Sunday, August 9, 2020

Thought for the Day


[. . . ] start with simple: living
is not possible 
without life
~ Rosamond S. King
______________________________

Quoted from Rosamond S. King, "sometimes" in Hyperallergic, June 21, 2020

Rosamond S. King, Performance Artist

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Artists Talk About 'The Divine Feminine'


'THE DIVINE FEMININE':
A Conversation with the Artists

I had the opportunity and pleasure on July 29, 2020, of talking with painters Elizabeth Hudgins, Linda Maldonado, Elise Ritter, and Deborah Taylor, whose work appears in the online exhibition "The Divine Feminine", hosted by my parish, St. Michael's Episcopal Church (Arlington, Virginia), where I established the Arts & Faith ministry about a year-and-a-half ago. Our interview, the first since creating the ministry, was recorded live on the ever-ubiquitous Zoom. With much of the conversation captured on paper as well, I offer the artists' responses here for those who missed the live presentation or prefer the written word over audio or Zoom. (This version of the interview has been edited lightly for clarification, style, and grammar.) In an effort to give time to each of the artists during the live, hour-long discussion, I directed my questions to one or the other, and sometimes all of them. I have retained that format here.

All of the images illustrating this conversation are the artists' own and appear in the online exhibit.

Links to the artists' websites can be found at the end of this feature.

___________________________

Maureen Doallas: How did the four of you come to know each other and begin exhibiting together?

Elise Ritter: We all met years ago, through our wonderful community arts organization Arlington Artists Alliance, where each of us has held leadership positions. The Alliance has an art gallery called Gallery Underground, in Crystal City, and we all have shown there.

Around 2017, I read in a number of arts magazines and online that there were going to be many events in 2018 celebrating the centennial of Gustav Klimt and his group of artists in Vienna, Austria. I spent a semester abroad in Vienna, and discovered that I love the work of Klimt and the Secessionists. So, this [centennial] was going to be a very big deal in Europe, and in New York and Boston. I thought, why not Arlington? I sent out an email to some fellow artists in the Alliance to see if they would like to participate in a group show that we would name "Vienna Gold". [See "Vienna Woods and Klimt" on Elise's website.]

Thus was this group of kindred spirits formed. We had a successful exhibition at Gallery Underground, after which our work was shown by the Arts Council of the National Methodist Church in Washington, D.C. Maureen [Doallas, the interviewer] attended that exhibit and was able to see our different painting styles.

MD: How many exhibits have you done together?

ER: Formally, we have done two as a group entity: "Vienna Gold" and "The Divine Feminine". But we also have shown in various formations for many years. For instance, Linda and I had a duo show around 2014 called "Illuminations". Beth and Deb organize yearly winter art shows at Fort C.F. Smith Hendry House. Beth, Deb, and I once had a studio together at a gallery in Clarendon [in Arlington], and Linda and Beth had a duo show in 2006!

One of the best aspects of these theme [exhibits] is the challenge offered us: getting us out of our comfort zones. It's easy for an artist to stay the same, to create paintings using subjects and techniques that are familiar, especially if you have had good sales or have won prizes with them in the past.

All of us believe that art is about growth — and about pushing ourselves to try something new.

MD: Who typically takes the lead in coming up with an exhibition theme?

Elisabeth Hudgins: That is a group decision. One person often takes the lead in organizing the details of the exhibit once our theme is set and a rough timeline is worked out.

MD: What is the source of the concept of "The Divine Feminine", and how did you decide on it as a theme for an art exhibition?

Linda Maldonado: The idea of focusing on the feminine was kind of a natural with this group of women. The "Divine Feminine" concept itself is such an old and honored one that it sort of floated into our consciousness and seemed like a good fit, with plenty of room to accommodate our different approaches. And there is a large body of literature that provided us with considerable inspiration.

MD: One aspect of the show that I very much like is that each of you has taken a different approach to how you interpret the concept. At the same time, you've created four micro bodies of paintings that could stand alone yet work especially well together. To what do you attribute the cohesion? Was there much back-and-forth discussion on what would work and what would not?


LM: Yes, we came up with the idea of a "campfire", to meet monthly to discuss, share, review, and critique each other. We were supportive of each individual's own style and vision. Early on we agreed that our subject matters would range widely.

MD: How long did it take to put the entire show together?

Deborah Taylor: A lifetime!

EH: That's true! Every artist puts a lifetime of experiences into her work. We started researching the concept in the spring of 2019, with plans to show a year later.

MD: I'd like each of you to speak a bit about your individual creative processes, and whether you found yourselves impelled or wanting to experiment with new techniques or materials for this exhibit?

LM: I've been pursuing an intuitive approach, meaning I don't begin with an image or detailed plan. Instead, I might begin with specific colors and textures and just play with paint and paper till I get a sense of where the painting wants to go. At some point, [while thinking about this show,] I realized that my results were focused on the natural world, and, in particular, waterfalls, which I'd never much painted before.

DT: My creative process started with the notion of exploring what "The Divine Feminine" means to me individually as an artist, a mother, and a therapist. Mother Nature and flowers played heavily into the concept, as did the idea of women as "containing vessels" for those around them.

