Burned creek from Glass fire
Burn Along Our Creek from Glass Fire

Art as Activism

I am a visual storyteller. The narrative leads me through a range of medium. We are in the ninth month of the California COVID-19 shelter-in-place mandate. When announced on March 18, 2020, we had no idea we would be inside this pandemic with no end in sight. For awhile, I was fine with the isolation since as an artist, I crave solitude to do my work. However, this crisis was exacerbated by the Glass wildfires when once again, my husband and I were ordered to evacuate. After eight days, we returned to see that the fires had barreled along the creek that is just 50 yards from our home. We see the ash and ruin of a well known pottery and horse ranch and vineyards close to our community where five homes were lost. It was the sheer will and effort of the firefighters that spared the rest of us. My art endeavor is about finding order in chaos, yet, this latest dodge of the wildfires, has cost me my art energy. My compulsion to create order has turned to upgrading my evacuation bags and to making my home safer and easier to manage during the innumerable fire-related power-outages we experience. My husband has spent the past week in clearing the overgrown creek of brambles and branches.

My art pursuit became an emergency with the 2016 election and the Trump administration’s assault on perceived enemies. His “hit” list imperils our democracy, climate change, environmental protections, the rule of law, immigrants, people of color, women, children and anyone who disagrees with him. My visual story telling turns to warning shouts with the appeal to restore order and decency and our constitutional rights. To note that science is evidentiary and not a belief. That COVID is real; my husband’s sister and brother-in-law just died from it last week.

 

“Host of Plagues” (left & home page), from “Women Warriors” series was created when I was first sheltered-at-home. The Black Plague of the mid-1300s swept through Europe because no one understood science; the blame fell on the infidels. The president politicizes the coronavirus and mocks science. “The Host of Plagues” has a double thrust: A plague needs a host to thrive; the human host has the tools of science to conquer this plague. Process (clockwise, from lower left) 1. Glue wood bowl face onto background 2. Select materials 3. Paint wood snake, COVID knots, critters 4. Glue objects onto background.

The environment and social issues have been the subject of my art for many years. My hydraulics engineer father taught me to respect the earth. Ecology was a term used in our family long before it was popularized. Science is not a fringe belief but evidence-based reality. (Try defying gravity and see what it gets you: broken limbs.) Both of my parents, from immigrant families who fled Jewish programs in Romania and Russia, taught us to respect our Constitution and Bill of Rights with equality, liberty for all. When we resided in pre-civil rights Florida, my father led me to the back of the bus—the only place where blacks were allowed to sit—because he wanted his young daughter to never forget the wrong and indignity of racism.

 

“Bed of Roses” (left & home page) expresses my solidarity with Black Lives Matter. The roses and leaves are created from fragments of newspaper articles reporting the protests against racist police brutality. The messages aren’t always visible in the finished rose, so I also created leaves. Mask Process (rows top to bottom/left to right) 1. Paper mâché face coated with paint on newspapers 2. Face on wood shield with wood sword 3. Face coated with paper grocery bag fragments 4. Face on paper bag-covered wood shield with primed sword and butterfly wings  5. Newspaper selections 5. Roses construction 6. Basic pieces for roses  7. Three completed roses

I defined myself as an artist when I was a child from the first finger paintings that seemed to thrill my teacher. I would later balance being a serious artist with teaching and then a graphic design business. I use the medium most suitable to create my story: painting, drawing, clay, assemblage, site art.