June 12, 2007

It was seven years ago today…

Posted in art, real life at 3:39 pm by nevavegan

That Sean and I ran off to the court house and got ourselves hitched.

I’m taking the day off from blogging, though we’re not likely to celebrate much today. We’ll go hiking this weekend with the dogs.

Wait, I lied, I’m not totally taking the day off from blogging. Here’s a really happy thought for the day. One thing we can and should be doing about global warming is instituting green roofs throughout urban areas and building parks on abandoned lots.

Studies suggest that adding just a little more tree cover in urban areas could have a significant cooling effect. Some species of plants also absorb greenhouse gasses. Since many buildings already have extremely sturdy roofs, it would not be terribly hard to put planters on them containing some hardy varieties of plants to have a greening effect on the city.

The tops of buildings could even be set up as roof top parks and gardens to allow urban dwelling folks to reconnect with nature. Further, some minor alterations to the plumbing of the buildings would allow the plants on the roofs to be watered with grey water, that would be the non-sewage waste water from the building. By requiring more eco-friendly cleaning supplies, laundry soap, and dishwashing soap, much of the grey water from urban buildings would be safe to use to water plants. This seems like just an incredibly beautiful, fun thing–think of all those city apartment dwellers planting flowers and veggies with their kids–but it would also be a powerful thing for the environment.

As always though, going vegan is the biggest step we can all take to halt global warming.

PS. My friend says that vegan cooking blogs convinced her to go vegan. It was sort of like, wow, look at all that good food, and I’ll be helping animals, I guess I ought to do this. So for all of you guys cooking and photographing and posting your beautiful vegan meals, keep up the good work!

April 28, 2007

Fetishization of the Artist: Nonvegan post

Posted in art, happiness, recovery at 3:04 pm by nevavegan

I had this really cool discussion with the ever honest and daring Angie Reed Garner (full time artist) about her recent trip to the outsider artist show. For those of you outside the outsider artist scene, outsider art is roughly defined as art by people without formal art training, often encompassing various types of folk art, as well as art by the mentally, terminally ill, disabled, etc.

When Angie talked about the fetishization of the artist, she spoke of a situation where a collector may take more pride in the stories surrounding the artist than in a particular work of art. So in fact they are not collecting art as much as they’re collecting artists in a symbolic manner. This becomes especially true with the more unfortunate stories. This leaves with some sort of creepy vision of some shadowy figure rubbing his hands together saying “Mmmm, child abuse and cancer? I’ll take it!”

While it’s impossible to know what people will do with or think of our art after it leaves our hands, I imagine most artists want people to buy or collect their art because they love it. My ideal situation would be someone buying my art because they think it’s beautiful or it speaks to them. They would display it lovingly and develop their own stories around it through the years. My worst nightmare is someone getting a painting of mine only to toss it out with the garbage a year later because they changed the colors in their living room. But that’s a different entry.

Buying and collecting original art is a practice something apart from interior decorating. Anyone can buy a print, in fact a lot of discount stores are full of framed, matted, very lovely prints of well-known art. So what motivates someone to buy original art? For me the most obvious motivation is a desire to support and encourage creativity and originality. We invest in the world we want to live in, so if you want people to keep painting, pay them to do it. The second obvious reason people buy original art is as a unique keepsake of a time and place—this is the reason why people who are more the framed and matted print type buy an original watercolor from a street artist while on their honeymoon. They want a reminder of that time and place that is solely theirs, not the standard souvenir. People buy original art because they love it too of course. They see an image that speaks to them and are willing to pay for it. Some people prefer to decorate only with originals because, while they probably love each image, they prefer their decor to be unique. Some people buy original art as an investment too, hoping they’re one of the first buyers from someone whose work will later be worth a fortune.

But I don’t think that we can deny fetishization of the artist as a motive. When I think about myself and some of the criticisms that have been leveled at my work, I have to wonder if that’s a particular issue with my work. I keep this blog apart from my art blog for several reasons and prime among them is that I don’t want people reading what I have to say here about abuse and violence in particular and viewing my art through that lens. Which is strange, because why shouldn’t they? It just bothers me on some level.

The stupidest thing is that all through school I was accused of making art that was “too pretty” or “too cute” (and was even referred to as “neo Rococo” which is only an insult if you understand Rococo, the ‘90’s art scene and the point of reference of everyone in the room). For Ms Reed Garner the assumptions are all opposite—she refuses to compromise her aesthetic and her message just to make images that please others. I admire that, but I’m actually not compromising my aesthetic or message either.

I never set out to do anything like that, I just do what I do and I let the chips fall where they may. In my opinion it works out to roughly 9 out of 10 things I make are going to be cute or pretty or whatever, and 1 out of 10 will be deeply disturbing, if you really think about it, and if you don’t think about it, you can lump it in with the “pretty.” But the catch is, that’s really honestly who I am. I’m a hippy who really does run barefoot through fields of flowers and hugs trees. I like to wear lacey dresses with my hair down and hug baby animals. I don’t think if my heart screams “cute” I need to stifle that so I can also appear serious to others. Of course I actually am serious, dead serious in what I do, but the other aspects of my personality always come through as well.

