#Kerry James Marshall
December 6, 2023
How do you revise a narrative that some still believe true? And, how do you change that story to focus on perseverance and reform when the fight for justice is ongoing?
In 2017, two stained glass windows commemorating Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson were removed from the Washington National Cathedral. When Kerry James Marshall (previously) was commissioned to create their replacements, he grappled with these questions, ultimately offering a dynamic pair of works installed this September.
A new short film for Art21’s Extended Play series documents the artist’s process and thinking behind the monumental windows, which were made in collaboration with stained-glass artisan Andrew Goldkuhle. The vibrant pieces depict anonymous protestors engaged in a peaceful demonstration. Some figures holding signs saying “No,” “No Foul Play,” and “Fairness,” slogans inspired by a speech by Chicago’s first Black mayor, Harold Washington. The phrases connect a basic principle of the U.S. Constitution with that of dishonesty and crimes and reflect the need to redress wrongs.
“We tend to make celebrities the focal point of any kind of achievement when for the most part, almost all the achievements we experience are the work of a vast number of anonymous and unidentified people who put in the work on a day-to-day basis,” Marshall says. The title of both the windows and the documentary, “Now and Forever,” reflects this dedication to showing up and striving for a better world each day.
No matter how much progress we make, the artist reminds us, “achievement doesn’t necessarily mean complacency.”
Watch the full film above and find more about the project on Art21.
#Kerry James Marshall
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