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Jicky Schnee 

Amazing Grace


I often work with piano scrolls because they have two components, the visual/graphic and the auditory.  I am interested in employing as many of a viewer’s senses as possible.  In working with piano scrolls over time, I have always felt that their patterns made for the player piano mimic the braille of the blind.  Inside this cell is the self, both blind and able to see, isolated and in touch with everything through connection of grace.  


"Amazing Grace" is a Christian hymn published in 1779, with words written by the English poet and Anglican clergyman John Newton (1725–1807).  Newton wrote the words from personal experience. He grew up without any particular religious conviction, but his life's path was formed by a variety of twists and coincidences that were often put into motion by others' reactions to what they took as his recalcitrant insubordination. He was pressed (conscripted) into service in the Royal Navy, and after leaving the service, he became involved in the Atlantic slave trade. In 1748, a violent storm battered his vessel off the coast of County Donegal, Ireland, so severely that he called out to God for mercy, a moment that marked his spiritual conversion. He continued his slave-trading career until 1754 or 1755, when he ended his seafaring altogether and began studying Christian theology.  Ordained in the Church of England in 1764, Newton became curate of Olney, Buckinghamshire, where he began to write hymns.  "Amazing Grace" was written to illustrate a sermon on New Year's Day of 1773.  Later Newton joined forces with a young man named William Wilberforce, the British Member of Parliament who led the Parliamentarian campaign to abolish the slave trade in the British Empire, culminating in the Slave Trade Act 1807.  

There is a transformative power in ‘Amazing Grace’; of sin and sorrow into grace, of suffering into beauty, of alienation into empathy and connection, of the unspeakable into imaginative literature.  With it’s message that forgiveness and redemption are possible regardless of sins committed and that the soul can be delivered from despair through the mercy of God, "Amazing Grace" is one of the most recognizable songs in the English-speaking world



This work is a projected film on what is called a ‘controlled reader’, a device that was used improve the reading speeds of school children when I was growing up.  In using this device the words of a story would flash across the screen and the teacher would continue to speed the frame setting until comprehension decreased.  As a child dyslexic, I hated this machine and learning under this orchestrated pressure felt to me the way the machine looked, like being exposed to the constant firing of a gun. 


Buffalo Bill ’s


               who used to

               ride a watersmooth-silver


and break onetwothreefourfive pigeonsjustlikethat



he was a handsome man 

                                                  and what i want to know is

how do you like your blue-eyed boy

Mister Death


With two children in primary school I worry, like most parents today, about school shootings.  In coupling E.E.Cumming’s poem Buffalo Bill’s Defunct, a poem that Cummings intentionally shaped as a bullet, I condemn this new norm; America has traded the basic right of all, to go to school with the assurance of safety, for a right of the few, to own a gun.  Current data shows that around 25% of all households in America own ONE gun, this most commonly being a hand-gun used for self-protection.  The vast majority of guns are owned by what are called ‘Super-Owners”.  These are the owners of assault rifles and automatic machine guns.  


New survey, part of most definitive portrait of gun ownership in decades, shows just 3% of American adults own half of guns in the US

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