I wasn't thinking about the presidential election on my way to the Studio Museum in Harlem, I was inhaling the West 125th Street buzz. People moving fast and slow, going nowhere, going somewhere, already there. Grit. Energy. Music. Sirens. Patchouli oil. Fruit for sale. Scarves for sale.
Then I was through the double doors and into the quiet of Rodney McMillian's Views of Main Street. Excerpts from the introduction: The artist uses “symbols of domesticity… household items that people routinely discard. … These objects… bear witness to what the artist sees as the failed promises of America’s experiment with democracy… genuine political inclusion and unwavering equality.
I began to feel a world I do not know. Two examples:
Chairs and Books. (2004) Paperback books between two found chairs. That’s all. I put those chairs in a room, gave them a family, and saw the poverty, pain, and troubles of people struggling when the path to more is almost completely blocked. To fully experience this peice, you need to be able to smell the faint odor of rot.
Untitled (The Supreme Court Painting). (2004-2006) If you look closely, the sagging canvas vaguely resembles a foundations exposed and dissolving Supreme Court building being absorbed by waves under a bright blue sky. Justice is amorphous, tenuous; losing even the appearance of strength, truth, impartiality.
Leaving the museum and walking along Harlem’s Main Street on our way to dinner, I saw gentrification I’d overlooked on my way in. McMillian’s influence.
The next day, I read about the clash between Trump protesters and supporters in San Diego, not far from the border where Trump has promised to build his wall.
I didn't start this website to be political, yet this exhibit took me there.
The 20+ pieces include abandoned, non-functioning chairs, discarded carpet, old linoleum, a double Jesus rug. These objects, now in a museum testifying to disillusionment once brought joy, meant something, were chosen.
A delayed reaction from the museum visit to real life, but I got it. The stakes in this election. The need to pay less attention to the antics and more to the issues. Is our 45th President going to unify the country or reinforce anger and inertia? Does that person have a thoughtful, innovative plan to energize the nation and embrace the future?
Given the currently empty spot on the Supreme Court. that sagging canvas nags me most.
The Senate still has time to confirm Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland (please, Senators, please do your jobs and consider/confirm the guy.)
That plea is a pipe dream. Here’s what’s real: in choosing the next Supreme Court Justice, our POTUS has an outsized ability to impact the country and our lives.
If you can, visit the Studio Museum in Harlem and see Rodney McMillian’s work for yourself. Regardless, pay close attention between now and November. Your vote counts.