Paris 2015/ Ego or Eco

Study for chair forest by Ana Flores/15

The Paris climate talks this week includes representatives from over 200 nations. We are watching closely because there is much at stake. It’s a very positive change that the format for the conference outcomes is structured around each nation proposing their own climate change strategies- with financial and technological help where necessary– and not a top down dictate of what has to be done. This hasn’t worked for the past 20 conferences– no one likes to be told what has to done.

If this brings changes another strategy for a new conference format would be to have open air meetings: sitting in a forest, by a river, by a shoreline, so that the planet could be present and have a voice. Being imbedded in the natural world would moderate all those human egos that surface in windowless conference spaces. The representatives might be reminded of their larger eco-selves.

7KPvFwS We’ve all been to conferences that go on for a days and each day there is less and less oxygen in the room. Too many people have come a long way to state their business and all those egos will want to have their say until there is no air left.  All those emissions from debating and jet travel will add up to more carbon dioxide in our atmosphere.

Maybe during the next climate change conference they’ll invite the planet in to speak. Nevertheless the planet is speaking and there is nothing stopping each of us from listening wherever we are.

 

 

 

 

 

Aloft

A gracious letter from Cuban art collector and friend Ron Brasch recently arrived including a catalog of his collection which I’m in. The image on the front brought to mind a very short and marvelous story by Eduardo Galeano called “The World”. The piece on the cover is by Ernesto Rancaño, who works in Cuba.

ron jHere is the story:    The World

A man from the town of Neguá, on the coast of Colombia, could climb into the sky.

On his return, he described his trip. He told how he had contemplated human life from on high. He said we are a sea of tiny flames.

“The world,” he revealed, “is a heap of people, a sea of tiny flames.”

Each person shines with his or her own light. No two flames are alike. There are big flames and little flames, flames of every color. Some  people’s flames are so still they don’t even flicker in the wind, while others have wild flames that fill the air with sparks. Some foolish flames neither burn nor shed light, but others blaze with life so fiercely that you can’t look at them without blinking, and if you approach you shine in fire.

Recent news from my friends and patrons who blaze with life…

1. Cuban Art from the Ron and Una Brasch Collection: Spreading its Wings, Colorado Springs Museum of Fine Arts, Oct 3rd- Feb 21,2016,

The show includes two of my pieces: Black Madonna and Soul of Exile

2. Networks 2015 Artist Video Portraits Airing on PBS Dec 20, 6:00—7:00 p.m. and December 27, 6:00—7:00 p.m. ( check RI PBS website)

On Nov 1st the videos created by Richard Goulis premiered to a full house at the RISD Musuem. Richard did a wonderful job of capturing complex lives and working processes in just 8 minutes. I was honored to be among the artists featured including: David Allyn, Jillian Barber, Deborah Baronas, Peter Diepenbrock, Gretchen Dow Simpson, Jerold Ehrlich, David Frazer, Paul Housberg, Barbara Owen, Lisa Perez, and Richard Whitten.  The NetWorks project is supported and produced by the magnanimous Joseph A. Chazan, M.D. who believes in the importance of documenting, celebrating, and fostering  the rich and diverse contemporary visual arts community in Rhode Island. To view previously released NetWorks video portraits, visit https://www.youtube.com/user/NetWorksProject2008

Lost Terrains

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Homage to Cuban Woman by Ana Flores

When you lose something as sweeping as your country you grasp for remnants– old family photographs, a cracked tea cup, a piece of jewelry. These fragments remind you of where you came from and who you once were, then you move on– you must. But this lost terrain stays in you like compost. Unexpectedly the smell of jasmine in the steamy evening breeze  will bring you back home – to Vietnam, to Louisiana, or in my case, Cuba.  

You can recapture the taste of the lost earth by cooking the food of your motherland, drinking its aromatic coffee or wine, eating its ripened fruit . Spoonful by spoonful you are transported back – if only for a few fleeting moments. All it takes is a good cup of cafe con leche or home made black beans for the forgotten island to expand inside me. I close my eyes and see the royal palms dancing and smell the sea. The French have a word for this taste of a condensed ecology, they call it terroir. It’s a word commonly used to describe the taste of place to be savored in a good wine. I embrace the larger concept of that word which is how the fullness of a particular place can be powerfully conjured by smell and taste. 

