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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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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Integrating the Liberal Arts, Education, and Human Potential (Part III)

By representing oneself and one's creative outlet, it can be learned to respect others and their forms of expression.  Abuses against others, including animals and children, would be eradicated in general.  In addition, by each individual's ability to self-nurture and self-respect, instances of physical ailments and emotional neuroses will also diminish. These physical and emotional ailments can be directly related to repression and denials which can be expressed and embraced through practicing the arts.  Science has proved through the study of psycho-neuroimmunology that the mind and body are unequivocally connected.  Thosed emotional concerns, which are not dealt with and settled in the spirit, will adversely effect the physical health of the individual.  Conversely, if one is taught ways in which to EXpress them as opposed to REpress, we know that physical health and wellbing will be established and maintained.  Your body is an instrument that sends messages to your mind, illnesses are to be considered wake-up signs and warning signals of underlying emotional concerns. Friedrich Nietzche reminds us that "[t]he role or purpose of art is to enhance life . . . to increase . . . the concentration and force of the vital spirit" (Barzun 123).  By nurturing our creative consciousness, more meaningful and long-lasting solutions will be found for the world's ills.  "Through the arts we learn to see our environment more clearly; to sense its color, song, and dance; and to preserve its life and quality (Panel 3-4).  Our "pursuit of happiness" needs to include our relationships with others and the world in which we live.  The world does not revolve around any human individual; indeed, we evolve within our world. Through the integration of arts in our everyday lives, the world can be changed to one in which full human potential may be achieved.  A world in which every species has an equal opportunity to reach and fulfill their intrinsic purpose of being.  The arts are one form in which humans may be utilized as healers and teachers of the universe. Copyright 1999 by Sher Fick, all rights reserved. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ WORKS CITED AND REFERENCED Ackerman, Diane.  "Why We Need to Play", Parade, Daily News 25 April 1999:12-13. Barzun, Jacques.  The Use and Abuse of Art, (The A.W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts, 1973), Princeton University Press, 1974. Carbonetti, Jeanne.  The Tao of Watercolor, A Revolutionary Approach to the Practice of Painting, Watson-Guptill Publications, New York, NY, 1998. Frida Kahlo.  Dir(s) E. Herson, R. Guerra and W. Von Bonin, RM Arts, 1983. Gaines, Susan.  "The Art of Living", Better Homes and Gardens, March 1999: 58-62. The Getty Center for Education in the Arts.  Arts for Life, videocassette copyright 1990, J. Paul Getty Trust. Mellencamp, John and Green, George M.  Your Life is Now, Compact Disc "John Mellencamp", Little B. Publishing/EMI April Music Incl, 1998. Offner, Rose.  Journal to the Soul, The Art of Sacred Journal Keeping, Gibbs-Smith Publisher, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1996. Otto Dix: The Painter is the Eyes of the World.  Dir. Reiner E. Moritz.  Poorhouse Productions, 1989. Panel, The Arts, Education and Americans.  Coming to Our Senses, The Significance of the Arts for American Eduction, McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1977. Williamson, Marianne.  A Return to Love, Reflections on The Principles of A Course in Miracles, Haper Paperbacks, New York, NY, 1994. http://vh1.com/insidevh1/savethemus/ . . . 4/19/1999.  Website of VH1 Registered.
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Integrating the Liberal Arts, Education, and Human Potential (Part II)

continued from Part I . . .

More importantly than the skills which are applied in our business worlds are the values gained through an exposure to the arts.  Values can be practiced where it really counts for something - in our communities and family relations.  Tolerance of racial and ethnic traditions is required to move our communities forward in cultural and socio-economic settings.  Peace can only be achieved through communication, and the arts are a universal form of communication.  Isadora Duncan has stated: "If I could tell you what I mean, there would be no point in dancing".  The language of the arts can bridge any cultural schism.  Marianne Williamson reminds us in A Return to Love that to communicate is to love and to attack is to separate (160).

Otto Dix, a visual artist who lived through both World Wars, refers to the creative energy as a form of "exorcise"; and Frida Kahlo, another visual artist who lived with physical torments from an accident, stated that painting "purged her memory" and helped her deal with chronic pain and physical anguish.  Eco-psychologists consider art to be an integral form of therapy, one in which our communion with nature may be fully expressed and that our psyches require this communion with nature to effect emotional and spiritual balance for atonement (being at one with nature) in our lives.

Through open mindedness and an ability to express oneself, a generation schooled in the arts will be capable of reaching the peace and cultural acceptance unknown on our planet since "civilization" began.  Only through seeking creative solutions to our differences can we avoid the apparently automatic urge to "bear arms" (emphasis mine).  When an individual is unable to express their confusion and disillusionment with their world in a non-violent manner, we view their expression through violence.  As is apparently the case in the recent phenomenon of adolescent males using firepower to demand recognition and retribution in our schools.  This irrepressible need for attention was obviously not fulfilled in their younger days, they were not taught or given examples of acceptable expression, therefore they need to act out against their supposed or imagined oppressors.  World wars have always begun because of intolerance of others; we are currently suffering the consequences of our own condoning attitude towards intolerance.  One cannot hide these attitudes from family and communities.  Intolerance needs to be recognized for what it is - a sickness of the heart and soul and treated as such.  When words are not heeded, actions will follow.

Once an individual has learned for themselves "non-judgment and patience" (Carbonetti 102) through arts, these same values can be enacted in their families and communities and, eventually, universally.  By learning to express oneself through art so that one might live authentically; and by expressing one's own realizations and manifesting (i.e., making evident or plainly show something) those beliefs, an individual will be capable of sharing with the world the greatest gift.  A human who understands and has experienced their own beliefs can authentically express himself or herself.

Ackerman refers to art as a form of "deep play", wherein an individual may reach balance of mind and spirit.  Having "peace with one's self and the world" is a necessary element of living the human experience in a fulfilling manner.  To choose an outlet for one's emotions, whether it be through writing, drama, visual arts, dance or any other form of expression is to lose yourself in the merging of the creative moment.  By doing so an alternate reality is reached, troubles may be left behind, and an individual becomes the conqueror, creator, invincible; literally - "an ideal version of oneself".

Therefore, children must be given the means with which to express themselves.  Children must view peaceful and meaningful examples of communication.  Our perceptions are comprised of more than the written word; therefore, our training should include other forms of communication.  We express our emotions through body language, visual aids, cadence, and eye contact, and many more forms.  However, rarely do you ever see a curriculum that lists "non-verbal communication" other than sign language for the deaf.  A class need not be so literal, but the attitude needs to be in the learning institution that art is vital to the overall emotional and intellectual development of a child and has an inherent worth in and of itself (emphasis mine).  Art is an essential part of being human and in expressing ourselves as individuals within a larger society.  Only through expression can similarities be identified and those similarities can be the building blocks of a new understanding between cultures.  Art historians have been the major contributors of theological study in ancient cultural beliefs, daily regimes, and historical significance.  It is through their arts that we can visualize ancient Rome, Pompeii, and Egypt.    Understanding of diverse cultures may be reinterpreted into any form of dance, theater, philosophy, poetry,  . . . the list is endless.  Through shared expression a new relationship is born between the cultures and the grand collaboration of peace can begin.

. . . to be continued in Part III along with Works Cited references.

copyright 1999 - Sher Fick, all rights reserved

 

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Why, In Our Current Culture, Bother Making Art?

Throughout human existence, individuals have spoken through their arts. 

By studying a culture’s uncovered arts, we discover clues to their spiritual beliefs, daily lives, traditions, and human relationships - to name just a few benefits.

 

Therefore, artists in today’s world can bring forth these same revelations.  An artist has a chance to make social commentary (to me the most important), statements on spirituality, celebrate life, question the unanswerable, and reconcile their struggles. 

 

By communicating visually, the artist traverses the cultural/lingual divide.

No one needs to know your race, religion, or gender in order to view and interpret your art.

Ideally, art can be the great connector.  I believe expressing yourself also sends energies into the Universe – thus communicating with all forms of life.

 

It is of vital importance to express yourself in some creative manner (all liberal arts are inclusive in expression) in order to avoid repression and illnesses of mind and body.

 

 

 

Written August 2000 for Advanced Sculptural Form, University of West Florida, Professor John P. Donovan’s class.

 

 

 

Post Script - "Note on SOLE MATES, above":

 

 

 

Assignment was for a found object/recycling project: 

 

I utilized junk from the trash pile at my favorite antique/junk store in Niceville, FL - the legs and an old cabinet door was part of my loot.  I wanted to reassign the purpose of objects as well, thus changing a door into a table, etc.  While working on this project my favorite pair of boots literally fell apart while I was working in the studio.  It was a pair of "parachute" boots I had purchased while engaged in 1990 (so they were 10 years old by this time).  I was so mad, they had molded to my feet and were like working in bare feet, but safe!  I was ticked and was dropping them in the trash can (something I would NEVER do since) when I glimpsed some ART? on the sole of the boot . . . I quickly retrieved them and found this amazing rubber stamp design on the sole - in fact it was THE SOLE of the boots!  A gorgeous global map with "leave footprints of peace" or something like that . . .

 

 

 

I had been leaving those footprints for 10 years, completely unaware of my effect on my environment.  It was what we consciously and unconsciously do in our daily lives that effect the world around us. 

 

 

 

I now try to be aware and choose the footprints I leave behind.  I still re-cycle/pre-cycle my garbage, as any view of my studio can attest . . . you NEVER know when you can use/re-use something.

 

 

 

For Art's Sake,

sher

 

 

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Integrating the Liberal Arts, Education, and Human Potential (Part I)

Written April 27, 1999 for Philosophy/Ethics Class, with Dr. Dirk Dunbar, University of West Florida.

If we want our world to be still, gray and silent, then we should keep the arts out of school, shut down the neighborhood theatre, and barricade the museum doors.  When we let the arts into the arena of learning, we run the risk that color and motion and music will enter our lives.

-David Rockefeller, Jr.

By examining the benefits of integrating the liberal arts (theater, music, philosophy, dance, and visual arts) into our educational system, we see that humans can learn to effectively change the course of our culture and environment.  Through directly integrating the liberal arts into our educational curriculum, the enhancement of all individuals will be achieved.  Currently the "arts" are viewed as "extra-curricular" activities, which are not considered essential to a child's emotional or intellectual development.  Required subjects are the "three R's - reading, 'riting, and 'rithmatic".  Only if additional funds, volunteers, and resources are available do the children receive the benefit of exposure to the arts.  Yet, "the arts, properly taught, are basic to individual development, since they, more than any other subject, awaken the senses - the learning pores" (Panel 6).

Humans require means through which to express themselves, separate from the written word.  If an individual is unsuccessful in expressing themselves through the visual, theatrical or musical fields, we know that frustrations build up from repression and anxiety - these stresses lead to physical and emotional illnesses.  Art can be a catalyst for filtering and expressing our life experiences, positive and negative, so that one might better handle the future, and not be buried in the past or in negative experiences.  Through exposing children to the act of collaborating with others on art projects (writing plays, painting murals, building large sculptures) they will learn how to work with others.  By working out divergent opinions and ideas, by problem-solving, and by creating their own joint successes - confidence in themselves and other humans can be experienced.  World leaders of today could utilize these same collaborative skills in effecting world peace.  In learning to respect differing beliefs, yet by focusing on commonalities, human potential can be achieved.

