Rally ‘Round the Flag of Justice

When we think of art, we often think of museums, galleries, and the production of visual pieces for those spaces. But art can also be about giving a voice to communities and social issues. Sandy Ceas, an adjunct professor for the LEAP Institute for the Arts, brings her experience of art collaboration and the community into the classroom. Her work revolves around global social issues, particularly focusing on the impact of religion on communities.

Two trips to Palestine had a profound impact of Ceas. “I noticed that the stratified living conditions, due to the occupation of Israel on Palestinian land, have created an injustice and an elusive hope for peace and sustainability in the region,” she said.

Ceas is part of the collective Artnauts, which uses the arts as a tool for addressing global issues while connecting artists from around the world. RedLine Contemporary Art Center is hosting the collective’s 20th anniversary exhibition entitled Rally ‘Round the Flag of Justice. The exhibit features new works from artists who are inspired by the concept of a flag being a powerful symbol of collective identity. One of Caes’ projects, Palingenesia, which illustrates what she witnessed during her time in Palestine, is featured in the exhibition.

Ceas used 194 pairs of shoes in the piece to represent the diversity of the people of Palestine. “The number 194 reflects the non-binding, ineffective 1948 UN Resolution 194 stating, ‘refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date.’” The olive tree seedlings Ceas placed in each shoe “embodies hope in its genesis state.”

The cultivation of an olive tree seed requires a high level of devotion and persistence. Ceas felt that this connected to the process of the re-creation of a nation. Ceas said that the olive tree “is a hardy, resistant plant, with a robust root system capable of regenerating itself even when destroyed.” The greater significance of an olive branch is that it is recognized as an international symbol of peace, power, fertility and purity – and the olive tree is sacred to the Palestinian people.

Ceas encourages viewers to take one of the packaged seedlings to nurture in their homes as a sign of compassion and support towards justice for Palestinians in their homeland. She hopes that viewers will leave their thoughts, reactions, and prayers in place of the seedlings, to help create deeper significance as viewers react and engage with the piece.

RedLine is located at 2350 Arapahoe Street, Denver, Colorado 80205. The exhibit can be viewed through January 18, 2017. For more information, visit http://www.redlineart.org/.

Rachael Johnson contributed to this story.