The Twin Cities are hurting. Largely unaddressed social ills like rampant homelessness, inequality, and unchecked police violence have led to a city in crisis.
The sheer magnitude of these issues can feel overwhelming. One wonders what one lone individual can do to make a difference.
Enter Justin Nelson, 32, a recent Minneapolis transplant from Wayzata. A software developer by day, Nelson is cutting through the fog of hopelessness permeating the air in his recently adopted city through one of his hobbies – artistic expression. His medium? The art of denial.
“I want to use my time on earth to spread love because a lot of people are going through life totally bummed out,” said Nelson, “I have no idea why though – it makes no sense – especially here in the best city in the world!”.
Like Renaissance master Caravaggio confronting 16th-century church corruption with subversive oil paintings celebrating the common man, Nelson is utilizing his unique gift for privileged obliviousness to craft exquisite works of prose that compel and confront the observer, asking “what if everything is actually completely fine?”.
Those close to him say that Nelson’s awe-inspiring level of ignorance is willful. He sees the problems around him but chooses to so deeply bury this uncomfortable knowledge that he transforms his very self into a radical piece of denialist performance art.
“Anyone know why 38th and Chicago is blocked off?” questioned Nelson in a series of finely composed Facebook posts, “the officer got fired so that whole Floyd thing is settled, right? I guess it’s probably just road work.”
“One time, I tried to tell him that Minneapolis has the second-highest racial inequality of any major city in the country,” recalled Amber Olson, one of many acquaintances in awe of Nelson’s talents, “and he literally told me that I must be mistaken or that maybe there’s another Minneapolis in Georgia or Alabama or something.”
Incredible. If there was a Louvre for the art of denial, one of Minnesota’s own sons would have their works hung front and center in its rotunda.
Though there’s no telling if Nelson’s art will ultimately have the power to mend our broken city by motivating its people to empty their souls of all innate human empathy, just the fact that he’s here, continually putting his work out there for the world to marvel at, should inspire us all to let our lights shine.