See the completed version of this work in our latest interview with Imo Imeh.
Local artist Imo Imeh’s new exhibition “in his name” focuses on the events surrounding the January 6th insurrection attempt at the U.S. Capitol.
When Connecting Point visited his studio in August 2021 to see the early stages of his work, Imeh shared one image titled “and i’ll be there with you.” The work depicts Ashli Babbitt, who was shot and killed by a Capitol Police Officer during the insurrection attempt.
Imeh describes the image, and his intended meaning behind it.
Read the full transcription:
Imo Imeh, Artist & Educator: So, the case of Ashli Babbitt is one that I’m finding…very, very difficult to discuss.
A number of people died at the Insurrection, as we know. She’s the one person who was actually shot. She was shot by Capitol Police as she was about to enter a space that was close enough to Senators, where people could have gotten hurt.
And so, her case represents a — a string of things that I feel are notable. She herself is a is a veteran. She — she has — she sipped of the cup of conspiracy theory. She was full-in QAnon. Full-in.
And so there is this — the images, as I was thinking about doing a piece about her…by the way, it was always going to happen. I was always going to do a work about Ashli Babbitt. And it wasn’t in any form of disrespect at all. The — the word that kept coming to me was “tragedy.” Pity. Pity. Tragedy. Tragedy.
And the main…the reference that I decided to use was Michelangelo’s very, very, very famous, larger than life sculpture titled Pietà, in which a very large, vast Virgin Mary is holding the the body of the crucified Jesus, after he has been taken off the cross.
He’s been killed. He’s dead, as a full-grown man in her arms. This never happened, but it’s — it’s a motif that is celebrated in Catholic and Christian cultures and that image of the full grown Jesus in the arms of Mary.
And I…as I watch — and I’ve seen the video of Ashli Babbitt being shot. Unfortunately, I’ve seen that. As I watched the body scatter, for that second after the shot goes off, because people realize a shot has gone off.
A couple of people do stay by her head to see if they can help her, but…I’m imagining all of those people that were there that day. And in that moment, she died alone. She died alone. And I kept thinking of the Pietà scene of Mary holding up the body of Christ and I’m like, “Well, who’s holding Ashli right now?”
Like..and so the the problem is, is that…this kind of image can one, make me appear sympathetic towards her, and I don’t think I am in this image. But it — but it’s a beautiful image; she’s rendered beautifully here. She’s not rendered as a terrorist. And, it can also make her a martyr, which I don’t believe she is. But she’s a human being, and I’m trying to be careful about how to depict her.
So, in this case here, I had a number of ideas. Do I — do I make her — do I put her in this position, but no one’s holding her, but maybe the the various flags that were there that day are the ones holding her body up?
I decided instead, that she has tumbled into a pit on her own volition, and has impaled herself on the various flagpoles of the flags represented there that day, including the Confederate flag, including various anti-Semitic flags and whatnot. So her body, I think, ultimately will be wrapped in those flags. But there will be a representation of the things that she died for that day.
And I — I’m hoping that that will balance this image out so she doesn’t appear as martyr. But so — but also, that I don’t — that I’m not insulting her in death. That’s certainly is not the point of this work. The point of this work is to highlight the tragedy of it all.
The title of this work is important. The title of this work is “and i’ll be there with you, which sounds biblical, but it’s direct quote from the transcript of Donald Trump’s speech right before the insurrection happened. Right before Ashli Babbitt was shot.
“And I’ll be there with you.” This idea of her dying alone, and being held up by her causes in death, without the arms of Donald — or anybody else — to be there with her is, I think, emblematic of the tragedy of her case, and the tragedy of the entire January 6th episode.