Archive for the ‘Tucson’ Category
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.
…and we have learned nothing. We still kill with guns, we don’t deal with mental health issues. Four years ago three of us set up a website to look at the Tucson shootings. Suzan Drury, Anne Lockard (who is gone, but her indomitable spirit is with us every day), and myself to showcase healing art. You can name a hiking trail, a playground, or a new courthouse for one of the victims, but that doesn’t bring them back. What happened will always hurt. I have lost customers for Marble-T Design because of my stand on gun control. I am a firm believer in the Constitution – it is a remarkable document. But I also firmly believe that the National Rifle Association has co-opted rationality concerning guns and background checks. Just because “criminals will find a way to get guns anyway” doesn’t mean we don’t have background checks. And we are so far away from any rational dialogue on this.
But this isn’t a rant about gun control, although it very easily could be. Sarah Garrecht Gassen wrote an editorial today in the Arizona Daily Star that talks about how we refer to the victims of the shootings. They are not “lost,” they are “taken.” Here’s an excerpt:
So let’s follow Patricia Maisch’s lead and be more honest with our language in how we talk about guns. She’s the person who got the second clip away from the Tucson shooter before he could reload. She’s fought for gun law reform and watched as politicians have failed to stand up to the gun lobby. She hasn’t been shy in her disgust, and she speaks for a lot of us.
We talked on Tuesday afternoon. “Time flies whether you’re having fun or not. It’s always an emotional time of the year. I just think, how unforgivable it is that this could have happened,” she said.
Maisch doesn’t sugarcoat. She’s working diligently for law reforms. But four years in, something that’s fused into the sorrow and the anger gnaws at her: how we talk about gun violence.
She’s on a mission to change the words. “The horrible takings,” is how she talks about the people who have been killed with a gun.
“These people aren’t ‘lost.’ They’re never going to be found. They’ve been taken.”
If you would like to see artwork focused on healing, you can visit Art from the Heart. Here’s my piece, again controversial. Most of the comments I had was that the shooter was mentally ill, that it wasn’t politics that caused him to kill. And thus was ended what could have been a productive dialogue about the state of mental illness and access to guns. I already know some of you will stop becoming readers and customers. Because of this wonderful Constitution of ours, I support your right to do that.
You can read about my thoughts constructing the piece here. Ultimately the processing from the shootings has led to me pondering our lack of ability to discuss issues calmly, and now I have based the first in a series of novels on what happens when we can’t – or won’t – talk to each other.
It has been a year. Gabby Giffords is back in town this weekend for remembrance ceremonies. She is quite the inspiration. I hoped by now to have more than 50 pieces on the Art from the Heart website, artwork devoted to promoting peace and nonviolence. But we don’t.
That’s not going to stop me.
Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see.”
Ben Franklin said, “There never was a good war or a bad peace.”
From Publius Syrus: “We should provide in peace what we need in war.”
From Thomas Hardy:” My argument is that War makes rattling good history; but Peace is poor reading.”
From Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world better.”
Also from Dr. King: “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
And from the Arizona Daily Star’s David Fitzsimmons: “We will remember. We will remember the victims of the Safeway horror, the pain, the heroism and the recovery. And we will forget. At election time we will not remember the names of the elected lawmakers who did nothing to close the gun check loopholes in Arizona. We will not remember the names of the lawmakers who did nothing to secure a modern mental health care system for our citizenry. We’ll forget the names of the lawmakers who could have affected positive change but did nothing. But we will remember. We’ll remember to mark our calendars and mourn and move on.”
We can’t continue on this course. I was struck by the number of quotes on peace that also involved being ready for war. That is a blending I do not want to see. I will continue to post about peace and nonviolence. I will continue to make art that reflects peace. I will continue to call for others to make art that promotes peace and nonviolence. One small beacon.
Sometimes that’s all you can do.
To visit the prospectus, click here.
The “Tikkun Olam: Artists Respond to Earth’s Crises Past and Present” art show opened Thursday, and I just returned from the opening reception. What a delight! I haven’t “done” a reception where I have had a piece entered into the show, and it was a lot of fun walking around, listening to comments, and then actually have someone ask to meet the artist – me! And…the organizers of the show were really intrigued with the process of marbling and the creation of the piece. So that makes me feel really great.
Mickey Bond is one of the organizing artists for this project, and she’s from Santa Fe. You can check her out here. She not only has a show in Santa Fe right now, but she’s here to hang this show and attend the reception. I love this part of her artist statement:
“My mixed media series explore the mystery of creation by enabling nature’s influence on my paint and media. Winter’s freezing temperatures provide the chance to freeze paint, elicit frost crystals and create a unique kind of crackle in frozen polymer mediums. I’ve discovered that the surface of clayboard behaves like cold glass on a wintry night, providing (with my help) the right conditions for ice crystals to form delicate patterns and for acrylic media to freeze and splinter into organic crackles and snake skin designs.” (from her website)
Rebecca O’Day is an artist in Tubac, AZ, and is also organizing this show. I apologize to Rebecca, but the photos I took of her work were very blurry.
