I originally conceived of this blog as a chronicle of dumb things I’ve done and the ways I got out of them, mostly in the kitchen. The premise was that we all make mistakes and basing it on something that is so essential to every living thing–striving to nourish ourselves and, more importantly, those we love–would hopefully give readers a shared sense that we are, indeed, not alone. That we are all in this complicated pitfall-filled life together.
Recently, though, I’ve written about other peoples’ disasters and horrors, most recently Geraldo Rivera and the hateful things he says nearly every time he opens his mouth. This morning, though, I want to celebrate a glorious I Can’t Believe He Did It, namely the artist Kehinde Wiley and his sculpture, “Rumors of War.”
We should all know Wiley as the artist who painted President Obama’s official portrait.
His statue, currently on display in Times Square before it moves to its permanent location in Richmond, Virginia, manages to accomplish two seemingly impossible things. The huge statue lords over the surrounding chaos of cars and pedestrians trying not so hard to collide together, as well as the onslaught of flashing lights, pulsing videos, hawkers, frightening furry beings and super heroes. The young man astride a galloping horse must be confronted. He will not be denied.
And then there is the statue’s composition. It is a favorite of Civil War monuments. Confederate generals frozen forever in deliberate purpose, bent forward in mid-charge, bent on conquering all that lies before him.
Wiley’s young man, hair a dredlock crown, and wearing a hoodie and torn jeans, turns his face to the side, looking straight at you. The horse he commands, right hoof raised, is about to pound the earth.
I immediately felt a surge of wonder when I saw the statue in the The New York Times. After slogging through the paper’s front section which threaten to produce a good case of angina, especially over my rising trepidation that the Democrats might fail to make the impeachment anything more that a gift to Trump, the article about “Rumors of War”–actually just the image of it–gave me a positively wonderful “holy shit” moment. Wiley’s representation of unfaltering resolution of a figure far too often hunted, rendered powerless, made me remember art’s formidably ability to ignite an exchange of opposing principals and ideas. It’s often in-you-face-stance is a force of change, a means to bring to the forefront our differences that may–just may–allow us to recognized shared aspirations.
That Times Square was chosen for its unveiling is a perfect starting point for this. What other public space in America could “Rumors of War” be seen by so many people of different persuasions and ideologies? Surely this commanding young man and horse has the singular power that may lead us to the kind of productive ruckus that is not so ease to shut out. The kind of ruckus that holds the possibility of arriving at a holier place than where we find ourselves now.
That’s the blessing of great art.
Listen to Kehine Wily’s unveiling Rumors of War. And please go see his astounding hero Now.