Georgie Papageorge grew from the soul of South Africa. Born there, raised there, rooted there, she consciously chose to stay—through the rich years of plenty for white South Africans, through the terror and fear that escorted out years of apartheid and swept the country into endless change.
She makes art from the violence, the warring, the death, and then the atonement. Revolution, colonialism, the Catholic Church, the nightly news on television, the Ndebele, the landscape of the great Kalahari Desert, her own family compound: from such as these she draws both her themes and her symbols. Her themes are huge; her reach is gigantic; the resulting work is monumental. Her sculpture, Suspension, held its own when photographed from a helicopter on an African gold mine dump. That same work was moved to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City to serve as a contemporary altarpiece. Against the architecture of a gigantic Gothic cathedral, it still held its own.
Suspension, 1989 - 1990
SUSPENSION is based upon the concept of a suspension bridge that spans vast gaps—in this case sociological as well as physical. SUSPENSION emerges out of great conflict and sacrifice. Based upon Leonardo da Vinci’s LAST SUPPER, both the physical and conceptual orientation of the work deals with the idea that through sacrifice, ultimate resurrection occurs. Physically the work is twin-sided, the front being symbolic of wealth, the back of poverty. Conceptually the whole work is seen as an extension of the human body, climaxing in the central transcendent ladder that is in itself a Tree of Life. The nest on top of the left vertical, which emulates an ancient North American Plains Indian Sun Dance pole, encourages the Thunderbird, Bird of Peace, to rest in it.
SUSPENSION was installed as the altarpiece for the Native American Thanksgiving Service at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, November 23, 1990. The service commemorated the centennial of the massacre at Wounded Knee, one of the darkest hours in the history of the United States.
Leonardo da Vinci painted his LAST SUPPER between 1495 and 1498 in the Santa Maria Della Grazie in Milan, Italy. The broken construction lines reveal how SUSPENSION’S whole structure evolved. Later, I realized that the horizontal lines of the table had become the base of SUSPENSION.
Collection of the North Dakota Museum of Art, a gift from the artist.