“Imagine "Freedom" as a call, a song, a shout, a demand from the earthbound to the heavens. This would be the sky high view. Imagine "Freedom" as a canopy. Beneath its dome, the word would appear to us like this, mirrored. Toni Morrison said, "the function of freedom is to free somebody else." The work of freedom is not about securing yours or mine but to bring the threads of our collective freedom together into one all encompassing canopy. Ours is a nation of deadly paradox: the promise of freedom constructed on a cracked foundation. This nation built on stolen land, mass genocide of indigenous folks, the labor of kidnapped Africans, incarcerates more people than any other like it. Built on the faulty promise of freedom for some, this nation persecutes, demonizes, and imprisons Black, Indigenous, People of Color, and those in poverty at astounding rates. Health and human rights systemically and brutally stripped away. This broken version of freedom is a promise unfulfilled, an anti-freedom in reality, an edifice that has crumbled, toppled, and crushed lives in its wake. These injustices, the destruction of the human spirit, individuals lives, family structures, and communities is the destruction of the nation as a whole. This is a call, a demand for the fulfillment of freedom. We see the true definition of freedom, without faults: a wholeness with justice intact, free from dehumanizations and subjugations. We hold this vision and build from the rubble.
Boustrophedon is a word for text written right to left and left to right in alternating lines. It comes from the path of an ox ploughing land back and forth like a thread weaving back and forth across the warp of the land. This land, land stolen from our indigenous brothers and sisters. This land, worked by those subjugated, racialized, and forcibly migrated for profit. This land and nation that continues to demonize, profit from, and incarcerate those who seek the promise of freedom in a nation that has yet to weave its collective canopy of freedom. And, in that sense this call to the heavens appears backwards. Its answer yet to be fulfilled.”
Sonya Clark is a professor of Art at Amherst College in Amherst, Massachusetts. She earned an MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art and was honored with their Distinguished Alumni Award in 2011. She has a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She is the recipient of a United States Artist Fellowship, a Pollock Krasner award, an 1858 Prize, Art Prize Grand Jurors Award, and an Anonymous Was a Woman Award, a Red Gate Residency in China, a BAU Carmago Residency in France, a Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Residency in Italy, and a Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship.
Hear from Sonya Clark: