Saturday, March 29, 2014

Since when are tears funny?

        Enough already!!   I have sat on this for a while but this morning, I got mad as hell and couldn’t take it anymore. Why oh why are we humiliating our children because “we” think it is cute and funny and have to post it or send it out over the airwaves/internet? While having my coffee and reading the paper this morning with a news talk show on in the background (a NEWS talk show, not some random video/entertainment thing), I hear a child crying and adults laughing. On screen is a poor little boy, about 5, who had just learned he was going to get yet another sibling, sister number 3….he burst into tears. The two older girls jumped with glee, he pushed away a celebratory cake and wailed in frustration. THAT is funny? The hosts were laughing, the parents off camera were laughing… wonder your kid grows up with anger issues, why is he being humiliated like this on international news? He is hurt and upset….does that not warrant some sort of comfort and privacy? So his pops is overloaded with X’s in the chute, but that is not a national news matter…or a public one. The little kid has a right to be upset and should be consoled.  You want to shoot a video and send it to the family, fine… your right to do so, but to humiliate him for years to come? What about his rights?

     At the risk of one long run-on paragraph I have to stop and take a breath…..I could just rant and vent about this issue for pages. It seems to be everywhere, the humiliation of others so we can all have a good laugh. Any wonder that our kids have anxiety issues, don’t know right from wrong, and can’t judge what is appropriate and what is not as far as the treatment of others to name just one thing on a long list of such subjects….really….their parents need to grow up!

Yes, the video tape has caught many a perpetrator and been used to prosecute, I have no problem with that, but it is the little ones that bug me. The taping of your child finding out a gift is not what they expected after much misleading hype, tears and anger and sadness posted for all to see is not helping anyone. So Uncle Bob thinks it’s funny and tapes the reaction and posts it on his page, which goes viral, and gets picked up by some media organization. Oh look at poor little Bobby, flinging himself on the ground, wailing and screaming and crying, poor little bastard, hey pass me another beer….kid should have known I wasn’t really getting him that tractor toy….ha ha ha. Nobody in the room finds that hurtful? Don’t bother posting anymore polls about what is wrong with us, the answer is on tape.  If we keep promoting and justifying the bad, it will continue to permeate and become acceptable. Not that I like all the sunshine and saccharine of babies sleeping with their puppies…but I can scroll right past that. The tears make me stop and want to hug the poor little kid. Why didn’t one of those laughing parents hug him? He needed some support and comfort and acceptance against all those future hormonal sisters. Daddy dearest should have given him the “hey buddy, it will be okay” man talk. Maybe it was mommy dearest off camera that wanted everyone to know about her pregnancy so they would send her “likes” and gifts and cards and on and on and on….

     Hey news show…if you think tears are funny, how about equal time to show other kids in distress over things, like when they find out daddy won’t be coming home from the middle east? Tears are tears are they not? Nobody laughing in the background means it is not okay? No, it is never okay to publicly humiliate a child, or anyone, for someone else’s enjoyment. That video will live forever now….future girlfriends can find it, future rivals can find it….ha ha ha….maybe what happens after that won’t be so funny, but it may end up on the national news for all the wrong reasons anyway. Sorry folks, had to get this one off the chest because I love our kids, yours and mine and theirs and don’t think we need to make fun of them for whatever reason, publicly, privately or ever. We are supposed to love them, guide them, support them, advocate for them, correct them, and mold them….not laugh at (only with) them, humiliate them, embarrass them (unless it is a sanctioned set up to get them out of a bad situation or decision), or feed them full of crap that they are the center of the universe.  Tears such as those I had to endure this morning belong behind closed doors, not at my kitchen table for millions to see. If you have to show tears, let it be the child who sees his parent dressed in camo come out from behind the cheerleading squad….perhaps embarrassing but for a good cause. I will pass you the tissues on a silver platter for that one.

      To the poor little boy on that video, I am sorry you did not hear about a baby brother like you wanted…it was not anybody’s fault but you are too young to understand that. I wish your Daddy would have told you the news while you two were out together doing your favorite guy stuff, you deserved that much privacy and respect because they knew you would be disappointed. A five year old can’t express themselves like grownups, instead they chose to film you and laugh at you. Shame on them…and shame on me for watching it.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

You got some explaining to do……

Nothing but....a gesture sketch

That phrase for my title of this post feels like the perfect way to introduce this blog topic about artist statements. In the cleaning process of late, I came across a file of old papers. Some of which were my tests given to my students when I taught HS art. What a hoot! Evidently I was pretty tough and expected a lot. Yes, I did administer them to myself last night and passed, skipping the essays of course. But those were not what I was glad to find. I had been looking for my 2001 “Artists Statement” that I used for the first time the “women” series (or my colorful acrylics of ladies as you all call them) was shown to the public as a collection. That would have been at Stark State on the 2nd floor (opening 2 days after Sept 11th).  For the record, I really dislike the overall artist statement used to explain a body of work and define/defend its existence to others and prefer to elaborate on each piece of art instead. So what follows is the exact text of that 2001 statement….evidently my first foray into all out snarkiness.

