Loading

188 posts categorized "Thinking Out Loud"

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.

#artandactivismlog

 IMG_4461-1

August 30, 2017


Houston Strong


Houston2

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

Houston

August 28, 2017


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


Romanticism

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.

August 23, 2017


Matters of Importance (Again)


Matters

When I was a new immigrant to this country, I was the only girl of Korean descent in the elementary school that I attended in #Bakersfield, California.There was a bully named Andrea who used to slap my face regularly.I told my family about this and Marilyn, from our sponsoring American family, started coaching me with my limited English skills and told me the next time it happened, I should look at Andrea in the face and say "Stop it!" And so I did.But it didn't work.

 

So the next thing I knew, Marilyn accompanied me to school & asked me "Where's Andrea?" I pointed her out & witnessed Marilyn going over to talk to Andrea & telling her in no uncertain terms that she was to stop slapping me.

 

It worked. Andrea heard Marilyn loud and clear. Even though I was different, I mattered. 

If someone had said to Marilyn "But what about Andrea? Doesn't she matter too?" Marilyn probably would have said "Of course she matters. But I'm here not because someone is slapping Andrea. I'm here because Jenny is being slapped. And I'm not going to not do or say anything about that." I think that when a nation has a long-standing track record of killing unarmed Black people, it is not illogical for someone witnessing that to speak up. And when the witness stands to speak, they may say something like "Stop it!" Or a collective community of witnesses may say it another way, like #BlackLivesMatter

 

To me, those three words don't mean that other lives don't matter. Because of course Jenny matters & Andrea matters too. This great nation protects the right for Marilyn to speak up and get involved & it protects a collective group of like-minded & concerned witnesses to stand together ... to state the case and shine light on matters of importance.

 

(I am re-posting today, this story of mine which I originally posted on July 12, 2016. #IStandWithKaepernick )

 

August 22, 2017


Subversion of Freedom


OkeefeI was recently at a fabulous dinner party with artist and professor friends hosted by my art mentor and friend, Darlene. On one of her walls was a print of a nude photo of Georgia O'Keeffe that had been taken by photographer Alfred Stieglitz. I had known of O'Keeffe's flower paintings but I had no idea that she had allowed so many nudes of herself to be taken through the artistic eye of Stieglitz.

Within the Expressionist movement ... where tensions that were leading to WW1 were rising, many artists including painters  like Paul Gaugin wanted to return to primitivism and find freedom. Freedom from the forces of war, freedom from social convention ... just freedom plain and pure. This revolt against worldwide tension caused artists like Gauguin to start painting nudes as they viewed nudes to be the ultimate reflection of freedom.

Prior to Expressionism, Impressionist artists like Édouard Manet also painted nudes but with much more controversy as the viewing public felt shocked by the kind of vivid nudity that Manet painted.

After the dinner party with Darlene and friends, I looked up the photos of Georgia O'Keeffe which are just so achingly beautiful. The photos were also used to reference to make many beautiful paintings.

Earlier this year when I turned 50 years old, I also had my first nude photos taken through the artistic eye of @narcissusholmes. I had always thought of getting nudes taken and I think at the age of 50 I thought to myself: "Life is short ... let's do this." Though at the time I hadn't known of O'Keeffe's nude photos, I in hindsight feel an extra connection with O'Keeffe. I understand why she had so many taken. Because she likely felt what I felt from the process and the product ... which is freedom from social convention ... freedom plain and pure.

There's always controversy when it comes to freedom. Manet felt it when he released his paintings of nudes ... and perhaps it's less so today but controversy and judgement still exist ... which is why I go to the trouble of editing the photos (sepia tones of O'Keeffe and black&whites of me to not be kicked off of social media). There's something about the audacity of freedom that is inherently unnerving to convention. True freedom is always subversive.

August 21, 2017


Vincent's Empathy & Activism


VincentI get choked up when thinking about Vincent van Gogh. A Post-Impressionist artist who painted a huge body of work. Surprisingly, he painted for only 10 years ... his last 10 years of his life. And it is through the act of painting that he finally felt that he had found a way to do something good for humankind. Previous to his painting life, he had been kicked out of the clergy for being overly empathetic to the poor. That he cared too much for them.

