Christmas, the day after, in 2004, following the presidential re-election of George W. Bush.
I am staring out of the window in an extremely dark mood, feeling helpless.
Then a friend, a fellow artist, calls…he asks, ‘How are you?’ And instead of ‘Oh, fine…and you?’, I blurt out the truth: ‘Not well. Not only am I depressed, I can’t seem to work, to write; it’s as though I am paralyzed, unable to write anything…I’ve never felt this way before…’ I am about to explain with further detail when he interrupts, shouting: ‘No! No, no, no! This is precisely the time when artists go to work…not when everything is fine, but in times of dread. That’s our job.’
I felt foolish the rest of the morning, especially when I recalled the artists who had done their work in gulags, prison cells, hospital beds; who did their work while hounded, exiled, reviled, pilloried. And those who were executed… This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.”
We needed a reminder that no matter what form our expression, it has the power to help heal. We need to get to work.
We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.”
Read here about artist Kara Walker’s process in creating the New Yorker cover in 24 hours, paying tribute to Toni Morrison.