Spring cleaning — I’ve spent a lot of my time the last few days mopping, washing, laundering, and the like. It feels good to come home to a nice clean kitchen ready for the next messy adventure, after a day spent gardening or enjoying the delightful Texas weather. As I write this, I’ve got the French doors open on the back yard — it’s pleasant out and the mosquitos aren’t out in force yet.
An interesting article today from Molly Crabapple, one of my favorite artists and activists, on “Art After Occupy” in Jacobin:
I’m an artist. My job is to apply colored mud onto a surface. Just like the construction workers on the mural job, I’d be covered in toxic dust, freezing and wobbling on a rickety platform. I have dirty nails and rough hands. When famous artists pay young people ten bucks an hour to do their work for them, they’re reproducing the worst excesses of the financial world. Art is carpentry as much as metaphysics. We’re blue collar workers with pretenses at the sublime.
I thought a lot about all these things, but I never let them bleed into my work. … Then In 2011, the world exploded. In one country after another, people sat down in their cities’ main squares — Tahrir, Syntagma, Puerta del Sol, Zuccotti — and said the old world’s machine was dead. All the police charges in the world convince them otherwise. … An artist can engage with politics as a documentarian or propagandist, or just as a searching human, trying to puzzle out where the world broke. I first went down to Zuccotti Park to draw the protesters. The media said they were dirty hippie scumbags. I knew they weren’t. They were veterans and construction guys and old ladies doing knitting. Someone held up a sign saying “Give a damn.”
… I wanted to help however I could. I donated money and clothes and tarps. I turned my apartment into a press room. Journalists from around the world charged their laptops on my power outlets and drank my booze. I also began to draw protest posters. When the police raided Occupy Oakland, they put a veteran in a coma by shooting him in the head with a tear gas canister. As a response, I drew “Can You See the New World Through the Tear Gas.”
Occupy Wall Street taught middle-class kids what poor people and people of color have always known: the law is a cruel and arbitrary thing that turns against you in a second. I was furious and shaken for everyone, protester or not, thrown for no reason in that awful place. The next day I drew our jail cell for CNN. That protest turned out to be the last real gasp of Occupy Wall Street. After hurricane Sandy wrecked New York, Occupy turned to helping our powerless, waterless neighbors. But it was never the same.
A good conversation with friends about music put me in a twangy mood tonight, so here’s a great video of Emmylou Harris in 1977 singing “Making Believe” from the BBC program Old Grey Whistle Test.
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Image by Molly Crabapple.