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.

zaatariwatermural

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

 

 

Back to Real Life, But Excited For What’s To Come.

I just got back from one of the most fun trips yet to the charming and exciting land of Ludington, MI; hiking, swimming, sketching on the beach … my boyfriend and I were determined to jam in everything that epitomizes summer before it’s too late! I vowed to not check my email to make it a true reprieve, but I did peek just once in the car on the way there, and I’m glad I did because I got some awesome news. Two of my pieces were accepted into Studio 23 in Bay City’s Women’s Perspective show for September! If you’ve read my earlier post, ladies sometimes get forgotten in the gallery scene even today, so I am excited and honored to be a part of what I’m sure is going to be a wonderful show. Below are the two works that will be showing. If you’d like to learn more about the process of creating “On My Mind”, you can visit my earlier entry focusing on this piece.

On My Mind

On My Mind

The Peacock

The Peacock

Another fun surprise was the new murals up in Ludington to take touristy photos in front of! Art truly is everywhere, and it is wonderful. Murals aside, not to be cheesy, but one can’t look at the serene layers of bright blue water, warm yellow-beige sand, and bold green foliage and not see the very world we live in as one of the largest, most complex creations to ever exist, and truly the largest, most interactive art project.

Me posing oh-so-cool in front of my favorite mural of the bunch.

Me posing oh-so-cool in front of my favorite mural of the bunch.

Behold!

Behold, bright colors! Yes, that is Spider-man on my t-shirt.

I just ate it after a wave literally knocked me on my butt while I was wading out. There were weather warnings out all day, which of course means perfect day to go swimming! Thrill seeker 4 life.

I just ate it after a huge wave literally knocked me on my butt while I was wading out. There were weather warnings out all day, which of course means perfect time to go swimming! Thrill seeker for life, man.

Art Is Not A Luxury

More often than not in this modern age, as we have multitudes of tools at our disposal to both vocally and textually communicate, art has been getting bumped into the category of a “luxury”; unnecessary, mere decoration, or else something for the unbelievably wealthy who don’t know the value of a dollar to irresponsibly blow their money on. In fact, art is an important tool for effective communication today, and has been throughout history. With the less than stellar economy, art has been the first thing to get cut in schools for awhile, and yet we as a society are facing a complete breakdown of productive adult communication the likes of which has never been seen. Spend 24 hours amongst other human beings in a department store or 15 minutes on the internet and you will no doubt see what I’m talking about. I notice art and creative writing both tend to get the same rep: entertaining fluff, imaginary stories, unnecessary tools. I know quite a few people whose opinions I, on the whole, respect, that insist you can’t learn anything from fiction. They assert that it’s just something for having fun and relaxing, nothing more nothing less. Now while some creative works may be just that (Let’s be real – you aren’t likely to come to any existential truths while reading the Twilight series), if all fictional literature and all art were truly meaningless, there wouldn’t continue to be controversy around their messages; they wouldn’t still get banned from schools or showings. People don’t ban things they find uninteresting, unattractive, or mildly annoying – they ban things they find dangerous – because art has the ability to change hearts and minds. Art communicates, to those who are listening.

Visual communication has some staggering advantages over verbal communication. Firstly, we are a culture of immediacy. We want things and we want them now, Veruca Salt style. Visual communication accomplishes just that. Facts and ideas come presented visually with no complicated explanation, no lengthy preamble, simply look and absorb. People’s reactions to visuals are also often quicker and simpler than their reactions to spoken word. It is easy to cause feelings of happiness and ease in a viewer (and thus happiness and ease in them towards your message) by presenting them with an image of something they find pleasant. Turn this around, and it is also easier to inspire fear by showing images of violence or things that cause worry or disgust to a viewer. This is why advertisements for products are always primarily images, not columns or articles. Visual communication is also more versatile, and gives you more tools at your disposal. Rather than just words in your arsenal, you have all the elements of design; color, shape, texture, space, form.

This is a blog post, not a book, so know that there are innumerable examples not highlighted here on art’s role in history (And, this just in American History, let alone the many examples to be found in the history of other cultures!). I figured I’d today simply touch on the real hot-button historical moments, those that we begin hearing about in social studies class as early as elementary school.

While cameras were certainly around during the Civil War, it was still common for the media portraying historical events and news to be hand-drawn.

The lithograph above was done by an unknown artist, and portrays a well-known victory of the famed Underground Railroad. Henry “Box” Brown made headlines in 1849 when he escaped from slavery in Richmond, Virginia in a quite unorthodox manner. Brown actually packed and mailed himself to the North, and to freedom, with the help of abolitionists. When the lid was removed, he allegedly said, “How do you do, gentlemen?” and quoted some Bible verses to celebrate his escape. The fact that he is dressed the same as the men standing around him upon arrival, in a fine looking, tailored suit, is probably not indicative of how he actually arrived on the scene, but a deliberate decision on the artist’s part to reinforce his equality with these other men.

A great historical change that art played a direct role in beyond immortalizing events was the Suffragist movement.

Art has the ability to visually re-frame stereotypes, and cause people to envision situations in a new way. The first illustration below turns the assumption at the time that suffragettes were “vain, idle rich women with nothing better to do” completely on its head by showing a working woman. For the working class, the ability to vote is vital, certainly necessity far more than luxury. It asks the question, if they are contributing to keeping the “machine” of society running smoothly day in and day out, shouldn’t they have a say in how it runs? The second illustration reminds me of a quote I read recently (I wish I could remember who/where, because I think it is just excellent!), “If you’re a man that says he’s not a feminist, I want you to go explain to every woman in your life why you think she doesn’t deserve to be treated equally.” The poster asks men to think of their mothers. You respect them, you revere their wisdom, so why don’t you trust them to help the country make decisions? By framing it in a personal way, a technique that is still used to combat societal problems of sexism today, women are taken out of being this distant, abstract category or group and humanized into your daughter, your mother, your sister, your wife, your best friend …

Fast forward in history, and art plays a fascinating and unexpected role in the two World Wars.

It is argued that without modern art, there would have been no camouflage, a vital tool in saving lives on the battlefield – the ability to hide in plain sight. The idea for the complex geometric designs on “dazzle ships” is credited to artist Normal Wilkinson. These hypnotizing designs confused the spotter with their sharp, contrasting colors and confusing intersecting lines bumping into and interrupting each other. The enemy had a difficult time determining how many ships there were, as well as their range and location making it more difficult to shoot. Understanding how patterns can trick the eye from a distance also became vital to concealing targets during the first World War.

Later on, two Australian modern artists, photographer Max Dupain and painter Frank Hinder, would experiment with applying some of the newer modernist techniques to modern day warfare. One of Max Dupain’s photography experiments with optical camouflage is shown below. They used double exposure and obliterative shading, techniques that make it difficult to distinguish between foreground and background.

Never before and never again since WWII have we seen such a unity in American patriotism and civic responsibility. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing is up to you, but one thing is certain: the iconic propaganda artwork of the WWII era played an instrumental role in banding people together under a common cause, and inspiring a strong, almost blind sense of duty and optimism. The famous “Rosie the Riveter” piece is still to this day a feminist icon, and the inspiration of many Halloween costumes, both celebrity and pedestrian (and even some great face-in-hole shots. Girl power! I’d like to think I’m almost as fierce as Beyonce). Those at home were represented as just as vital to the war as those abroad, and given a renewed sense of purpose through this inspirational artwork.

rose

In the 1960s, artists took up the cause of the Civil Rights Movement.

Jacob Lawrence’s 1962 painting “Soldiers and Students” is shown below. Lawrence was always interested in using his colorful paintings to document African American history, and during the civil rights crisis of the 60s, he began documenting the disturbing everyday scenes he witnessed in the struggle for equality.

