Ulnas. Femurs. Phalanges.
These bones of the human body were among the more than 400 ceramic bones crafted by people at Chemeketa Community College as part of a nationwide project to create an art installation highlighting genocide.
Over several days in April, Chemeketa students, staff, faculty and members of the Salem community crafted artificial bones for use in One Million Bones, a social art installation planed for the National Mall in Washington, D.C. from June 8-10.
“Art and activism go very well together, because an artist who wants to make a statement can make it without words,” said Laura Mack, chair of the college’s art program. “They can make it through an action, they can make it through a sculpture, they can make it through an image.”
With a skeleton borrowed from a science classroom as a model, participants used clay to create replicas of various bones in the human body. The bones were then fired in the college’s ceramics kilns.
Bones made around the country will be placed in the National Mall as a public display to highlight ongoing genocide happening throughout the world. One Million Bones has previously done smaller installations in Albuquerque, N.M. and New Orleans, La.
“The installation will exist as a collaborative site of conscience to honor victims and survivors, and will also serve as a visual petition against ongoing conflicts and a resounding call for much needed and long overdue action,” the organization’s website said.
The bones made at Chemeketa were displayed on the Salem campus on April 29. They will be dropped off with other bones for the project in Portland, then taken to One Million Bones’s headquarters in Albuqurque before going to Washington for the main installation.
But what excites Mack even more is what it may inspire students to do in the future.
“It really enlivened our students to think ‘My gosh, I can do something. I can say something with what I make,” Mack said. “And that’s huge for me.”