The Perplexing Dove

Despite not having a guest lecturer come into class on February 18th, 2019, I called the lecture “Tools and Ingredients” in my notes. Professor McCoy wanted us to meet with a group of students to discover what we have already learned and put it into practice. Additionally, she wanted us to have stimulating conversations about the course thus far and how we can feed off of each other. Truth be told I was eager to hear other people’s thoughts and see how they have improved with the course, and possibly help me with my weak points.

Second Line Rebirth by Steve Prince

 

Requiem for Brother John By: Steve Prince 

Professor McCoy directed us to the folder that contained images from Prince’s Katrina Suite. We had the liberty to choose what art piece we wanted to discuss as a group. At the end of our discussion, she said we should choose a piece or pieces of artwork that we are struggling with. The pieces my group chose was Steve Prince’s art piece Second Line Rebirth and Requiem for Brother John. Although I classified the Second Line Rebirth to be less chaotic, it was still a puzzle to me. During our group discussion, I mentioned how irritated and perplexed I was that a dove was in the bottom right-hand corner of the artwork, boxed in. Liv voiced out how it reminded her of a postage stamp like sending a postage card. However, I did not see that. To me the solid line and the way the dove rests makes me interpret it as entrapped, caged in. When we presented our discoveries and our questioning I exclaimed how I wanted to cut open that box and have the dove fly in the sky. But why? Why did I have this interpretation that the dove was entrapped? Others in the class had different interpretations. Kazon pointed out how our interpretation of the sense of freedom can shape our view of the dove on the bottom. Some people thought the dove chose to stay in the box. Katie mentioned how the focal point in this piece is the dove, although it is not centered like a typical focal point. For some reason, Steve Prince made the dove without movement. In his previous artworks such as Urban Mixtape, his people are alive with music. But for some reason, he chose to craft the dove in a square box, with a thick black line.

In the other piece, Requiem for Brother John, Brian pointed out a woman clenching a handkerchief dove on the right side of the composition. The woman who holds the handkerchief has a facial expression of sorrow and mourning. When Steve Prince was at SUNY Geneseo he mentioned how his handkerchief represents the Holy Spirit. He symbolically creates it and implements this motif in his pieces. However, he doesn’t in the Second Line Rebirth. The question that still puzzles me is why did he choose to make the dove visible? Conducting some research, the website “Pure Spirit” claims that the dove is a spiritual symbol that can represent Mother Mary with “care, devotion, purity, and peace”. However, when I searched for “What does a white dove symbolize?” I learned, from the website “The Bible Project,” that the dove represents the Holy Spirit. So, what I can deduce is that this dove is the Holy Spirit. But the dove’s placement in a box is perplexing. I am going to attempt an interpretation as to why Steve Prince placed a dove in a box and made it the focal point of this image.

Flambeau by Steve Prince

 

My hypothesis is that Prince placed a dove in a box because the Holy Spirit is not saving the people of New Orleans. How did I come to this conclusion? Well, as I have discussed in my second post, I utilized the new tools that Dan DeZarn provided us to facilitate our discussions. Therefore, I went through the list and what stood out to me was the lack of movement of the dove. Analyzing other compositions by Prince I notice how everyone has some sort of movement like in Urban Mix Tape and Flambeau. However, for the Second Line Rebirth, he intentionally made the people in the second line alive with movement through their instruments or just the process of walking forward towards the front of the piece. But, he doesn’t with the dove. Instead, the dove is still. While conducting my research I looked at a Bible Passage from “The Bible Project” about the Holy Spirit coming down to Jesus in a form of a dove. The dove “empowers Him to begin his mission of healing the human condition and starting a new creation.” So, what is the difference between this dove and the one in Prince’s art piece? The major difference is the lack of movement. The dove actively comes down to Jesus to guide him for rebirthing process. But, the dove does not have that same implication for the people who had survived and are mourning their loved ones after  Hurricane Katrina. Instead, I believe the people are empowering and rebirthing one another through their traditions of music and the second line processions.

In the anthology, Walking Raddy: The Baby Dolls of New Orleans it discusses trumpeter Uncle Lionel Batiste, who made a huge impact in the New Orleans society. Uncle Lionel Batiste had a strong connection with music and the people around him because of the “community-based music, second line parade culture, and the Spiritual Church provided healing forces” (168). During WWI era the term “second line” was created as a “social subculture” used “to identify a parade, funeral, music, dance and the participants in this culture” (177). How does the second line connect with my analysis? Well, the strong tradition of the second line propelled the people in Prince’s composition to be there for each other. When people in Uncle Lionel’s community needed one another, they turned to music and tradition. When people needed each other after Hurricane Katrina, they turned to one another and the music created in the second line. That is why I believe the dove remains still because Prince wants the emphasis of empowerment to be about the community and traditions instead of the Holy Spirit.

Not everyone might agree with my interpretation of why Prince made the dove motionless. However, I challenged myself to be grounded in the terms that we have learned with DeZarn. Incorporating the knowledge I have received contributed to my analysis of The Second Line Rebirth and pushes me to think outside the box of the dove.

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