An Inward Sea
Laser-cut flashspun non-woven HDPE, pigments, glass sculptures, metal
mechanisms, video, and audio tracks
New Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain, CT
May 13-October 24, 2021
An Inward Sea is the exploration of utopia, dystopia, and the human condition, while reflecting deeply on the events of the last year—including the COVID-19 pandemic, extensive shut downs, and subsequent racial justice uprising in the U.S.—and how they have impacted the lives of residents of New Britain and beyond in this immersive multi-sensory installation.
An Inward Sea transforms the gallery into a reflective yet charged dreamlike space, with a luminous moon projected above a vast glistening sea. Made of black cut-paper waves tipped in gold, the sea evokes traditional Chinese landscape painting. Audiences are invited to walk through the undulating wave formations, which serve as a metaphor for the difficult terrain we are navigating. Two glass pendulums swing freely over the sea, in and out of rhythm; their kinetic motions create a release and tension, psychologically activating the space with a sense of potential collision and danger.
The moon, like a theatrical spotlight, sets a poetic stage upon which portraits of New Britain residents are projected. The black-and-white profiles resemble 19th century silhouette portraits, capturing the speakers' likeness while preserving their privacy and identity, and allowing them to speak freely about their stories of anxiety, trauma, community, resilience, humor and perseverance. The recordings will live on through an archived database representing an individual and collective history of the momentous events of our time and our journey toward healing.
An Inward Sea: Oral History is a collaboration between Jennifer Wen Ma and oral historian and interdisciplinary artist Nyssa Chow.
"There is in every person an inward sea, and in that sea there is an island and on that island there is an altar and standing guard before that altar is the 'angel with the flaming sword.' Nothing can get by that angel to be placed upon that altar unless it has the mark of your inner authority. Nothing passes 'the angel with the flaming sword' to be placed upon your altar unless it be a part of 'the fluid area of your consent.' This is your crucial link with the Eternal."
- 'Meditation on the Heart' by African American philosopher and theologian Howard Thurman
This quote by Howard Thurman is placed above a section of An Inward Sea. Both 'Jesus and the Disheartened' and 'Meditation on the Heart' guided the process in making this installation. Howard Thurman is known as the spiritual mentor of the non-violent Civil Rights Movement, and his work is a must read for anyone who is interested in what the religion of Jesus offered to those with their backs against the wall.
This installation marks the final exhibition of the 2020/20+ Women @ NBMAA initiative celebrating the invaluable contributions of women to the arts while increasing representation of their work at the New Britain Museum of American Art.