One of those necessary evils of being an artist and having an exhibition is to provide an ‘artist’s statement’. Seems odd actually since musicians do not stand up and announce why they are playing what they are, and dancers don’t stop and say why they chose a certain leg movement for each note, but for some reason, visual art requires and explanation to the viewer as to why we do what we do. So I spent a delightful morning on the internet researching how to write an ‘artist’s statement’. It was a very enlightening experience. First I am to do some warm up exercises most of which consist of reading dictionary and thesaurus entries, sharpening a pencil and locating an egg timer. You see, if I were to use simple words with too few syllables, people might not understand how complicated my work is supposed to be. Commas are essential, too. Not enough phrases and the meaning will be too obvious, so the more phrases I can connect into one sentence, the more confused the viewer will be and I will appear to be a very complex thinker. The next step is to close the eyes and wander one’s mind. I call that daydreaming, but when writing an ‘artist statement’ I am supposed to ‘escort my inner critic through the room of my creativity’ – (do I have to clean it up first?). Another recommendation was to ‘imagine your work coming alive and speaking to you, how does it feel?’ – (hmmm, tired of hanging around?). 

Since these sources were not proving helpful, I decided to read other artists’ ‘statements’ to see how they approached the concept. My favorite was the painter who that said…’I don’t use an artist’s statement, I just want to tell you why I paint…’ – (isn’t that what an artist’s statement is?). Another good read was one entitled ‘artist statement by an original artist’ – (as opposed to what, a copier?). Not finding much success there either, I checked all those ‘how-to-do just about anything’ books that one accumulates. Unfortunately, I found that artist statements are one of the things on that ‘just about’ list. My extensive library of art books weren’t much help either. Seems that the most important artists have someone else write their statement for them, and it helps if there are a lot of letters after their names because they can skip warm up exercise number one. I did find some statements in gallery books I picked up on a trip to NYC; but I don’t think some of those people consulted a dictionary (or spell check for that matter) and by the time I figured out what they thought they were saying, my inner critic had left the building. So, I guess I will have to attempt this so that you the viewer will have some deep philosophical understanding of why I paint what I do…(however, the paintings seem pretty straight forward to me if you read the title).

…..and so it went.

Another treasure (with a big yellow markers smilie face on it) proves that art scams were alive and well before the email inquiries from traveling businessmen who saw your works online and want them shipped overseas…  A letter dated December 2003 says….

Dear Ms Krew (note the missing punctuation) , then in all caps…YOUR NOMINATION AS INTERNATIONAL VISUAL ARTIST OF THE YEAR (no punctuation)  The International Biographical Centre of Cambridge, England is delighted to confirm your nomination as an (in bold this time) International Visual Artist of the Year for 2004. Blah blah blah about the selection process (only a “few illustrious individuals” get chosen you know) which makes me eligible to display an “appealing Commemorative Pictorial Testimonial, a gold-gilt Medal of Excellence or an authoritative Official Sash of Office (oh yeah I am ALL over that last one!!!)  Nothing says authority like a sash which also happens to be “hand finished” and costs $325 US dollars. If I want all three, it is only $895 US (and this is 2003 pricing). Also included was a sheet to fill out that had spots for contact info for 14 others who I feel deserve this honor! Well sorry friends, but only one of us can sashay around the arts district in my hand finished authoritative sash and gold gilt medal carrying my commemorative plaque with its testimonial and my photo as International Visual Artist of the Year! The best part though?...THEY spelled my name right!   Needless to say, I filed this back in with my International Women Artists of America (what?) and the National Women’s Museum nomination for something or other that only cost a couple of hundred bucks…..  

Nope, I will settle for being selected to receive a full reimbursement for a faulty dehumidifier that worked just fine so we actually got to use it for free for 4 years. 

I have to admit, that sash was pretty snazzy looking though.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Tangled Memories by Marcy Axelband and Michele Waalkes at Translations Art Gallery

Dark water...deep water, where does it go?

