Category Archives: Asides

How Change Occurs

I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change;  I am changing the things I cannot accept…

– Angela Davis

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The Crazy Ones

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

― Rob Siltanen

Maladjusted

Modern Psychology has a word that is probably used more than any other word in Psychology. It is the word maladjusted. It is the ringing cry of modern child psychology — maladjusted. Now of course we all want to live the well adjusted life in order to avoid neurotic and schizophrenic personalities. But as I move toward my conclusion, I would like to say to you today, in a very honest manner, there’s some things in our society, and some things in our world, for which I am proud to be maladjusted. And I call upon all men of good will to be maladjusted to these things until the Good Society is realized.

I must honestly say to you that I never intend to adjust myself to racial segregation and discrimination. I never intend to adjust myself to religious bigotry. I never intend to adjust myself to economic conditions that will take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few and leave millions of God’s children smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1963)

Does an Increased Police Presence Agitate Community Violence?

The Brookings Institute hypothesizes that a heightened police presence reduces violent crime. Yet as Malcolm X points out, Black neighborhoods have some of the highest violent crime rates even though they are some of the most heavily policed areas in the country. Malcolm X’s question is still relevant fifty years later. Does an increased police presence have the adverse effect of agitating community violence?

The Builders

Artist: Jacob Lawrence
Medium: tempera on board
Date: c. 1947

The Builders Series communicates Lawrence’s belief in the possibility of building a better world through skill, ingenuity, hard work, and collaboration. The Builders concept first appeared in Lawrence’s work in the mid-1940s, and by the late 1960s had became a major theme of his artwork. For the last three decades of his life, Lawrence consistently pursued the Builders motif, creating a sequence of vibrant modernist images that highlight his pervasive humanist vision.

His subjects were carpenters, cabinetmakers, bricklayers, and construction workers in a variety of workaday and family situations. Overall, they came to symbolize some of his larger ideas about American culture, hope, persistence, and the shared responsibility for transforming society, inspired, as he once said, by his “own observations of the human condition.”

Away from Harlem and the urban environment that he had grown up in, Lawrence increasingly pursued more symbolic and universal subjects that were less overtly grounded in contemporary social issues than much of his earlier art. At the same time, the new work was also the result of his continued growth as an artist. As he explained in 1974, it was a “broadening of imagery, an expansion of my humanist concept. … like most artists, I’m expanding, probing, constantly seeking new symbols—always within the humanist context.”

Guernica

Artist: Pablo Picasso
Medium: oil on canvas
Date: c. 1937

One of  Picasso’s best known works, Guernica is Picasso’s critique of the German bombing raid of a little Basque village in northern Spain. As Germany gears up for war, Adolph Hitler, with the approval of Generalissimo Francisco Franco, chooses the village of Guernica as a site for bombing practice. On April 27th, 1937, the unsuspecting hamlet is pounded with high-explosive and incendiary bombs for over three hours. Townspeople are cut down as they run from the crumbling buildings. Guernica burns for three days. Sixteen hundred civilians are killed or wounded.

By May 1st, news of the massacre at Guernica reaches Paris, where more than a million protesters flood the streets to voice their outrage in the largest May Day demonstration the city has ever seen. Eyewitness reports fill the front pages of Paris papers. Picasso is stunned by the stark black and white photographs. Appalled and enraged, Picasso rushes through the crowded streets to his studio, where he quickly sketches the first images for the mural he will call Guernica.

Prior to the bombing, Picasso had been commissioned to create the centerpiece for the Spanish art exhibition at the 1937 World’s Fair in Paris. Three months later, Guernica is delivered to the Spanish Pavilion at the Paris Exposition. Almost prophetically, the Spanish Pavilion stands in the shadow of Albert Speer’s monolith to Nazi Germany. The Spanish Pavilion’s main attraction, Picasso’s Guernica, is a sober indictment of the tragic events in Spain.

After the Fair, Guernica tours Europe and Northern America to raise consciousness about the threat of fascism. From the beginning of World War II until 1981, Guernica is housed in its temporary home at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, though it makes frequent trips abroad to such places as Munich, Cologne, Stockholm, and even Sao Palo in Brazil. The one place it does not go is Spain. Although Picasso had always intended for the mural to be owned by the Spanish people, he refuses to allow it to travel to Spain until the country enjoys “public liberties and democratic institutions.”

Described as modern art’s most powerful anti-war statement,  Guernica is seen as an amalgamation of pastoral and epic styles. Guernica is a mural-size canvas (3.5 m (11 ft) tall x 7.8 m (25.6 ft) wide) painted in oil. The somber palate of blue, black and white intensify the drama, producing a stark, almost photographic record of the tragedy. The meaning of key figures – a woman with outstretched arms, a bull, an agonized horse – are left open to one’s interpretation. When asked for their symbolic meaning , Picasso replied “A painting is not thought out and settled in advance. While it is being done, it changes as one’s thoughts change. And when it’s finished, it goes on changing, according to the state of mind of whoever is looking at it.”