Art As A Weapon

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I was browsing a site that sells art this evening.  At the top of a page, there was a description of modern art’s color blocking that emerged in the mid-twentieth century.  I remember wanting to spend significant time discussing and attempting to understand modern art during my art history class in college.  I found the subject frustrating—starting with Duchamp’s Fountain.  Now, when I see images from that era, or artists attempting to continue the genre, I sit back, annoyed that I ever gave it the time of day.

You see, earlier this summer, my husband and I watched a four-part documentary series filmed in the 90s.  One of the segments shared that the modern art movement was really a CIA propaganda move to combat the rise of the Soviet Union.  Essentially, it was a war of the arts to prove who could produce higher culture.

Tonight I watched the movie Florence Foster Jenkins.  I won’t bother with the synopsis (because you should go watch it), but she is a well to-do woman who can afford to sponsor her own music career—while funding the career of her own pianist.  Her husband protects her from negative criticism because…well, you’ll just have to watch the movie.  But, while watching it, I realized how the arts can be a healing force.

I’m married to a musician, but I am not one.  I love music—certain kinds of music.  It makes me feel so many emotions.  I rise and fall with it.  Art does not only belong to the rich.  It belongs to all of us.  In our home we are so fortunate to be surrounded by art almost entirely created by people we know.  None of them paint or draw for a living.  For most, it’s a hobby.  Different techniques.  All bring me pleasure.

I suppose I’m trying to explain that I feel cheated by the government for manipulating the world with art.  Would Pollock be famous without the CIA?  I know the great artists were funded by patrons—often the Catholic church.  I’m struggling with the idea that what I’ve grown up admiring is not pure, but rather is tainted by the souls of those who sold themselves out to governments that do not work for the good of the people, but for their own self-interests.

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Community in the Deep Side of the Pond

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I don’t know about where you live, but where I live, Spring is playing a teasing game of hide-and-seek.  The tantalizing scents, sights, and sounds cause my heart to swell with joy and anticipation of the refreshing weather and soul rejuvenation that is just around the corner (but the continued chilly days bring a damper).

With the changing of the season, I feel the urge to start some new life-habits, including a new book that I hope will give me some deeper insight into my own journey.  Have you ever read The Life You Save May Be Your Own by Paul Elie?  My impression is that it will compare, contrast, and ponder over what it’s four authors of focus wrote, lived, and contributed (the book looks at the lives of Flannery O’Connery, Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, and Walker Percy).  I’d love to hear your thoughts if you’ve read it.

I know little bits about each of these authors—some more than others.  There is something deep and contemplative, hidden even, that I want to explore and gain from their experiences.  I’ve always loved the deeper things in life because that’s where bonding and community form, it’s where life is best lived and souls are grown.

Community is a beautiful and necessary thing.  When I reflect back over my 26.5 years, I see the ways I’ve grown and changed based on who I was around.  I also notice the maturing, though difficult, I’ve undergone during the lonely times in my life.  These authors, though separated by distance, have been placed in a category of influence during the 20th century much, it seems, like those members of the Lost Generation or the Transcendentalists (both groups with members or offspring from whom I garner inspiration) in their times.

Some of these communities burgeon into influential movements that impact the world, others will remain smaller and impact those in their immediate sphere of influence, but ALL serve a purpose.  One of my favorite times of community was during college when I was surrounded by close friends, all of us doing our best to figure out our lives.  It gets harder after graduating, when everyone disperses.  I’m thankful for the occasional visit or unexpected circle of peers (shout out to my Black Mountain people), because as a social adult, especially one recovering from a disease that limits my social time, I still need that connection that feeds my soul, the one that lets us share the struggles we are facing and what work we’re doing to address them.

One of my aunts shared a piece of Chinese wisdom with me yesterday: if you want to make a change in your life, do it for one minute a day until it becomes habit for that length of time.  Then, add a second minute.  The things in our lives we want to change—part of why I’ve chosen to read this new book—start with simple steps, like reading a short story in the evening before bed to feed my mind but without the commitment to something much longer.  It means making intentional decisions based on my personal goals for each day and stage of life.

