White, Woman and Wokeness

I recently posted a new painting of mine (on a Facebook artist group) of a woman whose face is melting/disintegrating in anguish. At least that’s what I hope is portrayed. The working title is “The Moment Of White Privilege Wokeness.” It is a portrait of a mostly well-to-do-white woman coming to terms with white privilege. Although not well-to-do, I live a comfortable life and include myself in this disturbing painting which is my first since the murder of George Floyd. I was unable to paint or comment for weeks after this horrific event and all the ugliness it represents and has cracked open.

There is confusion, sadness, struggle, discomfort, pain and so much more on this topic. As an artist, I feel an obligation to allow all of this to flow through my work. I am not preaching, simply following the footsteps of many an artist whose creativity reflected the good and the ill in society. I posted the painting and opened it up to my artist peers’ critique for examination.

There was a landslide of emotional and international responses to my painting by artists in the group and comments not limited to Mr. Floyd’s murder, but to the whole of white privilege, artistic expression, past vs present, injustice and enslavement of other people globally etc. The discussion got intense but was mostly respectful (and is still ongoing). One comment in particular ignited a gush of responses/reactions. It opened up an opportunity for sensitive conversation and my own thoughts put into words.

The original post/painting (below) included my post:

“I’m feeling very emotional and confused about my artwork and how to respond to the political climate in the US and my own participation in “white privilege.” This is my first painting since the murder of George Floyd and the growing awareness of the intrinsic structural racism in all our institutions. I am struggling with this as an artist and as a human.”

The Moment Of White Privilege Wokeness; Oil on board; 14″ x 18”

The artist comment that sparked sparks:

 “Don’t know what George Floyd has got to do with you painting”

This got number of other artist’s blood boiling, defending and explaining my work for me, and ignited a lengthy discussion-conversation on art and current events. I believe it was/is a necessary thoughtful conduit for all of us to vent, support, teach, reach and grow.

 I would like to include my response for the record to the artist’s question/statement: “Don’t know what George Floyd has got to do with your painting”

“As an artist–I am empathic and try to express what moves me and through me. I question my artwork often to see if it aligns with my life beliefs and life itself. I do not see a difference between my creative process and choices on and/or off the canvas. When a situation occurs that disrupts this process, because it is so hideous and unbelievable–it affects what/how I think is important to express. The fact that George Floyd was brutally “lynched” in the public eye by someone who used his power, given by the people he pledged to protect, in a such a corrupt manner and believed that he would pay no consequences for his actions, harkened back to the Civil Rights movement, the Civil War and the founding of our nation. George Floyd’s death brought this fact into sharper focus than ever before and also laid bare the fact that if there was no video, this policeman would have gotten away with his murder. Black and all people of color have been raging and dying for 400 years, and we (whites) did not listen or act in a manner to make the changes needed to avoid this travesty. I feel that as a comfortable white woman–I have also contributed (although not directly) to this horror. As it has affected my life, as I said above, it affects my artwork. I am just trying to be honest here. It is not up for debate since these are my feelings based on facts. I am sharing among my artist-peers. I am grateful for your comment (name deleted)—I hope this helps clarify why one death affects my creativity.”

Viral Gratitude ~ 5/23/20

5/23/20

It’s been that kind of a week. Try to guess which one of the these things did not happen to me:

1. A black bear runs past at top speed in a deer-fenced in area about 50’ away.

2. “Blow Joe” is on my caller ID landline phone.

3. Two tiny, probably copperhead, snakes coil and try to strike after I lift the black garden tarp where they were napping. (I cannot blame them really).

4. The BOGS mud shoes that I ordered fit perfectly, and I wore them anyway on a dry day.

5. A radiant handmade fabric bowl was delivered and dropped off at my doorstep, much to my delight.

6. I painted a flamboyant selfie in the manor of Frida Kahlo. 

If you guessed #4 you are correct. I could hardly get my toe into the mud shoes that they described as being “a true fit.” The snakes were babies, but something to think about later in the season before poking under rocks in my usual oblivious fashion; “Joe Blow” did pop up on caller ID (who would answer this nom de plume?); the black bear went by in a flash before anyone was spooked; thank you to Susan for the handmade fabric bowl with delivery service and for donating all the proceeds to our local soup kitchen; and finally, if you haven’t noticed the colorful mixed media piece above, a group of us were challenged to paint or collage our likeness a la Frida, whose 55 self-portraits were her means to expressing her feelings, usually without restraint and with a lot of drama. She was in tremendous pain most of her life, both physically and emotionally, and still she persevered and painted through it all, and continues to inspire many of us on many levels. Thank you Frida and Joe Blow for adding some much needed spark to an otherwise dull work week.