Also having work in the show is quilt artist Katie Pasquini Masopust. Three LARGE quilts plus some great new work on the redwoods, and the canyons.
And now, some shots of the overall show – each piece on the wall is 12 inches by 1 inches – forming a really nice grid. One hundred artists from around the world with statements about our planet.
If you are in Southern Arizona between now and October 25, you need to stop by the Jewish Community Center and view the show.
As I have written over the last month or so, the shootings in Tucson really affected me, especially the fact that we had almost headed over to the Congress on Your Corner but we had a doctor’s appointment instead and decided to do the next one. I wrote here about what it was like for that following week at school, helping kids process the shootings and the hate from the Westboro Baptist Church directed toward our school.
I studied history and political science in college, at the height of the Vietnam War. I was a drug-free hippie who believed in freedom of expression and the peace movement. I loved seeing trends and themes in history, and then when I taught Advanced Placement US History, I kept discovering things I hadn’t known about our country. I followed that up with reading Howard Zinn’s A History of the American People. That is a pretty amazing book. You can follow The Zinn Education Project on Facebook.
Throughout January, into February, and particularly March and April I sank into a real morass of despair, looking at everything going on in this country and the lack of civility in understanding. I “unfriended” some folks who’s attitudes I felt were very destructive. I would listen to the news and start yelling at the television, reminding the screen about all that came before. Needless to say, I accomplished very little….
I have since gotten myself on track with enjoying life through a couple of – what turned out to be major – changes. No more news. I read the headlines each morning from the local paper on line, and I read the headlines from Al Jazeera English, each time amazed at what is going on in the world that we have no idea about in this country.
Stay away from movies that will P*** me off, like Sicko. There is nothing I can do. I understand the situation, and I cope as I can, but there’s no point getting upset.
Stay positive. I am working with the Co-creating Our Reality site, and I am amazed at just how happy and relaxed I am becoming, Of course, retiring from teaching didn’t hurt…..
Create art. I am finally getting back into the creative spirit, and I think as I create more, not only will I feel better, but I will begin to get some of my frustrations out into art work.
Enjoy people. Given my background and being very shy, I tend to stay away from a lot of socializing. That is changing. I am meeting more people, going out with friends more, having people over, and the like. I’m enjoying sitting on the couch in the afternoon with hubby (35 years this Saturday), streaming something from Netflix that we can enjoy together, and not hve to worry about marking papers or doing lesson plans!
Ooooh yeah, I’m gonna love retirement!
I finished my entry for Art from the Heart today. This was a tough piece to do, but it had to be done. It started last Sunday, the day after the Tucson shootings. I wanted to do the Journal Project from 3 Creative Studios, and my goal I set was to work in a 8.5 by 11 inch piece, using only scraps from my stash.
Well, last Sunday I was in deep depression over the shootings and had to work with some fabric. I pulled some blacks that looked like barriers, fencing. One looked like chicken wire, and one like barbed wire. Black and white, barriers. I used the traditional courthouse steps pattern from quilting, and then used red thread for “blood” to stitch those into place. I was staying pretty literal at that point.
From there I wanted to look at the words and ideas that continue to divide us as a country, but I didn’t want it to just be words. What about action on our parts? I printed out the words on white fabric and then sewed them to the background. If you look at the words closely, you’ll see I used a large needle with very fine thread, as I wanted the needle holes to show…like the bullet holes that wound us.
I actually had trouble coming up with the words to use. So many words I thought of are far more inflammatory than I wanted for this piece. I wanted more general terms that would not cause people to fixate on them and get angry. Yes, the vitriol is heating up, but the purpose of this piece is not to add to the anger. I included left-wing as well as right-wing, and if you look, they are on the opposite sides of the quilt. This needs to be about “us,” not “we” and “them.”
I knew I would have a candle with a flame to illuminate the darkness. Again I printed out the names of the shooting victims. I know from visiting the Vietnam Memorial how powerful names can be, and I do not want us ever to forget these six people. I want their lives to shine down on us and help us overcome these horrible things that divide us. I used three different colors of metallic threads to develop the light from the candle. It doesn’t photograph as brightly as it actually is, so I may still add more strands of candle light.
I don’t think – in fact, I know – I’m not done. There is more I need to say through fabric, but I need to get a week or so of distance for myself, as well as work on the website. Plus, I am having to think through my own issues with some of these words – monitor my own language and actions.
We made it through the week, but not without a lot of extra angst. We planned on Thursday what we would do to keep the kids save if the WBC protested outside out school. It is not easy trying to convince teenagers that doing nothing is the best course of action.
I got to school on Friday at 6:45 AM to find several police cars already in front of the school. That was a comforting sight. Those of us volunteering met in front of the school, only to hear that the WBC members hadn’t gotten on the plane to leave Kansas, so good news for us. The police wanted us to stay through the next half hour to help students enter in case others decided to show and protest.
