Thursday, June 25, 2020

Teddy Roosevelt

Did you see in the New York Times that the statue of Teddy Roosevelt that strides in front of the Museum of Natural History here in New York will be moved?
I wrote about it at Thanksgiving time, 2018. Not to say I told you so, but I addressed the issues that Ellen Futter,  the museum's president has raised.
Here's what she said;

“We believe that moving the statue can be a symbol of progress in our commitment to build and sustain an inclusive and equitable society. Our view has been evolving. This moment crystallized our thinking and galvanized us to action."

Theodore Roosevelt IV, a great-grandson of the 26th president said: “The world does not need statues, relics of another age, that reflect neither the values of the person they intend to honor nor the values of equality and justice."

 The Art Students League weighed in because the artist, James Earle Fraser, taught there from 1907 to 1914. They said he is far better known for an entirely different piece, End of The Trail, which depicts the suffering caused to Native Americans by Euro-American settlement.

Here's what I wrote in 2018.
   Then there’s the statue of Teddy Rosevelt standing in the center of his memorial on the Eastern facing side of the Museum. His figure, heroic on horseback, is flanked by two men on foot, an African and a Native American.  They were intended by the artist to be allegorical figures of Africa and North America, expressing TR’s love for the two great continents and his friendliness toward all races.  Today they make us cringe at the implicit racism. The same work of art seen in two different times evokes very different responses. I decided not to draw the two men.  Was that the right choice?  Should I have honored them by not ignoring them or would I be seen as racist as well?

And here's a link to the entire post.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Happy Fathers Day!

Here are some of the fathers in my family.

As I celebrate these lovely men, I don't think it diminishes their achievements to remember that the opportunities they enjoyed were not open to all fathers.

I think about this poem by African-American poet 
Robert Hayden

Those Winter Sundays

Sundays too my father got up early 
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold, 
then with cracked hands that ached 
from labor in the weekday weather made 
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him. 

I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking. 
When the rooms were warm, he’d call, 
and slowly I would rise and dress, 
fearing the chronic angers of that house, 

Speaking indifferently to him, 
who had driven out the cold 
and polished my good shoes as well. 
What did I know, what did I know 
of love’s austere and lonely offices?

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Loving Day

Loving Day June 12

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only love can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.  Martin Luther King.

June 12 is Loving Day, the anniversary of Loving v. Virginia, the aptly named 1967 Supreme Court Decision that vacated the two 1-year sentences of Richard Loving and Mildred Jeter Loving, who each pled guilty to a law criminalizing marriages between persons of different races, on the grounds that the Virginia statutory system violated the equal protection and due process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.
The decision was relied upon in U.S. v. Windsor, which granted Edith Windsor a marriage exemption of $363,053 after her Canadian-wed wife passed away and the IRS denied her state tax refund, striking down the defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional in the process. 
It was most recently cited in Obergefell v. Hodges, which held that Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennesee’s statutory definitions of marriage violated the Fourteenth Amendment and that all states must license and recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state.

If we were able to meet in church this Sunday we would celebrate at coffee hour with heart-shaped cookies and chocolate kisses because Love is Love is Love.
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."  I Corinthians 13

 A long time ago I started to make collages out of torn paper in a little blank book.  It provided a rest from the laborious detailed pen and ink drawings, and I played with color, texture, proportion, and scale.  I've taken some of the color field pages to make my version of a Pride Flag.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

This Week

Leonora Reyes

As I walked across Horatio Street to the gym a little girl approached me and asked for help.
“I’m lost,” she said. 
I looked around to make sure she wasn’t trying to lure me into an alley where a big scary guy would mug me but she was alone.
“My mother gave me five dollars to go to the store and buy milk but there was a man who chased me and I ran down the subway to get away from him and I came up here. Would you take me to the Police Station?   And I’m hungry.”
I asked where she lived and she didn’t know that or her phone number but she did know that if she got to a police station they would take care of her. She was seven.
Never sorry for an excuse to skip the gym I took her to a deli and asked where the police station was.  So far I hadn’t needed to know. I bought her a healthy snack of a banana and a pint of milk.  
We chatted as we walked to the 6th precinct.  Her name was Leonora Reyes. She carried a large paper bag that contained a coloring book, a bunch of scallions and a yogurt.  Where did she get that?   She was a little vague. Had she spent all her mother’s money?
At the police station the officers took her name and put it out on the wires but no one had reported her missing. That worried me and I wondered if I was now responsible for her—should I adopt her?  Become her foster mother?  Why hadn’t anyone missed her?

The officers assured me that it would be OK.  They bought Leonora treats from the vending machines— Coke and a candy bar— and she ditched the milk and the banana.

Arthur came to meet me and we hung around but Leonora had lost interest in me for the officers and the coke machine.  At last, word came that her mother had called and was coming to get her.

Shouldn’t I stay to meet her mother?” I asked Arthur.  “No, you’ve done enough.”
The officer said to Leonora, “Aren’t you going to thank the lady and give her a hug?”  And she did.

A few weeks later the police called.  
“We’ve got a call that Leonora Reyes is missing and your name is listed with hers in our records.  Is she with you?”  
“No, I haven’t seen her since that day.”  
“She seems to do this often,” he said, “Don’t worry, we’ll find her.”
That happened more than forty years ago.
I believe that the vast majority of our police officers are like the kind men who took care of Leonora.  But how clueless am I? Every dealing I’ve ever had with the police has been respectful, even when I was pulled over for driving at night with the lights off.  I said, “you know, I’ve never known how to turn on these lights! Aren’t they supposed to go on automatically?”  The officer turned on the lights for me and sent me on my way.
As I said, clueless. I taught my children to look to the police for help in trouble but how many mothers have to say the exact opposite?
Derek Chauvin is not just a bad apple. He had 16 complaints against him and those are just the ones that got reported. Something has allowed him, his four partners and many others like them to flourish. 

Windows were smashed in my neighborhood the other night, including at Warby Parker, who give away a pair of their eyeglasses for every one they sell.  
It’s hard to see what smashing windows can accomplish but what do you do with helpless rage?

I found this paragraph in a 1993 NY Times review of James Q. Wilson’s book, The Moral Sense. I cut it out and pasted it in my little book of collages.

“Anger is the necessary handmaiden of sympathy and fairness, and we are wrong to try to make everyone sweet and reasonable. But anger, like those moral senses that it exists to defend, must be checked by other senses. Those others are self-control and duty. By the same token, self-satisfaction and narrow loyalties, which are emotions growing out of self-control and duty, must be checked by other sentiments, and these are sympathy and fairness.”

My new hero, Rapper Killa Mike, says, “Don’t burn down your own house.  
Plot, Plan, Strategize, Organize Mobilize.”
And also, Fill out your census form and register to vote.
As we take his words to heart, let’s find ways to channel our anger into constructive action, and move forward together.
 I pledge to examine my self-satisfaction and narrow loyalties.

I posted this collage a while ago—it’s George Washington thanking Lafayette for his help in winning our revolution.  I’ve read that, while Lafayette revered Washington all his life, he also never gave up urging Washington to renounce slavery and free his slaves.
We can love our country and still see clearly that there is much work to do to live out the promise of her ideals.

This week we remember Christo, whose work, as Michael Kimmelman said in the Times yesterday, “generated no small measure of happiness and awe.”
I wrote about the Gates project in my blog last March. It was a magical experience for me, in no small measure because of the spirit of cooperation, of working together to build something beautiful to share with the world.

Christmas in July

I've been feeling a little uninspired and overwhelmed by papers and stuff, torn by needing to clear the decks and get rid of everything ...