Art, Justice, and Remembrance

Given current events, it hasn’t seemed time to write much about my creative process, or to post photos and fun from the Quilt Festival. Those can come later.  Now there is a need for a different kind of discussion.  

Art is a great part of healing, of action for justice, of finding tribe.  Art can hurt as much as it heals, and there are pieces that should do that – that should make you feel a tremendous empathy for those whose pain is perhaps otherwise unknowable. 

I found that being in the Genocide exhibit gallery at the Holocaust Museum Houston was difficult. To enter the museum was difficult, itself, because one must cross great stone memorials for communities lost to the scourge of the mid-twentieth century, and I knew some of them. It hurt to look at the names carved in stone, some of them too far up the building for me to make out the words. Inside the Gallery, dozens of works placed the full spectrum of cruelty, hatred, pain, and destruction that man can inflict front and center. It’s a terrible thing to see, but it is a necessary thing to witness, just as it is necessary to witness that Holocaust Museum community memorial wall, or the Vietnam Wall, or the Ghost Bicycles that haunt certain intersections here in Houston. This is what we do to one another. This is the worst of us, brought into the light by the actions of a few who somehow manage to pull a striking beauty or a frail hope out of the darkness.

Art can change us, hopefully for the better.  Art can begin the conversation, or continue it. And the conversation must continue. No injustice is solved, or cause served, by silence in the face of it. It’s more important than ever, now, that artists and communities create beauty, cultivate memory, and document horror. 

Music creates a visceral emotional reaction in me sometimes. Today, on this Remembrance Day, which in the States is Veterans Day, I listened to this song, and to “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda,” both by Eric Bogle, and I just cried. Art can also be catharsis, leading to new strength and resolve. 

May there be peace, true peace found in the presence of justice, and until then may we have the strength to fight against the inhumanity on display all around us. 

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