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Posts Tagged ‘Art’

Out of the blue, my Little Pumpkin asked me yesterday from his car seat if I knew why he didn’t like Donald Trump. I had to ask him to repeat himself because you know, he talks like a three year old, but as soon as I said, “Why?” (why is one of his favorite words actually), he replied just as clear as a bell,

“Because he’s mean.”

So I prattled on about how Mr T is also a narcissist and a bigot, but still it’s not nice to call people names. The world of adults can be very complex. Teaching a child to be polite at the dinner table for instance, while flossing your teeth would be a No. Talking about politics in the car with a toddler who is just out of diapers for naps, probably not a good idea.

And because there is a wall of kindness in my neighborhood – an art installation meant for people to Instagram their ideas of kindness around the world – I’ve been thinking a lot about morality, and plain basic decency lately. How can we teach children to be ethical when it seems like all bets are off in this post-Trump year. Our Grabber-in Chief leads the pack of men behaving badly.

The Republican Senate candidate from AL is being defended by his good ole boys, quoting the Bible. Hitting on teenaged girls it would seem is acceptable, but for Kevin Spacey, hitting on teenaged boys is not. Isn’t being a pedophile a uni-sex situation, universally condemned? The Catholic Church has finally figured it out. This is the murky field of dreams, or nightmares, we seem to be wading through – thank you Harvey Weinstein…

The Love Bug and I watched the artist, who flew to Nashville from the Twin Cities btw, painting her gorgeous bouquet of flowers on the back wall of a restaurant at twilight. She was sitting high up on scaffolding, like Leonardo with floodlights, when I asked our Kindergardener what kindness meant to her. The Love Big said,

“Letting other people go first.”

Now I must admit, she was always a sensitive child. Whenever I would play a game with her, she would purposely try to let me win. And depending on your point of view, that can be a good trait, or a bad one. But for this old feminist, I thought maybe she needs to get a little more pushy, like her Mama at that age who was leading the pack of bad girls in preschool. I remember always pulling her aside to say, “That (behavior) is hurting your friend’s feelings.” Or, “Think about how you would feel if…” As a grandparent, I realize more and more the pull of nature over nurture.

Maybe it’s time we women went first for a change! Teach our girls to fight hard, with their words and maybe even their fists if need be. To push bullies away, to yell when some boy starts behaving badly.

We swept up so many legislative seats last Tuesday, women of all colors and even a transgender woman, who unseated an incumbent conservative in VA, that I came close to crying. Something I won’t do in public. And in MN, a Black transgender woman won a seat on the City Council. So many Democratic women won, I think because of the Women’s March and the “Trump Effect.” Pink pussy hats and all.

The survey found that 70 percent of Democratic women were “appalled” by Trump’s victory, more than two-thirds were “shocked” by it, and more than half reported feeling “angry” and “depressed.” Nearly three-quarters of Democratic women reported “a sick feeling” when they saw Trump on the news. The women with the most visceral reactions were roughly four times as likely to engage politically after Trump’s victory than they were before it. For Democratic women in New Jersey and Virginia, casting a ballot may have represented yet another way to express their displeasure with Trump. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2017/11/09/in-tuesdays-elections-women-won-big-here-are-three-things-we-learned-about-women-and-politics/?utm_term=.e9aaf4695e2b

So yes my Little Pumpkin, Mr T is mean. But his election may have started a revolution, and like Madame Thérèse Defarge, we women are pretty angry and out for revenge after years of patriarchy and white privilege, with our knitting needles and our vote. And no, my sweet grandchildren, revenge isn’t good per se. #Kindness is listening to everyone’s story, #Kindness is Compassion.

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Sorry to be quoting a Russian, but we spent a recent evening at an art show to benefit the Love Bug’s school. And because we had a mini-tour the day before with Nancy and Great Grandma Ada, who has converted her family room into an art studio, we had a long conversation with one of the Lost Boys from South Sudan. James Makuac paints memories from his dreams of Africa. They are bright, vivid colors, and some are not for the faint of heart. http://jameskuolmakuac.tumblr.com

His work is about resilience, about people fleeing their homes in the midst of war, walking through rain with the ubiquitous yellow water barrel on a woman’s head.

