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a watchful eye of creative complexity
The National Veterans Art Museum in Chicago had an exhibition opening a few weeks ago on Veteran’s Day entitled “Surrealism and War,” which features the artwork of nine veterans depicting their experiences of war in somewhat surrealist ways. The exhibition really portrayed the horrors of war for both the innocent people caught in between and those who were drafted or even enlisted to fight. War is senseless, barbaric. War is sad and the poor suffer the most. The U.S. military creates a host of atrocities across the world, and then when the troops come back to their country they are met with no assistance, only the dark thoughts of their experiences, taunting them with bad memories and thoughts of death and suicide. Why?
You can read more about the exhibition here, but I will leave you with some (crappy phone camera) images of artwork that I found most intriguing and moving.
At the end of a year, I sometimes like to go through the past twelve months and pick out twelve memorable experiences, one that occurred in each month. Instead of writing about my experiences, I have decided to pick out memorable pieces of knowledge or interest to share that may educate or inspire others, or simply provide some much needed laughter or entertainment. Best of all, they can be passed around with ease. I have included a list of 12 articles worth reading, 12 videos worth watching, and 12 artists and their artworks worth looking into. I normally do not like making lists or looking at lists, but I found this to be a helpful way to share a variety of information with others. Along with the link to each item, I have included my reasoning for why I find the item enjoyable or important, why I think it’s worth any attention at all.
12 Articles Worth Reading
Stop Documenting, Start Experiencing
Are you going to document this very moment, or are you going to experience it? We live in an age where technology makes it easy to document our experiences and to share it with others. Does that mean we should always do so? Are we missing out on some experience if we don’t document it and share it with others? I do not think we are, but I do think we are missing out on a real experience when we spend the actual experience documenting instead of living in that moment. I cannot tell you how much it annoys me to be standing behind somebody at a concert or show who constantly has his camera in the air videotaping the whole event. Did that person really enjoy the show? Do I really have to stand here and try to look above your camera or succumb to watching it through your camera? Besides it being disrespectful to the people behind you trying to enjoy the show, it’s ruining your experience of the actual show itself. Sure, capture a few photos of the show, the family get together, the dance, the party, the ride at the amusement park. Take a video clip, even. Do not spend over 35% of the experiencing documenting. You will truly lose out on so much. There were moments, events, that I wish I had a camera with me to document because it was just so amazing, but I realize that I remember those moments so clearly in my head that I can relive it through feeling. I can’t seem to remember with my whole body the experiences where I have spent much of it documenting. My memories always seem to go to those photos. Instead of conjuring up specific sensations and moments of the physical experience, my mind sometimes goes to what I remember from photos I had taken. It makes me a little sad and I have realized that my desire to document every moment of an experience has drastically reduced. I was glad to read this article and find someone who felt similarly, since sharing experiences in the moment through technology is the norm. In the article, Daniel Gulati also makes a point that humans crave acceptance so sharing experiences in the moment helps achieve that craving. I think the amount of “likes” someone has on a photo has more to do with showing other people how many “likes” one can receive than feeling satisfied with a particular number of “likes.” I also think this is a silly reason for sharing anything. I also do not want to see what you had for breakfast, lunch, and dinner on Instagram.
She’s Got Some Big Ideas
I love learning about the people who make the things I love and this very article does just that. Maria Popova, the subject of the article, is the mastermind behind one of my favorite websites: Brainpickings. I would describe Brainpickings as a collection of individually curated pieces of creative and intellectual products of inspiration. There isn’t so much analysis on the curated collections as it is a presentation of the pieces. Findings. Findings that activate the right part of my brain, the part that loves being activated, but rarely is in a mundane world. It was great to learn about the creator of Brainpickings and surprising to find that the way she works is a bit like me, which makes it a bit unsurprising considering I enjoy her site so much because it represents the clutter in my mind so well. It’s inspiration that Maria started sending to her coworkers and is now a grand website providing bits of inspiration to the whole world.
