I had imagined that this note would be an optimistic welcome to 2021. Instead it is more sobering. Yet I am still hopeful about the world, about artists and our work.
On Wednesday, January 6, I was on a nearly four-hour Zoom Memorial for Amy Lipton, curator and co-director of EcoArtspace, who died of cancer in December at way too young an age. There were well over a hundred people; a significant number stayed to the end. The event was filled with luminaries from Mel Chin to Merle Laderman Ukeles, offering moving tributes to this fierce advocate for the environment and for artists. I was honored to be among those asked to say a few words. I spoke of the exhibition that Amy and I co-curated, called Nurturing Nature: Artists Engage the Environment, in 2011, at the gallery at Concordia College-NY where I was director 2008-12. The exhibit was filled with works of poetic beauty and layered meaning, with thirteen artists including Jackie Brookner, Vaughn Bell, and Xavier Cortada. It remains one of my proudest curatorial projects, not least because of the opportunity to work with Amy.
The memorial was a powerful testament to Amy Lipton’s life and work, to the amazing community of artists, curators, and thinkers that she gathered about her, and to the power of art to bring joy, wonder, inspiration, healing, and movement to our lives.
While we lamented Amy’s loss, notices of the siege of the capitol began to pour in. In the span of the zoom our nation’s capital had been invaded and vandalized, the democratic process of peaceful transfer of power momentarily halted. The terrible contrast between these events was striking.
Amy was a quiet insistent peacebuilder. Peace, beauty and complexity travel a subtle road. They don’t crash into bodies and things, they encircle and entwine, take time and reflection to seep slowly into our being. They require honesty and openness, alongside a willingness to not know, to stay still in the site of greyness.
With art we dream better. Even when seemingly alone in our pursuit, as artists we bring objects into being in an act of complexity over ideology, of creativity over destruction. Daily this notion may be challenged, yet I continue to believe that art gives breath to our collective human soul.