Venomous Network/Gadsden Appropriation is commentary on connection, community, digital/social media networks, and extremist movements; the latter stronger than ever because of new forms of networking. This piece serves as an extension of my current work creating “net”works, studies of ropes and knots that connect to create a visual community. The texture of a community “net” is made up of the individual ropes of the families and members in that community. The ways in which we tie ourselves together, weave ourselves into a solid form, determines the strength of our net and the ability we have to lift, carry, and sustain. Knots are tighter and stronger when they are engaged, less so when they are slack. Nets require the individual ropes to be working towards the same goal in physical proximity to each other in order to accomplish a task. When I paint and draw these ropes and knots, I can see and feel the intimacy of two tactile entities coming in such close contact with each other. A knot is not just still-life, but an embrace, hands holding, sustained eye contact.
But what happens when individuals within a community are weaker than others; or worse, when they are intentionally manipulating the purpose of the “net” for their own gain? Using the symbology and shape of the Gadsden Flag, a flag that has been appropriated by right-wing extremists for new objectives, I created a “net”work piece that has the potential to bite. Is this network more dangerous to itself or to others?
The isolation that we, as members of communities and society have increasingly felt in the digital age, has suddenly, this past year, become all-consuming. We can see the effects of this on our civility, our institutions, our children, even our closest bonds. In a time when we have lost a sense of physical connection and proximity, how do we engage with each other in meaningful and fruitful ways? How do we find meaningful connection through a Facebook Live video or Zoom call? How do we find the snakes amongst the ropes from behind a screen? How do we save each other from trusting in dangerous communities?