Spanish Fresco Restorations Botched by Amateur
Anybody who knows me knows that there is no way this article could not be in my list. Cecilia Gimenez has provided me with some much needed laughter this year. I cannot express how funny I find the horrible restoration of the “Ecce Homo” painting to be, but it is hilarious. It still is hilarious. The fact that she has notoriety because of it and is using it to her advantage—sell one of her paintings on ebay to raise money—is amusing. A moment like this, is a moment that deserves all the internet memes created. It’s beautiful. Laughter is a gift, and I would like to thank Cecilia Gimenez for providing me with so much. I hope that doesn’t sound too mean. I know she is just an old lady who meant well, but she screwed up a painting and made it look so humorous that it’s now famous for new reasons and people laugh. It’s okay. My favorite sentence of 2012, straight from the article: “The once-dignified portrait now resembles a crayon sketch of a very hairy monkey in an ill-fitting tunic, he says.”
Graffiti Gang Who Caused £150,000 of Damage ‘Should Be Proud of Their Work,’ Says Judge
I think it’s definitely a great thing that a judge would openly admit that these graffiti artists are talented. Even though he believed that what they did was misguided or misdirected, he gave them the lowest possible sentence because they are young and with some direction, could be doing wonderful things with their talent. They didn’t hurt anyone. I hope more people can pay attention to the skill that goes into a lot of street art and graffiti and look at it less as vandalism. There are exceptions, namely tags simply scrawled or gang symbols spray painted anywhere; there really is no value in that type of “graffiti.” Throw ups, pieces, on the other hand, can be beautiful.
Kung Fu Expert in China Beats Up Mob of 50 Trying to Evict Him
Shen Jianzhong is a 38 year old man living in the Hebei province of China. Property developers had been after his home and others in the area for months. Threats and property violence ensued, people stayed. Eventually, a mob showed up at Shen’s home and he used his kung fu skills to protect his family and his home and rendered them all unconscious, at least, the ones who didn’t run away. I find this to be absolutely inspiring and amazing. I do not advocate violence, but forcing somebody out of their home is a type of violence that should be defeated. Throwing somebody out of their home so that the government can sell the land to some fancy shmancy property developers is evil and everybody trying to force Shen and his family from their home deserved what they got. Never back down.
The Kissing Sailor, or “The Selective Blindness of Rape Culture”
We all know the photo of the sailor kissing a woman with his arms wrapped around her in Times Square indicating the joy of the end of World War II. I enjoy articles that debunk the common misinformation spread about something. With the internet, these days it’s so much easier to spread misinformation so it makes articles like this all the more significant. The photo was not of a couple happily kissing after being reunited after the War. It is of a man who decided to grab a random woman in a crowd and kiss her. It is of a man who had received no consent to this physical contact. After one finds out this information, one can tell by actually paying attention to the details in the photo, that it isn’t a very loving embrace. He looks like he grabbed her in haste and she looks like a rag doll. Ignoring that this was nonconsensual is horrid in itself as the writer so clearly states with reference to rape culture, but I also think it’s horrible that humans attribute false narratives to photos in order to prove a point or develop a story that is inaccurate.
Stop Pretending Israel’s Massacre in Gaza is Part of an Even Battle with Hamas and the Palestinians
I read articles about the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the horrendous crimes of the Israeli military on a weekly basis. Many are worth reading and sharing. I decided to choose this one because Mark Steel writes this without going into the depths of history, without boring someone that doesn’t care, without simply retelling the same atrocities that many already know, but with a matter-of-fact attitude and humor and I think something like this can reach another audience of people not used to reading up on what’s going on in Palestine. It’s also short. Steel starts off with a bang, “To start with, why do the news channels ask Tony Blair for his advice on conflict in the Middle East? It’s like asking Gary Glitter for advice on what to do about Jimmy Savile.” The way it continues is even better:
But somehow it fits with the rest of the coverage. A report yesterday morning began with the sentence: “Rockets have continued to be fired from both sides…” Then, to illustrate this, we saw a demolished building in Gaza in which 11 people had perished, and a woman in Israel standing next to her car with a smashed windscreen. Which goes to show everyone’s suffering, what with three generations of a family getting wiped out on one side, and a woman having to ring Autoglass on the other. Honestly, they’re all as bad as each other.
And the whole article continues in the same fashion until the very end. What’s happening between Palestine and Israel is not a war or merely battles in a larger conflict; it’s oppression of Palestinians, occupation of Palestine, apartheid in Palestine. In Gaza, it’s often a massacre. It’s no military versus one of the most powerful militaries in the world (supplied by the most powerful USA). Making fun of the idiocy of the media and people who blindly follow the media has now become one of the best ways to get any sort of real information across. Maybe those people will wake up to it.
