Grass-roots, community art is typically not discussed in terms of the sublime because it aims to alleviate not provoke feelings of terror or shock, regenerate rather than exploit the disturbing vastness
of landscapes of privation in which it often is made. Whilst much contemporary art co-created with disenfranchised communities is intentionally subversive, designed to overturn stereotypes, preconceptions,
and oppressions; these projects are accomplished over time through interactive processes rather than a single instantaneous insight provoked by an object or image (Kester, 2004). This article suggests that as these community-based projects extend the role of art; the works themselves, the murals, sculpture, gardens, performances, happenings and exchanges may reclaim the sublime from the self-referential, closed narratives of the avant garde, and give it back to everyday people.
Three decades of work by international artist Lily Yeh shine as examples of a co-created sublime, the physical and aesthetic inversion of despair to hope, periphery to center, and mundane to sacred.
The magnanimous scale of the works, their powerful local mythology and dazzling luminosity, made possible by Yeh only through mutual exchange and collaboration, ripple out to the world beyond through images, from starlight to pixels. The photographic representation of these collaborative projects might turn out to be an equally powerful frame for change of the community art movement.
As distillations of larger processes, these powerful aesthetic pieces are capable of provoking an instantaneous insight in to the significance of the work, offering a breathtaking glimpse of an alternate and exalted reality brought to life. To overlook the sublimity of Yeh's work out of partiality
to process over product, or for lack of new direction beyond the avant garde's dead-end, would be to miss attending to one of the greatest living artists and most important modern re-inventions of art.