The Invisible People

Thelma Smith, “Capoeisitera”

My good fiber arts friend of many years, Thelma Smith, made this series of homeless people she met up with when she was searching for her son, Norman, who suffered from mental/emotional issues probably stemming from a developmental challenge. She generally made the quilts bigger than real life, painted them and then stitched them. She also put very few facial features on them in one way giving them dignity, and in another way showing them as the invisible people in our society. This series of quilts always held great appeal for me and I always wished she could have put it out into a public gallery where a lot of people could see it and realize how important and unaddressed this problem is today.

Left Turn Lane Series Quilt by Thelma Smith

I think of the homeless people all the time. I have had young people show up in my classrooms, and when I offered them food that I used to bring for my teens who were in my study class, they would come back everyday just to get a breakfast/lunch though they were not actually in my classroom. They would come during a break when the other children were gone and always would talk to me. I remember one boy who told me his folks and he and his sisters and brothers were sleeping on the floor in a store owned by someone who knew them. I always made sure he took extra food. I cannot begin to imagine what a child who is homeless must go through emotionally, having to keep it a secret to prevent being bullied, and arriving at school hungry in the morning. The homeless are “cracks in the pavement.” We see them, but pass right by them as we would step on those cracks.

Thelma Smith – Left Turn Lane Series

I’ve seen and tried to help a lot of homeless people in my life. Sometimes the people are clearly suffering so much, I could not possibly help but cry. How sad is it to see an elderly woman in barely enough raggedy clothes to protect her from the cold, pushing a recycled wheelchair likely from a garbage throwaway, with her husband in it, and the only blanket covering him as she tried to protect and push him to the free clinic near where I used to live. But the saddest thing is how others turn away from them, pretending they don’t exist.

Left Turn Lane Series by Thelma Smith

All of these people at one time or another were probably just like you and me. It may have been only for a very short time when they were very young, but we need to remember that they are human beings just like us. We cannot know what happened in their lives to make them into homeless people, but it had to be dramatic. No one wants to live out in the rain or snow, and to sleep on concrete or on the cold ground, to have to find food in trash cans, or to go to the bathroom out wherever they can find a place, and have no way to clean themselves at all. And no one wants to get hurt, tortured, raped, or murdered perhaps for as little as the blanket they are using to keep warm.

Wild Bill, Thelma Smith’s Left Turn Lane Series

Their need to communicate is no different than ours. I remember when I was out of work from one of those jobs with a big title, and could not find a job, not because I was not qualified, but I was overqualified. I too had a short period of semi-homelessness. Luckily I had a lot of friends who would let me stay a night or two at their home and feed me and my pets, and I did find another job quickly. The time was never wasted. I was working as a volunteer at Harbor UCLA Medical Center, a teaching hospital, and if I worked four hours, I got a free lunch in the doctor’s cafeteria, which had the best food. I would get a salad, a full meal, and dessert. So I would eat my salad for lunch, wrap up my dinner and desert and have that later. I could go to the free clinic and get in quickly since I had my volunteer vest on, and I could also get needed shots downstairs in the hospital. I quickly taught myself how to go in the library and do my own medical research to determine pretty much accurately every time what I had, and the doctors in the free clinic always looked forward to treating me because I saved them time and always made the correct diagnosis. It is a habit that has followed me thru life, and I have made the right choices every time by doing my research.

I had the priviledge of working as a volunteer in the Neonatal Section of the hospital, where we treated hundreds of women with all manner of issues – homelessness, drugs, poor prenatal care, etc. I was responsible for the Newborn Hearing Screening, and I did my job well. The people I worked with actually wanted to hire me, but as hospitals tend to do things, they decided to hire a service instead so that they would not have the expense of an employee (i.e. benefits, etc.) to deal with. I also taught the women in the Neonatal Section about the benefits of breastfeeding when it was possible. The drug addicts could not nurse their babies, and it was heartbreaking to watch the babies shaking and crying all the time from the damage done to their tiny systems.

One night a Hispanic young lady came in and had her baby. It was premature, and would have to stay in the hospital, but she wanted to breastfeed her baby. I suspect she came over to the U.S. as a mule, or person who came over with drugs inserted somewhere in her body, a very common thing. We fixed her up with the equipment to pump her breasts for the baby, and she left for the group home she was staying in. She was NOT one of the drug people at all, and a very sweet and very young woman. I doubt she was older than 17, and possibly younger. She never came back to to the hospital, and we suspected that she was picked up again by the men who watch out for the mules, or some other form of human trafficking. So the problem was that the police could not look for someone they knew absolutely nothing about. She was literally an invisible person. Now a child will potentially grow up without ever knowing its mother, and a mother somewhere might be mourning her loss, or perhaps be even dead. We will never know. I send prayers for the homeless, and I am glad that Thelma Smith gave them dignity by not painting their faces, and making them bigger than life.