The Rose Revolution
As a follower of the Chicago Bulls and a person who truly likes Derrick Rose as a player and a person (no, I don’t know him personally, but after his interviews and speeches you get the sense of the kind of person he is), I was excited to read the GQ cover story on the MVP. It wasn’t disappointing as you get an even greater sense of the kind of person D-Rose is. He seems shy, very private, and well, he likes to not be bothered every 5 seconds by an adoring fan. Who would? He may not function well in the spotlight of cameras and questions, but he functions excellently in the most important spotlight, the court. I cannot wait for his return because the Bulls have just been sucking it up. Thankfully, they are still above 500, 16-12. Don’t forget to look at the GQ photos, all of which the one with him in the blue shirt holding the blue basketball are nice. He just look awkward in that overly blue one.
Should Emanuel Move to Englewood?
An excellent piece of satire, the writer points out the vast inequality in Chicago and the powers that be who don’t care to do anything about it. Chicago is a very segregated city, which is intentional, not something that just magically happened. When you take all of the funding and resources from particular areas and use it to help benefit other areas that are already better off or to fund projects that you find important instead of what the actual community members find important, well, what do you think is going to happen to those neighborhoods who have no funding and few resources? Poverty and mass incarceration are serious problems in Chicago and they also have primary targets: poor people of color and mainly the south and west sides of the city. We can talk about diversification and desegregation when we can reduce the inequalities of the criminal justice and economic systems of the city (and country).
The Progressive Case Against Obama
Obama is known as the least of all evils, or the least of two evils. Voting for a least evil is still voting for an evil. Technically, he is not the least of all evils anyway because there are other people who run for president. There are third parties. Matt Stoller writes an excellent piece about why those who feel that Obama is their best bet should stop treating him that way. He delves into his policies and actions, without going in too much to bore you and points out that there really is no difference between Obama and Romney. There is no difference between the two parties that run this nation, except the puppet. The sooner Americans realize this, the better future we can begin to build.
American Pens Quran Against Islamophobia
Everitte Barbee is a calligraphy artist who began work on what he calls The Quran of Solidarity. It is the first Quran to be written by a non-Muslim and the first to be written completely in figurative calligraphy. He hasn’t completed the project as that will take a few years, but in order to continue he has received sponsors for individual surahs (chapters), of which he sends the sponsor a print. An artist who recognizes the beauty in something and uses his talent to show his appreciation and try to dispel the negative attitudes of something not understood is brilliant. The work is beautiful and I appreciate that Everitte is using his talent in a respectful way to create a new version of a religious text. The geometric and abstract patterns he creates are so gorgeous. I would be absolutely thrilled to own this Qur’an when it’s completed.
The Cult of Done Manifesto
I really like manifestos and this is at least a helpful one — one that I am going to print and tack on my wall as a constant reminder to get stuff done. Tips like “Accept that everything is a draft” and “Failure counts as done” are good reminders to do without worrying about perfection. Perfectionism tends to aid my procrastination. I need to limit both of those.
12 Videos Worth Watching
Meet the 17-year old who blew the lid off racial profiling with his ipod
Because everyone should know about the awful “Stop & Frisk” policies of the cops and be outraged.
When Savages Unite
Because Mark Gonzales is one of the most beautiful human beings on this earth. His poetry is breathtaking, elegant, and full of love and humanity.
Old Man in Nursing Home Reacts to Hearing Music from His Era
Because seeing someone who doesn’t recognize his own family and is generally unresponsive recognize something with such clarity is beautiful. Through music, he is restored to his former self and is alive.
DMX Sings Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Because seeing a rapper with a voice like DMX sing a Christmas song like this is hilarious. “Come on!”
‘Effective Evil’ or Progressives’ Best Hope? Glen Ford vs. Michael Eric Dyson on Obama Presidency
Because this is an excellent debate on Barack Obama and what his Presidency will do and will not do for Americans. Glen Ford is against Obama, saying he embraces right-wing policies and is effective in neutralizing any opposition, whereas Michael Eric Dyson is for Obama, saying he is the best out there to create change within the current system. Watch.