EH: My process for this show was very different from my norm. I was at a remote cabin, without my art supplies or the internet, but surrounded by a wonderful Virginia landscape. Spending time down at a stream, I started stacking stones into cairns, and noted how some took on the feminine form. I was reminded of the many pre-historic "Venus" figurines, which are some of the earliest figurative artworks. After taking pictures, I went back to my studio and  tried to re-create those rock cairns. When it came time to paint, I began experimenting with a technique using extremely thinned acrylic paint, poured on paper and allowed to dry untouched. When dried, the pigment formed very watery layers, which felt exactly right for these images.

ER: I usually paint spiritual themes — angels, spirits, and landscapes. But I was inspired to try something new for this show. I was fascinated with my fellow artists' subject matter — Mother Nature, waterfalls, vessels, primitive formations, flowers. I thought I would try figures — paintings of women in relationships. For me, "The Divine Feminine" is connection and relationships. I have been helped immensely by my friends, and wanted to portray the love I felt for them.


MD: It's traditional for an exhibiting artist to provide some kind of Artist Statement for viewers to read. The four of you have gone further, including as part of the show the sources of your inspirations, which include poems, cairns, quotations, and more. Why did you decide to add inspirations as part of the exhibit?

EH: For this show particularly, we felt that it was important to have viewers understand our processes. We spent such quality time time bouncing our ideas off of each other that we felt it might be interesting for viewers to get a glimpse of how artists' minds process ideas.

DT: It felt important! The exhibit and the process were meaningful to me; adding inspirations was a way to express that meaning. I see painting as a meditative process that is crafted in the same way that a poet crafts her poem or a dancer drafts her moves, each stroke holding concentration and meaning.

MD: How did you present these when the exhibit was on walls?

ER: We printed [the inspirations] on card stock and hung them next to the paintings, along with title cards that gave the [artist's] name, media used, and price of the artwork. 

A guest could spend a lot of time there [at Gallery Underground, where we were exhibiting], viewing the art and reading the inspirations. 

Interestingly, our opening was the first Friday of March 2020. Attendance was great and sales were good, as well. But within a few days, the gallery was shut down, it turned out, for many months. [This was because of the pandemic.]

MD: How do your documented inspirations serve the exhibit and the viewer?

DT: The inspirations and the artwork help explain who I am as an artist as well as a person. This is the thing about art: It is impossible (at least for me) to separate myself, consciously or unconsciously, from what I produce.

EH: The inspirations add depth to viewers' knowledge of how an artist might go about interpreting a theme. They make the exhibit much richer and deeper, so that it becomes more than just a visual presentation.

LM: Once we had put the paintings together with the title cards and companion text, we were all pleased with the reactions of viewers, who took the time to read our inspirations and see the visual responses they created.

MD: To what extent did your inspirations affect how and what you created?

LM: Early on, I spent a lot of time studying inspiring quotations and poetry. Once I finished a painting, I selected my title and companion quotation after finding a connection between the artwork and the words. In two cases, I discovered "emerging" from the paintings a feminine face or figure that I didn't consciously create. I definitely felt that the cloud of inspiring words and ideas affected what my brush painted.

DT: The inspiration of "The Divine Feminine" totally influenced what I painted. The Mary Oliver quotes went hand-in-hand with the paintings. I had read a lot of her poetry in the past and re-read it in conjunction with this show. Sometimes, favorite quotes inspired what I painted and sometimes what I painted inspired the quotes I chose.

MD: Before coming to St. Michael's, the exhibit had been shown in traditional form; that is, on the walls of Gallery Underground (in Crystal City, Arlington; now known as National Landing). St. Michael's had scheduled a September 2020 showing in its Parish Hall. Then the pandemic hit, changing everyone's immediate and future plans. Eventually, because of the virus's prevalence and all the changes that brought, we decided to present the exhibit earlier and virtually. What concerns, if any, did you have about migrating this exhibit from the walls to virtual space?

EH: At first, having to take the exhibit to a virtual experience seemed like it might be limiting. You feel like you miss seeing people's reactions, in having [viewers] come face to face with an artwork in a gallery. 

We also knew there were advantages. Viewers might spend more time with the work "from the comfort of their own homes"; they might come back multiple times; they might explore more of the background material.

DB: Knowing that so many things, art exhibits included, were going online then and now, I was keenly interested in how it would be pulled together. The way that the show is presented on the St. Michael's website took away any concerns I had.

MD: What were your reactions to seeing the show for the first time online?

LM: I was so excited to see the way it was organized, each painting [given] its own space for being perceived. I heard from a number of friends who viewed it that they appreciated the way it was displayed.

DT: I love it! It is beautifully presented. The presentation opened my eyes and thoughts to many possibilities in the future.

EH: It was really a revelation. Maureen had done a fantastic job in organizing the show to make it coherent and seamless. It was as though I was seeing the exhibit in a new, fresh, more cohesive light.

ER: I liked the fact that [online,] all of our paintings were the same size and carried the same weight. At a physical [bricks-and-mortar] gallery, so much depends on how the show is hung and where  the paintings end up.

Also, I was fortunate to be a part of Maureen's first online exhibition, which was about artists' responses to the pandemic. I knew the results would be incredible.

MD: What do you most miss about being unable to present the show in a traditional way?

EH: Interacting with the viewers. Being "surrounded" by the work.

DT: I miss the people and the receptions, and being able to interact with viewers and being asked to answer questions. It is a different experience, not better or worse — just different.

MD: Do you see virtual exhibits as part of your futures, and the future of art exhibitions more generally? Or do you think virtual exhibitions such as this one are here to stay?

