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 ~ 4.3.20

Forever Team Fauci

Move over Mona Lisa,
your smug smile lost

to the good doctor
head bent  hand-to-forehead.

His shoulder-weary smile
a viral articulation of

“Who’s on first?”
And just like you he needs protection.

Incredulous the new forever smile
#Fauci2020

Dedicated to Denise B.  ~  ag 2020

In Profile

I sketch his profile—the musician with a harmonica almost hidden in his large hands. His glasses slipping down his nose, and his mop of hair unruly. The line work is strong loose abstract. Maybe I’m the only one who recognizes his presence. The gesture, the tilt of his head, the music I’m hearing. 

 

Face/About Face

January is coming to a close and with it my mindful writing posts for 2019. I have not focused too much writing about my visual art mainly because I feel (the operative word here) that I’m in a slump sorts. It is the black vortex that all artists face, sometimes after a particularly productive period and sometimes not. It is the most difficult aspect (for me) to deal with: an uninspired, I don’t know what I want to paint, unchallenging and utterly bored/boring  bump in the road. During these drought-like periods, painting often feels like a chore and production does not stop altogether, however the output or finished piece is not exciting to the artist. Pablo Picasso famously stated:

“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”

And so we do work and plow through these lulls which can last for weeks/months and sometimes for years. Every artist in every genre who is truly a creator, explorer and seeking to grow her/his artistry must work their way through the dull-as-a-dishwasher cycles to breakthroughs. For a fledgling artist this can feel like a first crushing heartbreak and that feeling of “oh no–not again” for the veteran creator. It’s not something you ever imagine could happen when you first fall in love with your vision/passion, and you never want, expect or prepare to end. But end it does bringing with the angst–necessary change for greater creative growth and a deeper more nuanced love. Inspiration is another archetype that walks along side us often at her own quirky pace. She must also find you hungry and willing to surrender to her fire.

The painting below seems to have evolved on its own. I don’t know where it came from, but I’m guessing my fiery muse had something to do with it.

~

until my brush sneaks past me
lost in the paint

 

Pentimento

pentimento…regret is always a choice ~

A pentimento (plural pentimenti) is an alteration in a painting, evidenced by traces of previous work, showing that the artist has changed his or her mind as to the composition during the process of painting. The word is Italian for repentance, from the verb pentirsi, meaning to repent. Since it is my practice to work over much more  than traces of past paintings on the canvas–it would seem that I am very regretful for the failure of the original work. Hardly–and on the contrary, I look for used canvases and boards to paint over. A sterile and bright white blank surface often hinders my work. I love to work on borrowed art as long as I sand it down to simple traces of other artist’s paint. In fact, it’s like solving a puzzle to match a new concept to an old board of “borrowed” color and shapes. I am always grateful to repurpose these boards into new life. Some examples below: