A portion of my family lives in Richmond, Virginia. My grandmother, still working 6 days a week well into her 90s, owns an antique store within an antique mall just outside Richmond. On occasion, a customer will come into her store and through conversation or otherwise deduce that her religion is Judaism. This promotes various modes of well intentioned persuasion to accept Jesus into her heart so that she may go to Heaven. “It saddens me that a lovely woman such as yourself will spend all eternity in Hell.” to which she replies “Well… If that’s where all my loved ones are going then I want to go there too.”
Stories like these from my southern-based largely Jewish family have rung in my ears throughout my life. I’ve often wondered, if you know that your Jewish/queer/pre-marital sex sinner friends and family are going the Hell to suffer forever, would you rather live in peace or be right there with them? Regardless of your opinions about the afterlife, the classical image of “Hell” is something that we all have witnessed: fire and brimstone, darkness and demons, torture and pain, Hieronymus Bosch. Somewhere within the 2016/2017 political climate my art practice shifted from the individual-personal to the collective-personal. How can we make our personal hell, in whatever form that may take, a place where we can come together and support each other as a community? How can we create a space in the worst possible scenario where we can support each other, love each other, talk to each other, and create beautiful things together?
In July of 2017 I presented an installation, video, and painting series as the culmination of my residency at Cooper Union in the East Village. I invited friends to perform in the space, which I fashioned into a lounge of sorts with plants, foam cubes to lie on, shrines to meditate to… complete with air cleansing Himalayan salt lamps and a groovy lava lamp. The paintings depicted a lava flow, intervened with rainbow pathways and apparatuses inspired by challenges in the long-running reality game show Survivor. I titled the project after my grandmother’s phrase, “…if that’s where all my loved ones are going then I want to go there too.”