Lisa Nigro
T z a d d i | Maze to the Stars
A Reflection on Walls, Dominance, and Order

Project Description


Proposal for Sculpture Quadrennial Riga 2008
Exhibition Theme "Dictatorship of the Majority"


Inspired by the seventh key and 28th path of the Qabalah, Tzaddi - the Star. I borrowed from the Medieval Labyrinth design to create the footpaths in this piece. This installation embodies a multitude of elements, not only does it speak to us of ancient times, of the great Greek myths, it also tells a tale of a more poignant present existence of humanity, one where racism and discrimination play out their nasty charade.

At first glance, the characters dominating the southern portion of the Maze appear to display only the uglier side of mankind's passions, specifically passions for power and the need to dominate and suppress other peoples. The Maze itself represents mankind's journey here on earth, and it is through experiencing the game of the Maze that the viewer is able to see beyond the evil doings of men and appreciate passions which are pursued for constructive ends. This is revealed symbolically by the Tree of Life in the center circle.

I've chosen the Deep South of America specifically for its historical relationship with the "Black Man." But also because, being a "Yankee" girl, brought up in the state of Connecticut, one of the first colonized states in the Union of "New England," and also attending college and spending my more formative adult years in the land of the “Bleeding Heart Liberals,” in the state of Massachusetts, this notion of “I am greater or lesser than you because of the color of my skin” is most foreign to me. Yet, the labyrinth holds meanings for me which go beyond "skin deep" and address the plight of all "people of color." The viewer is invited to walk the path of the oppressed and look not only at the history of slavery in America, but also at the injustices and horrific acts that occur every day based on discrimination worldwide.

The Katrina disaster in New Orleans was a pivotal event in American history, and greatly influenced my desire to create this piece. No longer flaunting the robes of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK)*, and seeking out and torturing the black in the night, this new breed of supremacists have infiltrated the very bowels of the American structure that supposedly upholds the ideal of FREEDOM AND EQUALITY FOR ALL. From our living rooms, we Americans watched the ineptness of our government in coming to the aid of its people, and we had to ask the question - Why? WHY???! and... How? How could these so-called reputable members of "homeland security" botch such a simple task? If they can't assist us in a time of dire need, then why has this security system been put into place? What is it protecting us from? Then we were forced to answer in whispers the obvious and ugly truth about America — The ones who remained were not only poor, with no option for escaping this predicted natural disaster, but they were BLACK...

Never in my lifetime had I seen an act of racism so blatantly carried out on national television, and not by some "po-dunk," redneck country boy from Arkansas or Alabama, but by the members of the American government, the new KKK'smen without the hoods and masks parading in Washington, DC! It's the same white face who enslaved the blacks, then once freed segregated them; the same white face that pits black against black in cities like Los Angeles; the same white face who ran the Indians off their land and slaughtered them; and the same white face who now wants to build a wall the likes of Berlin between U.S. and Mexican soil. That face which is fiercely linked to a human condition of want for power. A passion it is, but one that aspires to create hate and violence all around us.

With the realization that racism runs in many directions, and that we all are played against each other in one form or another, I often feel trapped by the American system. Over the past two years I've experienced what some have termed "reversed discrimination" living with my very blonde, very white, five year old daughter on the west side, a predominantly Latino neighborhood, in the city of San Antonio, Texas. I am of European descent (not exactly white), second generation to be born in America. Both my grandfathers were immigrants from Poland and Sicily and met and married their wives in Connecticut and Brooklyn respectively. I remember as a child hearing the racist jokes about the "stupid Pollock" and the "Wop" or "Greasy Guinea." Forty years later, the Poles, Wops, the Irish, and the Kikes are no longer at the brunt of racist slurs in America, the negative slurs of today now focus on the illegal "Aliens" or "Wetbacks" of Mexico.

