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. It would be the first "thing" worked on. A table was set up and the pencils laid out to work out a function for them. I tried different design configurations 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 challenges. While working on "No Collusion", I kept trying to rethink the pencil and eraser function but nothing happened.
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. One end creates and the other cancels as the saying "the the pen was more powerful than the sword" lingering 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 except. 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 Trump. 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 and Brown Christian community that I highly respect.
I then placed long black pencils inside the shorter used and sometimes broken pencils spelling the word "lies" on the eraser ends. I was trying to call out the 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 the 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. The culture canceled was both the black and brown as communities of faith and as human beings. 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.