In honor of International Peace Day, the Art of Autism is posting a series of blog posts in September with the theme of peace.
by Kimberly Gerry-Tucker
When tasked with writing a peace essay, I sat here staring at the blank computer page for more time than I care to admit. So… here goes. I was in the grocery store the other day, and as is usually the case, the colorful produce section was worthy of a photo shoot; with its waist-high boxes full of watermelons, lemons piled high, bunches of curly kale (which I’ve eaten nearly every day for a year) … Stacks so high of green, red, and yellow peppers, that some edibles had rolled onto the floor.
I read a lot of books and I have read many stories of food scarcity, people in long lines unable to obtain the staples of human diet, never mind the extras, the bounty I see when I enter a store. And what does that have to do with peace? I am thankful for these rows of food; how can I not be affected? How can I take it for granted? I know we have these overflowing store shelves because we have a system in place in our country. During wartime I know that people were unable to purchase sugar without government-issued food coupons. Vouchers for coffee were introduced too, and by March of 1943, meat, cheese, fats, canned fish, canned milk and other processed foods in America, were added to the list of rationed provisions. I don’t take this stuff for granted. There’s a harmony to the textures and colors in the produce section that brings me great peace.
They say that bees are responsible for one in three bites of food we eat. Over the summer, I saw a giant hive attached to my adjacent neighbor’s living room window. What a wonder! I supposed the bee chose that location because of the vegetable and flower gardens surrounding that house. How chosen he was, how lucky. One day I came home to see my neighbor in a protective bee suit, squirting the hive with a wand that shot out poison. Why, I thought sadly? The woods abut his backyard. He had a bee suit for protection and a stepladder to reach the hive. Could he not have walked it into the woods and relocated it? It seemed hostile to me. I fear people seldom look at a bigger picture of the world. Perhaps it is just me, mourning those bees and not anyone else.
Sometimes what we see around us is distressing. Al and I had a beach day the other day and what did I see but straws (plastic ones) coming in with the tide; plastic baggies torn, caught in the sand and pebbles; pieces of broken toys, remnants of balloons mixed in among the seashells. Al was incensed about this, as was I, so he spent the whole time picking up trash and throwing it in trash cans (which were everywhere you looked, if one bothered to look). Being proactive is like a salve on despair. It brings at least some measure of peace to do a small thing. “Maybe I saved an animal from choking,” Al said to me.
I recall an exhibit in Mystic, Connecticut (which banned straws in its cafeteria) a few years ago, of art made from found trash on beaches.
The awareness project is called: “Washed Ashore.” http://www.mysticaquarium.org/animals-and-exhibits/exhibits/1255-washed-ashore Environmental artist Angela Haseltine Pozzi founded Washed Ashore “Art to Save the Sea” to educate and create awareness of ocean debris and plastic pollution, and its effect on marine life species. Thousands of volunteers have collected over 12 tons of debris for use in this massive project.
Here are some pictures I took from that exhibit:
Isn’t that a cool jellyfish hanging from the ceiling? It makes you think, as it should make you think. It is made, from what I can determine, out of various strips of plastic findings. Plastic debris from the shore.
Look closely at the seal. It’ll surprise you to see the types of garbage used to make it. There are flip flops to be found in it. A closeup of the “whale bone” entrance “ribs” that you can walk under, shown here, include buoys and plastic oil containers, all found on beaches.
Art speaks in ways that make people take notice. A few years ago, Art of Autism and I, and my grandson, sent “peace flags” to the White House. Colorful peace signs, ordinary paint on cloth, messages infused on the cloth like- “peace” and “Please don’t eliminate the Paris agreement.”
This small act of sending peace-filled sentiments to a place where they needed to be reminded of peaceful intent, reminded me of the Starfish Story, which I love to tell to children: There are thousands of starfish, dying, washed up on shore. A child sees the adult throw one starfish into the ocean, so it will survive. The child says, “There are so many! That’s only one starfish. It doesn’t matter.” The adult says, “It matters to that starfish.”
To me, when I sit down to collage, (this can take 30 or 40 hours on one piece) I am thinking of how art has power to speak, how one small message makes ripples. This collage was made during a hard time for me personally. I didn’t know what it would look like in the end, and I still don’t know what it ‘means,’ I just know the feeling I felt making it:
Wikipedia defines ‘peace’ as “a concept of harmony. An absence of hostility. A lack of conflict. Freedom from fear of violence between individuals and heterogeneous social groups.”
Peace is another thing too – peace is all of us and the diversity we share, and we are all in it together.
Diversity Collage and Diversity Collage Close-Up:
Kimberly, a freelance writer since 1999, has published in dozens of literary journals, anthologies and books. She ghostwrote the book Reborn Through Fire, for Glendale California burn survivor Tony Yarijanian. Kim is author of the memoir Under The Banana Moon. Her artwork has appeared in many books and on the cover of three: The Art Of Autism Shattering Myths, Sutton and Forrester’s Selective Mutism In Our Own Words. Kim mostly works from home; at art, writing, and software usability. Kim has led a collage workshop in Lee, Mass. and has done several unique video-taped presentations at Lesley College, Boston, and Hynes Center, Cambridge; where she answered audience questions through keyboard typing. Having dual Aspergers and Selective Mutism diagnoses, it is sometimes hard for Kim to speak aloud in certain environments. Her passions include dignity and acceptance for all autistics, being with her grand kids, raising insects, spirituality, peace, and care of the environment. Her artwork reflects these passions. She has three grown children (one of whom is autistic). Send Message(firstname.lastname@example.org). Kimberly serves as Vice-President to the Board of the Art of Autism. Her blog is www.ravenambition.wordpress.com