Viral gratitude ~ 5.18.20

Susan Leslie Moore has captured my heart with her words in her poem,

I Have Tried Hard to Have Appropriate Feelings.

It is personal and honest, and at the same time casts a poetic spell in the very best way poetry zings to the soul and spirit of life itself. Yes–zing and sing. Her line about the polar bears touched a deep chord, and reminds me that I/we are connected to all life, and that tears are meant to heal us.

The highest compliment that I can give another poet is, “I wish that I wrote this very poem.” They are few and far between, but oh so satisfying when they grace our being.

This poem was selected by Naomi Shihab Nye and published in the NYT Magazine section. The poem is from Ms. Moore’s (book),
That Place Where You Opened Your Hands

~

I Have Tried Hard to Have Appropriate Feelings

By Susan Leslie Moore

I have folded them away like sweaters.
Kept my distance from the moon, visited the sick.
~
I am proud of the life in my head. Nobody knows
the garden I’ve seen. I am tender with the suburb.
~
Some days even the ceiling worries me, the way
it keeps the roof on.
~
I only cry when the polar bears get to me.
The ones stranded on the melting ice.
~
Otherwise I’m kept in line by the steady curve
of my driveway, the tight fists of the roses. I can easily
         converse
about the sweet peas and our eventual disintegration.
~
The sky has more to say to me than I could
ever hear, given the restricted space between
houses. Frogs sing at night and the whine of the train.

 

Viral gratitude ~ 5.17.20

This poem, by a Pittsburgh poet who lost his wife to the corona virus, really struck me hard. It is both personal and universal. The poem is by Bart Solarczyk and is published in his poetry book: Tilted World.

Blue Blanket

She’s sick
& sleeping
on a sofa

~

wrapped
in a big
blue blanket

~

we will never
be children
again

~

blue blankets
can never
be the sky.

 

O Oh and OOOOOOOH

A Pantoum: The pantoum is a poem of any length, composed of four-line stanzas in which the second and fourth lines of each stanza serve as the first and third lines of the next stanza. The last line of a pantoum is often the same as the first.

O  Oh and OOOOOOOH
(for Vicky)

O  a letter;   a symbol;   a sound;   a poem;
swells to fullness on pursed lips: moon.
Climaxes to the oh oh oh oh oh OOOOOOOH  moan
and softens – in the tender of “oh, I didn’t know.”

~

Curves to fullness on lips of moon.
Sets our limits — our boundaries with NO — not good!
Listens in the tender of “oh, I didn’t know”
quickly politicizes when “in the hood.”

~

Sets our limits — our boundaries in NO — not good!
Vibrates and honors the breath of OM.
Quickly politicizes when “in the hood”
O chorals God; Hours; Ovaries; Our Own.

~

Vibrates and honors the breath of OM
O  a letter;  a symbol;  a sound;  a poem.
O chorals God; Hours; Ovaries; Our Own.
Orgasms in the oh oh oh oh oh OOOOOOOH  birthing moan.

ag ~ December 2016
~ revised May 2020

 

 

Viral Gratitude ~ 5.2.20

A few snippets that I came across reading the NYT this week. 

“If we’re all inside, might as well
jump on the couch and have a good time.”

“I’m reading some poetry
not for solace, but for understanding.”

“Seasons will not be still,
filled with migrations of birds.”

“I actually have a crush on someone,
and I used the time to write to them.”

“If you look at a moment like this,
you realize it’s a mere blip in time.”

“We hear the woodpecker at work on
the chimney. There is news everywhere.”

