For every step forward, there are, in the case of the year 2022, a dozen steps backward. Call this the year of the tumbling dice. Where does the strange momentum backward in the realm of human rights lead? Some saw it coming. Most didn’t. There is a cost associated with divisiveness, with complete lack of empathy and understanding. Most of all, when the tide moves in a certain direction, the attempt to stifle basic autonomy and human rights affects every living being in its radius. Gender awareness, racial harmony, a woman’s right to control her own choices, the ongoing and building threat to the environment; all ascending accomplishments falling down into a miasma of de-evolution.
Artists are acting with information from what they perceive around them. However, within the creative consciousness there is the ability to draw upon universal truths that are a constant within the rise and fall of the power structure. Artists also have the benefit of history to inform the present (as do all disciplines, as the present is the culmination of all that has passed before us). 2022 saw call and response, a vortex of activity and perception. Artists brought these aspects of a troubled world to the surface. Unless the infection is visible and made known, it can’t be treated. Artist as healer, as activist, as oracle, as visionary: 2022 brought all aspects of faceted disciplines together.
In June, Boston’s Fountain Street Gallery forged a one-person show by Shea Justice entitled “History is No Mystery.” In these works, the artist creates bridges between relevant points in history to the present, utilizing various media, newspaper clippings, collage, watercolor and drawing. There is an immediate power to these pieces, both the personal and universal experience unified. There is startling impact, both from the subject matter and the composition of the images. He allows his works a certain fluidity, realizing that each aspect of his observation is part of a whole. “A Mother’s Grief,” done in response to a series of multiple killings, somehow is not disconnected to the artist’s portrait of Muhammad Ali entitled “Ali the Greatest.” The deaths of so many vital young people represent the deaths of, potentially, the greatest gifts of a generation. In each work, the artist verydeeply honors those who came before him and made possible this moment in time; through his art, Justice showed that we have the ability to create a new road to an unshakable and just society. Sometimes the bow must be brought back to create enough momentum for an arrow to fly.