Art in Focus: “Towards Empathy” by Serrah Russell

Posted on January 26, 2015, 1:25 am
2 mins

“Towards Empathy (the struggle to dream each other’s dreams” by Serrah Russell. Collage, 2014. 17″x14.” Image courtesy of the artist.

Fingers graze the empty eyes of a marble head. A sand-coated hand cups the corner of a beige sack. One is in color, the other in black and white. Both are cut from an old issue of LIFE Magazine. Together this collection of gestures forms “Towards Empathy (the struggle to dream each other’s dreams)” by Seattle-based artist Serrah Russell. Created as part of her site-specific installation Reduced to Fragments at Two Shelves, the in-home gallery of Kelly Bjork and Joe Rudko.

“Towards Empathy” is a collage that reads like a poem, where meaning is folded into feelings that elude explanation. Like many of Russell’s pieces, “Towards Empathy” explores similarities, differences and contradictions between juxtaposed images. It prevents any strict binaries from forming through an implicit recognition that “opposites are never complete opposites.” Rather, the images acquire new meaning through their synthesis.

It is through this recognition and synthesis that empathy emerges as a resilient force against the “recent events of injustice and brokenness” the installation addresses. “Towards Empathy (the struggle to dream each other’s dreams)” acknowledges the existence of hope within loss and the worth of striving to create connection amidst division. It’s an important reminder as we begin the New Year.

‘Reduced to Fragments” is on view by appointment through January 31.

David Strand is a writer and aspiring curator based in Seattle.