 

Viral Blogging ~ 4.27.20

More or Less

More foxtails on the run,
less contrails blocking the sun.
~
More stars brighter in the sky,
less cars passing by.
~
More community chipping in,
less immunity near friend and kin.
~
More recipes than able cooks,
less crime and story-book crooks.
~
More coffee at home to taste,
less plastic cups go to waste.
~ ~ ~
Less junkmail, and trips to the mall,
more dog walks and real phone calls.
~
Less to complain about “before,”
more consideration at our core.
~
Less of what others perceive,
more of what we actually need.
~
Less noise and throwing stones,
more of stardust in our bones.
~
Less contrails blocking the sun,
more foxtails on the run.

ag ~ 2020

Viral Gratitude ~ 4.26.20

April is Poetry Month, and for this I am always grateful, but especially during isolation. Poetry and art connect and converse soul to soul to soul. It is the language that I turn to try to understand our human-ness in relation to all of nature. It has been said (by A. O. Scott, and I paraphrase) that poetry and all forms of art “Shows us something we didn’t know we needed to (hear and) see.” It is also an antidote to political-speak. 

The New York Times (thankfully) prints a poem by a published poet every week in their Magazine section, and each poem is chosen by a national or regional poet laureate. The poem sits quietly but squarely between pages of recipes, science articles, ethical questions, current events and the renowned crossword puzzle. I do not enjoy every poem, however the ones that speak to me inspire and ignite my own writing and kindle awe.

The poem Songs and Stones by Jacqueline Saphra was published on
October 27, 2019 and chosen by Naomi Shihab Nye,
the 2019-21 Young People’s Poet Laureate of the Poetry Foundation, Chicago.

Songs and Stones

by Jacqueline Saphra

This head is heavy
with irreconcilable weights.
~
These worlds: how to balance
the scales, how to bear the ache.
~
Love stuns and buds in the bone,
terrors rattle the skull.
~
Sleep flickers and lifts the lids.
This neck is a buckled pillar.
~
From one eye, tears of rage;
from the other, tears of blessing.
~
These sobs are stones,
these sobs are songs.
~
How do I free these oppositions
from my throat?
~
I no longer know which one
is making it so hard to swallow.

 

Viral Gratitude ~ 4.25.20

On Facebook again: a meme posted by my brother (which I usually ignore but decided to play with this time):

(Create your) Dragon Name–(Your name backward), the (current mood). Hoarder of (last thing you ate) and (object to your right).

Aerdna, the pissed-off hoarder of buckwheat pasta and useless china.

Very silly but fun too. Lots of good and interesting answers. You can tell the healthy eaters from the snackers. LOL.

 

Viral gratitude ~ 4.24.20

It has been bothering me that this disruption/virus, is a direct result of our disregard and abuse of nature as suggested by Jane Goodall, and unlike Jane, I feel that it’s too late for us to correct our thinking and therefore actions. It depressed me quite a bit, because as contrasted with Ms. Goodall, a true hero and prophet, I am giving up hope on our species ever co-creating with Nature rather than trying to dominate and bully our natural order into submission. Instead of using our native abilities for intelligent and sensitive stewardship, we have abandoned this goal and work for the most part. Thus, we are now dealing with the virus, severe weather and other global dissonance. Quite heartbreaking.

And then I get a message, as I usually do (when paying attention from the Universe), in some form or another. Words resonate with me and often fly in middle of the night these days. On Facebook, a post comes through my feed from Empath Connection which I usually gloss over. This message came in the form of questions and answers from a Native American Elder and is restoring my faith and hope:

“Grandma, how can I live this quarantine?”

“My daughter, quarantine is a special mysterious and sacred period. In my days, newborn children could only leave the house for the first time after their 40th day of life. It is a period of waiting and preparing for a new life. It is the period that produces a great change.”

“And how do you prepare for this change?”

“With simple, genuine and loving actions. Every morning comb your long hair with dedication and untie all the knots, even the most hidden ones that you have always neglected…” [I am shortening/skipping more here to get to the point that really speaks to me]. 

“Grandmother, I’m afraid that after this isolation nothing will change. Man quickly forgets…” [sic].

How others react to this quarantine is none of your business. Make a commitment to change and not forget. Make sure this storm shakes you up so much that it completely revolutionizes your life.”

—Elena Bernabe, Indigenous Peoples cultures, April 2020

~ ~ ~

Thank you Elena Bernabe and Jane Goodall for another description of
The Hero’s Journey