One Week Until The Renaissance Center Opening!

 


n-cap.org and THE RENAISSANCE CENTER announces TAKE CARE: BIOMEDICAL ETHICS IN THE 21st CENTURY, a group exhibition.


Dickson, TN, January 7, 2011 – n-cap.org, along with The Renaissance Center, is proud to announce the opening of TAKE CARE, BIOMEDICAL ETHICS IN THE 21st CENTURY.  The artists of TAKE CARE began organizing the concept and exhibition in 2006-2007, and we are proud to bring the show near its birthplace, Nashville, TN.  Conceived by Nashville artist, Adrienne Outlaw, and organized with the assistance of fellow artist, Sher Fick, of Spring Hill, TN, the exhibition has traveled from Grand Rapids, MI, all the way to Miami, FL for the recent Pool Art Fair. 


Description: The TAKE CARE show highlights biomedical and ethical dilemmas, including: genetic engineering, pharmaceutical therapy, human reproduction/fertility therapies, mitochondrial DNA, familial connections, fetal annomalies, unregulated scientific testing, and the psychological/emotional impact of confronting these decisions, with the hope that viewers will take the opportunity to better appreciate the complexity of these personal decisions in a rapidly changing world.  Works include: ceramic sculpture, video art, mixed media, glass sculpture, embroidered paintings, and photography.


The Renaissance Center is located 35 minutes West of Downtown Nashville in Dickson, TN (855 Hwy 46 S).  The opening artist's reception will be Friday, January 14, 2011, from 6 -8 pm, and the exhibition will be viewable through Feb. 5, 2011.  Reception is OPEN TO THE PUBLIC and is FREE.

To read more about TAKE CARE, visit www.n-cap.org/take_care.html
 
TAKE CARE is a group exhibition including the following artists: Annette Gates (GA), Kristina Arnold (Bowling Green, KY), Adrienne Outlaw (Nashville TN),  Sher Fick (Spring Hill, TN), Lindsay Obermeyer (Chicago, IL),  Monica Bock (NE USA), Sadie Ruben (Copenhagen, Denmark), Jeanette May (NYC), and Libby Rowe (TX, formerly a Photography Professor at Vanderbilt University).
 
Excerpts taken from Art Reviews by Internationally-known critics, include the following:
 
“[T]he nine artists participating in TAKE CARE reveal that there is no definitive right answer to the question of biotechnological advancement. It is the informed dialogue that is paramount.”

“Through their artwork these artists explore the crucial social, economic, and ethical implications of biotechnological advancements and create a space for important dialogue.”

“As Dr. Sirine Shebaya, Greenwall, Fellow in Bioethics and Health Policy at the John Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, writes, ‘The best way to avoid slippery slopes . . . is to have . . . a voice in arriving at decisions with such important ramifications.’ These artists are that voice.”

-          Tonya Vernooy, Art Critic/Writer

“The artists in this exhibition apply the unresolved implications of this phrase “TAKE CARE” to their personal experiences. Together they catalog a plethora of contemporary concerns.”
 
“The artists participating in “Take Care” confirm a distressing truth – today’s mothers do not appear to be bolstered by the collective wisdom of our species. Motherhood in the 21st century remains a lonely experiment racing to keep up with procreative advances at the outposts of human accomplishment.”
 
-          Excerpts from Linda Weintraub, International Contemporary Art Critic/Author/Lecturer

“TAKE CARE is an art show about the challenges of new life and especially those problems inherent in an increasingly technological world.”

“TAKE CARE addresses an issue which is at the heart of art practices, that is the nurturing and understanding of intentional and unintentional creation and it provides a range of aesthetic reactions to this crucial issue.”

“TAKE CARE is considered a “bioethical show” because it points at the departure from one era of motherhood and traces the outline of a new one.” 

-          Veronica Kavass, New York Based Artist/Art Critic

“The artists in TAKE CARE explore the ways that social and scientific developments influence our understanding of . . . connection and caring.” 

-          Ellen Wright Clayton, MD, JD - Rosaline E. Franklin Professor of Genetics and Health Policy, Professor of Pediatrics, Professor of Law, Director of The Center for Biomedical Ethics and Society at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center

Full Reviews of TAKE CARE (or reviews of works included in the exhibition), may be found on Artist Sher Fick's blog: Linda Weintraub, Chen Tamir, Rachel Bubis, Ellen Wright Clayton, MD, JD, and Tonya Vernooy.
 
For detailed directions, fill in a departure address at this link:
http://www.rcenter2.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=20&Itemid=25

The opening Reception, to be held Friday, January 14, 2011, 6-8pm, is FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC, and includes additional exhibitions (see invitation, above).

Contact Information:  Jason Driskill, Curator & Gallery Director, The Renaissance Center, 615-446-4450
or Sher Fick, representing TAKE CARE Artists, Cell 615-975-1025.  All artist can be made available for interviews, (please contact Sher Fick at sherfickart@gmail.com for high-res, print ready images of TAKE CARE.

The Miami Countdown

5, 4, 3, 2,

1 - Yes, I am on the LAST day of the Miami countdown.

Upon reflection this countdown started approximately 4.5 years ago when Adrienne Outlaw first conceived the idea of the TAKE CARE exhibition.  It has been a 'long and winding road', but definitely one that provided tons of learning experiences.

It is amazing how well you can get to know an artist that you have never met face-to-face!  Although our work has obvious correlations, 'clicking' with personalities and life experiences is not a given.  We are all so blessed to have made friends and 'comrades' along the way.

Besides the countless 'unpaid' hours artists devote to their work and exhibitions, there is an emotional expense.  All we can hope for is that when the works are ultimately unveiled to the public that we reach a few people (well, to be honest, I have higher hopes for Miami as it is a 'contemporary' art fair!), people who 'get' us and our work - who might on some level appreciate the blood, sweat and tears that create the work and bring it to the public.

So, I head off to Miami with a few things in my mental pocket:

a)  excitement to meet some of my 'new' artist friends

b)  anticipation about watching the public viewing our exhibition

c)  hope that our work will be well-received by the knowledgeable International Art Community (including collectors, curators, and art enthusiasts)

d)  but, more than ANYTHING, I am looking forward to a sense of accomplishment, which is something that is beyond monetary value.

 The anticipation kind of feels like waiting for a baby to be born - we are all ready - now we are just anticipating "the day"!  We have high hopes for our impending creation:  TAKE CARE: Biomedical Ethics in the 21st Century!

 

 

 

 

Unconfined Perspective

Obviously I have been lost for a month or so - at least to my blog.  It is the never-ending struggle of balancing my 'daily' life with my 'art' life, which somehow doesn't seem to co-exist very well during certain times of my life.  As you know, I don't have a 'day' job or a salary.  So, what, EXACTLY, do I do with my time??? I've been trying to figure that out myself.  When I do get down into my beloved, treasured studio - I am extremely productive.  In fact, I am amazed sometimes at the amount of work I can get accomplished overnight.  It is the 'getting down there' that is the problem at hand. Studio Image from Fall 2009 Studio Image from Fall 2009 Unbeknownst to some, the work of an exhibiting artists entails caboodles of paperwork.  Some days it feels like I have made work (let's say 1 day that week), but the rest of the time is spent marketing, proposing, begging for grant money, all in an effort to have that work get out to the public.  I've been struggling with this, too.  Is my work created just for me?  Would it be enough to make it and keep it hiding here in my house?  If I do keep it here, what does that make it?  A hobby? Finished Encaustic Assemblage Work - on studio shelf Finished Encaustic Assemblage Work - on studio shelf I think intent is so important here - my intent when I make objects or alter them is to make commentary on social issues.  Therefore, I have a calling to do social interpretation . . . which, therefore, requires a society to interact with them.  Would it not be so much easier if I just wanted to quilt something to keep myself and my loved ones warm?  Here is my stick - that isn't enough for me. So there.  It isn't enough for me.  So my calling is to make and my duty is to get it out there.   Towards that end I had the 2 trips to Grand Rapids for Artprize in Sept/October.  I still had my broken ankle and that made things more difficult - but the installations were great and it was seen by more than 10,000 viewers.  I found out during that trip there is still much gender-bias in the art world.  I am disappointed, but more determined than ever to move forward. Coping Skills, as lit at ARTPRIZE 2009 Coping Skills, as lit at ARTPRIZE 2009 Also during October were 2 of my kids' birthday parties (Claire's 7th was a happening in and of itself) . . . more company and then in November I had the honor of being chosen as the first ever seed SPACE artist in Nashville, TN.  [NOTE: seed SPACE is a lab for site-specific installation, sculpture, and performance-based art that brings attention to the excellence, diversity, and interest in contemporary art in Tennessee.  seed SPACE brings in nationally recognized art critics to write exhibition essays.]  My art reviewer was Chen Tamir the Director of Flux Factory, Queens, NY.  seed SPACE is currently developing their website - I will provide their link when it becomes available. Having an interview with a critic is not an easy thing.  I am a very open person (obviously) - but I find that each time I have had a one-on-one with an art critic (including Linda Weintraub) the experience has cracked my art spirit wide open - even further than it was prior to the interview.  I have likened it to having a living autopsy performed on oneself.  I maintain that opinion.  The benefit of going through this process is that the critic/reviewer, from their UNCONFINED PERSPECTIVE, can see all the connections and scars and various conditions of your lifework.  Talk about insightful.  Revelatory.  Cathartic.  I could go on and on. Thomas Eakins' THE GROSS CLINIC Thomas Eakins' THE GROSS CLINIC This all brings me to the following  responses about the experience:  the first draft review is incredibly astute and I appreciated the seriousness with which Chen viewed the work and our interview.  It  is invaluable to me, as a developing artist, to have such direct and unconfined perspective on my works to date.  Interestingly enough, these interviews always spur in me an even greater understanding of who I am becoming and my place in the world - let alone the deeper investigations with the works themselves. There are many other things which have occurred, including the beginnings of several new series, but November seemed to focus on investigating previous works as they are being exhibited.  Additionally, I have 3 years worth of blogs to re-load all the images for due to my Typepad/Wordpress transfer - total debacle! As I move into December, it begins another year of my life - my 43rd.  Although some have mistakenly dismissed me as a bored housewife, I can tell you - there is little that would be more difficult for me to attempt than to nurture my art at the same time I try to raise a family.  If I only needed to be entertained, i can think of much funner, cheaper, and immediately gratifying than being an artist.  It is not the easiest route.  Forging a new path never is.
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Afterthoughts - ArtPrize 2009 - Take Care

