So far, this blog has mostly been about my art projects, but today I want to talk about a book I am reading, Mountains Beyond Mountains, by Tracy Kidder. When I came up with the name for my blog and Etsy site, Conscious Creativity, this was meant to explore my creativity, as well as the ideas behind that creativity. So, I want to talk about my ideas.
A lot of the art I have created in my life has come from a desire to make “art for art’s sake” or to make something “beautiful.” Sometimes, I simply enjoy the challenge of making something unique, using the right combination of color, lines, symmetry, etc….all of that stuff you learn in art class! You can ask my husband how I was during our wedding planning or decorating our house! (smile) At other times, I just get the urge to create. The process is often very soothing and I can find myself in a trance for hours as I stand soothing colors into a canvas, or hunch over a piece of paper with an exacto knife. I lose myself.
However, a lot of my art since high school has come from a desire to share some kind of political or social perspective…or for myself to explore my own perspective. So, where do those ideas come from? Of course, they come from my family, the community/environment I was raised in, my education (or lack of), and, I believe, in my own nature (yes, from nature and nuture). I have often thought about this….I wonder exactly where did I grow this belief or that perspective, etc.
This question about my perspective has been brought to me again with Mountains Beyond Mountains. It is about the wonderful Dr. Paul Farmer, who has worked in Haiti for many years (I know, how relevant….been meaning to read this for a year now) and is a co-founder of Partners in Health, a health and social justice organization. In the book, the author quotes a woman whom Dr. Farmer worked with in Haiti. She talks about how much she learned from him and how much he opened her eyes. She says, “I think there is a point where you realize the world has just been revealed to you. It’s like realizing your parents are both good and bad. It’s sort of, Oh no, things will never be quite the same again.”
This thought really struck me….when was the world revealed to me? Exactly when and how, did I gain my perspectives? by what means….who revealed it to me? When did I realize that I do have a culture, even though I am white? When did I realize I am a WASC (White, anglo-saxon, Catholic J) and that I see the world through this lens? When did I realize that my lens is not the correct lens….that there is no one correct, superior lens through which to view the world? When did I realize my White privilege? When did I realize that Dave Chappelle is not racist against white people? When did I realize that teachers can be classist, sexist, homophobic, etc? When did I realize that I cannot just travel to another country and take unsolicited and supposedly ‘unbiased pictures’ of the locals, to show my friends and family the “unfortunate poverty,” so we could all sit around and shake our heads and exclaim how lucky we were? When did the realities of institutionalized racism, forced assimilation, gentrification, ageism, etc really force themselves into my world? It’s interesting to think about the who, what, when, where and how. My reading, my art, my conversations help me to work these questions out. If you want to actually name a “turning point,” a time when I realized things would never be the same again, then I would name my freshman year in college, but then I think, no, maybe 4th grade, or 9th grade, no, definitely my sophomore year of college. Really, it is a process for me….it will always be a process.
To end with the perspective of some Haitian peasants, on how people living in so much poverty could still believe in God. The proverb goes: “Bondye konn bay, men li pa konn separe”….“God gives but doesn’t share.” (we humans have all we could ever need….it is up to us to divide the bounty.)