For the last seven years I have explored legacies of industry in Ohio, of segregation and racism in Mississippi and, most recently, of the military- industrial-complex in Virginia, my home state. They form three chapters under the title The Invisible Yoke, which explores the weight of our collective memory and how it continues to shape our lives as Americans.
In this chapter I will ask questions about the Tidewater region of Virginia where I was raised, and now raise my own family. Though the area is made economically viable because of the military presence, my own connection is less direct. In addition to documenting my own family and daily life throughout the region, I will use this time to examine military events ranging from homecomings to departures, daily life, and more timely issues such as being gay in the military and the intersections of the Muslim and military communities. The images will be interwoven with my own family’s photographs for an exhibition at The Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art in fall of 2013. I will use this as a springboard for discussion about our region’s reliance on government military spending.
The disenchantment my generation exhibits is reflective of our nation’s transitional status from superpower to something less absolute. While it may be considered "anti-American" to even utter this perspective, the images will confront the notion of American superiority and shape our self-perceptions. This must be done carefully - by identifying the behavior that has led us here (pride, greed, arrogance) while looking at every person encountered with the same level of intimacy and acceptance. To do this requires a consistent voice and vision. We are Americans, after all, sharing more in common than we would like to admit.
My desire to see, to know, is rooted in the knowledge that as James Elkins said, "seeing is metamorphosis" and I want to be changed. I need to understand the country that my children are growing up in and the ways that our history continues to impact us. By completing my examination of three microcosms of the American experience: industry, segregation and the military-industrial complex, I will ask the question: where does my own story fit within this ever- changing landscape? What will my children's inheritance be? How will this country remain relevant even as we fade in our global importance?
I plan to disseminate the work in three tiers: the first in site-specific, community- based exhibitions, the second as a web-presence incorporating motion and sound and lastly, the books. Each chapter will be its own stand-alone book, but the three are also intertwined, and identical on the outside. This will allow for the work to live in multiple spheres, offering new entry points for a wider viewership.
The work will be displayed from September 12th - December 29th 2013 at The Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art in Virginia Beach.