Artist Statement – Deteriorating Media

The series of images titled, Disintegrating Media were all taken at the home of my Lakota friend Leroy of Lost Dog Creek who has been incarcerated for over six years now. Sitting in his cabin, which is falling down from neglect, I, a person of comparative privilege, a result of my growing up with a white middle class background, found embarrassment overcome me. Embarrassment a result of contemplating the different reality our lives present. It seems clear to me that had I or another white person with no more of a criminal record than Leroy committed the same offense, the outcome would not have been imprisonment, but more likely probation at the most extreme.

This humble log cabin where Leroy was raised and lived for some 55 years had to me a sense of foreboding. It is an 8 x 10’ dwelling, with a dirt floor, no running water, an old cast iron bed, a broken three-drawer bureau, one chair, and a sheet metal wood stove with holes rusted through. Ten feet away from the house stands an outhouse and Leroy’s broken down transportation “War Pony” the old ten-speed bicycle with two flat tires. The cabin’s floor littered with his few possessions, tools, clothes, and some magazines had me thinking how unfair the world can be. My mind wondered about the divisiveness in the contemporary world, seemingly in America, as much as, anywhere. What, if anything, might it take to witness substantial change, where people are aware of injustice and create more opportunities and fairness for all? I wished I could believe every individual, government, and corporation would make equality a top priority and the media would make educating us with that goal too, rather than gaining more profit or power.

Looking down I observed a latent metaphor in deteriorating magazines scattered on Leroy’s dirt floor reflecting these thoughts. Thus began the series of images abstracting these remnants of mass communication.

John Willis

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