Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Vanessa German: The Boy with the Liberty

i guess that today was the hardest day because when we were in the gallery giving the walking around having been through conversation about oppression and deep discussion of one of the figures holding a pressure gauge riding on an alligator on a skateboard and me telling the kids listen when i was a little girl people told me all of the time black girls don’t ride skateboards. black girls don’t sing country music. black girls don’t walk up mountains. cuz black girls just don’t. and how sometimes some ideas can sit in your head and sit in your heart and keeping you just sitting sitting against the searing feeling that you just must Fly. and how those ideas and the space between you, the ideas, and flight is where you will find your power. and then i demonstrated this by placing my hands on a little boy’s head and trying to keep him down. and i said is it hard to stand up? he said yes. i said right here. this place between the pushing down and the trying to rise. this is where you have to make a decision. and it’s hard right. and he says yes. but he keeps pushing to rise. and he does. and his face is red and all his peers are saying ooohhh ohhhh. See you almost didn’t stand up. and he says but i did. and i said and it feels good right to not have the pressure pushing down on you. and he nods his head a lot and says yes yes and he is a little out of breath. and his friends are congratulating him and he is smiling. and i tell him that feeling, that feeling you have now. that feeling is liberty. and wherever you see birds in my sculptures they mean the feeling that you have right now. and he gets it and then we go to another sculpture. and i tell the kids. as the artist of these works i decide what i want them to mean. i have my own language for these shapes. and you can have your own too. i tell them i decide for my art. you decide for your art. and they all repeat after me and tell each other. I Decide. then i say so you will make a power figure today. if it could have any power what would your power have? and the same little boy with the liberty says i will make my figure have the power to get my dad out of jail. and some of the other kids go oooohhh. hush. and it gets quiet. and he says i would get my dad out of the jail. and i tell him sometimes i do that too. i have friends in jail. and sometimes i make an art for them that imagines the first day they are free after all of that captivity. and i imagine the first step into free air. and how they will feel with the sun on their faces and flowers and grass all around them. and he says yes. but 3 other kids step aside. and they start to cry one by one. i notice this but time is short so we move on. and one little boy stays back even further and cries. and the teacher cries a little bit. and she says i don’t know what is happening today we are all so emotional. and then we go into the studio to make powerfigures. and the making is gleeful. and the one little boy who hung back the furthest. who cried and then spoke so softly it was like trying to catch wind in a box. he works very slowly and i help him where i can. and at the end when it’s time to add treasures to the figures he just says i’m done. in a voice so soft i thought that all he did was move his shoe. and i say ok and we finish the class and there is joy. but this boy he goes to a wall and begins to hit his head against the wall. just hard enough but not too hard. and the teacher lets him do this thing. his thing. and the other students know too. some have fidgets. and he keeps hitting his head against the wall. no sound came down from his head and out of his mouth. this sharp bam-bam-bam would have to do. and then there was the little boy with cancer. and the little girl who could not stop asking me. is this right. is this right. is this right. till i wanted to just ask her if it’s not right then what does wrong look like? all this to say what we have here is so beautiful. i seen it. real up close. and the miracle proves its shine. every single time.

Copyright 2015 Vanessa German


Vanessa German, Power Figure to keep me Alive

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