Monday, August 3, 2020

Once Possessed - The "Madness" of Vaslav Nijinsky (Updated 8/9/2020)


Russian dancer Vaslav Nijinsky in his 1911 role as the "Rose Ghost"
from the ballet "Le Spectre de la Rose." (Also here, and another related article in French).
Click all images in this post to enlarge.


"Ô toi qui de ma mort fus cause,
Sans que tu puisses le chasser
Toute la nuit mon spectre rose
A ton chevet viendra danser.
Mais ne crains rien, je ne réclame
Ni messe, ni De Profundis;
Ce léger parfum est mon âme
Et j’arrive du paradis."

("O you, who caused my death
Without the power to dispel,
All night long my fragrant specter
Will dance at your bedside.
But fear nothing, I require
Neither psalms nor sacred rites;
This delicate scent is my soul
And I’ve come from paradise.")


- From the poem Le Spectre de la Rose by Théophile Gautier which inspired Michel Fokine's ballet about a young woman haunted by the spirit of a rose she had received at her debut. Later that night, while she dozes in a chair, the spirit of the wilted rose visits her in a dream. (Note: So much tends to be lost in mere word translations of French poetry... specifically: the poetry! I've seen several translations of this particular stanza but found myself dissatisfied with all of them. So, I tweaked it. In other words, if this translation is also problematic, the fault is mine.)

The rose (inset right) is named for a man... as many roses are. Did you know that? It's name is Fantin Latour, named for the French artist who was known for his elegant paintings of flowers... especially his roses. More of his work can be found here. There might, in actuality, be a variety of rose named Nijinsky - well, there ought to be - but, if so, I haven't found it.

"His dancing has the unbroken quality of music, the balance of a great painting, the meaning of fine literature, and the emotion inherent in all these arts. There is something of transmutation in his performances; he becomes an alembic, transforming movement into a finely wrought and beautiful work of art. The dancing of Nijinsky is first an imaginative triumph, and the spectator, perhaps, should not be interested in further dissection of it..."

- From "The Russian Ballet and Nijinsky" by Carl van Vechten found in Nijinsky, an illustrated Monograph edited by Paul Magriel, 1946. Also found within the pages of the book are the 3 b/w photos of Nijinsky as the Rose found inset left, inset right (below) and below the jump.

"In December 1917, Vaslav Nijinsky, the most famous male dancer in the Western world, moved into a Swiss villa with his wife and three-year-old daughter and started to go insane. This diary, which he kept in four notebooks over six weeks, is the only sustained, on-the-spot account we have by a major artist of the experience of entering psychosis. Nijinsky's diary was first published in 1936, in a heavily bowdlerized version that omitted almost half of his text. The present edition, translated by Kyril FitzLyon, is the first complete version in English, and the first version in any language to include the fourth notebook, written at the very edge of psychosis. It contains Nijinsky's last lucid thoughts - on God, sex, war, and the nature of the universe, as well as on his own broken life."

- A description of The Diary of Vaslav Nijinsky. The New York Times has archived a small portion of the newer translation of the diary here.

"Nijinsky's Diary was written during the six weeks he spent in Switzerland before being committed to the asylum, combining elements of autobiography with appeals for compassion toward the less fortunate, and for vegetarianism and animal rights. Nijinsky writes of the importance of feeling, as opposed to reliance on reason and logic alone, and he denounces the practice of art criticism as being nothing more than a way for those who practice it to indulge their own egos rather than focusing on what the artist was trying to say. The diary also contains bitter and conflicted thoughts regarding his relationship with Diaghilev."

- Excerpt from the Wiki entry for Nijinsky.


"The man who is right is the one who feels but does not understand."

- A quote from Nijinsky's Diary found here.

***

An Uncommon Kind of Guy

If someone had told me years ago that one day in the far future I would fall in love with a man dressed as a flower, I would've probably just figured they (or I) had inhaled one flower too many. And, yet, that's just what I did one recent Pandemic night, as I gazed at a photo of the Russian dancer, Vaslav Nijinsky. The photo was found in a slim red book with the name "Nijinsky" written in a thin, black script on its spine; a book I might have easily overlooked had it not fallen under my creative radar earlier in the day. And what to my wondering eyes did appear, as I opened the book to a random page, but a photograph of Nijinsky in his role from the ballet "Le Spectre de la Rose"... that is, the ghost or spirit of the rose, which I learned had been inspired by a French poem of the same name.

Lovely, lovely, exquisitely lovely. As it so happens, roses (and spirits) figure prominently in a current art project of mine - a project devoted to the mysteries of the power of love - and, well, I'd be the last one to ignore the quirky habits of fate. Unfortunately, as I began reading the book (into the wee hours of the morning) it became apparent that I had another tragic artist on my hands and, worse still, another misunderstood "mad" artist. At which point I realized Nijinsky would eventually have to make his way to Trans-D... the home of the misunderstood "mad" artist.

As a young dancer, Vaslav Nijinsky (March 12, 1889 – April 8, 1950) was beautiful, graceful, luminous, beloved by both men and women, and considered the greatest dancer and most innovative choreographer of his time. This was during the latter years of the Fin de Siècle when all sorts of dark romanticism, spiritualism - and debauchery - transpired. Tragically, his life - and (allegedly) his mind - began to unravel around the age of 29 (apparently the shelf-life of many a brilliant flame). He was eventually diagnosed with schizophrenia and was to spend his remaining 30 years in and out of mental institutions. Professionally, he would never dance again... reminding us (to our dismay), that, yes, for an artist, there are fates worse than death... and almost all of them are in some way related to institutions.

Nijinsky is and was most often referred to as gay: the stereotypical effeminate ballet dancer - and, while looking at his "Rose" photographs, you might've  thought so, too - as if grace and beauty (and some great eye-shadow) are exclusively found in feminine form. This a fairly modern misconception. The classical world entertained a broader, unbiased perspective, glorifying both their pretty boys and pretty girls equally in art and poetry. Then again, in ancient Greece and Rome, one's sexual orientation wasn't the socially definitive issue it became in the modern world. In fact, no precise Latin words for "homosexual" or "heterosexual" existed. As for Nijinsky, well, he married a woman, fathered two children and employed a number of female prostitutes, while his few documented relationships with men - specifically Sergei Diaghilev, the founder of the renowned Ballets Russes in which Nijinsky found his fame - seem to be based predominately on Nijinsky's artistic opportunism and his partner's egocentric, abusive indulgences. "Love" did not seem to have been the operative term in their relationship. But, for Nijinsky, love was all. And, his feeling was so strong, he believed he was love's personification. In a letter to Diaghilev, Nijinsky wrote:

"You are the one who wants death and destruction, although you are afraid of death.
I love love, but I am not the flesh and blood, I am the spirit, the soul. I am love..."


Ultimately, whether Nijinsky was gay, bi, straight - or some permutation thereof - doesn't really interest us here. I'm more inclined to agree with Dorothy Parker's remark:

“Heterosexuality is not normal, it’s just common.”

 So, let's just accept that Nijinsky was an uncommon kind of guy and move on...

Monday, June 29, 2020

Doing Surreal(ism) Right






"From the moment when it is subjected to a methodical examination, when, by means yet to be determined, we succeed in recording the contents of dreams in their entirety (and that presupposes a discipline of memory spanning generations; but let us nonetheless begin by noting the most salient facts), when its graph will expand with unparalleled volume and regularity, we may hope that the mysteries which really are not will give way to the great Mystery. I believe in the future resolution of these two states, dream and reality, which are seemingly so contradictory, into a kind of absolute reality, a surreality, if one may so speak. It is in quest of this surreality that I am going, certain not to find it, but too unmindful of my death not to calculate to some slight degree the joys of its possession."

"...A great deal more could be said, but in passing I merely wanted to touch upon a subject which in itself would require a very long and much more detailed discussion; I shall come back to it. At this juncture, my intention was merely to mark a point by noting the hate of the marvelous which rages in certain men, this absurdity beneath which they try to bury it. Let us not mince words: the marvelous is always beautiful, anything marvelous is beautiful, in fact only the marvelous is beautiful."

"...We are still living under the rule of logic, that, of course, is what I am driving at. But in our day, logical procedures are only applicable in solving problems of secondary interest. The absolute rationalism still in fashion only allows us to consider facts directly related to our own experience. The aims of logic, in contrast, escape us. Pointless to add that our very experience finds itself limited. It paces about in a cage from which it is more and more difficult to free it. It leans, it too, on immediate utility, and is guarded by common sense. Under the flag of civilisation, accompanied by the pretext of progress, we have managed to banish from the spirit everything that might rightly or wrongly be termed superstition, fancy, forbidding any kind of research into the truth which does not conform to accepted practice. It was by pure chance, it seems, that a part of our mental world, and to my mind the most important, with which we pretended to be no longer concerned, was recently brought back to light."

 - Three separate excerpts from André Breton's 1924 The Manifesto of Surrealism.



Thursday, June 25, 2020

The Power of Love





"When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace."

- Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970)



I'm feeling kind of nostalgic these days. Can you tell by my musical choices? But, then, apparently trauma brings up memories of the past - it also brings us weird dreams - and, baby, if you haven't been traumatized by recent events.... well, then, congratulations, those are some outstanding drugs you're taking!

The two Hendrix videos in this post, however, have special significance. They go out to a boy I used to know... who (theoretically) could've tuned out to be a typical small-town white redneck of the 1970's (here in the U.S. of A.) but, well, he kind of had an epiphany at the tender age of 16... and that epiphany was Jimi Hendrix. Hendrix, unfortunately, had already entered the multiverse by that time... dying just barely a year after his iconic Woodstock performances (shown above and below the jump), but, he was a hero to Mark, my brother - the boy - who desperately needed a hero at the time.

Inset right is Mark at age 17. It was a formal photograph of just he and I, one of a series of freebie family shots we got sucked into taking. You can tell by his ironic grin that we were being prompted to smile... (and you can tell by the bit of me remaining in this photo that I didn't even manage that much tooth exposure). One year later, on a warm summer night - and quite possibly this date - Mark joined Jimi in the multiverse.

Well, at least, I like to think he did...

Monday, May 25, 2020

Roger Waters 2020






Found here. Lyrics (translatable).

As many of you know, this song is from Pink Floyd's The Wall. Taken out of context, however, it comes across like some older man still whining (after all these years) about how his Mum ruined his life. If this should be the case:

Note to RW: Life is short. Move on, (baby).

