Effervescent Extracts

Thoughts and Things

I wanted to apply my usual care for the small details that has been present in most of my body of work to create a large-scale piece that had the capacity to create a depth of conversation that my other work was never capable of. I got to use the last quarter of my undergrad to not just cater to a carefully outlined assignment, but instead, intentionally design a piece of art that aligned with my artistic voice and would challenge my skill and my motive. Here is a snippet from my artist statement so that this whole thing makes a bit more sense:

“My artwork exists in order to create a bridge between the intimacy and richness of the feminine experience and those who are willing to try to understand it. My body of work is not directly autobiographical, it’s a response to our story, my story and the story of the woman who never got a chance to share hers. My work is honest and true, it approaches simple realities which largely affect a woman’s identity, but are stifled because of a long-standing history that has refused to acknowledge and validate a woman’s experience.”

I created a challenge for myself: how do I create a conversation about honest feminism in a culture where feminism, regardless of intent, has gross implications that isolate the majority? What I basically mean is: how do I accomplish my goal of discussing the honesty of a woman’s experience without making it something that is fueled by political rage?

I am largely interested in the studying of activist art, artwork being created in today’s world by artists who respond to modern and historical injustices, events, and ideas through their art. Some of which are effective and transforming and others, are frankly weak. But the thing is, all of it is saying something, it’s rich in content and I love that. So, on the road to me trying to figure out why in the world I consider myself a maker and what I’m trying to do and say through my art, I started diving into the voice and the work of artists who compel me to think and whose work challenges me. Artists like Tracey Emin, Ai Wei Wei, Renee Cox, Janine Antoni, Kara Walker, and Judy Chicago have been some of those people for me. That’s what I want to do: make people think. Make people talk and ask questions.

It must have been through some day dream of mine that I started planning what I would do for the two and half months I had left of my undergraduate degree. I had an image in my head of a flowing installation piece constructed out of feminine pads. I had worked with pads as a material before in another piece and found them to be the foundation for a visually interesting and conceptually compelling piece. (And maybe part of me wanted redemption for my failure found in that previous piece…but I hate to admit that part). And eventually, in my existential train of thought that often travels into another dimension, I stumbled upon the thought of creating a quilt that would be suspended in front of a wall, casting deep shadows. Because what better to do with that two and half month timeline breathing down my neck than to take up and entirely new skill that by its nature is entirely time consuming? I tried to talk myself out of this idea several times, but my mind clung to it, I almost felt like I had to.

So, I started researching the history of quilting, quilters, and quilts in general and almost became obsessed with the way that the research I was gathering would coincide with my voice, with what I was trying to do through the piece. I started to discover they ways in which quilts were used as a story-telling mechanism and the implications of the woven forms representing the woman experience and their interwoven stories and I couldn’t get enough of it. Now, throughout history, feminist artists have received criticism for art that “embraces” femininity by intentionally utilizing female stereotypes, rather than combatting them. I’m referring to instances such as the prominence of intricate sewing displayed in Judy Chicago’s ‘The Dinner Party,” a task that is historically only females would complete, thus critics suggesting Chicago was buying into the stereotype. I happen to love what she was doing there, embracing this idea, creating conversation.

I decided to sew a nearly 6×6 foot quilt…now listen, previously, the most I had ever sewed is a button on a shirt. The learning curve was steep, no doubt, but it was about the process and as it turns out, I made a freaking quilt. I started by weaving 6 pantiliners together to create a small square and ended up sewing 100 of these squares, 600 pads in total, by hand, with a simple, sharp needle and white thread. I would spend hours upon hours seated in an old office chair, weaving the thread through the thick layers of cotton, some stitches nice and tight and others showed my lack of skill. But they got better with each square. As I stitched the pads together, I couldn’t help but think about history of the activity that I was doing, how many women have spent long, laborious days and nights sewing quilts. So part of this whole process became centered around the physical act of me sewing each of these pads to another one. It started to grow. These small, relatable squares transformed into a large, nearly useful and practical-seeming blanket. It reads formally and as though it has a history…gosh, I love that. But when you walk closer, you are able to detect the forms for their prescribed use. “Ew,” some would say. Others would question my choice with doubt and then there would be those who asked why with curiosity and intent to learn. It’s not so much about menstruation (certainly that is there, sure), but using that small fraction of a woman’s makeup as a representation or symbol of the generalizations that people understand to be what and who a woman is.

The subtle floral pattern on the pads, the tiny bows that create a pattern on the surface, and the fabrics used for the binding and the backing act as some sort of ID tag, or a badge that a woman could connect with. I remember all of the ribbons that would tie my locks of hair into place as a young girl, or the tiny bows that I would tie onto my American Girl doll’s delicate clothing. I remember the pattern of that fabric being on my Bitty Baby’s pajamas. Or that pattern that reminds me of my grandma’s old nightgowns. I remember noticing the details printed on the pantiliners when I first became old enough to use them. Standing in front of the quilt is a place to embrace those memories and to remember our story.