EH: Yes. I think the limitations we are living with have opened new doors. I hope that in-person art experiences don't go away but this has shown how a virtual exhibition can enhance and add to an art exhibit. It makes the exhibit much more widely accessible. We, as artists, want our work to be viewed by as many people as possible.

DT: I definitely think that the virtual exhibit is here to stay for many reasons, with the pandemic being just one. I think that virtual exhibits do reach a larger audience, which is nice. They reach more people geographically, as well as more people who are strapped for time, and those who otherwise might not go to an art gallery.

ER: I think the virtual art gallery might actually afford for artists more creativity and experimentation. The bricks-and-mortar galleries demand, and rightfully so, strict standards for matting and framing and presentation — and fees. These costs and the time involved are primarily the responsibility of the artist. Online exhibitions might free up the artist to present more art, and art that isn't necessarily framed. It's important for the artist, we are learning, to provide dimensions and information about the frame and mat, if included or not.

MD: What do you hope will be viewers' take-aways from "The Divine Feminine"?

DT: The ideas of feminine power, energy, hope, continuity, and history — Divine Feminine past, present, and future.

EH: I hope it will make viewers think of all the ways The Divine Feminine touches their lives. I hope viewers pause and think of what The Divine Feminine means to them.

MD: What's next for each of you individually and as a collective?

EH: During this stay-at-home time, I have been busy doing a few commissioned pieces. One was a large-scale painting, which I really enjoyed doing, so I plan to experiment some more with working on a larger scale.

DT: I will continue my practice of doing art every day. I find that I can experiment with a lot of different styles and media, as well as explore diverse subject matter. Inspiration can be found just about anywhere.

LM: I will continue as president of Potomac Valley Watercolorists, and continue to create with collage and papers.

ER: I have been spending this summer in the Pacific Northwest, close to family. It seems like one of the few safe places to be, in this time of Covid-19, is out in nature. We've hiked a number of mountain trails; observed and heard rushing streams; and smelled and saw fields of lavender. I have a feeling these elements will make it into my paintings in the near future.

In terms of our group, we are closing in our next theme. We are very excited about having a new goals, a new direction. Plus, we are working with Chuck Kipp, owner of Sterling Framing in North Arlington's Cherrydale section, to create an ongoing gallery there that features all of our work and that of artist Kat Jamieson. This should open after Labor Day weekend.

We will show at various exhibitions through the Arlington Arts Alliance as well. And any time we can continue to work with Maureen through the Arts & Faith ministry at St. Michael's, we would love to do so!
~






Note: Current and past online exhibitions can be accessed on St. Michael's Arts & Faith page.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Thought for the Day


You can make the society you want to live in.
~ Marilynne Robinson

__________________________________

Quoted from Online Conversation, "Story, Culture, and the Common Good with Marilynne Robinson," The Trinity Forum, July 24, 2020 (Robinson made this comment in response to a viewer question at the end of the conversation, which is 51:19 minutes long.)

Marilynne Robinson, Award-Winning Novelist, Essayist and Nonfiction Writer

Marilynne Robinson on Facebook

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Thought for the Day


[...] every day is a doorway
every moment is the world revealing itself. [...]
~ Lisa Creech Bledsoe

______________________________

Quoted from Lisa Creech Bledsoe, "Great Bear" at SWWIM, June 10, 2020

Lisa Creech Bledsoe, Poet and Writer, Author of the Collections Appalachian Ground (2019) and Wolf Laundry (2020)

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Thought for the Day


. . . You may have to break
your heart, but it isn't nothing
to know even one moment alive. . . .
~ Ellen Bass
__________________________

Quoted from Ellen Bass, "Any Common Desolation" in Indigo (Copper Canyon Press, April 2020), page 62

Ellen Bass, Award-Winning Poet, Editor, Nonfiction Writer; Chancellor, Academy of American Poets

Thursday, July 16, 2020

New Artist Watch Feature at Escape Into Life



Adrienne Stein, Strawberry Moon, 2019
Oil on Linen
7.5" x 9"

Copyright © Adrienne Stein

PLEASE DO NOT COPY IMAGE


I am delighted to showcase the work of painter Adrienne Stein in my new Artist Watch column in the online international arts magazine Escape Into Life

An award-winning artist who lives and works in Pennsylvania, Adrienne reanimates historical painting genres with fresh insight and symbolic imagery. Inhabited by figures, folklore, archetypes, and natural elements, the worlds she paints are fueled by a sense of personal and universal myth and reinterpreted in lush, magical environments.

Today's Artist Watch spotlights eight of Adrienne's beautiful paintings and includes an Artist Statement and brief profile, as well as links to Adrienne's Website and social media.


Sunday, July 12, 2020

Thought for the Day


What does it mean to write poetry in a world where
metaphors are weaponized, and people erased in them?
~ Philip Metres
____________________________

Quoted from Philip Metres, "Of Seeing, the Unseen, and  the Unseeable: Technology, Poetry and 'When It Rains in Gaza'" (Sec. 10), New Ohio Review, June 11, 2018

Philip Metres, Award-Winning Poet and Translator; Professor of English and director, Peace, Justice, and Human Rights program, John Carroll University (Metres's most recent book is Shrapnel Maps (Copper Canyon Press, April 2020).)