And, incidentally...

Note to Gilmour and Waters*: Generally, ego-tripping little boys are what start Wars and Walls. See: 1st Note.

Note #3: Pink Floyd Forever! :-)

__________________________________

* Re: Floyd Feud... here, here, and here.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Mystical Sandia Crest - The Lost Mountain (Revised 5/24//20)


(Between the large cloud (in the image above) and the rooftops of human dwellings in the foreground is an unusual, undulating veil of mist striated with the sun's rays. Beneath the veil - stretched out from left to right and lying in shadow - is Sandia Crest, the main body of the Sandia Mountains. This is a cell-phone photograph shot in late March of 2018 while I was still living on the road. It is amongst my last photos of the Sandia Mountains. The rest will appear further on in the post: formally the last post of the Traveler & the Mountain series. (Part 1 & Part 2). Click on all images for larger view.)

***

"The sense of the sacred does not require any image of the gods. There will be no more gothic cathedrals built to exalt humankind to the heavens; no more prophets to lead humankind to the divine; and no more Holy Grails to entice humankind upon the Quest – we now have the sacred suffusing us en masse, manifesting as both the tangible and intangible. Our cultures are being finely renewed from the inside-out by a subtle vibration that has come to us through a myriad of emanations in different forms.

Our ancestors were aware that they lived in a sacred cosmos, where the physical world existed in communion with the unseen dimension which ensouled and sanctified it. There was no rigid line drawn between what was the inner world and what was external reality, because both domains were in correspondence. The individual human soul was a part of the greater sacred reality. And just as the sacred is an instrument of the human, so the human is an instrument of the sacred. The sacred worldview is one that accepts not only the metaphysical but also the magical and the mysterious – the magnificent wonder in everything and all. As the Greek Orphic Mysteries of 2,500 years ago spoke: ‘I am a child of earth and starry heaven, but my race is of heaven alone.’"

- Via Kingsley L. Dennis’s Reality Sandwich article: Magic Never Died: The Sacred is Still Alive.

"There is, we feel, something different about a sacred mountain which cannot be easily explained, something that makes it exceptional. It possesses a kind of energy that’s unique to itself, which can be sensed and felt as much as seen. It draws people to it…inexplicably, mysteriously: 'The power of such a mountain,' writes Lama Anagarki Govinda,
'is so great and yet so subtle that without compulsion pilgrims are drawn to the mountain from near and far, as if by the force of some invisible magnet, and they will undergo untold hardships and privations in their inexplicable urge to approach and to worship the sacred spot. Nobody has conferred the title of sacredness upon such a mountain; by virtue of its own magnetic and psychic emanations the mountain is intuitively recognized to be sacred. It needs no organizer of its worship; innately, each of its devotees feels the urge to pay it reverence.'"

- Via a 2017 Graham Hancock article written by Dustin NaefMount Shasta: California’s Mysterious Mountain.

***


The mountain lies in its own protected dimension.

It asks nothing from the world of women and men... 
except, perhaps, their acknowledgement... and wonder.

It does not ask for reverence... and, yet, it is revered by all those who witness it. It has little contact with humanity... and, yet, its presence orders human lives.

Found flying above the Sandias 2 days ago. DS

For instance, the mountain orders the weather.

It orders tides where there are none... and clouds where there are many.

It orders birds... and birds are made.


Although the mountain does not order the sun, it sometimes orders the clouds to appear in the setting sun's nightly stage production... a very colorful event!

But, in the end, the Sandias serve a larger, mythological purpose...

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Pandemic Moments: Masks and Binaries (Revised 5/14/20)

Is there anybody out there?
Or, as Dorothy Parker once said:
"What fresh hell is this?"


(Note: The poem which originally appeared in this spot has moved to an area below the jump.)


In a word: "Fuck."
I was going to put up several different posts during the last few months but - as you may have noticed - I was not successful. And, then - presto change-o - along came the ongoing pandemic pandemonium (you know the one) and suddenly a surreal, inexplicable sci-fi miasma fell upon us: the world went on hold, governments went bat-shit, small businesses went down the tubes, Wall Street imploded, people began dying off at a rapid rate, and, all the while, not a soul knows which end is up or what's going down apart from some mysterious, virulent DISEASE (origin unknown) which, if it isn't poised to dive into your proverbial blow-hole, is climbing into your eyeballs or insinuating itself under your skin.

The graphic featuring van Gogh inset left pretty much sums up my response. (Thanks, BG!)


In the end, I realized I couldn't bring myself to post anything... at the same time feeling I MUST avoid all reference to the present global affairs. I've had enough of contaminants in my recent past, and enough of various forms of "official" posturing (predominately from affluent male sources and without meaningful content) to last several lifetimes. Perhaps, I'll have something to say when the dust clears. Perhaps, not.

But, if you're reading this, I'm going to assume you're not seeking the expected... nor obligatory blah-bah regarding current events. Good. Because neither are my strong suit. Moreover, due to my continuing refugee status, isolation-at-home does not seem like a half-bad state of affairs. In other words, if I had a home I'd be quite happy staying in it, thank you! As for social distancing, well, for introverts and all those people whose job it is to magically pull attractive and meaningful things out of their heads (and hands), it's a requirement.

