Printed as a placard on United States currency and popularized as a decree that reverberates through a country founded on Christendom, the four simple words, “In God We Trust”, were written and recorded so as to “relieve us from the ignominy of heathenism” as written in a letter by Secretary of Treasury Salmon P. Chase in November of 1861. This same expression was reiterated to me as a child of an Egyptian, Christian Orthodox immigrant family. As a young man, being the first generation born in the United States created many spiritual and cultural conflicts in a society foreign to my family. The adolescent investigations of self and the constant struggle for survival and significance have faultlessly interwoven into my identity. As an extension of this critical self-evaluation, “In God I Trust” is a body of work that attempts to evaluate the presence of God and the juxtaposition of current events within the framework of a society that simultaneously rejected and embraced me. These works counterbalance themes that are at once heroic and confrontational. Using the motif of the subject looking out (a signature of early iconography), and a majority of family and friends as subject matter, the individuals in turn become real human beings engendered with sentiment and history. The subject matter in the scenes do not solely emphasize the action in the scene, but also capture moments that might be otherwise ignored, submerging the viewer into a discourse of self-reflection and investigation of one’s own identity and frail mortality.
Joseph Paul Gerges