Local artists celebrate the life of civil rights leader, John Lewis, through the new art installation, Good Trouble Bucket
Local artists Joan Baron and Gloria Martinez-Granados have dedicated much of their careers to exploring social justice issues, as well as visualizing them through compelling and interactive art installations and performances.
Their latest, a piece titled Good Trouble Bucket, was created as a means to honor civil rights leader John Lewis. Inspired by a mutual admiration of Lewis’ legacy, the duo began collaborating on the installation back in March of this year— though they were completely unaware of the weight their work would soon carry, with Lewis’ unexpected passing on July 17.
Congressman Lewis—often referred to by those who knew him as “America’s conscience”—spent more than 50 years fighting for civil rights, and attempting to bridge America’s racial and political divides.
John Lewis’ Legacy
Lewis’ legacy is unforgettable. He was regarded as one of the “Big Six” leaders who organized the March on Washington in 1963, and in 1965, he led the Selma to Montgomery marches across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Lewis worked alongside Martin Luther King Jr. throughout the civil rights movement and dedicated his life to seeking justice and equality for his Black brothers and sisters.
His unforeseen passing has left much mourning, and others more inspired than ever in the fight for racial equality.
For Baron and Martinez-Granados, their work feels even more important, as their performative art piece draws on the late congressman’s lifelong approach to enact change.
They used their own identities—Martinez-Granados of Mexican heritage, and Baron of Jewish heritage—to speak to not only their own experiences and struggles but those of others around the world, as well.
“What comes up for me, in terms of our roles in the piece, is collaboration,” says Baron. “The power of collaboration in delivering a message addressing issues of suppression and oppression.”
Honorable Art Installation
Through their passion and mutual love for Lewis, the artists created an installation that honors “good trouble” in all of its forms. The piece features performative elements, like carrying water in a bucket—which was meant to honor those who leave water bottles for migrants who are crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.
Another element features the two walking alongside one another through a labyrinth made up of more than 200 pounds of dirt.
The focal point of the installation, though, is an upside-down bucket that holds copies of Martinez- Granados DACA paperwork, along with other items like strips of newspaper and pieces of rose quartz.
This element was especially emotional for Martinez-Granados, as it made her circumstances and struggles more public—and more open to scrutiny.
“For me to fight to stay in the only country I’ve ever called home, and putting that big stack [of DACA papers], really put me in a vulnerable place,” says Martinez-Granados.
It felt like an imperative addition for the artists, though, given that Lewis had frequently put himself in positions that were scary or uncomfortable, all for sake of doing what he knew was right. For Martinez- Granados, it was her way of honoring Lewis’ call to pursue “good trouble.”
The piece also features a long wooden table, which is strategically placed beneath a suspended piece of chain link fence. In the performance, the artists sit across from one another as they pass food.
Adaption of COVID-19
The performative installation was set to open to a live audience back in March, at the ArtLink Gala in Phoenix. Due to COVID-19 concerns, the team ultimately adapted their performance for online viewing, so that audiences across the world can marvel at what the pair has created. It can be viewed at https://vimeo.com/429722930.
Baron and Martinez-Granados are hoping to expand Good Trouble Bucket through additional community-oriented components—hopefully, with opportunities for audience participation, as well.
Another initiative they’re looking to adopt is in placing buckets in public spaces, which will offer anyone the opportunity to share their story of “good trouble” to a larger audience.
The same notion of confronting discomfort, tirelessly seeking change, and creating “good trouble” that Lewis represented throughout his life and now through his legacy, is the same message that Baron and Martinez-Granados hope to deliver through their work.
“Art too is political. It calls us out,” says Baron.
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Kyley Warren is the assistant editor of Green Living Magazine.
Photos courtesy Joan Baron and Gloria Martinez-Granados