Since 2012, Gandy Dancer’s mission has been to forge connections between writers and artists, and in times of isolation and disrupted daily life, reading these submissions certainly made us feel entertained and less alone. We have continued the production of our literary journal online due to COVID-19. We introduced new staff members to the journal, met in our editorial groups via Zoom and Google Suites, and crafted the layout on WordPress. Despite technical challenges, such as lagging Internets and learning how to use new programs, we were able to put together an exceptional journal.
This year, the first of a new decade, has featured a number of unfortunate and some eye-opening events, from the COVID-19 pandemic, to the Black Lives Matter movement, to the 2020 Presidential Election. Kailey Maher’s sculpture of toilet paper, “United We Stand, Divided We Fall,” speaks to the hardships of this fiercely divided time. As much as the events of this year have divided us, they have also led us to seek connection through art and literature. For some, creativity has been the most promising way to cope with such uncertainty, while others have found it harder than ever to find inspiration. We are grateful to those who submitted their art and allowed us glimpses of how they have coped.
In many of the pieces collected here you will note a desire to return to the past. In some work, this may include the past before COVID-19, the past before the current political climate; in other pieces, one sees a longing for childhood. Mick McMahon’s essay “Petrichor” explores how such longing lives in our senses and oftentimes demands a resurfacing. For McMahon, petrichor is “the memory of standing next to my grandmother on her porch, watching the rain fall as we sipped cups of tea. That is my home—that is my petrichor.” This essay made us think of our own petrichors that remind us of home. In Julia Grunes’ story “Sunny Days,” the protagonist Edgar longs for a time before his family has put him in a nursing home. We sympathized with Edgar and his longing to relive old memories, especially since we’ve been put into isolations of our own.
There is also, running through these pages, a current of anger and frustration, a desire for change. In Isabella Higgin’s “June,” the speaker expresses her frustration with America’s lack of change to her deceased father. She says, “I am in lock step with people / who have had more than enough, who have had 400 years / of lies to know to call this country’s bluff.” Reading “June,” we feel this anger and sadness. Winosha Steele, too, highlights the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement throughout her art, including “Ms. Bojangles” on our cover and “Tether,” a portrait of a Black woman wearing a noose as an earring and a chain around her neck. These paintings remind us of a history the country tries to make us forget, though the pain is ongoing for many. As much as “Tether” is in conversation with the Black Lives Matter movement, it also speaks to the idea of gender and autonomy—or a lack thereof.
In her essay about place and memory, Kathryn Waring explores the use of video mapping. In “Searching for 360, she writes, “I am searching for a 360 that doesn’t exist, a medium that lets me tell a story that’s not in fragments. What I don’t understand is that a photo, even in 360, is just a stage. Behind every door there is a loaded gun; a crashed spaceship; a person casting a shadow. The most interesting part of a story is always just out of frame.” Each piece within this journal tells its own story. You will find stories here which explore identity, loss, the past, and change. We are grateful to the artists and writers who have shared their stories and hope they will help you to feel less isolated in this new and alien world.
Sara Devoe and Rebecca Williamson