Here’s to picking something you want to make a habit and doing it for one minute!
Here’s to creating community and going deep.
Here’s to Spring and rebirth.

Recovering and Growing

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For the past year and a half I’ve been battling and recovering from cancer/cancer treatments.  Over that time, I’ve striven to continue posting about things I care about.  However, I want to restart, sporadic or not as it may be, because I have this inner drive to write.  It helps me process issues and this blog gives me a platform to choose what I want to write about.

The inspiration for this blog has not changed: my passion for social justice, journalism, and championing change in my own way.  What has changed is the way I’m approaching this blog.  As I recover from my stem cell transplant, I want to continue to grow as a person, not simply recover my physical abilities.  Therefore, I am still going to write about issues that are important, but with a different tone—probably a personal one.  This is not a newspaper, it’s a space where I can explore, write, and share about topics that matter to me.

My hope is, if you read what I write and it impacts you, that you’ll talk about it with people around you and share the conversation—or talk with me.

 

Feminist Isn’t A Bad Word

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Over the weekend A and I went to Winston-Salem, NC for a quick trip to meet with friends.  Winston-Salem is also where he went to high school and undergrad, so he takes me to his old haunts whenever we’re in the area.  This time, he introduced me to McKay’s used bookstore.

It has such a great selection of books, movies, CDs, and more.  But seriously, the books.  So good!  I had to practice self-control, because our home is turning into a library (not a bad thing—just a space issue).

However, I’ve really wanted to grow my knowledge of women studies, feminism, etc., and the best way to do that seems to be starting “at the very beginning” (to quote Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music—which I did sing while leaving the store).  So, when I found a great copy of The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan with an intro by Anna Quindlen, I grabbed it!

One of my sources of extreme frustration is when I hear or read females (teenage, young woman, woman, older woman—doesn’t matter) say they don’t need feminism.  They typically add that equality isn’t an issue in our country, and that things are far worse in other parts of the world.

I agree…to an extent.  Women in the United States do have more equality than women in, say, Saudi Arabia.  However, as one who has experienced sexism in the work place, social life, etc., I have to advocate for the rights of women—even the ones who say they don’t need it.

Growing up, I thought “feminist” and “feminism” were bad words.  I equated feminists with man-haters.  I never imagined I would become a feminist.  However, in college I encountered three young women, peers of mine, who helped shift my perspective.  Thanks to them, and others, I look for ways to protect myself and other women from patriarchy—whether imposed by men or other women.

We all know the stereotype of females being called “catty.”  That needs to go away, along with the words “nag”, “whore”, “hoe”, “bossy”, and many other terms and phrases that, when used in association with women, are meant to “put her in her place.”  We need to start, from a young age, showing support, advocacy, love, and encouragement to our fellow ladies!  Women supporting women has the potential to create a huge cultural and social shift.  Let’s do this together!

What do you do to help influence the way the world interacts with and treats women?  How do you support the girls/women in your sphere of influence?  I believe it’s an ongoing, reconditioning of how we view the world around us and how we interact with it.

Eclipse Trip

Columbia, SC is a place I never wanted to live long-term, then I didn’t want to leave (but had to), and whenever I go back it is refreshing to my soul to visit friends and remember aspects of myself I’ve forgotten.

I left before 7AM Sunday morning to drive down to arrive in time for church (where I attended in college).  It’s the most special church I’ve ever encountered, with people who are loving, caring, intellectual, fun, deep, and from many walks of life.  The children have all grown up and my college acquaintances have children—life moves forward.

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I got to see two of my best friends from college…and we laughed so much.  Those friends are the best kind.  And we drank margaritas and had the best homemade, personal pizzas EVER.