Mom-isms

 

I remember that my mom had more “mom-isms” than probably most of the moms on my block.  If you don’t know what a mom-ism is, your mom probably never had one, but you might ask her what mom-isms her mom or grandma used to use.  A mom-ism is when you make a remark, such as “Oh Mom, I can’t.”  And your mom replies, “Really?  Did you know that there is no such word as ‘can’t’ in the English dictionary?”  Or perhaps she might say, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”  Think back on some your mom or grandma might have said.  I know some of you have some in the back of your memory. They were intended to have us not give up easily, or perhaps guide us in some other area of life.  The quilt that is painted and stitched below is one of my mom’s mom-isms.  I would say something like “I just am not sure if I can do it,”  or perhaps “Mom, I am afraid to do it,” and she would reply, “Oh, take the bull by the horns.”  I have no clue where these mom-isms came from, but they were definitely an important memory in my youth.  I will look forward to seeing some of yours.  Perhaps you have pop-isms, or grandma or grandpa-isms.  And you know, these worked too.  Look how worried this huge bull looks compared to the little cowgirl.  Have fun remembering!

Take the Bull by the Horns

“Take the Bull by the Horns” by Anne Copeland

 

Who Will I Be Today?

Annies Who Will I be today quilt

Art Quilt by Anne Copeland

I know you cannot see the whole quilt, and I would like you to be able to do that. This was made some years ago as an exchange quilt.  We each send a package of fabrics we want to have in our quilt, and the other person does the same.  A middle person handles all the fabrics, sending them to different people, and the quilt we make for this unknown person will be returned to them when we are done and all the pieces have been collected by that middle person.

We all have a dual nature, and we generally take on one or the other each day.  Just as we have day and night, cold and warm, floods and droughts, love and hate, success and failure, so we can choose to be one personality or the other.

I always love this quote from the book, Advice from a Failure, by Jo Coudert.  “Of all the people you will know in a lifetime, you are the only one you will never leave nor lose. To the question of your life, you are the only answer. To the problems of your life, you are the only solution.”

 

Art Exhibit – Part II

So now you have seen Part I, and I want to let you know that I am quite prolific with speaking what is in my heart and the compass of my soul.  So Part II will show you some more things I have created, and you might question their designation as “art.”  I want you to know that as an artist, I define what is MY art and what it will chose to be at any given time in my life according to how I am envisioning life at that particular time.  I like the freedom to celebrate life in the many ways I choose to celebrate it.  When I turned 65, I decided to do something different for my special day.  I had put on some African music which I liked very much, and I was thinking of how the people paint their bodies to signify something that is very meaningful to them, so I got out some black cloth, and being all alone, stripped and painted my breasts white.  I pressed them to the cloth.  We know ourselves in one way, or perhaps two, but there are things and ways of ourselves that we have never observed.  So when I looked at the cloth I had created, I was, to say the least, surprised, for whoever would ever know that this was what a breast looked like on cloth.  Here are a couple of pieces that came from this wonderful experiment in which I learned to see myself in a whole new way.  This process never ends, for there is always something new to learn, and as we change over the many years, so do our bodies and minds.  Each part becomes a special art exhibit all of its own.

Boobalala

Boobalala by Anne Copeland – Paint and Fiber

 

Annies boob quilt for autism charity - My garden of Earthly Delights

My Garden of Earthly Delights” by Anne – Paint and Fiber

This quilt is about 18″ x 20″ and it features the breast prints in multicolors, which was a lot more fun and challenging than just doing white.  And to think, I still have more body parts to color and experiment with.  Who knows what this will ultimately lead to.  I am certainly not the first person to experiment with painting body parts, but I did this my way and without any lessons either.  The frog is painted separately.

Oh, and this was a charity quilt I decided to make for Art for Autism, since I have been very involved for many years with autistic and other special needs children. For those of you who might recoil in horror, there is nothing ugly or wierd about our breasts.  I fed all my children with mine, lived through breast cancer, and now that I have passed three quarters of a life (age 77), I am glad to be able to still have those breasts.  For me, they are no different than having teeth, hair, armpits, or feet or a backside. Does a tree hide its branches in shame?

So this is Art Exhibit Part II.  We will look at some other ideas in different “exhibits” I get to curate and write about.  It’s my show.  See you at the next one.

Art Exhibit – Part I

I would love it if each of you who follows this blog posts something about something you absolutely LOVE to do, be it making a good pot of spaghetti, painting something that means something to you, or whatever brings Edison in all his brightness he created for us into your heart.  I am going to share some of mine here.  I am NOT a professional artist in the sense of having a degree of art, and have had very little professional training of any kind.  But what I DO know is what I like, and what speaks to my heart.  I love fiber art, or art quilts and others too, but I do the art quilts.  I love anything unique, and I love things made from nature or from recycled things.  And I love urban art and also what I call interactive art.  This is art that causes the viewer to need to interact with the art in some manner to perhaps try to figure it out or its message to viewers.  And I love to put it everywhere – not just in the house or an exhibit or publication, but anywhere my mind decides would be fun to have some art.  So if you are expecting some really polished stuff, you probably should go to a different place.  This is stuff that comes from the center of who I am.

