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One and Many / Susan Ossman / The Museum of Riverside

One and Many

Community Engaged Participatory Event created by Susan Ossman

The Museum of Riverside

During the Riverside Art Walk: March 3, 2022 from 5pm-8pm

Artist Statement: "One and Many" was a large public artwork that instigated an active, collective reflection on the body and the body politic, self, community, and the part to the whole.

On March 3, 2022, I exhibited a 25-foot-long painting of a poppy field across the front of the Riverside Museum. The work was composed of over 100 individual artworks. Viewers who attended the "opening" of the one-work exhibition during the city's monthly art walk were be invited to select one of these individual works to bring home with them. In return, they filled in the empty space on the canvas revealed by removing their artwork. Viewers thus became collectors and participants.

Why poppies? Poppies are among the first flowers to burst into bloom in spring. In California, there are entire parks dedicated to the huge hillside tapestries they weave with their petals.

In this work, I celebrate this beautiful if fleeting bloom, along with other properties and symbolic meanings of the fragile flower. Poppies have been associated with spring fields and life since antiquity, and so too their narcotic properties. They symbolize fertility and life, dream states, and death. Since WWI red poppies have been worn in English-speaking countries to honor veterans. The trading of poppy products was at the center of the colonial Opium wars in China. Today, in Afghanistan, and around the world, farmers uproot food crops to plant opium poppies to survive.

On-site ethnographers explored the making of the work with participants. Later, I will follow up to see how the scattered artworks have taken root in their lives. When someone contemplates the piece they hang in their living room, does the original painting persists as an after-image? Does that memory reactivate thoughts about "one and many" ?


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