I cannot say I ever imagined living in a world where alongside my books and artwork I would be happy to offer people designer face masks. Under the current coronavirus circumstances, use of the word ‘Beauty’ along with ‘Face Mask’ in a headline might strike some as contradictory, or even frivolous. I promise it is not.
Extraordinary masks have been employed for centuries in different cultures for holiday celebrations as well as times of battle. Right now, the world’s populations are very much at war, more this time around with an assassin virus than with each other. Since the threat of COVID-19 apparently is not going away any time soon, the option to add potentially life-saving face masks to the inventory of art products offered through my Fine Art America and Pixels.com shop is a welcomed chance to support a critical mission.
The move also supports and demonstrates a long-held contention that art in and of itself is innately functional in many important ways. This time it is proving useful in the fight to help flatten the coronavirus curve long enough for scientists and doctors to come up with a vaccine and/or cure. The opportunity to contribute to those efforts would naturally mean a lot to someone for whom creative artistry and civic activism have often gone hand in hand.
What’s Beauty Got to Do With It?
After making the decision to commit some of my visual works for use as mask designs, I thought at first only the newest images created for the Confronting COVID-19 collection would be suitable for face mask designs. Some of these had already sold in other formats. Then someone pointed out how any number of my Silk-Featherbrush paintings could be customized for the same purpose. Customers themselves retain the ability to customize the mask by adjusting the image size and specific area of the artwork they would like printed on the mask.
Beauty, the inner variety as well as the outer, inspires determined effort and determined effort often makes all the difference between an operation’s failure or success. Art’s therapeutic effect to help relieve stress and heal trauma is well known. It can provide, as I have always hoped is the case with ELEMENTAL, the Power of Illuminated Love, a more creative life-affirming response to conflicts between nations or individuals. It can replace inertia with energy and transform a sense of hopelessness, such as that which so many are experiencing these days, into one of inspired resilience.
Harlem Renaissance Centennial
This second part of “Confronting COVID-19 with Inspired Art and Determination” is adapted from the text description for “Angels of Music Revisited” featured on Fine Art America and at Pixels.com. It combines my tribute to an inspiring historic Italian artist with my own poetry. In you missed part 1 to this post you can check it out here. Part 2 starts now:
Angels of Music Revisited is a mixed media digital painting reinterpretation of the sixteenth century Italian artist Morazzone’s (Pier Francesco Mazzuchelli, 1573 - 1626) “Angel Musicians.” The original 16th century image minus any text was created using black chalk and brown wash, with white gouache used for additional effect. I chose a palette of bronze, gold, and Earth tones contrasting with shades of blue and indigo to suggest a realistic conflict between human suffering and healing spiritual grace.
The background for this edition is meant to duplicate the appearance of classic parchment or an illuminated manuscript. It is also distinguished from the first version by the integration of short quotes (some of them haikus) from my book THE RIVER OF WINGED DREAMS. Most of the quotes are easily read but a couple are partially inverted to emphasize the script’s dual function as text commentary and visual enrichment. That lets it work as a poster and as fine art.
Morazonne’s version was made part of the Getty Museum’s Open Content Project in 2013, classifying it as public domain material appropriate for editing. I wanted to pay tribute to Morazonne’s original vision while hopefully strengthening the sense of visual depth and felt interconnectedness in such a way that it could stand as a true creative response to the COVID-19 2020 pandemic. This seemed fitting enough given the hard hit Morazonne’s homeland of Italy took before the virus jumped the ocean to the U.S.
Below are the quotes from different poems in THE RIVER OF WINGED DREAMS used in the above artwork:
1) Chords of miraculous notions enrich your blessed voice
The extensive impact of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic is, obviously, not something which can be completely summed up, and not at all resolved, by a single creative gesture. But it is through creative expression and productivity that many are sustaining hope and surviving the restrictions of self-imposed quarantine these extremely difficult days. From the beginning, a huge part my purpose for chronicling stories, making poems, and creating visual art has been to help alleviate the anguish history sometimes imposes upon our lives, and I hope to continue accomplishing that to whatever degree possible in this current uncertain hour.
© Harlem Renaissance Centennial
Last month (May 2019) the editors of Excellence Reporter, a website based in France, asked me to respond to these interview questions: "What makes a compassionate city or community?" and "What is the meaning of life?"
