Jessica Maffia is an artist who lives and works in New York City. Devastated by the results of the 2016 Presidential Election, Jessica is hosting an installation of more than one-hundred #Lanterns at the FiveMyles Gallery in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, on February 20—President’s Day.
The event was inspired by a German song for children that contains the words “Lantern, Lantern, Stay Alive” and it aims to create a safe space for people to respond to the current political climate. Jessica invites people to share their thoughts by writing their response to the question "what do we know?" on a lantern.
This is Jessica’s second time exhibiting the lanterns in New York City—the debut display was at Chelsea’s 3-Squared Gallery—and she previously displayed them at the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation and the Town Plaza in Taos, New Mexico.
The latest lanterns will be on view at the FiveMyles Gallery at 558 St. Johns Place, Brooklyn, New York, from Monday, February 20, through Sunday, February 26, from 1 pm to 8 pm daily.
Jessica got the idea to launch the lantern project while listening to “Democracy Now” shortly after the election results and feeling very concerned about issues such as the physical and emotional safety of minority groups including people of color, Muslims, immigrants, undocumented people, the LGBTQIA community, refugees, women, workers, children and more. “I am shocked by the cabinet Trump has confirmed which is composed of white nationalists, billionaires with corporate interests, right-wing extremists, and people who have no experience and/or are out of touch and therefore unfit for the Oval office,” Jessica declared.
“I am very concerned about the attack on voting rights, and I am horrified by the prospect of further militarized police forces across the nation.
After the election, my friend shared a German children’s song which inspired the birth of the project. The lyrics include the words ‘Lantern, lantern stays alive, it’s dark outside, but my light keeps shining.’ I was in the middle of a three-month #Artist residency at the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation in Taos, New Mexico, at the time so I installed the first two exhibitions at the Foundation and at the Taos Town Plaza. I was eager to exhibit the work when I returned to my hometown NYC during the presidential inauguration and was pleased to secure a venue with ease.”
The lanterns are intended to connote a vigil and also provide a sense of hope for those who are worried about current events. The project has been received very positively so far and has inspired abstract poems, diary-like expressions of emotion, and practical suggestions for activism.
“It has been very interesting to behold the evolution of responses so far,” Jessica stated.
“It will be interesting to see how responses to the question continue to unfold as time goes on. I’m hoping to continue on with my lantern project, and I’m currently in conversation with a fifth possible venue. If anyone has an idea for a venue, feel free to reach out to me via my website. I would love to see this project expand and live on.” Jessica is also hopeful that the lanterns will remind people to remain aware of current events, actively oppose political decisions that they do not agree with, and support progressive organizations.
“We also need to be spreading credible, factual information as far and wide as possible, making #Art, raising our voices, speaking out against discrimination and violence if we bear witness to it, spending our money conscientiously and supporting local businesses and businesses owned by people of color,” Jessica declared. “And, most importantly, we need to fight back with love, empathy, kindness, and compassion every single day.” On February 17, Jessica received a grant for the lantern project from Puffin Foundation West. This grant will help her continue spreading the light of this project around the country and possibly the world.