You know, during the initial development of my idea, I was told that I shouldn’t focus on what I don’t want this piece to be because I won’t have the ability to dictate people’s reactions to it, but for me, I do want to focus on that. I understand that the piece may be a reach for some or may not connect with others, But it’s important for me that someone…anyone is able to stumble upon the quilt and process that it quite honestly, is about connectivity. It’s about the reality of a woman’s experience, their story. It’s not about the politic-centric contemporary artist’s message…that stuff has its place. But that’s not my thing.

Below is a photo of the completed quilt. It is 5.5 feet square.

Quilt

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Why being a woman means something entirely new now.

When I was little, I was proud to be a little girl and I grew up through high school, proud to be a young woman. And it wasn’t Barbie or my American Girl doll that I looked up to. I looked at the women in my life (and the OG Charlie’s Angels) and was in awe of how they empowered me, made sure I knew how smart I was, and went to the ends to teach me how to be kind, generous, and gracious toward those around me. I started to hope that I would eventually be able to teach young women to have those same qualities.

But (unfortunately there does have to be a “but”) I’m not proud to be a woman anymore. And no it’s not that stupid thought of me accepting my oppression because of what masculine-driven society tells me…that’s frankly ridiculous.

See, I’ve never been one to feel as though being a woman hindered me in any way. And yes I’m fully aware of institutional discrimination within large corporations and do not believe this to be acceptable; however, I think that using this discrimination as fuel to be thought of as having high intellect and to be valued for my insight and drive is more effective than any sort of fight that I could choose to fight. Or protest I choose to participate in.

But the whole root of my lack of pride and my sense of embarrassment comes from the fact that an entire cohort of women have been alienated from…their own sex? Riddle me this: how can one group of women who claim to empower eachother, choose to speak out for the cause of unity among women while simultaneously isolating themselves from any WOMAN who has an opinion differing from their own? That is tolerance and unity if I have ever heard of it. (hah)

Being at my university for four years now, I’ve learned that if college students love one thing, it’s the love of making your voice heard…not to be another sensible, thought-filled head at the table, but to literally make your voice so incredibly loud that folks don’t have the choice to tune you out (regardless of how effective that method really is). So about two months ago, at the peak of all of the women’s march business, initially, I was really stoked for this sort of coming together. I thought “finally!” But then I started hearing some things as peers continued to talk. And I couldn’t say a darned thing.

I couldn’t say a thing because the second I would open my mouth, I would lose all credibility and no longer would be taken seriously as a woman. I would be isolated from the rest of ’em. Here’s what I would have said if I could have opened my mouth:

  • Wait, but I don’t see why we have to shame men for being men or what everyone else likes to call them: “sexist pigs.” It’s not like they really had a choice to be a man?
  • Why is all of this turning into a political conversation that runs far, far away from the ideals of unification and love? Your signs with language slandering President Trump have absolutely nothing to do with bringing women together…nothing at all.
  • Telling women they aren’t invited to the table because they advocate for a child’s life is not the least bit productive. All mindsets should be welcome, after all, this is a woman thing, right? Not a my views vs. your views kind of thing.

Silencing one voice just because it doesn’t sound like yours doesn’t empower anyone..it doesn’t do any good. Think about it, if silencing another’s voice while fighting for yours to be heard isn’t the most hypocritical thing I’ve heard in my twenty two years of life, I don’t know what is.

I’m sick of feeling shame for being a woman because in today’s age, being a woman has nothing to do with the kindness, strength, intellect, and generosity that I cherished the thought of embodying one day…and it only ever would when we, women, choose to no longer silence our sisters, but embrace them even if they sound, think, look…differently than us.

Self

Self: what distinguishes you from me.

All of our lives, we’re told things about ourselves, be it our appearance, character, or personality…some of them hyperbolic in nature, others simply true. And any time I’ve been asked to look into the mirror or create a self portrait, explain what I look like to someone who cannot see, etc, one hundred percent of the time, I fixate on those hyperbolic mentions first, rather than looking at who/what I really am. 

I was asked to make a self portrait…And being in the art department for over a year now, this has probably been the fifth self portrait I’ve made. So I started thinking about how I am affected by that process, of trying to make a bajillion marks on a page that end up looking like me in the end, but being influenced most by these characteristics that other folks see rather than reality itself. I decided to dive into the technique that is often taught in intro level art courses, focusing entirely on your subject rather than your piece the whole time you are drawing. Drawing blindly.

I thought that doing this this would steer me away from focusing so much on these thoughts engrained in my mind only because of those surrounding me, but instead, I walked into one of the most agonizing experiences of life itself. Literally staring at myself to complete twelve drawings, enveloped me into a new state of thinking. Now it’s not that I hate looking at myself in the mirror or anything like that, because everyone knows I’m always trying to have my hair/makeup on fleek…but staring and focusing on nothing other than yourself creates this soul-filled, spiritual connection with yourself..alone and isolated. And that is so dang uncomfortable. 

