Holyoke based artist and Westfield State professor Imo Imeh is embarking on a new project called “in his name.”
The project focuses on the January 6th insurrection attempt at the U.S. Capitol and features a series of images that reflect Imeh’s interpretation of the attack and what it says about religion, race, and politics in America today. “in his name” will debut in January 2022, the 1-year anniversary of the insurrection.
Hear Imeh talk about “On Earth as it is,” one piece in this collection.
Read the full transcript:
Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: Holyoke-based artist and Westfield State professor Imo Imeh is embarking on a new project called “in his name.”
The project focuses on the January 6th insurrection attack at the U.S. Capitol, and features a series of images that reflect Imeh’s interpretation of the attack and what it says about religion, race, and politics in America today. In his name” will debut in January 2022, the one year anniversary of the insurrection.
Connecting Point’s Ross Lippman visited Imeh’s studio to see the early stages of “in his name” and to learn how he’s collaborating with the local composer to bring music to his art.
Imo Imeh, Artist & Educator: I learned at a very young age, and growing into adulthood, that there are few forces in this nation that are as powerful as white rage. And I saw it manifested that day. The the sheer violence wrapped in the American flag, the delusional violence. This guy here, he’s the main figure there.
And so as a Christian, what do you do with this? They’re holding up crosses and wearing Trump 2020 flags, what do you do with that? It’s — the whole thing is very odd. And military gear, all of these things came together that day, so it was like my nightmare.
Like everything that we — I kind of knew, but to see it realized and so easily, so easily realized, it didn’t take much.
For me, I can’t look at what I saw on January sixth as a separate event or entity from who I am as a Black Christian man. As a man of faith, as someone who has sung in choirs and has lead worship in churches, as someone who really believes, who isn’t just — I’m not a Christian in name only, I’m a believer in Christ as my Savior.
So, here you have this — these two figures at the center, one in full Jesus face mask, but you can see the cracks.
So, there are all kinds of Christian representation there. So, the rosary will be coming down, the beads flowing into this person’s hand here. That’s a second hand.
So, it’s still developing, but that’s what I’m hoping to accomplish with these works.
Haneef Nelson, Musician/Educator: My name is Haneef Nelson. I am a musician, composer, and an educator.
This is going to challenge how people really think about it, because the context of these images really are going to be about the context of what people displayed that day. And the context of the music is going to be very reflective of the imprint of both what I saw live, as well as the images that are being created as a result of that.
So, the first thing that I really did, as I said, you know, I want to take a hymn that’s in the public domain and I want to arrange it. And I want to take this hymn and I want to make it so that at the beginning of it is recognizable to just about anyone who’s ever been in church before. And then I’m going to start making it a little ugly.
So, this hymn is going to start from being this beautiful, recognizable thing to this ugly, dissonant thing that you’re not going to want to finish listening to. Because that’s really what I saw when I saw this, and I’m like, if we’re going to talk about Christian imagery, the first thing that I want to do is take a well-known song and add dissonance and chaos because that’s what was there.
Imo Imeh: But it’s as if they’re standing on top of the angels as they’re doing this, right?
I refuse to take myself out of this story. And if that means that the hurt, the pain, and the bitterness that I have felt enters these images, then so be it. I won’t apologize for that.
And I’m not…rewriting, I’m not a documentarian in the way I’m doing these works, in that I’m trying to kind of say “this is what happened on January 6th.” I’m really documenting an array of things, including how what we saw on January sixth, how it’s echoed in history, but how I feel about what I saw and how Black people feel about what we’ve seen. And I’m hoping that that still allows for a conversation to happen.
But I don’t — I just refuse to exercise my voice from these conversations anymore. And so I’m trusting my gut instinct with this, and Haneef is trusting his gut instinct with the music, and I think this is going to be raw, unedited, and insane. But, I’m hoping that somewhere in there is space for a serious conversation to happen.