Entrance to Gallery 114, KCAD- Annette Gates "Colony" Series on Right Entrance to Gallery 114, KCAD- Annette Gates "Colony" Series on Right
Sadie Ruben's "Alien Fetus"; Sher Fick's "Coping Skills"; and Kristina Arnold's "Drip"
Sadie Ruben's "Alien Fetus"; Sher Fick's "Coping Skills"; and Kristina Arnold's "Drip"
  By Golly I am back . . . I lost a few posts due to the hacking of my blog and the subsequent confusion it caused. Eventually I had to delete EVERY SINGLE image from the transferred Typepad posts and delete several new Wordpress posts . . . Therefore, I have a huge hole to dig out of! It will take me some time, of course. Here are few quick images of the installation which took place at Kendall College of Art & Design, Gallery 114 during Artprize 2009. Obviously, we didn't win any of the money, but our exhibition was seen by more than 10,000 people!!! Coping Skills by Sher Fick Coping Skills by Sher Fick With the great assistance of the Curator, Sarah Joseph, and her brilliant gallery assistants - we were able to unpack and install the 9 artists exhibition in 2 short days. www.kcad.edu After 3 weary days in Grand Rapids, MI (I adore that city), I limped home by way of Indiana and was able to enjoy two visits my sister Lisa in Indianapolis and a large family get together as well. Once home, I prepared 2 birthday parties: Claire's 7th, an American Girl Tea Party, and Dylan's 17th - Gaming/Pizza Party.  Lots of help from my sister Susan and Mom & Don's Mom as well! Adrienne Outlaw's "Fecund Series" Video Installation Adrienne Outlaw's "Fecund Series" Video Installation What was amazing to me was that the many years of work that Adrienne (www.adrienneoutlaw.com) and I did - actually came to pass.  To see our work hung in a professional location, in a professional manner (kudos to myself) - it was astounding and very gratifying. It stood up admirably against every high-end, contemporary work I saw at ArtPrize.  Although the process was very costly (think: printing for brochures, travel to and from, hotels, gas, food, rental car . . .) - I believe it was worth the expense and time involved.  Note: no money has been made by anyone - in fact, all we have encountered is expense and unpaid work time . . . we are doing this in the hope that someone, somewhere, will find the social and economical value of our work and become either future venues and/or collectors.  What a shot in the dark!!!!  Does this make us stupid? Libby Rowe's "Womb Worries" Libby Rowe's "Womb Worries" The experience, after 3 years of research and hard work was satisfactory for the most part.  I feel I know this work inside and out and have a good feel for the importance of our viewpoint.  What seems to be disappointing is the gender bias we are still facing at the dawn of the 21st century.  One would think that males in 'art' would have evolved with technologoy - but that is not the case.  Those males in 'mid-power' postions were 'not interested in what we [women] had to say.'  They looked over the fact that we are a group of 9 highly talented artists.  That we cover the gamut of craftsmanship and technique.  All that was obliterated and ignored because they felt our message was 'not interesting' to their testosterone brains nor to their students - both male and female.  Well guess what - that really chaps my ass!  Our exhibition is not only about reproduction (which includes both MALE and FEMALE to get that going - apparently they didn't have sex education in high school), but the scientific and ethical issues which are now facing 21st century parents.  The very generation which is bringing forth ground breaking therapies, 'growing' their very own children - that subject is unworthy and below them!  Lindsay Obermeyer's "Shadow Series: The Blues & Red Hot" Lindsay Obermeyer's "Shadow Series: The Blues & Red Hot" with Monica Bock's "Fluid/Sac/Cord" in foreground So, eh hum, I lose major respect for any sculpture male professor who judges an incoming artist on their gender.  Grow up Neanderthals! Open your eyes - you are outnumbered according to the world census records and you will not be pro-creating with anybody if you continue your male chauvinist pig attitudes.  Plus - you suck! I am so proud of each and every one of our artists included in "TAKE CARE" - we prove the addage - those that can DO -  Do. . .. finish that phrase on your own if you have the brain power. Left: Jeanette Mays "A.R.T. series" with Annette Gates "Colony" Series on Right Left: Jeanette Mays "A.R.T. series" with Annette Gates "Colony" Series on Right This crap makes me so tired.  There seems to be very little respect in America for artists' time and expenses that they 'in good faith' enact with very SLIM chances of success.  There are a few good apples out there - but the way we are treated in the USA is vastly different from artists in Europe.  On my recent travels in Europe, when I replied that I was an artist - the people practically bowed to me.  Yes - what we do - when it is done well - is sacred and deeply deserving of respect. Yes - I will make art no matter the price.  But does that mean I should be a pauper and GIVE AWAY for free what I have spent money studying to do - I pay for supplies - etc? It is all so very confusing as I also have many dreams for my children and their educations, which also cost money.  So - I'm back - I did receive a $1,000 grant to reimburse part of my expenses . . . so all in all, I am only about $2,000 in the hole for being part of Art Prize.  I am hoping this ends up being a marketing expense and that someone out there sees the value of Art In America - and can free themselves from any bias to art created by women.
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On Reading - Gillian Flynn's "DARK PLACES"

Ok - so I bought a new book [not true: I bought about 8 new books and 5 art journals] for vacation (which doesn't start until Friday).  dark places Here is the thing - I stayed up all night READING one of them (DarkPlaces by Gillian Flynn).  It qualifies as one of those, 'perhaps someone else had a worser (I know this is bad grammar) childhood than I (I know this should say 'me').  The point is, if you can forget my bad grammar, is that it has been a long time since I have been gripped by a book in this manner.  I have 'enjoyed' some and actually 'loved' others.  But this one - it is like the first time I read Augusten Burrough's A WOLF AT THE TABLE or Haven Kimmel's IODINE.  I was rocking, reading, and closing the book, turning off the light, turning the light back on, until 6:15 a.m.
PLEASE TELL ME I AM NOT THE ONLY PSYCHO NIGHT READER!           Hence - being in an altered state of stunned stupidity (or perhaps just otherworldness), I appeared at a 10:30 a.m. meeting with my web designer, which isn't until tomorrow.  um.  ding dang.  I blame this fugue on my altered literary reality. That is what I consider a good read.  To be so altered that I don't know, or really give a taco, what day it is.  Another sign - when you feel that you have only 2 toes on your right foot, like the main character.  Check - GOOD BOOK.  Sitting up rocking yourself - CHECK, good book - thanks Augusten and Haven!!   Kudos to Gillian Flynn for having the balls to write about a flawed, but -therefore- believable character.   This girl woman - Libby - is someone with twisted thinking, but is loveable at the same time.  Which, as you know - is my goal in life - to be the twisted soul that I am, but to be loveable (and, loving, of course). So, dear readers, who are all readers yourself - tell me, what is the last book that kept you up all night???  I'm just dying to know!   Other 'wee hours' of the morning books from my literary past: IT, THE STAND, INSOMNIA (how Ironic) - Stephen King I Know This Much is True - Wally Lamb  . . . . just to name a few!
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It's Official - Showing at Art Prize 2009, Grand Rapids, MI

Momentous day as contracts were finalized yesterday with Kendall College of Art & design (www.kcad.edu) for the exhibition of TAKE CARE!  TAKE CARE: The Art, Science & Bioethics of Motherhood (www.n-cap.org/take_care.html) will be on display in Gallery 114 at KCAD from September 23 - October 8, 2009. Artprize will provide a $250,00 grand prize to the artwork which receives the most public votes (visitors text their votes).  The top ten favorites will receive cash awards. So far, artists from around the world have entered and we are very encouraged to be in the first group of selections. Now we are rushing to update ourinformation for an up-to-date catalog which will be available during the event.  After Artprize, TAKE CARE will travel through 2013.  We are still scheduling venues, please contact us if you have any ideas about venues or curators who might be interested in exhibiting TAKE CARE. Please visit all the artists' websites, linked at the n-cap site, above. This process, from beginning to fruition has been one of persistence and commitment.  The first ideas of this exhibition were verbalized in 2006, artists were selected in 2007, and finally in 2008 some of the work was realized.  Marketing the exhibition has been a huge time commitment for Adrienne Outlaw (www.adrienneoutlaw.com) and myself . . . but as the reviews began coming in (see March/April archives), we started see the results of our ideas and confirmation of our groundbreaking viewpoints. So last night, Don and I celebrated with our friends and neighbors, Chad and Jennifer, by enjoying a gorgeous and delicious bottle of Primitivo Italian wine and some imported Sorrento Limoncello.  It was divine. Salute!
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Another Art Review for TAKE CARE!!!

