Nurturing creativity with art, animals, and science fiction

Month: March 2016

Choose Wisely, O Queen! Artdog Quote of the Week

How often our circumstances try to hand us ready-made answers, about how we should choose what path we will take! But are those paths the right ones for us?

Do they serve our needs and help us blossom into our true calling (which is, I am convinced, the best way of giving ourselves to our world), or are they the manipulations of others, designed to serve other ends?

We have a choice each day. We can become and remain our best, truest selves–and we can be a profound blessing to others in the process. But only if we heed our calling and remain true to ourselves.

Throughout the ages, both women and men have been told what we must do, how we must behave, what priorities we should have. Some of these messages truly are the wisdom of the ages. Sometimes we really should hold certain truths to be self-evident.

Other “truths”? Not so much. We have been endowed with the ability to think: we must always keep refining the ability to discern our best truth from the tide of “shoulds” that bombard us each day. This is true for women, for men, for creative people of all types.

We must each be our own champions, or we’ll always remain buried in the landslide of other peoples’ value-judgments.

IMAGE: Many thanks to Queen of Your Own Life‘s “Queenisms,” via Seline Shenoy’s “The Dream Catcher” blog!

Are You this Woman? Artdog Image(s) of Interest

If this is not you, I bet you know several variations on this woman. She is not perfect. She has to prioritize and triage. But she rocks!

Of course, moms through the ages have been masters of multitasking. One of my favorite sculptures at the Nelson-Atkins Museum is the 8th-century Central Asian Caravan Woman Rousing her Camel While Nursing. Obviously a consummate multi-tasker.

It’s not just moms who excel at multitasking, of course. I once had plans to create a portrait of my husband Pascal along the same lines as the Modern Mom image (he is at least twice the multi-tasker I am!). I did have second thoughts, however, about portraying him in the same manner as the Lord Shiva, who is, after all, a god . . . might never hear the end of that one. 

IMAGES: I originally found the “Modern Mom” as part of an assembled image on an article by Rose Fres Fausto, and traced it back to a now-defunct site called Modern Mom, via Belevation Mom; I eventually got the image I used here from Photobucket. The Central Asian Caravan Woman is from the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, MO. Many thanks to all!

Can a Man REALLY be a Feminist?

Artemesia Gentileschi, (possible) self-
portrait as The Allegory of Painting.

In the creative fields, as well as in all others, women have had an uphill battle for equal consideration. 

A small sampling the not-so-widely-renowned names of painters Artemesia Gentileschi, Louise Bourgeois, or Berthe Morisot provides a good example. They worked alongside such male contemporaries as Caravaggio, Dali, and Renoir, and arguably were just as skilled and visionary. But you might note I only needed to list one name for each of the men, and you undoubtedly knew who I meant, if you have any background in art history. 

These women have become better known in recent years, but I challenge you to find them in an art textbook from the 1950s or ’60s. You’ll find loads of women in those textbooks–but they’ll be the models (the objects), not the artists.

Louise Bourgeois, part of the Femme Maison series.

You can find parallels in any field, not only the arts. In most of the world, for most of history, it has been a man’s world. Little wonder, then, that feminists for years have “closed the circle” and not been much interested in male input. 

Especially since I live in a relatively conservative part of the country, I am all too well familiar with the commonly-held belief that the term feminist has become a synonym for man-hater

Berthe Morisot, Portrait of the Artist’s
Mother and Sister.

Centuries of abuse and resentment will cause reactions of hatred and repudiation. But that’s ultimately a losing game for everyone, if attitudes toward the opposite gender do not evolve.

One of the great tragedies of contemporary life, in my opinion, is that more recent generations of young women have rejected calling themselves feminists, even while they enjoy many privileges they never would have had without the historic role of feminists.

How long will it take before the realization hits that if you exclude roughly half the population from the conversation–especially the half that, to this day, often holds most of the power–it’s going to be difficult to change the way society as a whole thinks. 

