Unable to bring myself to attend a confessional exhibit filled with the festivities of opening night, I went to Carole Baker’s installation, The Confessional, the day after the event. I realize I missed the opening event meant to gather the community and celebrate this art exhibit. But I wanted a different experience.
It was late Saturday morning before I arrived at Building 3 of Durham’s Golden Belt campus and the skylight above the installation poured the sun in on the simply designed but powerful elements: a circular pile of stones set into an enclosed wooden structure paneled with reflective mirrors. Except for a few voices the gallery space was silent and Baker’s installation was the only exhibit open: exposed to all who might walk by or peer in. I stood at its entrance and bathed in the light. After a few minutes, I started to feel uncomfortable because no matter where I stood, I couldn’t get away from myself. The mirrored wooden panels grabbed my gaze and wouldn’t let go. The only way to diffuse this constant looking glass was to focus on the Helvetica font that read:
LET THE ONE
WHO IS WITHOUT
SIN CAST THE FIRST
Even then, there was dissonance between reading the text and trying to see the exhibit because I kept getting in the way. So, in an effort to clear my visual field, I stepped into the adjoining room with the simple wooden chair, a white towel, an empty basin and a clear pitcher of water. It was there that I found relief from the multiple mirrors. It was there that I felt the hollow and cold of this large gallery space. It was there that I decided to leave Baker’s exhibit altogether and walk around Building 3 to peer into the many closed studio spaces. When I eventually found my way back to Baker’s exhibit in Gallery 100, I stepped in and took a photograph. My blue blot image lodged in the mirrored reflection seemed an apt metaphor of my inability to escape from myself and the always active internal journey that narrates my faith. Freezing this on film marks a place in my Lenten story and it is this: that I might do well to stay longer in the confessional and embrace those sins – those unspoken parts of myself that come to mind when I listen - so that when I finally rest on the wooden chair where I know the water will undo me, I can receive the restoration that comes from the hands that will hold the towel.
Durham’s Golden Belt, Room 100
February 19, 2010 – March 14, 2010