Admittedly, I am in the throes of new art projects... which will hopefully be revealed in future Pandemic Moments. Meanwhile, the two photos of myself  (taken by myself) document a couple of failed attempts creating masks. I did wear the blue one (at the top of the post) a few times while wandering about in the Outside but, ultimately, facial coverings - although useful for espionage - kind of give me the heebie-jeebies when everyone is wearing one. On the other hand, there's something to be said for face coverings. One reveals absolutely nothing. Stay tuned: with a little more innovation, they could become the Next Big Fashion Trend!



Thursday, October 31, 2019

Swan Bones Theater Presents...

Forest Sleep - oil on panel - 2010, Kelly Louise Judd.
(Click to enlarge.)

Well, it's the witching season again and, in an effort to stay true to the spirit(s) of our various Days of the Dead, I thought I might feature a new artist whose work is unique, pleasantly spooky, darkly ethereal and the stuff of Old World dreams: the illustrations of Kansas City, Missouri artist, Kelly Louise Judd. (Inset rightLight of the Owls, 2012.)

"Swan Bones Theater" is the name she uses to describe the "fragile shadowland" from which her images emerge as well as the illustrations themselves. Which is perfect really - especially for today - because, if you've recall from the Swan People posts, the swan is the symbol of the psychopomp in many traditions. To repost a quote (found here):

"In the British Isles, Samhain is the time when we see the migratory swans returning for their winter break. Their arrival at their winter waters is far from shy. In full voice, the awesome, evocative sound of hundreds of powerful wings beating signals their presence. They have been guided by the stars of Cygnus, the swan constellation, the Northern Cross, that guards the gateway rift in the Milky Way. They represent the winged soul returning.

The swan is the psychopomp. She flies with the souls of the dead from the burial grounds, the charnel grounds, and the necropolis. She takes them, under the guidance of the Cailleach, to the realms of the spirits."

- Caroline Wise from The Swan, the Goddess, and Other Samhain Musings.

Inset left above is Three Swans (2015). All images in this post - including the one below - can be found on Judd's website.

The Mockingbird and the Hare - oil on panel - 2010, Kelly Louise Judd.

Blessed Be and have a (transdimensionally) magical day!

***

"All our times have come
Here but now they're gone
Seasons don't fear the reaper 
Nor do the wind, the sun or the rain; we can be like they are 
Come on baby, don't fear the reaper
Baby take my hand, don't fear the reaper
We'll be able to fly, don't fear the reaper
Baby I'm your man"

- First stanza of the love song, (Don't Fear) the Reaper, written by Donald Roeser
in 1976 and performed by the band, Blue Oyster Cult. (Lyrics) (Video)


Monday, September 2, 2019

Feminism; Empowerment & the Arts (Part V): The Second Wave Rolls Along

A portrait of American artist Faith Ringgold (born October 8, 1930) found on her website.
(All images in this post can be clicked for larger views.)

"... the term 'sexism' was most likely coined on November 18, 1965, by Pauline M. Leet during a 'Student-Faculty Forum' at Franklin and Marshall College. Specifically, the word sexism appears in Leet's forum contribution 'Women and the Undergraduate,' and she defines it by comparing it to racism, stating in part: 'When you argue ... that since fewer women write good poetry this justifies their total exclusion, you are taking a position analogous to that of the racist - I might call you in this case a 'sexist'... Both the racist and the sexist are acting as if all that has happened had never happened, and both of them are making decisions and coming to conclusions about someone's value by referring to factors which are in both cases irrelevant.'"

-Via Wiki's entry for sexism. Inset right above is Know nothing, Believe anything, Forget everything by American feminist artist Barbara Kruger (born January 26, 1945).

"Ringgold showed White her paintings—still lifes and landscapes in what she called 'French' colors, which were very much in line with the gallery’s focus. The dealer studied the work, the artist told me, then said to her, 'You (pause) can’t (pause) do that.'

... Driving back to Harlem, she and Birdie talked about what had happened. 'I said to him,' Ringgold continued, 'You know something? I think what she’s saying is - it’s the 1960s, all hell is breaking loose all over, and you’re painting flowers and leaves. You can’t do that. Your job is to tell your story. Your story has to come out of your life, your environment, who you are, where you come from.'”

- From an ArtNews interview with American artist, Faith Ringgold, found with her 1969 painting (inset left) Black Light #10: Flag for the Moon Die Nigger, its title possibly a reference to the political biography released that year by Black activist, H. Rap Brown.

"Over the course of her sixty-year career, Faith Ringgold’s activism has moved strategically between reform and revolution. She helped form one of the first collectives for women of color artists in Brooklyn, led protests to push for the inclusion of artists of color at the Whitney and the Brooklyn Museum, advocated for free speech as part of the Judson 3, and worked with women who were incarcerated on Rikers to make a mural for the prison...

Ringgold completed this self-portrait at the beginning of her career, concurrent with the rise of the Black Power and other radical political movements of the 1960s... the artist portrays herself with a determined gaze and folded arms, in a gesture simultaneously gentle and guarded. In reflecting on this painting and the political and artistic awakening she experienced during this time, Ringgold has said, “I was trying to find my voice, talking to myself through my art.”