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Musings in a Time of Crisis XXXIV


Fatal Celebration (July 3-5)

      In memory of 9 children lost to gun violence
          on Independence Day Weekend, 2020


They were six
and seven, sometimes

as young
as four, sometimes

as old as eleven
two were
two were seven
two six  two eight

the one just four, well
here our eyes land
and do not move

If you ask where
they came from
I could answer
Everywhere but

that would be wrong
We know today
they numbered nine
Let us name them
and if not, then

their play places:
Atlanta; Avon, Indiana;
Chicago; Columbia,
Missouri; Galivants
Ferry, South Carolina;

Hoover, Alabama;
Philadelphia;
San Francisco
Washington, D.C.

Lives taken now
noted, new numbers
added to archives
to help us remember

they died by gun
on our July 4 weekend

their fatal celebration
lost among the sounds
of bursting rockets

the sparklers held
in their tight little fists
raised against the red glare

________________________________

https://gunviolencearchive.org

Even during this pandemic, the children continue to die. I wish I knew their names, and not their incident numbers.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Musings in a Time of Crisis XXXIII

My greatest fear is that I wake up, and 
our democracy is gone.
~ Congressman John Lewis

[T]here are forces today trying to take us back
to another time and another dark period. We've come so far
and made so much progress, but as a nation and as a people,
we're not quite there yet. We have miles to go.
~ Congressman John Lewis

_________________________

Directed by Dawn Porter, the newly released documentary John Lewis: Good Trouble (Magnolia Pictures), is now available for streaming nationwide. The film is about one of the most important civil rights leaders in America. Using archival footage and interviews with Lewis and his family as well as those figuring significantly in Lewis's life, it exposes both the issues of the past and present and the inspiring examples of Lewis's civic activism and leadership on such legislative issues as voting rights, civil rights, and gun control.

The documentary's co-producers are Dawn Porter, Erika Alexander, Ben Arnon, and Laura Michalchyshyn.

Here is the film's trailer:



The Hyperallergic article by Eileen G'Sell, "A John Lewis Documentary Probes Tensions Between National and State Power" (July 4, 2020) looks in some detail at the film.

~

The Washington Post has issued "11 Things to Watch to Better Understand American at This Moment". The article by Bethonie Butler, includes such films as 4 Little Girls, 13th, Do the Right Thing, and I Am Not Your Negro.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Thought for the Day


[W]hat we do to each other is compounded
by what time does to us.
~ Luiza Flynn-Goodlett

_____________________________

Quoted from Luiza Flynn-Goodlett, "The Quiver Inside Each Atom: A Review of Ellen Bass's 'Indigo'" in The Adroit Journal, April 10, 2020 (Online)

Luiza Flynn-Goodlett, Poet, Writer, Critic; Editor-in-Chief, Foglifter (Flynn-Goodlett's most recent collection is the forthcoming Look Alive (Southeast Missouri State University Press, March 2021).)

Ellen Bass, Poet; Chancellor, Academy of American Poets; Nonfiction Writer; Editor; Teacher (Bass's most recent collection is Indigo (Copper Canyon Press, April 2020).)

Saturday, July 4, 2020

The Flag on the Fourth of July (Poem)





The Flag on the Fourth of July

Stars curl
and spiral

this night

O the sight
of all that

blue
and red
and white

all that
bursting

all that
fire

all that
might 


My Other July Poem:



Also See:





And if you have time for reflection, listen to Frederick Douglass's "What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?" as delivered by actor Ossie Davis:


"A Nation's Story: 'What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?'" at National Museum of African American History and Culture


Thursday, July 2, 2020

Musings in a Time of Crisis XXXI


We have years of activism under our belts. 
Now we just fight harder, we fight smarter, and we fight as one.
~ Alejandro, Film Subject, The Unafraid
______________________

I had an opportunity last night to view online, on Good Docs, the feature-length documentary The Unafraid. Anayansi Prado and Heather Courtney are the co-directors/-producers and cinematographers.

The film follows a small group of DACA youths in Georgia — the storylines of three in particular are narrated — after their high school graduation in 2014. By law, they are shut out of the top five public universities in the state and must pay tuition at the international student level — obstacles none of them can overcome. In the years covered, which end just before 45's election in 2016 and his subsequent attempt to force the deportation of more than 800,000 persons with DACA status (the recent Supreme Court decision on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals came too late to be noted in the film), we see how the young people are impelled to become political activists and how for all three and their families the "American dream" becomes their "American nightmare."

The Unafraid is deeply moving in parts, as it portrays quite well not just the multi-generational struggle to create a better life and future in America, especially but not only in the Deep South, but also what forces those with no money, no education, and no papers to leave their countries for the United States. The sacrifices made are tremendous, and what it means for families to risk everything to come here is wholly unappreciated by policymakers who would rather erect walls than uphold the values this country is supposed to represent. Our cluelessness robs human beings no different from ourselves of so much, from the most basic rights and services that those born here take for granted, to the opportunities to realize better lives for our children, opportunities slow in coming, if at all, to the undocumented.
In addition to showing us the truths about forced migration and its life-changing consequences, the documentary also sharply reveals the racism endemic throughout this country. To be brown means having a life that doesn't matter, if you want to go to college, if you want to make a living that lifts you out of poverty. To be brown means not having the right to believe in the "American dream". To be brown means, in the argot of the film, to be "very afraid" until you become one of "the unafraid" who finds the strength to risk opening a closed door. 
That any one of us might watch this film and not see the wrongs we perpetuate in our government and socioeconomic and cultural policies, as well as through our myth-making, is to be deliberately obtuse and tragically indifferent to the riches that immigrants, undocumented people, asylees, refugees, and DACA recipients offer us.

