Monday, September 10, 2012

Art...

My ability to string words together to form cohesive, persuasive, thoughtful or interesting sentences begins & ends on the keyboard (or with a pen & paper in hand, if you want to get old school!), and this was never as painfully obvious to me as it was tonight.  You see, I live in a neighborhood that was recently thrust into the midst of controversy based on a piece of art that was painted on a wall bordering our neighborhood.  I won't go into all the logistics of the art or the group behind it because that's not what's weighing heavy on my mind.  What's on my mind is my glaring inability to articulate my thoughts in front of a crowd of folks when I know I have things to say!  I'm sure it's likely some sort of social or public speaking anxiety, but regardless, it was a rather untimely affliction tonight at our neighborhood meeting to discuss, among other things, said art piece.  First, I'll let the art speak for itself.  Then, I'll decompress and just say a few things about the art that I couldn't get outta my mouth tonight.  And then, well hopefully I can just let it go!!

Here is the art piece located on private property at the corner of McDonough Boulevard and Sawtell Avenue in Atlanta, GA and painted by the street artist Hyuro (who may I just take a moment to mention is not a resident of our community or even our country- she is Argentinian born and lives in Spain.  If you want more info or background- Google.)

A before:

(source, Google maps)

And after:


(source, East Atlanta Patch)



(source, StreetArtNews.net)

So there's the art.  It's hard to get good pictures of it because it's a very large scale piece with, I believe, 30ish different poses of the same woman- starting nude, then putting on a black "suit" of fur, then taking off the suit and dropping it at her feet, then nude again but now the "suit" turns into a dog/wolf by her side.  I've heard it explained that the meaning behind the piece was that the woman was shedding her "animal" side.  And as with any art form, it's open to a million different interpretations.

And now my thoughts.  I like art.  I have art in my home.  I've made art for my home and for others homes.  I believe in the value of art.  I think it's a shame when I hear schools cutting budgets and thus cutting down on art.  But, I don't believe art gets a free pass because it's Art.  If anything, I think art carries a larger responsibility because it's art.  I don't think that folks get to paint whatever they want and then say, "hey, don't ask me to be accountable for that, it's ART".  I also don't think it's the "job" of art to make people think, to make people uncomfortable or to push people's boundaries.  I just don't "get" that side of the art argument.  It sounds like a cop-out to me, a way to shirk responsibility for what you've created.  "Oh, that painting of a baby that I then splattered red paint all over that looks eerily like blood?  I was trying to make you THINK".  Uh, what??  When folks start talking this way, it just makes me feel uncomfortable, inadequate, and not smart enough because I don't "get it" the way THEY "get it", and I think that's their whole point.  I'm smart and you're dumb cause you don't understand that this is ART.  It's like when you were in high school English class and you're trying to translate some old poetry and you're supposed to understand that flowers stood for hope, and birds for peace or whatever.  If you want to get into artistic expression that deeply, okay.  But sometimes a bird IS just a bird and sometimes a flower IS just a flower, and oftentimes I wonder if the original creator just painted a bird or wrote about a flower because they simply LIKED that item, and not because of all sorts of inferred or hidden meanings.  Did all this really get started because some folks that were way too smart for their own good and had way too much time on their hands decided to psychoanalyze things to within an inch of their life??

But I suppose I got off on a tangent there.  Aesthetically, this art doesn't appeal to me in any sense.  I don't like the colors, I don't like the style, I don't like the content.  I would never put this art in my home or buy it for someone for their home.  And that's because I react with art visually.  I know what I find to be visually appealing, and this isn't it.  But that also isn't why I don't want this art on that wall.

I'm a mom now.  And once I became a mom, my outlook changed about everything.  And not just for my daughter, but for all children.  I can't say how I would have felt about that art being on this wall before I was a mom, because I'm not that person anymore.  But I can say how I feel about it now, and I think it's way out of line.  This isn't an art museum where you have paid to look at art and realize you may come across nudity.  This isn't a TV in your home where you may flip through the channels and land on Showtime where breasts are sometimes shown.  This isn't the internet where you may do a Google search of "pictures of breasts" and see what comes up.  No, all of those above scenarios involve a CHOICE about the content you witness, and a CHOICE about your reaction to it.  But this wall is adjacent to a public street where school buses and daycare buses and folks trying to drive to places of worship (church or mosque) or people just living their lives have no CHOICE about seeing it.  They have no choice about whether their child sees it.  And worse, if their child is on a school bus unsupervised, they have no CHOICE about how the children on the bus perceive and react to it.  There may be parents out there that have no idea their child even rides by this piece every day!  And that is not okay with me.

In a perfect world, all of our children would have been taught from the time they were wee ones to respect each other.  To respect their own and others bodies.  To not be ashamed of their body, with or without clothes.  To love and hold sacred the beautiful and varying bodies that we were all given.  But this isn't a perfect world, and there are plenty of parents out there who aren't teaching this to our children.  Who aren't holding their hands and guiding them through life and teaching them right and wrong.  And so we end up with children, on a bus, without their parents, who may be taunted, may be assaulted, may be ridiculed, may be talked down to, may be forced to put up with things no kid should have to endure, because their bus got to drive by a naked lady on a wall every. single. day.

Now I should qualify this by saying I am a person who was tormented and teased and bullied and assaulted on a bus for many years, and we never drove by naked women on a wall.  I was just an easy target for whatever myriad of reasons.  So I'm not saying this may not already be happening irregardless of a painting on a wall.  But what I am saying, is that as parents, we have a responsibility and a right to filter the things our children see in public places.  We have a right to disagree with nipples and pubic hair being on public display, whether it's art or not.  And we have a responsibility to do whatever we can to ensure that the children in our community are learning to respect the girls and women they are growing up around, and not just seeing them as a naked lady on a wall.

And that, folks, is what I wish came out of my mouth at our neighborhood meeting tonight, instead of stammering and long pauses and quick attempts at catching my breath.

Stay tuned tomorrow for the regularly scheduled programming of crafts and decorating and all things light-hearted.  I just had to get that off my mind.