“Sketching is the breath of art: it is the most refreshing of all the more impulsive forms of creative self-expression and, as such, it should be as free, and happy…”
It sometimes overwhelms me
How beautiful the tiny and detailed manifestations of nature are.
What we can all do to break the wheel.
Kevin Hart was recently taken to task over comments and/or jokes he made on his Twitter feed in 2011. As a result he decided to step down as host of an awards show. Al Franken lost his job as a representative in part because of a picture he took in poor taste (and some other things, but that is where the outrage began) over 13 years ago. Both apologized. Believing their actions were funny and or acceptable at the time of their actions have since evolved into different people with different perspectives. Not that apologies solve every problem (it is a place to start at least), but neither does roasting someone over a fire…that’s a different chat we can have later though.
I directly relate these cultural conversations to how we as artists often experiment, try new subject matter and techniques that don’t always work out. Maybe you should have done more research? Maybe all of the work in that red, white, and purple phase you were going through should be burned? Maybe you shouldn’t have written ten songs about cheese and posted them on SoundCloud?
These individuals engaged in either activities or behavior that many years later doesn’t reflect on them in the best way. But I don’t feel it is my job as someone looking at their past actions to be their judge, nor is it really the right of any of us to judge them in the fickle court of public opinion; especially through the lens of social media which has shown itself to be inaccurate at best. I do think it is my job as a fellow human being and artist to ask: What have I done in my past that might not reflect well on the person I’ve evolved into today? How proud would I be of all the artwork I did in college? Would I be willing to pull it all out of boxes, portfolios, and closets for the world to see? Am I willing to stand behind all of the art choices I made in high school?
My point? We all make mistakes or simply have done things at various times in our lives that we wouldn’t think shows the best of who we are as people in our current manifestation. Can’t we have the opportunity to move beyond who we’ve been to become who we should be without being punished for the entirety of our life? I think so.
Don’t we evolve as humans and professionally? Shouldn’t others be given the opportunity to as well?
I’ll Start Here.
The year or so I’ve been working on a community art project. A mural.
It has been a passion project. My desire is to see art in places where it isn’t. That is what has carried me forward: seeing it done.
Working as a community advocate has been surprising. A sad sort of surprising in some ways. Support has come from expected and unexpected places. Turbulence came from mostly unexpected places. I don’t usually focus on an expectation for negativity.
Not that I haven’t been doing this work for a while, I have. It’s just in the process of community building I received some unwanted gifts: sexism, racism, disrespect, and this past week as the mural culminated with it’s magical manifestation on a wall over five days…straight up insanity.
The past week and a half has been met mostly with folks appreciating the mural. This mural, the first of its kind in this neighborhood, was welcomed with people honking car horns in appreciation, people stopping by to say hello and say thank you. So positive!
Because the Universe is mostly balanced, there is Yin and Yang where there is positive there must always be the opposite in balance. There has been a whole cast of characters; mostly sane and positive. Then there were just a couple punks. That’s where the guy in the picture with the two kids comes along.
One of the days I’d left the art site to run errands, the artist painting the mural shared a little about a man that stopped by and attempted to woo her with his ‘charisma’. That’s sarcasm by the way. He told her he was from New York- as if that was an indicator of his worldliness or worthiness- and that because of the brand of cigarettes she smoked he definitely new she would be interested in him. I know. Gross. I was apologetic, but happy that this type of harassment hadn’t been a consistent and unwelcome occurrence during her time painting the mural.
Fast forward to the last day on site and the mural artist is putting on the finishing touches our guy in the picture stops by, we will refer to him as Potter’s House (I’ll share why later). Potter’s House gets out of his vehicle with two adorable little girls in tow. He expresses his appreciation for the mural. Tells me that one of the little girls is an artist. I said awesome and that it was one of the best reasons to stop. To give a little artist encouragement. I told them I could take a picture of them in front of the mural. I introduced myself and we shook hands. He told me I had the handshake of a married woman. Ummm…what? What is the handshake of a married woman? I’ve never heard of such a thing or such a sad pickup line…I guess? My response was that it was the handshake of a strong and independent woman and artist. No marriage needed.
If this is where you think one might insert some witty banter about marriage and relationships, I’d agree with you but then we’d both be wrong. That’s where this douche proceeds to try and tell me that “the strong and independent African-American woman is the reason the African-American communities are falling apart.” His words not mine. That women need “to be concerned with taking care of a family…” Insert a raised eyebrow here. He follows this up with saying he’s a pastor of some kind at Potter’s House (as if this would validate whatever authority he holds in his imagination). Really? That’s definitely a reason not to go to a service there. Actually that’s many reasons not to go, especially if this is a doctrine that they adopt. So. I don’t think I need to tell you my personal response. I will tell you that he ran away from there. Quickly. I will also share that this is the same guy is the guy from NY that attempted to ‘woo’ the mural artist before. I know. Gross.
Why Am I Writing This?
In the past couple of days since that interaction. I think about the little girls that were with Potter’s House. First I think: Sad. A child being used as a prop as a man attempts to pick up women. I wonder how many times that has happened. Then I also think: Sad. Will that little girl get to become an artist because that man believes that she only has two jobs on the planet and they are to birth babies and support her man? Really? This. Still?
This year I want us to become the humans that we are capable of being. Less marginalization and more encouragement and progress. Less douche baggery and more treating others with respect.
I just want us all to choose better and make better choices. I hope that Potter’s House -each time he passes by the mural with a young girl as its focal point- begins to understand that women weren’t put on the earth to simply accept the blame when men’s ideas don’t go as planned, but they can be larger than life goddesses that can be strong and independent and smart. Women can choose to have families or they can choose to be artists or how about both!! But most of all in this new year I hope that Potter’s House chooses to be less of a misogynistic ass.
Happy New Year everyone!
It’s not the job of artists to sanitize themselves for the sake of public consumption or branding; but it is our responsibility to think about our legacy and how what we produce as artists affects the world as a whole.
Sometimes some observations just don’t fit in anywhere.
Have you ever watched the show the Next Great Artist? It was, all at once, the most horrible, eye-opening, car crash of a television show. Though the show is no longer producing new episodes it still stands as testimony that some of us buy into the theory that art can be manufactured and packaged, and branded without it having a disastrous effect on the idea of art as a whole.