Crucible (Document) 2020
Metallic leaf and mixed media on paper
mounted on canvas, 40 x 55 inches.
There are a number of years since the founding of the United States that stand out for the turmoil and darkness etched into our collective memory. Among others: 1861 and the beginning of the Civil War; 1918 and the great influenza pandemic; 1929 and the stock market crash and Great Depression; 1941 and the attack on Pearl Harbor; and 1968 and the anti-war protests and widespread civil unrest. All these years became indelible moments certainly in the minds of those who lived through them, but these years also often signaled the beginning or end of an era. Such was the year 2020, a year of foreboding, confusion and fear ; a tragic and trying year that will also be remembered as a supreme test of the country’s endurance in a number of ways: millions of Americans infected with a devastating virus that claimed nearly 3000 lives a day by year’s end; social upheaval wrought by the murder of innocent citizens of color by state and local police forces; the unrelenting attack on the foundations of our democracy by a rogue, dictatorial president and his corrupted allies; and the wholesale dismantling of evidentiary truth by extremist propaganda. All this and the continued assault on the natural environment by corporate profiteers with little regard for the lives affected by a warming planet.
Crucible is meant to be a record, a testament to a horrifying time in our history when some of the deepest ills of our society surfaced, laying bare social, political and economic divisions that continue to threaten our union and fragile democracy, a threat compounded by a deadly, insatiable virus and a president who was hell-bent on destroying the American experiment. Any doubt that this was the intention of the outgoing president and his enablers in Congress was put to rest when the president contested the results of the November election and then attempted to subvert the democratic process by fomenting insurrection as the electoral votes were being certified in the nation’s capitol on January sixth of the new year. As much as we would like to forget 2020, to seal its trauma and madness in the history books, there is something to be said for remembering how we were tested by this horrific year, this indelible mark in our collective psyches. As the prominently displayed Roman Numerals for 2020 on the dark metallic outline of the United States set against a grid of gyrating compass plots in Crucible suggests, we as a nation are not above losing our way and falling into the dark abyss of history. There will be many difficult days ahead for our country, but I am cautiously optimistic about our future. As of this writing our democracy, while in tatters, seems to have prevailed. I believe that we will eventually overcome our worst fears and self-destructive tendencies and rediscover the decency that will reunify us as a democratic nation. Crucible would have us remember this year as a time when the soul of America was tempered by fire.