The birth of feminist art also took place around this time. I have to admit, although I have always considered myself a feminist, I could never get into feminist art. I wanted to like it, I really did, but as someone who has never felt overtly in touch with their so-called “feminine” side to begin with, I felt a lot of the motifs and delivery methods were simply lost on me. It seemed strange to me to make art that was only accessible to a specialized group rather than reaching the whole on some level. Isn’t feminist art just a bunch of flowers growing out of vaginas and bad performance art? Male or female, if you feel like you don’t really get feminist art, watch the !Women Art Revolution documentary – it’s on netflix instant. While I still can’t pick out any iconic piece of work from that era as my “favorite art ever”, these ladies really paved the way for what I do today, and I owe them heaps of gratitude, whether their artistic style or methodology is my bag or not. By the way, there’s still work to do, ladies.

Today, though it’s easier for art to get lost in all the noise with people plugged into some media or another 24//7 and everyone and their great-grandma with their own website or blog, artists are still speaking. For this same media also gives us easy access to an unlimited stream of creative media to peruse. Below, Michael D’Antuono’s painting “Conservative Christ” critiques the marrying of Christianity with extremist far-right politics. Street artists have also done a brilliant job at visually speaking truths, placing their work right in the unavoidable path of citizen’s daily commute.

noharmI am reminded of this beautiful piece I saw at Art Prize in Grand Rapids last year, especially relevant in light of the recent supreme court decision. (And the subsequent vicious, mean-spirited attacking coming from both sides in the aftermath that made me want to delete my facebook forever.)

Throughout history, art has been used to both promote mainstream values and also oftentimes clash against them, and it has the potential to be wielded as a weapon of good or a weapon of evil, hate, and deception. You can see below how art can also be used to persuade people into harmful beliefs and mindsets. After all, at the same time as the victory garden posters were circulating, so on the other side were illustrations praising Hitler and demonizing the Jewish nationality. It can be used to justify withholding rights from a group of people, like the anti-suffragist poster (lol, chocolate). It can be used to poke fun at and disrespect people who look different than us as “less”, like the vintage soap ad (Nothing to laugh about in this next one. I felt uncomfortable even posting this particular ad, and it was not even close to the worst that can be found, unfortunately). It can be used to promote unhealthy lifestyles, and guilt people into feeling like without a certain body or certain clothes, they are ugly and worthless, like the current day Photoshopping controversies. As artists, we have to realize that what we create speaks. We have a valuable platform, and as Uncle Ben tells Peter Parker, (Ok, so Voltaire said it first but I’m a total Spiderman geek) “With great power comes great responsibility”.

Revisiting Photography

In the last post I introduced you to some inspiring photographers with intricate, fantasy based, mind-bending designs. Little known to many, I myself enjoy photography as well. Photography is certainly more of a hobby for me than something I was ever interested in pursuing professionally. I mostly use it as a relaxing exercise for stress control :). I have not actively gone out to take photos in quite a few months now. Between working on my own pieces, working on commissions, teaching, and crafting accessories and plush toys I’ve had to pick and choose which creative pursuits to focus my time on to avoid the whole “jack of all trades, master of none” trap. When I do get out with my camera, my favorite things to photograph are street art, graveyards, and nature (though I’m not too into flowers, unless they are ridiculously colorful). Most of my street art photos are from when I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Europe with my family back in 2008. “Street art” in Midland, MI where I grew up is rather uninspired … mainly consisting of F-bombs and anarchy symbols, the actual political meaning of which is probably lost on the perpetrators anyway, sloppily scrawled in red spray paint. For some reason, it is always red, and any additional words are usually misspelled.

I was going through my photo storage drive last night, and realized that though I’ve taken a lot of photos over the last 7-ish years, I’ve never really done anything with them. I enjoyed the journey of traveling to a new place, or hiking in a wood nearby to town, dumped my camera card, and then just kind of left the images sitting there in limbo. I decided it wouldn’t take too long to put them to good use, and began uploading them to my Zazzle and Redbubble shops. If I’m going to enter a piece into a gallery or a juried exhibit, it is always going to be a drawing or painting rather than a photo print because that is where I want to focus myself and that is what I am known for, but where my watercolor paintings or pencil drawings are softer and more flowing, the bold colors and sharp graphics of a digital photo really bring a nice look to a T-shirt, skirt (I am absolutely in love with how the rose one shown below turned out!), tote bag, or phone case. I will be continuously adding more products and different photographic images over this next week (I do have 7+ years worth to sort through :)) including cards and stickers. With the nice weather, maybe on my next day off I’ll even dust off my camera and go for a good hike, see what catches my eye.

