Sunday, April 2, 2017
Hall of Fame for Great Americans [Restoration Edition] exhibited in Brookline, Ma, April thru June 2017 [and in commemoration of Yom HaShoah 4-23 - 4/24, 2017]
The Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis is exhibiting my picture of Daniel Webster from the Hall of Fame for Great Americans until June, 2017. The work was featured in an exhibition, curated by Wendy Forrester, entitled 'Picturing Social Justice and Human Rights'. The exhibition was organized to celebrate the school opening a new program incorporating Social Justice into their portfolio.
I thank Wendy and the staff of the school for enabling me to realize the project and commend them on a beautifully organized exhibition of over seventy works translating the idea of 'Social Justice and Human Rights' in visual form, thus shining the light of resistance into this increasingly troubled age. Those of us who create and exhibit art are morally bound to use our practices to ensure that the darkness that is encroaching upon our nation and world is vanquished and does not consume us as it did our world [and the lives of my ancestors] during the darkest days of the Twentieth century.
At the reception that took place on March 31st, 2017 I requested that those attending paste silhouettes of individuals who I have read in newspapers have been made afraid, deported, detained, denied visas as a consequence of the actions of the new regime directly upon my image of Webster from the hall.
The attendees added the names with reverential care and permitted Mary and I to document them doing so.
This is how the drawing of the head from the Hall of Fame for Great Americans [11" x 14", pastel on paper from 2013] looked before dozens of people had added images to the surface.
On Saturday, when we returned to the exhibition, this is how the picture of the Great American Webster looked, nearly buried under the human cost of this new era of intolerance.
This is the statement included along with the picture.
In 1894, the Hall of Fame for Great Americans was erected on what is now the campus of Bronx Community College in Bronx, New York. The Hall, one of the first in the world, occupies a high bluff looming over the Harlem River in the neighborhood of University Heights.
In the Wizard of Oz, after Dorothy Gale’s Kansas home fell upon and crushed to death the Wicked Witch of the East, the Munchkins sang that Dorothy Gale would ‘be a bust, be a bust, be a bust in the Hall of Fame!’.
The Hall consists of bronze likenesses of ‘Great Americans’ organized into statesmen, scientists etc.
The Pied Piper of American decline sells baseball caps emblazoned with a declaration that American greatness is currently absent. The Hall can act as a bellwether of the Piper’s declaration. The last bust of a ‘Great American’ installed in the Hall was in 1992, after a twenty year effort. The busts of four inductees from the 1970s remain unrealized.
As this exhibition runs its course, authorities are demanding entry into homes nationwide in order to drag undocumented individuals, some perhaps hidden in attics, to detention centers or for immediate deportation. The Piper is also restricting émigrés, refugees and visitors from majority Muslim nations. His regime argues that the presence of the targeted individuals in America is the cause of America’s current lack of greatness and that the restoration of its greatness requires their removal.
I taught on the campus of Bronx Community College, the poorest county in America, for a decade. Many of those attending classes on campus and in the shadow of the Hall lacked official papers as did some individuals enshrined in the Hall. The Munchkins did not demand that Dorothy, a foreigner from over the rainbow, show her papers in order to gain entry to Oz. If they had detained Dorothy or deported her upon arrival, the Wicked Witch of the West, the sister of the Wicked Witch of the East, would have continued wreaking vengeance on Oz for the death of her sister.
Perhaps a current detainee or deportee is a modern day Dorothy Gale, thwarted in his or her capacity to restore American greatness and in doing so, reinvigorating the purpose of the Hall of Fame for Great Americans. That person’s bust would join Dorothy Gale and that of the four inductees from the 1970s as remaining unrealized. Despite being a foreigner from Kansas, the Munchkins and the Glenda, the Good Witch of the South, provided Dorothy with ruby slippers to protect her as she journeyed upon the Yellow Brick Road towards the Emerald City. She repaid her benefactors by securing their freedom from tyranny.
There are a number of empty spaces in the Hall set aside for future inductions of Great Americans, including the four busts unrealized from the 1970s. The oppressions of today may result in these empty spaces remaining empty and greatness’ absence being perpetuated and not reversed.
I include in this exhibition an actual portrait bust from the Hall that I drew as a part of my art project, the Anna Pierrepont Series [howardskrill.blogspot.com]. The bust is a pastel drawing of Daniel Webster rendered in deep shadows of the dim natural light of a random early afternoon.
I asked attendees to imagine and affix unto this piece, a virtual Hall of Fame for Future [unrealized] Great Americans, the name of an individual now languishing in detention or denied entry as a consequence of the Muslim ban whose likeness, like that of Dorothy Gale, will never be added to the empty spaces of the Hall of Fame for Great Americans, an acknowledgement of that which the Piper and his minions are forcing into shadows and the voids opened as a consequence.