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Social Justice

Nothing is Only as It Looks

by: Michael J. Sweeney, Middletown, Connecticut

How many chances to understand one another have been lost from fear of saying the wrong thing.

quote by: Jane Zich, Fairfax, California

Artist Statement

We all judge books by their covers and build walls to establish our uniqueness and protect ourselves from harm. Like many others, I have often heard Robert Frost quoted that “fences make good neighbors,” but he attributes this line to a neighbor. Another idea in “Mending Walls” is not so frequently cited. Frost talks about the purpose of a wall and its capacity to “give offence.”

As I worked and reworked my drawing, “Nothing is Only As It Looks”, I looked for ways to honor the integrity of Frost’s other observation. Frost’s recognition of a wall’s purpose, a builder’s intent, and the need to anticipate offence is central to the poem, but often overlooked. As I included figures and changed their positions in relation to each other and the wall, I wanted to show separation, walling in and walling out, but also the importance of reaching across the wall.

Although fences may make good neighbors, reaching across the differences in our identities helps to prevent us from walling in or walling out those things that should be shared — assistance, kindness, food, compassion, skills…