19 posts categorized "Art&Activism"

July 17, 2018

The Force Is.

TheforceisConceptually, I support equality for women. It's in college when I opened my eyes to how deep-rooted sexism is, as well as other forms of oppression. It's when I became a radical, structural feminist.


I'm not that comfortable wearing a t-shirt that says "feminist." Or other variations like "the sisterhood" or "love your tribe" or "the force is female." No thanks.

The reason such tees make me uncomfortable is because I'm uncomfortable with the notion that there is some sort of genuine sisterhood among all women. Some of the most egregious acts of cruelty I've experienced have been by women. Truth is, women DON'T help women. Women shame. Women gossip. Women sabotage. Women envy. Women take down. So do men. Not all, but many. That's because women and men are human. And many humans (not all) don't help humans.

I'm also uncomfortable with "the sisterhood" because as Roxanne Gay points out, race remains a big problem within some feminist circles.

And then there are those very special women who go out of their way to support misogyny, white nationalism and ickiness in general to pursue relevance and celebrity ... like Kellyanne, Sarah, Dana, Ann, Tomi ... and quite frankly the 53% of educated white women who helped put disgraceful Trump in office. And in the deep reaches of my radical feminist heart, I say that there are men who are more my sisters than these women.

The force isn't female.

The force is.


May 29, 2018

IN all things

ThessIf I see another self-help book or "be grateful/lean in/choose happy" life coaching messages from persons of privilege wanting so desperately to become our next guru, I'm gonna throw up. Which is why I was gonna pass right by a podcast episode interview with a woman named Diana Butler Bass who has authored a new book titled: Grateful.

But then I listened. And I'm glad I did. Bass is a white woman. She is a Christian. She is a Biblical scholar. She is aware of her privilege AND she is a practitioner of justice-based compassion.

She pointed out that in scripture, there is an important verse, 1 Thessalonians 5:18, regarding gratitude which reads:
"In all things, give thanks."

The operative word is IN. It doesn't say FOR all things, give thanks. It says IN all, things give thanks. So it's not about being grateful for my house, my car, my family, my clothes, my job, my, my, my, me, me, me, blessings, blessings, blessings, abundance, abundance, abundance, love, love, love, have, have, have, stuff, stuff, stuff, privilege, privilege, privilege, more, more, more.

It's IN. IN sickness, IN health, IN success, IN failure, IN happy, IN sad, IN anger, IN outrage ... IN all of it.

Part of the reason I've been so uneasy about the "be grateful" message (especially from people of privilege) is that there's this tacit qualifier that being grateful FOR involves turning a blind eye to reality (willful ignorance) because there's this thought that IN outrage or anger, gratitude can't be present. In other words ... "La la la ... let's not talk about all those angry black lives matter people ... let's stay positive and be grateful for all our blessings ... oh look, a bird!"

For me, gratitude and activism aren't mutually exclusive. I would argue that modern day social activists and leaders of social justice throughout history, including Jesus the Christ would agree. There was plenty of outrage that he and his followers battled when facing the money-grubbing, heartless, hypocritical Pharisees. And I would guess that if he were here today, he would join Colin Kaepernick to not only take a knee, but flip some fucking tables.

I like to wear a Susan B. Anthony coin as a pendant to keep it close to me as a reminder that IN outrage ... the kind of outrage that fueled her life's work to bring about the 19th Amendment to allow women to vote, there was an ability to practice gratitude and deep, profound fulfillment.

It hurts to be awake.

I think it hurts even more to not be.



March 04, 2018

Announcing my UCIrvine Class :: Art & Activism


This spring quarter, I will be joining the lecturing faculty at @ucirvine 's School of Social Sciences to teach a brand new course I have developed titled Art&Activism. If you are a UCI student I hope you will consider enrolling as we dig deep creatively and intellectually. I feel it's gonna be a life-changing experience for all. The class will meet T/Th from 2-3:20 in SSL 206. Hope to see you in class. Feel free to email me with any questions.

