I recently had a successful exhibition at the 3rd Street Gallery in Eureka CA. After the show I wanted to take a break to reassess where I was at in my artwork but also to devote some time to my ceramics. The exhibit ended early November and I planned to take a break for a month. Of course I reflected on my desires to make the paintings stronger and clearer. I also wanted to take an on line meditation retreat on Loving Kindness, offered through Tricycle Magazine with Sharon Salzberg as the teacher. In addition, I wanted to do some outside landscape painting, weather permitting.(I have been inspired by nature in my art for years)
I don’t know if it was because of the material I am studying or just life- but I again was/am consumed with thinking about Afro American history, my family, my accomplishments, Black individual accomplishments, Black exclusion, the horror of slavery, Jim Crow, and racism. Racism which still manifests today with police shootings, discrimination, the incarceration of so many Black men, poverty and gun violence. Besides collecting Pinterest images of paintings ,ceramics, recipes,etc.; I also collected images of lynchings of black men and women, as well as derogatory commercial images of Black people.
How to make sense of all of this while also wanting to deepen my meditation practice, work in the studio again, and make a difference to someone suffering.
I can be kind, be compassionate, give of myself to others in need, be aware that we all suffer from the transitory. Nothing is permanent, remind myself that we all as humans suffer from loss; declining health, death of a loved ones, not feeling safe, aging, etc. This is what connects us-we are all passing through life, while it’s changing, trying to make meaningful choices, and finding love for ourselves and our families and friends.
After a month passed I started going to the studio to paint again.It is unlikely that my work will end racism, but it is possible, for those who get to see them, that they will reflect my desire to be an aware, compassionate, generous human being. Maybe that will contribute to making the world a better place.
This quote from Thanissaro Bhikku caught my attention,
“The material world offers 8 things: (1)material gain, (2)material loss, (3) status, (4) loss of status (5) praise, (6) criticism, (7) pleasure, (8) pain”
What about love and beauty? But I know I hang on in gratefulness, knowing that that which I cherish is impermanent also.
It has been a while since I last posted something. A lot has happened since then. There have been major illness in the family, and deaths in the family. The view that all is changing all the time is becoming more obvious.
I also attended a high school reunion which then became a catalyst to review my major life choices from then to now. Somehow it all made sense and that it was clear that I made choices, conscious or unconscious, that got me to this point. In talking to one of my former classmates about our families and how they influenced our choices. He told me about his uncles that where in the advertising business, and how they encouraged his art making and the belief that being an artist was a valid life choice. It became clear to me that our early childhood experiences really shape us as adults. The influence of friends and teachers encouraged my choices. My high school counselor told the black and latin kids that we were not college material, so don’t bother trying. By not having an opposing voice, we believed her. But after graduating, an older acquaintance from school kept encouraging me to show my portfolio of art to the admission counselor at Pratt Institute. He bugged me for almost two years before I relented. This friend set me on my course and I have thanked him many times. He told me that a another high school classmate somehow deconstructed the situation we were in and bugged him to apply to college. So we both owe a debt to our classmate Freddy. Thank you Freddy
The point that I take from this is that it only takes one person to believe in you. and they can make a hugh difference for us as individuals and for the health of the society.
My friend Russ, who I have not spoken to for a while, sent me this poem. It really resonated for me, especially as I am getting older.
Love After Love
The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you have ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
Derek Walcott, Collected Poems 1948-1984, New York, Farrar Straus Giroux, 1986.