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 ~ 4.21.20

Let Chaos Be

A palimpsest on Let Evening Come by Jane Kenyon

(Palimpsest: a manuscript or piece of writing material on which the original writing has been expunged to make room for later writing but of which traces remain; using the bones of the original writing as the basis and springboard for the new piece).

In this version, I slightly altered my original palimpsest/poem to align more with current events:

Let Chaos Be

Let tongues wag 140
characters on Twitter feeds,
#hashtag words rife   knife.

~

Let emotions loose
like mice in a field with summer
on their feet. Let chaos be.

~

Let red and blue placards sprout
from neighbors’ lawns. Let fake news
rupture the resounding silence. 

~

Let traffic halt. Let deer graze.
Let great trees fall apart.
Let chaos be.

~

To the microphones on podiums,
to science debates, to viral statistics
let chaos be.

~

Let it be, as it explodes. Fear not.
The pandemic is here to correct
our naiveté, so let chaos be.

~

ag

 

 

Viral Gratitude ~ 4.19.20

Looking at my calendar, (an old fashion desk calendar with photos and sayings), there are many events cancelled—my 50th high school reunion is a big one that was supposed to come up this month. It’s been moved to October. Birthdays and anniversaries are acknowledged, albeit in a more subdued manner; a book club meeting lost in space and sundry other to-be occasions never even recorded. However, I find myself marking in the (mostly) little stuff like COVID-19 isolation begins; my last food shopping trip; tree smashes car; Lucy calls to check in with me; Barbara texts hello; Carol from Maine and I reconnect and chat. Last I spoke to her and saw her was on a serene lake in Maine three almost four years ago; Mary is sending videos of groundbreaking but never acknowledged female artists; and Roger from grammar school posts a video of a virtual road ride through Branch Brook Park showcasing its Cherry Tree blossoms in all their splendor—all the more magnificent due to the road minus tourist traffic. This Sunday park drive brought to the forefront shared childhood memories and reacquaintance. Rather small recordings in our pre-pandemic world, yet significant post-pandemic and isolating in place. Also recorded: my first Zoom meeting with a bunch of right-brain fun and creative artists of a certain age trying on the look of “computer-savy;” my first self-haircut along with a tornado watch and sad passings of friends’ loved ones. All in a three week period that feels like a lifetime. Time is fluid now.

I want to remember the significant insignificant details which usually float into the ether except for this journaling and some Facebook posts. Life is in the details and paying attention takes time and silence. For these moments of remembrance and connection—I am grateful.

Cherry Blossom Fog

Viral Gratitude ~ 4/17/20

I believe that the sentiment, “Life is too short to drink cheap wine” is a familiar one. I totally agree with its intention (whenever possible) and also with the corollary that decent wine does not have to be expensive to be enjoyed either. On that note, I have come to add a maxim of my own: “Life is too short to drink chamomile tea instead of something else.” Try as I may for an adult lifetime and more discards of half-finished cups than I am comfortable to admitting—I just don’t like the taste or get enough satisfaction out of it to appreciate its value. It’s possible that packaged chamomile tea has been crapified down too much into “good for you” marketing limpid bags. My grandmother used to brew real chamomile flowers into tea as a tonic for her children. Perhaps the real stuff is worth working with, however all the “sleepytime” marketing and promises just don’t pass muster for me. And the shame of it is that I love the word chamomile and will have to use it henceforth only in poetry or prose. I usually have a cuppa tea next to the computer as I write this around 3:00 AM nightly. Chamomile has been my go-to decaffeinated choice for its calming attributes.

This pandemic has taught me a lot about self-care: with true self-care, comfort and pleasure sometimes outweigh the promise or premise of (puportedly) healthier and healing. In other words, during a pandemic, comfort takes on its own healing modality. We all must judge this for ourselves, and unbridled hedonism does not eclipse healthy choices. Harmony of the two should not be overrated at this juncture.

So it is with some sadness and disappointment that I bid adieu to any more middle-of-the-night cups of chamomile, and while I’m at it, so too rose-hip tea. It is with great pleasure on the other hand, that I welcome back black pekoe (decaffeinated) into my swinging night life. I feel better already.

~

new haircut same face no more chamomile tea

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

Viral Gratitude ~ 3.23.20

Filed under #NJ Drivers Who:

Drive like maniacs barreling down rural roads on a Sunday morning in a low-slung car with a monster wake-the-dead-probably-not-a-faulty-carburetor roar during a pandemic with no one else around to pass or impress. 

I heard the dude (yes I’m calling the person inside the car a dude and not a dudette,  because for a brief NJ moment, we can dispense with the political/gender fluidity correctness), coming from far away. I was walking in from the field (on 20 acres) toward my house when I first heard the low rumble that eventually swells and vibrates loud enough to scare birds from their nests. Since I was hearing this come from a mile or more away, and because I had nothing better to do, I directed my attention to the road to see if it was motorcycle or a truck. It was neither. It was a sports-type car, and he was speeding at about 50 mph on a road posted for 30 mph. Really??? During an otherwise quiet-everyone-off-streets-global pandemic? Speed and sound—I know it thrills and chills, but this is not the Daytona Speedway or anything near it.

In the end, I had to give this guy credit. He was just being his true self, and no viral or other crisis was going to slow him down. He was staying totally in character, and there is something to be said about making room and not judging (too harshly anyway) his chosen modus operandi. Except for being filed under “Obnoxious NJ Drivers” he was breaking no laws and probably just letting off steam as best he knew how. Who actually knows what lies ahead when he turns the next corner? Or for any of us really.

global pandemic
breaking the silence
by not braking the rules

Viral Gratitude ~ 3/22/20

Pussy Willows are blooming. Their soft fuzzy nubs (catkins) are curious and fun  flowers that are among the early risers in Spring. Pussy Willows are named after tiny cats’ paws according to The Brooklyn Botanic Garden. So in the spirit of Shel Silverstein and Dr. Seuss I wrote the following in 2016:

~

It’s a pussy willow kind-of-day
a little fuzzy ~ a little gray.
The sun skies in and out,
Around clouds out and about.
I have nothing more to say – just that
It’s a pussy willow kind-of-day.