June 7, 2014 - Mediterranean Sea / Italy: Italian navy rescues asylum seekers traveling by boat off the coast of Africa. More than 2,000 migrants jammed in 25 boats arrived in Italy June 12, ending an international operation to rescue asylum seekers traveling from Libya. They were taken to three Italian ports and likely to be transferred to refugee centers inland. Hundreds of women and dozens of babies, were rescued by the frigate FREMM Bergamini as part of the Italian navy's "Mare Nostrum" operation, launched last year after two boats sank and more than 400 drowned. Favorable weather is encouraging thousands of migrants from Syria, Eritrea and other sub-Saharan countries to arrive on the Italian coast in the coming days. Cost of passage is in the 2,500 Euros range for Africans and 3,500 for Middle Easterners, per person. Over 50,000 migrants have landed Italy in 2014. Many thousands are in Libya waiting to make the crossing. (Massimo Sestini/Polaris)
Mediterranean Sea / Italy: Italian navy rescues Rohingya asylum seekers

This last year I have been thinking a lot about the concept of terroir as a coping mechanism for displacement while working on a public art project to honor and collect Rhode Island Latino immigrant stories. The project called Cafe Recuerdos and commissioned by RI Latino Arts features how coffee can be a memory catalyst for where we came from as well as a ritual to settle us into our new homes. The project is built as a functional coffee cart including portraits and vignettes inspired by oral histories published in Nuestros Raicesbook by Marta Martinez. Cafe Recuerdos will soon be visiting many public sites in Rhode Island and collecting new stories.

Its creation has happened during a time when there is an unprecedented number of refugees globally. Every day on the news I hear tragic tales of desperate people fleeing their home because of war, conflict, economics and environmental disasters. Unesco numbers tell us nearly 60 million people are displaced, in 2014 alone 14 million fled their homes. Many of those millions may never really resettle. There are refugee camps that have residents who have been in limbo for twenty years.

I ask myself what will the long term coping mechanisms be for these people and what can we do to help? With our shrinking resources on our planet and exponential growth of the human population will our sense of place reduce down to scratch smell patches or a taste of something out of a bottle or can? There are no easy answers but then I pause and think haven’t the most successful immigrants always been those who let go of those lost terrains, adapt to their new locales and bring back that lost earth in condensed experiences.  

I’ll be eager to hear the stories collected through Cafe Recuerdos and learn from those.The project launches with an artist talk and viewing on August 15th at the South side Cultural Center in Providence. Click here for more on that and the 2015 schedule for Cafe Recuerdos.

How fast does bamboo grow?

Upcoming Events and a few notes from a recent trip to South East Asia

Dec 7th, Gallery Talk at the Fitchburg Art Museum, Fitchburg, Ma

Jan 8-13 2015 Poetry of the Wild/ Tubac Arizona residency begins.  I’m going out to work with the Tubac Center of the Arts and numerous other partners including birding and poetry groups as well as the Anza trail commission. I’m delighted to have an opportunity to explore the fascinating desert landscape on the border with Mexico and the area’s Spanish American history. The project will be installed by March 7th after a second trip out.

Jan 20- 25 2015 Poetry of the Wild/Block Island Upon return from the Southwest I’ll ferry into Block Island to begin work with the dynamic Block Island Poetry Project.Artists, poets, students and other participants will help create the poetry boxes and trail that will open in time for the April workshop. BIPP gathers outstanding poets and poetry lovers from across the country during poetry month, this is their 11th year. Poetry of the Wild will open up the entire island to poetic musings.

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Hanoi, Vietnam, Nov. 1 During the first two weeks of Nov. I was touring through Vietnam and Cambodia, here are early journal notes and photos. Street traffic is an exercise in swarm intelligence which miraculously parts for determined pedestrians. To cross one must let go of the Western models of stop signs and traffic lights and go with the “flow”. The drivers seem to have extended antennae that allows them to swerve at a moments notice and avoid pile ups. Your urban footprint is defined by the moped you own, how much you can carry on it,how far it can take you and where you can park it. Most drivers wear masks because of the problems with pollution, what will happen if they all start converting to cars?

At 5 am loud speakers throughout Hanoi wake up the populace announcing national news like the result of the rice harvest or local news like required vaccinations, they also signal the beginning of fitness time. The elders– I saw no one younger than 30– gets out to exercise by joining an outdoor tai chi class, zumba dance class, or bringing out their bar bells. People do their own thing or join group activities. I saw groups bring out badminton nets that seem to perfectly fit across the wide sidewalks of the urban boulevards. They looked like they’d been playing together for a long time.  At 7 am the city transforms back and its all business. Business is full of the new and old, the Apple store has the latest gadgets and a shrine for the good business god, including little green apples.

