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Column: Artist to Artist

Lisa Lamoreaux

Invitation to Inspiration

by Lisa Lamoreaux

An artist friend invited me to participate in an art project for her local public library — It was a deeply intriguing subject and project: Artists had to create a piece of 3-dimensional artwork incorporating an actual copy of a "banned and censored" book.

Even though this came at a particularly busy time for me, I found myself saying YES!

“ the daily tasks of life should
not eclipse those activities
that feed the soul... ”

After all, the daily tasks (mundane or otherwise) of running my business/household/life should not eclipse those activities that "feed my soul".

Besides, the notion of "censorship" swirled in my mind, tempting me in a way I simply couldn't pass up!

I was glad I accepted this invitation to inspiration — I was struck by the thoughtfulness and innovation each artist put into their book. One piece in particular stood out for me in its straightforward commentary and simple, yet complex design...

Visually striking at a distance, I was drawn in by the open and splayed pages of the tiny book and the white bird laying on its side on top of it. Not knowing the title, I wondered if the bird had fallen off a stand or pedestal, and if I should rescue it from the irreverence of its position, with its feet sticking straight out.

I stepped in closer to get a better look — It was then that the genius of Sarah Lovett's work was revealed... and revealed again... in layers of stunning insight.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Sarah Lovett

Sarah Lovett - “To Kill a Mockingbird”
Censorship into Art: Banned Books Display

When I saw the book was Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mocking Bird", at once I heaved a sigh of relief that the piece was "safe"... and a mood of seriousness took over upon realizing this Pulitzer Prize literary work of art was "banned" from the public eye.

As I looked closer at Lovett's piece, I was encouraged to pick up the bird and hold it. It had the floppy soft quality one would associate with a deceased bird. The paper bits that comprised the feathers of this tiny inspired creature, began to come into focus. What I saw stopped me in my tracks....they were the story of the book, minus the "ugly" words and profanity for which this book is known (and subsequently censored for).

I then closely examined the book, and marveled at how meticulously the artist had cut out all the text except the "ugly" words, revealing an intriguing three dimensional web, behind which a spooky shadowy face emerges.

Viewing these letters and words in this context, it occurred to me that I myself am impacted by the "meaning" these words have for me, and the history of them in my culture.

I noticed the switch inside myself — From casually and objectively viewing a beautiful and provocative piece of art... to being personally engaged in a conflict with the meaning these words carry... and the reality that these words have the capacity to hurt.

I noticed that I too began to wonder about censorship and its place in culture — I can see in myself both a fierce protectiveness toward shielding innocent eyes from the ugliness from where these words arise... and at the same time, an equally fierce protectiveness toward the free expression of our selves and the acknowledgement of truth and reality.

Is there a place for both perspectives? If so, what would that look like?

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