A virtual discussion of the film for those able to watch it last night takes place this evening on Zoom. I intend to listen and to be part of it.

Here is the film trailer:

Monday, June 29, 2020

The Divine Feminine, An Online Exhibition




Deborah Taylor, "I Stood There Once, On the Green Grass, 
Scattering Flowers"
Oil, 6" x 6"
Inspired by the Mary Oliver Poem "Flares"
in Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver

From the Online Exhibition The Divine Feminine

PLEASE DO NOT COPY IMAGES

A new online exhibition, "The Divine Feminine",  officially launching July 1, now graces the Website of my parish, St. Michael's Episcopal Church (Arlington, Va.), where I lead our Arts & Faith ministry. Although my original plans were to present the show's more than 30 paintings on the walls in September, factors beyond our control — the ongoing closure of the parish because of the novel coronavirus — necessitated a rethinking and reimagining of the artwork's and related ephemera's display. As you will see, the paintings by four local artists — Elisabeth Hudgins, Linda Maldonado, Elise Ritter, and Deborah Taylor — have migrated beautifully to the Website.

The exhibition, which is accompanied by the Introduction to the artists' concept for the show, includes sections for the Artists' Statements, Inspirations, Artwork, and Biographical Information. Also included is a list of prices for each work. All the works are for sale.

Above is an image on a work by Deborah Taylor, all of whose paintings were inspired by Mary Oliver poems. Below is an image of work by each of the other participating artists. 

Please enjoy "The Divine Feminine" and let us know in the comment section for this post what you think of it.



Elisabeth Hudgins, "Cradle"
Acrylic

Inspired by Elisabeth Hudgins' Stone Cairns



 Linda Maldonado, "Sacred Waters, Holy Ground"
Acrylic and Collage

Inspired by Christina Rossetti Quotation



Elise Ritter, "Blue Madonnas"
Acrylics and Inks

Inspired by Terry Tempest Williams Quotation

_______________________________

The sources of the artists' inspirations are documented in the Artists' Inspirations section of the exhibition. 

The inaugural online exhibition "Artists and Poets Respond to the Pandemic" remains available to view on the St. Michael's Website.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Thought for the Day


Justice is built through the actions of many people
doing small things to refine and improve society. Justice
is built through the deeds of many people influencing
the attitudes of society. . . When enough of us are showing
that we care about feeding the hungry, the nation will rise
to the challenge of feeding the hungry. . . When enough 
of us refuse to allow people to sleep on the streets, live in
cardboard boxes, be mistreated by public officials or want
for proper medical care, then these injustices will begin
to go away and we will be on the way to building a moral
and just society, a moral and just world. . . .
~ Rabbi Michael Weisser
______________________________

Quoted from Kathryn Watterson, Not by the Sword (Bison Books, 2012), pages 154-155

Rabbi Michael Weisser, Rabbi and Spiritual Leader, Free Synagogue of Flushing (2008 to Present), New York; Winner, Pax Christi National Peacemaker Award, 2012 (Weisser is known for befriending and converting to Judaism a Ku Klux Klan leader in Lincoln, Nebraska. The story of how that happened is told in Not by the Sword.)

Monday, June 22, 2020

Musings in a Time of Crisis XXX


Some things that haven't been stopped by COVID-19:
wars, domestic violence, famine, pestilence, displacement—
our will to live.
Sudanese-American Slam Poet
UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador

. . . forced displacement nowadays is not only vastly
more widespread but is simply no longer a short-term
and temporary phenomenon. . . We need a fundamentally
new and more accepting attitude towards all who flee,
coupled with a much more determined drive to unlock
conflicts that go on for years and that are at the
root of such immense suffering.
~ Felippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees*

_____________________________

One percent of humanity — one of every 97 people — is displaced.* Fewer and fewer are able to return home. In the midst of the pandemic, in countries or territories with acute food insecurity, in overcrowded, insanitary camps, subjects of violence and hate, refugees are among the world's most vulnerable people.

How often do you think of them?

And if you do think of them, do you wonder how they have hope?

*

This past Friday (July 19), I had the privilege of seeing, thanks to One Journey Festival and NoVA Friends of Refugees, an exclusive online screening of Refugee, a haunting 23-minute film by director-writer Brandt Andersen, who has made his own visits to refugee camps and championed a number of humanitarian initiatives. Earlier that day, the film, short-listed for an Oscar, had its premiere at UNHCR, the United Nations agency tasked with protecting the rights of and providing emergency support to refugees.

Film Poster

Dramatically relating the story of a pediatric surgeon who flees Syria with her young child, the film stars Yasmine Al Massri as the brilliant doctor "Amira" and Massa Daoud as her daughter "Rasha." It is riveting, profoundly moving, and hopeful, and reflects the very real circumstances of the world's forcibly dislocated refugee population, which numbers nearly 80 million, more than half of whom are under age 18.

Here's the film's trailer:



A discussion with Syrian American actor Jay Abdo, who plays "Papa Homsi," Amira's father in the film, followed the screening. Abdo, a celebrity in the Middle East, related his own difficulties in getting out of Syria after running afoul of the regime during Arab Spring, and of his struggles to create a life in America with his wife Fadia Afashe, a visual artist, writer, and human rights lawyer who also found herself in trouble with the government of Bashar al-Assad. (See The Guardian and Middle East Eye articles below.) Several things Abdo said echo the remarks of a forcibly displaced Iraqi family I know well: no refugee willingly leaves his or her country, and there is always hope of returning.