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Everywhere I looked I saw a great diversity of bamboo growing. The Vietnamese use it for architecture, for food, for art, it has even been used as for weaponry, The bamboo spirit of growth and resurgence seems to in the very soul of the people; the country has surged upward and grown past the great wounds of the American war. Now they have to maneuver into a sustainable future keeping that spirit. One contemporary Vietnamese architect that embodies it is Vo Trong Nghia. I need to take a trip back just to follow some of his projects.

More on the past, the temples, and Cambodia soon.

 

Motion in Art/ Beyond and before Muybridge

Shiva

During my studies of art history in school, Edweard Muybridge was always acknowledged as giving us the Aha! moment in the study of motion. But before Muybridge mastered his technique in the 1870’s prompted by a commission to figure out if racehorses hooves all left the ground at once– we had centuries of artists who’d figured out how to capture figures in motion. They just weren’t Western, they were Asian and South East Asian artisans who left us multitudes of multi armed deities. And their motion wasn’t just in present space but suggested their powers to effect change in other dimensions.

As a sculptor I first fell in love with the multi armed compositions when I saw an exhibit of Japanese Buddhist sculptures in the early nineties at the Asia Society in New York. I was at the peak of multi tasking as a young mother with two children and I always felt at least ten arms short for the many things I needed to do– including trying to make art. I was not only amazed by the remarkable wooden forms and craftsmanship, most only table size, but also the metaphoric suggestion of those many arms. I saw in the whirl of movement not only a suggestion of divine powers but a practical visualization of what women must do. With extra arms you also had an opportunity to reap more expressive power out of the hand gestures which can suggest so many things about human nature and possibility. This symbolic language of hand gestures is called” Mudras”.

I’m preparing to embark on a tour of Vietnam and Cambodia so these interests are extremely heightened. I’ll be going with a good friend whose an adventurous traveler and has traveled Tibet. We’ll be ending up at Angkor Wat, where I might just explode from all the sculptural wonders. Watch the blog for more reports from that part of the world soon.

 

 

 

 

This Body of Land and Other News

Upcoming events and notes on revising This Body of Land

May 2- August 2nd Poetry of the Wild/St Louis Fusion

Poetry boxes will be installed in the Central West End and Grand Center Art district as well as the University of Missouri/St Louis campus. Twenty artists and poets from St Louis have been busy collaborating as well as numerous high school students from art charter schools for the latest Poetry of the Wild project, for more click here.

May 20th  Cuban Independence Day celebration /Book presentation     South Providence Community Library. 

I’ll be reading and presenting from my new book, The Island Draws Me, based on my ongoing Cuba exploration as part of a program honoring Cuban Independence Day sponsored by Nuestro Raices. 5 pm,441 Prarie Ave., Providence, RI

July 28- August 1st, Schumacher College, Devon, UK                              This Body of Land/ An Introduction to Ecological Art with Ana Flores, Peter Randall -Page and Susan Derges

artery manThis month I’ve been revising a course I created called, This Body Of Land/ an Introduction to Ecological Art. I first taught the course at the Rhode Island School of Design in 2004 and have taught it at numerous institutions since then. This summer it will be offered as a week-long intensive at Schumacher College in the U.K, a unique hub for sustainable living and education. Their  short courses for professionals offer the practical skills and strategic thinking required to face the ecological, economic and social challenges of our times.

In spring cleaning, I happily rediscovered this German woodcut from the 15th century  that I had used on the front page of my first syllabus for This Body of Land. For me, “Arteries” says everything about our bodies being a continuum of the natural world. Despite the disengagement many people feel today, I know some people I could metaphorically depict in this way. These friends and colleagues are naturalists, writers, farmers, master gardeners, conservationists, artists, and citizens who are deeply in tune with the natural world around them and stewards of their local geography. I’m sure you know some. I call them earth voices but they are all too rare.

My goal for this Body of Land’s is to reactivate and nourish this magnificent neural network we are born with- like that of the woodcut–it needs no electricity but does need fuller engagement with the natural world. The tools of art and ecological thinking can be instrumental in this re-awakening, I’ve seen it happen. This Body Of Land will be enhanced by the visits of two renown artists who are deeply engaged with the Devon ecology: Peter Randall- Page and Susan Derges. My week long course can be complimented with a dynamic course on creative community engagement  the Art of Invitation.  Each course can be taken solo and neither course requires participants to have any art background.  If you share my interest in ecology and sustainable living I strongly recommend Schumacher, their innovative short courses are taught by leading international thinkers, activists and practitioners. After many years of reading the books of James Lovelock, David Orr,and  Fritjof Capra I discovered that they taught periodically at Schumacher. One could take a two or three week intensive with them. In 2008 I had the opportunity to attend a course on sustainable design at Schumacher which was seminal for me.  I’m honored to be going back to this inspiring community filled with many earth voices.