The spring 2022 cover of SOFA Journal celebrates the subject of Benita Alioth from Shelbie Loomis’ interview, and ongoing socially engaged art project by the same name, The Art We Value. During weekly Bingo/Luncheons for the Jantzen Beach RV Park and Hayden Island Mobile Home community, where Shelbie and Benita are both residents, they became friends and ultimately collaborators in a local art show and sharing event that Shelbie organized for the project. In reading their interview, I started to think about compassion: the feeling of fellowship birthed from the suffering of others. How social forms of art can really artifact, and even celebrate, this exchange of tenderness between people. What are the forms of documentation for any given project that make this warmth and gentleness sing?
How does the documentation resonate with the people experiencing the artwork firsthand, those on their computer at home, in a book a decade later? They’re all sharing an experience of this same artwork. They may all tell a similar story of the work, when it was made and where, the materials it’s made from, and the motivation. But that compassionate feeling may be an ephemeral thing. So we ask, how do we communicate that feeling over time, which is often so crucial to the birth of the artwork when it’s in a social form?
It isn’t about requiring one way of interpreting or defining the meaning of a work. It’s more about offering a lens through which we can understand the relationship behind the work, which may offer us a hopeful possibility for the future when we feel more disconnected. With heavy hearts holding recent shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde, rising food shortages, the overturning of Roe v Wade, on top of being over two years into a global pandemic, it’s a starting point. A test for possibilities for change. Shelbie’s tender illustration of her collaborator Benita serves as documentation of the tender hope that is possible to uncover in the relational experience at the core of socially engaged artworks. Helping us to see who is aching, and who is resonating with that ache. Who is navigating the world a certain way because of it, and what strategies they are using. Ultimately, this can help us to see the limitations of our singular perspectives in favor of coming together.
Cover Art Direction: Gilian Rappaport
Cover Art Production: Laura Glazer
The Social Forms of Art (SoFA) Journal is a publication dedicated to supporting, documenting and contextualising social forms of art and its related fields and disciplines. Each issue of the Journal takes an eclectic look at the ways in which artists are engaging with communities, institutions and the public. The Journal supports and discusses projects that offer critique, commentary and context for a field that is active and expanding.
Created within the Portland State University Art & Social Practice Masters In Fine Arts. Program, SoFA Journal is now fully online.
Conversations on Everything is an expanding collection of interviews produced as part of SoFA Journal. Through the potent format of casual interviews as artistic research, insight is harvested from artists, curators, people of other fields and everyday humans. These conversations study social forms of art as a field that lives between and within both art and life.
c/o PSU Art & Social Practice
PO Box 751
Portland, OR 97207
Sponsored by the Portland State University Art and Social Practice MFA Program