Art Review by Ellen Wright Clayton, MD, JD

Rosaline E. Franklin Professor of Genetics and Health Policy, Professor of Pediatrics, Professor of Law, Director of The Center for Biomedical Ethics and Society at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center

 

Motherhood is about caring and connection. Recent developments present new challenges to this fundamental institution. Some of the developments are social. Women have always cared for other women’s children, especially since women until recently frequently died in childbirth.  Women historically confronted pregnancy, labor, and delivery with no small amount of fear.  Literature is full is stories about stepmothers, some of whom were wonderful, and a hopefully exaggerated proportion who were not. In today’s society, with divorce and remarriage, children often have two or more mothers at the same time, which can stress notions of the unitary family that characterize our society’s dominant discourse. Other developments are scientific. New technologies can enable pregnancies that otherwise would not occur.  Conception can be separated from carrying and birthing. The fetus can be visualized during pregnancy. Baby’s first picture is often a sonogram. And while blood ties have always had particular social salience, increased understanding of genetics has t ended to make them even more important. Not so long ago, efforts to establish paternity depended on whether the child looked like the father. Now the relationship can be established with certainty, using a blood sample or a simple swab of the inside of the cheek.

The artists in TAKE CARE explore the ways that social and scientific developments influence our understanding of motherhood, of connection and caring.  Sometimes, new knowledge of connection is beneficial. Take the case of mitochondrial DNA, the focus of Annette Gates’ work.  Unlike most of our DNA which comes from both parents, the DNA in mitochondria, the energy sources of our cells, comes entirely from our mothers. As a result, we are connected directly with our mothers, and their mothers, through generations. Maternal inheritance became important after hundreds of young professionals and dissidents were “disappeared” by the military regime in Argentina in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Their children were confiscated and placed in new homes, seemingly without a trace. But the grandmothers, the abuelas, enlisted the aid of Mary-Claire King who used the mitochondrial DNA to identify and return their grandchildren.

But the supremacy of genetic connection is not always so benign. New reproductive technologies allow many to overcome infertility, but often at a steep price. Some women experience the process of hyper ovulation, egg retrieval, and pharmacologic support of gestation as alienating, as transforming them into the objects of the medical gaze.  Jeanette May’s at times almost comical images of eggs serve as a counterpoint to quotidian pictures of women and sonograms. And yet women pursue these procedures specifically to create a family with children to whom they are biologically connected. Notably, while some women use donated eggs so that they can have the experience of gestation, it is far more common for women to implant and carry to term embryos created with their own eggs, evidencing the importance of genetic connectedness.

 

Our laws often enact the primacy of genetic connections. A number of courts have ruled that gestational surrogates, women who carry embryos created using the egg of another woman, usually the woman in the couple who commissioned the surrogacy, are not “mothers” of the resulting children and so have no basis on which to seek custody or contact. In these cases, the experience of pregnancy, with its risks,

discomforts, and obviousness, simply disappears as a matter of law.  Monica Bock’s inclusion of bits of umbilical cord, amniotic fluid, and the amniotic sac into dustpans perhaps symbolizes gestation as waste, of women as fetal containers. In our legal system, children are permitted to have only two parents no matter how many adults play a role in their lives, and those two parents have supremacy over all the others. In blended families, where the genetic parents separate from each other and then form new relationships, the new adults – the stepparents – can struggle to define their roles as parents, particularly as against the genetic parents whose claims once cemented by a modicum of nurture persist unless severed by abandonment or abuse. It is rage against the iconification of the genetic link that Kristina Arnold explores in her work. In her Drip installation, red glass pieces encased in hastily stitched plastic covers, protrude from the wall.

 

While behavior is almost surely the product of complex gene environment interactions, much effort has been devoted recently to dissecting the genetic contributions. Several years ago, for example, Caspi and his collaborators demonstrated that children with a particular genetic variant who were seriously abused during childhood were more likely to have serious behavior problems as adults. Such findings can be used in a variety of ways – to identify children who need special protection (although all children deserve a safe home), to identify druggable targets for treatment, to undermine the inadequate mothering explanation for children’s problems. Each of these uses raises its own ethical and policy challenges. As light dancing on Obermeyer’s beadwork shifts one’s perception of the work, so might new findings shift our understanding of behavior.

 

For millennia, women have worried that their children would be born with something visibly wrong. The ability to visualize the fetus using techniques such as ultrasonography and MRI has transformed pregnancy, providing the potential to make these fears concrete. These technologies can and often do provide reassurance, which is one reason ultrasound has become routine. At times, however, they reveal variations, some of which resolve but many of which are serious problems, leaving women with decisions about whether to continue the pregnancy, whether to undergo fetal therapy where possible, or whether simply to prepare for what may lie ahead. These concerns are represented in very different ways by Sadie Ruben and Libby Rowe.  Ruben represents the fetus as alien, strange, frightening, floating in liquid evoking amniotic fluid within the womb, taking over the woman’s body. Rowe’s malformed sock monkeys, by contrast, suggest that we are meant to accept and love children no matter what their challenges.

 

Finally, some of the artists comment on the technology itself. Sher Fick celebrates pharmaceuticals, which allow her to live. Her pill bottles are covered with fabrics, many of which show story book characters from our childhood.

 

Adrienne Outlaw intersperses colorful scientific videos of the embryonic heart and blood flow using such techniques as confocal microscopy with pictures of the dailyness of mothering and taking care – breastfeeding, snuggling, nurturing. The science is spectacular, but which is the more wonderful?

 

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TAKE CARE? Take Care!

 
 
 

Take Care? Take Care!

 
 
by Linda Weintraub www.lindaweintraub.com
  Motherhood is on trial. It is being tested by a dedicated and well-meaning corps of inventors, engineers, scientists, and doctors. Their technological achievements are designed to create and prolong life, but they are weighing upon "mother love," challenging "mother wit," and surpassing "mother instincts." Mutually loving relationships between mother and child are relegated to the background of the works of art in this exhibition. The emotional tenor that occupies their foregrounds is trepidation, anxiety, effort, and frustration. The triple meaning of the phrase that serves as this exhibition?s title reveals the nature of today?s disputed definitions of motherhood. Spoken softly, "take care" is an affectionate parting expression that conveys the desire to protect a loved one from harm. Uttered sternly, "take care" conveys the foreboding of danger. To actually "take care" of something or someone can either be burdensome or gratifying. The nine female artists in this exhibition apply the unresolved implications of this phrase to their personal experiences. Together they catalog a plethora of contemporary concerns.    
 
Annette Gates, Adrienne Outlaw, Sadie Ruben, and Jeanette May acknowledge the medical breakthroughs that offer women unprecedented options for fertility, prenatal screening, diagnostic testing, and extend fetal and infant survival. But they concentrate on the inadvertent and inevitable opportunities for anguish these technological advancements introduce. The ethical dilemmas they express in their works of art were unknown to previous generations of mothers.
Annette Gates returns to the instant of conception that has been occurring since the first multi-celled organisms arose on planet Earth. But her installation is a riveting reminder that unleashing this generative force may not be an occasion for celebration. Such concerns can be products of sophisticated technologies that make improbable outcomes appear like looming certainties. The harmless crocheting and knitting techniques that Gates employs to form her porcelain molecular sculptures are jarring contrasts to the dangers of tampering with life on the microscopic scale. Each component in her wall relief suggests irregularities in cell differentiation and unchecked multiplication during fetal development.   Adrienne Outlaw?s "Fecund Videos" require that the viewer peer into breast-like conical forms arranged across the wall in order to discover what fecund processes are referred to by the title. Alternative answers are presented in the form of tiny videos installed within each form. Some videos capture intimate scenes of babies suckling, fetal kicking, fingers fluttering, and a nursing mother?s breast draining. Others apply the word „fecund? to state-of-the-art microscopic imaging that probes the miniscule realms where new life stirs and takes form. The videos convey the complexity of reconciling advanced technological discoveries with the traditional role of mother as incubator, feeder, and nurturer of infants.   Sadie Ruben?s "Alien Fetus Series" presents a line-up of specimen jars containing in-uteri forms that resist objective scrutiny despite their sterile laboratory appearance. These curiosities elicit the squeamish apprehension that might accompany a collection of extraterrestrial creatures, not the research of an Earth-bound scientist. None of the sculptured fetus forms appear normal. They are either humanoid, mammaloid, reptile-oid, fungoid, or some other bizarre deviation from norms of life on Earth. The work confronts views with the strange and unsettling frontier of contemporary genetic manipulations.   Jeanette May practices art, however she introduces an alternative meaning for the letters „a?, „r?, and „t?. In her work "Fertility in the Age of A.R.T.," these letters stand for Assisted Reproductive Technology. May explores this theme by creating complex assemblages of found images paired with borrowed texts. The visual world she constructs is shiny, colorful, but disturbingly engineered. While viewers observe a pregnant woman proudly displaying her protruding torso, a healthy cow, and infant toys, they also observe eggs that have been forced to assume the shapes of squares. The accompanying quotations track evidence of such intrusive procreative manipulations to health books, government reports, and advertisements. Kristina Arnold, Sher Fick, Lindsay Obermeyer, Monica Bock, and Libby Rowe present full disclosure of the emotional toll of high-tech, commercially-supported, media-sponsored motherhood. They articulate the dread of bearing a malformed or malfunctioning infant, the concern of adopting a child damaged by a harsh life experience, and the anxiety of being loved by a child that is not a biological offspring. They present these forms of adversity as opportunities to honor motherly courage, resolve and achievement.   Kristina Arnold?s "Fragile" series includes a relief comprised of individual dark red droplets of molten glass that appear to have cooled so abruptly that they congealed mid-way as they fell. Dozens of these hardened glass drips protrude precariously from the wall. Protection is feeble. It takes the form of clear plastic coverlets hastily stitched around their bases. The drips that cluster into units seem no less fragile. A brittle material presented in a threatened position is a poignant manifestation of motherhood at the breaking point. Arnold places her work within the context of the guilt associated with a mother?s yearning to reclaim her independence, the destructive effects of custody battles, the futility of providing protection, but also the persistent hope for resolution.   Sher Fick?s "Coping Skills" discloses the dismantling of her pre and post partum psyche. The focus, however, is not on mental unraveling. Fick?s work celebrates the success of her determined efforts to stitch the fractured parts of her personality into a coherent persona. This internal struggle is conveyed through the use of prescription drug bottles that are encased in soft flannel fabrics, the kind that are used for baby clothes. Idealized and sentimentalized images of childhood are printed on these tiny swatches of fabric. Hastily stitched together, they suggest the disorderly spontaneity of crazy quilts and the emergency suturing of emotional ruptures. One means of overcoming such mental anguish comes packaged in pill bottles. In this work, Fick defies the stigma against the use of prescription drugs to assist women in becoming responsible and loving mothers.   Lindsay Obermeyer chooses a sumptuous medium associated with wealth and celebration. She uses it to address the challenge of bonding with a child whose short life was devoid of opportunities to develop trust in others and confidence in self. Obermeyer portrays her daughter?s silhouette as an impenetrable barricade dividing flat empty fields of color from dense patterns that are meticulously stitched with beads, sequence, and embroidery. The care and patience required of mothers is embodied in the stitching process that formed this artwork. In "Blues," the surrounding swirls and stars appear to assault the figure. In "Red Hot," searing flames surge within the figure. Both works evoke the psychological blockade built of scars from a child?s damaging upbringing, and the adoptive mother?s determination to breach this divide.   Monica Bock removes procreation from the two contexts where it is usually situated. On the one hand she reclaims procreation from advanced technologies that probe the development of a fetus from its single-cell, microscopic origins. By preserving bits of the umbilical cord, the amniotic sac, and the amniotic fluid that her body created to give life to her daughter, she reaffirms the body?s primacy over technology. At the same time, she removes these relics of birth from the sacred context that shrouds them in mystery. By inserting these visceral remnants into the handles of dust pans, the birth of a child is joined to mundane tasks of cleaning. Bock cast the dust pans in glycerin, a sweet-tasting fat that conveys the twin sides of mothering: as an ointment it soothes; as a solvent it bonds.   Libby Rowe?s "Womb Worries" takes the form of stuffed monkeys that cannot be purchased. They are only available for adoption. In this manner Rowe teases out the difference between three forms of money exchange - purchasing a commodity, paying to induce fertility, and adopting a child. She then intensifies the emotional stress of deciding among these alternatives by rejecting the cherub-like perfection of Gerber and Gap babies. Rowe?s handmade dolls are afflicted with abnormal quantities of limbs, misaligned backbones, and distorted faces. Yet they are endearing, not grotesque. An official decree of adoption accompanies each adoptee. The temptation to sign a certificate is instructive. It reveals that opportunities to delight in mother love can be attained by caring for a mal-formed child.   The artists participating in "Take Care" confirm a distressing truth – today?s mothers do not appear to be bolstered by the collective wisdom of our species. Despite the fact that Homo sapiens have been bearing and raising children for over 100,000 years, motherhood in the 21st century remains a lonely experiment racing to keep up with procreative advances at the outposts of human accomplishment.    
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First Review of TAKE CARE: The Art, Science, & Bioethics of Motherhood

