It's Not Neither

INGRID LILLIGREN
It's Not Neither, Ceramics, 2016

Ingrid Lilligren, named after a family friend who was an artist, was born in Springfield, Ohio. She earned a B.F.A. at the University of Wisconsin in River Falls in 1980. She received her M.F.A. in 1986 from Claremont Graduate School in Claremont, California, where she studied with Paul Soldner. After teaching at colleges in California, she moved to Iowa in 1993 and is Professor and Chair, Department of Art and Visual Culture, and teaches ceramics at Iowa State University.

About this project
Last summer I read Nell Painter's essay, "What is Whiteness," and was moved by her statement: "The useful part of white identity's vagueness is that whites don't have to shoulder the burden of race in America, which, at the least, is utterly exhausting."1 Witnessing that exhaustion is deeply concerning. I reflect often on my white identity, its origins and consequences, and this essay prompted conversations with friends, colleagues, and students. Peggy McIntosh observed: "In order to understand the way privilege works, you have to be able to see patterns and systems in social life, but you also have to care about individual experiences. . . . Testifying to it is very important—but so is seeing that it is set within a framework outside of one's personal experience that is much bigger . . . But what I believe is that everybody has a combination of unearned advantage and unearned disadvantage in life."2 Her remarks provide me with a context for reflection, and inform my choices in taking action about current events.

The title, It's Not Neither, comes from Zen philosophy's inquiry concerning the nature of existence, examining whether our experiences are real or an illusion, concluding "it's not neither." The philosophy holds that there is no duality at the heart of existence, that it's neither reality nor illusion; we live in an inseparable relationship that contains all the complexity, contentiousness, conundrums, and wonders of experience. It seems relevant, as I want to make the point in this piece that we cannot separate the conversation into strict categories of "white" or
"black."

Porcelain is the material I worked with to produce the Braille discs, and is prized for its purity, elegance, and whiteness. I created the conical forms that make the Braille text in porcelain, and then pit-fired them (the most basic, and earliest ceramic firing technology), yielding multiple shades of grays, blacks, and whites. The process subverts the history attached to porcelain and the firing results reflect my conviction that we are inseparably bound together.

1. "What is Whiteness," Nell Irvin Painter, NY Times Review, June 20, 2015
2. "The Origins of 'Privilege,'" Joshua Rothman, New Yorker, May 12, 2014

Braille wall text:
Joan says we need to raise each other's kids. Mark says the contrived stereotype must not control the narrative. Will we listen; see ourselves in one another?

Ingrid Lilligren's website

This page was first displayed
on September 29, 2017

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