And I thought of all the artwork my Sister-in-Law Anita collected over the years. She left my brother Dr Jim surrounded with bright California images and fragile pieces of art glass. He loved her with all his heart, their last years together spent tenderly caring for each other, collecting Amish quilts on sunny rides through the country. And as we tried to organize, to make sense of her collections, it dawned on me that she too was trying to recapture her home. To bring the Northern California aesthetic into her Twin City life.

And I wondered yet again, what will my children do with the things I leave behind? Will they find them beautiful, or will they be a burden?

One night, in the midst of my visit to Dr Jim’s MN home, we watched the Minimalism documentary on Netflix. It opens with the abundance of cheap stuff people fight over the day after Thanksgiving. And the take-away is that we should:

“Use things, and Love people!”

The Bride had wanted me to see the film, because she thought Bob and I are heading in that minimalist direction, divesting of “stuff” and living a simpler life in our two bedroom town home. And it is somehow freeing, to put out on a table or up on a wall only those things I love, that bring me joy.

For instance, I have an Irish ceramic vase that had lived its life on display in my VA guest bedroom, one of four bedrooms. It is now happily holding utensils on my small kitchen counter. I couldn’t part with it because it had been a gift from my Irish cousins, but I also loved its line. To me, it is beautiful.

Fyodor Dostoevsky said, “The world will be saved by beauty.” He also said

By interpreting freedom as the propagation and immediate gratification of needs, people distort their own nature, for they engender in themselves a multitude of pointless and foolish desires, habits, and incongruous stratagems. Their lives are motivated only by mutual envy, sensuality, and ostentation.

Maybe our country needs to adopt a new interpretation of freedom, because the American dream, like all dreams, is changing. We need to stop loving cheap shiny objects that appear at Walmart and on our Twitter feed, and make a point of listening to the people we love. Finding the truth in another’s story. Understanding why we are in Niger. Stop fighting proxy wars, and search for beauty in the world, and not on Google.

Painting by James Makuac

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It’s pumpkin patch fever in Nashville. The Farmer’s Market is filled with mums of every color and you can walk through an actual pumpkin house at Cheekwood Gardens. Tomorrow they will host the Halloween Pooch Parade! But yesterday, since Great Grandma Ada is visiting with cousin Nancy, we loaded up the grandkids and a wheelchair to stroll along the serpentine path of unique scarecrows as the sun descended through cypress trees. https://cheekwood.org

One scarecrow was dressed entirely in plastic water bottles, another was dressed like William Shakespeare covered with some of his famous quotes! One had a skirt made from crayons, and next to it stood an imposing black crow. One urged us to be the change we wanted to see in the world!

Civic organizations throughout the county sponsored each art installation, and I could imagine an Impressionist painter capturing the afternoon scene of families weaving through scarecrows in dappled light.

Late last night I foolishly wanted to catch up with the news I’d been missing since my travels to Minnesota. General Kelly’s speech, in defense of Mr T, was front and center and actually made my stomach churn. Making calls to Gold Star families is not something presidents should be doing. And why on earth would Congresswoman Frederica Wilson listen in on such a conversation? He was blaming the messenger, calling this Black woman who is a friend of the family, an “empty barrel.” We heard nothing about Niger and why these brave soldiers died in the first place. http://www.newsweek.com/niger-trumps-benghazi-four-us-soldiers-died-and-it-took-him-12-days-respond-688082

The soldiers killed in Niger were part of a 12-man team of Green Berets, training Nigerian soldiers in a remote part of the country. These soldiers belonged to the Third Special Forces group based out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

As they were leaving a meeting with local community leaders on October 4, they were ambushed by roughly 50 fighters believed to be linked to ISIS (Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, is also active in the surrounding region).

The soldiers were driving unarmored pickup trucks and immediately returned fire. The firefight reportedly lasted roughly 30 minutes. It was eventually broken up via French air support and the soldiers were evacuated with helicopters.

At first only three soldiers were reported killed in action. One was separated from the group and found two days after the ambush by Nigerian forces. The Pentagon isn’t talking about this, the talk is all about how Mr T frames his Twitter feed. How he points his little finger at President Obama. How these soldiers knew what they were signing up for….

Sometimes I feel like I am walking through a nightmare of scarecrows, only they are real men, dressed in suits and trotted out to defend the indefensible.

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In Nelson County, VA, no one wanted a pipeline going through their property. And when surveyors found the remains of an African American slave cemetery would be in the path of a proposed 554-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline, to the tune of 5 Billion dollars, let’s just say things heated up at the local Planning Board.

