A Picture of Pain and Hope

My year-long internship at the Brooklyn Museum–and exposure to Sanford Biggers’ Blossom–provided me with the experience of not only researching the piece, but also teaching its physical and symbolic manifestation of materials and emotion tied through historical tragedy. Because of my past experience with this artwork, I was slightly disappointed in myself once I realized I had failed to make the connection between Blossom and our class earlier–but the connection is striking.

Created by Sanford Biggers in 2007, Blossom is an artwork that combines a tree with a piano, which seems to have collided with the tree, resulting in its distorted placement. The image of a tree and a piano recklessly fused together already begins to create a striking symbol of life and its beauty or hardship. This is further heightened by the way the piano–which is attached to a MIDI system–plays “Strange Fruit.” While the song played is Biggers’ arrangement, its meaning remains; “Strange Fruit” was popularized in the 30s and written as a protest towards lynching. Blossom itself is influenced by the events that took place at a high school in 2006, in which nooses were hung from a tree on school grounds.

Given the inspiration behind the artwork and the elements it incorporates–the bodhi tree, piano, and song–the juxtaposition created by these elements serves to exemplify a powerful aspect of how historical tragedy and trauma is dealt with. To clarify, Biggers created a bodhi tree, which is the tree that Gautama Buddha reached enlightenment. Not only is a tree symbolic of life and healing, but Biggers chose to create a bodhi tree, which represents enlightenment. The pairing of this tree with a broken piano that plays the notes of a protest song hints at a hopeful future, while still acknowledging past suffering and pain.

I feel like this analysis reflects the present conditions we’ve been discussing in class. The rise of movements that challenge the status quo coupled with events and people that try to stifle these movements reflects pain and suffering, but also hope and healing. Now, we’re at a time in history where we can look back on the past and present and acknowledge trauma, while still hopefully looking towards a future.

VENUS SELENITE November 10 @ Princeton University


Venus Selenite is a poet, writer, performance artist, social critic, editor, educator, and technologist based in Washington, D.C. The author of a poetry collection, trigger, she is a native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where she began her career on the youth slam and spoken word circuits.

Venus’s work centers experiences of intersectionality, identity, liberation, joy, and suffering, intending to uplift and control narratives of trans and queer people of color.

Venus works as the Trans Voices Columnist for Wear Your Voice Magazine, serves on the leadership team of Trans Women of Color Collective, is an editor for Trans Women Writers Collective, and is the Communications Coordinator for The Future Foundation. She has performed and spoken at venues such as the Kennedy Center, Anacostia Playhouse, New York University-DC, American University, the Capturing Fire Queer Poetry Slam, and the Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam. Venus will be publishing her first novella, Istrouma, and co-editing Nameless Women: An Anthology of Fiction by Trans Women of Color, both eyeing publication in 2017.