This got me thinking about just how valuable it is to be driven by the experience you have while making, to cherish that process…even if it’s totally uncomfortable.

Agony, March 2017

Thank you.

It was about this time last year, that I made the decision to become an art major, giving up my long-thought dream of becoming a teacher only to start studying art and making my hobby, my lifestyle. Recently, I’ve been reflecting on what this year has looked like for me, and in the heat of pre-finals week, the only thoughts running through my mind seem to be “Was this really worth it?” And I keep coming back to an answer of “Yes.” And not even a haphazard one, more like “Hell yeah!” 

Over the course of the year, I’ve learned how to draw my face on a piece of paper (a huge victory!), make a crappy bowl on a wheel, and how to go to town with some power tools. But I’ve also met some professors that have been the few to tell me to keep going when I wanted to give up, I’ve had to fight for what I love, and best of all, I’ve found my people. Yeah, the ones that I can be stupidly goofy with and that I can wear my plaster-covered overalls around and they love me the same. The ones that when I wear glitter on my face, they tell me I look like a fairy instead of a child. These are the same people I get to cry with when our crap falls apart at the last minute and the ones I rejoice with over the one day-extension for a project deadline. The ones I stay up with until six o clock in the morning to perfect our piece. They’re those people.

This past year has been the most windy up and down-turn about back and forth whirlwind of a year, it’s been full of tears, life change, art related and not, but the fact that I have gotten to come back to the studio nearly every day of the week and create things has been reassuring. It’s been safe. Even when things fell apart at the last moment and when finishing that piece meant I got thirty minutes of sleep in order to make it to critique on time, it all seemed worth it and I’m confident it will continue to be so.

So, “thank you.” Why? Because I would likely be dead without you. And if I wasn’t dead I would be having a mental breakdown at the end of each and every week. I could never have expected to receive the amount of unconditional love that I do from all of you. I know, sometimes it’s hard to accept a thank you when it’s over some mode of social media and you feel removed, hardly involved, and like there is nothing to be thanked for, but in all vulnerability, sometimes, I feel like you all are right here with me. The me when I’m bright and cheery, exhausted and cranky, delusional and loopy, and when I’m just “me.” I don’t know how you put up with me, but you do it so well and so lovingly. Thank you. 

So, as I’m wondering how on God’s green earth I’m going to finish everything that needs to be completed this quarter, and questioning my very existence because I’m graduating before too long, I come back to understand my heart just a little bit better. I’d be lost if I didn’t get to make things each day. I’d be lost if I didn’t have my people. You know? This was just right for me, it’s been a year, I tell ya, but it’s been a good one. 

Farewell, gotta go make some things. 

I have grown up around cops and still believe that black lives matter.

This is going to be one of my shorter posts, one I write in one sitting, on one train of thought, and I’m intentionally choosing not to post it as a status on social media because I want to encourage whoever is reading this to choose their posture very carefully. I want you to pause for a second, and just read, just hear me out on this. You’re probably like: “but you’re white. but your dad is a cop…what the hell could you have to say that is worth me reading that isn’t going to royally piss me off?” But hey, I’ve thought about this a lot. I mean A LOT.

My father is a police officer. And has served in the realm of law enforcement for about as long as I’ve been on this earth. Thus, most of his friends are also police officers. And for the last five or so years, as there has been a massive increase of attention paid to “police brutality,” (and I put that in quotations not in reference to sarcastic tone, but because that is what the masses like to call it), I for a long time, felt inclined to immediately go on defense mode. I mean, from my perspective, I looked at it as, I’ve grown up around cops my entire life and have spent time in the station, and have not once heard the cops surrounding me refer to those black or brown lives as anything less than the white lives that are some their own, because let us remind ourselves, that no, not all officers are white men. It was hard for me to see countless, who I believed to be ignorant people, shaming people who I spent my childhood looking up to, and grew up getting to know as truly stand-up human beings who put their lives on the line each day that they wake up to go to work.

It took me a while.

It took me a while to have this realization that I have no authority to be having this inner battle with myself, trying to decide whose life was worth being taken, because the answer is always going to be no body’s. It shouldn’t be “Oh, should it have been the black boy or the cop?” No one should ever make that call. Last time I checked, no one life is more worthy than the next. See, I was never one of those “All lives Matter” people because here’s what I have to say to that: Duh. We all know that. I had it explained really well to me once. They said something to the effect of, “When we say black and brown lives matter, we aren’t saying that those lives are more important than the rest, that’s not what it’s about. What it’s about is recognizing that there’s hundreds and hundreds of black and brown lives being taken every year purely because they are black. Purely because they are brown. That’s all, it’s kind of a no-brainer that all lives matter, it’s just this is the ‘here.’ This is the ‘now.’ We need to respond.”

