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The artist on her materials
SONYA CLARK: Hi I’m Sonya Clark and I’m the artist who created the piece ‘Edifice and Mortar.’ The thing about this piece is that it’s comprised of things that are familiar. Bricks are familiar. Richmond is a brick town. So that kind of familiarity is something that I’m hoping you see in the work. But the other thing is that there’s something familiar but that is a little strange, which is that the mortar for the bricks is comprised of human hair; specifically of the hair of African-American people. I’ve worked with a number of hairdressers in Richmond for another project and so we’ve been going around to the salons that they work in to ask them to gather the hair of the women that they’re working with, so that we have enough hair to make this mortar for this piece, but also from the place of Richmond.
And then there’s a mirror that’s at a slight angle. And that mirror is a blue glass that reflects the audience; perhaps you can see your own reflection in it right now. And as a whole the brick wall and the hair mortar and that blue reflective glass become like an abstraction of an American flag.
Move around the other side
SONYA CLARK: The reverse of the wall is stamped with a maker’s mark stamp that was really borrowing from the tradition of stamping bricks that we find in ancient Rome. And there’s a long tradition of course of enslaved people in ancient Rome and sometimes we can know a little bit about those people by the stamp that they used to mark the bricks that they had made. So borrowing from that tradition I created maker’s mark stamp that is crescent shaped like many of them that you find in ancient Roman bricks. And in this case I turn that crescent into an Afro. So it refers back to hairstyle. And in Rome one of the things that I discovered was that the word ‘ciao’ that we use to say hello and goodbye has its roots in slavery as well. And so… included in this stamp is the word ‘sciavo’ which means ‘slave’ and that is where we get the derivative word ‘ciao.’ So when we say ‘ciao’ to one another we’re saying ‘I’m your servant, I’m your slave.’ You can see the word ‘ciao’ and that is repeated over and over and over and over again. So this sense of inserting the human being on each brick as well as the mortar that’s being held together by the DNA, the presence of African-American people.