 

Written by Tonya Vernooy, Art Critic/Writer, 2009 for TAKE CARE: The Art, Science, & Bioethics of Motherhood Exhibition.

  

Scientific progress makes moral progress a necessity; for if man's power is increased, the checks that restrain him from abusing it must be strengthened.                                                                                                     -- Madame de Stael, 1835[1]

 

 

As molecular medicine, genetic manipulation, cloning, and stem cell research their rapid progress so too must the morality and ethics that assist in governing their boundaries. Through an examination of the gray area between enhancement and therapy, necessity and desire, parent and child, the nine artists participating in Take Care: The Art, Science, and Bioethics of Motherhoodreveal that there is no definitive right answer to the question of biotechnological advancement. It is the informed dialogue that is paramount. The political philosopher Michael J. Sandel writes, "Breakthroughs in genetics present us with a promise and a predicament. The promise is that we may soon be able to treat and prevent a host of debilitating diseases. The predicament is that our new-found genetic knowledge may also enable us to manipulate our own nature...to make ourselves 'better than well.'"[2] Caught in the middle of this is the mother whose fundamental need to create, protect, and support her offspring to the best of her ability has to contend with biotechnology's possible repercussions While scientists are driven by the aspirations of discovery and improvement, the artists serve as the cultural conscience, helping to explicate the complex and question the ramifications of a science that will pervade social, political, cultural, and self beliefs.

  

 

Both Sher Fickand Lindsay Obermeyer examine normality and the question of enhancement versus therapy. But what is normal? In May 2008 USA Today reported that 51% of Americans were taking at least one prescription drug for a chronic condition, a 50% increase since 2001. In 7 years time, maintaining a certain standard of health by taking daily medication had become the norm.  In Coping SkillsSher Fick constructed a table to hold all of the medication she has consumed in her "pursuit of physical and mental health;"[3]prescriptions that enable Fick to become, and remain, an attentive, present mother. The structure exists as both an altar and a vanity. The mirrored shelf implies a dressing table that might hold cosmetic goods. Yet, the artist challenges this notion by carefully encasing each medication in a finely made quilt with suture seams. The preciousness or fragility implied by these colorful coverings can be attributed to either the medication itself or, more likely, the medicine taker. The coverings themselves contain varied images of skulls, religious imagery, monetary symbols, band-aids, plant life, 1950s children playing, and Frida Kahlo, who suffered a tragic miscarriage.  The vibrancy and symbolism along with the altar itself suggest Dia de Los Muertos, a celebration that honors lost loved ones. Could it be that the artist is commemorating her past self and simultaneously rejoicing in the person these pharmaceuticals have allowed her to become?

  

 

Lindsay Obermeyer also deals with the pain and stigma of someone who requires medical and pharmaceutical intervention. Her fastidious beadwork enables the viewer to visualize the complexities of emotional and mental health care. All three portraits show her daughter in profile. In Shadow – Blues the internal silhouette is made up of clear crystals while contrasting shades of blue fly and swirl around her. She is completely still, unable to move, amidst a sea of activity; she feels empty, cold and alone. In the other portrait, Shadow – Red Hot, the pattern and complex beadwork take place within her profile; as if her mind and body are on fire. The world around her seems to melt away, again she is alone. In Voidthere is only her faint profile leaving the viewer asking: will her daughter ever emerge? Obermeyer's work calls out to the audience for help. The artist desperately wants to know if mood and mind altering medications will help or hurt. Are the trials and side-effects worth the possible outcome? Currently, geneticists are working on  prescriptions tailored to a patient's genetics, eliminating most trials and tribulations while opening up the door to enhancement possibilities. Nicolas Agar suggests this may become a slippery slope. "Some think that we should pass different moral judgments on enhancement from those we pass on therapy. They say that while therapy is justifiable, enhancement is not. The problem is that it is difficult to make the therapy–enhancement distinction principled. It is hard to find definitions of disease suitable to serve as a moral guideline for genetic technologies."[4]

 

 

The idea that our genetics will one day define our medical treatment is at once promising and scary. Everyone wants to be seen as an individual yet that individuality should not be an uncontrollable deciding factor in receiving health care and insurance or in becoming someone's companion, lover, parent, or child. In Kristina Arnold's Drip installation, the artist seems to be questioning how blood defines a person. The "drips" are dark red projections in clear plastic pouches with sutured edges, each unique in size and form, like individuals in a family.  The plastic pouches resemble microscope slides while each blood drip casts a long shadow on the white wall. These silhouettes of bloodlines are altered by light changes in the room, implying the coming changes in how a person is perceived as genetics becomes interchangeable with the definition of self. The self then becomes a commodity as Jeremy Rifkin, president of the Foundation on Economic Trends, predicted in 1998, "It’s likely that within less than ten years, all one hundred thousand or so genes that comprise the genetic legacy of our species will be patented, making them the exclusive intellectual property of global  pharmaceutical, chemical, agribusiness, and biotech companies."[5]While Rifkin's forecast proved over-eager, it certainly seems to be progressing. Stefan Lovgren of National Geographic wrote in October 2005, "A new study shows that 20 percent of human genes have been patented in the United States, primarily by private firms and universities." If one-fifth of our genetic material is owned by companies and colleges what does that leave for the individual? 

 

 

 

Focusing on the definition of self, Annette Gates creates porcelain organisms that are casts of originals; they are the structures left behind once the fabric shells have been destroyed in a firing process. The end result is an archetype, similar yet distinct from its mother. Within current cloning practices, where one de-nucleated donor egg is injected with another donor's genetic material, the end result is a clone with replicated DNA but this does not mean an exact duplicate. First, the genetic material from the donor egg does become a part of the clone, and second, as the clone matures the environment that created the original can never be the exact same thus its gene expression will vary. Gates' organisms tell tales of a fragile future where they cannot meet the expectations of the original; they are new conglomerations of old material. As the British philosopher, Jonathan Glover, points out, "There is the objection that a child created as a replica is treated, not as an end in himself or herself, but merely as a means."[6]Those means, he goes on to explain, can be the wish of a parent to live on after death or the desire to recreate a passed loved one. In the end the clones, like Gates' organisms, will always be fragile reproductions.   