As I said in a previous post, much of my art is about joy in so many ways, that being vegan makes me really happy, that seeing animals and being nice to animals makes me happy, that love and sharing and togetherness and dancing make me happy. It’s not a bad message in my opinion.

So what happens when that message gets all tangled up in someone else’s stereotype of who I am, what I’ve been through, where I’ve been, and what they feel I ought to be? Who out there sees me as little girl lost, in need of rescue? Who is thrilled by picturing me being hurt? Strangeness all of it, and so the two blogs remain apart.

April 12, 2007

My own pin-hole camera on the world

Posted in art, happiness, stupid me, vegan at 1:55 pm by nevavegan

It has come to my attention that a link to my blog was posted on a list of commentaries about the Marcus/Francione debate podcast. This was sort of an “uh oh” moment for me. I didn’t try to editorialize the entire debate because it seemed to me that many other people had done that sufficiently elsewhere. For what it’s worth I felt the Erik Marcus was ill-prepared for the debate, failed to respond to most of Gary Francione’s points, and I was shocked that Marcus admitted that he didn’t read Francione’s books because he “disagreed with them.” But those points were all made in many other blogs and forums, and made pretty well.

My two blog entries were just fairly personal comments regarding just one comment Gary Francione made and my response to that comment.

I sometimes think it’s relevant though in the way that for me the personal is always relevant. I think it’s worthwhile to consider how our words (not just our intentions) affect others. But sometimes I wonder if I have anything to say worth saying.

I get these days of intense self doubt sometimes. I don’t post because I don’t trust my own voice. I become so aware that I’m only seeing the world through this tiny little pin-hole of my own perception. Suddenly everything seems so much bigger than I am. I wonder if I’m even entitled to speak up.

It helps in times like these to remember that while life is tenuous, it is also forgiving. I have every right to make a complete idiot out of myself if so choose. I don’t have to be perfect every second.

The topic on the survivors forum this week was flaws: how our abusers used pointing out our flaws (real or imagined) to control or subdue us. Essentially to convince us we had no right to our own voices.

But everyone has a right to their voice. You don’t have to be clever. I hope you will be kind, but it’s actually not required, as evidenced all around us.

Now, of course you knew I’d eventually bring this back to veganism, right?

People who don’t want to hear about veganism use fault-finding as excuse to not listen, in fact to shut us down and shut out our voices. There is the nit-picking over and over on certain facts. The afore-mentioned “I knew a rude vegan” tactic, or accusing us of attacking tradition. How many times has someone accused me of not doing enough for human issues when I say I’m vegan?

But I don’t have to be right about everything, that’s the fallacy. I can be wrong about nearly everything; I can be offensive, I can be stupid, and I can still be right about veganism being the best way to try to live in this world of ours.

When someone disputes the total number of animals slaughtered in the US, that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a dizzyingly large, completely incomprehensible number. Wondering if the diet of cavemen was really primarily meat doesn’t change the situation we face today.

I don’t think I’m so good with theory or philosophy. Maybe my brain just doesn’t bend that way. I tend to think in practicalities; which for me is different from utilitarianism. I’m not following the teachings of Singer. I just want to take things apart, figure out how they work, and then make them work better.

When I talk about the limits of my own perspective, there is the undercurrent where I’m always pushing for decent research. Because research could presumably help all of us get around the issue of putting too much emphasis on our personal experience. This means finding out what kinds of outreach on veganism get the most favorable results. What messages resonate with the public, what gets people thinking and more importantly acting?

Until I have the research in hand, I’m forced to just weigh stuff in my own head, against my own experience. It’s what everyone does, but of course it’s limiting.

I’m dismayed by so much I see around me, and I try to think of what I have to offer in response to it. So much of my life has been filled with people telling me I’m not good enough. That’s my fear, the thing that keeps me quiet so much of the time. Maybe I’m just a moron spouting off things that make no sense. Maybe I am just hopelessly self-indulgent and self-centered. I try to remind myself that the world is full of idiots, so maybe there isn’t that much harm in my being my own special brand of idiot.

So what do I offer up? I offer up that I’m a flawed person coming from a flawed place with a messed up background, and I’m still a vegan and I do ok with that. I offer up that I’ve been through some things and some days it seems to take tremendous energy on my part just to be normal (whatever normal means) and I still have energy to be vegan. I offer up that I care about many things, and I still care about veganism. I offer up that I’m an artist (I don’t have to be a good artist to claim that), and my art isn’t just pretty pictures, it’s a message of the joy and beauty in life and all that is good, and I still find and see those things even though I don’t eat bacon. Seriously, becoming vegan didn’t turn me into a dour humorless person. I offer up that I’ve made some mistakes and really bad decisions and after all these years I still look on becoming vegan as one of the best decisions I ever managed to make.

Yeah, it ain’t theory. I don’t know what you can do with all that. It’s what I have at the moment and it’s what I want to share.