Day 240 Black and White

August 6, 2015

(If we live with an open and grateful attitude, every day will bring a gift. This is one of 365 gifts during the year I turned 70.)

Artist Nakia Kigler stands next to her art, Both Sides, hanging at Gallery 788 during August, 2015.
Tonight’s exhibit at Gallery 788, Anything Goes, opened many doors to discussions among attendees. One of my favorite pieces was Nakia Kigler’s Both Sides, a large piece created with wood stain, polyurethane and oil paint on paper. The left side represented Caucasian skin color and the right African American. The middle held both sides together with a partial and imperfect line of stitches. 

Nakia says that she creates “layers of information to dive into.” That she did with this piece and we talked about that tonight—about how people relate and take away different perceptions of her art, of anyone’s art. The viewer does not need to understand the artist’s purpose and that is okay. For instance, a poem can have one meaning for the poet and another for the reader. Much of Nakia’s work deals with the human body. For her senior thesis at MICA (Maryland Institute College of Art), she focused on skin, both its physical and metaphorical layers. 

When I saw Both Sides, I immediately connected it with Baltimore’s recent racial tensions and the need to stitch and heal but, at the same time, I felt the physical pain that one feels when a wound is stitched. Also flashing across my mind were stories of Ise Koch, wife of the Nazi commandant of the Buchenwald camp during WWII, who was accused of making human skin ornaments from murdered concentration camp inmates, including lampshades. And now 70 years after the war, in the Republican presidential candidate debate, Dr. Ben Carson states, “The skin doesn’t make them who they are…it’s time for us to move beyond that.” Maybe there’s some truth in that but skin does affect who other people think we are, how they interact with us, and what opportunities we may or may not have. 

I believe the greatest contribution of art (visual, literary, performing) is opening needed discussions and bringing people together. It may very well be art that will redeem us. 

My gift today is layers.

 > Day 241: Strange Customs

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