Archive for September, 2009

Art Works

Meet Dana Ellyn.  Dana is one of the artists whose work will be displayed at Rough Copy’s art show tomorrow night.  Dana has another show opening today in Washington, DC.  It’s a solo show for Blasphemy Day.  There are quite a few people who don’t like that, and are showing their displeasure with hate mail ridiculous internet comments.  I’m writing in lots of short sentences so that I don’t obscure the point with extraneous words; people who don’t like her art are responding not with reasonable discourse, but with hate mail and ugliness.  Sigh.

Read more about the controversy here and here.

Update:  There’s an article up on cnn.com about Blasphemy Day.


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Yay books!

As I write this, I’m looking at a stack of books.  There’s another stack on the shelf next to me, and one on my nightstand.  There’s the messy closet overflowing with them, pile after pile, straining the integrity of the homemade shelving system.  There’s also the unpacked boxes of them waiting for the day we move into an apartment that is more sensibly sized for two mediaholics.  I love books.  It’s a fact (and, I’m just sayin’, if someone wants to bring any of these over, I wouldn’t mind).  I love some of them more than others of course.  There are the dog-eared ones, read over and over, perfect sentences turned around in my mind, spilling over my tongue, comfortable and familiar like worn sweaters.  There are the airport throwaways, read in the span of a St. Louis layover.  There are the ones that get left behind, inscribed with friends’ names, the passages that touched them carefully underlined.

Books invade my conversations.  “Have you read. . . ?”  “That reminds me of this book . . .”  They fill my insomniac nights.  They make me happy, sad, angry.  They remind me of the power of words.  They are all these things to me, but one thing they never are, at least in my life, is forbidden.  Of course, there are books that I would never, ever read, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want them to exist.  So the idea of banning books just seems bizarre to me.  Books changed me.  They changed how I saw the world.  They changed what I thought was possible.  I would never want to take that experience away from someone else.  Luckily, I’m not the only one who feels that way and thus, we get Banned Books Week.

Looking over the list of banned classics, I see that it read like an average high schooler’s summer reading list.  So apparently, the goal of book banning is to end summer reading?  It can’t be that there are people who want to suppress the exposure to new ideas, can it?  I notice that a James Baldwin book (Go Tell it on the Mountain) is on the classics list.  I have to say I have (sadly) never read that book, but James Baldwin, without a doubt, saved me.  The Fire Next Time is one of those dog-eared favorites, the prose repeated like a prayer.  I can’t imagine my life without Baldwin, and somewhere there is a kid who can’t imagine his life without J.D. Salinger, or her life without William Faulkner.

This week, I plan on reading some Baldwin and remembering being that kid.

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When I was younger, I had these big dreams of becoming a writer.  It didn’t matter so much what I wrote, as much as what  imagining the life meant.  Being a writer meant salons, drawn out into the night with witty retorts and the clinking of ice against whiskey glasses.  Then I’d rush out into the cool night becoming morning and home to write down all the thoughts tumbling out of my head.  It meant quiet afternoons locked away in my study, surrounded by books, draft after draft littering the floor (in my dreams, I wrote in longhand or on some antique typewriter, these modern .doc files are simply not as romantic).  It meant book release parties and readings to rapt audiences.  But there is something about having such a specific dream; it doesn’t leave much room for deviation.

The other day I had a lovely conversation with an old friend about what it means to be an artist.  She had decided that to be an artist means to live artistically.  It means that you have devoted your life to art, and each moment, each day, is a renewed commitment to your art.  It’s not defining your art by what you produce, but how you live.  Simply, you are your most ambitious project.  And so there is no need to define your work so rigidly.  I have to admit, it took me some time to soak in that idea.  For so long, I have believed that for someone to say “I am an artist”, there had to be something to back it up.   Articles, books, reviews, gallery shows.  Surely, a person with a tiny dream toiling away and wishing can’t claim to be anything other than a dreamer.  But, to step away from that idea opens up a world of possibility.  I can create, and those creations can be for my own satisfaction, for furthering a pursuit of art, or for living a life that is creative and artistic.  I can dismiss all that I’ve ever done because it doesn’t fit the very specific vision, or I can embrace the successes and the missteps and make them all a part of the bigger picture.

So, how are you living artistically?

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