The past couple of weeks have seen my activism rise. Phone calls, emails, petitions, talking to other folks to learn about their views, searching out reliable news outlets – and I’m walking in the Women’s March in Montpelier, VT. just three months out of knee surgery – this is too important for me to miss.
But back to art. I am a strong believer in the power of art. On January 8, 2011, there was a mass shooting in the Safeway parking lot in Tucson. Six people died, including a 9-year-old girl, and 13 were wounded, including my Congresswoman, Gabby Giffords. The following week was very difficult; being a teacher means you are a “first responder” at times – Monday morning after the shooting, Wednesday when President Obama came to town for a memorial, and Friday when the Westboro Baptist Church threatened to boycott funerals. Try explaining to teenagers whose brains emotionally are not fully developed that responding to the hate of Westboro Baptist Church was not a healthy response. No time to process my own feelings, just to be there for kids who weren’t sure what was happening – and especially since so many of them had already seen violence up close and personal in an urban city.
With that background, I had to create something, so I made a small piece of quiltart that spoke to my feelings. The piece made itself…from the choice of background (chicken-wire for fencing) to the words printed on cotton. The local newspaper did a brief story, and in Arizona (as in many places now) the trolls came out and said “If only I’d been around to give Hitler a quilt, everything would have been better.” Others reacted to my premise: that words have power; a woman from Australia said the words weren’t the cause, the man was mentally ill. Yes, no question the shooter was mentally ill, and no help from a broken system (thank you Ronald Reagan)….but words can push a person over the edge, even in the best of times.
My original post is here. I just reread it – raw writing for me. Here is the piece – 8.5 x 11 inches.
Binding looks like bullet holes, as does the stitching around the holes. People objected to the words, felt they were inflammatory for someone who was mentally ill. This was after Sarah Palin had a page on her website with a gun sight right over Arizona and Giffords’ district. I believed then that words caused this man to lash out, that words triggered his mental illness to another step.
We see just how far we have come 5 years and 11 days later. We don’t even talk about mental illness, nothing happens at the state or federal level, the body count keeps growing, and we are entering dark days. Hard to believe we are only now recognizing the words of the past months as hate speech, as power, as darkness.
I will keep speaking out through my art. Predominantly I am working with environmental statements concerning climate change. My Wetlands piece is the first attempt to look at a vanishing resource. there are so many issues and problems ahead for us. As artists we must be active.
I welcome comments.