The COVID-19 crisis and other events have largely pushed off our front news pages the dangers to and maltreatment of refugees. It's so important that we not forget them, that we try to understand the conditions that brought them to our own country until the current administration began shutting them out, and that we be witness to their efforts to survive and to give back, which they do many times over in the communities where they are resettled.

If you have a chance to see Refugee, take it. It's a film you cannot forget easily.
______________________________


Frankie Taggart, "Syrian star turned pizza boy dreaming of Hollywood ending," Middle East Eye, January 3, 2017

Fadia Afashe, "For One Syrian Refugee, the Research Strikes Close to Home," RAND Blog, December 22, 2018

Virginia Isaad, "Syrian Artist Paints the Revolution," Los Angeles Magazine, November 29, 2012

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Thought for the Day


Commemoration renders life human: forgetfulness makes it
inhuman. We know of course about the grace of forgetting.
But even when remembrance carries grief and shame, it fills the
future with perspectives. [. . .] The degree of accountability 
regarding yesterday is the measure of a stable tomorrow.
~ Eberhard Bethge
_______________________________

Quoted in Laura M. Fabrycky, Chapter 8, "Befriending Bonhoeffer," in Keys to Bonhoeffer's Haus: Exploring the World and Wisdom of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Fortress Press, 2020), page 237 (The quote is from Bethge's Friendship and Resistance: Essays on Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Eerdmans, 1995), page 105.)

Laura M. Fabrycky, Writer and Poet; Diplomat's Spouse (While her husband was stationed in Berlin, Fabrycky became a volunteer guide at the Bonhoeffer-Haus. Currently, she and her family live in Brussels, Belgium. Her book is a memoir.)

Eberhard Bethge (1909-2000), Writer, Biographer, German Protestant Theologian; Student and Close Friend of Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Thursday, June 18, 2020

New Artist Watch Feature at Escape Into Life



Sue Turayhi, Step to the Golden Life, 2019
Photography, Acrylic, and Liquid Acrylic
16" x 20"

© Sue Turayhi

ARTIST'S PERMISSION NEEDED TO COPY OR OTHERWISE USE IMAGE


I am pleased to introduce in June's Artist Watch column at the international online arts magazine Escape Into Life work from Sue Turayhi's series "Walking With My Shadows".

Originally from Iraq, Sue holds a degree in industrial design and is a fully licensed interior designer. She has exhibited her paintings, which in the series presented today combine photography with acrylics, in solo as well as group exhibitions throughout Illinois, where she currently makes her home.

For today's Artist Watch, Sue shares images of 10 works from her series, her Artist Statement, a brief biography, and social media sites.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Musings in a Time of Crisis XXIX


No nation rose so white and fair,
or fell so pure of crimes.
~ Philip Stanhope Worsley
1835-1866

But as you landed, a piece of you fell off, broke away
And inside, nothing but air.

This whole time, you were hollow.
~  "Hollow"
Bristol City Poet

_________________________

No one will grieve the loss

of Edward Colston, knocked from
his perch in Bristol. Taking

him down, unharbored, is
how black brothers and sisters

remodel the thrust defiant fist
of Jesse Owens, replay Kaepernick

taking a knee. Everywhere,
from Washington, D.C., to L.A.,

from the tobacco fields
of Richmond to Deep South cities'

cobbled streets, the old monuments
fall with protested memories

of four hundred years of blood
spilled in the holds of slave ships,

among New World forced laborers,
in childrens' chartered colonies,

behind white masters' closed doors,
on police batons and bayonets, as

traded human flesh. Hungry consumers
of lives worked with whips tumble,

toppled in public squares, unclean
auction markets cease, are put aflame.

The balls and chains broken, marked
backs of cotton pickers, cooks,

domestics, sex workers, produce
pickers, car-wash attendants,

cleaning crews finally straighten,
unburdened by other men's histories

and towering high above the bannered
crosses alight in Jim Crow's ashes.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Musings in a Time of Crisis XXVIII


Acrostic

G eorge, your name incites fresh reckoning

E verywhere, on every thick tongue, on boulevards where brave

O pen mouths insist on shouting it

R oaring it in barricaded alleys, in the world's luminous languages set
       afire

G eorge! George, on so many lips your name blooms a revolution

E ach vowel and consonant flourishing with intention


F ragile, it broke, your breathing, lessening in that shattering time

L abored as 8 minutes 46 seconds edged you nearer home, before

O nly silence could follow that knee lifted from your neck, and

Y ou said, "Momma, Momma" no more and we, like you, lay

D own in the street, collectively exhaling your name


George Floyd, October 14, 1973 - May 25, 2020

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Thought for the Day


It is the burden of life to be many ages
without seeing the end of time.
~ Jim Harrison
______________________________

Quoted from Jim Harrison, "Seven in the Woods" in Jim Harrison: The Essential Poems, Copper Canyon Press, 2019, page 213

Jim Harrison (1937-2016), American Poet, Novelist, Essayist

Jim Harrison Profiles at Academy of American Poets and Poetry Foundation

Monday, June 8, 2020

Musings in a Time of Crisis XXVII


A deep sense of love and belonging is
an irreducible need of all people. We are biologically,
cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love,
to be loved, and to belong. . . .
Research Professor, University of Houston; Storyteller; Author


