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Coming Home

She is refreshing as cucumber water in a pale green, light linen button down over matching, three-quarter length pants. I see coral-pink toes poking out from thick-strapped white sandals and remember the two of us squeezed into the narrow aisle between my bed and the wall, painting our toes bright red with cheap polish.

 

Poetry & Stories : Works Cited

The Traveler.”  Published in Prick of the SpindleEd. Cynthia Reeser2011: Vol. 5.3. Online.

An American Hero.” published in Unlikely2.0. 2010: Unlikely Stories III.

Black Regions.” The Sentinel Literary Quarterly: The Magazine of World Literature. 2011: ISSN 1753-6499 Online.

“So I Stripped Down Defenseless Like a Tree.” Haight Ashbury Literary Journal. Summer 2011: Vol. 29 No. 1. Print.

Change.” Guanxi Magazine. 2011: March 4. Online.

Dressed Like a Thief.” Guanxi Magazine. 2010: December 24. Online.

Modern Art? Or A Desperate Attempt to Be Different

The Athenaeum’s 21st Annual Juried Collection opened in La Jolla this weekend. With over two hundred submissions by San Diego artists, the collection offers much-needed exposure for the local community, and a chance to create a foothold in the array of interested collectors and patrons. With so few locally centered venue’s, there is much for local artists to gain, and with so many submissions to choose from, one would expect to find at least a few stunning pieces, or at the very least a short list of ‘artists to watch.’ Sadly, from what I saw at this years collection, either the San Diego’s art community has little to offer, or the judges of this years show are confused the ‘different’ with the ‘good.’

First prize went to an empty wooden circle — not carved or engraved; not special in any way — mounted on a white wall. Perhaps it was sanded by the artist; perhaps it was even cut and shaped by hand, but the value of the art lays entirely in what I can only assume is an abstract commentary on life, rather than the art itself. Honorable mentions included a set of mounted vegetable steamers and serving bowls, similarly chosen, I suppose, for their ‘new perspective’ on kitchen objects? Despite a few bright pieces, including a photograph whose manipulation of light was interesting, and an installation of noah’s ark surrounded by dinosaur heads being stared down by a small plastic astronaut (which at least succeeded in being comprehendingly thought provoking, even if it is a familiar idea), the overfall message of the collection seemed to be that creating something “different” is more important than creating something with raw artistic talent.

While I of course support the goal of art to change the way we think about the world, and while I concede that such a goal oftentimes requires art to do something that’s never been done before, I stand committed, as a painter and art lover, to the belief that what we put on display in our galleries and show rooms should be visually and artistically astounding, and birthed from true artistic talent. An empty wooden circle or a broken open paper mache ball might be making a comment on the lack of meaning in our over-commercialized and consumerist world, but the importance of the Antheneum’s 21st Annual Juried Collection to the local San Diego’s art community is too great to waste it’s wall space on pieces whose sole value is its abstract attempt at deep thought.

How many artists with visually inspiring pieces were left out this year so that the visual ‘unusual’ could be mounted on the wall? And perhaps even more importantly, will the larger, national community of art lovers accept this lack of real talent into their museums and homes?

While I don’t know who was turned down for this years show, and fully admit I have no way of knowing for sure that the other submissions offered more talent than what was shown, I can’t help but feel that this years collection has offered false hope to a group of people who I am sure take their art very seriously, and a blow to the ego of some still undiscovered, extremely talented artists. To those who didn’t make it in this year and should have, I hope my opinion here revitalized your resolve, and offered some small glimmer of hope.

Our Power

Today, my pride was plucked by the gently-puckered lips of a twenty-one year old French boy from Paris who we’ll call Francois. Like all twenty-one year old French boys likely to steal your pride he was unbelievably good looking with smooth, golden-brown skin, and astutely intelligent to boot. He is one of eight students in an ESL  class I teach four hours a day, Monday-Friday, downtown.

It was our first day together, and the soul-plucking came just a few minutes after I’d told him to put his cell phone away while setting up a game I’d created with flashcards. I’d just set the cards up in the middle of the table in an effort to bring the class’s low energy level back up; I wanted to do what I could to help them enjoy the rote nature of our book. Immediately after I’d set them up, Francois leaned his six-foot-two frame clean across the table and blew at my flashcards until they scattered in the hot, careless wind from his perfectly shaped mouth. He then leaned all the way back in his chair until it was propped up on its back legs and laughed so hard his eyes closed and his face went red. It was not a particularly raucous display of disrespect, but rather a silent sort of signaling – to me and the rest of the class – that I might be the one at the front, but unless he decided to relinquish it, he was the one in control.

I’d like to pause here to reflect on the fact that life in general is nothing more than a continuous jostling for power — if you are happy, it is probably because you feel like you have some kind of control over your world — you know what you want, you know how to get it, you have someone to love. As a teacher, I try to balance my actual power over the room with the attention I pay to my students — are they happy? Are the comfortable? Do they understand what I am saying? Are I pushing them hard enough, or too hard? But today, after Francois leaned across the table and more or less challenged me to a dual in front of the class, I wanted nothing more than to throw down like the ghetto girl I sometimes think I am, and tear him a new asshole. I didn’t care what the class thought; it was one of those moments where you literally just don’t give a shit anymore. Not about responsibility, and certainly not about bodily harm. Even more interestingly, there was a prolonged moment where I wanted to destroy them all, even those who said nothing, for sucking up my time and energy when they didn’t really want to be there. I wanted them all to be miserable — I wanted them to feel what I felt.

Of course, I am too much of a professional to loose my cool. Still, it took me the rest of the morning and even some of the afternoon to completely recover from the blow to my ego, and from my irrational desire to treat him like an adult rather than an immature, and completely insignificant dot on the landscape of my world. In fact, it took sitting down and writing this blog to remind myself of what I am — a writer — and to remember that this is my power . . . why? Because it means I don’t have to worry about being embarrassed in front of a classroom full of disrespectful students; everything they do is an opportunity to feel. How else can a girl from the suburbs of Baltimore with two loving parents and a Masters Degree in Creative Writing make art? From which horrid, festering wound?

The next day Francois was not in class, and three weeks later he has not bothered to come again at all. Since then, a few students have even thanked me for not only disciplining Francois, but all of them, saying that in their previous class everyone was always texting and sleeping — they were happy I’d cracked the whip.

Of course, after that my resolve and ego were restored, and I remember my true task as an educator — to teach, and when necessary, to absorb the negative energy of others in order to insulate the learning of the class.

So, thank you Francois, but still . . . be careful we don’t meet in a dark alley somewhere after school. You might be six foot two, but there’s no way your well-tanned, fru fru Paris upbringing prepared you for a pissed-off-American woman one generation removed from the ghetto-fabulous city of Baltimore.

Holding KFC Accountable for Rainforest Destruction

Launching International Campaign Against KFC for using Rainforest Fibers in their Throw-Away Packaging:

On Wednesday, May 23rd I, as an activist acting individually to support Greenpeace USA’s campaign to save the Indonesian Rainforest and the Sumatran Tiger, hung a banner of the front pillars of KFC’s International headquarters. There are only 400 Sumatran Tigers left in the wild, and with their home, in the Indonesian Rainforest being deforested at an alarming rate which Greenpeace estimated at “an area of rainforest the size of 6 football pitches every minute” in their 2006 Press Release, “KFC Exposed for Trashing the Amazon Rainforest for Buckets of Chicken.”

 

Youtube Video — Action At KFC

Bloomberg News Article

Kentucky.com Article

WDRB.com Article

The Telegraph (UK) Article

Standing Up To Chevron

Holding Chevron Accountable for Polluting the Ecuadorian Amazon

As an activist acting individually to support the hard work of Amazon Watch and the Rainforest Action Network in Ecuador, I took part in a direct action and hung a banner off the Richmond bridge, right next to a Chevron oil refinery, three days before the 2011 Shareholders Meeting. 2011 was the year the Chevron was found GUILTY for polluting the Ecuadorian Amazon and told by the government of Ecuador to pay 18 million dollars to the indigenous people of the Rainforest. We held our protest just days before the 2011 Shareholders meeting where a delegation traveled all the way from Ecuador to plead their case, and keep the pressure on.

Media from the Action:

Youtube Video — The Action from the Water

Youtube Video — Rainforest Action Network’s Campaigning Video