Here's the course description:
Can art speak more or as effectively as conventional language? To what extent does an artist’s skill relate to the audibility and the reach of her art? Can art inspire contemplation? Can it affect/influence policy decisions? If art cannot affect social change, does its expression still have value?
This course examines these questions as we review examples of activist art in the 21st Century including how advances in technology affect the production, delivery, and consumption of art. The course also examines the evergreen activist nature of art within historical movements such as Baroque, Rococo, Renaissance, Impressionism, Expressionism, Fauvism, Surrealism, and Dadaism.
The course also examines what constitutes art, what makes art valuable, and the tensions that exist between individual versus collaborative expressions.
#ucirvine #uci #zot #fiatlux #artandactivism #artandactivismUCI

November 15, 2017

I Don't Know

PaleyIn her essay titled The Value of Not Understanding Everything, Grace Paley presents the idea that artists live and work withiin a world that we don't completely understand while critics of art live within the pages of fiction, the lines of poetry, the strokes of paintings ... to point out the merits of the art at hand, based on what the critic already understands about the world. Artists dare to imagine, illuminate, and create even when we can't fully figure out the conundrum of the human condition ... embracing the tension and the mystery of it all ... the love, lust, hate, disdain, and all the rest.

Paley also states that art is synonymous to justice ... which she defines as "the illumination of what isn't known, the lighting up of what is under a rock, of what has been hidden." This justice happens because artists work through the power of imagination. Like really and deeply imagining what it's like to be someone other than myself. Empathy.

Tension in this world feels at a peak these days. Women. Men. Gay. Straight. Bi. Trans. Love. Lust. Touch. Grope. Grab. Fuck. Flirt. Yes. No. Maybe. Me too.

Here we are. And here I am humbly bowing down to audacious artists ... who work relentlessly to light up what has been hidden as we deploy the power of imagination/empathy ... with the strength of character to occasionally say "I don't know" ... and engage the tension within those beautiful words to embrace the light and pursue the creation of justice. Fiat Lux.


November 01, 2017



I recently read a review about a book titled The Evolution of Beauty by Richard Prum (David Dobbs, The New York Times, September 24, 2017). The book presents research that dates back to Darwin ... showing that though feathers eventually became instruments for flight, their original function was to enhance male birds' sexual appeal. Beauty first. Flight second. Makes me ponder the facets needed for existence and survival. Aesthetics affect how we treat each other. So do pragmatics and skills. They are all related to survival and evolution.

Recently, a person asked me regarding my resistance art: "When will the resistance be done?" In other words, when will you shut the fuck up? To which I said: "I refuse to answer such an absurd, hypothetical question." The question reflects a mindset that thinks that checks and balances are a waste of time because they are inconvenient for those who'd rather defer to power, give power a break, look the other way when power misbehaves ... even at the risk of ushering in totalitarianism.  The existence of a free press irritates those who want power to have free reign. They ask slightly differently worded yet equally absurd questions like ... "When will the reporting end?" "When will the probing end?" "When will the investigating end?"

Not too long ago, I saw an interview that a U.S. Senator gave a reporter. He was asked if our democracy was in jeopardy. And he said that though we have much to be concerned about, we still have a critical mass of people staying vigilant ... and we still have a free and robust press. For some reason, I burst into tears when I heard that answer because I feel we are at such a dangerous precipice where all of that could collapse.

After reading that piece about feathers, I did some research about feathers and flight. I learned that in order to fly, we first need to overcome our own WEIGHT (i.e., gravity), then we need to create an upward force called LIFT, then we need to generate THRUST for forward motion, and finally, to keep moving and eventually fly, we need to overcome the RESISTANCE of the air called "drag."

As stated by artist Maya Lin, "To fly, we need resistance."

I can't help but get choked up thinking about the tireless, beautiful feathers who ensure that we evolve, survive, and fly not in spite of, but BECAUSE of our vigilance, and multi-faceted resistance.

