Is my pumpkin quilt art? Why isn’t is as valuable as as earlier work I made that had a higher value? I am known for my art now (this is fiction, not truth). I have won awards in big name exhibits and shows (also fiction).
I think you can see in the piece above some of the answers. But is this true of all art? Absolutely. Art can be and eventually is inconsistent in overall style or quality for most artists who have big names. They put their ALL into pieces for a time, and then perhaps they burned out, or because they already have big names, they could ease up a little and still command good prices. Not true. All artists, not just the big names, have times in their production when their work either changes styles, perhaps to a style that is less labor intensive, or perhaps they don’t produce as often as they were. It can happen in a lot of different scenarios. The thing is that if we are realistic and honest about it, not all art by an artist is the same quality nor does it necessarily command the same values. It is human nature. Now we may see great works of art and believe that a very famous artist DID produce the same quality all the time, but remember that many artists have had workers who worked with them on a particular painting or sculpture.
We have artists like Basquiat, and Andy Warhol and I am sure any of you can think of others. Perhaps you liked their rebellious response to fine art. Perhaps you see it as something new and refreshing. To be sure. But was it? I mean, Campbell Soup labels have been around since I was a child. So every time your mom bought a can, did you stop and think, “WOW! Now that’s art!!!” Both these artists had their names made by gallery owners and publicists who sold them to the public. It’s their job and they did it very well. Both the artists led colorful, unconventional lives. Now people in the art world often like this. It is the opposite of anything they might do or be in their own lives, and there is something about such lifestyles that attracts them to it. It’s kind like fashion. What attracts people to want to buy fashions worn by women with absolutely no facial expressions, who appear all to be suffering from anorexia, wearing, say sweaters with sleeves two feet longer than their arms as they walk rigidly down the runways? Are the people in the audience anything like this? Anything about this scenario remind you of “The Emperor’s New Clothes?”
I attended a minimalist painter’s exhibit many years ago. The comments of the audience taught me all I needed to know, plus my eyes confirmed what I saw. People were commenting on the brilliance of this painter, and how it took him six months of being alone in his studio to create a single line painting – that’s right, a single line on an entire canvas. Some art collectors really don’t know that much about what they are collecting. They collect pieces because someone tells them those pieces are valuable and will continue to increase in value. And like some people who want to be part of the “in crowd,” they pick up ideas here and there form others or from galleries, whose success is based on the sales they can get from their exhibits, and they know well who will bring people out and whose works will sit there. They have to constantly try to bring in new works of a type that are different from what people are used to seeing. And they also know that if the pieces have higher prices on all of them and the represent the work of one or perhaps two painters or sculptors at best, they will likely sell better in communities that are “art savvy” because people will respect that if they are looking for something to invest in.
Around Christmas, I will put up a photo of a piece I created years ago and then took it all apart even though it had been accepted into a good venue. The truth was that I didn’t accept it because I considered it was not as good as other pieces I had created earlier, or pieces by other artists that were accepted. Today when I look back on that piece, I often feel sad because it was what my mind was thinking of in terms of creativity at the time, and it said what I wanted it to say in the way I wanted it to.
Respect your creativity at any given point in your life. Comparing it to other pieces is not a healthy activity. You need to respect the fact that you had the courage to get out materials and create something at that moment. You are not a failure because a piece of art or a piece of writing doesn’t measure up to other pieces you or others have created. The only failure is the failure to even try at all. Go ahead. Be brave. Show off your worst writing example or your worst painting or sculpture. Don’t look at your art in terms of awards, money or other superfluous things. Make creativity your joy just the way a baby feels joy at discovering its hands. Maybe someday those hands will create great paintings, or perhaps play incredible sonatas, but for now, be ok where you are and with what you have done. It is all good, even the simple little pumpkin quilt.
Years ago, I had something hanging on my fence called the “Living Art Basket.” When I would go walking down by the shore in San Pedro, California, or in the park along the edge above the shore, or wherever I decided was a good place to walk each day, I would find treasures that would come home with me. Once home, I would add the treasure or treasures to the Living Art Basket, and then spend time enjoying it as I rearranged it until it looked like something magical. The treasures could be exotic looking pieces of paper, neatseeds (seeds I did not know the name of), pieces of wood, broken china pieces, shells, or anything that captured my fancy.