On the day of the eclipse, I had tea, cheese, and strawberries with friends, chatted about trips to England, and had the best time getting to know my friend’s son—he’s darling.  Once the eclipse began, we’d pop outside every few minutes to check on its progress.  The first moment I put on those glasses and looked up—it was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen.  Perfection.  I started noticing the other ways nature was interacting with the phenomenon: shadows from the leaves, the crispness of my own shadow, and the increasing brightness and then darkness as it got closer to totality.  Also, a flying bird making a strange noise.  After totality, I stood and soaked in the beauty of what we’d experienced.  The lining up of two, huge orbs.  The impact it had on the earth.  The way it instilled a sense of awe in millions.  *goose bumps*

 

At the last minute, I learned a sweet friend was also in town with her roommate…and hedgehog.  Awesome conversations about feminism, social justice, racism, belief systems, and interacting with people you love but who just aren’t on the same page.  And, I got to hold her hedgehog!

Tuesday morning, I had breakfast with my brother at my alma mater.  The caf is still the same—even down to my half a grapefruit (yum!).  But, they’ve added a great little coffee shop downstairs (why couldn’t that have been there when I was a student?).

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Till the next solar eclipse!  2024!

Being Community and Environmentally Friendly: How Do You Do It?

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Today was kind of a big deal.  I got a recycling container from town hall (no more long, stinky trips to the county recycling facility), I went into our local arts center and museum and introduced myself (so many ideas!), and now I’m sitting at my favorite local coffee shop drinking my first ever London Fog (I may be a convert)!

Something I learned while working as a newspaper journalist is the value of connecting with the people in a community—on all sides.  Whether you live in a cute, small area or are navigating your way through an amazing and huge city (I’ve done both), building a community is important—we all want to belong and have those spaces where we can enter and be known.

A few ways I’m doing this is attending monthly town meetings, going into places and intentionally meeting people, and doing my work in a public area instead of in my bedroom.  Also, I’m trying to make environmentally conscious decisions while I’m out and about (a real coffee cup!).  Here is to taking steps for an environmentally and community friendly lifestyle.  Here is to getting involved, meeting people, and becoming known.

What techniques do you use to get to know people in your area?  Do book clubs work?

Finding an Inspiration, Choosing a Cause

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Current mood: slightly depressed and lacking get-up-and-go.

These past few days have been very emotionally charged.  I’ve felt it.  You’ve felt it.  Goodness, the whole world is feeling it…though, not all because of Charlottesville (because THAT would be incredibly self-focused).

A while back, A suggested I choose a cause to invest most of my “activism energy”, rather than spreading myself across so many areas.  I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about his words, and I agree.  Focusing on one thing, while still caring about other issues and supporting them, is healthy and, likely, more productive.

I haven’t decided 100% what it’s going to be…but I have a good idea.  I really care about the plight of women around the world.  Sexism and patriarchy are very real things.  It varies in degrees from place to place, culture to culture, religion to religion, and race to race, but it is there.  In fact, feminism is directly related to so many other issues because women are everywhere, involved in so much, and, frankly, are the reason each of us is here.

Lately, I’ve found myself especially inspired and motivated by the new Freeform show The Bold Type.  It’s about three mid-twenties women, working for a women’s magazine, and trying to figure themselves out.  It’s amazing.  Each episode deals with a subject that is going to be, at some level, slightly to more-than-slightly uncomfortable, but it energizes me in so many ways!  Of course, I connect to the writer because I want to be her—finding my niche in an awesome publication, having my voice be heard, and making a difference.  But, each of the three main characters represents a part of my personality and characteristics.  It’s like The Devil Wears Prada but with an AMAZING boss—you know, who actually cares about you as a person.  So, check it out if you’re looking for a fun and deep show to inspire you to rise to the occasion…wherever you are!

What’s your inspiration?  What’s your “issue” where you focus your energy?  I think, as humans, we all need something in which to invest that goes beyond a job.