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The Art of Bearing Witness

What we can see, is what is shaping our world

Learning to see eye-to-eye is a private place that no photograph can replace. The representations of ourselves for ourselves—that’s what is invisible. We are hyper-visible when we are portrayed as the other for everyone else. But who are we without it? A picture brings the immediate of consumption of moments to the forefront, but the idea is to look beyond the picture, beyond the frame and into the world. It is significant practice of standing still. My invitation is not about seeing clearly. My invitation is to tart a dwelling into the unseen, and the invisible.

It is practice of what I now call a-coming-of-place. Perhaps the work of other artists may inform us, such as this striking portrait of a young Black woman against the backdrop of a Juneteenth concert in Houston for instance. She stands poised, offering us the gentle radiance of her eyes, adorned with blonde braids and festive red, yellow, and green beads. The surrounding landscape reveals a gathering teeming with excitement. “Juneteenth, or Emancipation Day, is the annual commemoration of the emancipation of enslaved Black Americans in the United States. For over 150 years Black communities throughout the country have marked the decree with vibrant celebrations and gatherings in the face of slavery’s indelible legacy.” – DaeQuan Alexander Collier. Within this single photo we encounter the holiday’s true significance—a celebration, and a call to bear witness to the beauty of a people who have defied every attempt to diminish their spirit. And it captures something else as well. A community of people coming together to be transported to rituals of remembrance and rejoicing, to honor the struggles and triumphs of their ancestors.

What we can see, is what is shaping our world.


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