 

Libby Rowe's Womb Worries series addresses the anxieties all mothers-to-be have when they prepare for a new life. Currently, genetic testing is still in its early stages, generally for upwards of only 14 genetic abnormalities. However, a laboratory at Baylor College of Medicine has begun trials for genetic testing that looks for 200 different genetic diseases. Its chair of molecular and human genetics, Arthur Beaudet, believes that this screening process will become routine in five years time. The Houston Chronicle reported, in December 2008, the issues surrounding such a test include potential false positives, which could lead parents to abort a healthy fetus, the implication that a life with a disability is not worth living and disparity between those who can and cannot afford such a test (it is currently $1600).[7]  It is interesting then that Rowe has chosen to use the sock monkey to convey her worries. The sock monkey was historically a working class child’s toy, made from red-heeled knit socks used by factory and farm workers. The artist has taken this toy and remade it for adults as either a cautionary tale or to highlight the possible horrors that await us if we don’t get tested. Although each monkey is still smiling, unaware of their abnormalities, ready for love, how is a parent supposed to care for a child that has two heads, one genital, and no legs? Like Paul McCarthy's Tomato Heads of 1994, whose "novelty item appearance hints at the manic consumerism of our theme-park utopias," Rowe makes us aware of the capitalistic culture behind these natural maternal anxieties.[8]There is no right answer, it is an individual choice, but one that is made for a price. As Richard Hayes, Executive Director of the Center for Genetics and Society, states, "We support the use of that [genetic screening] to allow couples at risk to have healthy children. But for non-medical, cosmetic purposes, we believe this would undermine humanity and create a techno-eugenic rat race."[9]

 

Whether through cloning or genetic manipulation, Sadie Ruben's Alien Fetuses ask if the aberrations that originate from gene expression errors are worth potential desired results. Her creatures' destinies are unknown as they sit, brewing – growing – within glass jars that seem to resemble pasta containers used in the kitchen rather than scientific vessels of experimentation. Ruben's fetuses are commenting on the commoditization of lab created embryos. The gold flecks adhering to their opaque, amorphous bodies indicate their precious worth. But we are left to wonder what happens to them if Ruben is unable to care for them? They are helpless and completely dependent upon human ministering. These beings can be seen as a critique of trendy hobbyists trying to genetically engineer life in their garage. With visions of becoming the Steve Jobs of biotechnology, laypersons are beginning to experiment with new life forms at home. A group known as DIYbio has begun a community laboratory where amateurs can explore their scientific ideas. Co-founder Mackenzie Cowell suggests that this type of unrestrained environment could lead to some very important discoveries. He added, "We should try to make science more sexy and more fun and more like a game."[10]But Ruben's fetuses tell a different story, one of a nebulous future where their lives are not entertaining rather they exist in a lonely laboratory.

 

This laboratory lifestyle could become a reality if Dr. Davor Solter, developmental biologist at the Institute of Medical Biology, is correct in his prediction of the future use of artificial wombs. He says, "In essence, it would eliminate all the limitations we have now: you could have as many or as few progeny as you want...I can visualize a fetus floating freely in fluid and the umbilical cord attached to a machine."[11]The work of Monica Bock questions the current and evolving value of the mother in our society as biotechnology advances. Bock's Afterbirth (Sac, Fluid, Cord) focuses on the importance of a mother's body in keeping her fetus alive and growing. Yet it is the placenta – whose sole function is to provide nutrients and oxygen from mother to child – that is so quickly discarded after the child is born. The three dustpans reference this quick disposal and hint at the possibility of life as a commodity. That they are three in number indicates birth, life, and death or mother, father, and child; all are easily swept away in the world of biotechnological progress if they do not meet decided standards.

 

 Embryo selection and enhancement is key to Jeanette May's investigation of a mother's role within these new biotechnological advancements. The artist's initial question seems to be: Is it not the mother's responsibility, nay, purpose, to want the absolute best for her children? The use of slick photography and poster-size imagery draw the viewer into a bright environment surrounded by happy, beautiful people, colorful plant life, and a consumer-happy lifestyle. Upon closer inspection, we realize that all is not right with this world. Eggs are forced into square molds, growing fetuses are compared to plants bred for certain characteristics and mommies-to-be are perusing magazines imagining their lives as Michael Kors advertisements. May's posters seem to ask: once society has screened for all possible defects, how long until we manipulate those genes to acquire certain traits under the auspices of having a "happier" life and the duress of "keeping up with Joneses"? The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Fertility Institutes of Los Angeles will soon offer its clients the ability to pre-select their "choice of gender, eye color, hair color and complexion, along with screening for potentially lethal diseases."[12]Is it the duty of the future mother to provide the best that technology has to offer for her children? Or is she turning her children into accoutrements?

 

Adrienne Outlaw continues this examination of maternal responsibility within the realm of advancing technology. The artist posits: How far should a mother go to protect her young? Does technology offer the best outcome for a child born today or tomorrow? In Outlaw's Fecund video series, electrified, metal breasts protrude militaristically from a white wall, each containing a unique video. The recorded imagery shows either the latest in biophysics research, such as green florescent proteins tracking tumor growth, or the natural tenderness that exists between a mother and her child, like a newborn baby breastfeeding.[13]As the viewer's get up close to the metal nipples to peer inside, similar to a breastfeeding infant, they become aware that the hard material of the bosom creates a distance between mother and offspring; technology seems to be getting in the way.    At the same time, however, the viewer is given a chance to see the amount of knowledge possible at the cellular level, thus parents may be given the opportunity to make sure their progeny's cell division is developmentally on target. The question then becomes one of what happens when a cell goes awry.  Is it a mother's duty to make sure that her embryos, her fetuses, have everything they will need to survive and succeed in the 21st century, even if that means genetic interference? Professor Ronald M. Green of Dartmouth College suggests that with gene manipulation we could live in a disease-free world, he asks, "Why not improve our genome?"[14]

 

While Sher Fick and Lindsey Obermeyer investigate the growing pharmaceutical role with advancing medicine, Annette Gates concentrates on the idea of the self within the world of cloning, Libby Rowe   and Sadie Ruben   examine the rights of the fetuses within genetic progress, and finally Monica Bock, Adrienne Outlaw, and Jeanette May explore the function of the mother within the biotechnological age. Through their artwork these artists explore the crucial social, economic, and ethical implications of biotechnological advancements and create a space for important dialogue. As Dr. Sirine Shebaya, Greenwall, Fellow in Bioethics and Health Policy at the John Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, writes, "The best way to avoid slippery slopes to bad outcomes is to have an informed, democratic discussion that takes into account both expert opinions and social values. We need regulations because scientists and the general public need clarity about what they can and cannot do, a convincing rationale for permissions and restrictions, and a voice in arriving at decisions with such important ramifications."[15]These artists are that voice.

[1]

De Stael-Holstein, Madame Influence of Literature Upon Society (
New York : William Pearson & Co., 1835)  

[2]   Sandel, Michael J. The Case Against Perfection: Ethics in the Age of Genetic Engineering. (

Cambridge , Mass: Harvard
University Press, 2007) p 5-6.
University Press, 2007) p 5-6.

[3]See Sher Fick's artist statement

[4] Agar, Nicolas, "Designer Babies: Ethical Considerations," ActionBioscience.org, American Institute of Biological Sciences, 2006.

[5]Rifkin, Jeremy. The Biotech Century (London: Phoenix, 1998), p.63.

[6]

Glover, Jonathan. Choosing Children: Genes, Disability, and Design (
Oxford : Clarendon Press, 2006) p. 65.  

[7] "

Houston
Chronicle Examines Prenatal Genetic Test That Can Detect More Than 200 Conditions," The
Houston Chronicle, December 24, 2008.  

[8]Rugoff,  Ralph, "Deviations on a Theme – works by Paul McCarthy," Artforum, October 1994.

[9]Steere, Mike, "Designer babies: Creating the perfect child," Cnn.com/technology, October 30, 2008.

[10]Wohlsen, Marcus, ""Hobbyists try genetic engineering at home: Critics worry amateurs could unleash an environmental or medical disaster," MSNBC.com. December 26, 2008.

[11]Pearson, Helen, "Making Babies: The Next 30 Years," Nature, Vol. 454, July 17, 2008, p. 260.

[12] Gautam Naik, "A Baby, Please. Blond, Freckles -- Hold the Colic:  Laboratory Techniques That Screen for Diseases in Embryos Are Now Being Offered to Create Designer Children," The Wall Street Journal, February 12, 2009, page A10

[13] Created in

collaboration with biophysicist Dr. David W. Piston of
Vanderbilt
University .
 

[14]Britt, Robert Roy, "Designer Babies: Ethical? Inevitable?" www.livescience.com, January 11, 2009.

[15]Shebaya, Sirine, PhD, "Are 'Designer Babies, on the Horizon?" www.scienceprogress.org, May 15, 2008.

