A Little Art From My Friends

In 1980, an aging Yemeni woman living in a Palestinian village was involuntarily relocated to a bland immigrant camp. She was an artist and felt stifled by the white walls of her new house, so she bought cans of paint and, over several years, covered her white walls with the rich motifs of Yemei embroidery. https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/afias-house-shlomi-israel Her project got her through a difficult time, and it is wondrous.

In times of crisis, we go inward. We feel disoriented as we adapt. During those times, art can help us make sense of things, and imagine a future that carries the best of our past.

When I started thinking about this, I realized a lot of people in my own life have rallied their artistic talents to the cause. Here are examples of their art, inspired by our current common struggle and inspiring us to think beyond the moment.

Huipilista Masks. In San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, Lena Bartula, is a scholar on the subject of huipils, a blouse worn by indigenous women in Central America. She also uses her artistic skills to make them. When the pandemic hit, she shifted her focus to incredible masks that deploy her knowledge of folk art, as well as her own sense of playfulness. I wish I could see them in person now!

Photo by Maia Williams.

Las Mujeres.  Pepe Hernandez Ponce in Guanajuato, Mexico lost his job when the local economy collapsed as a result of the pandemic. So Pepe, father of four, leveraged this personal crisis to do what he loves most — paint murals. In just 6 months, he has painted at least a dozen murals, bringing local tourists and students to his hillside barrio.

Woman with Baby. Sallie Latch has been an artist for many years, but had stopped painting until she found herself sequestered during the pandemic.  In recent months, she has painted more than a dozen incredible portraits of women. This one speaks to these times with a sense of protection and peace.

Sweet Tarts for My Sweet Hearts. Bonnie Black from San Miguel de Allende told me she’d never write another book after she finished a novel about her Scottish ancestors a couple of years ago. Then the pandemic hit and she got back to work, combining her compulsion for writing with her passion for the culinary arts. She wrote a book about baking tarts!  Which you can get in the usual places!

Ham Radio. Maybe it’s not technically art but it’s certainly creative. Vic Weisser used this time of isolation to learn how to be a ham operator, not an easy undertaking. This is his homage to ham shacks. I understand he doesn’t talk politics with fellow hams.

Girl with Fish and Horse. I am not artistic but I have recently made a few collages to explore my sense of things. This is one of my favorites because it includes some strong symbols in my life, and it made me feel I could be patient, which I am not.

Maxine Linda Davimes. Artists Mellissa McGrady and Rory Davimes produced this masterpiece during the pandemic. You can’t get more creative than that!

“Rise like Lions after slumber In unvanquishable number — Shake your chains to earth like dew Which in sleep had fallen on you — Ye are many — they are few.”
—  Percy Bysshe Shelley from his poem “The Mask of Anarchy”:

Photo and mask by Lena Bartula

19 comments

  1. Well, I am both honored and a bit sheepish about finding my memorial to my two uncles who served in WWII featuring a classic ham radio receiver being included in Kim’s uplifting post on real art and real artists during these Strange Days.

    The receiver shown is a Hallicrafters SX-28 made during WWII. It is considered to be an all-time classic of design and ergonomics by hams, so I guess it could be considered to be “industrial art”. I dunno’.

    The pictures of my uncles in uniform, the logbook and the radio headset from WWII are the centerpiece of the memorial which has yet to be completed. Tracking down these items and the process of creating the memorial has been a very rewarding experience for me. I think my takeaway from Kim’s post is the value of being conscious of things beyond the moment- both in the past and in a future yet to be written.

    A receiver identical to the one pictured above was gifted to me by my Uncle Lou. He had received it at war’s end upon discharge from hospital after recovering from wounds suffered when he was torpedoed and rescued from two ships sunk in succession on a convoy to Murmansk, USSR. Lou gave it to me in 1956 when I was 12. Together we figured out how to put up an antenna and use it. Listening to stations in Europe was a novel thrill back in those days. It was during this time that Lou for the first time spoke of his wartime experiences to me or anybody, Anyhow, I was about to take my FCC exam to become a licensed Novice ham when I discovered girls and the focus of my interests took an abrupt 90 degree turn. