Tag Archives: art

Violence, Women, and Art

5 Jun

Note: I drafted this post a few weeks ago, but hadn’t published it yet when events in the news spawned the #Yesallwomen conversation. I wasn’t sure I would publish it because I didn’t want to sound too preachy. But now, I’ve decided to, in the spirit of #Yesallwomen. (If you haven’t read the Twitter feed on that hashtag, do it. You will be amazed, horrified, nodding your head, saying ‘yes, me too’ and more).


Here’s my original post:

As someone who values and admires creativity, my ideals include validating and encouraging all art.  But reality has come smack dab up against my ideals.  Here’s the problem: violence against women.

The other day, I was listening to a streaming music station on my iPhone as I worked in the yard.  Happily, I clipped along to the playlist of one of my favorite artists. A song came on with a beat and lyricism that you cannot resist singing along to. It included a collaboration with a rap artist, embedded in the song. I love these collaborations – they’re super cool and interesting musically. I’d heard the song before, but had never really paid close attention to the lyrics. All the lyrics. As I did, they hit me like a ton of bricks. And I thought:

“This guy is calling a woman a b* and literally saying he’s going to eff her up because she isn’t pleasing him. And I’m singing it with him. WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?” Yes, I was yelling at myself inside my head.

But then I said to myself, “Self, this isn’t the first song you’ve heard (or sung) with lyrics like this. Why are you freaking out now?”  And, then I freaked out even more at the fact that I hadn’t freaked out about this before. 

WHY hadn’t I freaked out before? WHEN did it become acceptable to glorify beating the stuffing out of a woman?  Are we in the Twilight Zone, people?  If you were to replace gender with race in these songs, people would completely lose it. And rightly so, because it would be wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. Where is the outcry when these things are said against women?

In art, we explore many things. But when there are dozens, perhaps hundreds of songs which include lyrics that make it sound okay, normal or that glorify violence toward women, we are sending a message. A horrible message.  Millions of small choices make up our culture.  I, perhaps you, and millions of other men, women, teenagers and even young boys and girls are happily listening to lyrics that imply that women are: beneath men, here only to serve men, deserve to be harmed in some way if the men in their lives are not pleased.  And then we wonder why there is so much violence against women in the world. When we buy, stream and listen to these songs, we are saying it’s okay.  And, it’s NOT okay.

So, I’m making a small choice. I can only choose for myself, but I hope you’ll consider joining me. I’m not talking about censorship. I don’t believe in the big brother approach. I believe in the power of the market. The power of the people.  If people choose not to buy or otherwise support these songs, fewer of them will get made. Fewer of these hateful messages will be put out there.  And fewer little boys and little girls will grow up thinking that women are nothing but objects that deserve to be used and abused.

From now on, I will not buy songs that have a mysoginist message, I won’t stream them, and I’m removing them from my playlists. I admit I’ll be sad to see some of the songs go, because I do love me a nasty bassline. But it’s gotta be done.

June Power Word: DIVE!

1 Jun

It’s summertime!  Time for sun and fun.  And cooling off  in the ocean, the pool, the lake.  Wherever your favorite watering hole may be.

Rafi B/CCA 2.0

Rafi B/CCA 2.0

Whether you’re lazily dangling a foot off the dock, sitting in the calm morning surf, or swirling in slow circles on a plastic float, it’s all good.  But nothing is more freeing than leaping into the air and flying for the length of a of heartbeat, until splash, your hands hit the cool water.   It’s time to DIVE into summer and into your art.

What will you DIVE into this month?

TANGO! Review February Power Word

28 Feb

Inspiration For a Young Artist

27 Jun

Ahhh, Arizona

I recently returned from a trip with my family to Sedona.  It was gorgeous and I could write a whole post just on the natural wonder of the area.  Maybe I will.  But for now, I want to tell you about one of the most delightful finds we made while there.

To understand why it was so delightful, you have to know that my daughter is quite skilled at origami.  That’s not just a mom talking.  Here is a picture of the swan she made me for Mother’s Day last year.

Not your average origami

It’s made of 300 tiny folded pieces. How a teenager has the patience to do this, I don’t know.  She takes origami paper with us wherever we go and has been doing this since she was about 9 years old.

While in Sedona, we visited a nice little shopping village full of upscale art galleries and shops.  Passing by one window, I stopped dead in my tracks.  There hung a beautiful multi-level origami crane mobile.

“Look!” I said, pulling my daughter over to the window, then through the open door of the gallery, Honshin Fine Art.  It was full of beautiful things by the artist who owns the gallery, as well as pieces by other artists.  To our great fortune, the woman working in the gallery that day, Lou Adams, was the artist who made the crane mobile.  She also showed us a butterfly mobile she made, and then very generously offered to teach my kids how to fold a butterfly.  It was a magic moment for us. Thank you, Lou, for your kindness and inspiration!

Learning to fold butterflies

I’ve been telling my daughter for years that her origami is truly art.  Now that she’s seen origami in a real art gallery, she finally believes me.Who knows?  Maybe one day, her fanciful and precise works of paper art will be on display somewhere.

To see Lou’s enchanting work for yourself, visit her website: peacecraneart.com.

The Science of Art and Creativity

23 Mar

I was enthralled the whole way home on my commute  a couple of days ago, listening to an interview on NPR with Jonah Lehrer, the author of Imagine: How Creativity Works.

Amazing, inspiring info on the science of creativity, as well as some insights on how to tap into it!  You can hear or read it here:


Does Humanity = Creativity?

6 Feb

Pech Merle cave art

Today, I am pleased to share the guest post below in place of my own. It is written by my mother, who was inspired by an article she read that  tries to shed light on the question of when human creativity began.  I believe the two are inextricably entertwined – that we humans are, and always have been, creative, even in our earliest forms.  What do you think?

The Origin of Human Creativity

By Caroline Lanker

Recently, I spent some time catching up on the 4 Chicks and a Muse blog – reading the latest blog posts and watching the latest video clips.  Coincidently, the same day, I was going through some old magazines and happened to re-read an article in the August 2010 issue of Scientific American, “When the Sea Saved Humanity,” by Curtis W. Marean.

The article centers on a time in human history – over 100,000 years ago – when the earth was in the grips of an ice age.  The climate of Africa was exceedingly dry and harsh then.   Genetic studies indicate that the population of Homo sapiens plummeted during that time, as shown by an unusual lack of diversity in the human genome compared to other species.

Our species, which had arisen during much more hospitable conditions, somehow hung on in small groups somewhere in Africa.  Marean and his colleagues went looking for a place where humans lived during that ice age. They found one such place in a series of caves near the seashore on the southern tip of South Africa.

What they found in those caves was more than just survival of our species. They found evidence of sophisticated behavior at an early stage in our history.  One such type of evidence is the “…evidence of art or other symbolic activities…”

This may have been a surprise to some, as the article explains, “For years the earliest examples of these behaviors were all found in Europe and dated to after 40,000 years ago.  …researchers concluded that there was a long lag between the origin of our species and the emergence of our peerless creativity.”

Wow! I have read about scientific debates over the beginnings of modern human thought many times.  But I don’t recall the term “creativity” being used in that context before.

In the article, Marean describes three lines of evidence of modern human thought/creativity going back to the earliest level (164,000 years ago) of the cave he and his colleagues excavated.  First, there was evidence of complex technology in the heat treatment of stone to make it suitable for making stone tools.  As he describes it,

“The making of silcrete blades [the particular tools that showed evidence of heat treating] requires a complex series of carefully designed steps…”

cc-by-sa-3.0 Guerin Nicolas

Second, there was evidence of art.

“In the oldest layers of [the cave], my team has unearthed dozens of pieces of red ochre (iron oxide) that were variously carved and ground to create a fine powder that was probably mixed with a binder such as animal fat to make paint that could be applied to the body or other surfaces.”

Third, he explains that the shellfish that provided a substantial part of the cave dwellers food could only be gathered safely during particularly low tides.  The people must have timed their forays to collect shellfish by the phases of the moon.  The latter connection is a bit more tenuous than the other evidence, but quite reasonable.

Altogether, the artifacts found in the cave and the investigations of them provide persuasive evidence of creative thought as long ago as 164,000 years.

I do not find that to be remarkable, actually.  In the absence of clear evidence to the contrary, scientists prefer the “simplest” explanation for everything.   In the former absence of evidence of modern human thought before about 40,000 years ago, some scientists developed the hypothesis that humans somehow developed modern thought long after the origin of our species.   However, the small amount of genetic diversity in our species seems inconsistent with that hypothesis.

