Responsibility of an Artist in Society and Politics

It is sometimes difficult to pinpoint the exact role of the arts in societal and political critique. Especially since postmodernism has overshadowed everything with a twinge of mocking nihilism. Hyperbole has taken over in the past few years and it becomes difficult to articulate any criticisms on society with subtlety and moderation. But screaming or quiet whisperings, the role remains I believe. It isn’t a martyrdom or an esteem…it simply is.

A heavier social critique from 2015. But I couldn’t stop thinking about this boy, so like my son, today as I read my country’s new stance on refugees.

As communicators and citizens, artists by necessity become a reflection of their times and their surroundings. Our work can’t be adequately critiqued without the context of our personal and societal history and current experiences; and our society and history cannot be adequately understood without an attempt to view the artwork that arises from it.
There should certainly be a degree of integrity attached to our works, though we often infuse the genuine even when we seek to remain light-hearted and a distraction from the drudgery.
As a visual artist, the line is more stark or more subtle, depending on mode of communication and subject, style and medium. But the arts include dance and music, film and literature; cultural expression. The arts are essential to a full life and a full understanding of identity and humanity.

Fuck Yer Fences We Got Tunnels. We will find a way to trudge on.

It is with great hope and great humility that I can continue to provide some sort of context of my experience and my understanding as the political climate changes so drastically in America. And it is also with a heavy heart, because so many politicians and so many citizens place such an insubstantial value on the arts in their lives and lives and growth of others.
But throughout history, art has never disappeared. Especially during times when others tried to stifle expression. The human mind fights to remain what it always has been. It fights to remain.

Support the art that connects to you when you see it. Support the struggling painter and the inner city youth dance company. Support your local independent film festivals and support your friends who play gigs. Support National artists and art programs and non-profits. Donate art supplies or instruments or times to local schools and local students who lack adequate access. Create an account on Patreon and find an artist or creator (or 12) who speaks *to you* and help fund their work.

Be Excellent To Each Other.

In the 10 Years Since

The ten year anniversary of Memories, Remedies, and Nightmares is here. We are approaching the anniversary of the show’s denouement.  This was my first solo show at a professional gallery in December of 2006 at FLight Gallery. It was an exciting milestone in my career as a gallery artist in San Antonio and I felt welcomed into the community even more than I had been previously.

The show was also a catharsis for me, as it dealt with past sexual assault and the emergence and diagnosis of my PTSD, depression, anxiety disorders, and agoraphobia. It was almost a year in the making and had really helped me to use my artwork as a communication tool for things that I couldn’t articulate with words. There are some things that are indescribable; and others that are simply unspeakable.  But, by the time I had finished hundreds of pieces, written a book, and found a gallery to house part of the series; I was truly starting to feel as if I could move past these events as a stronger artist and human being.

Things took a turn in my personal life shortly after the show came down, though. I spent quite a few years struggling as my mental health got worse, not better due to a re-traumatization immediately following the show’s closure. I wasted years. I drank to cope. I drank through abusive relationships.  I drank through my father’s illness, death, and funeral.  I drank through some friendships, jobs, and some really close calls. It has been ten years and I am slowly working my way back to a place I left back then. It is hard to ignore the ambivalence and nostalgia. To recognize bridges burned and opportunities drowned in a bottle.  To remember the pain of that time, and also that last piece of myself clawing out of it. It is difficult to just see today and be happy with where my life and career are *now* and sometimes it seems impossible to not dwell in the ideas and notions of “what could have been”.

There is a piece I started right after events shook my life a bit loose. I am working on having it finished finally to debut it on the 10 year anniversary of its inception, January 11th, 2007, not even a week after Memories, Remedies, and Nightmares came down.

[Image of “Agony” in early stages.  The word is still  starkly visible and a prominent feature of the piece].

“Agony” was started immediately following a sexual assault and the intention of the piece was to apply a translucent coat over the word “agony” at the top to see how much temporal distance had to be placed between an event and its disappearance. Or, at a minimum, its obscurance.

Obviously, much has changed over the past 10 years, not the least of which is my perspective.  I have been sober now for half of that time and a mother.  I have spent the last five years rebuilding a life that I allowed to crumble and growing as a person.  I have spent most of the last five years on a relatively steady upward trajectory in mental health as well.  So much so, unfortunately, that a recent wave of stressors and symptoms of the PTSD floored me for a few months.  More will be written on that another day, but, I did feel like I had been sucked back to these days of huddling and trying not to crumble.  I’m still finding truly solid ground.  The One Main Thing I have learned is that none of this mishegaas is ever gone.  It is never erased, or invisible.  You never get it to disappear or shut up.  You quiet it and dull it.  You obscure it into the periphery. And that is what I now hope this piece will reflect to the viewer; an event or experience can never become truly nullified.  And perhaps that is a blessing even when it was, and always will be, tragic.