The Woman in Black

The Woman in Black

Here is an article about Kate Cullen, the 21 year-old sociology student who was studying in Istanbul during the early days of the Gezi Park Protests and the woman in the photograph that inspired this Stained-glass collage.

She describes her desire to participate saying, “My main purpose was just to add one more person to the movement.”

In another  question about the moment she was hit with the cannon, she says that she wanted to show the protests were non-violent and threw her arms wide.  She goes on to say, “The image is not about me whatsoever.  The image is about a symbol, about what these protesters were standing for; in the scheme of things, my act was absolutely nothing. It was no braver than thousands and thousands and thousands of protesters who were doing the same, and more,” and then describes the larger losses of injuries, eyesight, and even death.

Though I would argue, her act was a drop, a big drop, I know what she means about it feeling like nothing.

Often the acts of beauty and love that we do feel quotidian and insignificant, but each choice we make can create or destroy.  Each act we perform can sustain or cut off.

Her act, though a tiny drop, is in fact a very big thing.  Each protester who sits in the park is part of the larger scheme even if we don’t see them.  Each protester is a big thing because all together, each person added to the movement is valuable.

The worth of protest is not in suffering, but rather in compassion.  As Cullen points out , “The girl in the black dress is no more me than it is that man who pulled me into the house and gave me lemons….”  By participating in this body politic, each one joins together and each act builds together because it is formed in the invisible compassion of the man with the lemons, and by visible empathy drawn to the image of the Nike of Samothrace personified in the Woman in the Black Dress.

Like I said, she could be you, she could be me.  She is all of us. Though we are far away, raising awareness about struggles world wide (and in our own backyard) is important.  Sure we can’t be a voice for every movement in need of our compassion, but we are all interdependent, and the positive work that we do for each other still betters our civilization.

Recycled Art Education

Vertical angle of Rain Rug

As you can see, there is progress on the Rain Rug. In the last two weeks, my luck has held out and the various thrift stores have had a variety of sheets in good colors to add to my paintbox. Greens, purple, pink. Maybe we can have a sheet tearing party one of these days in the backyard!

Another, very important event, that will raise money for Art Education outreach in Ypsi, Ann Arbor, and Westland, is a “Studio Workshop” series on creative re-use at FLY Art Center in downtown Ypsi (see the map below!) on July 6 and July 13 at 2:00 pm.  There are other classes and open studio opportunities as well.  It’s a fun thing to do on a summer Saturday, so come on down!

Latest up cycled t-shirt back Tetrahedron floppy rag bag prototype.

The first workshop will feature instructions about how to re-mix a tee-shirt from baggy dad-shirt into fashionable fitted cuteness. It will give students (adults are welcome too!) an opportunity to learn the basics of crochet, and then to work up to the second workshop which will show how to make a small rag-rug project, most likely a coaster or a placemat, but advanced students might try a bag or basket.

I’ve been volunteering with FLY for a little while now, (only 2 events, but who’s counting!) and really enjoy their mission. They go into schools mostly armed with every-day objects and help kids harness their creativity by letting them loose with a theme or problem to solve at the “art buffet” with their cafeteria trays to select their supplies. The students are free to follow the direction or make something new, and always with the support of FLY staff and volunteers.


View Larger Map

Peace for Gezi Park

Kissing in Taksim Square

Last Sunday afternoon, after the Eco Ride, I participated in a local event to support and share more information about what’s going on in Turkey since 31 May, 2013. The above is one of two stained-glass-collages (and accompanying stencils) that I made to highlight some of the iconic photographs that came out of the protests. If you are in the area, you can like the organization page on Facebook.  If you aren’t local, it is still an interesting page as they review both Turkish and international press and provide some translations and summaries of articles you wouldn’t otherwise see.

At first I did not want to directly illustrate any of the violent responses because by showing violent reactions in a beautiful way, it in some way romanticizes that violence. The first drawing that I did was of a couple kissing next to some burning rubble. The love of individuals becoming apparent even in the context of the flames of conflict. Taking artistic liberty, I turned the flames into the leaves of the trees that must now be re-planted in Gezi Park.

Kissing in Taksim Square
Seeing choreographed blood and explosions in movies can be exciting, though real blood and real destruction, even from animals killed by the side of the road is disturbing. Part of the reason that works of film are exciting is because they are not real. Things don’t happen that way, and we know it. Many of the photos of the violence that has been going on in Taksim Square have been graphic and disempowering. Turning them into stained glass would not show solidarity, it would romanticize the ugliest parts of the goings-on.

What changed my mind was this photograph.

We cannot see the face of the woman in the original. She could be you, she could be me. She stands, ready to face the impending impact with arms wide as if she is going to hug the water. Powerful like the Nike of Samothrace.  Nike, for those who haven’t studied as much art history refers to a personification of Athena as goddess of victory in battle. Unlike some other images, that I won’t post, it does not show the moment when she falls, but rather the moment when her peace faces down the violent onslaught of water.

Nike of Samothrace (Louvre Official Catalog)

In my version of the image, I made the area surrounding the woman lighter and more green than the rest, hoping to show that out of this moment perhaps new green space and a hard look at the political problems that Turkey faces will grow up. Perhaps this small act of resistance will be a first step into the victory of non-violent protest, spurring political action against corruption.

For the protestors in Turkey

Bracelets for Ecoride

Photo of 2 Bracelets

Next Sunday, the 23 of June, is the forty-first annual EcoRide. It has a couple of different loops for local bicyclists that stop at a variety of eco-conscious area sites. Ann Arbor is rife with ecologically conscious farmers, recycling and re-use places, etc, so the EcoRide only stops at a few, but it is nevertheless a fun day.

This year, I’ll be participating in their new pop-up art gallery event in Riverside Park (the ANN ARBOR one, not the Ypsi one), bringing along my rag rug (and maybe some little things) and sharing my skills as a fiber artist to raise awareness about sustainability. Just like the now slightly tarnished “Live Strong” bracelet, participants will be invited to make their own recycled t-shirt bracelets, titled, reCYCLE bracelets. Hopefully it will not only be fun for the young riders, but will inspire others to share what they know about recycling.


View Larger Map

Here’s a video I made for the Ecology Center so they can promote the EcoRide.

In addition, my mother will be at the Leslie Science Center in the Project Grow Garden there. She makes recycled garden sculptures that can be used as trellises, light trees, or scarecrows as well as looking really cool.

Recycled Planter with pink flowers

Goings On About Town

Big things are in the works. Baby steps!!!

Though my drawing a day project has once again fizzled, I have in fact been making art nearly every day.  When I started the project, my intention was to do all kinds of work, showing progress, drawings, sketches, and finished work as it went on.

But as the project went on, my parameters got more and more narrow.  First, somehow, I decided it had to be a drawing. Then I decided it had to be a drawing on a particular size of paper.  But as an artist, I’m all over the place.  I do several bodies of work in several media all the time.  All those limitations are not how I work, but somehow I talked myself slowly into that consistency and regularity.

Some of the work that I do as an artist is less photographic.  Like the above shot, a photogenic rearrangement of something much less exciting to look at: making the “paints” for my “paintbox.”  Each sheet has to be torn and in order to use them more efficiently be rolled into a ball so when it comes to making the carpet, no detangling is needed.

In any case, I wanted to outline for you some of what I’ve been working on, though each of these things will get more attention as time goes on this summer, perhaps you would like to know the whole list of “what’s up” in Adventurous Art land.

Recycle Ann Arbor had an Earth Day Art Contest, and my “Sun Rug” was selected to be a finalist.  Though the turnout was small, I stuck around for the Public Reception and made some good connections to people in the community.

My small success in that contest persuaded me to shoot higher and I’ve been working on a proposal for a larger series of rag carpets to be displayed in narrative series from Cloud, to Rain, to Rainbow, to Sun.  The first proposal contains some mistakes and omissions, so we will see.  In either case, I’m excited about the project and you will see some progress shots soon.

One person I met through the program was the Outreach and Zero-Waste coordinator for RAA with whom I’m coordinating the translation of some of their materials about how to recycle in Ann Arbor into Spanish.  It’s cool to get to do some translation work, if only as a volunteer.

She also introduced me to someone at the Ecology Center, and I’m volunteering with them to do an interactive recycled art table at the Eco-Ride on June 23 at Riverside Park in Ann Arbor.  Yes, Ann Arbor, not Ypsi.  I’m going to do a whole entry about this since I made them a video and I think you’ll enjoy our project, even if you can’t attend the Eco-Ride.

Another of the people I met through the Recycle Ann Arbor Earth Day Contest was the director of FLY Art Center, an Ypsi organization that does outreach to under-served public school children.  We met up and I’m going to teach some “Studio Skills” classes (one about no-sew upcycled t-shirts, and one about rag rug coasters or placemats), and do some volunteering for them in their outreach and public programs.