In my opinion, the simplest explanation would be that human creativity developed with the origin of our species.  To believe otherwise is to posit that the complex development of modern human cognition arose with little or no genetic modification.

I, of course, have no credentials that would qualify me to enter the scientific debate, nor any new evidence to provide.  But I read with interest about the possible origins of human creativity and tied it together with the 4 Chicks’ thoughts on the universality of human creativity.

A number of years ago, Peggy (Pursuing the Muse) and I were fortunate to see for ourselves some cave art dating back tens of thousands of years when we saw some of the famous Paleolithic art in a cave called Pech Merle, near Cahors in the Lot river valley of France.  You can see images of the paintings or take a virtual tour of the cave at www.quercy.net/pechmerle/english/introduction.html.

To read the full text of the Scientific American article (or a free excerpt) go to www.scientificamerican.com and search in the Archives section.

The Joy of Discovery

21 Jun

Last week, I finally went to a place I’ve been wanting to visit for years.  Each time I drove by, I’ d think, “someday I’m going to make time and go there.”  Well, that ‘someday’ finally arrived.  It was the second day of summer break and we had the whole day to play with. 

The place is the Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Gardens.  The museum is small and the gardens are large.  Perfect for kids.  And they have picnic tables down by the lake.  What could be better?  So, Vivi and I packed sandwiches, and then the kids, into the car and off we went.  I’m so glad we did!

What a cornucopia of delights.  The gardens are beautiful and everything is in bloom.  They slope from the museum and house down to the shore of Lake Osceola.   There are winding paths, sunny lawns and plenty of shady spots to rest under the trees.  I felt lighter and more creative the moment I stepped into the gardens.  Honestly, I couldn’t wait to get back home and write.

We enjoyed our picnic under the trees by the lake.  Then, crafty mothers that we are, we managed to extend our lounging time and sneak some learning in for the kids by challenging them to a scavenger hunt for various types of sculpture.  We sat and chatted while they ran off in search of sculptures in bronze, concrete, terracotta and more, reporting back to us with the name of each sculpture to prove they had found one. 

Then, the boys led us on a tour of the gardens, showing us their found treasures.  Last, they tried their hands at becoming part of the exhibit, as you can see in the picture here. 

Another pleasant discovery was the exhibit in the museum gallery.  It was the work of a father and son.  The father, Arthur Jones, creates wood art and the son, Sam Jones, uses mixed media.   I love wood art and this was amazing – whimsical, educational and so smooth, you just want to reach out and touch it. (Of course, we didn’t!)  We even got to meet Mr. Jones (the father), as he was there that day.   The son’s work was both fun in some cases and insightful in others and sometimes both.   Mr. Jones (the son) had worn a magnet on his shoe for one year, and there was a display of what he picked up day by day.  Funny to see how many safety pins and bobby pins there were along with screws, metal filings and the occasional leaf stuck between objects.   

I personally felt synchronicity at work, as I found out the son lives in my hometown of Houston and we are around the same age, and the father lives near Orlando, my adopted town.   It was fun learning of these two artists.  To see some of their work, check out  the exhibits section of http://polasek.org/ and Sam’s work at his gallery at http://www.ivgallery.com/

So many enjoyable discoveries were made that day and isn’t that what art is all about?       

 Art is a path to the superior ~Albin Polasek

Mapping Your Interests – Task Chapter 3

4 Jun

In Walking in this World: The Practical Art of Creativity Chapter 3: Discovering a Sense of Perspective, Julia Cameron assigns the task: Mapping Your Interests. She asserts that “the mapmaking of art points the human compass straighter toward home.”  In this task, all you have to do is list five items on each topic she sets forth.  Easy, no?  

For me, no.  In my normal habit of overthinking things, I struggled with this one, until I said to myself “Relax!  It doesn’t have to be the absolute top five things ever-since-the-beginning-of-time.  Just five things.”  So, here goes.  These lists could change tomorrow, or an hour from now, but here they are:

Five topics that interest me are:

1.  Language/linguistics/etymology (yes, I’m lumping them all together – call me a cheater if you will)

2.  Behavioral economics

3.  Archaeology

4. Psychology

5.  Music

Five people who interest me are:

1.  Maya Angelou

2.  Dan Ariely

3.  Jane Goodall 

4.  Adam Levine (yes, I’ve been watching The Voice)

5.  Julie Taymor

Five art forms that interest me are:

1.  Writing

2.  Photography

3.  Painting

4.  Dance

5.  Music

Five projects I could try out are:

1.  Take a photography class

2.  Enter a writing contest

3.  Start a new novel

4.  Write a song/score on piano

5.  Paint a picture

At least one of my items listed above will actually happen.  I have signed up for a photography workshop along with my fellow Chick, Eva.  It’s a one-night workshop in the middle of June.  I am really excited and perhaps we’ll share some of what we learn there on this blog later in the month.

