Thursday, June 4, 2020

This IS Who We Are

Angel of Change


On the morning news, historian and author Jon Meacham, commenting on the brutal and tragic  killing of George Floyd, observed we should stop saying “this is not who we are” and move the conversation closer to the truth by admitting,  “Yes, this IS who we are.” Now we need to decide, “Is this who we want to be?”

The first slave ship arrived on American soil in 1619.  

This country has always been controlled by white men, writing a segment of ugly history. Forcing slavery for free labor, nearly eradicating the indigenous Indians to steal the land they lived on and honored as belonging to no one, but the Land itself and consistently writing women out of history.  

Even benign white men follow blindly down this historical path of inequity.

A few years ago, I read Art & Physics, a fascinating, well researched book by acclaimed author, Leonard Shlain. The book was inspired by his twelve-year-old daughter whom he had taken to see an exhibit of modern art at the MOMA in New York City. When she asked him what the paintings meant, he didn’t have an answer. Being a curious fellow, he began researching our attraction to non-representational art and ended up writing a book about artists and how they have foreshadowed the discoveries of scientists, beginning with the Age of Enlightenment.

It wasn’t until I was almost finished with this 480-page book, that I realized he had not mentioned one woman: not one woman artist, not one woman scientist. As a dedicated researcher, that he only focused on men was almost breathtaking. And the irony, it was his daughter’s question that set him down the path. His book received many praised reviews, no one noticed that women were not even a part of the story.   

I was born in Wiesbaden, Germany 69 years ago. We immigrated to the United States when I was nine. I don’t remember being taught any in-depth American history about slavery. It was pretty much glossed over; it happened, the Civil War fixed it, now we are all equal. Only we are not.

Women did not get the right to vote nationally until 1920. And today, 100 years! later, we still have not elected a woman President or Vice-President.

The Civil Rights Amendment was passed in 1964 and yet, this establishment continues to be tightly held in the clenched fists of old white men. It is an untenable stranglehold.

I don’t have the answers, and I don’t like what I see. It puzzles me, it scares me, it shames me and it hurts my heart.

But I believe we are becoming more awakened. As reprehensible as our current President is, we should thank him, for he has unmasked the ugly side of America; out of the dark will come the light.

We should honor Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and all those who were killed before them, as they have become Angels of Change.

 I think Jon Meacham’s honest assessment and question are a lighthouse of hope and enlightenment; to paraphrase Mr. Meacham, this is who we are, now we need to decide, who do we want to become?


Friday, April 24, 2020

Adjectives; The Emotional Branch Of Our Vocabulary

If Purple Were A Dream
Analog collage on paper

For whatever reason, my muse likes to lure me awake between 2 am and 4 am to drop interesting thoughts into the midst of my sleep.

She cannot be willed back to silence; I have learned –
I snatch the pen and steno pad off the nightstand, 
quietly retreat to our bathroom, 
shut the door and in the dim light, take dictation.

Today began with a short poem and then she dangled this gem:
              Adjectives, the emotional branch of our vocabulary.

Before I go any further, this disclaimer; I am not a linguistic marvel nor a professor of the English language. So, please, those of you who read this and are - hold your wagging Shakespearean tongues, your erudite comments, your red pencil corrections and simply enjoy this alphabet locomotion of a ride.

As an example of the critical revue adjectives play on the stage of writing, imagine reading this poem without the modifier, softly.
             
Three Forty-One
             
              Waking momentarily
              I sink into the quiet -
              an oasis of stillness.
             
              Softly,
              I drift back into sleep.

This six-letter word among words carries the poem into an imaginary place of down feathers, marshmallows, chubby baby cheeks, delicate fluff, gentle gazes, a whisper of a kiss. One word paints a kaleidoscope of romantic images.

You gotta admit, our language would be pretty dull without them.

















