Thank you to everyone who has visited the show of my work at the Alameda County Law Library, “Words that Glimmer, Words that Break.” It meant so much to me to see each of you who came out to the reception. Here is an abbreviated tour for those who have not had the chance to go. It’s up for another two weeks. If you would still like to see it, I hope you’ll get a chance to stop by!
The show includes twenty “Indeterminate Language” pieces, such as the one shown above. The centers contain a single letterpressed word, or grouping of words, that are so imbued with meaning: legal, historical, literal, metaphorical, cultural, spiritual, or personal, that the words become difficult to define and often represent differing meanings among various individuals. The torn paper on the outer perimeter of the circles was handmade in my studio using pulp from the scraps of the Hush and Justice pieces, and torn, outdated “pocket parts.” Pocket parts are legal code updates that are stored in a pocket in the back cover of some legal reference books.
The text on the wall beside these works reads,
“Define ‘Art,’ or ‘Beauty.’ Although the words are used commonly, everyone sees them through their own personal lens. The nature of language to be indeterminate is both a blessing and a curse. It makes poetry beautiful, but renders legal code difficult to write and understand. Despite tremendous effort given to pinning down meaning through complicated legal language, the ambiguous nature of words still leaves the window open to successfully argue positions that are outside the law’s intent.
The length and complexity of our laws and contracts attempt to thwart the effects of indeterminate language. But does this solution help citizens to live by our laws, or may it actually cause infractions because citizens don’t know what these documents say?”
On the back wall of the library is “Hush!” The Miranda Warning is printed in a chorus of typefaces on the torn, bits of paper that make the leafy background. Lines of the Miranda Warning are further echoed in the sticks of the nest.
The sign beside “Hush!” says,
“In our communities, our children are taught to discuss problems, yet in legal settings we maintain silence, lest words break ourselves or loved ones. This right to remain silent is intended to protect and derives from the Fifth Amendment, which in turn has its roots in the Magna Carta. But silence conceals the truth and suppresses the roots of transgression. Thus it lends scant scaffold for recovery or growth to either the victim or the violator.
Could it be possible to open painfully difficult situations to a process that uncovers the truth without placing the accused in a situation where they must be protected from the effects of the legal system?”
To the right of Hush! on the side of the stairs, is a mural sized piece. It was finished the night before it was installed. I took the photo below at four in the morning on the day that I finished it, just before I began mounting the backing on it for installation in the show.
Here is the text beside “Justice” at the library,
“In our communities, we teach our children to apologize and forgive, yet many of our courthouses sport an icon of Lady Justice that favors retribution rather than accountability. Our icon pits two sides against each other, which conjures corrosive argument. She is blindfolded rather than seeing truth or expressing compassion. She cuts down and casts out the guilty, ignoring that they, too, are our children.
What effect might it have on our justice system if we change our cultural image, our icon, of ‘Justice?'”