Today's challenge is to immerse yourself in some art. It can be your own or another's. You can seek it out in unexpected places. Go for a LONG walk and see what you can find. You'd be surprised at the art you can find in alleys and yards. Or go to a gallery, a museum, or a public place such as a library or hospital. Research the tiny galleries in your town. In Corvallis, there are rotating exhibits at the hospital, co-op, Unitarian Church and several coffee houses. Seek out art.
Visual art, like music, provides articulation to emotions, memories and the subconscious that might otherwise remain intangible. It is an outlet, a catalyst. It encourages divergent thinking, critical analysis, mindful contemplation, and emotional processing. Studies show exposure to art is linked to increased happiness and reduction of stress whether you are creating or observing it. Public art builds community identity and cohesion, a sense of place that softens the dividing structures of walls abd roads that tell the lie we are so very separate.
Not all art is light-hearted. This month at the Corvallis Art Center is a powerful, unavoidably political show of hundreds of white china plates, created by Professor and artist Julie Green. Each plate is displayed next to a small pin with a number, and each of those numbers and plates represents a person who lived, breathed, had connections and hopeful people who loved hem. Each is an inmate executed in the United States, and their last meal request is painted in simple strokes on these china plats The concept is so simple; the impact so profound. "Washington, 5 January 1993: Salmon, Potatoes, Vegetable, Green Salad Dessert" There is something very humanizing about these choices. Some wanted family to cook for them (most jails denied that). Texas outlawed special requests over 20, then got rid of them altogether. Seeing these plates, these meals--some sad, some grandiose, some defiant.--I think I ran the emotional gamet. The prisoners seemed to choose iconic meals. Some want home cooking; some don't want to think they'll forgotten anything and order as much of everything that they can, grasping at that last investment in the corporeal while a heart, their human heart, still beats, exercising the bequeath of a final comfort just a bit of control.If you can take it, stop by, Wander from plate to plate and see if you can combine some of the challenges for the week into one amalgam of compassion, stillness, release of expectations. If the end, if you feel called to duty, perhaps you can write to a governor in a state where last meal requests are denied to ask this human to human gesture be reinstated.
There are monsters represented in Julie's plates. Humans that through genetics, circumstance, drugs or desperation unmitigated by outside support and intervention ended up in very dark places, doing terrible things. Some may be lacking the "empathy gene"-- their brains may truly be incapable of imagining other people as three dimensional human beings. But they had lives that I imagine extended many directions beyond that moment when everything went wrong.
Some of the inmates (estimates vary from 10-20) were mentally ill ; nearly all had brain damage from trauma of illness. Since 1963, more than 80 persons with mental retardation or severe mental issue were executed. I won't debate here whether they deserved it as a result of their inhumane actions. But they deserved some comfort, some last lingering demonstration that there is a difference approach to the Other. One that is predicated in compassion and recognition of a soul worthy of redemption. The Green Mile and Dead Man Walking are two powerful films that demonstrate this viscerally.
|Making art with Val last weekend|
If that's too heavy, reel it in. Find an easier tableau. Or make a small piece of art and hide it as a gift in a public place-- a valentines card, a small origami swan, , a decorated envelope. Write a confession on am illustrated postcard and send it in to the Interzone Post-Secret show. Invite a friend over to craft.Decorate your wall outlets with collage, embossable metal, beautiful papers. Paint wildly on wet paper. If you need ideas, there's many to be found on the internet, at the library, or ask a kid. Go to a natural area and arrange found objects into a pleasing temporary sculpture (get inspired: watch a video or read a book about Andy Goldsworthy first). You'll figure something out. If you're inclined, find a friend or two with whom you can adventure together.
Send me photo evidence of what you make or find. If you're willing, I will post some in these pages
Quote of the day:
"What art offers is space - a certain breathing room for the spirit. ~John Updike"
Song of the day: