As the old saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. This is definitely the case when comparing the power and lasting memory of an illustration, cartoon or photo to the written word—an essay on a political or social topic. In much the same way that viewing a graph can more quickly and clearly describe the results of a survey when compared to reading a written abstract, an illustration or cartoon can convey its message more powerfully by using creative visual elements that are aimed at stirring the viewer’s emotions in a way that makes them almost palpable.
I was fortunate to stumble upon a public exhibition of illustrations by international artists last week that focused on social and political issues around the world. I’m sharing my favorites in this post.
[Apologies for not giving credit to some of the artists, but the exhibition didn’t identify the creators of each work–strange, I know! For the signed illustrations, I’ve tried to decipher the artist’s signature.]
This powerful illustration certainly fulfills its purpose of addressing the remnants of Colonialism that still negatively affect indigenous populations today, as well as the timely issue of responsible tourism. Artist: P. Kuczynski, 2009.
Actress Rachel Jones and I aboard the wardrobe truck on the set of a (horrible) horror film called “Dracula’s Widow”
Have you ever wondered why Hollywood ‘celebrities’ seem to be so out of touch with the reality that normal folks live? Well, it’s simple. They live in an alternate universe—one that’s both insular and pretty much self-regulating. That means that people in positions of power (lead actors, producers and directors) are given extreme latitude to be either their most talented and creative selves or egotistical maniacs intent on wreaking havoc on those who are vulnerable.
And make no mistake about it, there’s no shortage of bright-eyed victims who are drawn by the lure of fame and fortune and who are naively willing to do whatever it takes to reach stardom–what I perceive as being a dark and lonely place. Think of producer Harvey Weinstein and his lecherous behavior with seemingly half the female talent in the ‘business’. And by the way, it is very much a business. The Hollywood madness is arguably America’s biggest cultural export to the innocent masses around the world.
I remember being told by a friend who was teaching English in South Korea that the sitcom Friends was being used in language institutes all across that country as a classroom teaching tool. “Oh great,” I said. “Now Koreans will think that every waitress in Manhattan can afford to live in a spacious loft in Brooklyn with a drop-dead gorgeous view of the city’s skyline!” Hollywood has always prospered on fantasy, and that’s even more obvious when experienced from the inside.
I always wanted to work in ‘the arts’ (snicker, chuckle, guffaw) and so I was incredibly excited when I got a job on my first film production, Michael Cimino’s violent drama, Year of the Dragon, set in New York’s Chinatown and starring Micky Rourke. I’m not sure what I expected, but what I got was a baptism by fire.
Frida With Flowers in Her Hair, c. 1940. By Photographer Bernard Sliberstein.
I never paint dreams or nightmares. I paint my own reality.
– Frida Kahlo
It’s impossible to write about the life and work of Diego Rivera (as I did last week) without also discussing the life and work of his wife and companion Frida Kahlo who lived from 1907 to 1954. Though their work was very different in style—Rivera’s larger than life murals of Mexican history and Kahlo’s often quite discomforting gaze from her intimate self-portraits—their sense of dedication to commoners in general and Mexico’s indigenous people in particular was reflected in the art they created.
While Rivera was honored as a painter and master muralist of international renown during his lifetime, Kahlo was often simply seen as Diego’s wife–a woman who just happened to dabble in paints. By the time of her death, Kahlo had exhibited her paintings in her native Mexico City as well as in both New York and Paris. Her works were present in the private collections of some of the art world’s most prestigious patrons. Still, in her New York Times obituary, she was identified as, “Frida Kahlo, Artist, Diego Rivera’s Wife.”
Avowed atheist, proud communist, tempestuous lover and principled artist—Diego Rivera was all of these and much, much more. The Mexican painter and muralist, who lived from 1886-1957, became one of Mexico’s most well-known painters during a career that bridged multiple styles and brought the artist international acclaim.
Along with his now equally famous 3rd wife, the painter Frida Kahlo, Rivera’s boisterous life and works of historical narrative have taken on legendary status. However, Rivera was far from being a mere celebrity. According to Lynn Zelevansky, American art historian and noted curator, “Rivera was one of the great innovators of 20th century art.”
Diego Rivera and his artist wife Frida Kahlo, c. 1931. This photograph was taken in New York while Rivera was organizing a retrospective exhibition of his works at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art (MOMA).
On this blog, I welcome dissenting opinions as well as all comments and insights from readers, but I do expect dissenting opinions to be supported by some sort of evidence even if it’s only anecdotal. This is what I always required of my students when they composed argumentative essays and it should be the same in a forum such as this.
This week I’m presenting a comment I received from a reader who responded to last week’s post “Dispelling Myths About Migrantion.”
Wow so much emotional appeal, so little facts.
