I've been working for months on a piece for the Openings Collective fall show at St Paul the Apostle in NYC, On the Inner and Outer Self.
'Unknown Just' came with me to the Openings Residency at St Mary on the Lake, Lake George NY. This piece was designed to incorporate nails, one of several pieces I’ve done over the years exploring this form. The step where the nails go in has been a tough one in every piece like this I’ve done, in this one even more so. The piece draws on a number of themes, Congolese nail fetishes, images of st Sebastian and the wounded Christ, the legend of the 36 Just, and the personal resonance of that legend as dealt with in the novel Last of the Just. It's a hard piece I've regretted starting several times.
In that context, deep thanks go to Sara Paige, fellow resident, for the suggestion to make the nails a collective effort during the residency. This shared effort was a perfect fit with the rituals that partly inspired the piece and the underlying theme of how we process and find meaning in trauma collectively and spiritually. I’m deeply grateful to everyone who put part of themselves into this work. You added a spirit and depth of meaning to the piece I never anticipated. I’ll be thinking about how collective acts like this could influence future work.
“Rivers of blood have flowed, columns of smoke have obscured the sky, but surviving all these dooms, the tradition has remained inviolate down to our own time. According to it, the world reposes upon thirty-six Just Men, the Lamed-Vov, indistinguishable from simple mortals; often they are unaware of their station. But if just one of them were lacking, the sufferings of mankind would poison even the souls of the newborn, and humanity would suffocate with a single cry. For the Lamed-Vov are the hearts of the world multiplied, and into them, as into one receptacle, pour all our griefs."
-Andre Schwarz-Bart, Last of the Just