An Attempt, 2017. Commissioned by the Contemporary Jewish Museum for the exhibition Sabbath.
My approach to the theme of Sabbath in this work is through my lens as an artist who is constantly attempting, and many times failing, to carve out time for contemplation, observation, and reflection. Time used for these acts is often considered unproductive within our culture, and generally, our busied minds push aside efforts at thoughtful introspection. However, this practice of carving out time for reflection is as imperative to a practice of the Sabbath in many cultures or religious traditions as it is to the practice of art making.
Recently, I have been making sculptural false beards that are deployed in a variety of ways to address power structures that I find problematic within our culture. The form of the false beard is borrowed from ancient Egyptian pharaohs who wore them to represent their power and authority. One such pharaoh was the female ruler Hatshepsut. This female claiming of power through the wearing of what is a typically male attribute, the beard, has been a fruitful symbol through which I address patriarchal structures and resulting embedded biases.
I like to think of these beards as absurd but also as reflecting the need to claim and to project our individual power, no matter our gender, race, religion, etc. For An Attempt, this “claiming” is the prioritization of the freeing of time from the demands of labor.
In this sculpture, the beard is comprised of a scale that precariously balances symbolic representations of our attempts to control time, physically and conceptually. The scale can easily be knocked out of balance but always has the potential for equilibrium, even if momentarily. Ultimately, our sustained attempt at balancing the scale is a precarious endeavor with fleeting moments of clarity.