Art Activism show + It’s electric!

As I hinted a few posts ago, one of my paintings was accepted into an art show. The opening is this week, so here are the details… I am happy to invite you to the Art Activism group exhibition at the ZACC!

Some of the pieces at the show...
Some of the pieces you’ll find at the show… (courtesy ZACC website)
Just a tiny little slice of the piece.
…and a tiny little slice of mine, as a teaser.

From their website:

“Join the Zootown Arts Community Center for the Art Activism Group Art Show that will be kicking off the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival.  Artworks take on a number of political, cultural, social, and environmental issues that are pertinent to the conversation today.  Enjoy an evening of thought-provoking art, ideas, and conversation– oh and wine!  

“Please join us in welcoming these moving and relevant artworks to the gallery during the grand opening February 12, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. If you are unable to attend the show the artworks will be on display in the Main Gallery for the month of February. Please stop by during our open hours, 11am to 6pm, Monday through Saturday.”

The ZACC is just north of the railroad tracks, at 235 North 1st St West in Missoula. This will also be a great year to check out a few films in the coming weeks, support local filmmakers, and indie movie theaters like the Roxy, the Wilma, and the Silver. J. and I haven’t made it out yet, but this will be the year we start.

So… acceptance is nice. I admit to shouting in gladness upon learning that someone accepted my gritty, gooey painting made of oil paint, twigs, trash, seeds and moss to a show. But now that I’ve started putting things out there again, there is always the specter of rejection. I’ve taken it hard in the past: resenting a city art committee that picks anything with a moose, grizzly or eagle on it, no matter how garishly over-Photoshopped, over what I (foolishly) thought was a shoe-in. Or the time I donated a painted satellite dish to a charity silent auction, only to have it ridiculed by the stand-up comedian who provided the evening’s entertainment… ouch! The answer will not always be yes, and I have no magic shield for deflecting the arrows of No. Patience and acceptance are a few small tools. Also: art work is for life, for growth, for beauty. So do the work, and detach from results… right? Easier said than done, but it’s time to try.

My signpainting mentor (and life mentor) Jo Knox told me that artists should encourage one another, and rejoice at others’ successes. There is room for all of us, she says. Perhaps that’s another antidote for rejection: it’s another person’s turn to shine. Not one of us needs to be The Best all the time. We each just need space for one, and grace and gratitude for the rest.

Before I close, a few images from a different type of art activism: painting a wall in the new fifth-grade classroom at Home ReSource, for a program called the Zero Waste Ambassador Program (ZWAP!). Jeremy at HRS came up with a fun, comic-book logo…

…and here it is translated into a 7′ x 10′ painting using donated paint.

So, these pre-cynicism kids are going to learn about reducing waste– even eliminating it– and will help the Missoula community take action to join them. Each kid will sign the wall after taking the class, so there will be a visual representation of how many kids are ambassadors for this cause. What a privilege to be involved! It was also a lot of fun to meet the others working on the classroom: volunteer electricians, staff, interns. The whole building feels like a carpenter-artist’s studio, with a Little Free Library and a native plant garden out front, people making rainbow-colored drawers in one room, upcycling salvaged materials for sale in another, the upstairs floor made of an old bowling alley, and a guy making a sizzling, snapping Jacob’s Ladder in the back workshop. Each in our own artistic space, bouncing electric creative energy off one another, until it releases into the atmosphere… ZWAP!

The nifty, kid-height coat rack... pick your hook!
The nifty, kid-height coat rack… pick your hook!



Been thinking about this a while. Also, ignoring it. It’s been two months, winter is coming on, and the tent cities are scattering. Where will the energy go?

I have not been a part of it. I can’t get excited any more, or think it will do any good. Of the dozens of protests I attended years ago, almost all left me feeling useless, one-sided, low. Shouting simplistic slogans at nobody. Stale songs from the sixties on repeat. The choreographed dance of marchers and riot police, a marionette show of discontent.

The School of the Americas civil disobedience touched me, when I was arrested along with several thousand others, banned and barred from the property, singing songs in memory of the disappeared. But it happens every year, and the durn place is still training military terrorists, with a sugar-coating of human rights. We marched in view of nobody to the immigrant detention center in Georgia, witnessing to an impoverished town of mostly African-Americans whose only industry was low-paying jobs at the private prison. Against war in DC. Against the PATRIOT Act. Mourning the death of Paul Wellstone in Minnesota. The sole lasting point of light was the march for affirmative action in Cincinnati. The only truly diverse protest I’d belonged to, we walked through the neighborhoods to the courthouse together, people joining along the way. Years later, waiting for a bus in Minneapolis, the headline on a newspaper vending machine caught my eye: affirmative action had been upheld in the five states that the legal challenge had affected. Victory. I actually jumped for joy. But what a rarity.

So my experience inclines me to skepticism about outcomes. Who are these people? To get all corporate, what’s the mission statement? To get all English teacher, what’s the thesis? What’s the solution? Do they know that while maybe we’re the 99% in the USA, globally we’re still the 1%? Do they remember that this didn’t start with Lehman Brothers, that lots of people have been living in a recession their entire lives due to intersections of gender, class, ability, and/or plain old bad luck? Moreover, I’ve heard it suggested that the mainstream publicity paid to these protests is part of a deliberately planned timeline that will see most Americans coming to resent these people just as elections arrive, ensuring that even worse governance will ensue.

But one day I saw that Angela Davis was there. She’s righteous. She says that it’s learning how to unite and communicate and respect each other first, then the action will come. I get pissed at the shiny, plastic anchor who keeps pressing her for “talking points” and a cohesive message. Which is pretty much getting pissed at myself, so I back off that angle.

I’ve already put in my lifetime share of participation – and facilitation, god help me – in consensus discussions. And faux consensus discussions. Already been to as many meetings of any kind as I need for the rest of my life, actually. Guess I must be getting old.

We are poised at the end of this empire. Any victory possible will be a ceding, an integration, taking our proper place in the global order. Usually the end of empire is ugly and ungracious. Invariably another rises, just as avaricious, just as hungry. A delicious sliver of me looks forward to watching the fall, is fascinated by living at the edge of the cliff, in a beautiful wilderness, corrupted, privileged, and precious all the same.

So folks, go for it. You’re obviously not perfect. There are isms floating about those camps, as they float around the whole country, polluting the air. But any fledgling democratic movement has my thumbs-up. May your star rise. May this… may anything… work.