Monday, June 18, 2007

Conservative Artist... an Oxymoron?, or, the Burlington Walls Start Closing In.

Simon Schama's Power of Art on PBS: if you did not catch it tonight, follow the links on the site to find out when you can see it again. The visuals are great, they really help one get inside the artists' head... the narration borders on the melodramatic, but I've never been one to mind that. If we support the show, maybe by the 2nd or 3rd season, they will get through all the "really great masters" and feature a woman artist.

I am a bit cranky tonight: last week, when I was still in San Diego, I received an email that a local arts group back home was doing an open figure drawing session on Monday, June 18th. Now, I have not attended a figure drawing session in a decade or two, but I was also teaching figure drawing regularly during that time, and you really do absorb through osmosis as you look and help correct student drawings.

I am doing lots of figurative works these days, and I thought, "It won't hurt, seems like a good thing to do at this point", so I emailed my RSVP and said that I would attend. That night, I had a dream: I was attending some sort of huge art meeting, mostly women, and all of a sudden, I became uncomfortable. There were people starting to process through the space, and it began to feel like church. I said, “I thought this was supposed to be about art! I am not good in groups like this, I have to go...”. And the smiling young women around me said, “We’re artists, we don’t like to belong to groups either!”, trying to reassure me and make me stay. After a few more minutes, I just said, “I’m out of here!” and bolted for the door. There were still a few young women who ran after me, trying to get me to come back. The dream kind of shook me up, and I shared it with Kevin, and with my friends at the Stitch N Bitch a few days ago.

Today, I was anxious all day, and could not figure out why. I went to the figure drawing session, and during the break, went into the administrative office to pay my $15. There were 3 “fellow artists” there, doing the same. When I paid my money, I was asked my name, and the administrator asked, “where have I heard that name?”, and I mumbled, “oh, there was something in the paper a few weeks ago”, trying to keep things low key and get out of there as soon as possible. One person said one thing, then someone else said another, putting pieces together. There were two conversations going on, and then the only man in the room simply said the word, “devil.” I said, “excuse me?” on my way out of the door, and he said “she’s the devil.” For some reason, I thought that he must be joking, but when I looked back, he was not smiling, or saying “just kidding”. I normally do not shy away from confrontation like this, but I honestly could not believe that he was not joking, it did not sink in that he was serious until I got back to the drawing studio. (How much of a Christian could he be if he was drawing a naked man in the next room?) Even during the last hour of the session, I just sort of shrugged it off, and concentrated on what I was doing, but now it is really beginning to bug me. Certainly, people said a lot worse to me last January, but this was said in person, and it caught me by surprise. And why should it bother me so much what this limp-brained little man hissed at me?

While I was raised Catholic, I do not attend church. While proximity to most organized religious gatherings makes me anxious, the largest percentage of my moral code comes from the values I was taught as a child, except where the letter of the law rubs up too hard against the spirit of the law, and then my liberalism takes over. The best complement anyone ever paid to me was that I "live closer to what my professed values are than anyone they had ever met". I expend a lot of energy trying to be a good, kind person.

I felt like I was in a bad horror movie tonight. I watched "Jesus Camp" a few weeks ago, I am reading things here and there about the rise in Christian fundamentalism, but it was always "out there". I was at a nude figure drawing session in an ART organization tonight, I thought I was safe. We live in the 21st century, for God's sake. And I have been living in an ivory tower, apparently... these professed Christians, who are as un-christian as I can possible imagine, are all around me, within striking distance. I have unwittingly been playing "don't ask, don't tell" in my daily interactions at the supermarket and the gym.

I just ordered a Jesus Is A Liberal bumper sticker (also peek at the site's "Good Christian Hate Mail"). I have been invited to attend a function at this same organization later in the week: I am looking for a red dress, and a red tail to wear with it.

And I feel a painting brewing.


Anonymous Mo Dickens said...

Hey Kate, Mo here. When people ask, "Where have I heard that name before?" how about responding, "Well, I painted a picture concerning celebrity worship in America last year and it generated an enormous amount of press. I was raised Catholic, so I'm really not into all this worshiping of false idols stuff." If they say, "No, that's not it," try "I know Mo Dickens, a longtime North Carolinian who is in the movie Bull Durham."...Good luck with the nutjobs. Everytown has some, but the fact that they attend nude sketching sessions in Burlington is impressive.

12:39 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

That's a thoughtful response, Mo. Turns out the wife of my husband's boss' boss was at that drawing session. Iwas warned about the small town thing. I think I'm going to stay in my studio, do my work, and make occasional voyages to other cities.

Where were you in Bull Durham?

1:53 PM  

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