Sunday, February 26, 2017

Thoughts on Culture

I have been thinking about two unrelated but synchronistic experiences recently. I read an article  online about the four things white Americans fear about racism. One of these fears is the fear of losing control of the cultural narrative of this country. They believe, until now, the American culture has been defined by white people. With the rise of minority populations and (I am adding this male perspective here) equal rights for women, white men are afraid they will lose control of their own culture, one that has benefited them more than others.

I recently purchased Laatikko/Box, a sound recording by my friend Sara Pajunen. On this recording Sara plays her violin, edits in other sounds and effects and has documented interviews with five or six Finnish immigrants. Sara and I both share a Finnish heritage. This project was highlighted in City Pages. In that interview, Sara stated that one of the things immigrants said they missed the most was their culture. In essence, by emigrating, they lost their culture.

As an artist who spends his time consciously creating culture, these two revelations hit home for me. I find the relationship between one's personal culture and the larger societal culture very interesting. The United States has always been a culture of immigrants with various influences coming in waves from overseas. With each wave, individuals found their own space in which to foster their own personal culture; their set of values, conventions, or social practices.

It seems obvious that, throughout history, one's personal culture was almost a subset of the societal culture - communal shame and influence were so great. But in these anonymous times of 7 billion living people the sheer number of personal cultures have watered down the control mechanisms of societal culture. It has become like news on the internet, you can find a culture that resonates with your personal psyche and claim it no matter whether it is your original culture or not. Or you can create a new culture if you find enough like-minded people. Emo and Goth are examples of this.

Obviously, not all whites fear this loss of cultural control. Many have very little say in the overall cultural narrative as it is. We just bump along and use what we can and leave the rest. As I stated, communal shame has been watered down, so people are more free to choose. My latest thoughts are that those who fear losing control of the cultural narrative are really just afraid of not being able to shame people. That is their trade, as we've seen these last few years. Trading shame and fear is more important to them than any narrative, and we know this because their narrative changes monthly, if not daily.

There are places in this society where people find peace and acceptance instead of confrontation, shame and fear. My goal is that Jack-in-the-Pulpit Art Studio is one of those places and that this is apparent in my work and in my interactions with others. The world will only move forward if we create cultures of acceptance, kindness and love.

Oil Painting - Sinkside Compost #2

Sinkside Compost #2
Oil Paint on Panel
9" x 12"

I have a tupperware container next to my kitchen sink where I place all my food scraps that will end up in my compost pile. As part of my exploration of "edibility" I have found my sinkside compost an interesting subject. It changes weekly and contains food that either once was edible but now is not or it contains that part of food that is inedible; egg shells, potato peels, etc. These compost paintings (I plan on making a series) are painted on a cradled panel that I constructed. They are small and intimate, like food scraps. I will share more as this series develops.