“It is among at least four known African-American cemeteries in the area of Union Hill, an African-American settlement that is now in the path of a 42-inch natural gas pipeline that is proposed to sweep through Nelson from the Blue Ridge Mountains across the James into Buckingham County.

“This is the heart of the African-American community,” Rev James L Rose said. “It runs right through it.”

I’ve always been intrigued by metaphorical and physical lines. Iraq was invaded because we thought they had crossed President Bush’s WMD line; President Obama drew his line in Syria with chemical weapons, but didn’t follow through. We all draw our own personal lines in the sand of time – for instance, I will (or will never) get a tattoo!

But let’s get back to land lines. In the last eight years I’ve been crossing the Mason Dixon Line, traveling between VA and TN. I never really gave it much thought, in fact I used to think it was nothing more than an idea. A leftover relic of the Civil War, like the plaques and memorials that litter the South. But I’ve discovered that it is an actual boundary line that was drawn 250 years ago, pre-Revolutionary War, by two Brits, named surprisingly enough, Mason and Dixon!

And of course it was drawn to settle a land dispute between two families.

“For 80 years the Calvert family of Maryland and the Penns of Pennsylvania had been locked in a bloody dispute over the boundary between the two colonies they had been granted by the English Crown.“The stakes were very high,” said Mr Thaler, trustee of the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore and an expert on the Mason-Dixon project.“There was about 4,000 sq miles of territory that was in dispute and nobody knew who to pay taxes to. Warfare regularly broke out along the border.”

Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon were sons of a baker and a miner respectively who had immigrated to the new colony to make their fortune. They first collaborated on a Transit of Venus map in 1761. For this adventure, they dragged exceptional, state-of-the-art instruments through the wilderness for 5 years between Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland and Delaware. One scientist has called it the “moon landing” of that time period. Its accuracy was astounding and continues to be relevant, the very first geodetic survey in the New World!

During the Civil War, the Mason Dixon Line symbolized the border between free and slave-holding states. An outstanding engineering achievement for its day, the line came to represent a mortal wound in our country’s history. Did I feel any different after crossing that PA line in my CRV listening to This American Life podcasts? Not really.

While most of us are preparing a potato salad for a Labor Day picnic, I’m planning on Nanasitting the baby boy so his big sister can accompany the Bride delivering donuts to the Groom. He is on call in the MICU. Hospitals never close for holidays, and I guess neither does the United Nations.

This morning I just listened to Nikki Haley address the UN Security Council. She said that North Korea was “…begging for war.” I am praying Mr T’s line in the sand is permeable.

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Choosing to paint, to create for your life’s work is never easy. So many artists were only discovered by the art world late in life, or even after death. Today we visited the small town of Arles, where Van Gogh lived for a short time. He had been committed to an asylum on the outskirts of town, where he painted “The Weeders.”

The museum devoted to Vincent was small with less than a dozen of his paintings. But the exhibit that grabbed me, that caught me by the throat was about an American woman artist I had never heard of; someone who was from my home state of PA. Her paintings and a video of her life drew me into the Flapper’s world. One that was less than kind to passionate women. 

Alice Neel was a portraitist who lost her first child and her second was taken away by the state. She had a compulsion to paint and her brush strokes had as much fire as the Dutch man in the other room. You could feel the pain of her subjects. 

And when she said in an interview that she always felt guilty for painting – and not keeping house as women were expected to do – until the Whitney exhibited her work when she was in her 80s, my heart skipped a beat. 

She was a sweet, beaming grandmother at that point. And when they wanted her to stop her slide show, she peed on the floor. 

On purpose. 

How many women artists have we lost over the years? How many more have I never heard of? I am in love with Provence, even in the cold and the rain. You have won me over! Maybe this beach house idea is misguided?

Here is Andy Warhol with what looks like surgical scars. 