One day I encountered this wild piece of wood, well washed and worn by the ocean tides, and I immediately named it “Dancing Man.” It did not look anything like it does here except for the head area, and that was not decorated. It was named because one piece stood out on the right side, looking like a man kicking up his heel and enjoying dancing. He moved into the Living Art Basket and stayed there for a long time. Then one day some friends and I decided to do a collaborative project where we would take the piece we got and turn it into something else. Each month we would switch and whoever got the piece next would add his or her part of it until we got them all finished over time. I had a lot of really cool projects to work on too from the others, and honestly I wish I could remember them better but I don’t remember if I have photos of them or not. We each kept a notebook of what we added, and what we felt when we were creating it. I think there was a photo too.
When I got Dancing Man back, I could hardly believe his transformation. What a magical character, and so full of life. He really did get to become a dancing man, complete with his rainbow colored pants, his soft vest and the face all done up with yarn and beads, and copper hair. He had decorations on his vest and his beaded necklace, along with the wonderful bells on his pants, and best of all, check out the wonderful slippers.
I have him to this day. He was photographed against a pieced vest made and given to me by a friend who has since passed on. Isn’t it fun to see what we can create from the things we find? I no longer have that Living Art Basket, but I have plenty of found art everywhere in my home and in the yard that will eventually visit these posts. It’s funny how when we work on something that we think of as art, we are transformed by what we are transforming.
There are several specific things that you can do in this life to help yourself heal from trauma or other things that happen to us in this life. 1) Pray about it, thanking your God or Spiritual Being for the experience. 2) Meditate about it, understanding that life’s challenges are important for us because without them, we could never learn compassion for others. We would also not have such a meaningful journey in life because it is the challenges that help us to appreciate the beauty that exists in the world. A life that is totally flat and without challenges is like living in a land without valleys and mountains. 3) Create, create, create. No matter how bad I might feel at any given time, creating is always something that gives me a true sense of magic, spirituality and gratitude for this life with which I have been gifted.
Creativity comes from the innermost part of our souls, whether we are dancing with joy or our eyes have cried forth many tears.
Life is so short, and I think one of the reasons we are here is to work on “getting it right.” That means that we come to terms with where we are, who we are, and what we choose to do with our lives. You can take whatever you do in this life, from being a cook in a fast food shop to being an airline pilot and everything in between. If you are a cook, know that you are doing it because you are comfortable with it, and become the best cook you can possibly be. If you are working as a cook and are not happy, what do you need to do in order to change that? It isn’t just a matter of going out and finding another job. You need to figure out who you are and what you really want to do in this life.
I’ve never been wealthy; far from it. I have worked hard all my life for a little. But the whole time I ever worked once I grew up was spent doing things I wanted to do, things I believed in most sincerely, which was about serving others in ways that might make a difference in their lives, and doing things that I loved so much that I looked forward to going to every day. Money was always secondary for me to providing services to others, especially anyone with physical, developmental, emotional or other challenges.
At the end of the Vietnam War, my younger brother returned 100% physically and mentally challenged. It gave me the heart to help others the rest of my life who have had any kind of challenges. I don’t regret a single second of my work with others. It has been as satisfying as watching one of my most gorgeous flowers come into bloom.
It has been a good journey. I am not saying it has not been a challenge, but isn’t anything worth doing a challenge? And you know, when we change, an interesting phenomena takes place. Other people do too. When this 22-year old car (as of 2018) was still in its original form, people treated me as if I should get out of their way and get off the road. The transformation was amazing. People on the freeways and roads gave me the peace sign or thumbs up or high fives. And when I stopped in a parking lot, people came up to me and wanted to take photos, and wanted to know the story of the car. And I made a LOT of friends over the years that way.
Make someone or a bunch of people happy today. Sometimes it can be as simple as smiling at them and saying “Hello,” or you could do a random act of kindness such as going into an old people’s home and taking a bouquet for the people who live there. Or you could thank a police person, fire person, nurse or doctor for doing what they do. True, it is what they have chosen to do, but many times they work when we are asleep or having a holiday, and they sometimes risk their own lives to do it. Creativity doesn’t have a specific face.
This is one of my favorite eye candy places to go in Riverside, CA. It is a tiny taco restaurant, and looks like any old tiny taco house, but once you step inside its walls, everything around you is art, all of it made from trash, literally.
