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Quiet Isn’t Always Peace

Works from the MOCRA collection, featuring selections from Georges Rouault’s “Miserere”

Quiet Isn’t Always Peace installation view (2021)

An installation view of  “Quiet Isn’t Always Peace” at MOCRA in 2021.

MOCRA is only open to visitors with SLU IDs until further notice. Learn more here.

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Growth in grieving, hope in hurting, trying in tiring

 People everywhere were captivated as Amanda Gorman delivered her poem “The Hill We Climb” on the steps of the Capitol on Inauguration Day. Her cascading cadences of imagery alluded to orators of the past but unequivocally asserted her own voice in addressing the present moment. A short phrase from the opening lines of the poem serves as inspiration and title for this exhibition:

When day comes we ask ourselves,
where can we find light in this never-ending shade?
The loss we carry,
a sea we must wade.
We’ve braved the belly of the beast,
We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace,
and the norms and notions
of what “just” is
isn’t always justice.

A year into a global pandemic, we might agree that, while a measure of peace and quiet can be a wonderful thing, an enforced solitude wears on the soul. The pandemic has brought uneasy disconnects: sparse streets during rush hour, the lilt of birdsong in place of the white noise of traffic. Yet that calm belies the reality of people schooling or working from home (or, worse, out of work), of crowded hospitals and racking coughs and gasping breaths. Lack of social contact, especially with those we care most about, can be an unwelcome sort of quiet. 

Quiet isn’t always peace, yet sometimes it is, and we hope that MOCRA is a place where you can pause, breathe, adjust your perspective, and delight in creative expression. Some of the works on display reflect anxiety, impatience, and loss, while others speak to the capacity for faith, solidarity, and resilience to help us carry on.  Artists with work in “Quiet Isn’t Always Peace” include:

Our challenges may persist, but we might find a bit of encouragement and inspiration. As Gorman’s poem concludes:

When day comes we step out of the shade,
aflame and unafraid,
the new dawn blooms as we free it.
For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it.

Spotlight Artist: Georges Rouault

French artist Georges Rouault is a singular figure in twentieth-century art. His paintings and prints are marked by a highly distinctive style influenced by his strong affinity for the medieval period as well as his Catholic faith. MOCRA is fortunate to hold in its collection one of the few complete sets in the United States of Rouault’s “Miserere.” Comprising 58 prints executed in a range of intaglio printing techniques, “Miserere” represents a landmark achievement in the graphic arts and in the religious art of the twentieth century.

We are pleased to present a selection of 15 prints from “Miserere” as part of “Quiet Isn’t Always Peace.” Some resonate with America’s collective experiences of the past year, so strongly marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, tensions around racial inequities and the call for social justice reform, and growing economic disparities. Others, with clear religious imagery, demonstrate Rouault’s penchant for addressing the suffering and wickedness of the world by linking them with the suffering of Christ.