Old habits die hard and I have always maintained my own box of pictures to explore when I'm looking for inspiration. Because it's just me using it, I have to cull out pictures from time to time. During those fits of winnowing, I'll come across something that I might have saved without knowing it because what was interesting me was on the other side of the page.
That was how the image to the right ended up in my mini-imaginarium. I found it this morning while gathering a bag of pictures for The Nashville Collage Collective. This frieze was carved in the twelfth century. I don't know very much about that particular time period. Was this an act of ignorance or a cruel, childish attempt at humor? I want to think it's the former, but my gut tells me the latter mindset was what drove the artist's decision.
Is it chronocentric, maybe an act of temporal chauvinism to look at a picture like that or some of the advertising art from the early twentieth century and think dismissive thoughts of the people who made those works and their audience? I want to think we know better. I want to think we've evolved to the point that we can enact the principle of Namaste even if we've never heard the word.
The first thing I did was scan the picture. At that moment, I didn't know what I'd write, but I wanted to post it and address the value of learning about other cultures -and not just tolerating- but accepting our fellow humans. It sounds pretty nebulous, but that was the direction my mind was going.
I don't know if you remember Aylan Kurdi. The people at Charlie Hebdo do.They seem proud of their "edgy' take on the child they're lampooning. The inset in the upper left hand corner is a drawing of the iconic image of the three-year-old Syrian boy who drowned when his family tried to escape on one of the many overcrowded, unsafe vessels that carried refugees to Europe last year.
Go to Google and look up images of Aylan/Alan and you'll find the photograph of his lifeless body washed up on a Turkish beach. Look further and you'll see pictures of a beautiful little boy, often smiling and surrounded by family. Most people would see all of this as tragic. They might see past their fear and realize that the people whose grief they're ridiculing are not devils. They're human beings. They're families, many of whom have lost everything but each other. They are scared. And until we reach out and say, "Hi! You're home," they're lost.
I'm not saying we shouldn't be vigilant. I'm not suggesting we compromise our own safety. What I am saying is we need to exercise compassion in our discourse and our actions. If you're not sure what to do, just ask yourself if you're being kind.
Having said that, I understand there are probably people at Charlie Hebdo who are bitter, scarred, and still angry about everything that has happened in the past two years. I don't want to minimize their pain or how horrifying ti must have been to turn on the news and find out terrorists had struck again. Distance yourself from people who hurt you, people of Charlie Hebdo. That seems smart. Thing is, Aylan Kurdi wasn't the one who stormed your offices. His family has done nothing to you. If anything, they share the horrible common fate of having lost someone precious to them because of the actions of a few extremists.
At the bottom of the box were some old Walter Foster "How To..." books. (These were not the original books my father bought for me when I was little, but they were similar.) One of my original books on drawing faces had a section about drawing people of color. The author wrote something that was unusual for the series. Most of the books offered straightforward recipes for learning basic concepts like perspective, color, and anatomy. I'll never forget the legend under realistic charcoal drawings of an African-American man and woman.
"This is a time to use your heart, your eyes, and your intelligence to bring that person to life in your drawing."
At the time (early to mid 1970s') I thought it was a little overwrought. If someone wanted to be an artist, wouldn't that be a matter of instinct? Then I see art like the two examples I posted here. Not everyone gets the message that your gift is just that, a gift; and in return we owe the world the insight into humanity that comes when we use our superpowers the way we should.
copyright 2016 Jas Faulkner/Zen Dixie