Mixed media on canvas
119.2 cm x 139.2 cm
It began with all the anti-Muslim rhetoric and paranoia that has been plaguing our world since the 9/11 terrorist attacks; the false labelling, the racial and religious murders. Then xenophobia completely boiled over when Syrian refugees started arriving on Europe’s shores. And now we have a US president fueling fires of hatred and segregation, exacerbating an already highly volatile situation.
The question was always how to express, in a work of art, the frustration and horror of what is happening to our world, how countless senseless acts of terror have made people so paranoid that they judge and discriminate those around them irrationally and without any sense of humanity. They see only one layer, they judge the book by its cover.
The painted composition on the canvas is representative of a human: full of complexities, flaws and intricacies, soft and beautiful but also unbalanced with a mixture of darkness and light. I chose a very neutral palette so that the focus is on the forms and shapes, on the basic structure of the human spirit.
The nickel spikes are the cloak of aggression that many now perceive and presuppose from millions of innocent people. When one stands to the side of the painting one sees only a sea of sharp metal, violence, danger, an initial and misinformed impression of this human, but as one moves further in front of the painting more and more is revealed. Only when one stands squarely in front of it one is able to see right through to the reality, the beauty and softness, of the person underneath.
The rigid geometry of the spikes, in formation just like an army, like little soldiers, over the fluidity of the painting, also feel like armor protecting what is vulnerable beneath. Interestingly each individual spike looks sharp and dangerous but seen collectively they become rhythmic and smooth.
And thus the painting begins to take on a deeper meaning, an extension of the original concept. It is that of the armor we all put on to protect ourselves from revealing too much about our lives, our past. Each spike makes up one piece of the whole armor and, when one looks closely at the spikes, one sees that each one is reflecting a piece of the painting beneath it, as though every one of the 1181 spikes is recounting a chapter of the story and collectively they make up a complex history.
Within the composition there are, intentionally, three spikes missing which are symbolic of the possibility to break through this armor, like chinks in the armor if you will, and be permitted access to this person’s reality. No matter how seemingly difficult, there is always a way in. But the spikes are also a warning that dangers lie ahead if one tries to come to close or delve too deep too quickly.
The title thus refers on the one hand to the jackets/vests that suicide bombers wear and on the other hand to armor. One can argue that those that are discriminated against have been forced to put on armors to hide their vulnerability and protect themselves. The two concepts are thus interlinked.
The sheer weight of the painting can be considered as symbolizing the weight of responsibility on our shoulders to treat each other with kindness, love and acceptance, not suspicion, and to be respectful of each other’s differences. To not judge too quickly.