Paritosh Raval ’16

When I picked up an old copy of Time magazine and began to flip through the pages, I found the profile of a Chinese artist named Ai Weiwei. After reading the article, I was interested by the man, who was both an artist and also a political activist. His unique way of blending activism and art led me to select him as my semester project artist. Reading further, I was fascinated by his body of work, brilliant symbolism, and above all, his unfailing audacity. Despite the heavy restrictions on art and expression lobbied by communist regime of China, his voice could not be suppressed. While all of his work was significant and powerful, one piece in particular stood out to me. “Snake Ceiling”, in the Hirschhorn Museum, is a huge snake constructed of backpacks similar to those Weiwei found at the scene of an earthquake in Sichuan China; these backpacks had been left behind by children who had died when schools had collapsed during the earthquake. The schools had been structurally weak because bribed building officials had allowed them to open despite the cheap materials used during construction. Weiwei’s tribute to the children who died as a result of the evil in human nature really struck a chord in me. As I thought about the impact of the piece, and its significant meaning, I began to think about Sandy Hook. I thought about the symbolism in Weiwei’s work and decided to construct crayons which would represent each victim of this horrific, mindless violence.

Photos by Blair Isken.