It makes sense, right?

So, here’s the deal. When I hear a life is taken, ANY life, it destroys my heart. When I hear a life of a young, innocent black boy is taken, in a case of injustice, I want to shout at the rooftops because it reminds me just how much work is still to be done in this world. And just how much people need to be educated about the injustices of our marginalized communities. When I hear about a cop taking someone’s life, I have to question whether or not there was prior action that dignified that action, because the police exist for a reason, they have a job to do, and they have just as much of a right to safety as you or I. When I hear about an officer committing murder for an unjust cause, I can hardly come up with words to express the depths of my rage. Why? You know why. Because that was a life taken, and when that life is a black life, a brown life, a queer life, a life that is often silenced, yet again, they are left with no voice and left to mourn yet another day.

I will actively stand with our law enforcement and will not condone the generalized hate that the masses communicate toward those who give the ultimate sacrifice each day; however, with that being said, I believe that there is a problem. A HUGE problem that exists within our culture, within our society, one that goes far beyond our police, that is embedded within our institutions and our community’s structure, that contributes to the general hate toward these groups.

Yes, my father is a police officer. And yes, I am confident when I state that I recognize the injustices that exist in this country, knowing that change must persist. And yes, I believe that education is all of our most powerful weapons in this uphill battle, because when I call myself a fighter for social justice, it’s not about siding with the victim or the accusor…it’s about taking the side of what’s right. It’s as simple as that.

I’m free, though they’d say I always was

This year. Wow. I feel weird writing this post, to be completely honest…maybe it’s because it’s surreal to me that it’s over. Maybe because accepting that the year is over means basically all of my friends leaving: going to Law School, going to be the best teacher in the world, going into the Army, going to change the business world, going literally all over the country and all of the world. Maybe because it means I’m one year closer to “the real world…” Maybe because the entire year literally felt like a month. I’m truly unsure. BUT I think it’s going to be a journey to try to encapsulate my thoughts about this year in this one post…but hey, I’ll sure try.

This year brought me to a place of newness. I got to have the opportunity to be in Student Government (I’ll get to that later), I changed my entire major, I got to immerse myself in opportunities that allowed me to experience Jesus in a new way and struggle all the while, I gained some of the best friends I could ever ask for, and I ultimately, had a completely insane year that I can hardly put into words. Bits of it: complete hell, others: utter joy. As many of you, or those who know me well, know, I sleep very little. Like very very little. I work myself to death, between first and foremost, my studio work, but second, my work in Student Government.

Fortunately but unfortunately, my experience this year in ASCWU-SG has completely transformed me. Now, when I say that, I don’t mean transformed me as a person…I wouldn’t let it. However, I do mean that it transformed me in a way that has given me a new way to look at not only the world, but more specifically, higher education and politics and the “higher-ups,” for lack of better terms. I realize that though the position that I ran for is a political position, I don’t think anyone could have prepared me for how much of this job is just that: politics, and how little of it goes to do what you were put in that position to do: make a difference. And the best part about it, when you are looked at as a criminal for questioning that political obligation, seeing representing students as the number one priority (please see my sarcasm). There were a great series of events that happened over the course of the year that prompted me with a choice: I can sit here in this position of so-called power/shared governance (which is literally all complete hear-say and crap, but that’s what they like to call it –yeah, we’ll call them “they”) and I can absorb the mentality of “them,” undergo complete manipulation and go along with their agenda OR I can choose to respond adversely. But responding adversely even has its caveats. This is what hit home with me and really was a pivotal point in my time serving on this board: I can absorb this cynical mindset, literally losing all hope, or  I can realize the reality of what exists around me, and go at it, head first, unapologetically, and  be motivated by their inability to serve with genuine qualities.

I struggled A LOT this year. Beyond anything that seemed petty, I simply struggled to watch them use us, use students in order to jump start their own agenda and priorities. Oh, you want to do something that would unquestionably benefit students? “Our budget matters more.” “My reputation matters more.” “Do you know what that would look like to the general population.”..Or my personal favorite: “Don’t you care about how people remember you?” NO. Absolutely not. Why? Because I am not trying to promote myself, make others look at me as though I walk on water…Because before anything, I care about students. And it’s a shame that more than anything, this year has shown me that they well… don’t.

They gave me the reputation of being highly emotional, being hot-headed, being one who is “too caught up in her feelings.” Respectfully, I may ask that they work to understand why. Yeah, I’ve got plenty of feelings, I’m emotional, but I’ll tell you why, because I absorb the heart of those around me and when the students hurt, I hurt. In meetings while in hefty debate, if tears stream down my face or my voice raises above that of their robotic murmur, let us understand that my emotions aren’t simply “getting the best of me,” believe it or not, I can still operate in a rational state of mind, but rather than working to discover this truth about me, they liked to make general blanket statements saying I’ll regret my decisions because I’m in a “flighty” state of mind. Yes, that’s right…I forget how to think when I raise my voice — logic at its finest, friends.

