The Story of "Across the Divides"

 
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I was part of a group called The Many, an online, moderated conversation with US women from all parts of the political spectrum. It ran till the 2018 midterms, inviting us to engage across our differences — with personal stories, political discussions, and the sharing of hopes, ideas and questions. This art is about our rich and sometimes messy process of listening and learning together.

Here's the creative process behind the art:

There were various degrees of redness and blueness and a mix of the two in the group. Red was on the left and blue was on the right because we were practicing seeing through the eyes of the other. 

 
 
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I wanted to connect the red and the blue, and also create some depth, so layers of white went on, similar to the stripes in our flag.

 
 
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It was almost like we are sitting and talking in a big circle - and by doing so, we leaned toward a wholeness of community together. There's no dominant part of a circle - there is an equality to the shape itself. When I initially laid the paint down, it was thick and opaque, but that didn't seem quite right because we were far too nuanced and many-layered to be one flat color. Wiping it back to this level of translucency seemed to reflect us better. There's also a safety to the circle shape, thanks to our moderators.

The conversations themselves are captured in the gold threads that go back and forth across the circle. Each one has three gold glass beads on it, symbolizing the asking of a question, a response, and where the conversation can go next. The beads are loose, as conversation is a fluid dynamic.

 
 
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Then it felt like each thread needed a stronger origin point, so I added dots of red, black, white, yellow and brown. They give a visual anchor to the conversations and remind me of the different colored lives behind each and every post.

 
 
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The threads are fragile and delicate, as conversation can also be. You have to get right up to the art to really see the threads, just as conversation invites us in closer. I added some black threads wrapped around the gold ones, because there are times when conversations got difficult and emotionally tangled. Yet we kept moving toward each other, across our differences, despite the challenges they present, and practiced engaging and listening to each other. Sometimes it seemed an impossible stretch. Sometimes it got heated. But we kept at it. The process gave me hope that maybe our country can move away from its polarization as well.

Media: acrylics, thread, glass beads on canvas, 24"x24”x1.5”    ©2018 Wendy Lew Toda

Original art and prints available.