Unfortunately, to date, most conventional educators have not accepted the integral necessity of incorporating the arts into the everyday experiences of our lives, "nor as a legitimate part of education" (Panel 6).  By separating the importance of arts from education, the educational community is sending a clear message that art is not necessary for success and wellbeing.  Clearly, the opposite is true:  "Segregation of art from education is unnatural . . . art is indivisible from life and education" (Panel 6).  By providing our children with artistic experiences from their earliest learning experiences we will offer unique ways of viewing the world.  Art teaches diversity, patience, and problem solving; while at the same time motivates the individuals by creating successful experiences which will encourage deeper and further learning challenges.  Direct benefits are currently being revealed:  music study leads to higher mathematical comprehension; dance positively influences physical wellness; visual arts expand problem solving and communication skills; and philosophy teaches tolerance and flexible thinking.  "Art is power . . . it influences the mind, the nerves, the feelings, the soul . . . " (Panel 7, 16; Gaines 58-72, Barzun 21).  As an example, VH1's "Save The Music" program is trying to insure that all children will be able to "expand their brain cells" by being exposed to musical education in public elementary schools (http://vh1.com/insidevh1/savethemus/ . . . April 1999).

 

Once the arts are encouraged and the natural creativity of a child is nurtured, or in essence midwifed/birthed" (emphasis mine), these skills will be carried throughout their lives.  In the professional world, artistic skills are highly coveted.  The ability of an individual to think "outside the lines" (emphasis mine) is beneficial in the technological fields where capabilities are challenged in this constantly evolving field.  Being able to think originally is what sets apart individuals and businesses into the successes of a generation.  For instance, the world would be less enjoyable without the creative thinking of Alexander Graham Bell, Bill Gates, Abraham Lincoln, Ghandi, or Rosa Parks, to name a few.

(to be continued, Part II & III, with Works Cited provided on last installment)

 

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TAKE CARE: The Art, Science and Bioethics of Motherhood

The TAKE CARE Exhibition has found a home on the web:

www.n-cap.org/take_care.html

Please view the exhibition essay by Veronica Kavass, New York Based Writer-Curator, in the Exhibition Brochure.  You may also view the included artists and their websites:

Annette Gates - Kristina Arnold - Adrienne Outlaw - Sher Fick - Lindsay Obermeyer - Monica Bock - Sadie Rubin - Jeanette May - Libby Rowe

Many thanks to Adrienne Outlaw for organizing the critical essay, brochure and website!!!

I'm really looking forward to exhibiting with such a fine group of strong female artists.

 

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Installation of COPING SKILLS is completed!

Completed views of COPING SKILLS.  Height 42", Width 50", Depth 15".     It's all in the details - viewer will be reflected in the floor of the altar table: To read a full Artist's Statement regarding Coping Skills, click "Pages - Artist's Statement for CS" on the right-hand side of this blog. For Art's Sake, Sher
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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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On-line Interview by Erica Volpe of West Chester University

