Constructing identities

I spent some time at the Denver Art Museum last week, and one of the current exhibits is a landscape exhibit which, according to the DAM, will show how various artists have blurred “the distinction between ‘observed’ and ‘constructed’ imagery.”

Observed vs. constructed is an interesting binary. Has the artist who took this simple (yet stunning) photograph below merely created something we can observe? Or is there an element of construction there?

One could certainly observe and move on. But I think the fact that the photo is in muted tones and that an image was chose that features an asymmetrical breaking wave is an element of construction. It makes me feel like I’m looking at a wild, stormy ocean. It’s beautiful, but fearsome. It should be admired, but also respected.

I would even argue that the color of the wall that the DAM chose to hung it on adds to/emphasizes that construction. Would the photo have felt different if it was hung on the beige wall instead of the gray one? What if it was hung on a red wall? Does that change the context?

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Throwing out sparks

For many of us who live in the U.S., this is a frightening time. I feel the ball of anxiety tightening in my chest everyday, triggering a queasy feeling, an uneasiness that hovers around me. My concern for this country and the people in it is at unprecedented levels – I am, at times, actually breathless when I consider the possibilities that the next few years could bring.

It has not been a surprise that I find myself turning more toward the arts, both to soothe me and to energize me.

Art and literature have, at many times throughout history, been sources of subversiveness and protest. And so I write furiously, building a story that was born from my anxiety and anger. It’s one of those tiny sparks of hope that I have, that some humans respond to calls for conformity and oppression by creating something non-conformist and sharing it with others.

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Word gardener

Grad school is out for the summer, which means I finally have more time to decompress…and think, and write, and read about things that aren’t part of my grad program. Someone once described grad school to me as intellectual boot camp, and I think there’s a truth to that. I would actually call it emotional boot camp as well. This isn’t my first grad program, so I knew going in that it would, at times, encompass a lot of my brain’s energy.

I’m also doing it with a chronic illness (which keeps throwing new and interesting symptoms at me), and a searing need to write. And writing is what I’m here to write about.

I don’t post as much of my writing publicly because it’s shifted. I had a few realizations as I got older, and one was that my early fixation on publishing had less to do with publishing and more to do with wanting to feel heard.

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Dangling

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I enjoy reading about words and phrases that exist in other languages, but don’t have perfect English equivalents. It’s a fascinating insight into what shapes the experiences of people in other cultures, and also sometimes helps me to think about things in ways I haven’t done before.

I read an interesting article a few months ago called Let the Soul Dangle, a translation of the German phrase¬†die Seele baumeln lassen.¬†It’s supposed to signify that an idle mind – one that wanders and engages in reverie – is ultimately a more creative and productive mind. I’ve returned to this piece several times since I read it, as it talks about art being a catalyst for emotional experiences within safe spaces that help us process our real-life experiences. I have a professional interest in how people experience art, so this article has been added to my collection of research materials. But what makes it stand out is that small German phrase, and how the authors connected it to a universal concept.

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