Art, whether that art is music, theatre, or physical 3-D works, is always a mirror to our times.
By Kimberly Gerry-Tucker
There are analogies when referring to brains that always seems to involve electricity. I mean, instead of saying the brain is “wired,” why not refer to the complex non-sensate tangle of neural networks in our skulls as having an intricate root system, like a tree, or how about comparing the brain to a spider’s web? But electricity really is an apt description when you think it over; because of atoms, charged protons, electrons… A hundred billion or so electrically conductive, biological ‘wires’ actually existing in the brain is a lot for my brain to consider, but it’s true, in a sense. One single neuron generates a tiny amount of actual electricity. All the neurons together generate enough electricity to power a low-watt bulb. To me, that is astounding to ponder, and electrical terms like: brains being “wired differently” seems a fitting analogy. Resonating somewhere in my brain recesses, after one of my artworks is complete, are quotes like this one; from theatre practitioner, playwright, poet Bertolt Brecht:
Or this quote from Nina Simone, a 50s musical talent (think soul, R & B, jazz, etc. although she strongly resisted being categorized) who is said to have had an “androgynous singing voice”:
This is true. Art, whether that art is music, theatre, or physical 3-D works, is always a mirror to our times. I love to see group gallery shows, individual perspectives on themes and the myriad ways in which so many differently wired people can express themselves uniquely on the given themes. Personally speaking, I certainly don’t set out to make ‘statements’, but I am not living in a vacuum and the world affects me, as it does everyone. Here’s one example and it has to do with what became the #MeToo movement, because this movement was generating steam when I was creating this piece, seen here in detail and not in its entirety. This artwork started because I really wanted to do a collage with vintage Walter Foster (1891-1981) sketches I’d found, because I thought it was incredibly interesting that he signed his initials WTF, which is of course, something that has an entirely alternative meaning these days! How cool to have WTF as one’s initials! And people were saying WTF a lot, when more and more women became brave, day after day, to say ‘me too.’
So I worked some of WTF’s images into a collage of a woman who felt that her #MeToo history shattered her identity like distorted glass shards. In retrospect I noticed that the tree arms I painstakingly cut out, reaching with ominous gnarled fingers toward her broken identity, were in fact stemming from a source that surprised me, because I had collaged faces of all walks of men (WTF sketches) around the frame of the artwork. One in particular, seen here, eerily (coincidentally) resembles a creep I once knew too well.
I can’t/won’t apologize for the heaviness of this blog’s subject matter. We are all reflecting our times, good or bad. Mind you, I do enjoy painting serene landscapes like this one-
and colorful impressionistic ones too, like this one:
Once in a while, I make something like this collage below,
and I make it in 8 hours, a record timeframe for me. She is holding a paper deli ticket, which reads: ‘Your Turn is A91.’ Her lips are from a book on Artwork of Native American people. The skin on her face is cut from a porcelain perfect airbrushed model from an Avon brochure. Her eyes are from a Frida Kahlo image in a magazine. I almost named this “Through Frida’s Eyes.” Oh, okay, I will name this “Frida Is Rolling Her Eyes.” Her outfit is patchworked from a tin or two of cut-outs I have saved- sayings and sometimes just snippets of words, that resonate with me. I have tins and bins and Baggies of such phrases, like the chatter overheard in restaurants or inside the wiring of one’s own stored memories. The swirls and cartoonish hands are from a Grimm’s Fairy Tales book. Her “hair” is a jumble of puzzle pieces with pop culture food themes like brand name cookies, and that sort of ephemera.
As I said, I finished this collage very quickly. I don’t use a brush when I glue pieces, I rather like the tactile feel of glue applied with my fingers. I also didn’t purposely choose puzzle pieces to depict autism or something like that, not at all. I use puzzle pieces for the colors and they’re paper. I collect paper! When I am through collaging for the day after long sessions, snips of paper, images and words are literally scattered all over the floor. I once took a bathroom break, looked down, and saw this cut-out phrase on the floor at my feet:
(rhetorical question: if a woman laughs alone while sitting on a toilet in a closed room and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? It does, and it is a lovely sound, perhaps due to the acoustics caused by smooth, hard bathroom surfaces, but I digress…)
I was dissatisfied with this collage. At least at first. Here is why. I knew that the dandelion (a wish-maker) meant something personally symbolic to me, so I was okay with that; but composition in art is at least as important as symbolism, and her hair looked wrong. I decided I knew why. Look at the red, white and blue puzzle piece to the top right of her ‘hair.’ To me, it looked out of place, chaotic and unbalanced, askew, “off” somehow. It was throwing off my whole composition, I felt. To a viewer gazing on this artwork, the eyes are drawn there, to the askew red/white/blue piece off-kilter; and shouldn’t the focal point be the dandelion? Well, I thought, I have got to rework the hair so it doesn’t throw everything off.
I was ready to ‘fix’ the hair when I had a Kimpiphany. (Kim + Epiphany)
I thought, red, white and blue symbolizes our country, right? It’s the U.S. puzzle piece and it’s precariously balancing in her hair but I’m going to leave it right where it is. Because our country (our world) IS out of place, chaotic and unbalanced, ‘off’ somehow… askew; like this precariously out of place puzzle piece. And so I decided this piece had to throw off the composition. It was maybe, subliminal placement.
I couldn’t blog about art being a reflection on our weary times without mentioning this, because it is on topic and while Barbie is not necessarily ‘art,’ per se, it is a societal influence. I am a collector of the Barbies that have the new wide range of body figures, (tall, short, thin, etc.) like this “curvy” one, which I own:
I do wish the faces would change up, especially in regard to depicting individuality and diversity among people, but one can’t have everything all at once, can one? This can only be a step in the right direction. Recently, Barbie has announced yet a new line of figures. Among the new line of dolls are likenesses of Amelia Earhart, Frida Kahlo and Katherine Johnson. Imagine that, in my lifetime, a doll honoring a pilot, an artist, and a mathematician! I was saying that the world around us seems in chaos and this feels like a little bright light, as do the young adults, so many of them, finding their voices as of late. Truly listening to all voices means hearing what is being said, even when some of those messages are symbolic or even subliminal. They are all valid.
I was saying at the beginning of this blog that one neuron in the brain, alone, has less energy than a billion working together. The energy of anyone, let alone neurons (using our brains to push peace, for example) working en masse together, instead of separately, divided, alone, CREATES the capacity for an electric storm of ideas!
I never minded being called a snowflake because snowflakes, no two alike, have the capacity to create powerful blizzards. I know, I know, the blizzard metaphor is a tired one, perhaps overused, onetheless I’m leaving it in!
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 is a board member for the Art of Autism.