26 October 2009

Ship Mosaic Progress

On Saturday Nova & I went up to the cities for the day. First we went to the MAEP meeting at the MIA. It was a meeting for electing the new panel members. Nova went browsing around the museum while the meeting went on since she's not a Minnesota artist, but rather a Nevada artist (and therefore not eligible to vote).

After the meeting we did a quick retracing of Nova's steps to see the exhibits she thought interesting. Then we went to lunch at a little cafe on Raymond street called Jay's Cafe. We originally were planning to have lunch at Key's - also on Raymond street, but they close at 2pm and it was just after 2 when we arrived. Jay's is just up the block, so we walked there and had a great lunch for under $20.

We got to J. Ring Glass at 2:55pm and started looking at beads first. The clerk came over to us at a few minutes after 3pm and told us they were closed, and that we would have to come back on another day. When I explained that I live 2 1/2 hours away she let me grab the stained glass that I needed. The blue piece that I got was exactly the color that I wanted - I had the sticker off of a previously purchased piece. The tan is too light, too butterscotchy, but perhaps the shop in La Crosse will have the tan that I need so that I don't have to go back to Saint Paul before I can finish this mosaic.

After J. Ring Glass, we went to Mosaic on a Stick where Nova selected a few special items for the mosaic she wants to make. I got tan and blue grout for the mosaic. I also mentioned that I was planning a mosaic made of glass scavenged from the Mississippi river. The owner of the shop said not to grout it, that grout will get into the scratches on the glass and ruin it. It was great to get that advice.

After Mosaic on a Stick we went to Wet Paint and selected some papers for making books. Nova wants to make a book or two. She's making one using a technique she's done before, and later I will teach her the long-stitch book method that I know.

On Sunday I worked on the ship mosaic using the blue and white swirled glass I got on Saturday. Here's how the mosaic looks right now:

There's a bit of glare on the glass, but for the most part this is a pretty good photo of the mosaic.

It's getting closer to being done... Now I need to set up a photo space and the lighting for photographing mosaics without glare on the glass.

23 October 2009

Facebook discussion

I've been having a discussion on Facebook that happened when I posted the following as my status/thoughts:

Shameful greed has lead to where we are in regard to healthcare, yet Republicans and conservatives continue to defend this immoral system. What a bunch of greedy hypocrites. They cart out their religion when it's about people's sex lives, but only talk free-market, free-market, at the expense of their neighbors, when it comes to real moral issues like health care.

While I love the spontaneous discussion that happened, Facebook's character limits have driven me here to continue the discussion...

CHARLA: amen.

DAVE: I guarantee, if they could get campaign funds from Satan himself they'd do it despite their "christian values".

HEATHER: Just to be clear, I'm pretty sure that there are democrats that are opposed to universal health care to...

DAVE: Right... I'll extend my above statement to any politician who claims "christian values" are important to them.

ME: Dave... the fact that we don't take care of everyone that needs care is THE moral failing in my book. And by "everyone" I sort of mean the world. And by "care" I sort of mean making sure that no one dies from hunger, inadequate living conditions, lack of access to healthcare, or murder/violence.

And I will say that the overwhelming majority of "christian values" indoctrinates I know only want to limit what others do or have access to. Their interests and passions are not to bring about a better world - or perhaps they want to define "better" for everyone. There are a few exceptions, but they truly are the exceptions.
not very articulate, but I'm at work and in a hurry...

ME: Heather - I think that what you are referring to is the government option and/or single payer health care.

In my status I did not say "universal health care" I said health care, although to be honest I believe wholeheartedly (absolutely, in the strictest form of the word "wholeheartedly" - with every part of me, to the extent that it almost physically hurts to think about it) that ALL the people of the world deserve to have health care. I believe universal health care is a right, not a privilege.

I wholeheartedly believe that parents should not have to sit with a sick child and decide between feeding the family (or keeping the rent paid) AND taking the child to the doctor. I have been in that position - it is a cruel torture, perhaps one of the cruelest a parent can face. The fear, the anger, the sense of abject hopelessness

I believe that children (and adults) should never have to die for lack of the ability to pay for a doctor's time.

JUDE: current option...sitting for hours in a public hospital and $4 prescriptions from Wal-Mart (a whole other story there) with your feverish child crying about an ear-ache. I love it when the bill-collectors call :) "Sorry sir/ma'am...I have no money but I am looking forward to talking to you tomorrow".

GLORIA:  Or in my case I have expensive full coverage where I work but they will not cover the drugs I need to keep my asthma under control. Frugs I have taken for years so I am forced to buy in canada. The same drugs for pennies on the dollar.

 HEATHER: i agree that something does need to be done with health care.... im just not so sure about universal health care.

ME:  Heather - don't think about the politicos wrangling about it. Or rather - think past their rantings - and I do mean ranting on both sides. Both sides have vested interests that go beyond this issue. The ones in power want to stay in power and the ones on the outs want in.

Think instead about the word UNIVERSAL. It simply means EVERYONE - rich, middle-class and poor. Everyone deserves to be able to take their kids to the doctor when they need it. To keep their kids well enough to do well in school. To make sure that their kids don't die from preventable things.

I believe what you have reservations about is the Single Payer option and/or the government-run program. Those are the parts of this that make people nervous - everyone, or nearly everyone, KNOWS we have to do something about healthcare.

We're already paying more through increased medical costs to everyone who can pay to cover the cost of hospitals caring for those who cannot.

damn this character limit in Facebook... there's way more to be said here - I'm transferring this discussion to my blog http://montagael.blogspot.com

Go there if you want to read my longer answer.

So here I am.

The thing that we need to work out is what it would really cost to get everyone the healthcare they need.

Unfortunately, given our current system there is absolutely no way to do that with any certainty. Health insurance has muddied the waters to the point where we really don't know what our costs should be.  How can we determine the costs of healthcare for all when:
  1. we've never decided what the minimum care level should be - we will never be able to afford for everyone the way-out-there tests and treatments that the wealthy or the highly insured can purchase, or at least not the way healthcare is managed today. 

  2. we don't know the health status for the millions who are out of the healthcare market due to their inability to pay - Jude's comment about sitting in the hospital emergency room with a child who has an earache is exactly what happens for people with no other healthcare alternative. When things are impossible, when their child won't stop crying from pain or is running a high fever, they end up in the emergency room because hospitals don't generally turn people away for their inability to pay (they just pass the costs along to those who can, increasing those people's insurance costs - not because they want to, but that they must in order to be able to continue giving care to anyone... talk about dancing in a downward spiral...)

  3. we cannot pause long enough to actually think about this - between the concerns for feeding and housing our families, the worries about the economy in our country, the wars we are fighting AND the rantings of the politicos, we are jerked back and forth between the issues in a way that keeps us unfocused and overstimulated, resulting in either a simmering rage or a deep apathy.

  4. and there are powerful interests that don't want things changed too much. I think I'm talking about the insurance industry, but there could be others that I just don't know about - in fact, it's pretty damn likely that there are...

    They want change, but change that won't eat into their profits too much, or even better, change that allows them to shed the unprofitable accounts and keep the profitable ones. 
Healthcare should not be a for-profit industry. That's the bottom line in my thinking. Sure, people say that we won't have the best doctors if we take away the profit-minded pay scale. I say we would have no worse doctors and we might end up with better doctors - doctors who are doctors because their PASSION is caretaking.

Make it possible for doctors to get their schooling, their training, without incurring debt. Make intellegence and creative thinking the criteria for medical school - not whether or not you can afford it. Open up the possibility for bright students of every economic class to become a doctor if that's their passion. Use our government to fund that kind of reform, to build the hospitals, to regulate care quality and care equality. Get rid of for-profit health insurance - spend those trillions of dollars spent on insurance directly on healthcare instead.

That would really change the world.

21 October 2009

Upcoming Mosaics

Aside from the ship mosaic I have two other mosaics in the works. One will be made from glass I have gathered from the riverbanks of the Mississippi. This river-tumbled glass is limited in color palette of mostly clear that has been scratched up so much it is nearly white, a pale, pale green, two other shades of green, a couple shades of brown, and the odd red or blue piece. Much of it seems to come from old beer, wine or other beverage bottles that have been tossed into the river somewhere upstream from here. It gets tumbled with the rocks in the river by the current and wave action, giving each piece a softened look. I'm not sure if this mosaic will be a representational piece showing some recognizable imagery, or if I will do something abstract. I need to go beach-combing a couple more times to see what glass I find. Hopefully the river will be down a bit and more shoreline will be exposed. It takes a long time to gather enough glass for a mosaic from the bits and pieces the river gives me, so this will likely be a small mosaic, no bigger than one square foot.

The other mosaic will be a 1' x 3' mosaic of a rather earthy smiling Chinese dragon. I am doing this one with smalti. I just ordered about $400 worth of Mexican smalti from smalti.com. That's not all that much smalti - around 15 pounds or probably just enough to cover 4 or 5 square feet.

Ship Mosaic Progress

I've been working on the sky area of the mosaic. This photo isn't the best - it's hard to get high enough above the mosaic to get a full image of it. The circular object in the upper left corner is one of those flexible desk lamps.

You cannot tell very well in the photo, but the sky glass starts out lighter at the horizon - atmospheric perspective (a technique employed in landscape painting, designed to suggest three dimensional space in the two dimensional space of the picture plane, and in which forms and objects distant from the viewer become less distinct, often bluer, cooler or lighter in color, and contrast among the various distant elements is greatly reduced) and gets darker in color as it advances toward the top of the mosaic.

I need to get a bit more of the blue and quite a bit more of the tan for the right-side map area. The tan color I have is a bit too butterscotchy and too light. I need one that has more gray in it than creamy yellow.

08 October 2009

Concerning Censorship

I have thought quite a bit about the issue of censorship this evening after some questions arose concerning the current show at the center...


This discussion is a very important one. It goes far beyond this one exhibit, beyond this one artist, beyond even the arts center and our community.

In regard to the larger discussion, I am adamantly against censorship – not just as an artist, but also as a responsible citizen of a democracy. Censorship is a certain path to the enslavement of reason, critical thinking, and civil discourse, perpetrated by groups in power – or by groups willing and able to create a loud enough uproar. It chips away at the foundation of education, at the value of alternative ideas and the creators of those ideas, and, most importantly, at the heart of our power to make decisions for ourselves – it dis-empowers. Censorship is a response to a stimulus that has offended a particular ideology, and while censorship may seem desirable when you are of the censoring party, it is degrading and demoralizing when your viewpoints, ideas or creations are the ones being suppressed.

It’s been asked “Would you consider hanging photos or paintings depicting explicit scenes from dog fights?”  Myself, I would respond, “I might, if I believed the images to have artistic merit, and/or if they expressed an important social message.” Uncomfortable imagery, uncomfortable stories, uncomfortable ideas need to be explored and deconstructed, their meanings discussed, understood and considered. If we close our eyes and minds to the things that offend us, if we refuse to consider the ideas of the others, if we refuse to listen to those we do not agree with, we limit our growth and our vision, we set ourselves up to get blindsided by trends and social agendas, and we continue to foster the destructive division and rancorous dichotomy that is evermore apparent in much of the social discourse in this country. It is when we – both sides – carefully listen, and then respectfully express our agreement or our opposition to ideas and concepts that valid, meaningful communication happens. At the point when communication truly happens a working compromise is possible.  And although it is not the case in this discussion, I must add that if those who disagree with refuse to reciprocate with a similar respect it in no way negates our responsibility to continue to listen and communicate respectfully...

I am not concerned with following any one group's particular political correctness agenda and in regard to the controversial pieces in the show – it is my understanding that in general sadomasochistic culture is participated in by choice, not force and therefore only of concern to those who willingly participate.  I recognize that others may feel differently, and respect their viewpoints. However, I do not recognize this perspective as a valid position for censoring artistic expression. But for this discussion it is important to take into consideration the varied ways that the center is used by the community and the impact of imagery that some in the community may feel is graphic in nature.