_________________________


Pandemic Acrostic

F ragile: a state of being; a self-description

A bsent: the person I love

solation: the fact of apartness or separation from; see "Absent"

T enderness: closeness; what I miss; see "Absent"

H eart: the part connected to -broken


FAITH: belief (current state: fragile and tenuous); something needed to hold on; what gives hope

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Thought for the Day


Love always means going beyond yourself to otherness.
It takes two. There has to be the lover and the beloved.
~ Fr. Richard Rohr
_________________________

Quoted from Richard Rohr, "Love Alone Overcomes Fear: A Message from Richard Rohr about Covid-19", Center for Action and Contemplation, March 19, 2020

Richard Rohr, Franciscan Priest, Ecumenical Teacher, Author

Friday, June 5, 2020

Musings in a Time of Crisis XXVI


We who believe in freedom cannot rest.
We who believe in freedom cannot rest
until it comes.
~ "Ella's Song" by Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon

___________________________

My email has filled and refilled with messages from various publications, nonprofits, and other organizations and companies, all stating, in white type against black background, that  they stand with protesters to demand justice and are donating money, sometimes huge sums of money, to various race-related causes or foundations because #Black Lives Matter.

Although these actions can be regarded as good things to do, are they meaningful? Because I want to ask, What else? 

Where were you all before George Floyd's murder? African Americans have been suffering at our white hands for hundreds of years. We can trace our racism as far back as the first person chained in the lower hold of a boat and brought to America and enslaved and as recently as George Floyd's killing-by-cop.

In our modern and contemporary history, we who are not black have dishonored Black Americans' lives and deaths by remaining silent, and therefore complicit; by sending bigots to represent us in our local, state, and federal legislative bodies; by not allowing home-buying in our white neighborhoods; by denying the most basic health care and equal access to the opportunities and privileges we enjoy; by failing to give largely minority school districts the funds needed to educate, and relegating those who make it through the educational system to the most lowly of occupations; by joining facilities that restrict membership; by flying a Confederate flag in the yard or in the window of a pick-up truck; by dressing in blackface for a Halloween party; by refusing to drink from the same water fountain. . . this list is long and heartbreaking.

Perhaps our gravest sin is to have failed and continue to fail to see this minority population (and every other in the United States) as human beings every bit as worthy of and entitled to respect and kindness and opportunity and hope as we whites not just expect but demand for ourselves.

So, I want to ask those flooding my email: What else? Because symbolic or token gestures are not enough. They never were; they never will be.

Nor will donations of money make racism go away.

Consider:

What is the first thing you think when you see an African American? What's the first feeling you experience? What's the story behind that kind of thinking or feeling? Who taught you to think or feel like that?

What does the word "justice" mean to you? "Freedom"? How do you define "fair treatment" and "equal opportunity"? Or are those just sound-good words for your public relations announcements?

What specific actions do you pledge to take when your white CEO commits an EEO violation? Or your HR director turns a cheek to managers' failure to meet diversity objectives? 

What are you going to do in the communities where you're based to ensure the history we teach our children includes the true stories of our crimes and African Americans' many accomplishments? Will you send your children to the same public schools that black children attend? 

Which of you in fact will "stand with" Black Americans and link arms and march the next time a black man out for a run is stalked, beaten up, or killed by white supremacists? What are you going to do to help ensure every Black American has the right to vote? Or prevent a political party from killing legislation to right our wrongs against? Or help rid this nation of food and housing insecurity? Are you going to stop supporting political campaigns that keep in office white men and women who take an oath to uphold our Constitution but are owned by lobbyists and do their bidding, no matter that bidding wrongly discriminates? 

Will you invite your African American neighbors to dinner, or allow your child to have a playdate with his or her black peers?

Whose story are you willing to listen to and defend if one is black and the other white?

Will you support and engage in a national, state, or local race-reconciliation initiative to acknowledge publicly our racism so that all of us, together and united, can begin to heal and transform our society and culture?

The list of questions is as long as our history of abuse and its denial.

If all you are going to do is make your donations and return to your "normal," you are and will remain part of the problem of racism in our country. Maintaining status quo is untenable.

Examine yourself and your own values and morals, especially if you profess to be Christian. Commit to the will to specific change by take specific actions; don't just open your purse and then expect someone else to correct the problem. 

Because we whites, all of us, are the problem, and it's time for meaningful conversation and meaningful action, and meaningful and tangible results. It's time we allowed those whom we have judged or abused or held back, whose rights we've sworn to uphold, and whose justice we are demanding in all those emails to judge and hold us accountable.  

Monday, June 1, 2020

Musings in a Time of Crisis XXIV


. . . with truth absent, hypocrisy and myth have flourished. . . .
Now hypocrisy can be exposed; myth dispelled.
~ Look, January 1956

. . . this town is a form of silence . . . .
~ Jake Adam York, "Tape Loop" in Abide

No lie can live forever.
~ Martin Luther King Jr.

. . . I can still sing we shall overcome. . . .
~ Martin Luther King Jr.

_______________________

Beginning to End

It did not begin with George Floyd or Ahmaud Arbery.

Breonna Taylor or Christian Cooper.

It did not begin with Philando Castile or Michael Brown.

It's not just Maurice Stallard and Vickie Lee Jones.

It's more than the Greensboro and Orangeburg Massacres.

