By Samantha Wall and Stephen Slappe
In the midst of the vast, world-changing events of the past year, we have been reflecting on the nature of seeing, witnessing, and being seen—depths of transparency that are disappearing into maximum visibility, radically, right before our eyes. As artists invested in the aesthetic and philosophical texture of what is unseen, yet felt, and emergent, this troubling time has heightened our awareness and appreciation of presence. We know one another through and through.
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 FIGURING, 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 inaugural publication is dedicated to notions of “figuring,” that is, the processing of a moment to inform a position from which to act, the presentation of a form, or expression of a body. By holding space for both indeterminacy and latent form, Figuring conjures histories and possible futures, lived experiences, and propositions for ways that ethereal matter might exist concretely or be allowed to endure as defined by its own logic.