Folk artist, Martin Sanchez created Tio Tacos Dream Garden, expanding out from his restaurant to the whole block and back courtyard, filling the whole area with junk art sculptures, towering garbage giants, and and a church made out of bottles.
This is absolutely one of my favorite places to wander. I cannot imagine that anyone can go in here and come out feeling gloomy.
In 1984, when Sanchez immigrated from the village of Sahuayo, in the state of Michoacan, he was shocked by what people threw away. “I don’t throw away nothing for 18 years,” he says. He doesn’t plan anything ahead, but will suddenly get a creative bug, and perhaps create a 20 foot-tall wire figure with two years-worth of cans.
When he first came to Riverside, he sold peanuts and ice cream in the park before he bought a hot dog cart in 1989 and began to sell tacos outside of Tio’s Tacos. He bought the restaurant and the clapboard house next door in 1995, which became his family home. The adjacent parking lot and house, currently used for storage and a gift shop, was purchased in 2000. His creations include more statues on the roofs and on top of palm trees.
Sanchez built his chapel out of multi-colored bottles and other recycled materials as a gift to his wife, Concepcion. The chapel, which was consecrated by the Catholic church, has water springing from its walls and a ceiling painted like a miniature Sistine. Light filtering through the bottles gives a stained glass effect. Today the chapel is used for weddings, quinceaneras, graduations, and just private quiet moments.
Tio Tacos is located at 3948 Mission Inn Avenue, Riverside, CA 92501, 951-788-0230. It is right down the street from the historic Mission Inn, another of Riverside’s wonderful stories just waiting for you to visit.
Years ago I belonged to a small private quilt group in Orange, CA – Cut-Loose Quilters, begun by Jamie Fingal, a renowned art quilter for many years. We made a lot of exciting projects and did a lot of really fun and unique things, but this was one of my all-time favorites. This is called a slice quilt which means that each of us participated in making one of the vertical panels, and on the side panels, we each made a horizontal panel.
The quilt was designed on paper by our fearless leader with the help of one of our other gals, and then the panels were cut and each of us got one. Mine was the yellow one, and we each got to choose our colors for our panels and any lettering on our panels. The quilt was made as a donation for the new Children’s Library and the City of Orange gave us a very nice thank you talk and a plaque to remember our gift. Parts of the quilt were “sold” to raise money to buy more books, though the quilt still hangs in the library to this day. In 2018, we had a 10-year reunion at the site, and it was wonderful to remember just how much fun we had and how good we all felt about creating something that would be enjoyed by children for many years.
I have since made other cloth projects for my classrooms too, but never any as much fun as this. Here is a photo of all of us ladies who made the quilt.
I will always remember so many of the wonderful adventures we had in this group. There are some wonderfully talented ladies among us, and I feel very honored that they included me. Thank you forever, Jamie and ladies.
I wish that all children had an opportunity to learn some form of music. It is so good for the soul and I honestly believe it helps them to be able to learn other things as well more easily. If every child in every culture, every nation, had music from such an early age, do you think we might have a more peaceful world?
I have a number of heroes in this life, and I think heroes are good for all of us. We all need others who inspire us and give us something to keep us going when the going gets tough. One of Zig Ziglar’s quotes I always remember is “Get a checkup from the neck up and avoid stinkin’ thinkin’ and hardening of the attitudes.”
In these times, we all can benefit from our heroes. The daily news is often dismal, the sign of a dysfunctional society for sure. It is easy to get down when we read nothing but the worst of the worst in human behaviors throughout the world.
Zig Ziglar was not born a privileged man. His father died when he was young, and a younger sister died a couple of days later. His mother kept the family together, and he worked hard all his live after that, serving in the military and then working in sales. But he took what he had in life and made it work for him and his family, and he is today remembered as one of the greats in inspiration. His first book went through some 30 publishers who thought it was a waste, and then a publisher picked it up and it sold half a million copies right away.
No matter where we have come from or what we have been through, we CAN make our lives better. But it doesn’t happen if we sit there and wait for someone else to do it for us. And remember that no matter how difficult our lives may be or how challenged, there is always someone who would feel wealthy if they had what we do.
I have many heroes in all sizes, shapes and colors that I follow. I will ultimately reveal all of them over time, and some I have already mentioned. Who are your heroes in this life and why?
