All are invited to the opening reception for the Lawrence Art Center’s 2018 Benefit Art Auction on March 9, 2018, from 7-9pm (940 New Hampshire St., Lawrence, KS.) I contributed Windmill this year, a whimsical little scratchboard piece with a few color highlights. If you’d like to bid on it or another auction-piece, you can do so in person through the auction-event on April 14 (tickets needed), or bid on-line at the arts center’s on-line bidding link.
The 2017-pack of cards includes art by Lana Grove, Maya Weslander, Brisa Andrade, Chelsea Karma McKee, Johnna Harrison, and Elijah Jackson. All of the submissions will be on display this week at the library.
You can pick up a new trading card every day this week at the library, starting today (Sunday September 24, 2017) through Saturday. My card will go out tomorrow!
My banned book submission celebrates Chicano! The History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement, by F. Arturo Rosales (Arte Publico Press, 1996). Chicano! is one of seven specific texts that were banned from classrooms in Tucson, Arizona, in 2012. Additional books and teaching materials were also confiscated. The books were banned when the Tucson Unified School District eliminated the Mexican American Studies program in response to a controversial state law meant to curtail ethnic studies programs. The law was widely understood to target the Tucson program.
I chose to highlight a book that would draw attention to this egregious case of government censorship. Although Banned Books Week often celebrates novels and well-known classics, scholarly books like Chicano! are sometimes banned, too, and I wanted to show this. I turned the tables a bit with my image, too. Instead of portraying a story that occurs within the book, my image portrays the book itself within the story of its banning. My illustration shows a student protesting the banning of ethnic studies, with the book on her protest sign. Her mouth is taped, a potent image used by students in their protests against the ban.
Rosales wrote Chicano! to accompany a four-part television series by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which aired the programs in 1996. Both are heralded as providing the most comprehensive account of the Mexican American civil rights movement, a movement whose stories are, as Rosales notes, “practically untold.” It was interesting for me to imagine the elimination of the Mexican American Studies program in Tucson, and the protests over it, as a new chapter in Rosales’s book.
Chicano! was pulled from classrooms as a result of Arizona state law HB 2281, which prohibits public and charter school courses that “promote the overthrow of the United States government,” “promote resentment towards a race or class of people,” “are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group,” or “advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.” An independent audit of Tucson’s Mexican American Studies program found it to be in compliance with the law and recommended its expansion. But the Tucson school district’s superintendent, along with officials from the Arizona Department of Education, decided the program was not in compliance, and the program was cut. The program was in limbo for many years, with some parts reinstated, as a challenge to the law made its way through the courts.
I am happy to report that in August of 2017, just last month, a judge found that Tuscon’s Mexican American Studies Program was a victim of ‘racial animus,” and proclaimed the Arizona state law to be unconstitutional.
–Chicano! The History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement by F. Arturo Rosales (Arte Publico Press, 1997)
–University at Albany website http://www.albany.edu/jmmh/vol3/chicano/chicano.html
I am pleased to have this illustration in Lawrence Magazine for a story about the Douglas County Corrections Facility’s writing program, in its current issue (Winter 2016). Tonight, December 5, 2016, there will be a related poetry reading and exhibit at the Lawrence Public Library, 7pm.
Here is a link to Lawrence Magazine on line. Find the story “Taking On Life” on p. 73, an artist profile of me on p. 33, and my illustration on pp. 76-77.
Animals–mostly birds but other critters too–have taken up residence in my art for many years. I didn’t exactly invite them. Like squirrels drawn to my bird feeder, I don’t recall intending to focus on critters but they have been drawn into my art. And yet I did put up the feeder, and I did create these images, and so of course I invited them. Birds, frogs, cats, cicadas, squirrels and other critters are with us in life and so too in my art. In Steamed (2011), a squirrel chatters noisily like so many colicky babies (or whistling teakettles), clamoring for attention. In Stir (2010), birds with human legs spring forth to dance or fly. And in Composition With Goose (2009), a calm cat and a very wound-up goose hold forth and argue.
But more recently, in the past half-year or so, I’ve changed a little. I am thinking more intentionally about critters, my relationship to them, and the impact of human activity and climate change on them. I think of my pictures as a stage and the animals and people in them as characters playing a part. But instead of using birds or squirrels to tell stories that are really about people, the critters I’m drawing now are playing the part of themselves and are part of the story. In Frog, My Friend, for example, a frog, a casualty of the South Lawrence Trafficway, is carried off by “Death.” Or maybe the frog is our pet frog that died because we just couldn’t take care of him right. Either way, the frog in this story is a frog. In Run!, a Prairie Chicken plays its own part, too, on the run from Death due to habitat destruction and Kansas politics. In Passenger Pigeon: Abstract Memory, a cloud of extinct Passenger Pigeons becomes abstract and fades from memory. In Robin, Been and Gone, a robin is depicted along with several robin-silhouettes, symbolizing presence and absence, a reminder of what pesticides can do to birds. These are of course my images for my very human purposes, too. But I hope that by thinking more about the role of animals in my work, I can remind viewers that we have a relationship with animals, and that this relationship is fragile.
Making work about the negative impact of humans on critters is a new direction in my art, the beginning of a
larger body of work. I was moved to think more about animals in the broadest sense of the word after reading Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction. Her book includes story after story of scientists worldwide documenting the process of animals becoming extinct because of human-caused global warming. Animals are leaving us now, and they are never coming back.
In my new work I am guided too by collaborating with my composer-friend Lynn Gumert, of Hightstown, NJ. Lynn and I have talked on the phone and we have exchanged emails, images, and sound. We are working together on loosely-related themes in our work, themes that include the impact of climate change on weather, animals, and us. Lynn is working on a series of related short saxophone quartet pieces, and eventually our work will be presented together. Her first notes to me depicted a river. Building on her compositions I am also playing with images of saxophones and literally drawing their “sound,” as in River Song. In this piece, a Mourning Dove plays a saxophone-river. This, too, is another experiment in visual storytelling.
Please join Karen Matheis and me for our two-person show at the Phoenix Underground, opening Final Friday, June 27, 2014, 5 – 9 pm, from June 27 – July 23 at the Phoenix Underground (825 Massachusetts, Lawrence, KS). I’ll show these works and others too, and almost all of them include animals.
I made this in memory of the Passenger Pigeon, a species that went extinct a hundred years ago. I was thinking about the way that artists today make images of the pigeon based on art from the past, and how our “memory” of the birds has become faded and distorted over time.