Why would a man ever have any interest in gender equality? Don’t they already have it pretty good? Well, yes and no. If you insist on strict gender stereotypes, then “being a man” is a pretty scary, dangerous, unhealthy thing to be (just look at the mortality statistics). A man may have more advantages in some ways, but he’s held to unrealistic, self-destructive standards, in others. 

Men aren’t given much credit when they show their feelings, take care of their children (other than paying their bills), or try to make peace instead of fighting or arguing, for example. Gender stereotypes force men to be domineering brutes, just as they force women into subservient roles. 

The UN’s “HeForShe” campaign, started in 2014, has received criticism for trying to include men in the conversation–not just because equality is good for women, but because it’s good for men, too. The campaign’s leaders may not always strike the right note for everyone (or for every situation), but it seems to me they’re asking the right questions. 

Perhaps feminist and feminism aren’t such accurate words for this new paradigm, given their single-gender emphasis, despite the fact that we usually focus on the relatively more disadvantaged female side of the equation. 

But gender equality itself is an idea that must ultimately prevail, if we (whatever our gender) are to live fully-realized and fulfilling lives. It’s good for women, and it’s actually good for men, too. It think it’s time to invite men into the discussion as equals.

IMAGES: Many thanks to that ever-bountiful resource, Wikipedia (please consider making a contribution)! The photo of the painting by Artemisia Gentileschi is from her Wikipedia page. The three images from Louise Bourgeois’ series Femme Maison are from the Wikipedia page devoted to that series. The photo of Berthe Morisot’s painting is from her Wikipedia page. And the logo for the HeForShe campaign is from the Wikipedia page about the program.

Why our Paradigm for Justice is Flawed: Artdog Quote of the Week

We don’t have to look far in our world to find human misery. It walks the streets of every city and haunts the byways of rural areas. It is overwhelming Europe and convulsing the Middle East and Africa most notably–but it is everywhere.

Vengeance is a poor follow-up to misery, for it only produces more misery and more lust for vengeance in an endless, mindless cycle.

My prayer is that we may find a way to break out of that destructive loop and seek a new paradigm. But the current political climate does not seem much inclined to foster any such thing.

How do we muster the courage and strength to stand up and say, “ENOUGH”?

IMAGE: Many thanks to Quotes Wave for this image!

A few words from Rosie’s sisters: Artdog Image(s) of Interest

I ran across this in a Google search, and couldn’t resist using it for a month that’s supposed to be devoted to images with a female social justice angle: 

I thought this was a pretty cool adaptation of the iconic “Rosie the Riveter” image created by J. Howard Miller for Westinghouse, expanding the message to one that’s more inclusive. And because I can, and I love a good icon, here’s a bonus image: the original.

Empowering women activates 51% of any given population, and makes the overall society stronger and more agile. Talent that otherwise would be wasted can come into play. That goes for women of ALL ethnic and racial identifications. And very much NOT only in time of war.

IMAGES: As far as I can tell, the “We ALL Can Do It!” image originated on a WordPress blog called Sara Gets Critical, which no longer seems to exist. I found it on Syd’s Birthday Challenge. Many thanks! The original Miller poster image is in the common domain; I found this file on the ever-invaluable Wikipedia. Thank you!

What is your definition? Artdog Quote of the Week

March is supposed to be Women’s History Month, so now that I’m back online I thought I’d follow up February’s “social justice” theme with some thoughts on the subject by wise women.

How do you work for justice, in order to keep the peace? What are your definitions of “peace” and “justice”? Around whom do you draw the circle of inclusion?

IMAGE: Many thanks to QuotesGram for this image!

How Inclusion Looks: Artdog Image of Interest

My series on social justice continues. To me, Black History Month and Women’s History Month should go on all year long, but in special recognition of both (for February and March) I’ve been celebrating Social Justice Awareness. My focus is on inclusiveness, acceptance, and the challenge of reveling in our diversity.

How are your circles drawn?

Anyone who’s been paying attention has probably noticed the many ways in which diversity can strengthen communities. 

