Fairies and witches and mermaids, oh my!

When I was little*, I considered the woods to be my own personal playground. The house couldn’t hold me and once outside, my imagination ran wild. I built houses for the fairies that I knew lived in the woods. They were extravagant castles with stick turrets and moss walls. I left the fairies notes scrawled in the mud and I knew they liked their homes because they wrote back and told me so! I would leave them presents that would be gone when I checked back the next day. I saw them, too. At night, little lights would dance around the woods. They weren’t afraid of me so they showed me how they played and danced. They knew they could trust me.

Then one day, I wandered into my mother’s room and noticed a box on her bed. It was full of the presents I had given to the fairies. It broke my heart. This wasn’t Santa Clause or the Easter Bunny, this was my reality coming undone.

I might not leave presents out for the fairies in the woods anymore but I do believe in their presence.  I believe in energy and the magic that inspires my artwork. If I hadn’t played in those woods as a child, I may not have ended up as the artist I am today.  Let your imagination run wild and don’t listen to people who tell you you’re acting silly or that something isn’t real. Go out and play in the woods. Most importantly: play. As an artist, of any kind, that is our job. When we play, we inspire others to do so. This is our job, our livelihood: to entertain and inspire. Hold on to childhood memories as a well for your purest time of creativity. Do not be afraid to mine from it, as it is bottomless.

I am a fairy

I am a witch

I am a mermaid

I am a muse.

Call it whatever you want, but life is more interesting when you believe in something outside of your everyday tangible existence.

 

*This anecdote was related to me by Eleanor

 

Image

“Ballybetagh Woods” by Catherine Nelson from Imaginary Landscapes

http://www.catherinenelson.net/gallerij-landscapes.php

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Let’s Go Fly a Kite #Praxis2014

This piece, a collection of individual thoughts, is an offering that was devised during NYU’s Praxis 2014. It came about from The Grace Period Blog’s “InDEBTed to Art: Traversing Digital and Corporeal Resistance” workshop. We are so grateful to and inspired by all who were involved and participated — we hope this is only the beginning of our conversation. Credit to contributors and collaborators goes to: Christa Noelle, Sha Savage, Victoria Randall, Taylor Black, Victor Bautista, Phoebe Rumsey, Ian Watson, Susana Epstein, Sarah Lucie, Gabriela Moreno, and Sydney Arndt.

“You’re being totally unrealistic.” Since when has the term “realistic” come to mean uncreative, defeatist, and resigned? The political and economic problems facing our generation often seem insurmountable. Between student debt and health care issues, coupled with job insecurity and the inability to save, it seems that we’re destined for a more complicated life than the one our parents experienced. Just deal with it, right? Just take care of you and your own. Make sure that you save enough for your own family, and go on with your day. Be realistic.But I don’t want to be realistic. I don’t want to give up and accept things as they are. I don’t want any of us to accept our lot in life and just make the most of what’s given to us. I want to keep pushing, to keep thinking about what the ideal is. Just because the ideal solution is hard (some would say impossible) to accomplish, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be thought, it shouldn’t be voiced. I’m not a politician. Politicians have to be diplomatic and compromise and find a realistic solution.

Realistic is boring, be surrealistic. Surrealism is what brought you to art anyway.

Possibility is like a blank page. So many options, let’s get started.

I’m an artist by nature. I have a realistic job, however, to take care of my real bills.

Responsibility. Feelings of having to think about the future in terms of financial security too much.

Denial is the next best thing after ignorance. I can pay off all my student debt in a year if I make $10,000 a month, plus living expenses.

How do I find an audience that will listen. I want to convert the realistic ones into a new way of thinking.

How are dreaming and desire part of a realistic world?

Do you really want to solve a problem, or do you want to provide the most creative solution without regards to a chance of success?

Wasn’t any other historical period as difficult as this one or perhaps even more difficult in the past?

What’s real to the body, society, and the mind, and will they ever collide?

What art we to do with tears?

G TRAIN

You enter the train car, you are trapped with a few or many lives for a stop, or two or three. For your entire ride, for half of it.

Some are laughing, some are reading, some are quiet, some just hide behind their headphones.

Sometimes you are alone, sometimes with friends.

Sometimes you are one, sometimes you are the other.

Sometimes you cry.

Sometimes somebody else cries.

And while the tears invade and sink the car, everyone else goes on and on. Just like when somebody laughs, or somebody reads, or somebody hides behind their headphones. But what else art we to do?

As I know not how long this ride will last, I listen, I observe, the figure wrapped in dark clothes and dark energies, overcome by a sadness unbearable to witness.

I have an impulse. But I stop myself. People come and go between stops, quiet, laughing, playing games. I need this figure to know that they are a being, that I am a being, that we feel.

Finally we are leaving the island, meaning will be under water for a bit of time, 2 more stops for me.

I come close, I offer my water, I get rejected. I say very softly “I respect your sadness, and I hope that whatever happens next things get better for you.”

Although I spoke softly,there was a change in the car. There was a moment of silence, of acknowledgement of this person’s tears and sadness. I understood that while everybody seemed to not notice, everybody was aware. And for those few seconds, the sadness was honored by everybody.

Do we ignore one another’s feelings because_______________________?

My stop arrived and I leaned to hand the water bottle to the person. They looked up and a slight smile of gratitude showed on their face. I felt sad, but I was satisfied to have moved them if a little.

I don’t write this to show-off or self-affirm that I am a good thoughtful empathic person. I am probably just as ruined as everyone else can get through experiencing the world and experiencing the daily scenes of NYC. But I have been that person. In tears throughout a one hour ride, hoping I will just be ignored by those around me, hoping I am not making anybody uncomfortable, hoping that nobody will notice. But also wondering, how come nobody cares enough to approach me.

I know that our culture has taught us to be afraid of each other no matter the circumstances. We can’t think of helping without thinking we might put ourselves at risk. Furthermore, what this scene made me think of is the state of the world, and how we stand before it. If we can’t be moved by what lies right in front, why do we care to see the horrible headlines that bombard us day-to-day? What is the point of knowing if we can’t connect to our knowledge? Ranciere says that “it isn’t obviously the case that knowledge of a situation entails a desire to change it.” So what do we do with our knowledge? with our awareness? We build substantial conversations, we write books, we create academic programs, fill libraries and databases. But if it isn’t obviously the case, then what art we to do? How could we do it?

Tears, basic humanity. And we are yet to get used to blood I suppose.

For those supporters of a cause, I suggest we create, and danse.

 

 

 

Want to hear a joke?

It’s icy outside, so I’ve stayed in for the night. Ordinarily I don’t worry so much, but I’ve heard enough horror stories and had a hard enough time trying to drive up my steep, snowy driveway in the past 24 hours to have been convinced not to venture out. So of course, just like most of my 20-something counterparts, my night in saw me scrolling through my Facebook feed in search of something that might be interesting (no, that doesn’t include your individualized Facebook movie or that article detailing why you got engaged at 23). And as I wade through the fluff and the nonsense, lo and behold, there it is: nestled like a precious gem amongst grit and sand and dirt, an oasis in a desert devoid of substance, a headline shining like a beacon of hope to bored Facebook voyeurs and student debt sufferers alike. The arresting headline is preceded by a tentative, disbelieving “Is this real life?” from the friend who shared it, and as I read the title, I can understand her incredulity:

“Obama Announces Plan to Forgive All Student Loans”

Has there ever been a more captivating headline? Has ever a sequence of words stirred more hope, more joy, more ecstasy at the thought of freedom? Can you think of a sentence that holds more promise or guarantees such relief? What other words could sound sweeter to the ear of the average American in my generation?

But in today’s fast-paced world, I don’t give myself much time to contemplate the magic of the words that my eyes have just drifted over. Instead, perhaps drawn by my ever-growing cynicism, perhaps because the web address was already in the periphery of my vision on the tiny mobile screen, my gaze focuses almost immediately on the source of the article, a URL as ugly as the headline is beautiful:

dailycurrant.com

Ah, of course. It’s too good to be true; isn’t that always the case? It’s almost as disappointing as finding out that, no, going to college and getting a degree in what you love is NOT a guaranteed path to success, job security, and a prosperous, happy life. (What a joke that was, right?) The Daily Currant deals in similar jokes, the kind you can almost believe are real. Its satire has the same bite as the more-renowned Onion, but because it’s less well-known, its readers are more often fooled first and left with a bitter taste in their mouths later when they realize they’ve been had.