Perhaps this position enlightened me to a point where now I understand what it feels like to have someone uphold zero respect for you, what it feels like to be silenced. Let me explain something: I’m not the kind of woman who walks into a space expecting that people bow down to me each time I open my mouth — nor do I want them to…I’m not the kind of woman who wants people to uphold a sense of obligation to this idea that they have to listen in order to not be perceived as sexist…I am, however, the kind of woman who walks into a space, expecting that I will be given the opportunity to voice my ideas (just like him…like them). I am the kind of woman who walks into the room wanting to earn the respect of the people in it because of my quality, innovative ideas, but please understand that that is completely impossible if I’m never given the chance. I’ve been silent at times, when appropriate, but never once have I had someone “hush” me, unless of course it was inappropriate giggling during a test in grade school, let alone a man of an authority position who likes to say he is an advocate for students. ALL students, this includes those lowly women who only later I find out he would refer to as “that girl on the board,” because no sir, I forgot I don’t have a name.

It was the day after this meeting, where I was still restless at the thought that there are people operating within this institution who literally have no idea what is at the best interest of students. I was speaking with some of my classmates  about this interaction where I was “hushed,” explaining to them some of my discomforts. How each time I would open my mouth to speak, I was interrupted, the men not. (and this isn’t some rant against men, please do not see it to be so, it’s the unfortunate reality of a woman like me’s experience navigating the realm of higher education, which primarily consists of older men, who have little respect for anyone who doesn’t look like them). With my classmate I even expressed this interaction where we (students) were “called out” for not knowing the role of this specific man, for not knowing his job duties, somethings that is almost humorous, considering  the above consideration that reminds us all that no, this man doesn’t even know my name. My friend’s only response:

“It genuinely bothers me to know this, because you were elected to represent us students, and if a sixty-something year old white man can’t even let you mutter your thought, he must think he knows what’s better for me than you do. And no. I don’t trust them to know what I need because they don’t know me.”

See it was things like this, all throughout the year. I had to ask myself why. Why are they even here then? It’s not fair to any one of us, especially the ones who don’t know what they’re really like. Here’s where we come back to that choice: how am I to respond to this reality? Do I gain a sense of cynicism or do I go at it with my all, head first, not giving a care in the world what comes of my actions, as long as I have one thing straight: I’ve got students on my mind 100% of the time. It’s not about me. It’s not about them. It’s not about the piss-poor way that they treat us, it’s about the students and being willing to undergo whatever necessary (even if you feel like  crap because of it) to ensure students’ needs are at least being, at least heard. I obviously chose the latter, but had to work through the cynicism to get there, but it’s not worth it to stay.

Once I made the choice to shift my mindset (not to let my foot off the pedal, but yes, shift my mindset), I began to realize that I’ve got so much going that I cannot lose sight of through my bitterness and resentment toward these people. My utter frustration isn’t worth sacrificing my well-being as a human. I’ll sacrifice a whole lot; however, to lose sight of the fact that I’ve got a wonderful set of friends, an awesome family, and a God who loves unconditionally and let all of that take a back seat, that friends…that is what you call a mistake. My advice: recognize that the system is jacked…they’ll tell you that you can’t: prove them wrong, please, because you most certainly can. Do everything in your power to fight for what you believe in and stand up for what is right, it can be thankless, but that’s okay, it is well worth it in one hundred other ways, and beyond anything else, keep close to you, the things that matter most, they will be what gets you through the fight.

They asked me, “Olivia, why aren’t you running for Student Government again?” — you can only imagine the long list of reasons I would like to give, but respect, yeah, respect is a thing.

“You really want to know? It’s because I care too much. That’s the sad truth.”

 

It’s more than a pad, I promise.

Last week, I was given an assignment to create a lighted structure that represents volume and mass, using some sort of translucent material. I hated the assignment, quite honestly; it seemed kitschy. Long and short of it: I’ve been feeling the urge lately, to respond to the apathetic, unknowledgeable way that the world responds to women and their, now, please don’t giggle, but their “time of the month” or the entire culture and all of the implications of women and menstruation and what that really means.

Needless to say, I was about to make a structure entirely of pads and wire, knowing that embarking on this so-called journey would imply awkward moments that shouldn’t even be awkward in the first place, a great deal of thought provoking emotion, and beyond anything else, I had hoped this would trigger responsive critique and conversation: that people would be uncomfortable, but it would leave them yearning for understanding.

