Let Me Solve Your Problem

I have this friend who is getting old and is convinced he’s going to die soon. He’s an artist, and he told me he wanted to distribute his art to the world before he makes his grand exit. He hates to think of it just sitting there, not being appreciated.

I instantly came up with an idea. I have been focused on my Little Free Library of late, and I’ve also blogged about Little Free Gardens. So, why not a Little Free Gallery? Construct a box, put it in an artsy/touristy part of town, fill it with your art, write on it, “Take some art, share some art” and away we go!

His art would be distributed, and other artists could put some of their stuff in as well. Even children could add their beautiful little scribbly contributions. Art for the common man. It sounds like a delightful idea to me! Visions of this really catching on and taking off.

Except I forgot who I was talking to. As much as I love this person, he doesn’t really want a solution. That would require action. He instantly threw up roadblocks, which I found easy to knock down.

Roadblock: I’m not really very sociable.

Solution: I could easily find you someone who would allow your little free gallery in front of their shop. Then all you’d have to do is put your art in there. You don’t have to sit by it.

Roadblock: I don’t need to get rich. I just need to spread my pictures to as many people as I can.

Solution: That’s why it’s called a Little FREE Gallery. You’d be giving your stuff away.

Roadblock: The library idea involves taking and putting back. A gallery wouldn’t be like that.

Solution: Who cares? But other artists could put their work in there too, if they wanted.

Roadblock: Still, it wouldn’t be sharing like a library is.

Solution: It would be sharing your artistic talent with the wider community. A lot of people love art, but most of us can’t afford it. This would be a great way to spread art to the world.

Roadblock: I like the idea of offering pictures at low prices without a store. Low price is important. Free stuff goes in the garbage can.

Frustrated response: Well, if there’s money involved, you’d need someone watching over it. And no one would give you a free space or a free box or contribute to it if it’s for money, so you’d have a much harder time.

Roadblock: I want someone who takes one of my pictures to take it seriously. If it’s a freebie, they can chuck it like a plastic bag.

Irritated response: You have to have faith. I also hope my library books actually get read, but there’s no guarantee. But if even one person reads something they wouldn’t have already read, I’m happy. Sometimes you just have to put positive energy out into the world and hope it makes an impact. You started off saying you just want to distribute your art to the world before you die. Now it sounds like you want to pursue profit. Those are different goals.

Roadblock: I’m an old guy who wants to get his work out in the world no matter what. I do not support schemes that have artists give out work for free. Artists need to make a living.

Resigned reponse: It’s not a scheme, it’s a public good. No artist would be forced to participate. It may be a fun way to put some small art works out there and get themselves some recognition. Oh, never mind.

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I think what I need to take away from this conversation, the lesson that I need to learn (and will have to learn over and over and over again in my life), is that when someone presents me with a problem, they often aren’t really seeking advice. They’re just spewing words into the world with no real destination.The conversation should have gone like this:

Him: I want to get my art out into the world, no matter what.

Me: What a great idea. Good luck with that.

If I approached more conversations from that angle, I’d probably have fewer grey hairs and less acid reflux. But noooo…

problem-solved-jeff-jarvis

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The Motives behind Graffiti

When I left work the other night, all was right with the world. When I came back 8 hours later, it was to this travesty:

I take pride in my drawbridge and in my city, so when people deface them in this heinous manner, it breaks my heart. This kind of wanton destruction, this desire to make things ugly, is beyond my comprehension. In an attempt to better understand the motivations behind graffiti in general, I did a lazy Google search on the subject and came up with dozens of articles, most of which seemed to occupy two distinct camps.

In the more positive camp, the best article I found was this one. It discusses the desire of those oppressed to express political opinions. It also gets into the longing for fame and popularity, and even gives an example of a tagger who then went on to collaborate with companies and thus became accepted by mainstream society. It talks also about graffiti as a form of self-expression that reveals a secret and thus draws the reader into the community by the simple act of sharing that secret. It then discusses graffiti as a form of positive affirmation. It only mentions gangs in passing, and finds it ironic that governmental authorities and most citizens see it as an anti-social activity. In conclusion the article says,

According to an ex-graffiti artist, one must understand his or her own motives and not create graffiti simply to destroy public space. An artist must have a clear motive, whether it is to communicate a social/political/religious message, to shock or amuse people, or merely to defy legal authorities.

Well, that certainly paints a pretty picture. Unfortunately, I don’t think the artists who chose my bridge as their palette had such a squeaky clean image. They were vandals, pure and simple. This article discussed this type of tagger.

It mentioned that “in the year 2000, vandalism accounted for $1.6 billion in damage to households alone” in this country. It says vandalism is one way that juveniles use to vent anger. It’s also a way to fit in and be accepted by a gang.

I think this ugly, incomprehensible crap on my bridge is gang related. It has no value and sends no message other than, “we can get away with destroying things.” It’s like dogs claiming territory by peeing on a fire hydrant. It’s an exercise in ignorance and rage, and I can’t wait until the city heeds my report and  comes out and gets rid of it.