Whether we are talking about a biome that resists decimation by disease more readily, a balanced stock portfolio, or a country strengthened by immigrant inflow (yes, America, I’m talking to YOU!), acceptance, inclusion, and cultural exchange makes us stronger, better, and wiser.

Cultural exchange is one area where creative people in the arts play a cutting-edge role. In our interactions, and in the cultural cross-pollination of our art-forms interacting with those of others, we form some of the first bridges to understanding between people. It’s just one of the important things artists do, but it is a very important part of why the world needs art.

IMAGE: I found this image on Facebook, but missed getting the source (Sorry! lapse in judgement; after much searching, I haven’t found it again, so that’s my bad). According to TinEye, the earliest posting of it seems to have been on Friendship Circle, a special needs resources website’s Parenting blog. Wherever it originated, I think it paints the picture well.

Heaven Help our Alien Overlords!

The famous Blue Marble image removes the
boundary lines, but does not change our
divisive human nature.

In the wake of Super Tuesday 2016, I think one conclusion is crystal clear. 

Decades of political theorists, science fiction writers, comic book creative teams, video game creators, and filmmakers have gotten it wrong. 

We will never have a one-government world, at least not on Earth. That idea is a figment of imaginations not sufficiently grounded in human nature.

The Inner Council of the United Planets: Nope. Never gonna happen for real.
(Of course the President of Earth is an old white dude) 

I know. Never is a long time, and science fiction does tend to think in terms of eons sometimes. But I’m not sure the Earth will last long enough for human nature to change so profoundly that everyone would willingly submit to a single, planet-wide government. The sun will turn into a red giant before that happens, I’m afraid.

We in the USA can’t even willingly submit to a nationwide government, lately. This marvelous David Parkins image from The Economist sums it up visually.

How about unwilling submission? Couldn’t that happen? The invasion by an alien armada, bent on domination of the Earth, is a standard trope of the genre. The vast power and overwhelming technology of the invaders would make its mastery of Earth inevitable. Right?

A classic Alien Overlord, backed by his militant legions, riding in their UFOs, as envisioned by HeroMachine forum member “Grail.”

For a while, maybe. For a thousand years or more? Good luck with that. Successful empires tend to last about 250 years on Earth, and go through six stages, as outlined by Sir John Bagot Glubb, in a small but relevant essay called The Fate of Empires

One might argue with Sir John’s value judgment that “larger territorial units are a benefit to commerce and to public stability,” and that, therefore, empires are generally beneficial. It’s less easy to argue against his conclusion that all empires eventually end in decadence and internal collapse, since he has history on his side, for that one. 

Robot, alien, or whatever, don’t try to conquer Earth and then use the humans as handy slaves. Humans are sneaky and have a lot of practice with hate.

That’s the thing about empires–at least, those involving Earthlings. At some point the conquered folk have to either be decimated or buy into the idea of the empire’s being a good thing, or the rot sets in even quicker. If allowed to survive, I think humans, who are primed by evolution to hate each other (and thus are quite practiced at it) will not hesitate to turn all their energies to making life difficult for their conquerors.

Whatever it takes, the humans will resist.

Makes for fun fiction, but it’s not likely to help maintain a world government. 

Sorry, Brain. It’ll never work out.

Many thanks to NASA for the iconic “Blue Marble” image of Planet Earth, and to The Comics Round Table for the Silver Age image of the Inner Council of the United Planets. 
I’m indebted to The Economist online edition for the wonderful David Parkins illustration; the article that goes with it is also well worth the read. 
Many thanks to Grail and Grail’s Gallery on the HeroMachine Forum, for the “Alien Overlord” image that so perfectly captures the trope under discussion! 
Equal thanks to the creators of the “Trust No One” image, originally posted on the Machine Overlords blog. 
I could NOT resist including the image “Rebels vs. Empire” from the VideoGamesUncovered post, “Top 5 Overused Sci-Fi Cliches in Gaming” (I couldn’t find the original source). 
And finally, many thanks to Giphy, for the image from Pinky and the Brain.

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