The way my creative instincts work these days, questions of this kind tend to inspire both verbal and visual considerations. Anyone wishing to check out the verbal part provided Excellence Reporter is invited to visit the following pages:
The visual results came in the form of two new works of Silk-Featherbrush art now available at Fine Art America and Pixels.com. The one seen just below is titled Journey towards a Brand New Day, and the other further down is called Battle for the Beauty of the Sun.
Journey towards a Brand New Day is my visual metaphor for engaged citizens around the world taking stands against different forms of social and political injustice while simultaneously celebrating their appreciation of life and each other. They are motivated more by visions of compassion and unity than by political sleights of hand.
Election years, like the one we're in right now (or soon will be as 2020 approaches), tend to come with built-in headaches. But there's also a lot of beauty in the way diverse communities assert themselves to participate in a process where the outcome is usually uncertain. Protests currently taking place in Hong Kong are one form of such expressions.
On this canvas we see waves of determined chromatic lines moving toward a shadowy horizon. Streaks of magenta reflecting against a cobalt blue and indigo sky symbolize emerging potential and hope that sometimes wavers but never completely fades.
The Extraordinary Adventure that Life Is
I see the image here titled Battle for the Beauty of the Sun as representative of resistance to different forms of extremism which increase polarization and encourage violence as a means for resolving conflicts. Although done with a minimalist approach in the Silk-Featherbrush style, it is meant to convey movement toward balance and fulfillment.
In addition to the questions posed by Excellence Reporter, the composition of Battle for the Beauty of the Sun was also heavily influenced by my reading of Asian author Yang Jisheng's Tombstone, the Great Chinese Famine 1958-1962. TOMBSTONE in particular reminded me of some human beings' strange habit of intentionally corrupting or destroying the abundance of beauty which surrounds us on a daily basis. But how fortunate we are that many more employ their energies toward the exact opposite: preserving and creating all that which makes life the extraordinary adventure it is.
Harlem Renaissance Centennial
This is technically the third work of art to be included in my Redbird Series but the fourth included in the Redbird Gallery at Fine Art America . A recent visitor to the gallery shared some comments offline about her interpretations of the meaning of red cardinals in my life. I found her remarks very interesting because they reminded me of passages from one of my most recently-completed manuscripts in which I discuss how different birds have functioned as symbols in my literary work. Probably the best known is identified in the title of the poetry collection: Visions of a Skylark Dressed in Black.
What I find particularly interesting about the red cardinal is that it actually has not been incorporated into my writings. The preferred mode of creative expression, where it is concerned, seems to be visual art.
While finishing "Redbird in the Valley of Beautiful Possibilities," I recalled a former co-worker telling me the red cardinal was kind of like a shooting or falling star. "When you see a red bird," she explained, "you should blow it a kiss for good luck." I don't know how many people have discovered that to be either true or false but the artist in me considers the idea very poetic.
The trick to getting the shot for “Taking a Walk Through American History” was getting as much of both the pedestrians-walking sign and the Confederate Monument in the distance into the photograph as possible. It was difficult because the monument, in Forsyth Park in Savannah, Georgia, was to the west and the sign was facing traffic going north on Drayton Street. A ladder might have come in handy but I didn't have one.
The street sign combined with the aging distant monument aligned beside it struck me as a powerful symbol of the division some American communities are experiencing over how to handle controversy involving Confederate symbols, often associated with advocacy for white supremacy, in public spaces. Some city administrators have dealt with the issue by placing the statues and similar representations in museums, which preserves the items and the history they represent. Other administrators have hidden them completely. Some citizens (like certain folks recently in North Carolina) have torn them down and tried to destroy them.
The monument seen here stands where Civil War camps were once located, so the historian in me would like to see it modified to tell a larger story rather than completely demolished. In an article titled "Re-Envisioning the Confederate Monument as a Portrait of Diversity," I suggested Savannahians consider adding several diverse figures to the structure. It could then be re-designated as a historical marker illustrating the different stakes and values for which people were fighting during the American Civil War. The primary theme would be a unified America rather than a self-destructing confederacy. Visitors would see in it, hopefully, a more comprehensive narrative on American history as opposed to one biased version of it.
© August 2018
Award-winning author and artist acclaimed for works in multiple creative genres.