Chris Boyd is an artist and author based in Tempe, AZ. who holds a BFA in painting, an MFA in sculpture, as well as a PhD in Psychology with a specialization in Transformative Social Change. His work investigates concepts of collective identity and self-perception within our own socially constructed realities and explores the ways in which we can alter this reality as we move toward empathy, interconnectedness and social equality.
At first glance, Chris’ cityscapes have street art flair, with bright colors and buildings that seem to playfully bend and dance about. After more careful exploration of Boyd’s work, however, I come to understand that his work is much more complex. I realize that each building is symbolic of the individual. We all begin life with an inherited foundation; our race, gender, class, inherited family beliefs etc. These are the foundations that we build ourselves from. What we choose to construct of ourselves afterward is what creates the collective identities that form our socially constructed reality, thus the cityscapes in Chris’ work emerge.
(Something Kind Of Like the Omega Point…But Not, 2015, 70″ x 52″, oil on canvas.)
One of the more predominant themes in Chris’ work and research is systemic racism and white privilege. Chris approaches these issues from the angle of a white male born in the United States, where it is not uncommon for white people to avoid the topic of race, and perhaps one of the benefits of white privilege is the ability to evade this discussion. Chris, however, is determined to tackle these issues, and he does so with knowledge, thoughtfulness, and compassion as he explores how we can go about making needed changes to create a shift in the paradigm, a new way of living:
“There is infinite potential for art and imagination to completely change the world we live in. The contemplation of how to go about transforming our socially constructed reality along with advocating for social change, are two of the main concepts that fuel my work. It is essential that we become more informed about the true history of America and the layers of white supremacy that blanket it in order to be a part of deconstructing it and bringing about a paradigmatic shift. A shift in the consciousness of white America that not only allows the majority to see the systemic racism embedded in our country’s framework, but a way of being that also promotes empathy, interconnectedness, and the desire to radically transform what most of us have come to know and accept as the American way of life. A way of living that encourages individual achievement and accumulation of material wealth over the health and wellbeing of others. A way of living that provides white Americans with privileges most are not aware of, a false sense of entitlement, and the subconscious belief that people of color are inferior. This way of life is taught in the history books of our public schools, reinforced in acts like gentrification and mass incarceration, and witnessed today in daily news stories that consist of people of color being shot, killed, imprisoned, or just forced to drink water that will eventually kill them.”
Chris also describes in his work what he calls a “socially engaged imagination”. By this he means that by “imagining new ways of what humanity could one day come to know as reality, we are essentially helping to build and promote a new paradigm, a new way of being in the world, and a new socially constructed reality”.
(Seen it with My Own 3, 2015, 70″x 48″, oil on canvas.)
According to Chris, “by studying indigenous ways of knowing, transformative social change, the evolution of consciousness, consumerism, and the imagination, my work has become a response to the state of the world we live in today. It is my own form of therapy as I try to understand how we collectively arrived at this point, and how we might be able to begin transforming the world around us. Often times my work is guided by a single thought, a news story, the contemplation of the madness in our society that continues to escalate, or what a new way of being might look like. This new way of being led to the notion of a socially engaged imagination, a concept that originated out of my artistic process and led to doctoral research work to support it”.
Perhaps in Chris’ cityscapes the swirling cloud circling around the tops of the buildings represents the imagination and social engagement; the two things that Chris describes in his work to be the needed catalysts that will allow for this needed movement to occur for all of humankind. Each structure’s surprising flexibility demonstrates that we can all shift away from the foundations from which we were built from. The more easily we can change our perspectives, the more clearly we are able to view the landscape of humanity as a unified whole. When we lean toward others just like Chris’ buildings, we lean toward empathy: and empathy is what creates equality and positive social change.
Chris’ nonprofit org, Velnonart : velnonart.org
Chris’ book: White Devil seeks White Buffalo: Socially Engaged Imagination: http://amazon.com/dp/B00Y5Q3DV8
Lisa K. Salerno is an Art Writer with the London-based publication Niji Magazine, and a regular Art Columnist at Inigo Online. Her art and writing has also been featured in the Autism Speaks website, the Artful Vagabond, The Connecticut River Review and in several other online and print publications.