Mike Solomon: WAYFARER project .1


Info: Mike Solomon: WAYFARER project .1, Sep  8 - Oct 28, 2023

When we think of Humanity, we can certainly envision an endless stream, a flow of relations stretching from the past to the present. Human movement, though having an infinite number of iterations is most archetypically known by the act of walking. Ancient tribes walked across various straits from one continent to the next, others wandered in vast deserts looking for signs in the heavens or for paradise on earth–or simply for water. Still others walked to escape various forms of oppression, either natural or manmade...and it yet continues. The enormity of migration has also become one of the sources for expanding consciousness.

"Millions of refugees fleeing from persecution have swept like tidal waves back and forth across the European, African and Asiatic continents, particularly. Amid the suffering such turmoil has caused, one perceives the progressive integration of the world's races and cultures as the citizenry of a single global homeland. As a result, people of every background have been exposed to cultures and norms of others about whom their forefathers knew little or nothing, exciting a search for meaning that cannot be evaded." [1]

The ongoing phenomenon of global homelessness–the refugee state–that now encompasses at least one hundred million people, moves me to speak to the courage and the faith of people as they attempt to find some peace, some shelter somewhere, to regroup from lives shattered by oppressive conditions. Those who were once captured and enslaved, those whose native cultures were purposefully decimated and "relocated," those who managed to escape mass genocides, those who seek asylum from various forms of tyranny, have all occupied my ruminations on existential homelessness. As we witness the particular difficulties that face the refugee, the exile, we resonate with their suffering. We recognize a deeper connection, one not based on nationality or any of the temporal distinctions. At our core, we are all simply human beings, living on this sphere together, spinning around a sun, amidst an infinitude of universes. In this sense, everyone is kin. Baha'u'llah put it this way in the late 1800s: "The earth is but one country and mankind it's citizens."

It is from these thoughts that this project, WAYFARER has slowly emerged.  To convert the ideas into artwork, I have chosen to use the image of the foot and shoe print.  It is a visual sign, literally a stamp of being, "I was here."  It is also a record of human action, of striving to get somewhere. In these two works, The Border and The Pilgrimage, the footprints were made from the art students of the Rowlett Middle Academy in Bradenton, Florida. It is a public charter school dedicated to diversity and leadership in the arts. (Yes, in Florida!) These young "actors" helped me create the stories that that these two compositions contain by lending their feet and their gaits. In a way, these students stood in as surrogates for others who are actually on very difficult paths. The project created the opportunity to involve the students in thinking about the conditions that form the trajectories of life, as well as learning that art can be made of anything. Other prints were made with soles of shoes from many cast-offs that I have been collecting.

The other visual component in this project is the format. The "pathways" are made of long strips of translucent polyester material. In both works there are three layers of polyester films with prints combined.  The pathways all start mounted to the ground and then lift in arcs ascending skyward towards the ceilings.  This structure imitates the arc of the human journey, from earth to heaven, from animal to spiritual, from ignorance to knowledge. It is the way of aspiration. 

The wall hanging, Walking The Earth is comprised of six layers of polyester films with horizonal stripes.  Its shifting horizons represents a composite of visions as one walks great distances.

The WAYFARER project is relayed to the previous project, Kristallnacht, which used shards of broken glass to make images that gave the visual sensation of broken barriers of various kinds, while also exploring my ongoing interest in an aesthetic that works with the infusion of light in mater. In WAYFARER, the visual evidence of the human footprint indicates beings moving towards the endlessly evolving horizon of possibilities, searching for a better, more harmonious state of being, a state of peace and safety and love. It's about one of the most profound images I can think of.

Mike Solomon, 2023 

[1] One Common Faith, pg. 12 para. 2. Universal House of Justice, Baha'i Publishing Trust, USA  2005