There’s no denying the first half of 2017 would have been very different had Hillary Clinton defeated Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election. In her current St. Louis gallery exhibition, artist Bunny Burson remembers the future that very nearly was, creating an artwork using the iridescent confetti that was primed to go off on election night this past November 8, had the country elected its first woman president.
A longtime Clinton devotee, Burson was the executive director of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities under President Bill Clinton’s administration. In the aftermath of the 2016 election, she hopes her art will help motivate women to run for office in 2018.
“I was among her supporters at the Javits Center waiting for the symbolic shattering of the glass ceiling and the shard like confetti to fall down on us. We left the Javits Center at 2 in the morning with profound emptiness,” Burson told NBC. The unused confetti had to be removed from the air cannons and swept into empty boxes by workers.
“I wanted to fill that emptiness with hope by giving voice to my feelings that even in defeat, Hillary’s confetti could be used to inspire the next generations of little girls and young women to dream big and to act on their dreams,” she added.
Tracking down the unused confetti was no easy task. Burson made calls to Arkansas, Boston, New York, Connecticut, Illinois, and Washington, DC. Though many warned her the confetti she sought had likely wound up in the trash, Burson’s quest was ultimately successful.
After about two weeks of searching, she tracked down the confetti in Chicago and was able to acquire several large boxes of it—200 pounds, to be exact—for her work.
Burson’s sculpture, titled And Still I Rise, takes its title from the Maya Angelou book of poetry of the same name. Pieces of clear, shiny confetti swirl around in the gallery window, which has essentially been transformed into a political snow globe. The work’s title is printed on the glass in white block letters. The colorless confetti was chosen for its resemblance to shards of broken glass, to represent the breaking of the “highest, hardest glass ceiling,” as Clinton referred to a woman someday winning the presidency.
For Burson, the artwork is more than just a message of hope, but a call to action in the face of Trump administration policies. “We need to think about all of these rights that we have sort of gotten used to, which we may not always have—women’s rights, voting rights,” she told St. Louis Public Radio. “Elections have consequences, serious consequences… we need to stay engaged.”
The piece is displayed 24 hours a day in the gallery’s front window, overlooking Forsythe Boulevard.
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