Macro Magenta and Yellow Rose Zazzle

Macro Magenta and Yellow Rose Zazzle

Diner Girls Street Art Redbubble

Diner Girls Street Art Redbubble

Pisa Notebook Journal Zazzle

Pisa Notebook Journal Zazzle

Silent Angel IPad Case Redbubble

Silent Angel IPad Case Redbubble

Artists To Know! Installment 3

Today’s Artists To Know Installment is all about faces!

Natalie Foss

I discovered this artist on Behance. She is a Norwegian illustrator who works mainly in colored pencil. I wish more magazines used interesting illustrations like these; I would subscribe to all of them just to save the pictures :). I adore how focus is brought to the faces of her subjects by making their skin the only three-dimensionally rendered element of a piece, leaving the rest flat and filled in with solid color or pattern. The unusual colors she uses also catch the eye. She makes blue toned skin completely believable by placing the undertones like pinks and yellows in just the right places. The faces have a reflective quality, and make the viewer believe they can reach out and touch them. I’ve truly never seen portraits quite like these.

Natalie Foss

Malinda Prud’homme

This artist I found on twitter via my newly created account (Look at me, getting with the times. @AlliseNoble if you’d like to follow :)), and was immediately drawn to her comprehensive range of portraits styles from photo-realistic to more stylized, in a variety of mediums. There are even three-dimensional mixed media elements in some of her pieces, like gems adhered to the surface of a subject’s jewelry rather than simply painting the ornamentation. It is rare for one artist to work in so many different styles, and they all look fantastic. On her website Malinda states, “My greatest passion is portraying a variety of natural female beauty in order to express that all women; regardless of age, size, style, or ethnicity; are beautiful in their own unique way.” – right on!

Malinda Prud’homme

Arisa Nakahara

I found Arisa Nakahara on pinterest. There is way more to pinterest than just recipes and cute wedding ideas – pinterest is another fantastic place to find some truly mind-blowing, excellent art. I love how most of Arisa’s portraits are painted straight on, and look you right in the eye. It’s a bit jarring and also captivating, especially since the eyes are the most detailed part of her faces. She says her theme is “The power to live”, and I can see that thread throughout all of her colorful portraits, saturated in lush fruits and floras and insects. All of her designs transport you to that magical warmth as spring and summer are just beginning. Her entire body of work is so cohesive and timeless, and the images, quite simply, make you incredibly happy.

Arisa Nakahara

Elsa Mora

Another artist I discovered on Behance (seriously, even if you don’t create art yourself it’s worth having a profile simply to browse and favorite all the amazing projects to be found here!). Elsa works in a variety of mediums including drawing and illustration and even extending into 3D mixed media sculptures and jewelry design, but I first found her through her paper cutting work. It is truly a testament to patience which I can never even imagine attempting. She creates whimsical storybook universes and achieves an unbelievable depth all with layered paper.

Elsa Mora

Lucy McLauchlan

I discovered this artist back in late high school when I still actually subscribed to magazines, and she was featured in an issue of Juxtapoz. Lucy McLauchlan is another artist whose work you can spot as hers from a mile away. The combination of heavy black and white contrast and the balanced flow of designs made entirely of undulating lines and stylized faces is hard to look away from. I would love to walk around in this place (and maybe have my bedroom painted like this, hm?)

Lucy McLauchlan

Ruben Ireland

Another artist who favors dramatic black and white contrast, Ruben’s art is one more find from pinterest. He uses the black and white to divide elements of the body and draw out or recede features into the dark. He seamlessly weaves animal and woodland/nature imagery through his portraits as well, forming almost a psychic connection between the two. His subject’s facial expressions are ambiguous and stoic, leaving you to look to other cues to imagine what is on their mind.

Ruben Ireland

Are there any other types of artists or artwork you’d like to see? Let me know! I’m always open to suggestions!