Art That Celebrates Life

Let’s be honest guys, the world is a mess right now. The world is not without hope, not without flashes of brightness, joy, and kindness, but we must admit situations could be better. Our world has a lot of problems; I would argue not any more problems than it has had in the past, just new and different problems that come with a changing world. It makes sense that with all the doom and gloom in the news day in and day out, it is easy for people to get overwhelmed. Unable to deal in their own mind with all the issues being plummeted towards them at once, they develop a sort of tunnel vision. With tunnel vision towards one particular issue, we get the culture wars, two sides so obsessed with one particular facet of our society that they are dissatisfied with that everything else, all the other big, important things that also need our help and attention, fall by the sidelines in favor of childish bickering. One of the worst examples of tunnel vision I’ve seen is the right to life debates.

Comedian and social critic George Carlin said of members of the pro-life movement in a well known monologue, Pro-Life, Abortion, and And The Sanctity of Life, “They’re all in favor of the unborn. They will do anything for the unborn. But once you’re born, you’re on your own. Pro-life conservatives are obsessed with the fetus from conception to nine months. After that, they don’t want to know about you. They don’t want to hear from you. No nothing. No neonatal care, no day care, no head start, no school lunch, no food stamps, no welfare, no nothing. If you’re pre-born, you’re fine; if you’re preschool, you’re f*****.” 

That may be hard to hear, and no, I’m sure it doesn’t ring true of every pro-life supporter out there. But unfortunately, most individuals that tout a pro-life belief are deeply lacking in a holistic advocacy for all of life. This can be seen clearly in this past election, which I know everyone is sick to death of hearing about, but it is important. The number one reason I have heard for why individuals didn’t vote for Hilary Clinton was her stance on abortion. Now, I am by no means a ride or die Hilary fan. Both candidates had issues, it is which had more that was a matter of personal opinion. However, think about this: people were saying they can’t vote for Hilary because she is a “murderer” based on her belief that the government should not outlaw abortion, though she personally believes it is a morally complicated issue. However, the alternative candidate’s first course of action that he just can’t wait to get started on as our new chief is to yank away the ACA, a provision that has allowed people with life threatening conditions and chronic or mental illness to be able to afford the care they need to, quite simply, not die. It was not perfect, but its impact was still not to be downplayed, as you can see from the many personal stories on Faces Of The ACA, a website started by a woman who credits surviving cancer to the Affordable Care Act.  As someone who works with individuals with disabilities and chronic illness, it is heartbreaking to see the people I care about fearing for their life and their future. Our new VP advocates for the psychological and at times even physical torture of LGBT youth in an effort to “change” them, often leading to eventual suicidal acts. But wait, with this option we were supposed to have “chosen life”. Many people knew of these concerns beforehand, and just couldn’t find it in themselves to care. This is the danger of tunnel vision.

Catholic nun Sister Joan Chittister‘s words have famously made their rounds in the media over this past year, “I do not believe that just because you’re opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.”

I wonder if we don’t focus on unborn babies because it is easier and less messy to care about someone who doesn’t exist yet, rather than the people who we already cross paths with in our day or hear about in the news, but who may be different from us, may be hard to understand, may make us uncomfortable, may have cultures or views or lifestyles that are different from ours.

Art speaks, so below, I would like to share a selection of impactful art that celebrates all life. I’m not telling anyone they have to stop caring about the things that they do; you have the right to your beliefs just as I do mine. However, I’d ask that you make an honest effort to open your scope and act on what you see, because there are so many who have already been thrust into life on this earth that need your help and support.

Illustrator Cloudy Thurstag – A beautiful visual reminder of the value of self care, important for everyone but especially relevant to those suffering with chronic or mental illness.

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Model Yazemeenah Rossi –  Because beauty, confidence, and poise doesn’t have an age limit.

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Stencil Artists Icy and Sot” using public art to envision a world freed from borders, war and gun violence.”

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Dancer Mary Verdi-Fletcher – There is more than one way to dance; innovation has no limits.

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Artist Joel Bergner in Collaboration With Syrian Refugee Children In The Za’Atari Camp In Jordan – Exploring conflict, dreams, fear, conservation, generosity, and hope together through art.

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If you have thoughts, feel free to share. Deep discussion can be quite a rush :D.

