We Are Still Watching
Art and Poetry by Louise Cutler
This Exhibit started from a piece of art that I had created a few years ago entitled “Screams Of The Blkman”. There was something about one particular image of Heuy Newton, where just his eyes were uncovered, they stood out in this piece even after I had completed it. It was as if this one person was looking out from the shadows to see how far we had come with what had been started. After two years I was drawn back to this piece of work. There was something in the eyes, they were speaking, and they were saying there is more to be told. I revisited the piece and began working on The Exhibit “We Are Still Watching”. It spoke to me and I listened. Researching old historical photos from the past along with rediscovering the history behind them I was able to connect past, present, and future and it was not pretty. I found out that there was so much missing from my/our history lessons or just not being taught. Thirty 12x12 historical photo montage came from my research along with six repurposed hanging door panels dedicated to the exploration of man’s inhumanity to man and one hanging installation revisiting a revision of famous lines from The Merchant Of Venice, “If You Shoot Me will I Not Die.”
I was once told that history is written through the eyes of the victor so I grew up in school not learning the truth, I grew up learning the edited victor’s version. I was always taught that there are always two sides to a story and that you should listen to both before making a decision. After searching I have found the other side.
By presenting the exhibit, “We Are Still Watching” in exhibitions throughout the US it will allow it to be seen by a broader audience. This is important for several reasons, first, the exhibit addresses what is going on in the world today through the eyes of our past. We are living in a time where the social climate is becoming somewhat volatile. Where the lines between truth and lie, right and wrong are being blurred. Creating a society of desensitized youth with historical amnesia and limited social awareness. It addresses the need to not just learn about our past but also to understand what and why certain things occurred. George Santayana wrote in Volume 1 of The Life of Reason. "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. I find you can’t remember what you have not been taught. Our past was never meant to be forgotten, hidden, rewritten, or softened for future generations. We were meant to study, teach and learn from it.
Second, it tells the truth through the eyes of the faithful men and women from our past that paved the way for us. They are now reaching out from the shadows to say, what happened to the dream? What these men and women looked forward to; freedoms, rights, and equalities we look back to, having seen some fulfillment of their works.
Third, It is a personal journey for each and every individual that walks through and drinks in the truth. It removes the blinders. And fourth it is needed,” As a mother of three, I grew very concerned with how and what my children were being taught and not taught in school especially with what is happening in today’s political climate. The lies and hidden hatreds of a few have boiled over and become mainstream. The media has become a circus with humanity as it’s entertainment. Propaganda in the schools as well as in the media has become the new truth. I find it unfair to our children to teach them half-truths. W.E.B. Dubois wrote:
One is astonished in the study of history at the recurrence of the idea that evil must be forgotten, distorted, skimmed over. We must not remember that Daniel Webster got drunk but only that he was a splendid constitutional lawyer. We must forget that George Washington was a slave owner . . . and simply remember the things we regard as credible and inspiring. The difficulty, of course, with this philosophy is that history loses its value as an incentive and example; it paints perfect man and noble nations, but it does not tell the truth.
We Are Still Watching surround us with individuals of the past in a unique way. It’s not that the faithful who have gone before us are spectators to the race we run. Rather, the exhibit ‘We Are Still Watching” is a figurative representation. It means that we ought to act as if they were as a reminder for us to continue with what they started. By remembering our past struggles as a nation, society, and people. We are to be inspired by the examples these men and women set during their lives. Those whose past lives of faith and courage encouraged others and paved the way for future generations to excel. Millions have gone before and died, each bearing a burden that we do not have to because they did.
During one of the opening nights of the Exhibit in Fort Collins, an older woman that was visiting the exhibit thanked me as she left with tears in her eyes for presenting the truth. The next day a young man walked in and left weeping and said that he would return. He stated it was too much to take in all at once. My desire is to see this exhibit travel the globe touching millions and changing a nation.
I created “We Are Still Watching” with a desire to press into the stories I did not learn in school. I researched men, women, and groups of people who have struggled with injustice, poverty, and the horrors of war, people that she sees as a part of ‘the great cloud of witnesses.’ I processed my findings through my writings and visual art.
I created this compelling body of work that invites viewers to participate in the process of learning and carrying the stories and works of these faithful men and women forward. My work asks, “Will you sit back and reap the benefits of their faithfulness, or will you join the great cloud of witnesses and press on toward the finish line?” To assist in the learning experience and to help the audience fully emerge the exhibit we have added QR codes for each piece to allow engagement with each person and exhibit item.