Conducted on November 30, 2007 VOLPE: PLEASE PROVIDE YOUR Name, age, location etc.  FICK:  Sher Fick, turning 40 this weekend, currently residing in Rural Tennessee. Midwest until age 18, Atlanta until age 22, Princeton NJ,  Atlanta, Panhandle, FL (age 26-36), Rural TN since 2003. Raised in Rural Illinois/Indiana.  I became obsessed with art from age  4. My first success was being asked by my first grade teacher to paint a manger mural for Christmas - it was a huge wall-sized piece and I had to get on a step stool to put the star in the sky.  In second grade I did a  Bicentennial Poster of Betsy Ross sewing the flag - I remember putting in the wood grain on the churn standing by her side.  On a negative note I also remember painting an old-fashioned girl (long flowing dress) in a field and having fellow 5th grade boys say it was a Kotex ad . . . I was devastated!   Moving into junior high and high school I was involved in art class and state competitions.  By then I was known as the "artsy" student. Dealing with the issues of motherhood vs. artist the work is more visually disturbing, but is constructed in the same celebratory feminine materials - the actual juxtaposition/conflict of material vs/with subject (as in "Constraint", a hand-made, quilted straightjacket, created as an "Ode to Motherhood" or in "Tread Lightly", my wedding shoe altered with safety pins overflowing from the shoe), so I think initially the viewer is drawn in by the warmth and nostalgic surface and then, hopefully, looks for a deeper  message. I am not bothered by displeasure from a viewer, as a matter of fact some of my work should disturb - I think the fact that I am willing to express my struggles so honestly is distressing to many people.  It makes them uncomfortable - so I expect mixed reactions.  Getting a reaction is what it is meant to do, complete disinterest is probably the worst reaction!  Regarding reactions, I have actually sacrificed a close relationship with a family member because of my candid worldview and my commitment to my art.  I have to do what is right for me and my family and if others can't deal with it (viewers or friends/family) - then they can lump it.  To me that is their issue, not  mine.  I separate myself from the reaction (good or bad) because I don't  want to be swayed in future creations.orks/series. VOLPE:  What do you love most about art? FICK:  To me the expressive qualities of art making has become a very therapeutic practice.  I get very grumpy and "off" if I haven't had enough art time.  I also love the fact that no matter the age, language, etc. of the viewer, they can communicate (or I can communicate to them) through visual art.  To me, art breaks all boundaries.  I have this weird thing, too, where I just love to look at art - I'm appreciative of the technique or the sheer ability to express.  I have a few pet peeves as well - Thomas  Kincaide makes me livid.  Ugh.  That is another story . . . VOLPE:  What medium do you work in, why is this your medium of choice, and if you'd like to explain some of your processes in working  with encaustic or other mediums you use. FICK:  After training for years in various methods of painting (from liquid watercolor, acrylic, oil, and handmade temperas, gauche, and mixed media with collage) I would hit a wall after "mastering" the media - I became completely  bored and kept searching for new techniques to emphasize the luminosity factor - even worked with tinted resins for a while.  The first time I saw an  encaustic and saw it labeled that (about 1999) I was intrigued.  After researching I began auto-didactic practices in 2003.  The publication of Joanne Mattera's "The Art of Encaustic Painting" was a goldmine and it has become my encaustic "bible".  In particular I enjoy the flexibility of the media.  I can also utilize it in assemblage work and textiles (something which Jasper Johns began in the 50's).  I am drawn to the ancientness of the materials, as well, and  the fact that it is completely natural and organic.  I am an avid environmentalist so this is important to me to not leave a negative  footprint (as with oils/plastics/etc). VOLPE:  What do you get out of doing your art?  Financially, emotionally, spiritually, being able to make a statement? Political, etc.? FICK:  Well-being is the main reason I practice art.  Expression vs. repression.  I have had emotional challenges in my life and art is a  catalyst for my resilience.  Financially things are beginning to take shape  - but that is never my focus when I am creating art.  In fact, the less I  worry about what others will like or buy, the more successful I have been!   The emotional and spiritual benefits of art are hand-in-hand, as well as mixed with a feeling of accomplishment and productivity in life.  I always feel the need to be pushing forward, breaking down barriers (personally, culturally, politically), and advocating for liberal arts in general.  Politically, I am concerned mainly with the personal acceptance of oneself - authenticity is the true success and in this way I have found myself in a group of female artists. VOLPE: Much of your work is themed toward women, would  you consider yourself a feminist, and why have you chosen to go this route? FICK:  It was never my intent to create feminist art.  However, I think all creative endeavors are best when the maker is expressing what they know best and when they speak from a place of experience.  I am a woman - so my experiences  are related to that.  I don't want to box myself into a label, but I do not mind doing series of work which relates to a genre.  I also do  environmentally inspired work, they are just different series to me. I am currently having fun exploring this feminine side - I am going at it full on and not questioning the impulses to use pink and lace and paper  dolls. Some of the seminal pieces (before I even recognized what I was  doing) were declarations of my working out the struggles between being a mother and a strong desire to be a working artist.  The mother part of me was  expressed in womanly fabrics and "handwork", I just followed the trail and was then approached by another female artist to be included in a group exhibition.  That was the first time I ever thought about my art being  "feminist" - I actually prefer "feminine" as I don't feel a huge burden to wave a pink political banner.  On the other hand, I don't want to deny the political implications of equality, opportunity, etc.  I have met and discussed this (briefly at an art opening) with Judy Chicago - I understand her view points based on her era, but I want to be open to an evolving, modern femininity and its issues.  I see no reason  to repeat what has already been said or to fight for what has already been won. VOLPE:  Was it natural for you to focus on female issues and/or childhood themes or whatever else you focus on because of being a woman, your own experiences, etc: and what does this do for you? FICK:  I actually fought myself tooth and nail to NOT express myself in a feminine way because I didn't want to be labeled.  That created a major imbalance in my own psyche and it showed in my work, I would even not share work that appeared too "girly".  My journey of self-acceptance included the integration into my art of who I already was.  It was similar to trying to merge several personalities into one. As I explored the subject matter I began to discover metaphors of media to the chosen subject.  The idea of working with fabrics and quilting directly correlated to my subjects of constriction and concealment, fo r example.  Following these avenues led from one connection to another until I was, literally, quilting found objects into altar scapes (see, "Coping Skills", which will be my first traveling Museum exhibition). VOLPE: What would you like your viewers to get from  your work? FICK:  My favorite reaction is to an initial sense of "fun" and "nostalgia", then  a deeper reaction to the underlying messages of "myth of childhood innocence", "celebration of innocence", and, possibly, the sadness of the loss of those things.  VOLPE:  Are there any particular issues you'd like to bring up? FICK: I think artists should free themselves to explore what is important to them, to not worry so much about selling, or reaching 90% of the  population.  I hope maybe 5% "gets" me.  I also think that the most successful artists were not trying to create only "sell-able" work when they made their greatest breakthroughs, I like to say I am following a "creative impulse" when I am trying something crazy or new.  If you only pre-plan and produce what is already acceptable, then you remove the opportunity of making a discovery along the way.  I really encourage the idea of following the artistic impulse without question, then once you have created you can begin the analyzing  phase - usually meaning is revealed through/after the creation process.   Sometimes it is way down the road or it can be instantaneous - but if you don't follow the impulse you will never know. VOLPE:  Do you come across any difficulties in the  professional field of art stemming from being a woman? FICKE:  YIKES - that is such a heavy question. I do think that the number of females in administrative/curatorial positions has a direct effect on the art that is selected.  