MILLEDGEVILLE, Ga. — Artist Bill Fisher recently took his feelings on the subject of immigration and border patrol and turned them into a visual representation. His piece, ’Holding Clint,’ is made of canvas, paint, granite, plastic tarp, a rain poncho, shampoo, a toothbrush, soap, toothpaste, a plastic cup, milk and a wire dog cage.
“The work was inspired by several things: the separations of over 700 families, the deaths and mistreatment of children and adults at the hands of an indifferent, and we know in some cases openly hostile, profit-driven system, and then imagining my own friends, myself and especially my children experiencing such degradation; simple empathy with those who are now living just to survive these conditions,” said Fisher, professor and chair of the art department at Georgia College about his work. “There was a need to channel a lot of confusion, anger and sadness, combined with a sense of civic responsibility, toward the creation of a marker, shrine, or mirror of what we are doing, and of what we are.”
Art is often used as a movement, an outward expression of inward feelings and as a political force.
“We've seen the most important work of an era, that is any art that propels the traditions by bringing new wonders into the world that influence the generations that follow, and makes it into the history books, is not initially well-received,” Fisher said. “That's because it is at odds with existing standards, challenges accepted codes of propriety, tastes, craftsmanship, etc. It questions historical standards, in other words, by offering new possibilities. Tradition, however, is alive, dynamic, evolving, dependent on change, and expresses the culture it grows out of. As a cultural or historical statement, art is and has been used to serve the interests and agendas of its patrons, as individualistic expressions of thought and emotion, as propaganda and agitprop, as memorials, records and reflections, as calls to action and as offerings for introspection. It has cultural significance in its ability to decorate, beautify, and entertain, and can be seen as an artifact, a ‘sign of the times’ representing the historical setting in the time and place of its inception.”
Although Fisher is referring to art in general, his work also is a piece of historical and cultural significance, and also challenges viewers’ perspectives when looking at where the world is in 2019; and Milledgeville happens to be the home of such work.
“The idea of a visual response to the Clint holding facility and others involved had been percolating for some time,” Fisher said. “On an afternoon in late June, while having driving practice with one of my children, we saw a dog cage put out at the curb. A few hours later I had compiled most of the materials used in ‘Holding Clint,’ particularly basic hygiene products mentioned in the government's oral arguments before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in California in June, and that abandoned cage. Other aspects of the piece like the milk in a plastic cup, the red poncho and shrine-like presentation, and the overall red-white-and-black design were the result of blending information culled from documented reports with aesthetic decisions. Several drawings were made and the piece was installed on July 3, in time for Independence Day. The title ‘Holding Clint,’ coming from the "Clint Holding Facility," is intentionally ambiguous and is meant to allow for the viewers' own associations. To me, Clint could be a child's name, and a child perhaps needing to be held. Or it could be an unfinished phrase like, ‘Holding Clint responsible.’ The installation, being exposed to oppressive heat, direct sunlight, and violent storms, is slowly deteriorating and that seems fitting.”
For Milledgeville, Fisher said he hopes that his piece brings insight and conversations to the table.
“I hope it raises questions, encourages discussion, provides a sense of solidarity, especially to those who feel unsupported or unable to speak out on what they know is fundamentally wrong and in need of immediate attention,” he said. “Dissenting opinions have been welcomed, too, and that goes back to the hope for awareness and discussion of the issue.”