Aaron Fowler’s Into Existence at the Seattle Art Museum is a peculiar and fascinating exhibit. Experiencing Into Existence is like reading a storybook collecting narratives about Aaron Fowler’s life.
Debo Free, one of the artworks in the exhibit, shows a man wearing Nike shoes and a shirt which says ‘Debo Douglass’ breaking free from the chains attached to his wrists. Coming from the top of the structure and going onto the adjacent wall is an ominous-looking rope. There are shards of broken mirrors around him, and above and below him are the words “Debo Free” in lights. On the back the words are switched so that it says “Free Debo.” The man is in Crocs and with holes all over his body. The artwork clearly has a lot of symbolism; I interpret the holes as meaning that the man lives an unfulfilling life and feels hollow. The front of the structure represents that man breaking free from his empty life and finding meaning. However, it could also be about the incarceration of the artist’s friend, as demonstrated by the use of chains and a rope representing captivity. Fowler’s work opens itself up to many different interpretations. Into Existence by Aaron Fowler at SAM. Photo by Natali Wiseman.