That being said, I also believe that women have to choose between making art and raising families, so there are fewer women artists in any given pool to select from.  I don't like the idea of being chosen for something because I am or am not a woman - any type of discrimination disturbs me.  I do not feel that I have been kept from any opportunities because I am a woman.  The roadblocks for me have been logistical - I have no brain cells when I am nursing, I can't use toxic materials around infants or while pregnant, I chose to stay home with my children until pre-school age (thanks to a husband who has emotionally and finincially supported myself and our children) and then only part-time, so the number of hours I could have been creating art have been greatly reduced in my life.  Therefore, my personal choices have created major delays and constraints to my art expression. On the other hand, I feel I have so much more to share now that I have 20 years "under my belt" so to speak.  I feel like I am finally getting a clue  . . . so those years of diapers, cooking, cleaning, playing, were spent in a cocoon which has lead to the final product - and I am still discovering metamorphic results as a woman, as an artist, as a mother, and THEN, how to blend those aspects of myself.  I have no regrets, but I do have  frustrations and feelings of being caged artistically. VOLPE:  Do you have another job? Do you have children? A  husband? How do you balance everything? FICK:  I was a paralegal for 7 years before being married - I created art as a hobby during that time period.  After marrying and having the first two children I opened an interior decorating business, which morphed into Art Consultation . . . at that point I began taking classes and slowly working on an art degree (it took me 7 years to complete my BFA).  I have worked as a Curator, muralist, artistic portrait/collages, commission artist, private and public art instruction - it is only in the past year (as my youngest child went to school full-time) that I have abandoned any other forms of income to being a full-time artist.  I saved up money from being a paid Studio Manager/Curator and am lucky that my husband of 17 years can pay the mortgage, etc.  All funds I earn from my art can be re-invested in my art endeavors.  I could be making a lot more if I wasn't committed to being a mother who is  accessible to her children after school and on the weekends.  My children are aged 15, 13, and 5 - yes, I had a bonus ("too many bottles of wine for New Year's baby!") - the timing was terrible and completely tripped me up career-wise.  So I took a baby break, finished my degree, and am finally back on my feet (paying for preschool was a major hit financially for me) - it would have been cheaper to stay home and give up on my art all together, so I chose to do a half way on both things . . . I have to live with my conscience at the end of the day.  My husband is very supportive which helps, but I had to sacrifice many things and had to pay for childcare while interning and going to school, so I'm still personally pay ing off student loans, etc.  This is something that most people don't consider.  The hardest part for me has been being torn, literally, between my children and my  art - I feel that both have suffered, but that I need both things in my  life. I fully intended at one point to go to graduate school to become an art professor.  Along the way I discovered my love of creating and that I didn't need the MFA to be an artist.  I hope to one day have a larger studio where I can teach workshops for children and adults to fulfill my art advocacy/teaching impulses without sacrificing my creative time.  I also continue to develop and guest curate exhibitions of which I may or may not be a participating artist.  These side ventures tend to fund the art supplies and can at times even create a positive balance sheet.  I am also involved  in group or individual creations of public art installations which are paid contracts . . . that keeps expenses covered and is a great network/marketing tool for the individual w VOLPE: Are you satisfied, overjoyed, anxious? What  would you like to change for you----what do you really, really, really want? FICK:  Five years ago I created 5 Year Goals - I reached all of them ahead of schedule.  I am making new "bigger" goals and I am ecstatic at this point. Conversely, it terrifies me that I have to commit so far in advance  to contracts on "intangible" ideas.  I think that is my perfection gene and the feelings of inadequacy that was drilled into me as a "Christian" girl, also having 3 children I understand the fact that you have to leave buffer zones of time and funds as you never know what might happen to delay things. One of my biggest hurdles was the decision to sell our house to purchase one with 1000 sq ft of studio space for me.  This will enable me to be accessible to the children before/after school, but I will be able to gain access to my studio at any time of day or night (I am definitely a night  owl).  This is a huge decision, but one that I feel will benefit all of us  - I won't feel so guilty in being away so much.  The biggest negative is  that I won't be in "town" in the middle of all the art networking.  I will have to make big efforts to attend openings, drop in on fellow artists, lunch, etc. - it is amazing the information that flies through the air between artists.  I will greatly miss that - I will also hold open studio times at my place for fellow artists to drop in for work days and I also spend days in other artist's  studios working on "hand" work. VOLPE:  Are there any words of advice you would like the whole human race to know, and/or especially up and coming women  artists. FICK: Trust yourself.  Joseph Campbell says it the  best - "Follow Your Bliss".  For me, my best results have always been when I followed my instincts rather than the advice of others.  That being said, I have a very tight group of mentors whom I regularly enlist for feedback -  these are people that "get" me, that I respect for their own intelligence and work ethic.  If I do not admire the person (morally, ethically), I do not give credit to their opinions.  If I feel someone is tearing me down just for the fun of it, I review if it is someone I respect . . . if not, then I let it go.  Most  constructive criticism is provided from givers. Negative and mean-spirited critiques are given from takers.  Distinguishing between the two has really helped me move forward and not be side-tracked in my work. I also think that being free of grades is incredibly invigorating.   Some colleagues find it impossible to be self-disciplined, but it has been the opposite for me.  I feel let loose on the world instead of held back.   I think you need to weigh the source, decide if it applies to you, and make personal decisions on your work.  In that way, you are completely responsible for any successes or failures.  I don't believe any work is a failure, by doing we move forward to the next piece, in that sense all pieces are linked to the previous - make, make, make and the success (knowing that you have expressed what you intended) will follow. Also there are no absolutes.  One professor might have said "DON'T USE  ANY TEXT IN YOUR ART", but then you see an exhibition notice for a purchase award for a library gallery which required the use of text . . . so, don't exclude yourself from opportunities based on someone else's rules.  Find your own rules, create them if you have to . . . let them be flexible. I take every opportunity I can get to share my philosophy and art with others.  It has been a blessing and encouragement to me to encounter in my day-to-day life such open-minded and invigorating spirits.  So if someone asks me what I do, I proudly reply "I am an artist and a mother" - if they are interested in more, I give it, if their eyes glaze over, I shut up.  The perception of being an artist in America is very different from what you encounter in Europe - there they practically bow at your feet, here they  snicker.  Strangers, family, (former) friends actually feel it is selfish of me to apply my energies to my art, that I am "indulging" myself, almost like a drug addict.  To me, being an artist is a gift and a burden.  To  have the gift of creativity means you should honor and protect it.  Of all the liberal arts, I think Visual Artists get the biggest put down.  It offends me, so any opportunity I can have to further the understanding and acceptance of Visual Arts are greatly appreciated.  If I had no creativity,  I would definitely be a Philosophy or Art Philosophy Professor.  I think that educationally, the philosophies play a major role in advocacy for all liberal arts - they can actually teach someone how to appreciate and analyze art.  The more people who understand, the more support we, the artists, will have. ~~~~~~~~~~~~END of INTERVIEW~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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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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Eco-Psychology and its Importance in Creating Inter-World Balance