#artandactivismlog #resistancelog #resist




October 02, 2017

Frame of Power


In the recent piece by Carina Chocano (Attention Deficit, @nytimes Magazine), we learn that "how we are directed to look at something determines what we are. Framing is important ... because framing is power." She sites the work of author #JohnBerger (Ways of Seeing) which delves into how a person who says things like "let's keep politics out of it" and "let's stay focused and not get distracted" IS being political by the very fact that that they are shaping what gets framed into the picture, they are shaping what is discussed.


So today, in the wake of the act of terrorism in #LasVegas, Sarah Huckabee Sanders says in the press room in response to a journalist asking about gun control policies that "now is not the time to talk about Gun Control." In other words, now IS the time to continue marginalizing the topic of gun control as a "distraction." Framing.


When #ColinKaepernick peacefully takes a knee to shine light on the killings of unarmed black people by bad cops, power seeks to not just marginalize but demonize such non-violent acts of protest as "distractions" that inconvenience 'mericans who want to just watch ball (or just watch the Emmys or just watch ESPN or just enjoy (fill in the blank)). Cause Trump doesn't like his entertainment interrupted or being inconvenienced ... because ... all together now: "NOW is NOT the TIME" ... and if he could, he'd fire that brown-skinned "son of a bitch" and any others who don't neatly yield to his frame of power.


#thetimeisnow #resist #getintheframe

#resistancelog #artandactivismlog #blacklivesmatter does not mean #anticop it means #antibadcop


September 20, 2017

Enjoyment without Possession

Not now

In a recent essay by John Lanchester (How Civilization Started, The New Yorker), I am reminded that for most of our modern human existence, we've lived as hunter-gatherers. This way of life was followed by the Neolithic Revolution (AKA: the Agricultural Revolution) where humans segued from hunting and gathering, to planting & cultivating.

With invention of cereal crops, states came into being because such grains, unlike other crops became taxable as they were "visible, divisible, assessable, storable, transportable, and rationable" (James Scott, Against the Grain). Taxable cereal grains also gave rise to writing ... not creative writing, but the writing of lists ... ledgers that recorded the happenings of grains, including divisions of labor, and those divisions leading to societal hierarchies.

Lanchester references a new book by James Suzman titled Affluence Without Abundance: The Disappearing World of the Bushmen. Suzman's research takes him to southwest Africa to study the Bushmen that still exist today ... a people that still hunts and gathers. And contrary to what we the "civilized" might think, these hunters and gatherers live a life fulfilled, with an '"unyielding confidence" that their environment will provide for their needs' (Lanchester). Hunters and gatherers live in the moment ... as they enjoy and share with others their abundance, without scrambling to hoard, tax, trade, and accumulate.

There is this thought in our current world that once we accumulate enough, life will be good and we will be happy. Lanchester points to an essay by John Maynard Keynes (The Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren) that points to the problem when we place value on accumulating rather then enjoying:

ArrogantIt reminds me of Louis CK's funny explanation of why he doesn't save. Because he says saving is "arrogant." He'd rather spend what he has and enjoy life.

It also reminds me of the documentary, Minimalism, where I'm challenged to consider that to live a life fulfilled, all I need is less. I think that the pursuit to enjoy rather than possess takes a hunter-gatherer mindset where what I have now can be enjoyed now. Because tomorrow, there will be more to have and enjoy. And if we are no longer able to hunt and gather due to age or illness, to find ourselves in a world where those who HAVE decide not to lord it over others, but to share.


September 04, 2017

David & Goliath :: Matte & Gloss


HighDid you know that Michelangelo (1475-1564) is either the first or one of the first artists in history known to have signed his works of art? He was part of the Renaissance/High Renaissance movement where artists were experiencing a rebirth of classical culture. Instead of the immediate past thousand-plus-year tradition of anonymously making pious art that focused on the hereafter, Renaissance artists focused on the here and now ... claiming their style, championing humanism. 

