Almost a Normal Week, kind of sort of

Like most people, I have lost track of how long we have been living an altered life style. But last week I had what almost resembled what I would have considered a normal week at one point.  So I will recap it here as a reminder that, with adjustments and care, we can sort of move forward a bit.

Podolsky Prayer for Justice and Peace
Prayer for Justice and Peace, 2020, Mixed media on paper mounted on canvas, 3′ x 6′, Hickory Museum of Art Raise Your Voice Project

Monday – I installed my piece Prayer for Justice and Peace on the Raise Your Voice community mural at the Hickory Museum of Art.  The mural is a 75 foot long, 9 feet high piece of canvas installed in the museum’s main gallery. They invited people to submit their ideas on social justice. They graciously accepted my proposal but I choose to work on my section at home on a large sheet of paper (6 feet x 3 feet) and then mount it on the canvas when it was complete. So on Monday, I went to install my section.  It was a wonderful experience and I felt very safe the way they arranged for every person participating to be there at different times.  Of course I wore a mask as did the gallery manger. The other pieces installed were extremely powerful but museum policy is that I can only share my own work at this time. When the museum photographs the project, then I will be able to share their links. (Note – since this post was written a time lapsed version of Phase 2 of the mural installation is now available here)

20200810_082121
Getting near the end of the tomato harvest this year

Tuesday – Tomato harvest day. At 6:45 a.m. I headed over to my friend’s “garden” which consists of 350 tomato plants and an odd assortment of okra, cucumber, and who knows what else that he decided to plant this year.  After all, he is cutting back (so he says). Now this is a man who spent his entire life farming.  He is now 92 and growing things is what keeps him going so his daughter and I talked him into planting a few tomato plants this year. Of course this was before we knew about a pandemic and our idea of a few plants was maybe 50 tomato plants and a few other odds and ends.  Well so much for plans. In his mind, what he planted is scaled back from whatever he did at another point in his life. Everything is relative.

Wednesday – I had a Zoom meeting with artist friends from the Plastic Club, an historic artist club from my old home town. We were going over the details of a program I will be presenting. I am still of the opinion that, on the whole, more good things are coming out of this goofy situation than bad things.  Lots of new ideas, ways of approaching things that I think will be useful when this is far behind us. But what is most interesting about this Zoom meeting is that not only have I connected with many people I have not seen in quite awhile but have managed to make new artist friends. Wonderful!

Thursday – not really memorable. I seem to recall being aggravated by something that I now cannot remember so that goes to show it was not worth being aggravated over to begin with. Note taken for future.

The great herbarium trade off
The Great Herbarium Exchange

Friday – I had an appointment to go to the herbarium where I volunteer in order to pick up work to bring home.  Right before everything shut down, the herbarium was given an enormous amount of collected plant specimens that needed mounting. Having the plants sit around waiting to be mounted is not a great thing so these arrangements were made. I was not allowed in the building so the staff brought everything out to my car. It was really wonderful to see “the gang” at the herbarium – Lenny, Stefanie, and Dr. Jim Matthews, who the herbarium is named after. The herbarium is one of my earliest social encounters in North Carolina and will always hold a dear place in my heart. I have posted other articles on collecting specimens that you may have read. The only mishap out of this was that the glue we use spilled on the floor of the back of my car. Oh well!

Saturday – we steamed cleaned the carpets. I am not fond of our carpets but since we live in an apartment I have little choice. After we had done the entire apartment we realized the plug was faulty. Of course, I still worried over this after-the-fact event. Anyway, the carpet is greatly improved and we have decided to hire someone in the future.

Sunday – Today we had an earthquake.  Like I said, it was almost a normal week.

On Second Thought

Stickworks

Today I was walking around the campus of Davidson College and came upon the large scale stick installation I participated in creating over the winter.  As I walked through the sculpture I thought: Gee how much has changed in the world since those few months ago.  No sooner did that thought cross my mind did this other thought follow:  No it hasn’t.  And then I thought again:  Yes it has.  Ok, enough of the merry-go-round. I will explain.

Highly contagious disease is nothing new to a good part of the world, nor are Pandemics.  It is our good fortune that we have really not had to deal much with them. So it is not new, it is only new to us.  Racial injustice is also nothing new, many of us have just been blind to it.

So what is new then?

Lately, I have taken a great interest in Buddhism.  One of the principles of Buddhism is that suffering is part of life.  This sounds like a really depressing concept until you dig deeper and understand that suffering also leads to compassion.  And more compassion, in the long run, leads to less suffering.

One of my favorite definitions of compassion is from theologian Marcus Borg who equates (and I am paraphrasing) compassion with a deep, gut level connection with others.  This is the kind of feeling that once experienced, is hard to ignore.

It is easy to become complacent again once we are all healthy, back to work, and the news is only telling us things we don’t mind hearing.  But once we feel compassion, it is hard to look away and feel ok about it.  Feeling compassion is to be truly human. It is a good feeling. So maybe that is what is new.

Just saying

Many large companies are making public statement condemning racism.  My hope is that these companies who are large retailers will start with their own company culture and tell their employees to stop targeting black and brown people by following them around their stores.  Just saying.

Seeking Understanding of “The Other”

other people
The Other, 2018, Mixed Media on Paper, Collection: Free Library of Philadelphia

It’s odd how things come in clumps.  Or maybe we are just more tuned in when we are engaged with a particular topic.    Not long ago, an opportunity arose to participate in an exhibition honoring women of the Civil Rights Movement.   What immediately came to my mind was a piece I had been working on called Making the Dress.  While not really about Civil Rights, a large influence on that piece was the sacrifices women have made to support their families, often in the clothing and textile industries.  While some women worked from home doing mending and tailoring, others faced terrible working conditions in factories.  A particular tragedy that comes to my mind when I reflect on this is the Triangle Shirtwaste Fire of 1911.  The curator of the exhibition was very gracious and said she would include my piece and asked me if I had any other work.  While I did not have any pieces on the Civil Rights Movement, I realized that I have made work in the past that subtly addressed the topic of race relations.

I had made a series of drawings and linocuts back in the 1990s that included generic faces which were always multicultural.  It was sort of my way of saying we are all human beings and here together.  In addition, I just recalled today that the first commission I ever had was for an organization called the Frankford Human Relations Coalition.  I made a cut paper collage of various ethnic groups of people engaging in chatting, playing jump rope, etc.  I have no record of this piece but it was made similarly to the image below of the people riding the subway.  Again, not a big statement, just a way of showing people living together going about their daily lives.

Morning Edition
Morning Edition, circa 1988

 

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