- Excerpt from another article regarding Faith Ringgold which, along with her self-portrait, was sourced from this Brooklyn Museum page. The "Riker's Island" prison mural mentioned in the article can be found here, although I have since found information that the actual prison at the time (1971) was the New York Women's House of Detention, where black revolutionary Angela Davis was being held. It eventually moved to Riker's Island where it became a prison for men.

"Yes, I was in Europe in 1955. I went for a summer vacation for two months. I went to London and France and then to Paris and then to southern France. And then to Italy...You know, Negroes didn't at that time travel much. And I know one of the reasons, you just couldn't get accommodations and couldn't be comfortable, and I felt that I would find that it was the same thing there. That I would be a Negro, you know, in a white world. And that was very frightening. Plus I couldn't live up to any of the brilliance that I was sure I would encounter. But after being in England for awhile I began to come out a little bit, and I found that in Europe you are not a Negro. You're a person. And that was, oh, that was just a wonderful, wonderful experience. I didn't want to come home. I just didn't want to come home... In South Carolina I did a little of traveling... I remember once I got on the bus with some other teachers who were roommates. And I went and automatically sat in the first seat that was empty. And they came along, these Negro teachers, and gave a great whoopla, you know. "You mustn't sit there" and all that. I didn't know what had happened. I turned around and looked at the man next to me and he looked at me... 'You can't sit there.' he said, 'First of all it's the front of the bus, second of all you're sitting next to a white man.'"

- American artist Vivian Browne from a transcript of a 1968 interview found here. The photograph inset left featuring Browne and some of her work was sourced here. It was Vivian Browne who, in 1971, along with Faith Ringgold, formed the Where We At group of African-American women artists.

"...those of us who stand outside the circle of this society's definition of acceptable women; those of us who have been forged in the crucibles of difference – those of us who are poor, who are lesbians, who are Black, who are older – know that survival is not an academic skill. It is learning how to take our differences and make them strengths. For the master's tools will never dismantle the master's house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change. And this fact is only threatening to those women who still define the master's house as their only source of support."

- Attributed to Black feminist/womanist, activist, lesbian and poet, Audre Lorde (1934-1992), inset right. A West Indian American, Lorde championed the "outsider," a role she deeply identified with. As a black feminist she felt excluded from the prevailing feminist school, which she felt was academic, heterosexual and primarily white. She was an early Intersectional feminist, insisting that women acknowledge "differences between other women not as something to be tolerated, but something that is necessary to generate power and to actively 'be' in the world. This will create a community that embraces differences, which will ultimately lead to liberation. Divide and conquer, in our world, must become define and empower."

"Arkansas State Senator Paul Van Dalsem got a roaring laugh in 1963 at the then all-male Optimist Club when he railed at women lobbying to improve educational opportunities for African Americans. He said his home county’s solution would be to get an uppity woman an extra milk cow. 'And if that’s not enough, we get her pregnant and keep her barefoot.'”

- Via "Trading in “Barefoot and Pregnant” for Economic and Reproductive Justice." Apparently, Van Dalsem was paraphrasing a statement made earlier in the century by Arthur E. Hertzler, a Kansas M.D.: "The only way to keep a woman happy is to keep her barefoot and pregnant."  Inset left is a linoleum block print by American artist Margaret Taylor-Burroughs (1915-2010) - The Faces of My People. In Chicago during1961, she and her husband co-founded the Ebony Museum of Negro History and Art in what amounted to the living room of their house. It relocated in 1973, becoming the oldest museum of African-American culture in the United States:  the DuSable Museum of African American History.

"There are few things which present greater obstacles to the improvement and elevation of woman to her appropriate sphere of usefulness and duty, than the laws which have been enacted to destroy her independence, and crush her individuality; laws which, although they are framed for her government, she has had no voice in establishing, and which rob her of some of her essential rights. Woman has no political existence. With the single exception of presenting a petition to the legislative body, she is a cipher in the nation…"

"Woman has been placed by John Quincy Adams, side by side with the slave… I thank him for ranking us with the oppressed; for I shall not find it difficult to show, that in all ages and countries, not even excepting enlightened republican America, woman has more or less been made a means to promote the welfare of man, without due regard to her own happiness, and the glory of God as the end of her creation…"

- Two quotes from Quaker abolitionist and early feminist (inset right, above), Sarah Moore Grimké (1792 - 1873), from her "Letters on the Equality of the Sexes and the Condition of Women" found in this Women's History blog article. Inset left is an abolitionist coin or token which reads: "Am I Not a Woman and a Sister?", a rallying cry paraphrased by Sojourner Truth (inset right) in her famous "Ain't I a Woman?" speech and further utilized by white abolitionist women who turned to feminism when they realized that, for the women of their time, abject servitude was merely several skin tones away. Today, modern slave traders are color-blind; all races of women and children (and some men) - most especially the poor - are victimized. See Human Trafficking. Also here and here.


“How long shall the fair daughters of Africa be compelled to bury their minds
and talents beneath a load of iron pots and kettles?”

- A quote from a speech by free-born African-American abolitionist and lecturer,
Maria W. Stewart (1803-1879) shown above. Also, see here.

"Let the women stay at home and hold their peace."

-Greek playwright Aeschylus, 467 B.C.

"A Woman is to be from her House three times:
when she is Christened, Married and Buried."

- British physician and preacher Thomas Fuller, 1732.

"A woman's place is in the house - the House of Representatives."

