What we can all do to break the wheel.
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!
What's Stopping your work from moving to the next level? Could it be you?
Right now ‘recycled art’ is a trend that can’t be denied. There are many artists making the move toward incorporating recycled components into their artwork…for now anyway. More than likely a large number of them do it because all of the other cool kids are doing it. But what separates those artists who say they recycle because it tugs at a potential customer’s heartstrings from those who recycle because they care? I talked a little to artist Jo DeSerio Jones about what separates her from the pack and how she's saving the planet one piece of art at a time.
Atelier: What type of work do you do? What's your favorite media?
JO: I'm a mixed media artist making mostly jewelry. I find inspiration in many forms. At this time I am particularly fond of metal, fossils, concrete and leather.
Atelier: How do you incorporate fossils? Do you use a special process to prep them?
JO: I'm currently making molds from fossils, then casting in concrete or resin and adding many patinas until I get the look I love. So I'm creating new fossils that look old! I later incorporate them into my jewelry as layered components.
Atelier: What inspires your work for Jomama? I've noticed a number of influences; steampunk, nature... What influences you the most?
JO: My biggest inspiration is from nature in the form of materials such as wood, pods, shell, and fossils, [also] patina from weathering and rust; as well as shapes that only nature could create.
Atelier: I love that you incorporate nature into your work. Is there a deeper meaning when adding it into your pieces? Spiritual or otherwise?
JO: I've always said I feel a connection with the earth. It may come from childhood where I spent a lot of time outdoors where I lived in Northern New Jersey. I look at items that nature offers as a gift, not a byproduct.
Atelier: Right now there seem to be lots of artists incorporating eco-friendly components into their work, what separates you from the crowd and makes your work different?
JO: Being an environmentalist is a way of life for me first. I'd have to say that my work is a byproduct of my lifestyle. I'm not just creating eco products, I'm living it. Not only do I recycle items and work with found objects, but I also search for products that have the least environmental impact as well as buying things that are local or made in the USA. All being important aspects of sustainability.
Atelier: That's awesome that you take all of those things into consideration when creating your work. Do you feel like it might be only the job of a few of us (artists) to incorporate eco-sensitivity into our work while others focus on other things? Or can we all do our part?
I think we can all incorporate eco-consciousness into our work, but your eyes have to be open to the opportunities around you, no matter what form they come in.
Atelier: So you do commissioned pieces as well. Talk a little about what goes into completing pieces for clients.
JO: Typically when someone commissions me it's because they like the uniqueness of my style. So going into a project I know that I can be me. However, I ask questions pertaining to their likes and style, such as colors, a feeling they want it to reflect, or incorporating personal items or family heirlooms into the piece so it is a part of them as well.
Atelier: Which do you prefer doing, work for others or your own personal projects and why?
I'm an artist, so I definitely prefer working on personal pieces that don't have limits. There's satisfaction in that freedom and it shows in your work, making it more desirable.
Atelier: What do you feel is our responsibility as artists in educating the public about recycling? Do we have a responsibility specifically as artists? I know this is kind of a repeat of my earlier question, but can you talk a little bit more about your perspective?
JO: I feel we have a responsibility as humans. I have come to realize through the years that there can be a lot of unnecessary waste in the art world that every artist should try to be aware of. I think if you are an environmental artist that you should most definitely educate people about the ways of your work and items used. That is how we educate, inspire and open people's eyes to new ways of thinking. People are amazed by some of the things I reuse. I see the intrigue in my work all the time when I do shows and it's very rewarding. I love when I inspire others and get them to think outside of the box!
Atelier: Any projects you working on at the moment?
JO: I am currently working on more steampunk ballerina sculptures for and art exhibit I will be participating in this fall called "The Lucky Ones".
Atelier: Tell me a smidgen more about the show. What's it about?
JO: The exhibit will be curated by an artist who is very involved in the community. Last year's event was covered by PBS and the local cultural division [where I live]. The common thread amongst selected artist seems to be color and texture, including photography and paintings.
If you want to find out more about Jo and her work check out her site www.shopjomama.com
My time in the Peace Corps has greatly influenced my artwork. Several of these pictures have become prints, book covers, and collages. See some of the images that were the catalyst for other pieces of artwork.
Do you really have to wait around for others to give you your opportunities or can you create your own?
Is joining an art crew for you? Or is it better to roll solo?
The two most obnoxious people on the planet? annoying travelers and pompous artists. Don't be either. Here's how.