 

 

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Eat Your Words - Museum Installation 2010

oh, speaking of “donating for art” - I am making this constant, never-ending sculpture of crazy-quilted prescription bottles - and I received hundreds (of bottles) from everywhere - you put out a call and the people will deliver!!! To the right you see the first stage of the prescription bottle installation - I sent our requests and I received envelopes and boxes from the following: Nancy Hayes, Julie Anderson, Lydia Weaver, Lydia Weaver's Whole Water Aerobics class, Dr. Nancy Kelker, Andrienne Outlaw, Alicia Beach, Lloyd and Shirley Curry.  I hope I haven't forgotton anyone! The point being is that we are RE-USING an item prior to its location in landfills, thus clogging up nature for hundreds of years.  We are not even melting them and reshaping them - we have found something useful to do with them in their current  discarded stated!!!!!  Pre-Cycling!!!   This is how the prescription bottle piece turned-  COPING SKILLS, 48"h x 53"w x14"d, wood, mirror-floored shelf, crazy quilted attached prescription bottles.  Honors the help that myself and others receive from altered mood and anti-anxiety pharmaceutical assistant.  I am thankful for the joy I can now have in my life because I am not a raging lunatic anymore! BE PART OF 'EAT YOUR WORDS'  My next “community” piece is going to be “Eat Your Words” - it will be an acrylic-suspended table, with all clear acrylic dishes/silverware/bowls, etc. and the “food” will be colored paper printed with hurtfully email messages which have been sent and/or received. This idea came about when I had a dream that I was cooking fried chicken breaded with shredded words (one of my personal icons in my work) . . . so if anybody wants that nasty email from Uncle Fester to be part of the piece, email me a copy of said emails (you can edit names or addresses, but the papers will be shredded/cut) to: sherfickart@gmail.com with “Eat Your Words” in the subject line If you prefer snail mail:  Sher Fick, 1023 St. Hubbins Drive (Studio), Spring Hill, TN 37174   Such as:  an entry might look like this: To: sherfickart@gmail.com From: joejones@jonesy.com    (provide real name and address if you want to be listed in the exhibition catalogue - your name won't be with your words submitted, and REMEMBER the worlds will be shredded! Re:  Eat Your Words Installation "Well, I hope you feel good about yourself now that you made Granny cry on HER birthday.  Who do you think you are.  What gives you the right to take the attention away from Granny just to say you are pregnant with another brat.  You are getting too big for your britches, Girl!  You better watch yourself.  You gonna steal all Granny's money cause she feel sorry for you.  Over my dead body". I will also give credit to all donators in the exhibition catalogue, so send your name, address, with email along with it, so I can keep you posted and give credit where credit is due! Feel free to pass this information along - the more the merrier - and this series might take on a life of its own and last as long as the prescription bottle one - i.e. - my whole life! When Adrienne did her last piece (Shelter, see http://www.adrienneoutlaw.com ) we had hundreds of volunteers . . . it is amazing to do community projects. I believe that with eat piece of paper that is donated, that we can erase those negative words from our minds as they will be ritualistically shredded and then used as a piece to great a fantastic social-interactive event.
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Biology vs. Biography - Epiphany 1 of 2009

It hasn't taken me long to experience my first epiphany of 2009. During a recent interview I was asked several questions which I answered separately and honestly.  Afterward I was re-thinking my answers and realized what I multiple-personality-disorder I must sound like.  My life, and therefore my past, has been so bifurcated! On one side I have the genealogy of being a descendant of James Cahill who was on the boat with George Washington - that family declined through the years but made a comeback in the 1900's with entrepreneurial spirit, that was my paternal grandfather's paternal side.  All of my birth father's half brothers went to college or an official trade school and had careers.  One of them is a multi-millionaire.  So I was the 2nd generation of college graduates on that particular branch of the family.   Above: Here is a photo of my father (Walter Hugh Creekbaum, born 1941) with his parents: Mabel (Wiatt) (Creekbaum) Barlow and Emery Wilson Creekbaum, born 1917.  Mabel and Emery divorced before Walter's 1st birthday.  They both married again and had many half-siblings for Walter.  He was shuttled back and forth his entire childhood.  This impacted his life to this day. Flip this to my maternal grandparents, my maternal aunts and uncles, and you have a completely different story.  Also, my own parents divorced before I was a year-old and I was only sporadically exposed to this educated branch (although I saw my paternal grandfather and his wife once in a while, my father's half-siblings on that side never went out of their way to maintain contact with my sister and me while we were children).  Anyway, on the maternal side I do not know of one of the previous generations' college education.  I have one uncle that was brave enough to leave Indiana and have a great career in the Navy and I am sure he received lots of training there.  However, to my knowledge it was the generation of children born in the '60's and 70's (my generation) who first attended, and graduated, college.  Many of us attended only as adults after starting our families.   Yet, I have this far reaching experience from my Unce Jimi Barlow and (the late) Aunt Karen Barlow Alexander, my birth father's half-siblings on his mother's side.  They were both educated right out of high school and showed my sister and I the greater world.  From an early age I can remember staying with them and reading great classics.  My birth father, though he did not attend college, is extremely intelligent and is a voracious reader.  I spent many Summers of my late youth and teenagers years living with them and experiencing the lives of educated, career-paced individuals. To the left is a photo of a typical Sunday afternoon at the farm of maternal GRANDFATHER, Stephen E. Abernathy.  Many cousins frolicked and wreaked havoc on the 52 acre farm in rural, west-central Indiana.  This is about half the Abernathy siblings and half the offspring.  Center is Grandpa, in his 'bibs' - a WWII hero how took custody of my mother and her three siblings when he returned from Germany.  As a toddler to early teen, my mother was raised by a stepmother who died when she was was a teen.  Soon after, her birth mother died and she had never been allowed a private visit.  After Grandpa's last marriage, adding in a few more siblings - the total was 13.  Mother moved out upon her 18th birthday.  Married at 19.  Had my sister at 20.  Since then she has worked non-stop.     I don't know exactly where this leads me, but recognizing the vastly opposing history of my familial branches really struck a chord with me.  I feel I may be a good example of the balance of the auto-didactic and the formally educated.  Each approach enhances the other.  While I deeply regret my adult $20,000 student loans, I would never trade that mere piece of paper for my mountain of knowledge that I learned through the curiosity of a creative mind. Above right, is the photograph taken in 1981 during my sister and my visit to Texas, where all of Mabel's family and offspring had relocated at that time.  From left to right: Uncle Jimi Barlow, an award winning journalist (Walter's half-brother), my sister Lisa (before her Sr. Year of High School), Aunt Karen (Barlow) Alexander, a speech therapist and author who died of breast cancer five years ago (Walter's half-sister), me at age 12 (I am hiding a cast and had 50 plus stitches in my head from a three wheeler accident that morning, I think I was high on Tylenol 3!), my birth father, Walter Hugh Creekbaum - he lived in TX for several years before relocating to Bradenton, FL.   I pay homage to both sides of my genealogy.  These ancestors and recent life mentors have made me who I am today.  I appreciate my education, possibly more than those who felt they were 'owed' it, because I longed for and sacrificed to receive it. And I humbly thank the relatives that took the time and money to expose me to the wider world.  Perhaps they saw in that child, some potential for a better life.  Who I am - is equal parts biology and biography.  I continue reaching for balance in both areas and to pass along the beneficial lessons, while hoping the inheritance of broken families will not adversely effect my children. On the right - a photo of my sister, Lisa and me, probably taken Feb/March of 1968.  Right before our father left. Although I had a brief marriage in in the late 90's (1987-1990), I was lucky enough to get out of that situation and have now been with my husband, Don, for 18 years.  We have three children who are almost alone in their status of being raised by both their biological parents.   To the left is a beautiful picture of my mother - the resemblance is uncanny.  Here smile is still just as wide and warm and her eyes still sparkle. After a long life of working endless days she will be retiring in just a few weeks.  I am looking forward to seeing her for more fun times - hoping to take her to see Loretta Lynn's Museum and also go on an antiquing/quilt viewing trip to Paducah, KY. ---- I feel that I am amazingly OK given the broken branches of my family.  I hope I am reastablishing some nurturing roots for my children - understanding our histories is one step along the way to evolving and preventing damage. As I continue to untangle my roots, I do know that IT IS WELL, WITH MY SOUL - EVEN SO, IT IS WELL WITH MY SOUL.
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Tooting My Own Horn

It's my birthday, so I am giving myself a present -   The Right To Toot My Own Horn. Here are a few quotes from messages I have received in recent months about my artwork . . . as I deeply respect both of these authors, I am stunned and humbled to be lauded by their beauteous words!

I.

"You are an art magician.  What you do is spiritual alchemy made manifest"      - Suzanne Finnamore, Best-selling author of Split, Zygote Chronicles, Old Maid and others. www.finnablog.blogspot.com Sher's Response to Suzanne:  You are a goddess among women - you have the wicked tongue and cool bangs of a true lioness.  I would love to have you in my pack of wandering four-leggeds - after we have all reincarnated from our current, sharp-as-a-tack selves.  We can howl at the moon from all corners of our earth - ye from the west, self from the south, and blade from the easterly region, I'm not sure if Kate Cake qualifies as northerly (we might need to subsitute Jim Shue as our northern sister kin as he is closer to the North Pole). . . or maybe Brandon, I need help on the 4th! Your Prayer Flag is blowing crimson in the fluffy falling snow (calling you home to North Carolina, I hope).  If I can FIND my camera amongst my boughs of holly, I will take a shot and send it forth . . . (um, I might need a week for that).

II.

" . . . this is what I want to say: you are not merely gifted technically, you have endowed those pieces with such heart-sweetnessI wanted to cry. My daughter and sister will see what I meant them to see: a touch beyond dimensionality, as fragile and sublime as the butterfly wings and the words of grief behind them. Your heart is there, and as a person who tries to never shy away from putting my own heart in my work, I see it and I offer you my deepest respect and gratitude. I know I am a loony as a religious person, but I do believe we are here to enrich the space we’re given, and you have done that; I thank you. Thank you sincerely".     - Haven Kimmel, Best-selling author of A Girl Named Zippy (as well as She Got Up Off the Couch [sher's favorite memoir], Something Rising Light & Swift, The Solace of Leaving Early, the Used World, and Iodine, and several children's books). www.havenkimmel.com Sher Responds to Haven: I can barely respond to your comments because they mean so much to me.  From the moment I read the first sentence of Zippy I felt you KNEW ME, that we had lived parallel lives of some sort, not only with the back story/region, but especially with your lighthearted SENSE of HUMOR which slays me - and then to discover the deep spiritual truths and depths of your writing - which reveals your soul in all its glory. Thank YOU.  I hope to continue to live up to your authenticity.  I can't think of anything adequate to say . . . so . . . Appreciatively to BLADE from LANCE, May we slay all the beasts in the nether-worlds,
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7 Before 7 Feature Artist - Sher Fick & Writing/Marking Workshop = ART