The greatest good is the knowledge of the union which the mind has with the whole of nature . . . ".  - Baruch Spinoza   By recognizing the inter-connectedness of the human mind/body with the whole of nature/universe/cosmos, humankind may achieve inner balance, physical health, and world peace.  Through the acknowledgment of an inter-connectness with our physical and metaphysical surroundings, humankind will reach and achieve conservation/preservation and provide nurturement to self, other humans, and animals, producing an effect which may reach to the depths of the ocean and rise past the stars. It is by enactment of a reciprocal relationship that our realities shall operate as a whole.  As each part cares and nurtures other parts, balance of the whole is attainable and sustainable.  All beings are irrevocably connected to nature; it is the recognition of such a connection which will instigate the healing process needed to restore inter-world balance. Through a joining together of previously segregated fields (ecology and psychology), ecopsychology delves into the roots of humankind's attitude towards "nature" and "nature's" attitude toward humankind.  By assigning equal weight to each entity, the search is on for understanding regarding the give and take of this previously disregarded relationship by the "scientific" and "religious" communities.  By previously and continously encouraging a separation of science and religion and by segregating separate fields of study within each arena, we are only now understanding that such a disparity has been harmful to the whole.  Modern consideration towards an inter-connectedness in the sciences and ecumenical religious practices has opened the floodgates for a new Zeitgeist to formulate.  This new "spirit of the times" is inclusive of ecopsychology. Several fields of study are inclusive of the broad term of ecopsychology: ancient philosophies, anthropology, architecture, behavorial ecology/analysis/geography, community studies, cybernetics, deep ecology, developmental psychology, eastern views/religions, ecofeminism, ecology, environmental education and justice, evolutionary psychology, horticultural therapy, indigenous world views, mythology, psychoneuroimmunology, paganism, psychotherapy, quantum physics, religious/theological perspectives, spiral dynamics, "Romantic" studies, sociobiology, systems theory, and wilderness therapy.  Many more studies are off-shoots or natural progressions of the above listing. Studies in ecopsychology ask the following questions: How can our sense of self be seen through the natural world and our connection in/on it?  Why do humans seek communion with nature and what do they receive from said communion?  In what ways are humans benefited by contact with nature and, conversely, is nature benefited by human contact? Further delving presents even more disturbing/thought-provoking considerations:  Does our current ideology and our current ways of learning and knowing lead us to a balanced inter-world relationship?  If not, how might we as a technologically based culture adapt our future behavior and learning systems to embrace mutual respect and a healthful relationship within our natural world? To truly embrace the concept of inter-world (all things, all forces, all time and matter) relatedness, one must reach a cognitive understanding of the effects of our current multi-faceted stance:  Our quest for sentience reaches back in time.  Prior to the scientific fields of research, human kind searched the skies above and looked to the seas below for answers to their queries. Levels of existence fight for survival, which implies a revolt agasint physical threats and a questioning of purpose.  Even the "lowly" sea anemone, considered a "plant" by most, can lift itself from the ocean floor and pulsate its form through the water in search of a "safer" location from predators (see, "Life at the Edge of the See", PBS Documentary).  Rather than simply "survival of the fittest," ecopsychology views these acts as deliberate.  Humankind's need to understand and know that which simply is, takes us back to the mythical alchemical snake which bites its own tail (Roszak 2). By accepting that there is more to the self than the physical individual and by recognizing the self's connection as being part of something bigger, one can interpret and understand the "quest" and need for religious/spiritual direction.  The principles of ecopsychology provide ways of the self to understand that part of us which is MORE THAN SELF. Jung's theory of the collective unconscious has been expanded to being part of an ecological unconscious (interchangeable with inter-world).  By maintaining an open and reciprocal relationship with the inter-world, humankind and individuals will experience and maintain physical and emotional well-being.  Such a resolution would cure the collusive madness caused in part by our modern, technologically driven, industrial society. Complexity of nature can be understood through the study of new cosmology.  By answering questions through a relation of inter-connectedness, benefits sought by individual fields can be applied to other fields.  (Such as, researching biographical emotional causes of dis-EASE in the human mind to cure a biological physical ailment). Connected, by Sher Fick (8"w x 16"h) Encaustic, paper, attachments), 2006 By encacting therapies to reconnect the current urban psyche with the repressed ecological uncounscious; by researching and reviving ancient earth cult rituals, wilderness therapies, and so forth, the individual experiences personal and reciprocal interaction within the natural world - thus reintegrating the individual with the ecological unconscious.  Distressed people can easily find surcease in the healing effect of wilderness.  A recent survey concluded that: 16 out of 17 individuals practiced visualization therapy by imagining themselves in some "natural" locations which included: 12 aspects of water, 15 various patterns of sounds of nature, and 1 "silence of nature."  The participants were a diverse group of individuals with varying religious and environmental backgrounds and beliefs.  Yet, more often than not, all sought communion with nature to "quiet their soul."  An additional benefit to literal wilderness therapy is the physical well-being found in exerting our bodies while on our "journey" towards a specific sight in nature.  The psychological benefits of the peaceful environment and the feelings of self-esteem when successfully reaching a challenging location are notable as well.  This benefit in our individual "self-perception" cannot be ignored.  By focusing inward during wilderness therapy we can easily avoid the outer stresses of our daily lives - much in the same ways we "escaped reality" as children. Through the encouragement of recovering children's innate animistic attitude towards nature in our "adult" experiences (by practicing natural mysticism in religion and art) a healthy ecological ego can be recovered and, therefore, nurtured in our youth.  As children, many of us ESCAPED FROM REALITY through play outdoors.  By leaving behind the challenges and responsibilities of home, school, and church, children were revitalized and calmed by their discoveries and interaction within nature.  Nature did not judge them, but became a teacher and care giver.  Children learn sensory truths and connect to a global life community.  Children view nature as "families" and seek to re-integrate and restore balance in their natural activities.  A four-year old child once stated "this baby rock belongs with that mama and papa rock, it got lost."  So, too, has humankind been "lost" from their connection with their earth parents. After the previous principles have been enacted a natural evolution of attitude shall occur.  The maturation of our ecological egos will foster eco-responsibilities which will manifest in our government, society, and personal lives.  Nature is to humankind as our arm is to our body.  Unless one is suffering from a form of autophobia, one does not hurt one's own arm.  Therefore, as we care for, nurture, and feed our own body through practicing autophilia (self love), one should care for, nurture, and feed our larger "world" through biophilia (earth love). We shall at this point, as a joined culture, re-awaken our "feminine" nurturing attitude towards nature and move away from the current "domination" practiced by current political practices, urban development, corporate industry, and religious dogma.  Ecofeminism will grow into a naturally developing occurence.  By balancing the GIVE and TAKE in a balanced manner, the earth and our "universe" shall reciprocate.  The simple act of communicating WITHIN nature - leaving behind less of a human mark than when we arrived - is an act of biophilia. Rather than being an ANTI-industrial/technological theory, ecopsychology is a POST-industrial/technological theory.  By recognizing some of the damage done by our techno age, but lauding the beneficial discoveries,the practice of ecopsychology in our human everyday lives is simply a natural, ideological evolution of human world view. Humankind is enacting the seminal/transitional phase wherein a renewed quest for a re-awakened "search for the holy grail" shall occur.  As our current techno-world emerges from its self-induced darkness of the soul, our collective search for wholeness shall heal the planet, our larger "cosmos," as well as our inner selves.  The denial of the existence of inter-world relatedness does not mean it is not there. In conclusion, Roszak states" "The needs of the planet are the needs of the person, the rights of the person are the rights of the planet" (Roszak 5).  By encouraging a synergistic approach to our life experiences, we connect with the divine and the divine connects with us. WORKS CITED: Cleary, Thomas (translator).  The Essential Tao (an initiation into the heart of Taoism through the authentic TAO TE CHING and the inner teachings of Chuang Tzu).  New York, Castle Books, 1992. Cowan, James G.  Letters from a Wild State (rediscovering our true relationship to nature).  New York, Bell Tower.  1991. Durant, Will.  The Story of Philosophy (the lives and opinions of the world's greatest philosophers from Plato to John Dewey).  Washington, Square Press.  1961. Ehrmann, Max.  The Desiderata of Happiness (a collection of philosophical poems).  New York, Crown Publishers.  1995. Quinn, Daniel.  Ishmael (an adventure of the mind and spirit).  New York/Turner.  1992. Roszak, Theodore.  The Voice of the Earth.  New York, Simon & Schuster.  1992.  Ecopsychology: Eight Principles at the ECO-PSY web page, 11/29/00, copyright 1998. Szymborska, Wislaw.  View with a Grain of Sand (selected poems).  New York, Harcourt Brace.  1995. Zimmerman, M.; Callicott, J; Sessions, G; Warren, K; and Clark, J.  Environmental Philosophy (from animal rights to radical ecology).  Second Edition.  New Jersy, Prentice Hall.  1998.
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Essay: Anthropocentrism v. Ecocentrism

