Studio Art classes teach one how to express themselves through the Arts, but they don’t teach one what to express.
Creative Writing classes teach one how to express themselves through language, but they do not teach one what to express.
Neither Studio Art nor Creative Writing, as disciplines, lead directly to a job.
Because the content is entirely up to the maker.
I’ve been giving thought to the question of what it is I would like to express, both as an artist, and a writer. There are some books I was browsing online, earlier; instead of paying around $35 for them, though, I ordered them through my library. By this time next week, I should have them, and be able to tell if I actually want to buy them, or not.
I’ve kind of been on a natural history kick, recently. A few nights ago, out of the blue, I remembered a book, called A History of the Earth, which I was gifted when I was a kid. I let family borrow it and never saw it again; though it was a lucky thing that I remembered the title — which allowed me to search for it. It was this book which introduced me to “The Year Without Summer,” a relatively recent occurrence (at the earliest, after the colonization of the Americas — just looked it up; 1816 AD) which was caused by a gigantic volcanic eruption. Ash from the eruption filtered the sunlight so much, that it snowed in North America in June. There was also a disease epidemic, though I can’t remember what the disease was (cholera?) or where that specific epidemiological event I’m thinking of, was centered.
This reminded me of a book that I’d checked out a while ago…actually, a number of them…which I ended up not reading, and returning. One of them focuses on the fact that we’re in the middle of the sixth mass extinction event in the history of the planet. I don’t think that I’d heard this statement quite in these terms, prior to having taken Beginning Painting and having the Environmental Justice assignment.
I’m thinking that, to situate knowledge of the Sixth Extinction, it would help to have knowledge of the other five; that’s where Natural History ties in. Active movement towards changing the structures that got us where we are today…? That ties into politics, economics, and as a basis, in my case, spirituality.
Though it’s pretty evident for me that the beginning of my questioning the status quo started off with confronting racism, sexism, and heterosexism (i.e. the belief that heteronormativity [performing gender within and according to the roles socially ascribed to “men” and “women”] and heterosexuality alone, out of all variants of gender and sexuality, are natural, normal, and right), it’s actually kind of amazing in that my drive to unearth the roots of this has led me to intersectional feminism. Intersectionality…well, it’s kind of difficult to describe here. I get the idea that it is a 3rd-wave or generationally later form of feminism. (Some people say we’re in the 4th wave already; I personally don’t know exactly how the 4th wave differs from the 3rd wave, or how exactly the 3rd wave differed from the 2nd wave, aside from sex-positivity [which the 2nd wave was against], and a greater attention to the marginalization of racial and gender minorities [as a problem] than the 2nd wave.) The 2nd wave of feminism started in the 1970’s, at least locally in the U.S.; what’s generally called the 1st wave is tied to women’s suffrage, or the right of women to vote.
I grew up around 2nd wave feminism, probably pretty close to ground zero. I can still remember places like the Good Earth restaurant, Whole Earth Access, The Nature Company, REI (which is still in existence)…I could go on, but probably shouldn’t. Anyhow, I was part of this culture which cared about things like the Sierra Club. The Sierra Club was started by the naturalist John Muir, who seems to have been one of the first environmentalists…Naturalism, itself, goes back at the very least to people like Henry David Thoreau and Walt Whitman, in a movement which (I’m thinking, but can’t be sure) was called Transcendentalism. (We had to learn about this in school.)
What I’m living through right now is the aging of the baby boomers (who would have started out being exposed to 2nd wave feminism and environmental activism), who basically parented Gen X and the Millenials. One of the people whom I’m thinking of who has influenced me is probably in this age range, and was more than likely involved in civil rights activism and environmental activism in the 1970’s.
So right now we’re dealing with intersectional feminism…I’ve dealt with transfeminism, however, I wouldn’t say that the latter wholly characterizes me, at this point. I’ve been moving farther away from identity politics as I’ve aged, and as I’ve seen how really flimsy the concepts which identities are based on, can be. (I could get farther into that, but again…probably shouldn’t.)
Intersectional feminism posits a number of overlapping spheres of oppression (of which gender and race are only two), which determine one’s level of “privilege” within society. I’m not going to get into it because truly it bores me, but the key term to reference here is “kyriarchy.” For a lot of my youth, I was involved in activism based around the two spheres of sexual orientation and gender identity; however, having aged and having encountered much, much more than these two narrow topics in relation to what has made my own life more difficult, I find the concept of kyriarchy useful.
I used to say that if people didn’t hate me for one reason, they would hate me for another; and this is basically the heart of what I’m talking about. Those who have multiple spheres of oppression impacting them have a much harder time going about life, than those who are relatively “privileged”.
That’s not to say that I buy this mode of thought all the way, because I don’t. Particularly, when people (even relatively oppressed people) start making up rules as to what some ethnic group can and can’t do, because they’re “privileged,” or “oppressed,” really irks me. People use physical signifiers and heritage as shorthand. Basically, we/they tend to assume that because someone looks like us or doesn’t, that means that they have certain rights and social limitations. However, the shorthand doesn’t work in all cases.
When I was in Sociology at my first university, the way one of my professors acted was in all ways how one would expect a racist white man from the era of segregation to act; however, he was dark-skinned, and therefore, in his maxim, he could not be “racist” because his definition of “racism” was different than the rest of the world’s, excluding Sociology. “Racism” referred to white people who had power and wielded it against non-white people by utilizing structural inequality, and he was of African descent. Therefore, at most, he could be “bigoted,” even though he was in a position to exert power against all of his minority students within a system which was based on structural inequality.
Of course, though, this calls into question what one means by “white”. If “white” means one gives up one’s culture to integrate fully into a postcolonial society as an oppressor, then he was white and he was racist, despite his skin color. If “white” refers to something else — like skin color — then the term becomes meaningless.
Of course, though, I have had it implied by one !&#*(%$ online that I was white because I wasn’t Buddhist (at the time) and Japanese people should know about Buddhism. Despite the fact that I saw in a news article on NHK (I think) that when polled, only like 8% of Japanese people actually feel themselves to be religious.
That is, it’s just more racism. It implies that as a mixed-race person, there is a way I’m supposed to be, and if I don’t conform to that, then therefore I’m white.
But that person had issues, anyway…
Anyhow, there is something to be mined here, I can tell. There’s some paradox. I feel there is a difference, though, between shaping oneself to fit the mold of an oppressor, and defying the mold of a bigot. There’s a lot of room between those options…though maybe some people can’t tell the difference.
I started off this post realizing that I’d have to figure out what the message, or messages, were that I’d want to communicate through my writing, and/or art. It’s really the only way I feel I’ll get anywhere, where it comes to utilizing my skills at expression. I have to decide what it is I want to express.
That, in turn, means I need to zero in on what’s important to me, and start researching it. We did do research for our Environmental Justice paintings. I can do the same for essays. I can even submit essays, once I become well-enough read. But this has to be self-directed. I can’t wait around for people to give me assignments. I have to do it on my own.