Cameron Granger brings 'a little light' to Columbus

Andy Downing
Cameron Granger

During a year in many ways defined by isolation, artist and filmmaker Cameron Granger has begun to explore more ways to direct his focus outward.

“One thing I’ve been confronted with this year is [asking] how I can use my practice in a way that feels less insular, that feels bigger than me?” Granger said by phone in mid-November. “How can I be more generative? And so one thing I’ve been thinking about a lot is, where do I see gaps? What’s needed?”

These questions helped shape “Everybody’s got a little light, under the sun,” Granger’s current foray intothe Wexner Center’s Free Space, which includes free daily screenings of short films curated by the artist, as well as an in-the-works food distribution initiative where Granger, in partnership with Willowbeez Soulveg, will pass out free groceries at two Columbus locations during select days in December (more details will be released in the coming weeks). The grocery packs, available on a first-come, first-served basis, will include staples like bread and eggs, along with the ingredients to make a kale pesto, a recipe Carnell and Malik Willoughby of Willowbeez Soulveg demonstrated in a Granger-produced instructional video now streaming online via the Wex.

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Granger attributed his expanding lens to recent social upheavals driven by the arrival of the coronavirus and the rise of a new civil rights movement “I see a lot of folks who need help, and I see a lot of pain and a lot of grieving,” Granger said as well as to a deep-seated empathy, which the artist traced to his mother, that becomes more sharply defined with each passing year.

“On a physical level, me and my mom have always been twins, and I thought that’s where the similarities ended,” Granger said. “But, now, I mean, my mom’s very tender. She feels very deeply in all of the different ways, and I feel that, too. I find myself getting more empathetic as I get older. I have a hard time watching certain things because I really feel it in my chest and I cry really easily at things now. My mom would be the same way, and I used to think how silly that was. ...  But I’m so grateful my mom let me feel things as fully as I did coming up. It’s good to feel things. It’s good to cry. It’s good to let it out.”

Prior to his partnership with the Wex, which also included creating a short film for the“Cinetracts ’20” project earlier this year, Granger said he was stuck in a creative rut brought about in part by the virus-driven shutdowns. In January, he purchased his first-ever planner, filling out the calendar with months of scheduled deadlines and trips, all of which vanished virtually overnight once the shutdown hit in March. “It was very jarring and shocking and challenging to not have a reason to make anything,” said Granger, who tabled planned film projects, not wanting to risk coronavirus exposure to friends or crewmates. “I was kind of directionless.”

These feelings intensified in late May following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, which led to a stretch where Granger began to feel what he described as an almost antagonistic relationship to his art-making.

“It was like, ‘Ah, it doesn’t feel like it’s right for me to be making work. There is so much that needs to be done right now, and I don’t think my art is that thing,'” Granger said. “I was trying to find new ways to engage and exist. It was like, ‘Maybe Cameron doesn’t need to show up as an artist now. Maybe Cameron needs to show up as a member of this community that needs support.’

"And I think that was a good thing. I think it was good to expand my thinking in that way, because it reminded me that your work, your practice doesn’t stop in the gallery. The work is how you move through the world and uplift and engage things.”

Granger has long embraced his work as a means to uplift, particularly within the Black community, which is often portrayed in painful or unflattering cultural lights.

“There are so many painful images that you see of us everyday, and not even just on your TV, but on your phone, on your apps, on your [social media] feeds. And that’s always made me so sad, because it does something to your imagination, to the world’s imagination,” said Granger, who, growing up, gravitated toward shows like “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” “Moesha” and “Kenan & Kel,” shows which he said highlighted Black people “just living and doing them.” “So I really want to make things that have love in them. I want to show us smiling. I want to show us loving.”

Image of "Everybody's got a little light, under the sun' zine