Though many of his works are of landscapes and flowers and even scenes of the bourgeoisie, his work also encompasses paintings of poor laborers and families working in the fields.

I get choked up because he didn't have to go out of his way to find subjects like poor field workers with dark skin. It would have been more convenient (and perhaps more lucrative) for him to depict just the convenient. But by taking the time to paint the poor working class, he was making a statement. He was championing humanism ... to make the case to the world with his strokes and pigments that all humans, even the marginalized, have value. We look at his body of work today and think what a genius he was but in his lifetime, he didn't enjoy the applause nor the sales of the viewing audience. I think he sold only one painting during his life.

Ironically, within the Post-Impressionist period, there is a movement called Art Nouveau that emerged in Belgium, where everything was about making everything pretty, in an effort to champion decorative arts. Certainly not a movement that would make room for paintings of poor people working in the fields.

Truthfully, I like seeing it all. The pretty, the troubling, the realistic, the decorative, the abstract. I feel for van Gogh who was so tortured by his unusual degree of empathy that ultimately became debilitating ... and I admire him for painting and being the activist that he was, regardless of the lack of acclaim or sales.

Perhaps the person who recently wrote me and asked that I keep politics out of my art might not realize that when she is looking at a van Gogh, she IS looking at politics. And she IS looking at his activism.

Sometimes it might feel that activism looks and feels a certain way. Loud. Shocking. Bubbling with outrage. What van Gogh teaches me is that at other times, activism feels different ... a kind of feeling that perplexes some because the work isn't super pretty or decorative ... just quietly reflective of a reality that is beyond the convenient yet steeped in the outrage just the same.

(PS: I also think loud and shocking activist art has value. I'll talk about that in another post)

#artandactivismlog

August 20, 2017


Peace = Radical Nuclear Disarmament


Peace

The peace sign is a universally loved symbol. Maybe it's because it seems today to symbolize a zen-like energy ... not too radical, not too activist, not too political ... especially if it's made with dried rose petals ... or adorned with other design elements that don't rock the boat. Like ... peace and good vibes and all you need is love dude ... and let's keep politics out of it, dude.

Interestingly, the symbol was created in 1958 by British artist, Gerald Holtom, as a form of activism to denounce war and nuclear weapons. Specifically, it was to support and unite the Aldermaston March which took place in the UK, which drew thousands of marchers calling for nuclear disarmament. Quite radical. Quite political.

Holtom cleverly used the Naval Flag Semaphore characters to design the peace sign. At sea, flags (one in each hand) are held by a person in different ways to signal different letters. The Letter N is communicated when a person holds the flags so both arms are straight and positioned in equidistance from the body, with the flags pointing downward.

 

Peace3

The letter D is made when one arm is pointed straight up and the other straight down so that we see the person with flags as a straight vertical line.

Peace2

Holtom combined these two letters: N and D to create the peace sign, to signify Nuclear Disarmament.

I'm always surprised when I occasionally get someone who I barely know to write me and say "I love your art. Please don't put politics in it." To which I say:

  • I don't exist to do things to make your life feel more convenient
  • Whether you can see it or not, everything is political ... even seemingly innocuous decorative art is political ...in terms of who makes it/with what supplies it is made/during what time of day it is made ... and who ends up acquiring it.

I believe the language of art is multi-faceted. Those who allow it to communicate activism (like Holtom) do so with great effort to create original content that can trigger contemplation. Activist art frequently makes people uneasy ... but I believe it always leads to increased contemplation, which is wonderful, and powerful. Because I think what precedes peace is justice and what precedes justice is the presentation of details of a topic (whether it's about bombs, race, gender, class, environment, health, education, etc.) that sometimes takes a lifetime to really discuss and understand.