When we went back out, the Angels were across the street. This is a group of people who show to protect groups from the WBC protests. They do this around the country, and specifically in Tucson to keep the families of shooting victims from having to see the hate.
I got tears in my eyes. It was a beautiful site, these people who don’t know us who came to protect our students from these hate-filled people. The kids thought they were the “bad guys,” and so we were explaining to them this whole situation. A lot of students were convinced they were the KKK, so yet again we had interesting discussions in class, rather than doing a lot of math.
Everyone was tired, and it was certainly difficult maintaining the usual classroom decorum, but as I’ve said, sometimes systems of equations take a backseat to life. I’m still feeling very raw about everything, but I’ve been getting good feedback for the Art from the Heart project. I spent a few hours today working on my piece, and I should be able to finish it up tomorrow. It is raw, like my emotions, but I think it conveys a powerful message. I’ll have more on that tomorrow.
Being a teacher is hard work at the best of times, but this week is definitely one for the books. Dealing with your own emotions in a time like this is hard, but trying to help teenagers understand the ramifications of their own actions as well as trying to understand the motivations of groups like the Westboro Baptist Church – well, it’s a supreme challenge.
At 7:30 this morning is news that the WBC will be picketing my high school on Friday to protest our ethnic studies programs. Oh, good. How do you explain to young people whose brains are not yet fully developed to make good choices that they will be confronted with hateful messages and they shouldn’t respond? In my classes, after managing to get some math accomplished, the questions just kept coming. Why are these people coming to our school? Do they hate us? Why do they say that God is glad little Christina is dead? Can we protest? Why do these people hate Mexicans? Are they really Christians?
Wow. Makes finding the equation of a line using only two points pretty insignificant. How do you get kids this age to understand the wackos who spew hatred deliberately to inflame and sue and collect damages, regardless of whom they hurt. My high school has amazing students within such incredible diversity: we have a support group for homosexual students, we have strong ethnic studies classes that help students understand their own diverse cultural backgrounds, we have fine arts programs to rival small colleges, and we have students who are organizing to present a calm, peaceful face to these protestors.
But we also have kids for whom violence is a fact of life. Too many students here have lost loved ones through acts of violence. You tell them someone wants to cancel their classes because they’re a minority, and they want to lash out. It is so difficult – and so needed – to get the kids to listen to your message that what these people want is to have you react, to mess with you, to get you upset, and that the best way to cope and make a statement is to stay silent. They lose when you don’t respond.
So they leave my class after 30 minutes of intense discussion and historical background, and you wonder how much made sense, how many would reflect on this evil that will take over our sidewalks on Friday, and how much more can you as their teacher take? This has been a very hard week. So many questions, so few answers, so much hate.
I’m going to sit and watch the President. I need this.
It is a glorious Sunday morning here in the Old Pueblo – getting up to the low 70s today. Which is why we live here – sure beats the snow on the weathercam for Burlington. So I’m going to ramble before I start my lesson plans.
First up from the weekly newsletter from Eric Maisel–
“It turns out that the United Nations organization UNESCO launched a Creative Cities Network initiative in 2004 with an eye to promoting the social, economic and cultural development of cities in both the developed and the developing world. Cities apply to the network and pledge to promote their local creative scene and uphold UNESCO’s cultural diversity mission. UNESCO considers their applications and, for those it approves, designates the applicant a Creative City in one or another of several different categories.
Apparently 20 or 30 cities have applied so far and Aswan, Egypt and Santa Fe have been designated UNESCO Cities of Craft and Folk Art, Berlin, Buenos Aires, and Montreal have been designated UNESCO Cities of Design, Popayan, Colombia has been designated a UNESCO City of Gastronomy, Edinburgh has been designated a UNESCO City of Literature, and Bologna and Seville have been designated UNESCO Cities of Music.”
I think that is very cool – countries and cities specifically designated as art stops. Here is Tucson lots of people feel it is an artist’s mecca, but I so disagree. Maybe if all you want is western art, specifically paintings, but I consider the area a wasteland artistically. Tubac at least has a variety of galleries, but still pretty western-art oriented. Tucson does have a spectacular glass studio, and there are some interesting galleries, but overall western.
When we visited Santa Fe on gallery row, there was so muc eye vandy – a good smattering of other things besides western art, although the western art was spectacular – huge sculptures that were available as public art. Our library has a weird red “thing” that no one has really figured out.
The Pima Arts Council tries, but I think it is dominated by those folks who consider themselves “artists and no one else is.” Sheesh, I hate that. I’m tired of finding that in quilt stores.
That said, the Gem show is in town, and spent a good chunk of time last Sunday looking. Bought some great red jasper and a few other things, but the jasper stands out in my mind. Found some great stuff for Ali – I do have the eye for what she likes!