In this hodge-podge melting pot we call America, I can no longer find a place to look for the "American Dream." I have begun to surmise that it never existed. It was a trick, an illusion my grandfathers most likely searched for since the day they stepped off that boat and onto Ellis Island. Whether they ever felt they had won or found that dream, I will never know. From the beginning it appears America has had its roots set in deception and bloodshed. We blindly give thanks every November for this United States and all its wonders on Thanksgiving Day, and in July again we pretend to celebrate our freedoms of speech and religion. I laugh at the irony, the great dinner party between Pilgrim and Indian, which clearly marked the beginning of the end for Native Americans. I cringe at the thought that we really don't possess those freedoms our "forefathers" fought and signed for on the Constitution. On these days, I am not thankful, nor proud, but ashamed to be an American. For, all around me I still see the White Man dominating and oppressing, though he no longer wears the literal clothing of the devil incarnate, nor the robes of the KKK.

With the creation of the Maze / Path to the Star(s), I am resurrecting the mythos of the labyrinth, and also attempting to bury the tears of the American Indian, for, coincidentally, at about the same time as the appearance of the Greek labyrinth, a topologically identical pattern appeared in Native American culture - the Tohono O'odham labyrinth which features I'itoi, the "Man in the Maze". Prehistoric labyrinths are believed to have served either as traps for malevolent spirits or as defined paths for ritual dances. During Medieval times, the labyrinth symbolized a hard path to the God with a clearly defined center (God) and one entrance (birth). Labyrinths can be thought of as symbolic forms of pilgrimage; people can walk the path, ascending towards salvation or enlightenment. It is these ideals I’m attempting to renew. Through the use of this ancient icon I wish to unravel the betrayals and unfairness we find buried in racism and prejudice, past and present, to reveal the secret of The Path of Tzaddi found in the System of the Qabalah. The path of Natural Intelligence, and is so-called because through it is consummated and perfected the Nature of every existing thing beneath the Sun. The Path of Tzaddi connects Victory (Netzach) with The Foundation (Yesod). It is said to be a very powerful Path that points out the way in which the Divine Energy inherent in each individual is properly approached. Tzaddi means FISH HOOK, translated it is the Tree of Life. The HOOK is set in place in the waters of MEM (the Hanged Man) in order to catch the FISH (nun, death). So, as one experiments with any meditation or imaginative visualization, casting oneself into the Universal Sea (the Maze), we perhaps seek and find an understanding of the very processes of life and death.


| Overhead View of the Maze |

The black and white walls of the maze will form a yin-yang symbol from above.


| KKK at Southern Entrance |

| The Tree of Knowledge |

Found at the center of the Maze, and either a natural tree found on site, or built with steel. Blank books will be hung with ribbon from the tree enabling Maze participants to write their thoughts, ideas, prayer offerings, hopes, and/or fears with regard to walls, dominance, and Dictatorship of the Majority.

| mockUp : Grim Reapers in the north |

Paper cut out displaying what a section of the north walls will look like.

| mockUp : KKK walls — southern portion of Maze |

Paper cut outs displaying what a section of the south walls will look like.


The walls of the Maze will consist of a series of silhouettes cut from 4 x 8 (or 10) foot pieces of 1/4" or 3/16" thick sheet metal. These panels will then be welded to 1" square metal tubing to create a support frame, which will be securely inserted into the ground. All metal panels will be painted their respective colors. Ideally, the Tree would be of metal construction with copper and aluminum wires twisted and welded together around it. If a limited timeframe for set up exists then I would naturally request that the Maze be built around an existing tree.

the MAZE
Dimension of Walls: 8-12 feet tall.
Dimension of Walkways: 3-4 feet wide.
Entire width of Maze will vary depending upon specifics of installation site.
Materials: Steel plate cutouts.

the TREE
Dimensions: N/A (dependent upon site specifications)
Materials: Metal, mixed media, and found objects OR a natural tree with the maze built around it.

Dimensions: 6' L x 6' W x (flame height variable)
Materials: copper pipe or vessels containing flame.

Dimensions: 6' L x 2' W x 1/2' H
Materials: Earth wrapped with gauze and painted black & white.


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