Rituals can provide solace and closure in the face of loss. That’s why Jews sit shiva, why the Irish hold wakes. But some traumas can be too contemporary, too enormous, or even too personal to be adequately covered by given forms. They demand original services conceived by the grieving. For “AMALA: She Could Not Stay (in their Black Bodies),” an exhibition at Praxis Fiber Workshop Gallery in Cleveland, M. Carmen Lane tenders a haunting series of sculptures, oblations and words to mourn the loss of black babies and the destruction of the natural world in which they could have thrived. The babies are many (in Cuyahoga County, African American babies are 3.5 times as likely to die as others) and they are few (the show is named for a daughter the artist miscarried twenty-nine years ago). The gallery is hung with fourteen cradleboards, each of which bears a tiny FEMA body bag, in that heartbreaking shade of Great Lakes blue. Interspersed among them are bunches of wildflowers picked in the zip codes with the highest infant mortality rates in the county. A sound piece, spoken in Lane’s rich and deep voice, calls it what it is: structural racism, going all the way back to the salty ocean of the Atlantic slave trade.
—Lori Waxman 2020-06-26 3:46 PM