Inspired by The Artist’s Studio

22 May

I found another post on Freshly Pressed and was absolutely inspired by it!   It includes pictures from inside the studio of a successful NYC artist.   Though I don’t consider myself a visual artist (well, not drawing, painting, pottery, etc,) I love, love, love being in their workspaces.  I love the ideas made visual, the shapes and, most of all, the colors.   The site it’s posted on is called Underground Biz which makes me want to go visit NYC. Right. Now.  And Paige, the author, seems like a supercool Chick.

Check out the post here:    http://undergroundbiz.net/2011/05/12/inside-the-artists-studio/#comment-300

Here’s a pic of another “studio” though I won’t say whose.  Do places like these inspire you?

Marilyn – Richmond, Virginia

5 Apr

Tony Karp's Muse

This week’s Chick Story spotlights an interesting, new area of visual arts called Techno-Impressionism.  The Artist’s Muse, his wife Marilyn, has inspired us Chicks, too, with the importance of creating from within, independent of the feedback and approval of others.

How does one search for one’s muse if one is already a muse? My guess is one turns inward. I’m an Artist’s Muse; my artist is Tony Karp. We’re embarked on a journey called TechnoImpressionism. It’s an interesting journey as Tony’s art is art of the future. This sometimes makes it subject to misunderstanding and even dislike.

Feedback and encouragement come in small doses with long periods of silence in between. I suspect that this is not unusual when one creates something new and different from what most people are used to.

How do we keep going you ask? Tony often quotes the I Ching which says the superior man is governed from within, the inferior man is governed by law. Tony makes art that pleases him (my opinion sometimes holds some weight), and strives to make art that is interesting.

Tony is driven by logic, I’m driven by common sense. He sees his creation in his mind’s eye before he creates it, I just start anywhere, and as I go along, I begin to see its shape and form. Between us we can both get close and step back. We’re inner directed. We have confidence in what we create. We do what is interesting to us. It is a trap to create to please your grownups. It will stop the flow – the thing that gives you that idea, the thing that propels you to create. The message here is have confidence in yourself and your work and create what pleases you.

Being our own masters leads to having fun and trying lots of different things. Sometimes we walk away and then go back to something. After having given it a rest, we sometimes realize that it is really quite good. As the guy used to say, we’re the deciders.

When I asked Tony how many images is he managing in his albums, he said around 70,000. (Each one created by him.) But only 10,000 are in his primary body of work. This huge number of images is the result of his playing and trying lots of different things. He has built a workflow that’s very organized and provides the control needed to process so many images in many different ways. Tony Karp’s art is displayed in our museum galleries, in both our blogs (his and mine) and in his journal, in print and now in our art books. Tony is totally free to create and yet has total control over the output. It’s an interesting and powerful combination. This blending of art and the control provided by technology is the foundation upon which his work is built. The work is both interesting and unique.

We encourage you to think outside the box, try lots of different things, display your creative endeavors and don’t wait for them to be perfect. Give your creativity a chance to evolve using lots and lots of iterations. A Broadway show isn’t perfect after just one rehearsal; it takes lots and lots of practice.

Around here we refer to the creative process as being in the flow, that moment in time when you start creating and it just seems to flow from you effortlessly. Sometimes it is hard to get to the point, but when you’re in it, it feels great. Believe in yourself. Your confidence informs your creativity. It brings out the best in you.

We admit that we do have a secret weapon, and that is our love. It sustains us during those times when there is no feedback. It provides the fuel that keeps us going. What we’re doing is so incredibly interesting, and we know in our hearts that we’re creating a path to the future. What an interesting way to live.

To take a peek at what the Karps are currently working on, zoom in on this sample image from their upcoming book, which is sure to provide many interesting visions of art in the future.

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