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April showers are nourishing all the perennials we just planted, but if you are a migratory bird looking to nest in Florida, you’d be plain out of luck. Wading birds like egrets and herons depend on fresh, clean water from rivers meeting the sea in estuaries on our coasts for their food supply, and scientists have been putting on waders to count their nests this time of year. Considering Mr T’s deep cuts to the EPA, this Audubon report is troubling:

The latest South Florida Wading Bird Report, which was published last week, offers signs of trouble for the birds and the places they live. During this nesting season, which ran from December 2015 to July 2016, surveyors were disappointed to find 26,676 nests total. That’s just one-third the number of nests tallied during 2009, one of the best nesting years in decades, and the lowest nest census since the 2007-2008 season. Of the indicator species, only two (Great Egrets and White Ibises) met their nest recovery goals. The only bird to show an above-average nesting season last year was the Roseate Spoonbill. http://www.audubon.org/news/floridas-wading-birds-had-terrible-breeding-season-last-year

We had a Great Blue Heron swoop over our Rumson garage every morning to fish in the Shrewsbury River. When you live so close to the ocean, you begin to notice the rise and fall of tidewater by the line of black silt on your Corgis’ short legs, which would sometimes cover their bellies. “Swamp Dogs” was our affectionate term for Toots and Blaze. My sister Kay was kind enough to immortalize that mother/son duo in a 1993 watercolor.

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But it’s the long, stilt-like legs of Great Egrets that are helping them navigate the rising seawater levels due to Climate Change.

And now we have a circus/barker/climate/denier as the Leader of the Free World who would like to dismantle and disrupt the federal government, and return power to “the states.” I’ve always wondered why Republicans even pursue public service when they hate it so much! If any of you are still wondering about the loss of Arctic ice or if keeping that house your aunt left you on the Jersey Shore is a good idea, take a look at Leonardo diCaprio’s interactive global temperature map. It looks like there may be a quarter of Rumson left after the flood. Seriously.

“Every fraction of a degree of global warming sets in motion sea level rise that will profoundly threaten coastal cities across the world,” explains Dr. Benjamin Strauss from Climate Central. “[Our map] shows the incredible stakes and urgency of our climate choices.”

https://www.beforetheflood.com/explore/the-crisis/sea-level-rise/

Now that you’ve put in your city, and the visual has sunk in and maybe you’ve “woke up” think about these cuts to the federal budget. Keep calling your legislators people, dig out your Wellies (English for waders or rain boots), and start looking for higher ground while planning your retirement

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The photographs I have left of my Father, who died when I was a baby, are in black and white. As are my baby pictures, stuffed into a bag in an album that has lost its binding. The Flapper gave me to her friends, my foster parents, after her automobile accident because her only other choice would have been an orphanage. My sister Kay was already taking care of my two brothers, and they had to go back to school, so who else would take care of me?

Nell only had one child, and her daughter was in nursing school when I arrived in Victory Gardens after the War in 1949. And so I was raised by a grandmother figure, as Nell was already in her 50s. And she catalogued my childhood lovingly, pasting black and white pictures with tiny black paper edges onto every page. Only my memories conjure up the white and pink explosion of the dogwood tree outside our kitchen window, the red and white tile in the one bathroom, the green grass under my feet with the white sheets billowing above.

Our TV was in black and white, and after school I would walk home from the bus in my maroon plaid Sacred Heart School uniform, to catch Nell watching Art Linkletter on Kids Say the Darndest Things. A small piano stood in a corner with brass feet and hard white teeth. Our first dog was black and brown, I remember sitting on Daddy Jim’s feet while he read the black and white newspaper, and smoked his pipe after work. I would lean back on his knees and stroke the dog’s fur, listening to his critique of the day’s news. Maybe this is when I thought I might have something to say about world events? clr-on-tricycle-20170127

When we view history through a black and white lens, we lose something of the nuance. The tone is off, and it becomes harder to relate to something that happened so long ago. It creates the distance we need to survive certain tragedies, like my Year of Living Dangerously – my psychologist brother Jim’s description of 1949. Which is why finding this photographer, Marina Amaral, is like finding a jewel in the coal dustbin of time.

Amaral’s passion is restoring and colorizing old black and white pictures. And I found a picture she posted online of a child, a Czechoslovakian girl who was the same age as my sister Kay in 1949, when she died at Auschwitz in 1943. Her name was Czeslawa Kwoka; and I remembered Nell’s given name was Kosty, which was probably changed at Ellis Island. On Amaral’s webpage, you can move a line back and forth over the child’s face, and bring color to her cheeks and blood to the cut on her lip.

“Color has the power to bring life back to the most important moments,” http://www.marinamaral.com

Today more than ever, on Holocaust Memorial Day, we must remember that the Holocaust started with the rhetoric of hate, and the silence and indifference of the rest of Europe and America. And we must vow to resist in any way we can, and we must say her name, Czeslawa Kwoka.

Photograph courtesy of Marina Amaral.

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