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
As the title indicates, this mixed media text edition of "Climate Change Is Not Fake News" is meant to function primarily as a poster. It is a very different work visually from the first non-text edition on a number of points easily apparent when comparing the two.
Debates get underway every day about the severity of climate change, or global warming, in the modern era and hopefully some will find this work useful. Is climate change real or is it just fake news which media uses to stir up drama and boost ratings?
Some claim we are experiencing a period of increased planetary warming as part of a natural pattern of changes in the Earth's atmosphere. Others say we are experiencing the direct impact of human disregard for the environment. This, they say, has brought us close to a "tipping point" likely to have increasingly catastrophic results. The divisions are so clear-cut that one U.S. presidential administration (Barack Obama's) readily signed up for the historic 2015 Paris Agreement on global warming. But the next administration (Donald Trump's) just as quickly nullified U.S. participation in the program set to begin in 2020.
No matter which side of the debates you stand on, video footage of huge shelves of ice breaking off from the Antarctic, raging fires devouring communities in California (56 currently nationwide), heatwaves causing Europeans to faint in the streets, and horrific floods in India and elsewhere are unsettling. Therefore, they are forcing more and more dialogues on the subject.
Personally, I would prefer to err on the side of overly-cautious preventive measures rather than apathy or negligence. The Earth most likely can survive and continue evolving beyond human-induced anomalies. The real important question might be can we survive such indifference ourselves?
"All the Flowers We Meant to Give Each Other" is a collage of photography, watercolor, digital painting, custom-designed matting, customized framing, and signature Postered Chromatic Poetics digital processing. As the title implies, it is work inspired by very personal circumstances to which many can likely relate.
How We Practice Compassion
In 2017 I was doing research on how people practice compassion on a daily basis when I came across a website filled with individuals expressing grief after losing someone to the opioid crisis. That was about the time Americans discovered just how bad it was, and is, after seeing the number of deaths caused by it jump from 33,000 in 2015 to 44,000 in 2016. I empathized with those grieving on the website because I had seen how different forms of drug addiction decimated the community where I was raised. What I did not consider at the time was the possibility that 12 months later my family would experience the loss of a niece to social crises numerous families are facing.
I had not seen my niece--actually grand-niece--in a decade. She nevertheless was someone I often thought about because I used to babysit her while her grandmother went to work in a hospital emergency room in southern Florida, and the aunt raising her had not yet gotten off work. Her biological parents were both struggling with the kind of issues that would later impair her life.
I had recently separated from the Air Force and was completing a book project, so would sit her bassinet beside me as I typed. When taking a break, I would carry her outside and pray out loud for her as we walked around a mango tree. The praying came naturally because it was obvious to me that despite all the good loving people surrounding her, she was going to have some serious challenges on her hands once she grew up. And she did.
Hard drugs play their part in destroying lives but I have been forced to wonder about the role played by our daily choice of priorities. Such as maintaining engaged connections with those we say we love versus becoming so involved in individual ambitions that the word "love" loses any relevancy. While I do not hold myself responsible for my niece's death, I am holding myself accountable for having been totally unaware of how difficult daily life had become for her. Therefore, this work of art titled "All the Flowers We Meant to Give Each Other" is dedicated in honor of her and the many people struggling to come to grips with a hellish epidemic that can be stopped.
The word "We" is used in the title out of recognition that even though drug addiction is recognized as an illness, drug addicts themselves have to gain the will and strength to fight for both their lives and the lives of those trying to help them. Making it a point to empower each other is the only way anybody wins.
"Redbird Dreaming about Why Love is Always Important" is a mixed media vertical-formatted work consisting of nature photography, layered oil, digital painting, custom-designed matting, customized framing, and signature Postered Chromatic Poetics digital processing.
This print is the first in the new Redbird Series. The brightness of the colors make it stand apart from succeeding prints and it is also distinct in the series because at this point it is the only vertical portrait-print in the collection. The vertical formatting makes it particularly suitable for t-shirts, posters, bed covers, and greeting cards.
"Redbird Dreaming about Why Love is Always Important" is the official first print (posted August 9, 2018) in the Redbird Series. I started working on the art collection in the summer of 2017 when I spotted a male North American cardinal flitting about the back yard trying to draw the attention of a female. It hung around for several days and sometimes kept still long enough for me to get some interesting shots later used as models in the creation of a mixed media canvas.
This artwork follows up on the visual theme noted in the collage titled "All the Flowers We Meant to Give Each Other." But with a definitive difference. Specifically, the exuberance of the colors in "Redbird Dreaming about Why Love is Always Important," and the playfulness of the title suggests a reconsideration of what individuals and societies consider most important on a daily basis. This print flips the motivation described in "All the Flowers" by celebrating a possibility open to everyone as opposed to mourning its loss after it is too late.
"Redbird Sifting Beauty out of Ashes" is the second print in the Redbird Series and my homage to those battling California's historic wildfires of 2018. . It is a landscape-formatted artwork consisting of nature photography, layered oil, digital painting, custom-designed matting, customized framing, and signature Postered Chromatic Poetics digital processing.
The balanced light and dark hues, with colors appearing to emerge from smoky shadows, framed by shades of gold, teal, and rust make it easy to imagine the cardinal at the center of this work surrounded by danger as well as inspired beauty. The landscape formatting make this art particularly desirable for either large wall canvases or smaller purchases like cups and cards, from which a substantial percentage of the proceeds will go toward support for survivors of the California wildfires.
Whether it's because I lived in California for a number of years or because the magnitude of the blazing destruction taking place there at present is so overwhelming, "Redbird Sifting Beauty out of Ashes" is my tribute to those caught up in the 2018 inferno. As horrendous as it is, so many are rising to the challenge of surviving, continuing to fight the monstrous flames, and somehow rebuilding shattered lives.
Yet at the same time that I find myself so deeply moved by the devastation taking place in California, I realize we are living in an era when different kinds of "natural" and man-made disasters are forcing many people to start all over again all over the world. "Redbird Sifting Beauty out of Ashes" is a visualized hope they all find the strength, faith, determination, and support needed to succeed.
I'm not sure how to go about it at this point but am looking for ways to donate a sizable percentage of sales from this work to relief funds for people coping with the wildfires. If anyone has any suggestions I would appreciate receiving them via either message here or in the comments section.
Award-winning author and artist acclaimed for works in multiple creative genres.