Friday, December 2, 2016

Esperanza, Envuelta

TITLE: Esperanza, Envuelta (Hope, Enshrouded)
ARTIST: Angelina Kendra, 2016
MATERIALS: cotton fabrics, thread, metal embellishments, silk
SIZE: 28.5 x 42"
This piece represents a visual interpretation of the seven stages of grief, based on the work of psychologist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. As an infographic, the piece reads like a bar chart, with Time beginning at the upper left and moving downward along the Y axis. The fragmented bars represent the stuttering progress and simultaneity of the various stages; I chose prints to reflect the emotional reactions (both my own and others') to this national nightmare.
Shock. The world is shattered.
Shock. Initial reaction to the realization that 61 million AmeriKKKans chose to cast a precious vote for one of the most repugnant megalomaniacs to cross our national stage -- it felt like the world was shattered, like the pieces of reality had cracked into a trillion shards -- could not focus or think or process or barely breathe -- there can't possibly be so many short-sighted, small-minded, self-centered, mythology-driven, anti-intellectual, fetus-fetishizing, cyber-paranoid, hate-filled voters [even though personal knowledge, empathy, and academic training tell me otherwise...rational thought is not invited to the shock party]

Denial. Floating through emptiness.
Denial. Nothing to look at here. Just a void of nothingness. Empty space. Nothing is happening. This is not real.
Anger. Pulsing and insistent.
Anger. Pure, pulsating red rage, throbbing in its insistence. [At least the physical nausea has subsided.] Violent fantasies. Poisonous toxic disgust coursing through every cell of my body. Vengeance fantasies. Nothing nice to say to anyone right now so it's best to seclude myself and let this fire burn itself out a bit. Finding comfort in rising death rates. Nothing nice to say. If there were Thought Police, I'd be in Double Plus Ungood trouble.
Bargaining. Chaotic search for answers.
Bargaining. A chaotic and frantic search for anything that will help...emigration plans, reassurance that at least my own children are healthy straight (?) white males so they will likely be fine in the short term, desperately reading poetry and viewing art, ordering books about the Holocaust, watching documentaries about Civil Rights leaders, volunteering, donating, [backsliding to indulge in more violent fantasies, anger coexists with bargaining, thoughts inseparably braided together], pondering career changes, seeking community, rioting, recounting, protesting, organizing, counting down days until the midterms, [another wave of nausea, hey at least it could keep some weight off, I'd hate to think our national leaders think I'm a Fat Pig], wondering how to galvanize nonvoters and new voters and burn off the apathy and rise up with a united voice for a better future for a rat in a cage with nowhere to go and everything to lose...

Depression. Mesmerizing depths.
Depression. A small square in this visual composition, but so mesmerizing, so enticing, an invitation into a black hole of self-doubt, self-pity, eternal grief, spiraling into an emotional abyss that lasts forever and stains everything and sucks every ounce of joy and humor and spark from the world...desperately clawing onto anything else, even hot boiling rage is a better alternative to avoid disappearing here forever...

Acceptance. A new normal.
Acceptance. Day by day. Agonizing minutes. A slow and steady crawl back to calm moments and a semblance of normalcy. Perhaps as many as five minutes at a time when I can forget about 61 million traitors to freedom and progress and human rights. [No, that's not right -- one can't be a "traitor" never having believed in the first place.] Dinner with friends. Maybe a game with my children. I might chuckle at one of their jokes or tease them about their music. I might vote for John Cena -- he's even got a great "My Time Is Now" slogan all ready to go. We laugh a little about that.

And finally, Kubler-Ross suggests that underlying the entire grieving process is:

Hope. Still hiding in Pandora's box?
Hope. I used one of my favorite prints here, a cosmic fuschia that bubbles with enthusiasm and suggests a dynamic power of barely contained energy. But in this moment, at this time in this place, I have covered this beautiful thing with an ugly shroud, weighed down by the explicit miserable reality of 61 million human beings who would seek to block hope for everyone else. I added the lettering -- en espaƱol -- both to signify the relevance to immigrant populations (not only Spanish-speaking ones) but also as a nod to one of the main characters in Barbara Kingsolver's moving book The Bean Trees, which served as the window that first opened my own eyes to a more worldly vision of compassion:
“A human being can be good or bad or right or wrong, maybe. But how can you say a person is illegal? You just can't. That's all there is to it.”
The matchstick quilting was a meditation. White machine noise to drown out the poisonous rage-filled accusations and nightmarish prophecies screaming through my mind...boring straight lines, made occasionally irregular when I couldn't focus through tears...thick black funereal border to enclose the whole thing and bind it to this hellscape of a moment in history.

The primary question that I have been asking myself over the past month is, What, exactly, am *I* grieving? I don't have a satisfying answer for this. Mostly I think I am grieving the loss of my own hope. My tenuous belief in the goodness of the people with whom I share a national identity. The end of my charade of a complacent suburban mom. My disgust is so profound I can taste it. I know that I will not be part of any "solution" to this schism, because I am not prepared to shine any beacon or hold anyone in the light or pray or wish for anything. I won't even waste my energy trying to have a civil conversation because I, quite literally, have NOTHING nice to say. And I won't be bothered learning a third language where words mean nothing and logic does not apply.

The best thing I have to hope for is a heaping helping of schadenfreude as 61 million delusional AmeriKKKans slowly realize they have just chosen a preeminent con man to preside over the rights-eroding, environment-despoiling, freedom-crushing disgrace that is about to unfold. No one deserves it more than they do.


  1. oh wow, that's really amazing, I kept trying to think about making a piece about the election and I can't even get there, nothing I come up with seems to be able to encompass all the feelings I have about it. but your piece here does, in such a minimalist way, it holds so much with so little, and so simple. I want to hide under it and have a good cry.

    1. Thanks, Miriam. Give your fierce girl an extra hug.

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