Monday, March 7, 2011

"Compassion Fatigue," an art show

At Saturday's art crawl, I attended the opening reception of "Compassion Fatigue", a themed art show at the Downtown Presbyterian Church. One of the most striking pieces there was this photograph by my friend,  Tasha French. The statement below explains it brilliantly. Hearing the process of it's making was pretty vivid, as well. I wish/hope you get to see this in person- it is so strong.


"In this work, Hindu mythology mixes with Christian imagery to explore the grace and destruction inherent in compassion fatigue. In the Hindu paradigm, Kali is both creator and destroyer. In her aspect as the destroyer, Kali is over taken by blood lust and begins to destroy the universe. Her destruction only ends when her consort Shiva throws himself on the ground in front of her. The supposedly slain body of Shiva brings Kali out of her frenzy. Kali is Shakti, the primordial universal life force which brings about liberation and salvation. Yet Kali in her dark aspect is a forbidden thing that haunts our boundary regions and cremation grounds.

Here, Kali (embodied by a woman who performs the roles of activist, chaplain, teacher and homeless outreach worker) is present in the midst of destruction, yet is not the cause of the destruction. She is the Christ bodhisattva; terrible to look upon because of the reality she embodies and reflects. Two hands, seemingly empty, hold the nothingness that is everything, that which she truly has to give, but is seldom recognized as enough in a world of material needs and desires. Another hand holds a bowl of both baptism and cremation ashes, representing the eternal cycle of salvation and destruction. Another hand holds a staff, the shepherd’s crosier, marking the seemingly futile watching and gathering of lambs that nonetheless are taken to slaughter. Everyone healed is eventually destroyed. Another hand, raised defiantly, clutches the holy palm branch of Passover; symbolic of the willingness to turn toward the city and embrace destruction. And finally, behold the Lamb of God, raised by the sixth arm, watching the goddess in the midst of destruction. This is the anguish of the human Christ, vessel of unending compassion whose slain corpse reminds us of the cost of true grace.

Her body carries the burdens of those she refuses to let go, one lambs head representative of a child who died in her arms, one lambs head she holds as a the head of a brother executed by the state, and one head, the head of a man whose charred body marked the very ground upon which she stands, the cremation ground of the destroyed Tent City: a holy, sanctified, terrible place where the world’s disinherited and unwanted found love and healing in equal proportions with beatings, mental illness and dis-ease. Behind the goddess and the cremation ground stretch the highways leading into and out of the city, yet all is utterly still in the eye of destruction.

The potential of unburdened resurrection lies before her, yet until she allows for the liberation from samsara; she remains, willingly, fixed within the destruction."

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