Even at the stage of me buying five gigantic packages of heavy duty pads, I was left entirely convicted. I spent about a half an hour in the “oh-so-dreaded aisle” trying to decide which pads to buy based off of their packaging and which I wanted to utilize in my piece, I was left stunned as the store manager walked by the aisle every two minutes staring at me as though concern was stirring in him and he wanted to ask if I was finding everything okay, but couldn’t quite muster up the courage to walk down this aisle, let alone, perhaps talk to me about PADS, *gasp* not pads… Not to mention my frustration with the fact that the aisle was lined with displays of candy as though supplementing a woman’s natural body process with a bunch of sugar is going to solve her every problem and make her just a little less “psycho.” Trust me, it’s not random placement of a display. But anyways, after loading up my basket, I was tempted to use the Self Checkout to purchase these items, an unfortunate temptation as why on earth should I feel embarrassed to buy these items!? I proceed to a normal checkout line, challenging my very human nature. As I unloaded my basket, I promised myself I wouldn’t fall into the trap of being feeling pity or shame about the contents of my basket, but no two seconds later, there I go, there I went. I HATE the fact that I had to justify my purchases, and this comes from me, a woman comfortable with the human body and everything that comes along with it. What about that is fair? Hell, the same could be said about purchasing condoms. What’s shameful about safe sex?

So, today, on critique day, after staying up until about 5:00 in the morning finishing this piece, ensuring that all of the pads and their wrappers are in place and that the anatomical wire heart structure suspended within, just perfectly, I move the structure to the podium, where no later I began to explain the posture I encouraged my classmates to uphold when viewing this piece. “Many of you and other people who have seen this piece throughout its creation have commented about the humor of this piece…I would ask of you and encourage you to look past that humor aspect that so many of you see, simply so you can better understand the nature of this piece and can understand its connotation,” I said. The room went dead and I turned the light on. Yes, this is what I wanted, silence, a tone of contemplation and maybe uncomfort.

But one thing, the primary component of my piece did not appear: this anatomical heart that I had crafted in order to create a bridge to discuss the connection between the way that society likes to view a woman’s heart in terms of their menstrual cycle. Frustration, that’s what I felt. All I saw was this (image below). All I saw was a pink box, with the intentional roughness and rawness, but nothing to trigger that conversation. But just then, a classmate steps forward, peering in the spaces, he sees the heart, and gasps, the room still quiet. An emotional experience for me, as I begin to love what started happening, a mild curiosity that invited people to ask those further questions. I then began to discuss the heart behind this piece, and tell those stories (above). Just then, some quotes worth capturing:

“I’m almost scared of it. I don’t want to go near it.” –professor

“At first, I thought you were implying that connection between a woman’s period and them being a psycho, but now I “get” it. That’s why you telling your story is so important to this piece.” –male classmate

“I will never ever understand what you [women] go through, so thank you for sharing your experience through this piece.” –male classmate

“I like that I have to look for the heart on the inside. It reminds me how a woman’s heart is so hidden, and yet their periods are all that someone may draw conclusions from or may base their thoughts off of.” –female classmate

“This is so familiar. It makes me feel something even from just looking at the tears and the shred on the wrappers.” –female classmate

He’s scared to go close to it because it’s a raw piece and exhorts a tone of mourning and hurt.

His mind went immediately to the psycho lady on her period because that’s where most people’s go, but that is why we tell our stories, so they can understand.

He thanked me for being open and sharing because not enough people do.

She liked looking for the heart on the inside of the box and making that connection because we all desire the opportunity to relate to the art and the stories that surround us.

She felt something after just looking at the tears on the wrappers because she is a woman and this experience is so raw and real for each and every one of us.

See, initially, I was pissed that this awesome wire heart element was completely missing from my piece, but so quickly, my demeanor shifted after a moment or two. When my classmates and professor started making those connections, and prompted me to tell my story, the entire mood of the room became raw. People were real. And then they started to share their stories. And it was beautiful.

When the room fell to a silence several times, and was later followed by emotions being poured out, I knew it was a success. As an artist, that is my one desire, that my art would make people feel. And for them to yearn to understand an issue such as that of which I described previously, thank God.

After class, my male classmate came up to me, gently touched my arm, and proceeded to tell me: “That was great. Seriously, seriously great. Thank you for being open and sharing your story.” Words like that, that’s why I do what I do. It all becomes purposeful.

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An artist, not only a “dreamer”

Since about the age of six, I’ve been told “Oh, you’re so creative.” It would always start, as it does for children, with scribbling, escalate to coloring, we would then dream up our own personal rendition of what human life looked like, and then our imagination would come in to play and we would start to dream up our own organic forms and justify them with some ridiculous explanation that only makes sense to us. This art exploration process as a young child was something that would of course appear to be some “hobby-like” form, as most interests of children are dismissed immediately if they are not a product of the interests of those who surround them. But for child artists, this process — of creating — reaches to provide further satisfaction and sense of fulfillment, that as a young child, is rather hard to articulate, let alone explain.to people who are unwilling to even try to “get” it.

The stigma surrounding support of artists is difficult to explain, and I’m almost sure that it has to begin with this lack of support from day #1. In the home, all a child’s most prized work of art typically amounts to is maybe a month or two on the refrigerator, being held up, crooked, by some tacky magnet.But a child wouldn’t dare demand more. And the rest is history: they don’t understand because our voice is meek. It’s so very hard to force someone to want to support you when the push-back is so likely. And we’d normally be okay with push-back, but our art is something personal and brings us to a place of vulnerability, not something we want to parade around for the sake of gaining support.