This is one of my many collaged “Soul Cards.” I wrote a poem to go with it.
I thought Source
Was a God
A God who was perfect
A God who could do no wrong
A God pure and dressed in
Floating somewhere above me
Above the world
Above the universe.
But the Bible says
God created us in his
And so I thought about
There are people of every
Every belief system
And there are all kinds of
And strange people
That got put together on
And what does that say
about the image?
Who is this God – this
energy – this creator – this source?
Maybe he, she, or it
Is creative in the wildest
sense of the word.
Maybe this Source has a
sense of humor.
Maybe Source is capricious
and doesn’t stop
About whether anything
matches, or whether it fits
Or whether it will even
work or whether it will be destructive.
Maybe everything really
And it is our consciousness
That is a mistake. – Anne
Copeland December 1, 2008
My heart work is with special needs children which I did for some 15+ years. Sometime in the early 70’s or late 60’s my younger brother and only sibling came home from Vietnam 100% disabled with a TBI, a spinal injury, and permanent PTSD. It gave me that heart to work not only with the children, but with people with all forms of challenges – physical, developmental, and emotional. I have done that for the rest of my life to this day.
I was a Regulatory Compliance Specialist at 64, working for a major pharmaceutical manufacturer of plasma derivative products. I had done quality assurance for some years in my own business. I was a certified quality manager/certified quality auditor, so I knew what to look for wherever I went and whatever type of business it was. This would be to my detriment when the company decided to to sell to a company in Spain to get out from under a FDA action against the company for fairly major quality issues. When the company in Spain decided to purchase the company I was working with, I got laid off along with 400 others.
At 64, on unemployment and with no prospects of a job because of that title, I founded a very tiny and penniless nonprofit to assist physically challenged fiber artists with getting exposure and sales for their work and to assist them with professional development. I did this successfully on the side, always as a volunteer with the other volunteers for some 10 years. Shortly after I founded the nonprofit, I remembered that I had a certificate that would allow me to work with special needs children. I became a substitute for two different school districts, and I absolutely loved all the work I did in school. Life was good in those times. I had just enough to live on very modestly; spirit does not need a lot of money.
These were truly some of the happiest days in my life. When I was not at work with the children, I was providing assistance for the physically challenged artists with two other people – my paraplegic best friend, Barbara Williamson, who lived in Paradise, CA, the secretary of the nonprofit, and her caregiver, Rob, the treasurer, whose job was easiest of all since we had no money in the treasury. I had figured out how we could do a lot with nothing and so we did that for more than 10 years until we both suffered worse physical and mental challenges that made it difficult to continue that work.
We did write a book on the subject to get good closure. Last November, Barb and her caregiver had to escape with their lives from the horrible fire in Paradise that destroyed their home, the entire town and all of her art. I will never regret any of that work because she now has skills and knowledge to help her rebuild her life from what she learned during those years.
Most of all for me, there were the children. Some of the children I worked with were not only developmentally challenged; they had such major challenges as MS and childhood arthritis. There is something so special and beautiful about these children. If I had been married then and had an adequate home and finances to do it, I would have adopted as many of them as I could. Raising special needs children is no easy task nor a romantic one. Not only do they provide challenges throughout the days and nights; most of the time they will be in the care of the parents one way or the other for the remainder of their lives.
Special needs children often require bathroom assistance into and through their teen and even adult lives, as well as things like “failure-to-thrive” children, who must be helped to eat enough to help keep them alive. This is not a psychological issue; it is one that they are born with. I have had children I had to give enriched milk or other liquids to through a tube in their stomachs, and others who had to have a bucket accompany them to their lunch so they could throw up in it after eating a little. And then there is the physically reactive child. Some of them are runners, and will run off the playground if they can (and not even because they are unhappy, etc. but just because it is part of their makeup, and they are not running to a specific place, but just needing to run). And there are those who can deliver a huge punch; I was punched in the face and had my glasses broken, was bitten, had my hair pulled, was kicked and painfully pinched and slapped, pretty much all without warning. Some of the children are very strong for their sizes. If a child’s routine is broken in any way, or the child is unable to express his/her needs, you can expect that the child will react, sometimes violently.
