At late dawn of my last morning at the Josephine Sculpture Park, I sat in the black Cushman utility cart at the top of the knoll staring across the rolling, open expanse at either sides of the sculpture-lined entrance road. To the left is a green grassy field. To the right is a meadow mid-restoration: odd heights of brown-gold overgrowth, big stones emerging from the earth at sharp angles, and knotted roots twisting above the lumpy, caked soil. This area of land sits between the entrance and a looming tobacco barn— well-worn and aged. Indeed, this used to be a tobacco field before it was a corn field. Now it’s in the process of growing Kentucky-native plants by seed.
My eyes aren’t on the sunrise-lit grasses, the plants, the barn— my eyes are fixed on the sculpture placed in the middle of this layered meadow of past and future.
THE SPIRIT’S WORK IS SHARED LIFTING (2019) is a sculptural installation at the Josephine Sculpture Park (Frankfort, KY) of hand-cut and engraved Indiana limestone sourced nearby and repurposed pallet wood, rope, and metal found on-site. The work responds to local community dialogue addressing white supremacist nationalism in the Southeastern region of the United States.
THE SPIRIT’S WORK IS SHARED LIFTING positions the Filipino bayanihan— a walking home-relocation method that involves group-carrying a house-structure across many shoulders— as an aspirational metaphor for the continual counter-narrative work being done in Frankfort and its surrounding areas. In this sculptural reimagined bayanihan, which can translate to a unified spirit of community work and cooperation, community effort has seemingly lifted and carried— or will lift and carry— a bare, unmounted limestone base for an unseen commemorative statue/monument. As limestone is historically one of the foundational mineral resources that helped build industrial Frankfort and the surrounding Upland South, the empty monument base beckons viewers to themselves visualize a hopeful future built atop it.
THE SPIRIT’S WORK IS SHARED LIFTING asks viewers to imagine a more inclusive, dignified, and reciprocative future achieved through the acknowledgement of and respect for immigrants, refugees, Indigenous, and people of color in a dominantly white historical narrative. It is through the constant work of self-implication and shared lifting and uplifting that we can move forward.
Placed atop supply pallets and sawhorses in the new-growth meadow, a place of transition, the sculpture is always seemingly ready to be moved. Additionally, the work is intended to beckon the physical and cognitive effort of its viewers from a distance to draw close.
This work was entirely researched, planned, and created on-site during the time of my residency and only by the help of many. Partially inspired by JSP’s successful fundraising “barn-raisin’” event to restore the historic tobacco barn, the work is about community effort, just as in the act of barn-raising. Thank you to those who brought me into an understanding of Frankfort past and present including: Russ Hatter at the Capital City Museum, Becky Shipp at the Frankfort Immigration Assistance Network, Rebekah Berry at Focus on Race Relations, and Frankfort City Commissioner Katrisha Waldridge. Thank you to those artists who mortar-and-pestled ideas with me, this piece is yours as much as it is mine: Josh Trombley, Jackie Ta, Riley Fichter, Taylor Wright, Alex Gelderman, and Lucy Azubuike. Thank you to Director Mel Van Houten, Program Coordinator Jeri Howell, Office Manager BJ Duvall, and the ever-large community including the Board and Volunteers that help run Josephine Sculpture Park. Thank you to the many, many others who spoke with me about my work in Frankfort, Lexington, and Lawrenceburg. Lastly, thank you to the International Sculpture Center for providing artists with a platform and diving board of resource and support.
See more of my work at www.sherwinrio.com and on Instagram at @sherwinrioart.