Crossing: wood, pencils, erasers, acrylic: 76"x 36"x 14" 2020
"Crossing", as a project, took almost 3 years to develop and get resolved. When the studio was opened the fall of 2016, the first act, after cleaning up the space and making it ready for work was to take out a box of pencils and erasers that had been stored for over 15 years as a "thing" of interest. In 1996, I had received a grant to teach are in a youth detention facility of mostly Black, Brown, and Asian boys and girls which would last four years. I was required to collect all pencils at the end of every working session. When the pencils got too short to sharpen, they would be thrown away. I organized all of the teachers to bring their used pencils into the office and throw them in a collection box I had set up. I felt an interesting connection to them and, at the time, wanted to keep them.
In 2016, they would be the first "thing" worked with. A table was set up where the pencils were spread as a function process began. I tried out different ideas but nothing was happening. Therefore they stayed on the table next to the box of erasers for over a year while I moved onto other "things". While working on "No Collusion", I kept trying to rethink the pencil and eraser function but still nothing was happening.
Eventually in the Winter of 2019, I realized why noting was happening. I was trying to make the pencils function as a 2-dimensional design and shifted to a possible 3-dimensional function keeping in mind that the actual function of a pencil is to communicate, "the word". One end creates and the other cancels as the saying "the pen is more powerful than the sword" lingered in the back of my thoughts, I looked at the sharp ends of the pencils and began to fixate on how sharp a pencil could be and how it could penetrate both physically (by getting stabbed) and emotionally (by what it writes). I built a box and placed all of the pencils in it with their pointed ends sticking up out of the box to explore the visual look of multiple pencil penetration.
This approach set off a renewed effort in taking them in a different direction. At the same time, the media was buzzing with proclamations from within the Evangelical community that President Trump was possibly the messiah of the second coming. Considering myself a spiritual person, this proposition was extraordinarily bazar. It had a big impact on my contempt for institutional Christian leadership. I had already lost respect for the hypocrisy of that community in the way it could turn a blind eye to numerous blatant immoral calculations made by Donald Trump as a human being. The notion that he could be a Christian messiah was inconceivable, thus energizing the pencil box project. I built a black wood cross to represent the Black, Brown Christian communities that I greatly respected for their commitment to family and principles.
I then placed long black pencils inside the shorter used and sometimes broken pencils spelling the word "lies" on the white eraser ends calling out the white Christian community for their betrayal of the faith's fundamentals by supporting Trumps racist bullying. I couldn't reconcile the Christian communities dedication to Church on Sundays with Trumps dedication to Sunday golf as somehow being a spiritual equivalent.
As the cross began to take shape and structural elements were getting resolved, an incident in March 2020 changed everything. It appeared that a Black man had been murdered in plain sight by police in Minneapolis over an incident were he passed a counterfeit $20 in a store. As much of the world went to its knees over this injustice, the cross took on a much deeper meaning and its transformation was swift.
All the pencils were removed and some painted white. Others were painted black. While the pencils were removed the cross structure was given another coat of black with India ink. Once reassembled, the base also began to come together. After different ideas were worked through dealing with various uses of erasers, the final design was to create an overall visual effect of a black cross systematically penetrated by a grid white pencils, while mounted into a base of "cancel culture" erasers as a reminder of the history of white suppression in both the black and brown communities of faith. More broadly, a cancelation of Christianity's house of brotherhood. The cross represented 200 years of white Christian cancel culture trying to erase black Christian culture. Inside the cross piece are the pencils from the youth detention program. Most of pencil ends have been broken silencing voices of the next generation by being confined while breaking down their youthful dreams and ideals as a beginning stage of "Cancel Culture".