by Katie Johnson
A blog post this November 2016, I feel, can be served beautifully with less chatter...less opinion...less conversation. We are all healing and processing current cultural and political happenings in our own ways. So, in this issue of the blog, I wish to highlight a shining light in our NC community...someone who has been advocating for equality via her art long before you-know-who landed in the political spotlight and offers us the simple, strikingly powerful message: I AM VALID.
Stacey Kirby is Civil Liberties Activist/Artist/ Conservator/ Yoga Practitioner. If you are from the Triangle, would probably recognize her best as our bespectacled, yoga clothed, smiling, warm hearted, infectiously laughing friend often beside you in yoga class somewhere in Raleigh, Durham, or Pittsboro. Most recently, she claimed the title of “ArtPrize 2016 Juried Grand Prize Winner” for her interactive performance and installation art titled “The Bureau of Personal Belonging” in Grand Rapids, Michigan. As one of the judges said of Stacey’s art, “Stacey’s piece was so thoughtful and ambitious that it stood out...Then after you engage with the artist and the actors you realize they are letting you know there are some points out there that we should be aware of.”
What Stacey’s letting us know we should be aware of is this: we are all Equal, Valid, Connected Human Beings and our political processes need to reflect this. In her art, she asks YOU to address civil rights, personal identity, voting rights, and equality...all currently set against the political backdrop of the insurgence of “alt-right” politics and discriminating legislation like House Bill 2, which sets back the clock 50 years on civil rights targeting the LGBTQ community, specifically our transgendered brothers and sisters.
Upon entering the “VALIDnation” performance piece, you fill out a Civil Validation Notification Card, where you’ll be asked to describe your Family/ Lifestyle/ Partnership and any response to recent legislation passed in North Carolina. The Civil Validation Officer reviews your card, stamps it VALID and offers you an I AM VALID sticker. (All cards are then mailed public officials to share your voice with those that are elected to represent us.) Each time I’ve experienced this artwork, there is this moment where you feel that you are being personally questioned or judged. Oh yeah, that’s what it feels like. Not very pleasant. Sigh of relief when Stacey inevitably “Validates” you. She’s captured that feeling state of being marginalized...and the rush of endorphin in feeling supported.
So, as you read this...regardless of your family structure, profession, race, gender identification, sexuality, income...take a look inward and remind yourself: I AM VALID. I am worthy of equal rights in all facets of life. Thank you Stacey, for becoming a beacon in the Community...challenging us with your art and inspiring us on the mat. Hari Om!
To learn more about Stacey’s work and VALIDnation process visit her website: http://cargocollective.com/staceykirby/
Participate in Stacey’s art on February 4th, 2017 as part of “Dispatches” at the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art in Winston-Salem, NC. www.secca.org