So I watched the episode of Art21 that focused on artists who's work functions as a protest... because its something that I consider fairly often. I don't consider myself a protestor in the general sense of artist creating volitile or repugnant images that make you realize what we're doing is wrong. I like pretty things, quite a lot really, and I see nothing wrong with wanting to make things that are beautiful. I often feel that focusing on the negative and pointing out the wrongs is a good way to create apathy and depression. Those emotions don't usually get anything done. Instead they result in people tuning out, getting drunk, getting high, sleeping all day, staring at mindless tv (has anyone seen the latest animal planet craze of pet talent show competitions?) or whatever other escape they can create. In short, nothing happens.
This doesn't mean that I don't see the value in protesting or pointing out the wrongs. By all means people should be aware. But it becomes overwhelming. And so my mind brings me to my so-called solution. Beauty is all too often ignored. Ansel Adams brought reform by photographing the beauty of wild and virgin American lands. Its not an unheard of approach.
Culture is often beautiful and often misunderstood. Its long been the practice to consider the "other" to be wrong or ugly or horrifying. Culture is also often destroyed by conflict and the desire to force one's culture on another. I was horrified that day in March in 2003. I was a distraught teenager who's mother was knocking on the door asking why on earth this event upset me so much. I couldn't really answer her... I was just scared. Years later, the war continues, and I know a little more about what there is to be so distraught about. Mosques have been destroyed, landscapes scarred, people killed and chased away from their homes. Politicians can spew their purposes all they want, but a culture is slowly being erradicated. The more I looked, the more I realized that its much larger than the war I originally protested and mourned, its much larger than any one event. Its really a lot larger than I can even comprehend, so I'll take my bits and pieces and put them together so I can understand.
This leads me to a way of working, culturual cut and paste... Middle class white american mom's making scrapbooks of their kids, intellectuals recreating historical painting methods and mediums, historical art movements and Islamic art. Its a whole lot of what happens to catch my eye. But within that selection, a pattern of two cultures who are trying to kill each other with astonishing similarities comes out. I'd like to think that the familiarizing the people around me with the beauty that can be found and combined from two seemingly rival sources can be a protest. I'd like to think that familiarizing the "enemy" creates empathy. And when the "towel heads" or whatever rediculous horrible name they've created this week become familiar, we won't be so quick to think that they need to be erradicated.
Some day, I'd like to see the mosques of Iran and the mountains of Afghanistan, and I think its a little messed up that its currently not safe for me to do so. And that's largely why I work with the particular patterns that I do.