Tuesday, April 14, 2020

The Currency Of Compassion



The Unfolding
23 x 37
acrylic on canvas


I have found these days and hours of quiet time, a time for introspection, reflection and lots of cooking. Scouring cookbooks to plan clever ways to use up supplies in the pantry since going to the grocery store feels more and more like entering a hazmat zone. Gloves, masks, physical distancing, all important and yet so foreign.

I'm even baking. This latest inspiration was one of necessity. We had some bananas that were over ripe; pre-pandemic time, I would have thrown them out. Now I feel it's almost sacrilegious to waste any food, especially when I hear of so many being food insecure and going to bed hungry.

In this country, success and trade hinges on currency, the kind printed by the Treasury. Yet, we have within ourselves a much more potent currency, a currency that resides in our hearts: 
  • the currency of compassion
  • of kindness
  • of hope
  • of gratitude
  • of fellowship
  • of stewardship
  • of love
We can learn, enrich each other and ourselves by spending our universal currency. We can use to live bigger, better lives and help others live with hope, promise and dignity. 

We see examples being played out on the television. People inspiring and cheering each other on. People coming together in spirit; singing, clapping, cheering from their windows for the heroes that enter places not for the feint of heart. 

This pandemic is forcing us to see and become more aware of the inequalities that plague our country. We have the opportunity to make big, radical changes. 

Imagine, an unseen, non-living, microbe has stopped the engines of commerce around the globe. 
Boom! 
The Earth is healing herself. Skies are clearing. The air is ridding itself of polluted particles and the peaks of Mount Everest are being seen 125 miles away in India. These are miracles even five months ago we could not imagine. Doesn't that tell us something?

There is a voice that does not speak. Listen.
Rainer Marie Rilke












Saturday, December 28, 2019

Phooey To Resolutions; A love letter


Resolutions seem to have a singular purpose...to be broken.

Why not say phooey! to resolutions and instead write a love letter to your non-conformist, irrational, radical, loving, lovable, bountiful, beautiful self.

Rather than going down the rabbit hole of disappointment and broken resolutions, focus on grace.  Be thankful for who you are and who is in your life, right now, in this divine moment, and live in that space. 

From this vantage point, your dream-resolutions will unfold with spectacular success. It can't be helped. The Universe will propel you toward your goals. 

As they materialize, give a silent prayer of thanks, and continue on. 

May twenty-twenty begin and end beyond your expectations-
unfolding in three hundred sixty-five delightful days 
of magic, awe, inspiration 
and 
unending curiosity. 















Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Untethered


Max


“Only the deeply wise idea of the transmigration of souls could show me the consoling point at which all creatures will finally reach the same level of redemption.”  Richard Wagner

These past few months I have felt untethered, with the death of our beloved dog, Max and my husband’s surgery. Like a hot air balloon, no longer grounded to the earth, lofted up and up with no  destination. 

I won’t deny, Fred’s surgery after Max’s passing, caused me angst.  Any time general anesthesia is used the potential outcome of eternal sleep is not to be taken lightly. I tried not to go there, but I couldn’t help it.

Two hours after he went into the operating room the doctor came out to tell me everything went well, and he was in recovery. That’s when I realized how long I had been holding my breath. I suddenly felt as light as the leaf I saw blowing in the wind.

I look at my mortality and I wonder, where have the years gone?

It’s time to right size – live smaller in the sense of “things” and live larger in the sense of being. I’m ready.

The center of my wellbeing remains steadfast in my daily routine; up early, light yoga stretching with breathing meditation, writing, sometimes, and always coffee and reading.

I don’t know what my world would be without books, real books, books with enticing covers and interesting titles and the author’s name prominently displayed so I can remember it every time I pick it up and turn the page. Books that smell and weigh of curiosity and knowledge.

Currently my morning reading includes Billy Collins; The Rain In Portugal, Patti Smith; The Year Of The Monkey and Leigh Hyams; How Painting Holds Me To The Earth.

Most nourishing, the momentary gratitude and joy of the quiet.

These are the moments I miss Max the most. Like a twin shadow, he followed me out of the bedroom every morning and we had our intimate time -  just the two of us, me gazing at him while I stroked his fur, he gazing back, with a low, growly purr of pure joy, mesmerized in the love we had for each other.

Last night a friend said,
“I don’t consider him gone; I just consider him promoted.” Ten words, like alchemy, helping to heal this raw wound.  




Saturday, December 7, 2019

The Dog Who Flew To France; A Tribute To Max





                                                 Max 2007

Max came to us in the late winter of 2006, via Easley, SC. He was our second Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Looking into his warm speckled gold and brown eyes, we recognized an old soul in a puppy’s body. Max had been here before.

For the first seven years everything was perfect until the day our vet told us Max had a heart murmur, and for three years he monitored his heart. Then synchronicity stepped in.

I had to take Max to the vet for an ear infection, and our regular vet wasn’t available. The new vet did a routine heart check and said, “Whoa, that’s quite a heart murmur.” I mentioned our vet was keeping tabs on it. She never said a word, but her eyes communicated alarm and concern. As soon as I got home, I told my husband, we need to find a cardiologist for Max.

We found, 20 minutes away, in Chicago, practiced one of the top veterinarian cardiologists in the country, Dr. Michael Luethy. We made an appointment straight away. What Dr. Luethy said something we were prepared not to hear; Max’s heart murmur was severe, and he probably won’t make it six more months.

Shock doesn’t come close to the nauseating reality of those few words. What Max needed was open heart surgery to repair his mitral valves. The success of this type of operation in the U.S. is about 40%. Not odds we were willing to take.

Then Dr. Luethy said, “tomorrow I have a client coming in with his dog who had successful open-heart surgery at a clinic in Versailles, France and is coming in for his 90-day checkup. If you would like me to, I can give him your information.”

We learned the clinic’s success was 96% and they had been performing this surgery for almost ten years.

The following day we were on the phone with Dr. Luethy’s client, and with his help and guidance, we contacted the Clinque Bozon, in Versailles. Synchronicity stepped in once again. They were going to be performing this highly specialized surgery in six weeks, and they had one slot open. If Max passed the testing, he would have surgery on July 3, 2016.

From there it was a whirlwind of medical tests, shots and federal government paperwork to prepare Max for international travel. My brilliant husband got him comfort dog status and on June 29, we boarded Air France to Charles de Gaulle airport, Paris. We got bulk- head seats and Max was able to make a bed at our feet.

It’s funny how 19 lbs. of adorable fur can change the mood of a flight. Max was a handsome hit. All the flight attendants had to stop by and say hi.
                            

Air France Celeb

We rented an Airbnb and “lived” in Versailles for three weeks. Because Max couldn’t walk far and we didn’t rent a car, we travelled with a stroller. France being a very dog friendly country, we could take Max everywhere, and we did. So, when people would see us with a stroller, first they assumed we were French, and they assumed a child was in the stroller. To say the least, it was a conversation starter.

      Selfie with Mom

Max’s surgery lasted 10 hours and we watched the entire operation through a big plate glass window; two surgeons, Dr. Masami Uichi (who perfected this 96% successful surgery), assisted by Dr. Jean Hugh Bozon, his wife, Dr. Sabine Bozon, a cardiologist and several technical assistants.
We thought if Max can go through the surgery, we can stand watch over him, and somehow, he would know we were there.

Max stayed in the hospital for seven days, recuperating. Two weeks later, we were back on Air France heading to Chicago’s O’Hare airport. It was Bastille Day, and while we were on the flight, a terrorist drove a van into a crowd of people celebrating liberation. 86 people died. It was surreal.

This past summer, I was petting Max and felt a couple of lumps on the left side of his throat. I thought they were fatty tumors, harmless and not uncommon in older dogs. The diagnosis was lymphoma.

We took Max to Dr. Nathaniel Vos, an oncologist practicing with Dr. Luethy at MedVet. We learned it wasn’t just ordinary lymphoma, but a very aggressive form. We discussed options. Option one had the best outcome for a longer life, the treatment, chemotherapy once a week for 15 weeks.

Having gone through chemo myself 11 years ago, I immediately pictured all sorts of nasty side effects and perhaps the worst, temporary baldness. I was assured that dogs handle chemo differently and don’t generally suffer the same side effects and they definitely don’t go bald. The oncologist also mentioned that we would know within two-six days if the treatment was working.

Max received his first treatment. No ill side effects. Appetite as good as ever, energy level high, overall happiness pretty good. I checked his neck several times a day. And on the third day, like a miracle, the swelling was gone. I couldn’t feel them at all. We were ecstatic. That lasted for four days. I didn’t want to believe what I felt on day six, not only were his lymph nodes as large as ever on the left side, now his lymph nodes on the right side of his neck were swollen as well. Gut punch.

We called the doctor. He was very sorry and suggested a second chemo cocktail, not as effective, but it could extend his life, if it worked. Since he had no ill side effects with the first cocktail, we agreed to try this new one. It didn’t work. And the third option didn’t work, either.

Wandering around in this alternative reality, we finally decided, enough, and Max went on palliative care.

We were feeding him pasture raised eggs, steak and lots of love. Eventually, we couldn’t even tempt him to eat, which meant he wasn’t getting his heart medications or the palliative care drugs. I didn’t have the heart to force him.

Those adoring, wise gold speckled brown eyes were telling me he was staying alive for us. It was time to say goodbye.

Max, our mighty warrior, our love, our playmate, our bedmate, our soulmate, lost his battle and passed away on October 28, 2019.

We had the honor of being the blessed stewards of Max for 13 years, 10 months. Because of Max I am convinced that God-Dog is a spiritual palindrome. Either way you spell it, it means LOVE.

Max has carved a resting place in my heart; there he will nest until I draw my last breath.

Grief

The grief
it comes in waves –
like the ocean’s tide
it ebbs and flows.

My eyes are dry
but my heart cries.

I honor these moments,
they are the offerings
I lovingly place at your altar.

10312019



Thursday, October 31, 2019

Loss



Max
2006-2019

Max could speak volumes through his eyes.

Here’s the irony, three and a half years ago we flew him to Versailles, France to have life saving open heart surgery. The reason we went to France was the success of the surgeon, a Japanese doctor who had developed a technique where the dog’s immune system didn’t attack the sutures, thereby letting everything heal successfully.

In the U.S., the success of this surgery is about 40%. We didn’t like those odds.

Across the ocean, in Clinque Bozon, a small veterinary clinic, they were performing the same surgery with a 96% success ratio. We liked those odds.

We arranged for Max to get comfort dog status, which allowed him to fly in the main cabin with us, and off we went to Versailles for three weeks.

He had his surgery on July 3, 2016. Two and a half weeks later, we flew back home, and he was doing great. We were all so happy. Max had a stronger heart, and we allowed our imaginations to see him with us for many years to come.

About four months ago I took Max to our local vet, because I thought he had developed a couple of fatty tumors on his neck. To my knowledge, fatty tumors are benign and not uncommon in older dogs. Our vet felt his neck and said, “these are not tumors, these are his lymph nodes and they’re swollen.”

Gut punch.

After a few tests, the diagnosis came back as positive for a very aggressive form of lymphoma. After consulting with an oncologist and our local vet, we decided to give Max chemotherapy. With his heart condition, he wasn’t a candidate for the most aggressive treatment, a 19-week protocol where he would have to have a treatment once a week for three weeks, off one week, and back to treatment.

We opted for the second-best course, which was an oral chemo treatment once every three weeks over a 15-week span. Within two days of the treatment, his lymph nodes had decreased dramatically in size. We were smiling, and hopeful and happy.   

Within six days, I noticed his lymph nodes were swollen again, and now the ones on the other side of his neck were also swollen. Severe disappointment. Back to the oncologist, who suggested another course with a different drug. We said, let’s try it. That also failed. We had one option left, another drug.

Max had no ill side effects from the first two treatments, so we tried the last option. That also didn’t work. We all agreed it was time to put him on palliative care. At first, he responded well. Was running to and twirling around his food bowl, loved going out and rolling in the grass and slept in bed with us.

Every day was a blessing as we kept a careful eye on how he was feeling. As time went on, in small increments, we could see he was failing and finally, this Monday, those eyes that could write a book, looked into my eyes, and I knew.

I knew it was time; time to be compassionate and help you to a peaceful end.

I can hardly write this without my face falling to my chest. Oh Max, I miss you so. And the irony, it wasn’t your heart, after all my dear, it was a cruel cancer that took you from us.  

This primordial hole in my heart, I know will heal, and in its place will be a legacy of wonderful memories, where you will nest until I draw my last breath.

Thank you for choosing us. Thank you for giving us almost 13 years of pure joy.

Run, Max, Run


2009


Sunday, October 20, 2019

Inside Out Painting

Are You Willing To Bring Your Own Story?
23x37
Acrylic & spray paint on canvas

"Painting is an illusion, a piece of magic. So What you see is not what you see."
                                                                                            Philip Guston

More so than any other form of art, abstraction requires a dialog between the artist and the viewer.

Since I am painting, not from visual reality, but from what I call inside-out painting; coming from my subconscious instead of the concrete world around me, I need the viewer to bring their own story into the painting in order to complete it. 

That's what's so unique about this category of art; least understood by many, yet a form of communication that demands a collaboration between artist and audience. 

When someone is drawn to my work, it's their own emotions about color and shape and line through which they see my paintings. I believe many people are intimated by abstract art because it doesn't relate to the world they see. But that's also what intrigues. 

This is as difficult to put into words as it is to describe the art. Yet, there are plenty of critics that drown us in "intellectual art speak" elevating the work to an almost biblical level by tossing around big words and complex phrases meant to create a community of the elite, as if this form of art is only for the chosen. 

Rubbish, I say!

Abstract art is closer to birth and childhood than to universities. You don't have to know why you like, you just do. And I am grateful to those who do, because I love making it. 







  

Sunday, September 15, 2019

When your heart speaks, listen

Make Believe
48x48

My creative expression must 
be the most important thing 
in the world to me
 if I am to live artistically, 
and it also must not matter at all 
if I am to live sanely.
                                 Elizabeth Gilbert

It started with an imaginary friend, Illa. I was four, she was timeless. 

I don't know where she came from, one day she was there; someone small just like me, someone secretly just for me.

She and I created alternative worlds to play in. We fabricated outrageous tales, went on forbidden adventures and escaped the chaos of a lonely life. I can't quite remember when she disappeared, just as she appeared, like a magic trick, she was gone. 

The fairy tales may have stopped but my search for creative expression certainly didn't. In my twenties I used my body as a canvas and my wardrobe as the paint. Eventually I turned to more traditional tools; pencils, paper, paint, and here I am today. 

The other day, my adorable Aunt (who unfortunately for me, lives an ocean away in Germany)  apologized, in an email, that she didn't understand my art. I suggested she look through the lens of colors, lines, and shapes instead of the lens of realism. 

We don't have to understand why we are drawn to a piece. Abstraction, in particular, is not meant to be understood through the reality of the visual world. Like poetry, it's meant to be filtered through the mind and felt in the heart.  

When you heart speaks, listen, just rest there, it's amazing what may bubble up to the surface of the conscious. 





Sunday, August 18, 2019

Who knew mushrooms were so smart

Intoxicating Desire
24x24


I am a breathing flesh and blood painter - experimenting with new influences is what pumps my heart and keeps me jumping out of bed in the mornings. 

Another passion, learning. Currently I'm reading How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression and Transcendence by Michael Pollan. Who knew mushrooms were so smart! They are directors of survival. Creating an interwoven matrix of forever fields of communication using cyber like speed, sending messages and nutrients, all right under our feet, to their collaborators above. All which help to shield and nourish us. 

I marvel at the interconnections. It's as mind expanding as the entheogens Pollan explores in his book. These inner connections intrigue me and heighten my awareness of all sentient beings. I try to keep this heighten acuity while out walking my dogs, or alone. Then I bring this curiosity and reverence into my studio. Using color, lines and shapes I explore my connection, our connection, with this marvelous web of life. 

Listen -
are you breathing just a little
and calling it a life? 
                      Mary Oliver

I don't want to have made this journey and breathed just a little. 
Instead, I long to fill my lungs - pulling in all I can with all my might, embracing the everything before sending it all back - and doing that again, and again, and again, and again, until again is no more. 














Sunday, June 16, 2019

Fractured

Fractured

I love this glass...
but for me this glass
is already broken -

when I understand
that this glass
is already broken
every minute is precious. Ajahn Chah


We have become dream walkers skating on the surface of our lives. 

I can understand why some children fight mightily the night against sleep. They fear not waking up, and they, only new to this world, are anxious with curiosity.

Cancer invasion.
Mutant cellular body snatchers. 

Broken glass reflected in death - my mirror image - suddenly all was precious. The feel of my feet on the grass, the ease of my breath, the opera sung by the birds outside my window, the caress of the breeze, the feel of my husband's hand in mine, the gaze that spoke with no words. Life.








Friday, April 26, 2019

A language I know and speak


What is it about a hot cup of coffee that stimulates profound conversations? Perhaps it's that alluring, smoky aroma that livens up our imaginations. 

Over a cup of coffee, a friend recently asked why circles appear in much of my work? And what do they mean?

Trying to fit that inner dialogue into a suit of common conversation was difficult until a brew of sorts bubbled up as a language I know and speak.

That mystical brew poured the following words into the corrugated maze of my brain: circles represent connectedness; connectedness to each other, connectedness to the land and connectedness to the Universe. 

What is holiness but a reverence for the sacred, and we are the sacred; the manifestation of all that is in an ever "widening circle".

I read that the American Indians were puzzled and amused when settlers wanted to "buy their" land. They knew the land was not theirs to sell, it didn't belong to them, they belonged to the land. Unfortunately, that was not the story the settlers were taught. 

Over the decades as felled trees were replaced by sky scrapers, stripped forests became housing developments and fields became asphalt covered roads, we no longer hear the land speak to us. That connection has gone sadly silent. 

But I believe there are many of us who want to sing our song of being, our desire to connect to each other and all the space around us, and I believe we share a reverence for nature and try to tread lightly on her body. 

Book of Hours 12

I live my life in widening circles
that reach out across the world. 
I may not complete this last one
but I give myself to it.

I circle around God,
around the primordial tower.
I've been circling for thousands of years
and I still don't know:
am I a falcon, a storm, or a great song?
                                                                          Rainer Maria Rilke










Saturday, April 6, 2019

Power of Change in Art


Complications #1
24x24
Acrylic and Ink


I am in the midst of a powerful history book, Ninth Street Women, Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Grace Hartigan, Joan Mitchell, Helen Frankenthaler, Five Painters And The Movement That Changed Modern Art by Mary Gabriel.  

The artists of that time were blazing pioneers running from the flames of two horrific World Wars and running into the flames of an art form never seen and little understood.  These then unknown artists, were driven to find a new way of expression, not found in the visual world around them, but in their down-the-rabbit-hole imaginations. 


At first, the public majority jeered and dismissed their art, imagine the courage it took to continue. 



Musician Morty Feldman captured the mood with scalpel like precision:
Art is a crucial, dangerous operation 
we perform on ourselves. 
Unless we take a chance, we die in art.

My change in direction is not nearly as daunting.  I see in this new work the underpinnings of my previous paintings, but now I no longer feel like I'm fighting against the canvas. I feel the work is  freer, flowing from my internal landscape. It's as if I have come to a point, where I feel a sense of belonging with the art. I'm creating in concert, not opposition. My ego is muted and my being has space to speak. 

After months of frustrating experimentation, I painted Complications #1, the first successful work in the new series.  And it sold within 24 hours of posting it on social media. A kiss from the Universe,  I am on the right path...for now. Because just as Feldman said decades ago, if we stagnate in our art, we die in art. 

My curiosity and excitement are bound twins in the quest of where this will lead.  







Monday, February 4, 2019

Is It Unwise To Wish For Too Much?

Beauty's Alchemy
24x24
Acrylic on board

Is it unwise to wish for too much? 
To dream a dream dreamed for us by the Divine? 

Why say; "be careful what you wish for"? 
Why not fill our baskets to the brim with good and earnest wishes 
and strive for them all? 

Isn't that why we are here?
To bear witness to the beauty, mystery and alchemy of this planet.

Beauty and creativity are mirror twins,
deny them presence, 
they lure us into the underbelly
of primordial havoc,
stripped of compassion and love,
we dive into chaos and madness. 

Beauty - a divine breath that blows the heart open.
                                                                      John O'Donohue





Wednesday, January 9, 2019

When We Were First Dreamed




I had a dream last night, or maybe I had a dream within a dream.

I was visited by a beautiful red fox. She had a little white on her face and a tip of black on her tail, as if it had been dipped in Sumi ink.  

Looking at her, I felt a sense of wonder, calm and pure, innocent joy.

An omen? A vision? Perhaps just a delightful visitor reminding me of all the miracles that surround us.

It’s 6 am on a Sunday morning. It snowed again last night. It’s still very dark outside, so I can really see how much more of this pure, white, cotton candy ice is on the ground by the light it’s reflecting.
It’s very pretty and makes the world very quiet.

My fox, she was standing in the snow.

Journal entry-February, 11, 2018

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

On being an immigrant

Sacred Guardians
detail


My mother and I immigrated to the United States when I was nine years old.

We were coming from Wiesbaden, Germany to New York City.

We weren't fleeing anything. She had married an American soldier and along with my five year old step-brother, the four of us arrived safely on U.S. shores. 

No ICE agents, no border control guards, awaited us. 

In the 1930s and 1940s there was a mass exodus out of the inferno in Europe. Many came to the peaceful, welcoming shores of the United States of America, seeking asylum. 

Together, with the creative caldera that was bubbling in New York City, America became a central force for creative expression and experimentation. Science, architecture, dance, music, sculpture, photography, psychoanalysis, painting, all exploded with newness. 

Among the painters living in America, who would tear down the establishment of realism and create a whole new world of seeing, were; Motherwell, Frankenthaler, the de Koonings, Krasner,  Pollack,  Kline, Resnik, Rauschenberg, Hartigan, and Mitchell. 

Then came the wartime flight of "the most amazing exodus in history. Internationalism was thrust upon New York by Europe." wrote Tom Hess; ArtNews Editor. 

Motherwell described the scene as a "kind of Istanbul...a great crossing place. A great bazaar." 

Those immigrants included Hans Hoffman, the Albers, Einstein, Enrico Fermi, Levi Strauss, Erich Fromm, Tocanini, Balanchine, Marcel Duchamp, Breton, Gropius, Mies van der Rohe, and Dali. 

Seemingly overnight the U.S. became the throne of the most advanced thinking in the western world and the apex of the art world; where genius mingled with the everyday and ideas filled the air like  pixie dust. 

I wonder, where would we be today if these people, along with thousands of others who helped weave the tapestry of our country's altruism and intellectualism, were denied entry?

Imagine President Roosevelt closing our borders under the canopy of fear that caravans of Nazis and Fascists were invading our homeland borders. Would we have continued on our path of becoming the lighthouse for the exchange of new thoughts, ideas, equality, hard work and dreams? Would we have made the scientific discoveries that are still informing scientists today?

I fear not.