“You and I are flowers of a tenacious family."
From March through June, I taught online classes focused on finding beauty everywhere. Beauty in the chaos. Beauty in our fears. Beauty in the world. Beauty in being.
I thought of the classes as helping to right ourselves during the midst of sheltering-in-place and our fears of the virus. Helping place focus on the beauty that surrounds us every day. Helping to see the loneliness and lack of hugs in a different light.
We continued on, and I kept painting...while my daughter was sick...while my mom healed from her fall...while we moved out of our family home. My art and classes focused on the beauty of love, the beauty of health, the beauty of change. I taught. I painted. I intellectualized.
Then Zach called. "Mom, have you seen what is happening in Portland?" I turned on the news. I paid attention. And I put down my paintbrush.
I give a lot of thought to my role as an artist and to the role of art in the world. Art can help people heal. Seeing beauty everywhere in everything is powerful.
Yet, it is also important to recognize, to see and to name the ugly side of humanity that surrounds us. To see the racism. To see the generations of pain that is surfacing. To see the unchecked violence of the police. To see the gassing of peaceful protesters. And to be outraged. To say loudly: black lives matter. I can't even pretend to see beauty in what is being done to human beings around me; my friends, my neighbors, the youth, the people.
What is the role of the artist in these times? To document history? Help people find joy? Inspire people? Wake people up? Express collective emotion? All of the above?
I put down my paintbrush trying to figure out the role I want to play. During this time, I have been told: "But people need pretty. People want to see pretty art. People need beauty." Yes, I agree. But enough is enough. Voices need to be heard. Change needs to happen.
I do still see beauty all around me. Beauty in the murals popping up in urban areas across the U.S. Beauty in the street art. Beauty in the dancing during demonstrations. Beauty in the voices speaking out. Beauty in the strength and power of people.
But I also see ugliness. Ugliness that is being made visible over and over and over again.
I know I need to pick up my paintbrush again. Right now it is easier to take paintings off my walls of my home as we move. To think. To listen. To reflect on my role in the problems and the solutions. To grow. To re-find beauty. To ponder how to make art that touches the heart while being an active citizen of this world.
Yet pondering is not enough. If you are asking, like I am, how can we do better as a society?, this comprehensive list of resources is worthy of close examination. The list includes organizations to support, books to read, artists to follow and much more.
Seeing beauty isn't enough. There is too much at stake.
Enough is enough.
From my heart to yours,