I was not sure what to expect from this exhibit when I first read the subject matter/theme for their show. I went in with no preconceived idea of the imagery each artist would use to depict the very personal journey these women experienced as their fathers descended into the depths of Alzheimer's.

Both Marcy and Michele are frequent exhibitors in this area so we know what “style” they will show, but each artist transcended even their own presentations with this body of work. I was moved and you will be too. Not just by their words and their laying bare of souls, but by how these shared moments are something all of us have or will experience as well, in our own families or by association with a disease or condition that share the same losses.

Both women have provided a context statement as to the progress of the disease. Michele’s father passed away years ago and Marcy’s is still living, but no longer someone who knows her. These stories alone are enough to wrench your heart. Amazing how little we know about the people whom we see on a regular basis. I am glad to know they have each other as someone to share the journey and who understands the pain, frustration and sadness that comes from this disease. A show by only one of them would not have been as forceful because it is this “yeah, it happened to me too” mentality, and which could happen to any one of us, that equalizes us to sharing in and absorbing their message. You can’t miss the fear in their voices either, the fear that one of them could be next based on what we know about the hereditary factor of the illness. But for now, let us relish in the artwork they have created to bring their souls out into the open, to honor the men who inspired the work, and to pay tribute to the moments which are given ever so briefly to us on this earth.

I have debated upon the best way to make comments so you the viewer/reader can best feel what I did, but my usual method seemed too shallow. Instead, I have my scribbled and crumpled papers in front of me and will merely copy here what I wrote at the time.  A little James Joyce stream of consciousness if you will as that seems most appropriate.

*haunted eyes….”I still see you” (by Marcy A) they look so empty, but are they? Who is to know? 

*Tangled memories vessel “a snarl of dead ends and detours” a collection of photos on sheer paper cut into strips and stuffed into a pouch/bowl of translucent fabric…our brains are like this, soft pouches full of stuff which makes no sense to anyone, cannot be seen and yet fills our every cell with information. Where does it go? When and how does it get there? If we don’t let it out, does it not really exist? Are our inner memories visual and our outer memories text? 

*Marcy’s Tangled Memories canvas…. I see a face, several of them actually in the murky surface. Is this intentional or not? Is it happenstance that someone is “in there” but not everyone can see them? Is a person still in their own mind in a conscious and logical context that is fine for the body that houses it, but those on the “outside” do not know this person? Are they screaming “do you see me? I am here…”

*Marcy’s “My Dad” which is a portrait and “Torment’ which is also a portrait are side by side, the same colors are used, but one is together and realistic and the other is exploded, the same person, a different mind, I can see her frustration in this one….this one is personal. It was cathartic but painful at the same time. Did she cry while painting it? I would have.

*the juxtapositions are amazing. Did they work on these units together or match them up later, finding common ground? “Refuge” by Michele, the lantern and the light used to depict the memory of reading a psalm. Next to it is “There is always room for love” by M.A. The figure has upraised arms, a spiritual gesture. Is the hug for God, for Marcy or something else? Is he holding on, reaching out? Did these two pieces happen organically?

*The infinite loop of post it notes, reminders on little slips of paper, good God we all do that! What does it mean? Yes, I get it, memories are spiraling down and away, lost but for those little slips of paper. Tiny yellow canvases with modern hieroglyphics… 

*So many questions! “When a surviving parent loses the memories of (the) child (and their childhood), who gives the child context?”   Michele refers to Alzheimer’s as the funeral that never ends….how true. I never thought of it that way. The piece entitled “Almost”…a close up of a fence grid that symbolizes the mind able to see beyond but unable to reach, the distance out of focus but aware that it is there. We have all had a moment like that…could it be?

*Sorting of nails from screws to occupy/exercise the mind with a simple and repetitive task that would suit a four year old as well.  Scary. Sad.

And so went my notes and observations. Not even partway down the first wall and I knew I had to own a piece of this show…perhaps to help preserve the memories of M and M beyond their own walls?, to share the burden?, I am not sure, but one of their creations is now mine.

I spoke earlier of associations and shared symptoms/situations. As my own dad has descended into deafness, while reading some of the stories, I realized that they sounded familiar. What seemed intolerable and annoying at the time now has a new context for me for which I thank these brave women for pointing out. Sure as I found a common ground, I believe others will too as they apply these daughters’ memories to their own lives. Both women have siblings to share their burden and offer support….I envy that, but we all have our art to ease our souls and we are all blessed that they allowed us to see into their world through surface, text and imagery, making artwork for us to better understand the loss of the intangible.

Translations Gallery hours are Wed – Sat noon to 5pm. Make this show a must see.