It’s impossible, however, to explain where that lack of support from artists’ peers asthey grow older comes from, but there’s this thought that maybe, just maybe, it’s because they don’t live in our weird artist-brains, and in some way, that’s completely okay because we  won’t  all ever “get” each other. But at the same time, I come back to ask myself, is it okay? Because there’s a difference between the businessperson who doesn’t support the financial analyst and the businessperson doesn’t support the artist. It simply looks different — it doesn’t come from a place of difference in principle, it’s that whole entitlement thing that a lot of us — myself included find it difficult to talk about. Why, because we hate that guilt thing, but it’s important to acknowledge this natural default that society has created because it’s a really really unfortunate reality, and it may be nearly impossible to derive the true root of that separation.

See this is what I’m talking about:

Walking up to a legislator to discuss higher education issues just a month ago: Him: “Oh, what are you studying?” Me: “I am currently getting my undergraduate in Studio Art and Nonprofit Management.” And before my sentence even came to a close, there in-lies an immediate shift in his posture, a mere tilt of the head, almost as though he wanted to ask, “Then why are you here?” and a small squint of the eyes.  Part of me wishes that people like him would ask why I was there, so then I would have the opportunity to express my understanding of the need for students who are knowledgeable to advocate for resources and services that are crucial to their development at the institution in which they are enrolled in. Because we don’t have to be in political science or law and justice to be informed or to simply just care.

For some reason, this thought has been formed, or at least some days it seems, that artists do not or cannot exist in the academic world. As someone who wouldn’t be able to solve a simple math problem, or read a book and articulate its simple words: our world’s artists worth is being cheapened for reasons that have no basis of integrity. We don’t sit there and finger paint all the live long day, we don’t just sit there and talk about and marinade in our own existential thought circles, and believe it or not, we aren’t all stuck in this extremist, liberal world, looking for opportunities to belittle others’ ideas only to bring glory to our own agenda. See, we get labeled with this word a lot: “Dreamer.” Yeah, they may be right, we dream and we dream big. BUT, it’s a hard notion to express, but we are more than that. Our heads aren’t just stuck up in the clouds, we dream intentionally, with purpose and reason, and dream about things that most deem in the realm of the impossible, but to artists, what is that…what is impossible?

It goes — we go, a lot deeper than that… Our minds see depth and see richness, we crave more and more, but no one cares to ask why. Not that what’s on the surface won’t suffice, but think like this, and maybe you’ll get why: when we spend our lives creating pieces, productions, and art that have so much depth to them and mean something great, and the world gives nothing but the basics in return, we can’t help but crave that sense of depth.

Just a couple months back, I was having this conversation with my friend, Kevin. Kevin is someone who, passing by, you may think his ears would perk up at the thought of a conversation about the creative realm; however, I tend to deny my urge to overload everyone by sharing my art with them. Because sharing art, that doesn’t mean giving them a five second peek at your artwork and putting it away. It means taking them on your adventure that you already tell yourself that they don’t want to hear, even though sometimes…they do, and again, it’s a vulnerability thing. How I talked before about people not understanding our minds and that being the element that creates this stigma, that’s where this comes into play. As artists, we want to share our wack-job minds with you and we want you to be so intrigued by them that you can’t help but beg for more.

But anyways, back to my story about Kevin. So, in January, he was up in my office space at my University for an open house we were hosting, and as we were catching up on the latest and greatest in both of our lives, he started asking me about the pieces I was currently working on. One being a self portrait I had just completed, which let’s face it, I loathe even the thought of self portraits… Anyways, so I begin explaining the premise of this assignment and skirting around the basics of what choices I made, or what I liked and didn’t like about the finished  product, he then goes, “So, you keep saying design choice, give me an example of a design choice you made and tell me why it was a good one, and then tell me a design choice you wish you could have changed.” Now that sounds like a simple question, but it spoke volumes in comparison to the responses that my friends typically provide, and this entire conversation that had just happened brought me to a new place of realization. See, normally when I show someone a piece, they say something to the effect of “I don’t get it.” with no follow up. But I’ll tell ya, when Kevin gave me the opportunity to share the motivation of my  intentional design choices and expressed genuine interest in understanding the why, I maybe then, for the first time “got” it. Speaking generally, the separation between artists // art // and the rest of the populous // world is created because the appropriate opportunity to have these conversations rarely presents itself. Whose fault that lies in the hands of is of question, but one thing is for certain, we artists, we so so desperately want to teach you and want to show you what’s going on upstairs, but it’s hard to get there sometimes.

