BoxoPROJECTS Gallery, Joshua Tree, CA, 2018
Materials: Joshua Trees, coyote skeleton and specimen, coyote scat, broken glass bottles, decomposed granite, ceramic bowl, cottonwood leaf, water
In their masterpiece album, Joshua Tree, U2’s lyrics from “Bullet the Blue Sky” read,
In the howling wind
Comes a stinging rain
See them driving nails
Into the souls on the tree of pain
In these theological lyrics, we automatically think of Bono’s reference to Christ’s crucifixion — the pounding of nails between Jesus’s ulna and radius, and the foot’s longitudinal separation of the second and third metatarsals.
But what of the quarter of a million dollars it costs to sup with the current US president at his Santa Monica campaign fundraiser, his desire to dismantle the EPA, rollback the protection of federal lands overseen by the Interior Department, and to silence debate on climate change?
As a climate change denier, the current US president swings the hammer of violence against the Earth, driving nails into Christ’s body. He swings wildly against a subspecies of humans, migrants, peasants robbed of their communal and village lands through NAFTA, who have been crossing the Earth for a better life — a people with no voice, excluded, utterly ignored, and exploited.
And of what of those who pay to sit at the dinner table, and for those who cheer on the border wall prototypes? They are just as complicit in driving nails into the souls on the tree of pain.
And what about the coyote, the trickster, who looks back at his leftovers, his calcified scat with crunched bones? He lopes across the Earth’s face, a witness to the land — of the brown human bodies and the gray bodies of Joshua Trees laying on a parched planet.