One Twelve Publishing Poignant Pics no. 36 - On Donna Bassin's "Messiah"
Poignant Pics no. 36 - On Donna Bassin's "Messiah"
Welcome to no. 36 in our series Poignant Pics where our editor, Diana Nicholette Jeon, writes Donna Bassin’s utterly compelling work, “Messiah.”
A Telling Portrait of Our Current Era
Messiah from My Silent Witness, Rupture and Repair
Regardless of our station in society, many of us, perhaps more so those in the arts, believed that American life under a Trump presidency would not be positive. Had I seen Donna Bassin’s original series, My Silent Witness, more contemporaneously, I KNOW I would have felt it perfectly expressed how many of us experienced the politics of that time.
The series, created shortly after the 2016 election, was a collaboration between the photographer and her ‘sitters.’ Those photographed used props and gestures while Donna used her lens. Together they made images that invited the viewer to think deeply about what the sitter felt and why. She intended to give voice to those feeling invisible and unrepresented, to entice viewers to consider both their own and the person being photographed’s humanity and views.
After each sitting, she asked each person for a statement. The person portrayed here, Messiah, replied, “No comment.”
I don’t believe that in the months which immediately followed the 2016 election that many of us could have precisely predicted how unraveled democracy would become during the years that followed. We now sit teetering on the brink of becoming yet another great society that failed: the two parties battle instead of compromise; voting rights are attacked; neighbors no longer speak to those of opposing views; people of color are targeted by both police and their neighbors for the ‘sin’ of not being born white; disinformation is rampant; everything has become weaponized. Regardless of our political views, I believe that most of us can agree that our society is significantly in need of healing.
Enter V. 2.0, My Silent Witness - Rupture and Repair. Donna took the original series of portraits and tore them apart. Treating them as if they were pieces of Japanese pottery, she used kintsugi-styled techniques to repair them. In doing so, Donna purposefully underscores our nation’s greatest needs – to mend the wounds that have divided, marginalized, and isolated us; to heal; to move forward; to become a more humane society.
There’s an old saw most of us are too familiar with, “A picture speaks 1000 words.” I’d have to agree with Messiah that this stunning image needed no words. His silent scream portrays the state of the USA today as well as, if not better than, any other photograph I am personally aware of and says more than words ever could. Bravo, Messiah! Bravo, Donna!
-Diana Nicholette Jeon
PS: Those lucky enough to live in the greater NYC area can view this series in person at Soho Photo in NYC from July 16 – August 8, 2021.
Donna Bassin, Ph.D., is an award-winning fine art photographer, installation artist, author, professor, and filmmaker. As an artist heavily influenced by her work as a clinical psychologist and her experiences working with war veterans and at Ground Zero, Donna uses art to explore the creative edge of collective loss, grief, mourning, and transformation. Donna's current work explores the human desire for reconciliation in the wake of social fractures.
Diana Nicholette Jeon is an award-winning artist based in Honolulu, HI, who works primarily with lens-based media. Her work has been seen both internationally and nationally in solo and group exhibitions. Jeon holds an MFA from UMBC.