- 1970, Bella Abzug.
(Note: Abzug shot too low. Nowadays we'd say "the White House, Oval Office.")

____________________________________________________

The Radicals and Revolutionaries
Racism, Sexism & Aunt Jemima's Revenge

Well, it took 6 months and number of Interludes (following this post), before I could crank out a follow-up. The sad fact is, artists are so subversive they even rebel against their own agendas! Anyway, my apologies... but, this post was quite a project - substantially revised several times when volumes of new material was found - and, as we have a lot of ground to cover, well, we may as well dig in now.

An untitled work by Birgit Jürgenssen, 1978.
First off, a kind of a re-cap. What was (hopefully) apparent in my previous post of the series - and will become increasingly apparent here - is that art created by women from the second wave period was tremendously broad in both diversity and scope. Moreover, many of the artists involved are still alive today and are continuing to produce art which is relevant. Regarding the artists who have passed - and some only in the past decade - their artistic contributions not only continue to maintain a "shelf-life" but, in some cases are so peculiarly contemporary, they could seamlessly be exhibited alongside artwork emerging today.

Case in point, Austrian artist Birgit Jürgenssen, who was born in 1949 and died at the age of 54. Her work is featured above inset right - which seems to depict a female primate in captivity and below... examples which, as described here"powerfully subverted the clichés of gender representation, social stereotyping, fetishism and forced domestication of women. Only recently has her work been rediscovered and acknowledged for its significance."

XXO - B/W photographs coloured with pastels, paint, and pencil - 1979, Birgit Jürgenssen.

Apart from her early death, It's hard to understand why and how an artist like Jürgenssen managed to fall through the cracks so rapidly while other feminist artists didn't. But, it may have been a result of feminism in Austria at the time (see here), or it may have had to do with her understated style - XXO, above, was an exception - or eclectic oeuvre. On the other hand, her Housewives' Kitchen Apron (Inset left) in which the "housewife" seems to be no more than an insignificant extension of her stove, was a bold, subversive statement because, in the 1950s and 60s - the early days of Big Consumerism - and the 70s, manufacturers needed you to believe just that: a woman's value was assessed by her proficiency as a housekeeper and her knowledge of the latest kitchen appliance, dish detergent, and repertoire of recipes involving Jello.
(And, according to television script-writers and advertisers, she got extra points if she wore a strand of pearls and lipstick while scrubbing the bathroom floor!)

"Realization" by British feminist photographer, Jo Spence (1935-1992).
Spence has donned a Halloween mask for her parody of a stereotypical cleaning
product ad from the 60s. Note the "Capitalism Works!" poster behind her.

There were even magazines devoted to women designed to drive this domestic indoctrination home. "Good Housekeeping" (inset right) for example, arrived on newsstands in the late 1800s, one member of a group of American "woman's" magazines: the Seven Sisters. It initially targeted wealthy, white, married women for whom "housekeeping" amounted to no more than managing the servants.

After the Great Depression, however, and, more importantly, post-WWII, working women were obliged to return to their homes (see previous post in this series) and middle-class housewives (and mothers) now comprised a more burgeoning demographic. Of note: while there are both UK and South American versions of Good Housekeeping, in the States its succession of editors were all male until 1995! Lastly, all but two of the "Seven Sisters" is still in existence to today... presumably modified for modern consumption.

In any event, there was more than one force at work in the domestication of women and, in spite of those feisty New Women from the earlier part of the 20th century, and the success stories of mid-century artists like Georgia O'Keefe, Louise Bourgeois, and Frida Kahlo, and even after Judy Chicago brought feminist art to the fore, worldwide enthusiasm for women visual artists - most especially blatantly feminist artists - was lukewarm. As it was, the skills of women artists were still considered inferior, and the historical records - in which women's artistic achievements continued to be dismissed - reflected this.

A sampling of Supersisters trading cards found here.
Even many of the feminists themselves seemed to discount art as a meaningful profession. When, in 1979, members of NOW created a set of 72 trading cards - Supersisters - to commemorate the achievements of famous women throughout contemporary history, although they included a number of celebrities from politics, sports and the entertainment field, plus a scattering of poets, writers, musicians, etc., not one of the 72 featured a visual artist.

6 (out of 11) feminist icons composing the Sister Chapel. Left to right is artist Frida Kahlo, poet Marianne Moore, activist Betty Friedan, Womanhero, the goddess Durga, and Saint Jeanne d'Arc as a pious country maiden.

Which is not to say the feminist artists themselves kept a low profile, but, inadvertently, theirs was a separate camp... and, necessarily, a self-supporting one. When, in 1974, abstract painter, Ilise Greenstein, conceived of a feminist spin on the Sistine Chapel - a monument to female empowerment featuring an image of God in feminine form - she aligned herself with the Woman's Interart Center in New York; a group formed by artist Jacqueline Skiles and one which, according to this announcement, folded only recently.

Several years later the Sister Chapel was born, primarily a henge-like circle of large paintings depicting notable women by a number of feminist artists. The subject matter was an odd collection of female "heroes" (predominately Caucasian, with the exception of Frida Kahlo and the Hindu warrior goddess, Durga, inset left). But, at least the artists did include 2 visual artists in the mix - Kahlo and Artemisia Gentilieschi.