  Left - Ephemeral EarthWork created at Grand Canyon, 2001 by Sher Fick When considering the effects of anthropocentrism versus ecocentrism one must reflect upon societies which based their communal existence on either and compare the two.  We know that originally, all humans were ecocentric in their manner of living in communion with the earth and, literally, worshiped the ground from whence they emerged.  Anthropologists note the major shift from the "earth mother" native cultures occurred when communities became tied to one piece of earth and to agricultural development.  The agriculturalist belief system spread and conquered surrounding societies to fulfill their need for food and shelter. Continuing the agricultural movement has led to the now coined "techno-man" (see, philosopher Sam Keen) who seeks to conquer even the world in which we live.  The techno-men propose ways in which to prevent natural catastrophes (for example, proposing to hang a 2-mile wide mirror in space to reflect the sun onto the ocean surfaces to warm water to prevent hurricanes).  Maybe the hurricanes are Mother Nature's way of getting rid of fleas off her back, a type of population control.  It might be brutal, but so is birth and death, a natural life cycle. While some advances are clearly beneficial to humankind (eradication of small pox and polio for example) and improve our quality of life, it is unknown what the ultimate outcome of technology shall be.  Considering the atomic bomb, which has killed thousands of people and destroyed acres of nature, to be a beneficial technology seems rather ludicrous as the technological aim is supposed to be improving upon nature, not destroying it. It is the man-centered technologist who is making advances without due consideration to the world population as a whole.  It is a dreadful gift to create something which leads to ultimate destruction of any being.  This changes the creator into a destroyer.  If man's legacy upon this earth is measured only by his technical creations, we see that more has been destroyed than "created" in the last two hundred years. An emotional wound is also left by this worship of technology over the natural world.  We view the phenomenon of serial killers and rapists in particular, most who profess a need to "overpower" the weaker individuals in an effort to prove their own superiority.  The belief systems have been inbred from childhood in the grand hierarchy of abuse - - - father abuses son, son abuses smaller children, smaller children abuse animals, so on and so forth, each generation increasing its abuse and victims evolving into abusers.  The grand pecking order of the anthropocentric belief system does not allow for empathy and compassion to any other individual, unless it serves one man's needs, let alone extending to women, animals, and the earth. For thousands of years before techno/anthropocentric man, ecocentric humans inhabited our earth, communing with nature and surviving in a peaceable manner.  Communities moved with the seasons, gathered together when desired, yet left what they did not need.  The Kouri (Australian Aboriginal people) still live today the way they did for thousands of years.  The earliest art known is found in an Australian cave, dating back 14,000 years.  For millenniums the dreamtime tales have been passed down through verbal records, the same manner of building, harvesting and art making have continued unchanged.  Who has the right to say "This is not the right way," certainly not anyone outside of their culture.  Yet they have been dwindled in number down to only a few thousand, pushed time and time again from their ancient lands, forced to live on the outskirts of their sacred earth and ancestral dwelling places, to view in horror as "modern man" destroys the tundra and thousands of its species.  Native Americans have lived this same experience. Anthropocentrism has all but killed out the ancient ecocentric way of life.  Only recently has the negative effects of anthropocentrism (war, bigotry, massive consumption of natural resources, etc.) become apparent to the general public and the positive effects of ecocentrism has made it to the forefront (complementary medicine, benefits of cultural diversity, conservation of nature, animal rights, etc.).  Not until the balance has been reached between the two will the outcome be known. We have the power and technology with which to destroy ourselves and our planet, it is yet to be seen whether or not we have the power and technology to save ourselves and our planet. written March 1999, Ethics Class with Dr. Dirk Dunbar, copyright Sher Fick
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Absolutism vs. Relativism

