Silver City, NM- “Art is a beautiful tool to bring people together. We need more of that,” quotes the founder of the One Million Bones project Naomi Natale. The Directors of “The Art of Revolution,” an organization devoted to social chance and art, Naomi Natale and Susan McAllister visited Western New Mexico University to speak about their groundbreaking project and the lives and stories they learned and shared throughout their journey.
The One Million Bones project falls under the category of social practice– A project done with the use of both activity and inquiry. It represents the million of victims lost to genocides in places like Rwanda, Sudan, Kongo and Syria. The art project was created by a collaboration made by thousands of people across the United States, all ranging from different age and ethnic groups, ranging from supporters and bystanders, to survivors and those whose families were affected by the violence. The materials and transportation from the project were all achieved through donations.
The project was started by Natale’s interest and concern over the genocide in these areas of the world, and she wanted to spread the message and awareness with the use of art. This however, was a bit of a challenge for project manager Susan McAllister, who’s art is portrayed through works of literature and poetry.
“As I was sculpting that bone, I stopped listening to doubt and started being motivated by the people I am doing this for,” shared McAllister during her sculpting experience. “Taking an action to the creative process that connected me to other people I haven’t even met.” This lead to one of the most powerful elements about this project: the stories and bonds that bring people from all around the country together.
During their presentation, Natale and McAllister showed various clips and interviews of their project. Each clip showed a different story and a different perspective from the many people that worked on the project. One of the most powerful moments during the bone laying event was that human rights activist John Dau, one of the Lost Boys of Sudan, had the enormous honor of laying the first bone. This major experience made The Art of Revolution to create and start building another project.
Natale and McAllister also had the honor of telling their audience about their next social arts project titled En La Luz. Taking place in Chile, this project centers around General Augusto Pinochet’s rule over Chile, which lead to years of suffering, death, and injustice over the Chilean people. The Art of Revolution invited Chileans to gather and share their stories and create paper lanterns with their memories written on them. The lanterns represent the star 58 Eridani, which is a beautiful and clear view in the Chilean sky, 43 light years away from Earth. The starlight was first created in 1973, the year of Pinochet’s harrowing rise to power and celebrating the star shine with a million candles gives the people a chance to shine a better and more positive light on the year of its launching date, 2016– 43 years after Pinochet’s rule.
The presentation closed with the room bursting with applause and a number of audience members performing a standing ovation for the talented guests. Michael Metclaff, department chair and sculpture professor of WNMU, shared his thoughts from an artistic standpoint. “This was a fabulous project, unifying many different people in many ways,” said Metclaff, “the magnitude of the project, the labor, the love and energy that went in makes the final project remarkable.”
If there was one message to take away from this project, it was that altogether, a picture is truly worth a thousand words, and it takes either one person or a thousand more to make a difference.