Arts Writing

Shields, Open Wounds and New Landscapes: And Artist’s Account of Creation

by Stephanie Gervais

I made Shield in 2014, while living between Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, Brazil. My friend Yuri modeled Shield in front of an old, decomposing house in Rio. My intention was that he would lift up the beaded, lattice-like structure and wrap it around his body, like a shield. Yuri was seventeen at the time. Strong, but not a bodybuilder. I didn’t anticipate the work’s weight; it was an enormous effort to lift it. Even as Yuri gripped one beaded end and pulled it upward a large section lay stuck on the ground. Two lines of beads split open in the middle, the fishing line snapping from the weight.


This essay was edited by Stephanie Snyder, John and Anne Hauberg Curator and Director, Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery, Reed College, and appeared in CONDITIONS, a publication of The Ford Family Foundation. The annual arts journal (shifting title as it progresses) is part of the program element CRITICAL CONVERSATIONS, led by the University of Oregon with partners Portland State University, The Cooley Gallery, Reed College; and PNCA at Willamette University.

The title and concept for CONDITIONS came into focus as the editorial team launched its first issue, FIGURING. Here, we shift from FIGURING’s multiple perspectives on the body and the psyche to examine the cultural and biological mysteries and actualities of life at this tenuous environmental and socio-political moment. As our need for breath and sustenance are foregrounded across an accounting of our shared lives, we hope that CONDITIONS offers a space to meditate on the ways in which works of art (including writing) support us in making meaning from our state of, and provisions for, being. 

Featured Contributors: Amelia Rina, Laura Butler Hughes, Luiza Lukova, Sara Krajewski, Malia Jensen, Lumi Tan, Steph Littlebird, Ido Radon, Alejandro Espinoza Galindo, Stephanie Gervais, Stephanie Snyder, K. Silem Mohammad, Prudence Roberts, Sara Jaffe.