Lorraine Bonner

  • Devourer
  • Thank You, Steve Jobs
  • Studying The Perpetrator
  • Privilege
  • Start 'Em Early
  • Scapegoat
  • Multi-Hued Humanity Frees Black From the Weight of White
  • Everybody's Child
  • Mending: Rescue
  • Mending: Birth of the Blues

I knew I was not an artist from the first day of kindergarten. We each had to draw a picture to identify our cubbies. I don’t remember what I drew, but I do remember being startled by the intricate spiderweb one boy had drawn. I knew in that moment that there were people who could draw, who were artists, and I was not one of them.

Instead, I read voraciously and dove into the sciences, initially intending to go into research and ending up practicing medicine for over 30 years.

Halfway through my life I began recovering memories of extreme childhood sexual abuse. I say recovering, but it was more like an assault: memories shrouded in secrecy, emerging from deeply hidden compartments in my mind, often without words, overwhelming and incapacitating me. At this moment, a friend gave me a bag of clay, and my hands began making little figures, images of what had been done to me.

In spite of my distress, I felt gratitude and curiosity. I studied clay and let it lead me. It showed me connections between myself and the world, between the men who exploited my childhood body and the men whose greed is destroying our ecosystem, and those whose thirst for political power enables that destruction.

This heartlessness I called “perpetration,” a betrayal of the trust that underlies all of social society. I began making work in black clay and white clay, the black clay myself, other victims and survivors, the world; the white clay the perpetrator.

As I began to show the Perpetrator series, I realized that many people automatically aligned the clay colors with the socially defined racial colors of black and white. This felt too limiting for me, and I began another series, called Multi-Hued Humanity, using clays of different colors to represent the different colors of the human species, reserving Black and White for the great co-equal archetypes: night and day, earth and sky, water and fire.

But the problem of perpetration remained. How this sacred balance been disrupted, how had the yin, the holy dark, become so despised, so downtrodden, so demonized, and dark skinned people along with it? It became clear to me that the promise of Multi-Hued Humanity rests on the redemption of Black.

As a Black woman of a certain age, I have witnessed the multi-generational strategy of making visible the harm of racist oppression, the conviction that if we could only get white people to *see*, of course that would make them want to change. Until the advent of cell phone cameras, there was little evidence of the effectiveness of that strategy.

Now, many hundreds of videos later, some hearts appear to be enlarging, and a sense of connection may be reawakening. There is hope of a new paradigm, led by those whose view of the current rottenness is most acute. The backlash is thrown into sharp relief. The heartless proclaim their right to dominate. They stockpile guns, and mock and threaten the people and structures designed to protect us all.

Who are these people? What can we do about them? What if they, at their most irreducible core, are unable to participate in a society based on mutual trust and support?

We may not make it. It is entirely possible that we will go extinct as a species, and drag a great number of other species down with us. If we do survive, we will have to face our enormous brokenness. Only then can we create new beauty out of the labor of our repair.

I feel that clay has returned me to my earliest roots, the scientist, the researcher.

Share this Artist
  • Artist Info

      US - East
    • 5107983218

Follow Lorraine Bonner