I was so lucky to be invited as a Feature Artist in Jules Sterp's 7 Before 7 Blog Review http://blaine.org/sevenimpossiblethings/?p=1461#comment-61390 It was quite an honor and the page turned out beautifully - thanks so much!  MY ART WEEK: This has been a busy "art" week with last Friday's opening at the Renaissance Center in Dickson, TN for their Regional Exhibition, plus electrician in the studio working on the new lighting and expanded outlets (encaustic work uses A LOT of electricity), and to cap off the week, I attended a great workshop with my art buddy, Aletha Carr (www.alethacarr.com) at the Nashville Public Library.  It was co-taught by Ellen Rust (a poet/educator www.awakeningthewriter.com ) and visual artist Sue Mulcahy (whose work/series "Open To The Night" is now on exhibit at the library gallery).  We began with responsive mark making using graphite.  We learned to express, through marks, the sound of music and the smell of ginger, lemon, banana.  It was enlightening to view the similarities of another artist's expression of the same sense.  At left is my exercise, directions were: beginning with graphite mark, create a lifeline without lifting the graphite from the surface.  I began in the lower right hand corner, dragging and twisting the graphite to create "blooms" which represent my children and other major relationships, as I near the end at the upper left, my line becomes stronger and more focused - a direct correlation to my life. Following a lovely lunch from the Provence Cafe, we began the writing responses, writing free-style about objects provided (roots/pine cone/antler, of which we chose one) and a word ticket drawn from an envelope (I used root and the word "good"). Here is my response to the visual image of the ROOT and my word ticket/GOOD: Roots can be good. Roots can be bad. Fed from the well where I am found. Layers upon layers, filtered through time. Good for cleansing or poisoning the vine. Good for growth - spreading wide, Infiltration, rooted in time. Knotted and twisted, grasping for air - held in the hands of earth's mellow fair. Tangled and battered, growing and spreading - tripping me up, trials above. Roots condescend and fed with bile, cutting them out can take quite a while. Pulling and digging, Cutting, then mending, Roots can be good, but mine are offending. Offending the nurture needed and expected, tainting the cord of mother to child. Uprooting the past to discard in time. Toxic.  Burning.  Poisonous vine. Uprooted now, seeking new earth, re-birthed and replanted - unrooted divine Free now to spread, to grow and to grasp. Now unencumbered of poisonous past. Growing inward and outward, Good has been summoned, sweetness of new water erasing the past. Antidote found. Time will allow, roots will hold onto good things that last. Roots will refine, no longer confine. After several responses we adjourned to the gallery and wrote responses to various of Sue Mulcahy's Exhibit http://www.tennessean.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080921/ENTERTAINMENT0507/809210326/1069/ENTERTAINMENT05 and then shared with one another. Here is my response to Sue Mulcahy's "Close Is Not Enough" drawing: Internal scapes Chasms divide Peering at memories Revealing and reveling Veering forward Pulled from the past Grasping transcendence Clasping remnants. Traversing Dissolving Signposts and markers misleading, benign. Sequence chaotic Silhouetted and open deluge divine Unbalanced, then broken Sutured and knifed Evoking wholeness bound by time. I attempted another response to "Open To The Night": Veiled in the darkness Formless and thick. Coating the earth Clinging and clawing. Queries are spoken Descending and dim Near far remembrance echo and utterance Filtering bright sky meets earth horizon enlighten breaking the dearth the spirits soaring and sighing Upward and outward absorbing moments cradling time unseen, unspoken protected from site needless emotions bound and unbroken +++++++++++++++++++++++++ It was an amazing day shared by all.
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Deathbed Wish/3M/Haven Kimmel's Iodine

My deathbed wish:  To be read to from my collection of books (many of which I have purchased in hardback) - the highlighted and/or underlined text ONLY. 

 

I quit listening to audio books while driving as I have had several near accidents while trying to write down a phrase or wording.  Why words at my deathbed, in lieu of visual art?  I struggled with the choice to focus on writing or visual art – the visual art won out only because it was more tactile and I have learned to merge my love of both. 

 

Assuming I will be so sick as not to be able to paint (and it is the process I love more than the product) - words won!

 

3M must be very excited that Oprah recommended the “flag highlighters” – here is a side view of the newest Kimmel book, Iodine.  A lot of the highlights are for books or authors she mentioned that I want to research further - I just LOVE how intelligent Trace/Ianthe was, it is that teetering on genius/insanity that intrigues me.

 

The dynamic of the world of academia vs. the "real" world is another that hit "home" with me - I used to go to college and just immerse myself there - it would be months before people knew I had children (they saw the car seats in the van).  I was just so being a student that I wanted those worlds separate.  I wanted to focus 100 percent on motherhood at home and 100 percent on learning when at school (I was in college from age 28-38, off and on, finally graduating in 2006, twenty years after high school).

This novel awaits my second reading (I'm still catching my breathe and research on lots of the references so that I can fully take it in).  This might be my most "marked" book ever.  Need I say more – my loved ones might just have to read the entire novel to me on referenced future deathbed (I’m going to be totally fried if I die in an accident vs. a long, drawn-out illness) . . . I’ll miss so much!

 

Enjoy (not a slight, but also Endure, Iodine);

It is worth every gasp,

For Art's Sake,

sher

PS Haven, if this isn't your "horror" novel, I have to say I am "afeared"!

 

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Beauty: By-Product of the Grotesque

A Review of Alicia Beach's TRAPPED Exhibition In much the way birth is the by-product of gore, so is beauty the by-product of the grotesque. On view at 1010 Gallery in Knoxville last weekend was University of Tennessee/Knoxville Graduate Sculpture Student Alicia Beach's TRAPPED exhibition.  The entire gallery consisted of several components of related installations: a structure built to resemble a decrepit smokehouse filled with organic remains, a live-feed projection of activity within said structure, and several sculptures suspended within the show windows. Beneath the aroma of decay was a loamy, earthy scent of fecundity.  From decay life is reborn and I was reminded of the scent of compost.  The byproduct of the projected, real-time art interaction on the projection was dreamy, mysterious and unknowable.  Taken from above, within the structure, the images provided a bird's eye view of the suspended matter and the heads, gesturing hands and moving feet of the viewers. The structure was worn metal and wood haphazard in its structure and neglected in its maintenance; an earth-like dark substance smooshed beneath your tread as you reluctantly ventured into the structure.  Within the structure you came face-to-face and body part-to-mysterious body part of decaying flesh, "bone" and entrails (a subsequent conversation with the artist revealed that all the objects were created from hair, 150-feet of animal intestines [sausage casings], and other organic materials).  Sporadically lit from all angles, above and below, the sometimes-translucent skin-like materials glowed from within while others absorbed the light in their eerie matte-ness and density. The fragility of the remains juxtaposed the hardness of desiccation and petrification . . . records of time passed to the susceptible shells of life. The confrontation of the senses was reactionary . . . the revulsion of many viewers (down to the nose-holders and "ewwww!'s") might have taken over some artistic recognition, but that might be what separates some of the animals from the beasts?  I'm glad I saw both; my appreciation for the by-product is greatly enhanced by my experience of the process.  Just as the baby is separate from the birthing process . . . Alicia Beach has brought forth an exquisitely human product. Questions to ponder on art:  if the by-products (projections and photographic stills) are removed from the installation (and I might even say true performance art) which part is the "art?"  Is the by-product just a record of the event?  These viewers were activated by experiential senses (smell), which could not be re-created without the objects themselves (can you "record" smell???) - these issues continue to be queried on all levels of contemporary art.  Art knows no boundaries and the debate itself increases the value and appreciation. Do we need to see the birthing process, or don't we?  As an artist, I truly enjoyed the evidence of nature's process.  After reading the Artist's Statement, my assessment is that: a) the artist successfully recreated a childhood encounter (of coming upon a smokehouse filled with animal remains, dripping blood, and overwhelming desiccation - and then realized the animals were from the "family" of her woodland friends), and b) that the by-products of her recreation can stand up to the Is It Art???? Interrogation.  I cannot recreate the olfactory experience for you . . .  but please find some visual remnants of the experience. Below is a photo of artist, Alicia Beach (on right), with a friend outside the gallery.
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Interview with Artist Libby Rowe

FICK:  HOW DID YOU FEEL SEEING YOUR YEARS OF IDEAS AS A WHOLE, MADE TANGIBLE IN YOUR DESIGNED ENVIRONMENT?
This show represents relatively new ideas in respect to the overall body of work entitled "Pink".  Most of these ideas have been conceived within the last 2 years and were conceived of to work together in this exhibition.  I am pleased with how these specific pieces communicate with each other.  I have been working on "Pink" since 1996.  I knew, eventually, there would be enough pieces to really make a conversation about being female.  With this exhibition I feel I have finally hit a critical mass in this work.
FICK:  DID YOU REALIZE ANY FURTHER CATHARSIS IN THE CREATION OF THE WORKS THAT YOU DIDN'T EXPECT? Hmmm...there are always some pleasant surprises.  I normally have a pretty good idea of how a piece will look/function before I can even begin the physical making process.  I would say that with some of these pieces, I took a bit of a leap of artistic faith.  The web ["Web of Lies"], for instance, began as a pretty straight forward idea.  To begin, I sent an email out to women who have participated in my work in the past - friends, family...asking them to send me a lie they tell themselves.  I expected different levels of commitment to the internalization of that request.  Everyone is in a different place after all.  I was surprised at how deep some women went and that they were willing to share that with me.  The piece took on a deeper poignancy.    Ultimately, I am pleased with the final piece and am excited about it being filled with lies that eventually cover the web itself. 
"It Sucks" Diptych is another one that ended up holding more meaning than I first thought it could.  For me there was a lot there, but I didn't know if it would translate to other people.  Most of my work comes from my own experiences, so they are really personal on some level.  That often becomes second to the physicality of the piece as it ends up. I am coming to understand the opportunity [of participation] that is embedded in my work.  Not everyone takes advantage, but those who do make the work that much richer.
FICK:  DO YOU HAVE MORE IDEAS FOR ADDITIONAL PIECES OR SERIES WHICH WILL BE OFF-SHOOTS OF THIS EXHIBITION?
I started using myself in my photographic work as an undergraduate at the University of Northern Iowa.  During Grad School I went all out and did a series of photographs that really put me out there.  I haven't done that so blatantly since then.  I seem like a pretty outgoing person, but getting back on the horse, so to speak, was a challenge.  One of the things that has always interested me in this work is facing my own taboos and demons.  I never ask a viewer to take part in a piece that I haven't done myself.  I believe this is why people are so willing to participate in my work.  Without total exposure, total honesty on my end, I can't expect it from them. 
How does it feel?  It is nerve-wrecking, exhausting and exhilarating at the same time.  I guess younger generations should just take risks and be OK with failures when they happen.  I have been interested by many comments from people who are younger who seem to be getting the message, before seeing my work.  The feminism challenge ebbs and flows.  I would like to see them figure out how to stop the ebb, those decades where we move too far backwards.  I try not to be preachy about my feminist/humanist beliefs, with the work or in talks/interviews.  I have my beliefs, one of which is that you can draw more flies with honey than with angry feminist diatribes...wait, is that how that one goes?  My main goal is to get people to think about what they believe, where their beliefs come from, [and] possibly change along the way.
Libby Rowe is a Professor of Photography at Vanderbilt University.  Her exhibition "PINK" is on view at the Leu Gallery, Belmont University, through March 6.
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Pink - Art Review of Libby Rowe's Recent Exhibition