Being poor and brown does not qualify people for citizenship in any country, especially not the US. Caravanning and causing a huge scene is not how you achieve asylum. These people are not hungry, half of them are fat, they are not fleeing, they are living in a culture of violence which is completely different.
What’s next, should America boat in all 100 million people from the Philippines just because their own failed nation is plagued with violence and low wages? Get fucked.
FINISH THE WALL, DEPORT & BAN ALL ILLEGALS. American citizens (including the legal immigrants) do not want to pay for these people to move in and take up space and jobs especially while the country is already overpopulated (with low wage workers at that).
Democrat policies ruined America for decades and we’re tired of it, no more, the gig is up for “diversity” pushing leftists.
What isn’t clear is whether the writer was seriously expressing a personal opinion or just trying to get a reaction from me. Either way, here goes. Note the commentator’s words are all in brackets.
With thousands of migrants from Central America currently stranded just south of the US border in Mexico, it’s time to ignore the political rhetoric coming from Washington for a few minutes and focus on the reasons so many choose to leave country, culture and family behind and walk 2,500 miles (4,000 kms) to an unknown future.
It’s difficult for privileged Americans–as well as most other Westerners–to feel empathy for the lives these people are leaving behind. But make no mistake about it, the actions of Western governments–through flawed foreign policy decisions–have contributed to the mass migrations we’ve all witnessed over the past decade.
Some recent comments I’ve read:
“Refugees are lazy and just want handouts.”
“Refugees are entitled and ungrateful.”
A laborer struggles to pull a wooden cart loaded with rolls of fabric through the garment district in Mexico City. Photo Credit: Henry Lewis
“Art is something that makes you breathe with a different kind of happiness.”
~ Anni Albers
Manizales is a city of approximately 500,000 people located high in the mountains above Colombia’s Eje Cafetero (coffee-growing region) in the west central part of the country. It’s known mainly for its many universities and colleges, its position as the business center for Colombia’s economically important coffee exports and for its steep hills–
heavy breathing here–
Manizales’ rather short list of attractions and cultural offerings can’t compete with those found in the capital Bogotá or Colombia’s second-city of Medellín. However, as I discovered on a recent visit, it does have a street art scene that–while smaller in scope–compares favorably with its bigger sisters in quality.
“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
For me, one of the highlights of traveling in Southeast Asia has always been chatting with the monks at the Buddhist temples found around almost every corner. Without exception, I’ve found them to be friendly and open, and just as curious about Western customs and my personal life as I was about theirs’.
Of all the SE Asian countries, Laos is my favorite travel destination. I first went there in late 2004 while I was teaching in China. This first introduction was so pleasant that it encouraged me to begin the search for a job in a region where the gentle, laid-back vibe contrasted sharply to the rushed pace of the large Chinese city where I was working.
At that time, Laos was a place seemingly frozen in an earlier era, where locals would readily offer help to a traveler without expecting anything in return. This same spirit of openness was embodied by the young monks at the many temples in the old capital of Luang Prabang, a place I’d read about and was keen to visit.
A large black wicker Buddha at an outdoor pavilion in Myanmar, the only one of this type I’ve ever encountered. Photo: Henry Lewis
I don’t remember making a conscious decision to immerse myself in the study of Buddhism, but by 2005 when I arrived in Thailand to teach I already understood (at least on an intellectual level) many of its basic tenants. I’d read books by Tibet’s Dalai Lama, Vietnam’s Thich Nhat Hanh and a variety of other popular Asian Buddhist writers. I found their suggestions on how to achieve freedom from the human ‘monkey mind’ with the aim of eventually attaining a higher state of consciousness to be very appealing.
I’d also regularly attended a Buddhist sangha back in Seattle during the early 1990s where I’d developed a meditation practice and learned more about the rituals and practices which had been repackaged for Western consumption. What lay in front of me, however, was a series of lessons on the different interpretations and manifestations of Buddhism found from one country and culture in East Asia to another.
Thais making merit through symbolic offerings at Wat Po in Bangkok. Note, the cow sculpture which is more often seen in Hindu iconography. The syncretic nature of religion means that when a faith enters a new region, it usually blends with the folk belief system that was already in place before its arrival. Photo: Henry Lewis
After reading a young bloggers recent post, I decided to disable Word Ads on my site. How could I in good faith continue to write about our wasteful lifestyles and promote sustainable living while ads for things that people clearly don’t ‘need’ were being displayed at the end of each of my posts? That irony left me feeling hollow.
So, for me, turning off all ads is the right decision. Mind you, I’m far from being wealthy and I’m still looking for ways to produce income, but I’d rather make a living strictly based on my skill-set than from gimmicky advertising.
Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends and family in the USA, and to all those everywhere who are thankful for having the human essentials of food, clothing and shelter. There are so many in our world who are in flux as refugees and who have nothing more than the clothes on their backs. For them, my greatest hope is an end to their suffering and more stable and prosperous lives in the future.