My Nurse and I, 1937, Frida Kahlo.
As it happened, the Sister Chapel, while initially popular, was dismantled in the early 1980s and fell into obscurity until 2016 when it was discovered and reassembled by an art history professor, Andrew Hottie. It is now on permanent exhibit at Rowan University Art Gallery in Glassboro, New Jersey.

But, the overall bottom line is that the world was not yet sold on the idea of woman artists, any more than it was prepared for truly free women. Moreover, society as a whole was unwilling to relinquish its hold on all its designated home-makers, baby breeders, caregivers, domestic slaves, and sex-toys. And, (surprise, surprise) it is still unwilling.

Woman Vacuuming Pop Art, 1972, Pop artist Martha Rosler (b. 1943).
(One way of getting your "work" into an art gallery in the 70s.)

For women of color, however, there was a double jeopardy: she was marginalized for both her gender and the color of her skin. She was doubly a "minority", because most legislature - and social scientists - categorized all women as a subordinate group; "women and minorities" shared the same lack of status despite the fact that, regardless of color, women comprised half of the global population. Moreover, if poverty and/or class was part of the equation, a woman might be burdened by triple oppression.

In any event, the African-American women knew intimately that there were two foes to overthrow: racism and sexism. And, for a blatant example of both, clothed in Christmas coziness, we have a second Good Housekeeping cover (inset left) which featured a stereotypical cartoon mammy-figure carrying in a tray of food captioned: "Black cook bringing steaming Christmas pudding into the dining room..." 

I'm only surprised she isn't wheeling in a large carton of pancake mix... (also referred to as Slave in a Box). In spite of the fact that this cover was created in 1902 - and the so-called Reconstruction Amendments were allegedly put into effect over 30 years hence - the jolly "black cook," while theoretically a free woman, was still presented as primarily a kitchen fixture and fundamentally a servant. Apparently, someone forgot to free Aunt Jemima...

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

No, this isn't only "racism."

A blatantly racist and sexist billboard in North Carolina which reads:
"The 4 Horseman Cometh are Idiots - Signed, the Deplorables (sic)
CHEROKEE GUNS - 1 MILE ON RIGHT"

The Chosen One.
"In a tweet on Wednesday evening, Tlaib asked how the billboard could not be considered an aggressive inducement.

'How the hell is this not inciting violence?' she wrote.

Pressley tweeted: '#Racist rhetoric from the occupant of the @WhiteHouse has made hate our new normal. We are still vulnerable.'

But appeals for civility appear to be falling on deaf ears. Wacholz amped up his attack when the store posted a statement on Facebook that said it planned to produce clothing with the billboard’s image.

'Alright my fellow Infidels for Trump … due to OVERWHELMING demand … you may come by the shop (next week) and get your very own FOUR HORSEMEN COMETH STICKER … simple … eat a piece of bacon … tell us you’re voting for Trump in 2020 … then get your limited edition bumper sticker! (While supplies last!) Snowflakes and Liberals are not eligible … sorry ...'"

- Quote sourced from this Guardian article.

(Update - added August 21/22, 2019) Inset left (above and below) is the current "occupant of the White House" who now refers to himself as the "Chosen One." The graphics were inspired by a photo found at The Daily Beast; I make no copyright claims on either version. Also see: 'I am the Chosen One': with boasts and insults, Trump sets new benchmark for incoherence. BTW, isn't this whole Trump thing beginning to remind you of that old Christopher Walken movie: "The Dead Zone"? Seriously.

"An advertising company has announced it will take down a billboard in Murphy, North Carolina, calling Reps. Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley "idiots." The billboard was promoting a local gun shop, and the shop's owner said he wants to go to court to keep it up.

The billboard received national attention after Cherokee Guns posted a picture of it on Facebook. Cherokee Guns stood by its ad and even sold bumper stickers of it for those who wanted to show support...

...The president tweeted earlier this month that the "'Progressive' Democratic Congresswomen" should "go back" to where they came from, even though three of them were born in the U.S. and the fourth has been a citizen for two decades. Since then, they've been singled out repeatedly by opponents on the right.

On Tuesday, the owner of Cherokee Guns spoke to WTVC-TV. He said the billboard had only been up for a few days, but it had already brought him more business."

- Excerpt from this CBS online news report.

"A shattering weekend in which two mass shootings left at least 29 people dead and injured dozens put Donald Trump at the center of a storm of outrage over racism and the failure on gun control in America.

Even as the president said “hate has no place in our country” and blamed the shootings on mental illness, investigators in El Paso confirmed that a massacre at a Walmart superstore on Saturday that left at least 20 people dead in the Texas border city had been preceded by the suspected gunman publishing an anti-immigration screed via the darker recesses of the internet.

And in a mass shooting in the early hours of Sunday, just 13 hours later, a gunman in Dayton, Ohio, was wearing body armor and carrying 100-bullet magazines to arm his high-powered rifle, with law enforcement warning he could have killed many dozens of people if he had not been shot by police within 30 seconds of opening fire.

The shootings were carried out just a week after a 19-year-old, also armed with a high-caliber rifle, opened fire at a popular annual food festival in Gilroy, northern California, killing three and wounding others."

- Sourced from this August 4, 2019 Guardian report. Also see CNN's Another weekend, two more mass shootings in America. Actually there were 4 mass-shootings in the States this weekend: 2 were in Chicago.