 

 

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Art Discussion: New Year’s Resolutions

I have to admit, I never make New Year’s resolutions; partly because if you are truly dissatisfied with something, it seems silly to arbitrarily wait until the turning of the calendar to fix it. In part also because we all tend to set the same goals, those goals that we know everyone else is setting so we can easier relate to those around us as we share that we want to find our soulmate, get a promotion, or lose weight, and we can all laugh together about how we probably won’t actually do anything to work towards most of those things. But, what would happen if we committed to doing one thing that we were truly passionate about in this new year, one thing that we didn’t over analyze to death, asking ourselves, Should I want this? Is it too silly? Too shallow? Too lofty? Too weird? No one would understand anyway … 

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During my senior year of college 7 years ago (Whoa! 7 is a big number.), I entered an art book into the Annual Student Exhibition at Central Michigan University. I asked a sampling of the people I encountered in a day, some I knew well and some I did not, to think of a couple of experiences they would like to have before their life was over, and pick the most obscure one to share with me. I chose 35 different submissions to illustrate, and Underneath was  born. This was my first experiment with creating art based on collected personal stories, something I would use to create many more projects in the future. I also ended up winning the Grand Award for this piece, which was the first time I’d ever won anything for my art aside from a coloring contest in 4th grade, and not a bad way to exit my college career ;).


As annoying as it may be that the first thing anyone asks when meeting someone for the first time after “What’s your name?” is, “So what do you do?”, we kind of are what we do. This doesn’t have to mean our day jobs, or even be workplace related at all. What we do with each day is a choice, and it is these choices that reflect what we value and shape who we will become. True goals can give immense insight into each individual’s unique personality, drive, and psyche. That is why I so enjoyed sifting through the responses I received for this project.

I was reminded of Underneath recently for an unfortunate reason. The young woman who 7 years ago submitted the far right response above took her own life in a murder-suicide earlier this month. She attended my high school, but our school was so large growing up there were tons of people who walked in graduation with me that I felt like I’d never laid eyes on my whole four years there. I never knew her well, but our paths did cross and I remembered her submission deeply affecting me back then, as the news of what occurred deeply saddened me now. A couple of my good friends had had classes and clubs with her, some even keeping up over the years at least through texting and facebook, and the news hit them even harder.

This may not be a typical resolution, but something to be mindful of in the new year is this: we do not know everyone else’s story. We have no clue about everything the people we run into in our day to day life may be going through. People learn to adapt, and to act, and to portray themselves in person, at work, and in social media as how they want others to see them. I know I do it; I think we all do to a point. I have always been fascinated with the dichotomy between individual’s alone personas versus their public personas. It is a concept that is interesting to explore. It can also be a concept that is dangerous, because it can prevent people from reaching out who need help. If you make one resolution (aside from foregoing all convention and chasing your oddest dream / within reason and lawfulness, of course), resolve to be transparent and authentic, and resolve to be someone who is willing to make that reach when someone needs support either in the form of just a listening ear or otherwise. Christmas falling on a Sunday, I attended the Christmas morning church service at MFMC with my family this year. We spoke about how there is the whole Christmas story which most of us, churchgoers or not, have known since childhood. But, we all have stories, and our story, how we live and interact, can change someone else’s story for the better if we allow it to happen. We have nothing to lose for trying.

To see the rest of my art book in order, visit the album on my website.

March: She Is Everything At Once

Obviously, though I had a fun idea of doing the whole “a drawing a month” reveal for my new 12 part series, that didn’t happen as I am on March and it is now almost September. I would like to enter this series into Art Prize next year, and decided if I have until next Fall, why impose such a crazy impossible deadline on myself simply for the sake of themed blog posts and risk the quality of the work? Impossible self-imposed deadlines are this thing I like to do that I really need to ease up on. For those who haven’t read my previous posts, my new series involves 12 mixed media, surreal, conceptual portraits in which the meaning is influenced by the use of pattern and color, one representing each month of the year. They will depict women of all ages, races, and time periods, and each will communicate a different theme and season. I aim for the pieces to speak to women’s collective experiences beyond their differences. I want the series to flow together in its mainly black and white scheme with pops of color, soft mixed media application, and it’s classic portrait composition. However, I wanted each month’s portrait to still be distinctly different “characters” from one to the other, achieved via aesthetic theme and accent colors. For this piece, I went with bold, dynamic primaries and a nod to pop art. You can view January and February from earlier posts.

In this piece for March, my goal was to take the commonplace negative stereotype of women being “emotional” and turn it on it’s head, marrying caring and empathy with strength, and sadness and despair with hope for a better future. A surreal merging of classic pop art, which often featured dramatic beautiful women sobbing,  with realistic portraiture was the perfect fit for this concept.

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Women are constantly being told they are too much of something, despite the fact that they are often expected to wear far more different hats responsibility-wise than their male counterparts. Google searches have become an interesting way to peek into mainstream society’s views. Anyone who uses the internet knows when you begin to type something in, google will finish it with the most popular searches and subjects. A UN Women ad from 2013 was the first to make a statement using this innovative approach.

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I tried the same concept, only typing in the starting phrase “women are too…” What I’ve found is that women are apparently too picky, but also too easy, too intelligent and successful to find love, yet too weak and too emotional to be leaders, the president, or involved in politics at all, but at the same time also too dominant. It looks like we’ve got a Goldilocks problem here.

As one who believes that sometimes problems we assign dominantly to one gender are still just basic human being problems, I didn’t want to negate the idea that there may be similar findings for men. However, when I tried “men are too…” I got nothing. In fact, when I simply pressed enter to see what articles would come up, the main article up top was “Monkeys turn into grumpy old men, too” about aging primates and behavioral changes. While hilarious, it is clear that this whole “Be everything at once yet also be nothing at all” contradictory expectation is something that, while maybe not entirely absent for men, is something that women face more in mainstream culture.

A descriptor routinely used to discredit women’s abilities is the fact that they are “too emotional” by default of their gender. However, when men step out of their perceived box by showing any degree of emotion aside from anger, they too are often chastised and ridiculed. This shows that our revulsion towards caring at least is a societal problem on the whole, not just a women’s issue. For some reason, people seem to view caring as weakness. This can be seen clearly in the dismissive term bleeding heart, always used with a strong air of disgust. (A note to be made here… when I talk about caring I am not including people sitting behind a laptop screen typing angry, obscene responses to random articles that they don’t agree with because they get off on being offended and telling people off. Nor am I talking about people who shut down and throw a fit every time they have to hear something that they don’t agree with. This is not true caring or passion, this is an addiction to “being right” all the time and putting people in their place, and it is unhealthy.)

I recall a conversation had with a person from my past 5-ish years ago. We were discussing some political or sociological issue. The other person, whom supposedly respected me, was nevertheless making zero effort to understand my view though I myself had stopped and listened to theirs. I remember growing frustrated and stating, “I don’t know why you are refusing to try to listen and understand where I’m coming from when this is an issue that is so important to me.” Their response was given bitingly and with a wave of the hand, “Oh, everything’s “the most important thing” to you.” Though it was meant as an insult, the more I pondered it the more I thought, I’m ok with owning that. Because everything does matter, in some way large or small.

In our culture, it’s cool not to care. You can see this fact brazenly displayed in popular entertainment (The Hangover 1,2,3,4,5? They just keep going.) People are routinely being told the answer to their feelings of isolation, depression, and anxiety is to just “let go”. But is the “ignorance is bliss” model really the one we should be following? This idea in and of itself seems to admit that caring is not weakness, but strength. Experiencing emotions of concern and empathy is an active state; not caring for anything outside of your own pleasure and needs is passive. To put it simply, caring about things is hard work. It can force us to take steps towards action that may make us uncomfortable, and take up a lot of our time and resources. It can be mentally and psychologically draining.

Caring is strength. Let’s lift up our mothers, our fathers, those taking care of an adult family member, our nurses, our teachers, our home health aides, our daycare workers, our counselors, our missionaries, our activists … No matter what societal norms tells us, they are our true heroes.

 

Alice-In-Wonderland-Style Crocodile Tears

This is me these past 4 weeks.

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“The War” 2010, Prismacolor Pencil

You remember that scene in the Disney version of Alice In Wonderland where she cries and cries until her tears fill the whole room and she floats away and almost drowns?

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Yeah, it’s kind of like that.

I have been busy, stressed beyond belief, and not wanting to do anything remotely mentally or emotionally taxing once I finally do get a spare moment. Incidentally, I’ve been playing a lot of Civ V, planning world domination. Honestly, becoming a ruthless dictator seems like it would entail less strain sometimes than my day to day existence as of late.

I took a break from my ongoing series I’d been working on to finish a piece for a summer gallery show coming up in June, and must admit that I have no further updates since then. To once again recap my free-time allotment over the last month, gaming>drawing.

It’s been a crazy ride, but there have been some bright spots amongst all the weeping and gnashing of teeth – like one of my best friends from junior high and high school’s wedding reception! She got married in India back in December, and her and her sister picked out these beautiful dresses for us to wear to the spring reception. I love my shocking pink and silver, Barbie Dreamhouse number ;). IMAG2772[1]

I also continue to be blown away by my Express Yourself Artshop students. Check this out!

I have no room in my apartment for a fantasy creature sculpture (a bummer, since I used to collect dragon stuff – no joke.), but I couldn’t resist buying a cool box! Each one is so unique. Here is mine in its happy little home.

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Now that so many of the students are selling their artwork, I swear they are going to be getting half my paycheck. I have no self control. Our current Virtual Gallery is for local purchasers only, so I’ve added a couple of paintings and jewelry pieces to my ebay shop under the category “Artshop” to give others outside of the Saginaw/Midland/Bay City area a chance to own some awesome art. Go check it out!

My next post will be a lot more informative, and filled with some new in-progress shots of the continuation of my series, PINKY-SWEAR! ❤ you all, signing off.

Redefining Pride, And The Daily Battle Of Artists.

From "One Thing To Say", 2013, Colored Pencil and Ink

From “One Thing To Say”, 2013, Colored Pencil and Ink

As someone who has always been interested in perception, how it is formed, and generally what makes people tick, I sometimes have to turn the tables on myself and question why I have the knee-jerk reactions to certain things that I do. It all started when I saw a little girl wearing a t-shirt that said “I love me” across the front in gigantic, metallic gold block letters.Wow, that’s obnoxious. I would never let my non-existent imaginary future-children wear something like that, went the immediate dialogue in my head. I’d seen shirts with variations of it, “I’m awesome”, etc at the stores lately and had a similar internal reaction. But the more I thought about it, couldn’t I have used a reminder at that age that I was pretty awesome? Most definitely.

I was very shy as a kid, anxious around new people and sometimes even around familiar people depending on the day. At about a .05 on the confidence scale, I constantly worried that if I did or said the wrong thing, the whole earth would explode (or something equally horrible would happen). By upper elementary, I felt like I wasn’t even worthy to talk to others in my class who were more outgoing or had a lot of friends. I felt like most people flat out didn’t like me, and it caused a lot of unnecessary heartache because really, I can count the times a fellow classmate said something bad about me on one hand. The only time I ever felt comfortable was in art class. I finally got to feel like a star, and I wasn’t afraid to mess up, like I was certain that I would everywhere else.

Most artists rage a daily battle with confidence. In order to get others’ excited about your art, you have to project the fact that you believe in the art form you are presenting, and that you know you’ve created something amazing. You have to exude excitement to share your craft with others before you can ever expect them to care about what you’re doing. Yet at the same time, real art, good art, is an extension of the artist themselves and a reflection of how their brain works and who they are as a person. Getting excited about ourselves can be really awkward. I cringed when I first saw that in the write up for one of my new classes I had been described as “The instructor, award-winning artist Allise Noble…” Why did I feel so uncomfortable being described that way? It’s not a lie, I have won awards. Why was I so embarrassed to be publicized? I’ve mentioned the book by Amanda Palmer, “The Art of Asking”, before. It deals a lot not only with asking for help and the journey of an artist; but with the struggle to recognize, yes, have the confidence, to call yourself an artist. She writes, “When you’re an artist, nobody ever tells you or hits you with the magic wand of legitimacy. You have to hit your own head with your own handmade wand. And you feel stupid doing it.” – isn’t that the truth? You’re not an artist until you say you are, and often times our own minds are the hardest to convince. It doesn’t help that pride is even, what, one of the 7 deadly sins or something? Yikes. Thanks a lot past humans, you guys have done a really good job at making confidence seem like a flaw rather than an asset. Now, no one likes an obtuse, conceited braggart who thinks they are better than everyone else (I’m looking at you, Kanye West). That is in no way what I’m advocating here, balance is always key. However, I think that the idea of pride being something so heinous and despicable, something to avoid at all costs, pervades our culture in a myriad of negative ways. Just look at the comments on any body positivity blog or human interest article where people submit instagram photos of themselves feeling beautiful. The fact that a bunch of women have the audacity to take a photo of themselves and say “Hey, I look damn good today,” is apparently shocking enough to send multitudes of normal folks into a blind, troll-y rage.