But we become good at dealing with these issues, and most of us who work with them can see the beauty of the children and the wonder of their lives through all of the challenges. Sometimes their own parents cannot cope with them, or the parents do things that are not beneficial for the child such as over/under or irregularly medicating them or putting them into group homes when they become overwhelmed. It is one of those great societal issues where it is difficult to place blame, for anyone who has to deal with these issues day AND night every single day of the week without a break is going to have a true challenge.
As caregivers for special needs children, we are all referred to as mandated reporters, and it is our duty and legal obligation to report any type of abuse of any child. I honestly can’t tell you how many of those reports I filled out over the years for things I personally witnessed. And I can’t tell you how many of them were “shelved.” The schools in California at least are financed by children being in school, not when they are out sick or parents refuse to bring them to a specific school because of the behaviors of teachers or aides or others. I am pretty certain that most people reading this will understand the implications of this policy.
There are a lot of really wonderful and dedicated teachers, aides and others who work with special needs children. But there are also a lot of horrible ones, and I am not certain that situation will ever change in reality. There IS training available for how to work with such children and young people, but not all of those who work with them get that training or learn from it if they do get it. Most of what we learn to deal with well is learned from real-time experience along the way, and if a person’s heart is not in it, it will at best be mediocre.
At home, as I noted, parents are often stressed to the breaking point and there is no one generally to spell them or for them to talk to regularly – even support groups are very far and few between. The first sad thing too is that some children are labeled special needs because perhaps they are slow to learn to read or write, etc. Once they get such labels, they will have them through their entire lives. For me, that ensures that even the children who might otherwise have done well will just give up and not try to much.
I have long since realized that children grow at different rates, just as some walk really early, learn to use the potty really early, etc., and some take a long time. It is just the nature of life in this world. My daughter was potty trained when she barely started to sit up, and that was her own doing. She would put her tiny hands together and clap any time she was successful in her efforts. She could read well and talk well at age two, and she could memorize her storybooks too. My two sons were very different from that – slow to learn to do everything and slow to read. It is normal for children to progress at different rates.
One of the things that happens from the stress and other issues parents face is that special needs children are more often abandoned, abused, and even murdered than regular children. They are also very highly bullied. The problem however, is that the tallies on these crimes are all thrown in together with those of children who are not special needs, so as a result, no one knows the true figures. But some people who have studied and worked with the children have long thought that the figures are higher and it makes total sense. And if a special needs child ends up being institutionalized because of abuse or abandonment, there is little chance that the child will ever do better in this life. And the people (if parents) who do these things to special needs children, at least in the past, often did not get severe jail sentences if any at all. There used to be a young man who likely had Asperger’s, a high functioning level of autism, who wrote posts regularly about these issues. These young people can be and often are highly intelligent, but are unable to deal with socializing and interacting with others.
Even the best of parents with special needs childrens do not know all they need to do about what happens when their children grow up. Not all parents with older special needs children know about estate planning for the children. There are three very specific and important reasons that this needs to be addressed.
First is the fact that these children will need special physical and mental/emotional services all their lives, even the most proficient of them. This will involve very careful financial planning to ensure that the parent can provide such services.
Secondly, a special estate plan is the only way to ensure that the child can be provided for without having them become ineligible for government and private benefit programs.
And finally, if the parent is no longer alive or available, without such planning, the child can end up in an institution, or worse, can become homeless and at the mercy of every transient out there. I have actually witnessed such cases, and I am pretty certain that no parent would wish this on any child of theirs.
The best way for parents to plan for a special needs child is to set up a Special Needs Trust. In this instance, the parents appoint Trustees to manage the Trust for the child’s benefit. This person needs to be trustworthy, and someone who is capable mentally and emotionally, as well as financially to direct and manage the child’s care through the remainder of his/her life.
I am retired from working with the special needs children now since I was diagnosed with severe PTSD from heavy-duty traumas followed by cancer (cancer-free following surgery in 2016), but I still tutor privately, often as a volunteer these days with special needs or ESL (not always Spanish either) children and adults. I completed a degree later in 2016 in Criminal Justice with a minor in law, but could not work as a mentor/advocate for juvenile delinquents because of my age and the PTSD. I always keep trying to do what I can and I have been happy for whatever I have been able to contribute to the lives of special needs children as well as others with special challenges. It is not going to change what they go through overall, but it does help them for a moment in time and I am not sure what more any of us can do.
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