"Gun Violence Archive, frequently cited by the press, defines a mass shooting as firearm violence resulting in at least four people being shot at roughly the same time and location, excluding the perpetrator. Using this definition, there have been 2,128 mass shootings since 2013, roughly one per day.

The United States has had more mass shootings than any other country. Shooters generally either die by suicide afterwards or are restrained or killed by law enforcement officers or civilians. Studies indicate that the rate at which public mass shootings occur has tripled since 2011. Between 1982 and 2011, a mass shooting occurred roughly once every 200 days. However, between 2011 and 2014, that rate has accelerated greatly with at least one mass shooting occurring every 64 days in the United States. According to the non-profit Gun Violence Archive, there were 250 mass shootings between January 1 and August 3, 2019 - the 215th day of the year.

The majority of perpetrators are white males who act alone. According to most analyses and studies however, the proportion of mass shooters in the United States who are white and male is not considerably greater than the proportion of white males in the general population of the US."

- From the Wiki entry for Mass Shootings in the United States. I'm not exactly sure what that last line in the quote proves, but, well, whatever. Another article addressing the mass murderer is this NY Times offering from 2018: "Mass Shooters Are All Different. Except for One Thing: Most Are Men". There is also a short listing of mass shootings in the U.S. found here.

***

"In Ancient Rome, the Dog Days extended from July 24 through August 24 (or, alternatively July 23-August 23). In many European cultures (German, French, Italian) this period is still said to be the time of the Dog Days.

Dog Days were popularly believed to be an evil time "when the seas boiled, wine turned sour, Quinto raged in anger, dogs grew mad, and all creatures became languid, causing to man burning fevers, hysterics, and frenzies" according to Brady’s Clavis Calendarium, 1813."

- "Dog Days" entry via Wiki.


(Note: I began writing this post Monday, August 6. The Sunday I'm referring to fell on August 5th.)

I woke up in a weird, crappy mood Sunday. Not that this is or was front page news... but,  then again, for some individuals, waking up in a crappy mood means they have to go out and shoot a few people before breakfast, thereby creating the day's Top Story. And, as it worked out, competition was fierce for the top spot this past Sunday with the exploits of four psychopaths clamoring for our attention. I grew more upset than usual, over the sort of "news" which has become so common these days it's like, well, no news at all. But, something about the 4 shootings occurring so close together was oddly familiar... bringing me back to September of 2001, and the utter horror and disbelief I felt while helplessly watching the TV screen as one of the massive Twin Towers began to collapse while, at the same time a plane was surrealistically flying straight into the other (inset right). (BBC video.) While the tragedy of 2001 differed in many ways, the tragedies of this past weekend somehow had a similar effect on me.

Terrorism is, after all, terrorism. One doesn't need to qualify it; its effects are the same regardless of the weapons involved, the perpetrators responsible, or the number of casualties. Presently, in the U.SA., terrorism is an existential scourge brought directly from hell to earth by an emotionally-dead, sociopathic minority: primarily young men who are so out-of-touch with reality that death might be no more than the temporary handicap it is in their virtual worlds. But, is this the whole picture?

Of course, we can always blame recent insanity on the folklore effects of the Dog Days of summer. I have in the past. But, as it was, just as I was following up on the various massacres via the internet that same morning, I came across the billboard (introducing this post). More incredulousness on my part... because on the billboard were the faces of 4 women... 4 members of Congress who were recently disrespected by possibly the most disrespectful President this country has ever seen. Moreover, the billboard seemed to be an odd advertisement for CHEROKEE GUNS (those words beneath "idiots" and "deplorables" in big block letters). Alarmingly, the billboard's purpose seemed to imply that CHEROKEE GUNS had just the solution for removing the four problematic "horsemen"... forever.

The thing is, I was always under the impression that publicly advocating the murder of members of Congress was, in fact, a felony, or, at the very least, a form of sedition. Certainly, I can't recall ever seeing anything like it before. Had there been four male members of Congress on that sign, we can rest assured that the reaction would've been a bit more extreme... and CHEROKEE GUNS wouldn't have gotten as far as the T-shirt/bumper sticker phase. So, what gives? Boys will be boys... eh, Meryl?*

You do realize, of course, that singling out four women in this way is not very far from the "Burn witch, burn!" mindset of the not-too-distant past. So, for those who feel women have made immense, unassailable strides across the board and need fight no further... well, the billboard informs us that this is not the case... certainly not in the States. In global terms a recent World Bank study concluded that there are only 6 countries which have equal rights for men and women: Belgium, Denmark, France, Latvia, Luxembourg and Sweden. But, I'm not convinced that any country is a truly safe haven for women. And, obviously, in the States, nobody is safe, regardless of gender. And this malaise increases exponentially if your skin isn't white enough, your gender is ambiguous, and/or your path through life diverges in any way from the mainstream.

But, it wasn't always like this. There was a time - and it truly wasn't all that long ago - when, at the very least, kids could go to school in most places without the threat of being shot and killed. As late as the early 1980s women could walk alone in downtown Manhattan at night without being raped... or knifed on the subway when they went home. A family outing wasn't necessarily an invitation to the Grim Reaper. A trip to a department store to buy curtains was not a suicidal proposition. Mass shootings had yet to become the norm...