#artandactivismlog

August 13, 2017


Cubism and the Tomato


TomatoCubism is the movement that preceded abstract expressionism ... incubating the grand rebellion against realism ... a rebellion that still exists in contemporary art. Basically, cubists argued that a still life painting of a tomato fell short of showing the entire truth of that tomato and that the way to remedy that was to show all aspects of the fruit all at the same time. And in order to do that, the tomato needed to be shattered/fragmented and then all its parts and pieces painted on the canvas all at the same time. If a tomato were made of delicate glass, the analogy would be more vivid, as the shattered pieces of a glass tomato (rather than a real one with juice and seeds) would better reflect the pointed angles found in cubist work. 

I appreciate the experimental nature of Cubism (and its sister movement, Futurism). I respect and admire experimentalism in general. The criticism I have is in the notion that there are only things to gain and nothing to lose by shattering and distorting a subject. Indeed, there are things to gain. I mean, I really dig it when I can actually see the nude woman walking down a staircase (as in Marcel Duchamp's famous painting: Nude Descending a Staircase) when at first glance it appears to be just a bunch of lines and shatterings.

But that doesn't mean that a representational work that shows only one view of the woman descending a staircase doesn't offer certain truths relevant to that woman.

Rendering an object by shattering it and showing all pieces simultaneously allows artists a new and magical way of looking at the subject. What we lose in the process is perspective, depth, and certain nuances that can only be captured when we take one perspective at a time. Some time in the future in my painting practice I hope I find an opportunity to render a subject in the Cubist style. But I don't think I'll be surprised to learn that by trying to show everything all at the same time, I gain wondrous things, and I lose wondrous things. And ain't that life?

#artandactivismlog

August 10, 2017


Fork, Frida, and Freedom


FridaValuing the element of Chance as championed by Dadaism became adopted by Surrealism ... where artists like Max Ernst, Salvador Dali and Andre Breton were pursuing art that emerged from the unconscious dream-state rather than the conscious state. Dali went as far as wearing a folded fork as a necklace so that when he nodded off to sleep while seated, the fork would poke him awake at the chin, allowing him to quickly capture images from his dream.

One such Dali painting ... of a landscape with melting clocks sure does seem like a dream. Nevertheless, it is a painting that works because he had the technical skills to paint that landscape and melting clocks. Skills that were acquired in a conscious reality.

Though surrealists wanted to induct Frida Kahlo into the fold as they saw her dreamy paintings as surrealist in nature, Kahlo is famous for saying to surrealist leaders that she never painted dreams but that she painted her reality ... of bottomless pain, heartache and agony.

Surrealism was in tandem to Abstract Expressionism which caught fire in the US after WWII when experimental artists from the world moved to the US to pursue freedom of expression, and rebel against the stranglehold that reverence for realism (and end product) had on the art world.

Whereas painters of realism were more about methods that would let the work speak and the artist be silent, abstract expressionists like Jackson Pollock wanted to be heard, his process to be heard, and for the process to gain equal or even more important footing than the end result. 

There is this balance in my art practice that makes me relate to the idea of rebelling against strict rules and methods like surrealists and abstract expressionists. Like leave me alone already ... and don't tell me what do do or how to do it. But the other side of that for me is that if in fact in my dream state or my imagination I see melting clocks ... or a boat with a ladder to the moon or something even more unconventional, I need to have the skills to do so ... if I want others see what I see. 

So what is freedom? My ability to do what I want? My ability to learn and practice new skills? I think both are elements of it. Freedom, that is.

#artandactivismlog

 

Advertise with Us!
Self-Serve. Easy Peasy.


 
   
 
   
 
   
 
   
Fangs and Flaws: FangGrrr Adventures by Jenny Doh  
   
Knitting Poetic with Jenny Doh  
   
Art Saves - CRESCENDOh.com  
   
Crochet Hemp  
   
 
   
 
   

Where you can leave a tip for the tips and tutorials you receive from this site. If you want to. :-)
 
   
Disclosure:

Some links on this blog are affiliate links for which I receive a small percentage of any sales generated by the link.
 
   


Subscribe to this blog's feed
 
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...