It's in addition to the Catcher 'Race Riot' and Rosewood.

Tulsa and Ocoee. Bogalusa and Slocum.

Ludlow and Springfield.

Polk County and Colfax.

Opelousas. Camilla. Memphis in the 1800s.


It did not begin with Rodney King.

Nor with Medgar Evers.

Nor with four little schoolgirls in Birmingham.

It was not because of Emmett Till.

Willie Edwards Jr. or John Earl Reese.

John Lee or James Knox. Mack Charles Parker.

Bunk Richardson. Ell Persons.

All the persons unknown.

All the persons unnamed.

The ones we never helped.


Guineamen: Brookes. Clotilda. Hannibal. Jesus of Lubeck.

Slave patrols. Black codes.

Neo-Nazis. Ku Klux Klan. Jim Crow.

Underground railroad.

Freedom struggle.

Civil rights.


Chains and whips and hanging trees. Neck collars and lynchings.

Water cannons, German Shepherds, Billy clubs, bombings.

Rubber bullets, concussion bombs, tear gas.

FBI in tactical gear, National Guard.

Weaponized squad cars.

Racial profiling.

Extrajudicial executions.

Police brutality.

Fatal force.


Name a name. Name a place. Ask the date. Calculate the loss.

Name the thing no one utters.

Call it what you will.


It has to end with us.

_________________________

The January 1956 issue of Look magazine contained the confessions to the 1955 murder of Emmett Till by J.W. Milam and Roy Brant; their trial concluded with a verdict of "not guilty." 

Both Martin Luther King Jr. quotes come from a March 14, 1968, speech by King at Grosse Pointe High School.

According to Wikipedia, the large cargo ships used to traffic slaves were called "Guineamen" because the slave trade operated along the Guinea coast of West Africa.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Thought for the Day



We each have to choose what is inconceivable for us. As
artists—and this is the curse that is upon us—we must 
each visualize our own city, ourself at its centre. . . .
~ John Berger

____________________________________

Quoted from John Berger, A Painter of Our Time (Vintage, 1996), page 132; Epigraph, Chapter 6 in Joshua Sperling, A Writer of Our Time: The  Life and Work of John Berger (Verso, 2018), page 161

John Berger (1926-2017), English Art Critic; Novelist, Poet, Essayist, Screenwriter, Dramatist; Painter

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Musings in a Time of Crisis XXIII



Jennifer Davis, Justice for George Floyd
#BLACKLIVESMATTER


Fatal Force

                                       Memorial Day
                                       May 25, 2020

George was not muzzled
but he could not breathe

but the cop on his neck
could, and did, he breathed,

and the two on his back,
they breathed, too, too easily

taking the law in their hands
well-practiced in their malice

in blue and a badge.


For almost nine slow minutes
George was pinned to ground,

crying out, I can't breathe I can't
breathe man my face I can't breathe. . . 

camera on, taping going on,
a girl somewhere crying out,

you're killing him, Bro,

and bystanders understanding
he's dying, Bro,

and George would be like Eric was
before him — remember? —

and plea

till his very breath cut out,
silenced under a damned cop's knee.


Knees on spine, another knee on neck,
knees never kneeled to George

no more than their dead suspect.


Transported away,
his name never prayed,

George Floyd it was, George lost his life that day.


_________________________________

May George Floyd rest in peace and peace be with his family.

My thanks to artist Jennifer Davis for use of her portrait of George Floyd.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Musings in a Time of Crisis XXII


They Had Names, They Had Lives

          for all who have died and are mourned

Say her name. Say his. Start here:

Leta, 22, nonverbal special-needs daughter.

Kevin, 87, retired judge, presided over three World Trade Center
     trials.

Joe, 61, pure, note-perfect voice of a country-singer.

Chad, 49, always cheerful, an inquirer, a peacemaker.

John-Sebastian, 59, Franciscan monk, first to die in Washington, D.C.

Lorena, 59, mother, advocate and hero to a Queens transgender
     community.

Ellis, 85, one of the great music greats, said to be an even greater
     father.

Leilani, a.k.a. "Butterfly," 27, loved helping her Giant customers.

Howard, Chicago blues devotee, always a big hugger.

Amihilda, 76, registered nurse for 50 years, believed to have died
     alone.

Michelle, campaigner for justice, equity, dignity for all, one of
     the "Mothers Out Front."

Lamine, 50, shared a passion for African drumming and dancing.

Benjamin and Kathryn, husband and wife, died three days apart.

Anne Mae, 82, known for sweet potato pies, and daughter Connie, 64,
     days after her mother.

Jaimala, 65, designer of saris and tapestries.

Dianne, Stella, and Maria, the three sisters, dying within a month of
     each other.

Mike, over 60, called a "heart survivor."

"Miss Minnie," no symptoms.

Motoko, 92, the last of the surviving "Monuments Women."

Newborn Baby Girl, no chance to be named.

____________________________

All of the above names represent people who have died of COVID-19. (I did not use last names to respect families' privacy.) Many lived in the region known as the DMV (Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia), the rest in other states. Ages were not always given. The stories of these individuals are told in print and online articles, opinion pieces, and obituaries and death notices, in The Washington Post, by NPR and  the Associated Press, in a Baton Rouge, Louisiana, newspaper called The Advocate, and on the Website COVID Memorial, to which anyone may add information about a lost loved one. May they all, no matter their station in life, rest eternally in peace.