Annies Wild Car 2011 Drivers sideAnnie's Wild Car Back 2011Annies Wild Car Top 2011Annies Wild Car Front 2011Anne's Wild Car Passenger side

Summoning Forth the Boogeyman

 

Boobalala

The Boogeyman is something I think most of us can relate to.  At some point in our childlife, something bit us in the bum, or some other crazy thing like that, and we would get up and start looking under our beds, in the closet, and any other potential place where the Boogeyman might be hiding before we could go to sleep.  Oh, the fear, the tingling, creepy fear.  And yet, night after night, we would go through this ritual before drifting off to sleep.  Was he there?  (Notice that the Boogeyman was always a “he” whether you were a girl or a boy.) And if he was there, what on earth would help us to protect ourselves, or to make him go away? In the end result, it wasn’t about any of this.  It was just about making sure he wasn’t there.  There were probably as many, if not more, nights when we didn’t think about the Boogeyman.  We would climb into our beds, pull the covers up, and drift off to sleep without a worry in the world.

Perhaps the Boogeyman was our way of empowering ourselves over things which we had little or no control.  We were the ones who summoned the Boogeyman, and we were the ones who assured ourselves that he was not going to hurt us. And each time we grew more confident until one day we went to sleep, knowing that the boogeyman was not going to ever hurt us.

Interestingly, in our adult lives, although we had stopped summoning our Boogeymen, instead we began to summon forth our inner demons.  Little by little we called for the Boogeymen to view our accomplishments in life, our creativity, telling us how lame or how otherwise terrible it was. We subject ourselves to endless fears and insecurities about what we so until I honestly think a visit from the Boogeyman would be a welcome relief.

We no longer put our Boogeymen to bed, but keep them out so that we can summon them any time of the day or night. They no longer have to hide under our beds or in our closets. They can appear in full daylight and their power over us is more terrifying than any Boogeyman we ever envisioned. The boogieman was all alone. We could dispatch him pretty quickly and go to sleep feeling as though everything was right in the world. But the demons summon more and more friends until we are absolutely overwhelmed, and there is absolutely no dismissing them. They are fearful even when we are very familiar with them.

Is it any wonder we get depressed when the boogieman no longer is confined to just beneath the bed and in the closet, but fills our everywhere and with not just one, but many demons? And the worst thing is that the demons are difficult to fight because they are so shapeless and nameless. “:He who shall not be named . . .” comes to mind directly from the Harry Potter stories.

Lombada Zombie Man

Try to remember how you put your boogieman away eventually because you outgrew him. You no longer needed him to empower you. Perhaps the demons are there too so that we can empower ourselves once again as adults who are creative and productive. We really know how to do it. Sometimes we just have to remember. And we have to be willing, like Harry Potter and his friends, to do battle with them. As my friend Spencer used to always say to me, “Good night, sleep tight. Wake up bright in the morning light and do what’s right with all your might.” Sometimes we might not have a lot of might to fight with, but we need to remember most of all not to give up in the presence of the demons. They may seem more powerful than we are, but we have something they don’t on our sides, and that is our enduring faith that something we are doing is right, and something they are doing is very, very wrong. They will never be as powerful as us because they cannot be named, and we have been named. Without a name, you are nothing but a shapeless form without meaning, so whatever meaning those demons have is meaning we are choosing to give them.

For those of you who are fighting your inner demons, I hope that you will not only begin to see the demons for what they are, but to realize that you can dismiss them just as you called them forth. You might even want to make some art of all the demons that haunt your creativity as I have done with mine. Sometimes giving them an actual persona can show you just how silly they really are and when you hang them where you can see them, you can deal with them more easily.

The little demons on this page are Boobalala and Zombie Lombada Man, some of my own little artsy demons. Boobalala was made by painting part of my anatomy and then pressing it to cloth in one of those primitive women’s ceremonial experiments artists sometimes do.  He is actually the last remnant of another piece I created.

Source

pexels-Source 1photo-556669

Photo courtesy of Pexels.

I thought Source was a God.

A God who was Perfect.

A God who could do no wrong

A god pure and dressed in white

Floating somewhere above the world

Above the universe.

But the Bible says

God created us in his image.

And so I thought about that.

There are people of every color

Every culture

Every belief system

And there are all kinds of strange things and strange people

That got put together on this earth.

And what does that say about this 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 to think

About whether anything matches, or whether it fits

Or whether it will even work

Or whether it will be destructive.

Maybe everything really belongs.

And it is our consciousness

That is a mistake.

-Anne Copeland