Broken Windows and the Persistence of Hope – Obie Weathers

   Hey, Everybody– – 

     I hope you all are doing good. Staying safe out there and taking care of your loved ones. I’m good. The weather is swinging wildly from hot to cold to hot– –and it messes with my mood. So I’m taking it easy today. It’s my sister’s birthday, and I hope that she’s well and having a nice time out there, wherever she may be.
     So here’s my art. A little dark, maybe, but that is me. It’s me reflecting on the things that I feel I’m up against.
I titled it Broken Windows and the Persistence of Hope because it has to do with my life in this place, a broken system. Also it references a policy the police had back in the 1990s where they enforced laws to the maximum, no matter how small. If they could construe something as breaking the law, they would charge you with something. This hurt me because when I was in seventh grade I was arrested for a prank. It helped start me along this path to death row. It’s a reality that lives with me today and that I’m constantly battling in order to breathe and live.
Recently I came to understand how much this experience in this place has worn down my sense of hope. Really, how my experience in life overall has robbed me of my sense of hope. The belief that I can create a life for myself where I can be free to be me and happy. So this painting is about hope being worn down.
But that’s not all. It’s a hopeful painting as well. Because hope is still here, and that is what matters. Because when it is here we can build it up, strengthen it and work with it to build a better life.
     I have been very lucky in life to meet people along the way who inspired and cared for the hope within me. Laurence is one such person. Maria is also. And I thought about giving the art to them, but a few days ago while suffering an anxiety attack with a tight and pain filled chest I sat down with a book of Ai Weiwei’s art. I have used the cover of that book to paste my painting to. In the book I read an uplifting poem by his father, Ai Quing, called Hope:

Dream’s friend
Illusion’s sister

Originally your shadow
Yet always in front of you

Like flying birds outside the window
Like floating clouds in the sky

Like butterflies by the river
She is sly and lovely

She is always with you
To your dying breath.

2 thoughts on “Broken Windows and the Persistence of Hope – Obie Weathers

  1. Men and women can linger on death row for years, even decades. But their ultimate fate remains unclear until the warden calls them to his office and gives them a date. Hence, the title of Moyo’s painting, “Execution Date,” imparts a special and terrible meaning, one the artist Moyo / Obie Weathers knows only too well.

    However, Weathers refuses to play on our emotions, which has the effect of making them stronger, not weaker. In this portrait, he’s encouraged us to live in the moment, breathe, meditate, exercise with our lungs that one remaining freedom, and feel life’s energy radiating from our guts.

    At this moment, all our attention on the art, we can’t help but exhale with the meditator, as his lungs release the evils men do into the rank atmosphere of death row cell. And in those breaths, we can acknowledge the reality of state-sanctioned murder without flinching and find it coupled with a transcendent spirit that cannot be killed. The drama of transcendence is inescapable, rising above the foul smells that are surely rising from the toilet in the corner. The man’s brown skin warms the pale walls scraped and raw as our retribution-bent society, even while a grasping arm pushes through the food port on the right.

    What makes this image so striking as art, as opposed to propaganda, are the layers of ambiguities. Take the grasping arm. It’s well modeled and other-worldly, suggesting a macabre, devil-like take on God’s arm reaching out to Adam in the Sistine Chapel, an inversion of the meaning of the Gospels. The man’s gaze falls on this arm, set to haul him off to the death chamber. There’s surprise, perhaps, but the figure is not so alarmed as to disturb his yogic posture.

    His features, too, are ambiguous. The condemned has the features of a sun-bronzed surfer, an American icon, a youthful winner in the American sweepstakes for good looks, and an athletic body. What meaning can we tease out of this? Is Weathers hinting that the vengeful, merciless character of the death penalty can be applied even to icons, to those considered invulnerable? And, if so, is there a message here about the impending doom of the status quo?

    The alms bowl in the sitter’s lap symbolizes a monk’s life, the renunciation of material things, attracting a steady stream of positive energies. On another level, the bowl and its phallic vectors symbolize a defiant sexuality, the irrepressible union of male and female, the yin and yang of existence. Let us breathe that in!

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