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The Museum of Glass

If you ever find yourself in Tacoma, Washington, I highly recommend that you pay the Museum of Glass a visit. It’s been around since 2002, and it’s a place where you can experience all things glass. Its very existence revitalized that charming city.

I suggest that you approach the museum by crossing Chihuly’s Bridge of Glass. It’s an otherworldly riot of color that will leave you wondering how it could possibly be topped by the indoor exhibits. There’s the ceiling display called the Seaform Pavillion, then a wall of vase-like objects that are lit up at night, called the Venetian Wall, and then two large blue sculptures that can also be seen as you drive beneath them on the freeway, called the Crystal Towers.

The building itself is a tilted, stainless steel cone, and it’s fun to stand in front of it, tilted yourself, for a memorable selfie. (I’d show you ours, but I have a modest husband.)

Upon entering the building, check out the hot shop first. That way you can cool off afterward in the exhibit area, because to say that the hot shop is hot is an understatement. But there you can watch glass artists in front of the scorching hot ovens, honing their craft. It’s really magical to watch something transform from a baseball sized lump to a stunningly designed, extremely intricate vase. And there is always someone on hand who can answer your questions about each step of the process.

Glass Hotshop

Next I recommend that you take a peek down a glass fronted hallway called Art Alley, where the “Kids Design Glass” exhibit is. This is a delightful concept. Kids under 12 can go to the website and fill out a Kids Design Glass Entry Form. The entry includes the child’s drawing, and their own little story that inspires the drawing. Then, once a month, one entry is chosen, and the hot shop invites that child to watch them make two copies of the glass sculpture inspired by that drawing. One copy goes to the child, and the other one is put on display. What fun!

The museum often has workshops where you can experience glassmaking firsthand, and there are also docent-led tours of the exhibits, or you can explore them on your own. In addition, there’s a docent-guided Chihuly Walking Tour around downtown Tacoma on some days. And there are a lot of one-day events throughout the year. Check the website for days and times.

There’s a permanent Dale Chihuly exhibit, and a few rotating exhibits and short term exhibits.

I’m hesitant to tell you about the amazing exhibit we saw, entitled Raven and the Box of Daylight, because by the time you read this, it will be gone. It was based on a Tlingit story about Raven’s journey as he transforms the world, bringing light to the people via the stars, moon, and sun. It was otherworldly. You experience it through the glass, the story, the music and the lighting. I was a feast for the senses. I’m so glad that photography was allowed (see below), or it would have felt like it was all a dream.

And every good museum has a store. I wanted one of everything. But I’m trying not to accumulate stuff.

Check out the Museum of Glass. You’ll be so glad you did!

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A Different Perspective on Immigration

Recently, I heard someone read the poem “Home” by Warsan Shire. It moved me to the very marrow of my bones. It made me understand, on a level that I never had before, why people come to this country.

The majority of  Americans have been very lucky and have never experienced the feeling that if you stay home, the place you have always lived, then you will surely die. We have never had things explode all around us. We have never lived under the imminent threat of gang rape or abduction or starvation. Most of us know what it is to feel relatively safe.

This poem gives a voice to refugees. It’s a voice that you have never heard before. It’s insight that all of us need to have. Before you say, “Go back to where you come from,” please read this poem.

warsan-shire
Warsan Shire

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Give Handmaid’s Tale a Try

I just watched season three’s finale of The Handmaid’s tale. I was alternatively weeping for joy or holding my husband’s hand in a vise-like grip due to the suspense. It is, without question, the best television series that I’ve ever seen in my entire life.

Everyone I’ve talked to seems to be on one side of the fence or the other about this series. Either they love it and are every bit as obsessed with it as I am, or they have never seen it and don’t want to because it’s got the reputation of being upsetting.

Yes, it can be upsetting. It’s full of rape and mutilation and adversity and violence. It shows what can happen when ruthless fascists take over and think they know what’s best for our society more than we do. It’s the worst-case scenario regarding the subjugation of women. It is about the heartless suppression of the voice of the people and a blatant disregard for human rights at a time when we’re already seeing way too much of that in real life.

But to focus on the darkness is to miss the entire point. That’s not why I watch The Handmaid’s Tale.

I watch it for the triumphs that are so hard-won amongst all that misery. I watch it to remind myself that no matter how bad things get, there will always be those of us who are willing to fight for what is right and never give up. Even while it exposes the ruthlessness of humanity, it also reaffirms my faith in what is good and straight and honest and true. It is an opportunity to celebrate the strength of women against all odds. It also demonstrates just how messy morality can be.

The acting is phenomenal. And the character development is beyond compare. Everyone is full of complex flaws, and I genuinely feel as though I’ve seen more than one person completely lose their mind on this show. And yet they persist.

