For the Nations (2021)

outdoor installation: rocks, sand, small faux fur rug, canvas

For the Nations is an interactive installation work. Visually, it consists of a 6-foot diameter circular form on the ground. The circle form has rings, the outermost ring being a continuous piece of twisted cream-colored linen, then a ring of sand which within it includes three rings of river rocks, then a slightly raised ring of linen cloth separates the sand from the circle’s center, then a place to sit in the middle is marked by a soft 3-foot diameter rug. This form is meant to exist outside in a meditative garden space. There are 235 river rocks amongst the three rings. Each rock heralds the name of a country, dependent state, commonwealth, or territory. The rocks are the representative object of choice because they are a collected and inherited object, are an appealing form to grasp in the hand, have preexisting connotations to practices of meditation and prayer, and are a natural element that coheres with the outdoor environment of the installation.

These rocks were given to me by my father who has been slowly collecting them over the years from Tennessee, Colorado, and New Mexico. Plucked by his hand from the white water, these rocks are imbued with a treasure-like quality as each one was found, considered, and chosen for keeping. To have received them from my father lends the rocks a familial symbolism that I metaphorically connect to my inherited faith background as I use the rocks to engage in a faith-based practice. Each rock is a unique shape and size and the hand-painted lettering of the place on the rock varies too. These variations are subtle visual metaphors of humanity—with all its beauty and imperfections—which the rocks are representing. Despite the variations in size, each rock is small enough to be held in a single hand and has a familiar and tactile sensibility that invites the viewer to pick them up, smooth them with their fingers, grasp them in their palms.

This work is meant to be inhabited by the viewer. The viewer is to step into the center of the circle where the rug is beneath their bare feet, inviting them to sit or to pad around. The viewer then may pick up any rock from the sand, examine it, hold it, feel it, read the name of the place on it. The foremost invitation is to think about the people of that nation: What is going on in those people’s lives? Do I even know where this nation is, or what their context of living looks like? The next invitation is to pray for those people, for their circumstances, for their wellbeing, and for the viewer's own ignorance about what is going on in that place. As a believer in the Christian faith, I pray for the hearts and souls of the people there and that they may encounter the hope and life found in Jesus. Yet, I know that will not be every viewer’s prayer, and I anticipate each viewer having a unique meditative or spiritual experience amongst the rocks.

For the Nations, similar to my prayer room installation Hallowed be Your Name, initiates conversation about what the practice of prayer means to an individual, and the value of a global outward-looking perspective.