Date: July 2020
Material: brown alabaster
Dimensions: 46cm x 40cm x 12cm
I have been on such an interesting journey with this piece. In the pre-carved stone, I could see a dark stem on a lighter base which looked like a feather or leaf. I could also see a lady's head with a hair bun at the back of her head. I decided to stay true to the stone and follow what I could see.
As I was carving, I had a sense that this was a particular woman in history. I began carving in December 2019 but had to stop due to having the flu and then the Covid-19 lockdown and resumed it in May 2020. I was carving this piece at the time of the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis USA and the growth of the #BLM Movement. I finished the carving in early July.
I looked on the internet for a woman with a similar appearance to the black woman I had carved. I stumbled on the image of Frances Watkins Harper (1825 - 1911) who had a bun, with the same hair line, a smaller nose than most and the same cheek bone structure. I have discovered the following about her life through reading on line:
Frances Watkins Harper's first published writing was a pamphlet of poems, called 'Forest Leaves'. It was rediscovered during the last decade by Johanna Ortner whilst she was researching her Phd. It is believed to be one of the first books published by a black female author in the USA. The title of her pamphlet of poems 'Forest Leaves' linked to the leaf on the shoulder of my sculpture . She was a practicing Christian and a member of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (A.M.E) which was one of the first black churches in the USA (Christianity and Methodism both connections with myself). She was an abolitionist and refused to 'give up her seat' nearly one hundred years before Rosa Parks. She was also a suffragist, co-founding the American Woman Suffrage Association in 1869 as well as being a teacher, public speaker and being one of the most prolific African American writers of the 19th Century.
Therefore, this sculpture is named 'Forest Leaves' after the first published works of Frances Watkins Harper for Black Lives Matter and hoping it will serve as a reminder of the many lives which have campaigned and cried out for change and equality over hundreds of years for change. Let that change be now. Amen
The Awakening (Ezekiel's Valley of Dry Bones)
Date: December 2020
Material: Forest of Dean Sandstone
Dimensions: 120cm x 60cm x 82cm
This was going to be a man kneeling for Black Lives Matter but I felt he was from a more ancient time. The sculpture made me think about the Old Testament story from the Book of Ezekiel (Chapter 37) where the prophet Ezekiel is told by God to prophesy to the valley of dry bones. These bones are of those who were slain. He prophesied that they would listen and be formed. They come together… bones, tendons, flesh and breath… to form a living army. This sculpture might be the first warrior. I carved a skull at his feet to show he came from death. The name was difficult. I didn’t want him to be seen as a crusader, as the battle is spiritual to love others as we love ourselves, violence is not the way. This sculpture for me is a symbol of hope. Life out of death. Very pertinent for these times. A metaphor of our rising up with new life to bring change, a new way to be, during growing troubles.
Date: February 2021
Material: White Alabaster
Dimensions: 30cm x 33cm x 16cm
This piece could have been titled in anticipation of all the grandparents who, since February 2020, haven't been able to be with their grandchildren due to the Covid lock down. But it is a reminder of the fleeting nature of life. How we are all born, age and finally depart.
Valley of the Shadow
Date: June 2021
Dimensions: 85cm x 25cm x 25cm
When I selected this stone, I could see the profile of a white male with his arms raised. I simply carved him out. It looks like he is being tortured or flogged.
Between January 2009 and May 2013, Amnesty International received reports of torture in 141 countries (including Guantanamo). According to the United Nations Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states; “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
The UN Convention against Torture came into force on 26th June 1987. It requires countries to take active steps to prevent torture and declares: “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.” Yet many countries (too many to list), North Korea being the main offender, still use dehumanising torture for those of a different religion, ethnicity or of political beliefs.
The title is taken from Psalm 23:4.