Originally written January 26, 1999 - Ethics Class with Dr. Dirk Dunbar (Encaustic Painting, "The Word", torn and woven Bible pages, artificial sinew, encaustic, 9"x8", 2007, by Sher Fick) For a majority of issues in our modern day lives, relativism would be the most fair and just form of consideration.  However, when applying the concepts of relativism to our supposed practice of "Separation of Church and State" we see that it has not been fairly rendered.  How can we say we enforce a separation of Church and State when our currencies, court proceedings and even our Pledge of Allegiance refers to "In God We Trust", and so on. This situation calls for absolute policy of Separation of Church and State.  Our country was birthed with the concept that all men/[women] should have the right to worship their god[s], how and when they wanted.  Through the years this message of equality has only been accepted if the individuals recognize the Judeo-Christian of "god." In all fairness to the Jewish traditions, we must say that even that acceptance has limited their rights.  Do they not have to swear "So Help Me God" on the King James Version of the Holy Bible when they testify in court?  Thereby, swearing their honesty and forthrightness on (in their mind) a blasphemous book which declares Jesus Christ as the Messiah? In a country which prides itself on being the "melting pot" or "tossed salad" of international culture, how has this shortsightedness been perpetuated for so many years?  We hear concerns from the politicians regarding race relations, yet no one has been able to answer the concerns of prayer in public schools and other religious related issues.  Courts have upheld a student's right to worship in their chosen manner; however, we continue to have prayers to the Christian God spoken at graduations and other public gatherings. What right do teachers have to force their religious and political beliefs upon their students in the public education sector?  These issues have been volatile, even in our local area, but the issues remain long after the court battles cease. An absolute policy of Separation would take care of all of these issues.  Moments of silence in which all individuals might pray to their god or gods, or individuals might choose to meditate, and atheists can talk to themselves!  Dogma should be left in an individual's mind, in their church or private home or vehicle when they appear in a public, state-sponsored event. An additional concern is the mixed messages our children receive upon learning of the "Separation of Church and State" in social studies and then they stand to recite the Pledge of Allegiance (which did NOT originally have the wording "under God")!  What message are we sending our children by these contradictory practices?  Are we breeding judgmental, close-minded individuals or persons who will dare to "walk a mile in another's moccasins"? At issue in recent years has been the unfortunate fact that certain religions might cause physical harm to those within the religion (i.e., Christian Scientists, Satanic Followers).  This concern is valid and should be treated in the same way as other child welfare issues are dealt with: if it is reported that a child is suffering physically or mentally, the state would investigate and upon proof, remove the child from the home.  The standards of endangerment and human life and welfare should apply, absolutely, in ALL situations. Human beings do not have the right by virtue of their religious dogma to perpetuate pain and suffering on other human beings.  We must strive to breed tolerant, caring individuals.  One manner in which to accomplish this would be to enforce "Absolute Separation of Church and State"; thereby, giving respect to any individual's choice of worship.
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