It’s been interesting  having conversations with my fellow artists in the past few months, hearing about the ways in which art brings them ultimate satisfaction and joy in ways of which other things will not and cannot. See, the way that art reaches us humans is deep deep down, into the trenches of our hearts and the corners of our brain that are merely inaccessible by so many means. I have friends with parents who hate their lifestyles and friends who don’t know how to outwardly express the chaos stirring inside of them: creating their art is the only, and I mean only way for them to be able to release that tension that so tightly binds their heart and so wildly confuses their mind. The way that my mind goes to a place rest and chaos when I am painting is explainable, and my greatest wish is that everyone can experience it.

A real artist? How could we even be confined to such a brief description? A real artist isn’t just a dreamer, not just someone who begs to find depth in things that simply have none. An artist isn’t someone who should be segregated from academia. A real artist is a creator, a person who seeks reason and purpose. An artist has potential and can bring ideas to life.

Artists shape the way that we see the world.

A Really Quick Thought About A Really Important Something

There becomes a point, where as humans, we should be utterly disturbed  by some of the happenings that surround us. We should be so put off by them that we can’t help but respond. And by some kind of way, we justify reasons to dismiss that discomfort and that off-putting feeling.

There should be NO reason that we as Americans are okay with seeing families sleep on the concrete with maybe a blanket being all that keeps them warm in the chilling 20 degrees of winter. No reason that we should be okay with knowing that there are thousands of children EVERY DAY being sold into sex slavery. No reason that we should sleep soundly knowing that so many women fear to go home to their husbands..No reason for people being murdered left and right with no people begging the question why. Yet there are people who are sitting on the sideline, indifferent, who are apathetic. We as a human race should be allies and justice-seekers & fighters and people who do not need to be begged to see that this is a problem.

All politics and personal beliefs aside, this isn’t a rant to make us all feel guilty that we don’t pay attention to what’s around us, this is a call to action that should convict your heart and make you uncomfortable. It should disturb you. It’s about time that we all need to do something.

Nothing is to say that I know what that something is, but it’s sure worth exploring, wouldn’t you say?

Because that man that I just passed laying underneath the freeway as it’s unbearably cold outside..yeah, there is no reason for that. Absolutely none.

A Call to Uncomfort

As change ensues, us humans are overwhelmed with a sense of unrest and uncomfort. The self-battle this triggers is one that begs the question of whether or not that unrest is a good thing or whether it will drive us into a downward spiral, questioning our very existence. I think that sense of wonder is where it has got to end. Living life purely seeking comfort is a dangerous lie to become entangled in, but surely an easy one.

It is necessary to separate the notion of living in a comfortable state and allowing your heart to be comfortable when you become satisfied living an unfulfilling life just because it’s easy. That’s it, simple as that.

The reason that I felt so inclined to write this post was spurred by the most recent change in my life, which will more clearly articulate the heart behind this post. Just two days ago, I completed the paperwork to change my entire course of education. See, being a special education teacher has been my supposed dream for about eight years now and come early last week, I felt overwhelming opposition and struggled to even think about the potential that this dream may not actually be what I am called to do for the rest of my life.

“Do not merely listen to the Word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” James 1:22

I then asked: “If not this, then what?” How would I go from having it all figured out for eight years of my life, to suddenly realizing that everything is about to change and having no clear look at the future? Just as that question was muttered, “Art! Of course, art..” See, that’s where I start realizing, hey it’ll all work out.” But still lingering in my head, the thought of not having control of really really big decision is actually terrifying. But let’s face it, the following thoughts are all true.

  • A whole lot changes in eight years — can I truly expect to have the same dream for this whole time?
  • Why should I settle? no one should settle for the sake of comfortability.
  • And let’s face it, sometimes, just sometimes…I don’t know everything. The Creator of the Universe probably has it at least a little more figured out than I do.

I started to realize after this convicting moment, that what I had perceived my future to look like if I were to continue on the same track of education, would not be the reality in which I am confident I am called to live.

See, when you are pushed beyond your zone of comfort, we cannot be held back by our desire to combat change. We cannot succumb to this earthly ideal that we need to have a clear look at the rest of our lives and strive for money and status in order to be a person of worth, that’s a rough life to get caught up in; it’s more important to pursue a life that will be fulfilling and will ensure godly joy. That means a joy that is everlasting and does not waiver from day to day: a joy that is rooted within the Gospel, the story of Jesus. For me, this looked like be stepping beyond the realm of comfort that I had forced myself to live within for so many years and embracing a new way of living, one that may not be sure and may not be set in stone, but one that I have been called to live.

So, while I’ve got you here, I’m not saying “Hey, question every aspect of your life to ensure it’s the “right” path, whatever that means. But more so, I say with a posture of encouragement: never ever feel like you have to settle. When you’ve got that gut feeling that leads you to a place of questioning your next move, don’t dismiss that feeling. Dive into it. Search for purpose and know that comfort isn’t worth sacrificing your joy.

That’s it: I’m a studio art major and I’m overwhelmed with peace because of it.