Context and Meaning
By Carol Mickett and Robert Stackhouse
Robert and I have become aware that our art, and art in general, takes on many meanings based on the way the world is at the moment. Art does not pay much attention to the artist’s intensions when she/he/they make the art. Art takes on a life of its own.
An Imbalance of Fire was initially painted to be about the growing imbalance of CO2 in our oceans. With our current focus on the Covid-19 pandemic and systematic racism, the painting now takes on a whole other level of meaning. Systematic racism is an ingrained human practice. It is what looks like the “normal” way of life. But as we know, there is no normal anymore. The racism is so intense in the USA that its fire can no longer be contained. With the overabundant fuel of racism in the sea of white America, our world is aflame.
It is not enough just to subdue the visible fire. The human practices which generate the fuel that feeds the fire must be transformed. If not, this crisis of inhumanity will doom us all.
As two white people and as two white artists, our job is to investigate how we feed the fire of racism. This is not an easy task but an essential one. When racism is so ingrained, it becomes invisible. Our job is to transform the invisible to visible. Once the practices are visible, they can be addressed and transformed into life-thriving practices.
Here is an example. Robert and I ordered a Black Lives Matters flag to fly next to our USA flag. We both spoke about being nervous about putting the BLM flag up when it arrives. What will our neighbors say! What will our neighbors do! If we still lived in Old Southeast in St. Petersburg, we would not worry about hanging the flag. Those neighbors strongly believe that black lives matter. Here in our all white neighborhood in Tarpon Springs, it is clear that many do not share our political views.
As Robert and I talked about our concerns, our white privilege became apparent. If we can have our views, but only voice them when we feel safe, then we stand behind a shield of white privilege. We realized if we were black, we would not have such a shield. We would always be risking our discomfort and safety. Being white we can choose. Being black there is no choice.
Flags are great visual symbols. When the BLM flag arrives, both flags will fly together and fly as one. And our discomfort? Well, we’ll see. Maybe we’ll be surprised. Maybe we’ll have vigorous conversations. Maybe we’ll be challenged. Who knows? But, we are sure, the energy will be channeled into our art.
*One-half the proceeds from the sale of this painting will go to support the Pinellas Arts Community Relief Fund. Contact Creative Pinellas at firstname.lastname@example.org for the details.