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Art and healing the collective body: reconfiguring controversial public art


Bone chandelier

Dearest readers,

A friend and very talented and compassionate fellow writer recently shared with me the fascinating and horrifying true story of her ancestor, Massachusetts Puritan Hannah Duston (1657-1736).

Hannah Duston has been commemorated and was at one time celebrated for her brutal and vengeful acts of scalping and murdering in their sleep 10 Native American members of her captor family, including women and children, after she and two other women were captured by members of the Quebecois Abenaki tribe during a siege. Duston claimed that her newborn daughter was killed by the Abenaki during the journey to the island where she and the two other women where held hostage.

We cannot know how we will behave in an extreme situation until we find ourselves involved in that very situation. To judge others and how they act is tempting, but is ultimately very unfair.

Six different monuments commemorate Hannah Duston’s act of maternal revenge. These monuments were erected far after the fact, during the 19th century, and were used to justify scalp hunting and brutality against Indigenous peoples.

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The short history of the United States is full of bloodshed, torture, violence, greed, and inequality, but our collective story doesn’t have to continue on this path.

Many of us, especially those of us living in the Southern United States, are constantly reminded of the deep shadows of our historical past. Confederate monuments and whether to preserve or do away with them have in recent months and years made headlines.

confederate monuments

People always do the best they can, at any given moment, based on the level of consciousness at which they are currently operating

It is clear to me that the diverse peoples of our nation have much clearing and healing work to do. The extensive abuses of the past, justified by a level of consciousness that held no qualms about treating other living beings (as well as Nature) as property, can no longer be accepted or considered acceptable.

Blaming, shaming, criticizing, judging, and condemning the actions of past and present humans and cultures does nothing to heal us, nor does it help anyone to shift to a higher level of consciousness

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Humanity is evolving, but the people and the planet still carry the energy of these wounds. And the works of art that celebrated a culture of intolerance and greed remind us all that these shadows live inside all of us, in the forms of racism, social injustice, the ideals of patriarchy, gender inequality…all of the values based on separation from our true human nature…in which there is balance, kindness, compassion, truth, and trust in our inner or intuitive guidance.

Art is a powerful tool for healing

I believe that as both individuals and as nations, we can heal the wounds of our collective past, for ourselves and for our ancestors. Art is a wonderful tool for healing.

My personal, intuitive, and creative suggestion for a step towards healing the wounds created by our nation’s founders and sustained by subsequent generations is to empower all of the diverse peoples and communities of our country.  To create projects allowing all of us to work together to recreate all of the monuments that bear witness to the pain caused by a system that allowed only a few to flourish and many to suffer.

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A call to recreate controversial public monuments

Every monument in this country that upholds the old values and level of consciousness could be deconstructed. Broken down into thousands of individual and neutral pieces. A community could then organically work together to build something new from the old.

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Bronze can be melted. Stone can be transformed into chips, blocks, pebbles, spheres…into anything we can imagine. We can paint, scatter, tell new stories. Create through collaboration and creative play. By working together cooperatively, all peoples could embody the new level of consciousness represented by unity, peace, compassion, non-judgment, joy, playfulness, wonder, and imagination.

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Art and imagination restore a sense of wonder and faith in our innate creative nature

Most people do not realize to what degree they are conditioned by society, family, education, media. It is impossible to incarnate on Earth without being normalized and separated from one’s true nature. That is the adventure of being human and living on Earth. To forget who we are, and then, as we navigate the challenges of life, to remember.

We all have a choice. To stay in the old way of being, based on separation, hierarchy, projection of pain onto others, competition, judgment, shame, victimization, codependency and to play that game for as long as we feel we need to…Or, we can realize that we have learned the lessons that all of these painful experiences of separation have provided. We can choose to be grateful for those lessons, and then move up to the next level of consciousness. There is no right or wrong way of being. All experiences are important, and we are all doing the best we know how.

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It is my hope that humanity will begin to see the beauty in our diversity. By forgiving those who lived before us, we also forgive ourselves and love ourselves more. To give ourselves permission to feel joy once again. Forgiveness is an art form that allows us to let go of anger, hatred, and fear. When we let go of the past with gratitude, we are able to move forward and to create something new. That is healing. Remembering what it feels like to be whole, intact, full of love and trust.

 

 

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