And rather than remaining anonymous MAKERS, Renaissance artists were becoming named, known, and identified CREATORS. As audacious as this rebirth was, it was a movement that resulted in art that inspired contemplation. 

I feel this contemplation in Michelangelo's famous sculpture: David. The work makes me feel that David (the ultimate symbol of the underdog) is exuding not just courage but also concern, as he is about to use in earnest, his humble sling and stones, to battle the giant Goliath.

The Baroque movement which followed the Renaissance caused the pendulum of art to swing from contemplative to active. Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680) is a Baroque artist who also sculpted David. Even though the subject is the same underdog, when I put them side by side, I can definitely feel the difference of the art periods of Renaissance and Baroque. Contemplative versus active. In other words, matte versus glossy.

Interestingly, the Catholic church enlisted Baroque artists to create active, glossy art with more light and less shadow, with the hope that it would inspire people who had veered into Protestantism back into the Catholic church. In hopes that the Catholic church could be considered not just as a passive place, but a stand-up-and-take-action place. 

To me, contemplation and action go hand-in-hand for my life as an artist and activist. Like when I feel I've been thinking a long time about doing something there's a point when I hear myself saying "Jenny: Stop the over-thinking and take action." Glossy.

And then there are times when I'm going a mile a minute and I feel the need to pause and think and make sure the course is either correct or in need of correction. Matte.



August 30, 2017

Houston Strong


Look at this H charm and jump ring I made with sterling silver wire. It's to honor the people of #Houston. I'll make you one and ship it to you if you email me a new screen shot of a minimum donation of $100 to American Red Cross (for #hurricaneharvey ) or Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, Houston Food Bank or Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund. Screen shots must be dated from this moment forward (Previous donations are great but this is to encourage new or second donations.) jenny@crescendoh.com /// chain not included///please allow 2 weeks for the charm to be created, packed, and shipped #HoustonStrong #riseup


August 28, 2017

Jean Valjean, Hurricane Harvey, and Osteen's True Colors


I remember learning about Romanticism in high school and being struck to realize that it has nothing to do with conventional ideas of love and romance. Romanticism is a movement that reaches not only the visual arts but also literature & music. It's a movement that shines light on the need to take care of the underdog, the downtrodden, the suffering.

Like Victor Hugo's magnificent literary work: Les Miserables ... where the Bishop tells the authorities to not arrest Jean Valjean because the silver found on him is silver that the Bishop gave him, not silver that he stole. Jean Valjean can't believe this grace given to him by the Bishop because he did in fact steal the silver. And the Bishop says to Jean Valjean ... take the silver and rise up and succeed. God. I weep every time I think about that exchange.

Paintings by French Romantics like Gericault and  Delacroix exude the passion that they felt ... particularly regarding oppression based on class. Their works show breathtaking uprisings of a downtrodden people who overcome class oppression.

Speaking of the downtrodden. Have you seen the devastation and the havoc that Hurricane Harvey has caused on the people of Houston? The images of the suffering are heart-wrenching. These images are available to all ... including Joel Osteen, head of a megachurch in Houston that has not been flooded and that could house and aid thousands of people ... only if he opens the doors.

But Osteen and his team members have shown their true colors. And they look nothing like Jean Valjean's Bishop. The doors of the megachurch will remain closed, he said, but dollars will be accepted through his website to provide aid.

There ARE churches that open doors to help the downtrodden. That's part of the conceptual reason why churches are allowed to collect money without paying taxes. Because they're supposed to help. For free. And that's why I used to wear a cross around my neck. But I took it off in my 20s when I realized that most crosses on necks reflect closed doors, closed hearts of the greedy who use tax-free money to build shiny things that belong more to the over-the-top Rococo art movement of extravagance and jet-set life of the Osteens and nothing to do with Romanticism. They turn scripture into cliches of privilege to help them sleep ... like "we aren't perfect, just forgiven."

Maybe one day I'll wear that cross again ... when I feel that #fakechristianity no longer has a stranglehold on Christianity.

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