I’m not going to lie. I also watch The Handmaid’s Tale to bear witness, and to learn what it might take to survive if this nightmare comes to pass. Because sometimes surviving is the greatest triumph of all.

I challenge you to watch at least the first three episodes of this show. If you’re not hooked by then, at least you won’t have to live with regrets. You will at least have had a taste of perfection. And I assure you that each season so far has been even better than the last.

This show is horrible in its excellence. I can’t wait for season four. Best. Show. EVER.

handmaids-tale

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We Have Always Had Needs

Recently, I stumbled across an article entitled “12th-Century Poem About A Virgin Arguing With Her Vulva Uncovered in Austrian Monastery”. I ask you, how could one not be intrigued? I had to read more.

It seems that this is the oldest known copy of this satire, but it is not the only one that has been found. In it, a woman is debating with her vulva about what attracts men more, it, or the woman’s general physical appearance. (I don’t think that question has been answered definitively, even all these centuries later.)

What fascinates me most about this poem is that there was obviously a frank discussion about sexuality even back in the 12th Century. We seem to hold two contradicting notions in our head: Ancient peoples were devoid of morals and self-control, whereas we are more sophisticated (read: prudish) now. But at the same time, we look back at past history, at least in the European, Christian sense, and tend to believe that humans have become more open, less conservative, over time. Clearly neither theory tells the whole story.

I also remember reading an article (which I can no longer find) about a wooden dildo that was found hidden up inside a fireplace niche in Colonial Williamsburg. Well, the “hidden” aspect of it implies there was a source of shame there, but its existence confirms that people have always had needs, and were willing to get creative to fulfill them.

If you look at art through the centuries, you’ll see that there has always been a fascination with genitalia. Most historians nervously attribute these things to fertility, the need to procreate, and take the sexuality out of it.

Hmph.

According to this article, sex toys have been found that date back 28,000 years. So who’s to say that fertility statues weren’t also used for pleasure and visual titillation? I mean, come on. Most of us appreciate a little stimulation now and again. Do we really think pornography originated in the 1900’s? Do we think the more artistic depictions of all things taboo began with Georgia O’Keefe?

We also seem to want to quash the fact that once upon a time, women were considered powerful by more than just those of us who are woke. (Women can create men inside their own bodies. The reverse cannot ever be claimed. That’s magical.)

This article discusses a variety of artistic depictions of female genitalia, including sculptures of the sacred yoni in Hindu art, Venus figurines that are at least 35,000 years old, and Sheela-na-gig carvings of women with exaggerated vulvas that are found throughout Europe.

Further, Baubo figurines were popular in ancient Greece. They were often depicted as a naked headless body with a female face emerging from the torso, and a vulva on the chin. Hmmm.

In the Palauan archipelago, one could often find Dilukai, or carvings of women with their legs splayed open, above the doors of the houses of the chiefs. These were said to be sacred carvings to ward off evil, and symbolize fertility and spiritual rebirth. But missionaries tried to claim they were there to shame immoral women. (I suspect that what went on in the chief’s house had little to do with lessons in morality.)

It is even said that the Vesica Piscis, an almond-shaped symbol that appears all over the place throughout history, including in the ancient Christian fish symbol, is actually a depiction of the female vaginal source of creation.

Personally, I see no reason to cast shame upon those who believe in the sacred female, nor should we feel shame about the body parts that have allowed all of us to walk upon this earth, nor in the urges that have caused us to make use of said body parts. More power to us all.

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A 12th-century Sheela Na Gig on a Church in Kilpeck, Herefordshire, England

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Public Art Lovers

I genuinely believe that public art makes a city more livable. I’ve written about this before. I think murals and sculptures add a certain whimsy to a community, and that’s a joy to behold.

While going through my many photo albums, I suddenly realized that a recurring theme therein is public art. If I see a beautiful or funny bit of creativity, I’m compelled to stop and take a picture of it. These things make me smile. I suspect this is the case for others as well.

So, glutton for punishment that I am, I decided to start yet another Facebook group. Hopefully you are aware of and/or have joined my other two groups already.

The View from a Drawbridge is a group for readers of this blog, and every day I add a link to that day’s post. Many people are more comfortable leaving comments there than they are at the foot of the actual post, so you often get a more in-depth discussion of the topic du jour.

Drawbridge Lovers, on the other hand, is a group about all things drawbridge. People post some amazing photos of movable spans throughout the world in that forum. They also include links to drawbridge related news, which can be quite fascinating.

So this new group is called Public Art Lovers, and I’m hoping that it will get just as much participation as the other two groups. I’m really looking forward to seeing murals, sculptures and the like from all over the world. I wish I could be everywhere at once and see all these things with my own eyes, but of course, that would be impossible. So much art, so little time…

So, here’s hoping you’ll join my newest Facebook group and share your public art encounters with the world. I love the concept of group whimsy and delight! I think we all could use a little more of that in our lives. Join us!

Mural Seattle

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