Blast Interrupts Interview in Gaza
Because this brings the situation in Gaza straight to your home. Watch this CNN moderated interview, when an Israeli blasts hits the media center in Gaza and shuts down Mohammed Sulaiman from the interview. Those blasts are not an unfrequent occurrence for the Palestinians in Gaza.
Poverty, Power, and the Public Airwaves
Because this was hands-down the best event I had attended throughout the whole year and it’s for all to see on youtube. Tavis Smiley, Cornel West, and Amy Goodman discuss the state of the media and the role of the people. If you have the time, please watch this. Cornel West and Amy Goodman killed it.
Worst Movie Death Scene Ever
Because everyone deserves a good laugh. Apparently in the original film scene, he’s not really screaming every time he is shot. It’s still funny though.
“Death” Tales of Mere Existence
Because this guy Lev has an outstanding style of storytelling, complete with a bored voice, great marker drawings in the moment, and humorous, very relatable tales. “Death” was the first video of his that I had seen, and I don’t even remember how I stumbled upon it, but I am so glad I did because I thoroughly enjoy all of his videos. I really love the drawing style, too.
This 12 year old gets it…Why don’t you
Because everyone should understand how the banking system of many countries is sucking the people of those countries dry, throwing them in a life full of debt, crumbling our existence. Regardless of whether this 12 year old wrote this speech on her own or someone else wrote it and had her memorize it and present it, it’s a good piece of truth to acknowledge whatever age you are. The sooner it is acknowledged, the sooner we can free ourselves.
The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl — Episode 1 “The Stop Sign”
Because this is the best new series I have seen all year. It is like nothing on tv, something I can somewhat relate to, and is downright hilarious. It’s a piece of entertainment missing from the mainstream wave that many people could relate to, yet never could find before. I am cracking up watching this again.
12 Artists (& Designers & Projects) Worth Checking Out
He paints with his own blood! The paintings are stunning, too. I wish he would redo his website, though, because the process of looking at his paintings is frustrating.
He paints with fire! Well, the soot from the fire is what makes the image. They are beautiful paintings and the monochromatic scheme of the soot makes for smooth blending and a serious feeling. I first discovered him in this short documentary about him.
He paints with tea and alcohol! The colors he mixes within the paintings are subdued, yet gorgeous. They look like watercolors, but the tones do remind you of drinks. I love tea and this artwork reminds me that anything can be used to create beautiful art if you have the right style. Carne has the right style.
Project Mooncircle is a Berlin-based label or collaborative that combines dope beats with interesting artwork. Anything that incorporates good, instrumental music with decent visual art will have my attention.
She creates map paintings with figurative interpretations using the lines of the map. I haven’t seen many people use maps to paint figures like the one’s Ingrid makes. I find them inspirational.
She is a designer and illustrator who simply creates the type of designs that appeal to me. I was introduced to her through her “Nerdy Dirty” series, which I absolutely love. Her use of typography, illustration, and color are excellent and the compositions are well balanced.
She makes what I call Stitch Paintings. She stitches colorful thread through paper to make images, some of which are really beautiful. I don’t know anybody else whose primary artform is making paintings with thread, so I delight in this find.
Reclaim NYC is an initiative that gets artists and designers to make furniture and useful items out of the debris caused by Hurricane Sandy and then sells it all to raise money for relief efforts. Good design for a good cause is definitely my thing. I want this lamp…
She is a Ukrainian artist who makes images and tells stories out of sand. She creates art using other mediums, but her storytelling with sand, or sand animation, is what spoke to me. I first saw her in a video that a friend shared, which was of Kseniya on “Ukraine’s Got Talent.” She created a very moving animation of the horrors of war. She accompanied her sand animation with music mixed with sound clips of war. I think it adds to the sadness and beauty of her storytelling. I don’t know if she won on the show, but she’s definitely got talent.
This Swiss man is funny. He “tidies” up modern and contemporary artworks; he “fixes” them; he makes them neat and orderly, more structured, so that it is more clear. It’s just funny… and so is his website.
He/She/They is/are (a) Spanish street artist(s) whose images range from political statements to simple elegance. Here are two I really enjoy:
Danny Fein & Litographs
Danny Fein founded Litographs, a creation of prints made from the text of classic books by a team of artists. Using the text from these classics, images are created to represent the essence of the story. Many of the 24 x 36 inch posters are actually created from the entire story. Amazing. Typography + Literature = Win!