The mural-size drawings behind Big Gal Faith and Lucifer, a dense forest of interlocking words and images stenciled on fabric, function as a theater backdrop. The specific drawings are as follows:
-Zebra focuses on the neutral amorality of animals eating and killing other animals -Horrible Words contains horrible words of catastrophe and cataclysm -Small Queen of Cruelty and Dismemberment is from two stories told to a documentary journalist, Ed Robbins, in the South Sudan in 2010. One is about Moses Clement, a 15 year-old South Sudanese boy, who was kidnapped and tortured by the LRA. The other story is told by Sister Giovanna in South Sudan about the mutilation of a Sudanese man. -River of Blood of Blind Desire is a drawing about lust and craving, centered on a nude torso of a woman collaged in shades of black cloth and paper. -Forgiveness is a large drawn and collaged female figure in a swirl of language that reflects the complex ambiguities of admission, remorse, regret, and forgiveness. -REFUGE -Thoughtful Man is an image of a man's head, collaged with white painted paper, embedded in language of thoughtfulness and contemplation. -Drunk with the Great Starry Void is a collaged image of a seated man from whom emanates a river of star shapes and language of rapture and transcendent discovery. -Eaters and Eaten in the Radiant Garden of Sorrow and Rapture is a summation of the themes in the exhibit and represents the luminous and encompassing world of a battlefield of opposing and spiraling forces.
There are a number of roads I move along. I use the words of poets (Dickinson, Dante, Kafa, Milton, Neruda, Sleigh, Kner, Harwell,Donne,Espriu); the vernacular stories as told to me of visionary experience in North Carolina; the words of folk artist and preacher Sister Gertrude Morgan; my own experiences from years of living in India as well as my childhood visionary experience; and as-told-to me stories from Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan and Liberia. The language for this installation is collected from poets both historic and current and from transcripts given to me by a video journalist of his recent work in Liberia and South Sudan.
It has been a challenge to align the first hand stories of war and corruption with my investigation of spiritual life. The word "faith" is in itself a conflict. Inside it is a tension between equanimity and fear of horrors, whether from the outside world or the interior mental world. Faith is an active word, as it requires a taking on of evil in an attempt to comprehend the incomprehensible. This project Faith & the Devil, is a walk through a person's mind – encompassing a world in which unfathomable actions of dismemberment and cruelty co-exist with times of refection and illumination. My theme of faith should in no way be mistaken for a kind of earnestness or naïve surrender. I believe the soul is huge, hungry and ravenous, and faith contains as much fear as optimism and crazy grace. I am drawn to explore these things, the big story. I have worked with these themes—cruelty, lust, forgiveness, transcendence, etc.—across a decade of large-scale projects and exhibitions. They include a year-long community & museum project in Winston-Salem, N.C. called Tongues on Fire: Visions and Ecstasy, 2000-2001, followed by another year long project for a Boulder museum exhibition called Interviews with the Contemplative Mind. In 2008 I conceived, produced, and directed an opera based on the language of Emily Dickinson, Divide Light, preformed in San Jose, CA. Most recently in New Orleans, fall 2010, at Arthur Roger Gallery I created an installation based on the life of Sister Gertrude Morgan, a street preacher, artist, and poet who worked in New Orleans during the sixties and seventies, called Hell Hell Hell/ Heaven Heaven Heaven: Encountering Sister Gertrude Morgan & Revelation.
Lesley Dill, Brooklyn, May 2012