Opening on Jan. 30, 2008 - Libby Rowe's PINK exhibition was a great success.  Filled with participating viewers, PINK was more performance art than observatory.  For artist's statement and additional images, see www.libbyrowe.com . It was exciting to see an exhibition so thoroughly evaluate what it means to be a woman and how society has effected the outcome of girls and the subsequent lives of future women, and thereby their future generations.  The recent exhibition http://www.wackatnmwa.org/  WACK!  covers female artists from 1965-1980.  Should anyone ever curate an exhibition of female artists, of which I am waiting with baited, anticipatory breathe, from our contemporary times, Libby Rowe deserves a spot! Visually ROWE covered every aspect for the impact of PINK - from the strings on the labels for WEB OF LIES to the authentic glass shelving which displays the embellishments for LEARNING FEMININE - SISTERS, to the hue of ink on the labels, every detail was deliberate and successful.      Overseeing the entire environment were two LIBBYs, one her everyday persona: wife, teacher, artist, daughter, and friend, which frequents the artistic venues of Nashville and Vanderbilt to a new, renovated LIBBY: "costumed" in a vintage pink and black polka dot dress which she fashioned herself, to her tidy heels and pantyhose - she was feminized literally from the crown of her head (beauty-shopped hair) and makeup, to her pedicured toes.  The transformation from the androgynous everyday LIBBY to the 50's ideal of womanhood LIBBY was historically recorded via video and photography which became part of the series. In the piece, IT SUCKS, Rowe is concentric with artist Catherine Obie, www.gladstonegallery.com www.regenprojects.com, as recently exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum of Art*.  Please keep in mind, however, that ROWE's artwork stands on its own, separate from the box of feminist art.  One paints/writes/acts what one knows, in this way ROWE has provided a clear biological and biographical microscope into the mind of a specific era of humans - those raised by unknowing conformist baby boomers.  Such parents still cling to the ideals of "Leave It to Beaver" and "Father Knows Best" families - thus setting themselves and their children up for crisis's of identity.  This identity issue can be manifested in many ways - ROWE provides us with an analytic, female version of an artistic soul.  The main question in PINK is: what, TODAY, defines feminine???  In our societal quest for tolerance, this question and answer is no longer gender based.  Just as an artist wishes to be judged on the merits of their work/lives/worldviews - so, too, do individuals -  regardless of their race, gender, social status, or religion.  We are lucky that ROWE provides in her artist's statement an open and clear view of her individual experiences and philosophies.  These insights provide the viewer with direct lines of understanding.  PINK is a documentary of her quest to understand her own femininity and to redefine it for her future.  Many contemporary artists prefer ambiguity - with ROWE, what you see is what you get.  This is one of the most refreshing aspects of her work.  The deeper experience comes when you follow her pointing finger to the broader connections leading to societal, political, and, YES!, feminist agendas.  It is notable that during the participatory phase of CHIN UP (wherein the viewer becomes a willing participant in choosing a pair of pink, high heel shoes [provided in sizes 5 -13], and walks a PINK line across the gallery, turns, and returns to the starting point, all the while precariously balancing white dishware on their heads; in the event of failure, the viewer/participant/enactor is allowed to clean up after themselves by using a pink-handled broom, sweeping the remnants of their failure into a communal pile).  This was the strongest metaphor - that the failures (and successes) of all are irrevocably related to the whole - that singularity can be both celebrated and understood, literally supported and assimilated into the whole.  Many males participated - it was unnerving to view a male college student and a young boy practicing the roles that have been forced upon females for millenniums - willingly and with humor.    Blake Glopkin stated, regarding feminist art in his April 2007 "What is Feminist Art" article in the Washington Post, ". . . [i]t pushed instead for work that talked about crucial issues in the world outside. Ever since feminism, in all areas of art making, the message has mattered as much as the medium." I couldn't state more clearly that feminist art is not a contained, unattached "ism" within art - all humans are products of some female, thereby relating feminist art 100% to the entire human race.      (My personal favorite - the Participatory Web of Lies) *Brooklyn Museum of Art contains one of the only databases of feminist art, The Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, www.brooklynmuseum.org/eascfa/feminist_art_base/ (note: any mistakes on titles or intent are solely the fault of me, the writer!  This review is my interpretation of PINK - there were so many more thoughts on individuals pieces, this is just the tip of the iceberg - I hope you enjoy exploring Rowe's artwork through my eyes).
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Self-Expression in Art

Quite Contrary, 2007 by Sher Fick (encaustic on board, paintbrush)
Creating art is ultimately a healing process of self-expression, self-evaluation, and self-discovery.  Art can be manifested in many ways: writing, painting, sculpting, acting, performing, teaching, and reaching out through charity.  With this broad definition we realize that the mere act of breathing can be considered a form of art.  In our day-to-day communications, person-to-person, parent-to-child, friend-to-friend, and down through the chain of life, we are developing ourselves, which will lead towards a becoming, of our final masterpiece and legacy, the circumference of our human existence. "None of us really changes over time, we only become more fully what we are" (Rice, 248).  Travail and adversity merely proves to our spiritual soul that we are alive, "we bleed just to know we're alive" (GooGoo Dolls).  By experiencing our lives more fully, breathing deeper, feeling more joy and pain; one can begin to have the information from which to draw forth creativity.  By allowing the pain and joy to have an outlet through any form of art, we facilitate healing from the pain and increase the capacity for more joy in our lives.  The roller coaster can peak only as far as it plummets. Any art form is about the self-expression of the artist in question.  While the viewer might find a particular artwork to be morally offensive and degenerate (for instance, Mapplethorpe's photography of young children in seemingly sexually exploitative environments and poses), is it society's job to judge whether "right" or "wrong?"  One can only speak for oneself in these matters.  Such emotionally relative considerations are personal choices and society should trust individuals to decide for themselves - whether they wish to support a controversial artist with their personal funds.  The pursuit of self-release and healing in the act of creating art should never be censored by any society, religion, or political forum.  Only the financial support of such art is a valid concern. By reaching a conclusion that art is a form of expression, a facilitator of communication of human emotion and concern, we see that an entire world is open for interpretation.  Before judging art, you should consider from where the art is coming.  An artist's statement is always helpful in this regard, however, an artist statement is not always provided.  So, then, how do we judge the intent of the artist? One way is to set up a list of assumptions which can be used to fill in the missing information from the artist.  Obviously, making art is sacred to the artist or he/she would not be doing it (I'm excluding commercial/decorative art here, which is produced for the masses as a product).  Also, we know that our forms of communication are reflective of our pasts.  Our language, habits, beliefs, and symbols have to do with our life's journey, so by identifying these mannerisms we can begin to communicate with the artist through their artwork. By celebrating the mere act of an artist's ability to even attempt to express themselves through the visual and audio worlds, we can reach a level of understanding towards the artist.  This is not to be misconstrued as agreement with an artist's style or subject matter, but merely respect, tolerance, and acknowledgment of the artist's human right to express him/herself in the manner in which he/she chooses. Many draw a line when the artist might involve others in their creative process.  If others might be injured (physically or emotionally) through the act of creativity, then we have reached a moral atrocity.  Hitler's form of art, his experimentation with human life, is morally reprehensible, few would argue that fact - it is astounding to realize he began his young adulthood attending art college - unsuccessfully, I might add.  Had he reached a level of self-expression which leads to self-healing, earlier in his life, it is possible he would not have become the monster he himself created. "Human beings casts their own shadows" (Sister Wendy), by accepting responsibility for the creation of their inspirations, by sharing with others an inner doorway into their souls, all artists (all humans) can explore and share spiritual healing and greater joy.  Only by observing other artworks, and continually increasing their bank of techniques and knowlegde, can an artist draw forth additional insights which will increase their own ability of self-expression and self-healing. A true friend is love with understanding.  Art and all of its forms can be considered as friends of our soul's ultimate desire. Works Cited: Rice, Anne.  The Vampire Lestat, quote from character Lestat, Bantham, New York, 1986. Goo Goo Dolls, City of Angels Soundtrack, 1998. PBS Special, Sister Wendy's History of Painting, Volume II (Renaissance Art), 1996.
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