With a resigned sigh (I hate to be the bearer of bad news), I add the first new comment on my friend’s link.

“No,” I write, addressing the validity of the headline’s existence in real life. “It’s a satire site.” I add a sad face to show my solidarity, and for effect, because, damn, wouldn’t that have been great if it wasn’t just a joke? Touché, Daily Currant, you’ve won this round.

Notifications start rolling in, from other friends either pointing out the satire or lamenting it. The friend who shared the article now shares her moment of revelation, disappointed that “the tyranny” of student debt, as she calls it, isn’t over after all. A mutual friend is also feeling the weight of her debt chains: of course the headline isn’t real, she says, we’re going to be slaves to “the man” for the rest of our lives. Another friend of a friend tells us that, after seeing the same story on another person’s Facebook page, she cried tears of joy before realizing the sad truth. And as a final stamp on the subject, the last comment laments the fact that the student debt figures listed in the article ($1 trillion of student debt owed to the federal government, 40 million students affected, an average of $24,000 of debt per person, college tuition rising 600% since 1980) are in no way satirical, but just cold, hard facts.

All this student debt talk reminds me – my Sallie Mae payment was due yesterday. Whoops. Better go and correct that. And I should make a note to call FedLoan, too, about extending my economic hardship forbearance. There’s no way I’m going to be able to make my monthly payment while I’m still looking for a job. $675 a month? What a joke.

“I Have A Dream” – a collaboration between MLK and an Artist

This is a meditative reflection on the courageous and empowering “I Have a Dream” speech by Dr. Martin Luther King. Although the speech was made specifically towards racial injustice, I have always viewed it’s intent as incredibly relevant to any social and political injustice of the time. How now, is America torn by economic injustice with an over-whelming majority of its citizens buried with student debt. His words still give me hope and resonate with a pulse in my mind when I am feeling that change is impossible. (the italics are Dr. King’s words, the remainder is original)

The Student in debt is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. This was a land that she had such aspirations for—a land that she had dreams of cultivating and enriching with creativity and liveliness. Instead this land is barren and inaccessible. She was proud to have a responsibility to this land, but now she finds herself unable to fulfill her truest role. Her feet and wings are stuck in a cement block of debt.

In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, would be guaranteed the “unalienable Rights” of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” But what did they have in mind when they promised “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness?” Was it a happiness of corporate America: cubicles, e-mails, paychecks, 401Ks, and benefit packages? Or was it the happiness of pursuing your own dreams and honing the creative skills that would be your best gift to the world around you? Did they mean for Liberty to be the opportunity to attend college and grow an education without the assistance of job placement or the time to build a career of your choosing and passions? Education is a True Liberty I do agree, but the cost of knowledge in no way promotes a pursuit of happiness or a just Life as promised. Today’s life is one of fear and uncertainty. The cost of education is impossible.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her college graduates are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.”  I ask now: where is America hoarding the funds we were promised? The top 1% live plentifully while others scrap by. More young adults and adults with college degrees are living in poverty than ever before. When will the greed in this country smoulder to the ashes it deserves to be? The middle-class and now lower middle class along with the growing class in poverty demand to rise up to a true middle class again where the majority of the wealth is disbursed amongst the majority of her people. This should not be up for debate in a true democracy.

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. Don’t we all deserve security of health and home?

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children. Now is the time for us to bring our struggles to the public forum. Now is the time to speak on the Congress floor and for every American to be represented within those walls.

We cannot walk alone.

Trust me you are not alone and soon our shared experience of stifling student debt will boil over and someone will have to confess to these crimes–the crime of privatizing student loans and allowing unregulated businesses to bring interest rates to an unmanageable high.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.

Live your dream and let the rest roll off your back. Be the creative you were meant to be with no apologies.

We cannot turn back.

Resist the temptation to allow your student debt to make significant decisions in your life. We received an education for accessibility and opportunities not for limitations and stop signs. We cannot forget that.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

Create a new reality and a new tomorrow because that’s what artists do.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

Celebrate Black History Month with this Generous Leader who paved the way for so many. RIP: