled the many ways that we are taught to fear difference and diversity.
I thought about how fear so often leads to marginalization. For much of white North America fear and ignorance continues to lead to the exclusion and demonization of immigrants, refugees and Muslims. For many heterosexual folks fear has led to rejecting and stripping away the rights of LGBTQIA+ folks.
I then moved on to the question, “Who and what lies beyond our fear?”
Beyond our fear, I believe that we are free. We are free to love and embrace difference and diversity. We are free to welcome and include those different from ourselves. We are free to unlearn our own violence and participation in systems of oppression and free to learn from different perspectives.
We are liberated from the fear that separates us.
Violence and Peacemaking
Coming to terms with our own personal violence is a lifelong process and it is not easy. Including in that learning process an analysis of our participation in systemic violence can be even more complex and challenging.
In this piece I intend to offer some perspective on that process.
I began to consider how border walls and national flags, upheld by nationalism, are often built on fear and exclusion and how nationalism is often at the root of xenophobia, racism, marginalization and other forms of personal and systemic violence.
In this piece, I depict the breaking down of border walls (specifically the wall on the US-Mexico border and the border walls in occupied Palestinian territory) with the intention of visualizing the breaking down of these symbols of fear, exclusion and systemic violence.
I also depict breaking through national flags (specifically the US flag and the flag of its close military ally, Israel) with the intention of visualizing a renunciation of the state violence of these two nations that are responsible for countless massacres, including the murder of civilians, women and children.
In the process of painting this piece, I found this quote particularly clarifying:
"Peacemaking doesn’t mean passivity. It is the act of interrupting injustice without mirroring injustice, the act of disarming evil without destroying the evildoer, the act of finding a third way that is neither fight nor flight but the careful, arduous pursuit of reconciliation and justice. It is about a revolution of love that is big enough to set both the oppressed and the oppressors free.”
-Shane Claiborne, Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals
Systemic Injustice and Community-Based Alternatives
Dismantling systemic injustice is visualized in this piece in a variety of ways.
In addition to breaking through the walls and symbols that separate us, I chose to depict an act of civil disobedience paired with a police officer disarming their weapon, with the intention of visualizing the admission of personal complicity in systemic violence and the personal decision to resist.
In a piece largely focused on acts of resistance, I also believed it was important to honor and include the community-based alternatives already being built.
The Zapatistas courageously critique Western capitalism, racism, sexism and social injustice while concretely building solutions and alternatives from the bottom up. They are committed to meeting the needs of their communities by investing in local wisdom and traditions, growing their own food and weaving their own clothes, lessening their dependence on the systems that perpetuate oppression.
I believe their clarity of vision can be an example to all of us.
Tying It All Together
Finally, the growing corn crops throughout the piece are meant to tie all of the smaller elements together.
The baby corn crops breaking through the soil are positioned between a personal act of civil disobedience and young Zapatista children recently born into the movement. The raging river (a symbol of Mother Earth) breaking through the border walls is streaming through sanctuary land to water the growing resistance.
The more mature corn crops are growing alongside the breaking down of border walls and the building up of diverse communities.
And in the midst of the wise and courageous Zapatista women are the full-grown corn crops ready to harvest and feed the stomachs and souls of their local community, a symbol of decolonization and communal transformation.