[There is bad language in this comedy sketch so if that will cause you unhappiness, I’d suggest not clicking play. My aim is not too offend anyone, but this clip made me laugh out loud when I first watched it because it so accurately pokes fun at the philosophy I’d just been thinking about. For those who don’t watch, I’ll summarize. You know that moment when you compliment someone i.e. “You look really nice today!” and they respond with “Oh, you’re so nice, I look like I just walked out of a smelly, steaming dumpster!” Have you ever gone against this unwritten social code and when someone compliments you simply said, “Thank you. This is my favorite outfit,” and seen the complimenter now give you the dirtiest look ever? That’s the gist. For some reason, this seems to mostly happen amongst women. Ugh, women… I know I am one, but seriously!]

Human beings are really good at creating false dichotomies. After all, if I see one more film where a main character that has ambition and cares about or *gasp!* actually gains fulfillment from their job portrayed as a greedy, heartless ice-queen/king I’m going to lose it. Not that that never happens, but it shouldn’t be treated as the norm because it isn’t. You can love your family, and love your job! Similarly, we all actually have the capacity to love ourselves and still love other people! The definition of self-love isn’t self-centered, because our love is not a pie chart where we only have so much to give and if we give too great a percentage of love to ourselves, there will be less left for other people. Actually, someone who goes around saying “I wish I was somebody different, I’m a failure, I’m worthless …” is going to be the worst at reaching out to other people and forming healthy relationships. More wisdom from “The Art of Asking”; “When you’re afraid of someone’s judgment, you can’t connect with them. You’re too preoccupied with the task of impressing them.” Pride may be a dirty word, but it shouldn’t be. There is nothing wrong with saying, “Hey, I love who I am. I’m pretty darn awesome!” Whether it needs to be emblazoned across a shirt is a matter of opinion ;).

Bringing The Inside Out – Exploring Conceptual Portraits

Spring seems to be the time for exhibitions, and with many deadlines coming in mid-February, I’ve been going into hyper-drive to get pieces finished and ready. This past year has been all about conceptual portraiture. My drive to expose the subject’s thoughts and emotions through visual cues outside of themselves  came in part from my interior design study in college, where visual cues in the external environment are key, and part from a conversation I had with one of my best friends coupled with my overactive imagination. We were both at different colleges, and she had had a particularly stressful couple of weeks and was unloading over the phone because that’s what best friends do. One thing you have to know about me, as people talk, I get these vivid little reels of what they are describing playing in my head. It doesn’t mean I’m daydreaming and not listening, it’s just how my brain works. I immediately got this image of her overstuffed brain protruding from out of the ripped open top of her trademark top hat, with other random objects and various debris springing out everywhere. I told her, she burst out laughing, and we went on with our evenings. I made a concept sketch the moment we got off the phone, for future reference.

After doing a series of portraits in which visual manifestations of the subject’s emotions literally burst out of or hovered over the top of their heads (wouldn’t that make life far less more of a guessing game as far as relationships are concerned?), I began to think more about how not only literal objects but also the more subtle use of color and all over pattern could communicate about the subject’s mental state. If one’s emotions covered them like a fabric, what would it look like?

Today, my portraits are a combination of these earlier ideas. I used photos I’d taken of friends before, but now I’ve gotten really into using vintage photographs as references instead, because not knowing the people at all allows me to start with a blank slate and gives me more freedom to invent my own stories about them. Photographs of my girls are being taken, and jpegs sent or framed work dropped off to the various locations for jurying, so wish me luck in the next couple of weeks! If you’d like to see more portraits, check out my website (there is even one MAN portrait! – those of you who know me and my work know how rare this is). Prints are also for sale here!

Overaccumulation of Stimuli, Prismacolor Pencil, 2010 - The portrait that started it all.

Overaccumulation of Stimuli, Prismacolor Pencil, 2010 – The portrait that started it all.

Fight Or Flight, Prismacolor Pencil, 2011 - Through studying interior design, constructing environments for people, you learn that color and pattern SPEAK, and can affect the psychology of those who live in it (and the psychology of the viewer who looks at your art!)

Fight Or Flight, Prismacolor Pencil, 2011 – Through studying interior design, constructing environments for people, you learn that color and pattern SPEAK, and can affect the psychology of those who live in it (and the psychology of the viewer who looks at your art!)

Hopeful, 11x14 Prismacolor Pencil

Hopeful, 11×14 Prismacolor Pencil

The Peacock, 11x14 Prismacolor Pencil

The Peacock, 11×14 Prismacolor Pencil

A World To See, 11x14 Prismacolor and Mixed Media

A World To See, 11×14 Prismacolor and Mixed Media