Thursday, October 11, 2007

Running Away From Ignorance

“Why would you be scared?” She asked. “Well I'm not sure exactly how I am going to feel. It’s a list of unrelated things.” I haven’t been used to having someone to really talk to about what I was going through within myself. I couldn’t find the words, and I realized that for a while, I began to feel that there were no words to describe what I was going through. But could I really understand it if I couldn’t describe it in words? “I don’t know if I’ll feel like I had lost something. Made a bad move. That's one thing I’m scared to realize.” She kept looking at me, as if she could see the experience, my life, being haphazardly juxtapositioned into words. I didn’t have to describe that the words didn’t quite fit. Even she knew how defeating the English language could be. “But then, I’m also scared that I'll come here and realize that I have moved on; that I completed my mission in this place, and that I had made the right choice to leave.” I was starting to feel like the words and my thoughts were coming into some type of compromise to put the message across. I relied more on the fact that I knew she’d understand, even with few words. She had known me well enough, I remembered. “This place. This moment in my life… I don’t want to loose it. But I also don’t want to feel stagnated. I want to progress.” Her face expressed a complete understanding, “It sounds like you need to rebuild the courage to grow in a new type of environment. You’ve been used to having us around to guide you and support you through your challenges, and so that’s the part of this you don’t want to let go of. But it also looks like you want to accept that challenge of surviving a new jungle. Unknown territory. You’ve always been a fighter, and it seems like that’s just how your identity continues to shift into defining who you are.” There’s something about this place that’s magical, and she’s just a piece of a larger world. “Look, try to think back to your first days moving here.” I was a totally different person then, I thought. I don’t know if I could really fit my old shoes that easily. “There were things you weren’t expecting that happened, that turned you into who you are today. You’ve been through some fucked up shit out here, but that shit made you a tougher person and a wiser woman. I know you’ve made the right choice, and whatever you had within yourself that allowed you to survive this place, you still have in you today. I know its not the same as it is out here, the same kind of support, but you’ll start to shift in your thinking, and realize what it is you have to do out there. The spirits are always with you, watching.” Somehow I already knew all this, but there’s something about putting words to it, as inadequate as they may be, that somehow makes the feeling tangible, like a weapon. “You’re right. So I guess I really came back to figure out what kinds of changes I’m going to have to adapt to. I need to clarify some things. Take an inventory of things I’ll leave in this old closet by these old shoes, and try to prepare myself for what I'll grow into in this new place. It’s still painful to think about it this way, though. I love this place so much. Never have I grown to know so much about myself and the world, in such little time. Six years. It sounds like a long time, but its really not.”

She looked at me, noticing I’m still feeling unresolved. “What?” “Its…its just that, six years ago, I wanted to leave home. There was nothing there for me but the redundancy of misery. I was okay about leaving. But now… now I feel like I’m leaving something good… something beautiful. But I guess there’s still… there’s still that need for growth. I think placing myself in a new context will get me where I need to be. There’s something telling me that I need to be challenged in a different way… to realize something I don’t know, something I have yet to know that I will know… you know what I mean?” We both laughed at the awkwardness of my wording. “Yea, I know.” Suddenly I had just remembered that this knowledge of the existence of an unknown was what brought me here. I wasn’t just running away from misery. I was running away from ignorance.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

What is is about art and writing that's so healing??

Even when it's painful?

A friend just recently turned me on to this artist, Kara Walker, who explores ante bellem slavery through sillhouettes. Here's a brief bio on her, a few of her images, and an interview clip. This came to me just as I finished reading Kindred, from Octavia Butler.. coincidence? Who knows, but I'm in this weird state of processing what exploring this part of our painful history does to our understanding of ourselves (meaning descendants of enslaved Africans) and the society we live in today...

Kara Walker was born in Stockton, California in 1969. She received a BFA from the Atlanta College of Art in 1991 and an MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1994. The artist is best known for exploring the raw intersection of race, gender, and sexuality through her iconic, silhouetted figures. Walker unleashes the traditionally proper Victorian medium of the silhouette directly onto the walls of the gallery, creating a theatrical space in which her unruly cut-paper characters fornicate and inflict violence on one another. In recent works like "Darkytown Rebellion" (2000), the artist uses overhead projectors to throw colored light onto the ceiling, walls, and floor of the exhibition space. When the viewer walks into the installation, his or her body casts a shadow onto the walls where it mingles with Walker’s black-paper figures and landscapes. With one foot in the historical realism of slavery and the other in the fantastical space of the romance novel, Walker’s nightmarish fictions simultaneously seduce and implicate the audience. Walker’s work has been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. A 1997 recipient of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Achievement Award, Walker was the United States representative to the 2002 São Paolo Bienal in Brazil. Walker currently lives in New York where she is on the faculty of the MFA program at Columbia University.