I was scrolling down our courses blog post feed in hopes of finding something that would catch my eye. Well, hold and behold, I have found it. Molly Mattison and her group wrote a piece titled “LIVE IN ART??” and as a self proclaimed art enthusiast and part time painter and sculptor when I’m not rambling out of my house trying to make it to class like any other college student, this title immediately caught my attention. I clicked on it and began reading. It was absolutely indulging. I find that there is a huge sense of satisfaction for me when someone manages to divulge into the importance of art. To me, art is everything and so before I begin, I would first like to introduce the following section from Mattison’s group post. It goes as follows:
There’s a trend in human history of using art to pass on impactful information. Art becomes a medium through which we can share knowledge, express reverence and even remind others of something that once was. Following the trend of civilizations past who used artforms like sculptures, carvings, pottery etc., the Great Tohoku Earthquake has resulted not only in long-lasting consequences, but also in art mediums which have captured the meaning of its experience to victims and witnesses.
Okay, now we can begin. The reason I decided to add that particular section of the blog post is because I find it captures the essence of how art functions and why it’s so important. Just like the group articulated, art is used to pass on information and create self expression. Ancient civilizations have used various mediums of art to create a story of some sort and create preservation. It’s their mark in the world. N.K Jeminsin introduces these sentiments throughout her work in the way she creates characters as representations of art. The most immediate example we can all think of is the creation of the stone eaters who literally look like stones (or sculptures). This all brings me back to a specific day in class when we looked at the sculptures by Charles Henri Joseph Cordier. The sculptures titled “African Venus” and “Said Abdullah” were highly respected in the 19th century “after the abolishment of slavery.” The bronze busts were based off of a young African model named Seïd Enkess who had been a former slave in France. So, where am I going with this? Well, not only did these sculptures embody and celebrate the perseverance of marginalized groups in the face of adversity and great injustice, but it also parallels to how Jemisin uses art as a way of reminding people of historical events, just as we saw throughout the development of the stonelore. (Also, the sculptures were made of bronze rather than white marble, ergo, making the sculptures darker in color and therefore closer to the authenticity of the actual person itself). I’m not entirely sure who pointed this out in class but it was a great comment!
This was probably one of my favorite in class discussions. Now as a little bonus I wanted to add some of my own personal paintings and sculptures that I have created in order to celebrate my ethnicity, my family history and as a way to express myself.
p.s: the sculptures are inspired by Olmec colossal heads. The stone heads are that of the Olmec civilization of the gulf coast of Mexico (1200 BCE-400 BCE). They are considered to be some of the most mysterious and debated artifacts from the ancient world because the stone used to create the massive heads were made from stone materials not found near the area. No one really knows how they managed to create such massive sculptures or how the got their hands on that particular rock material.
I must say, I quite enjoyed Jose Romero’s The World of Children: Immigrant & Oregene Bound blog post. It was compelling, beautifully rendered and intimate. The short anecdotes Romero shares about his parents immigration narrative takes the blog post into an entirely new level of human connectivity. Its blend of sophistication along with its parallels to N.K Jeminsin’s work makes this blog post insightful and complex.
Not only so, but Romero is also successful in discussing our current political climate and drawing in connections to Jemisin’s series that we’ve been discussing throughout the semester. Although fiction, Romero understands the power of a narrative and the complexities and underlying commentary present in Jemisin’s The Fifth Season. Now, full disclosure: our current political climate is intense, just as Romero explicitly suggested in his post. This we know. From uproar rage from protestors demonstrating their disapproval of the President Donald Trump administration, to media frenzy on Trump’s abnoxious twitter tweets and his “Zero Tolerance Policy” on immigration, to the migrant caravan traveling from Central America to the U.S border, the sexual allegations against now Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Jeff Session’s resignation letter to President Trump as Attorney General after recusing himself from the Robert Muller ongoing Russia investigation and well, the list goes on. What Romero does though is delve into the issue of immigration and compare the immigration narrative to that of the narrative of the Oregenes in the world Jemison created. The stillness in The Fifth Season, for Romero, is that similar to the world we live in—Earth.
In the Fifth Season, we learn that in their world there are Oregenes, the Sanzeds and stone eaters. All these groups represent “different races”and although we all know there is only one race—the human race, this metaphorical representation in the novel between the both makes the Fifth Season work in multiple levels of interpretation. Further, the composition of all these groups in Jemisin’s work only further strengthens its powerful connection to the world we live in now- reality. And just like in the world of the Fifth Season, the construction of a superior and inferior race is very well present. Oregenes are outcasted and feared, just as many minority groups are. Romero expresses this similarity throughout his post which made me appreciate it even more. As we grew to learn, the life of an orogene is anything but blissful. In fact, being born an orogene almost guarantees you a life of extreme exploitation with little to no sympathy from your peers. Just as Jija’s narrative, immigrants and minorities often live a life of violence and persecution. In his blogpost, Romero expresses this similarity, specifically, that of the power of the Fulcrum and the U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement and how they both have the authority and power to separate children from their parents. Overall, I must say Romero’s blog post was not only informative but did an excellent job putting things into perspective.
While scrolling through my peer’s blog posts one in particular caught my eye, Denis Hartnett’s “Separating Good Art From Problematic Artists.” If I am not mistaken, I was in that discussion group where we delved about the complexities of trying to draw a line between articulated and well versed art, and that of the artists troublesome views and ideals.
It all began with our readings of H.P Lovecraft, “one of the most influential horror writers of all time,” as Denis himself expressed in his blogpost. Indeed, one recognises Lovecraft’s work as exceptional, and it has indeed managed to influence and inspire many artists and writers today, including N.K Jemisin. What Lovecraft created is a brilliant outline of work, all demonstrating his talent as a writer and as a creative thinker. What most critics today still continue to struggle with however, is trying to separate the inspiration behind his work, which is heavily linked to his anti-semite, racist, and sexist commentary and attitude, with that of the quality and content of his work itself.
It comes to no surprise that Lovecraft would so unapologetically link his work to his convictions and perceptions of the world, as he, as a writer, has the freedom and ability to do so, as anyone else can. Isn’t that the true beauty of creating? The truth is, every writer has a story and a background. Whether good or bad, we should not just alienate ourselves as learners and readers to a specific text because we simply don’t agree with their politics. It is our responsibility as students to be able to delve into work and acknowledge its structural and semantic ability, all while articulating well rounded analysis’s. We must separate good art from problematic artists, not doing so would be an act of disservice to ourselves.