Architecture and Construction by Sapata Fofana-Dura and Santigie Fofana-Dura; electronics by George Lee, Zeal Mayfield, and me; concept and painting by me. Composed of about 1200 bricks cut from wood salvaged from multiple sources, including a from house fire, The Shrine of Humility was made to exist for only three months of 2019, and is now no more. The unsuspecting, possibly reluctant supplicant would enter the shrine alone and be cast into darkness, enduring this for some time, when at last they are granted a vision.
The relevance of any undertaking can only ever be proportional to its purposiveness.
The Shrine of Humility, or ANIMVS·SVMMISSVS is a reaction to the affronts to consciousness and dignity we face in a world of ever greater depersonalization and isolation. Technology has allowed us to consume more than what we could ever hope to actually assimilate, more than what our own native sensorial metabolic rate can sustain, whether speaking about the merely material, or sensation, or thoughts and ideas. It’s expected that we will consume many hundreds of images and impressions in any single minute of any day, a single image only commanding perhaps at most some few seconds of direct attention. In this way, impressions and thoughts remain only the constituent parts of unformed ideas, and may then never go on to ever being anything more than assumptions which cannot be consciously attended to, where no inquiry is possible. This sort of overloading of the faculties induces a psychological state of passivity, somnambulance, confusion, and purposelessness. Life is thus proportionally less lived.
What if we were to have an image which is only seen by one observer, in a liminal space, for longer than a few seconds, yet perhaps only for as long as any reasonable directed attention might last, knowing that the image is not extant elsewhere in any form and that sharing the experience is not possible. Neither artist nor viewers are looking for “followers” because there is no association of images to be had. And the image may only ever be experienced once. The purpose of this exercise is to remind us that this is in fact always the nature of any experience: an image that can be seen by only one observer does not possess an objective reality— objective experiences are the varying attempts to share what is ineffable, observed as a functional state by any present consciousness. Only you know for sure what you have seen, and of course even that is impossible.
Take back your Subjective Truth because it is the only Truth. Here is a humble shrine where we hope you may find a moment of illumination and awakening.
For further elaboration on these ideas and how this relates to the message of the Encyclical theme, please see the accompanying project monograph.
LA VICTORIA Portland Art Contest [audition interview, slightly edited]
Tell me a little about your background. (Where did you grow up? Did you attend college? Are you an artist for a living or is it a hobby? If it’s a hobby, what do you do for a living?)
I was born in Memphis, TN and was raised mainly there and throughout Florida— my parents were nursing home administrators, so in the afternoons and summers I sort of grew up in various nursing homes and retirement communities. I attended one of the great fine-art magnet high schools in the country (my art teacher went on to become National Art Teacher of the Year), then studied at The University of Memphis under a full art scholarship. In 2002 I moved to Portland to work as a muralist, and soon opened my own studio-gallery for a few years. I attended Portland State University briefly for Linguistics and Russian, before deciding that I was probably better off doing art!
Explain your art work and style.
The best way to describe my work might be “life-size, polychrome, quasi-photorealistic figurative oil-paintings”, and with regard to the subjects, I’ve felt that my artistic prototypes were Klimt, Modigliani, or Van Gogh, in the sense that they wanted to consecrate sincere humanity and humanness.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
After school, when I was able to begin doing the art I really wanted to do, I was drawn to doing the simplest kind of art imaginable— just portraits of my friends. When I met my wife-to-be, I went on to do probably close to fifty life-size paintings of her over the years. Lately I’ve been doing larger pieces where the starting point and centerpiece is an idea, and the surface reality is only a means to the end of exploring the idea; the art itself is meant to be didactic, working to be an instrument toward helping people achieve their potentialities.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
This is a complicated question to answer fully, but my proudest accomplishment is absolutely without question, in essence, the realization of what I’ve just mentioned, which is that I do have the means to help people achieve their potentialities, and that I actually acted on this somehow. When I began learning Russian, I thought I should volunteer to help immigrants learn English, because it would help me learn too, so I contacted IRCO, the Immigrant & Refugee Community Organization. Over the next year and a half I actually ended up through this project doing 400 hours of volunteer work (barely any of it having anything to do with Russian), teaching English and computer skills to refugee and immigrant children and adults.
What’s your favorite work you’ve ever created? Why?
I don’t know! There are definitely some works I like more than others, and there are certain favorites, and certain ones I hope I never have to sell, but with almost all of them I don’t even think about them much until I take a moment to step out of my day to look at a piece and let my mind drift back to recall the time and place of when I was making it. The first pieces I did after moving to Portland are very special, and the capstone among these of this golden time I feel would have to be a painting of my wife called Double Flowering Plum, because more than in any other work there is a soul and spirit present that is to me almost miraculous.
What does “Modern West Coast Lifestyle” mean to you?
This phrase paints a vivid picture for almost anyone— there is only whether one can find a way to put it into words and do the picture justice. Because when I moved here in 2002, I drove to Portland from Memphis via I-40, and I was able to see and feel, mile by mile, America literally transform completely into the place I had dreamt of. Personally, as a discontent of the East Coast and The South, The Modern West Coast Lifestyle is something I’m dead serious about. My wife moved here at 18 from North Dakota, so she also is a Seeker. Everyone wants to be here, despite many grave social problems— there are social problems everywhere— but here there is to me a kind of hopefulness and freshness. It’s even in the air and soil. I started feeling it around Flagstaff, and felt it keenly in Death Valley (even though I blew my clutch out) and all the rest of the way since.
The Modern West Coast Lifestyle is to me the aesthetic manifestation of unbelievable creative and intellectual capital and the untold millions of self-determining Seekers. It is a forward looking, hopeful culture unto itself with inclusive, highly socially felicitous values.
I think a lot of us would go further West if we could, but for now this is the end of the line. Further West may not even be a place on Earth at all…!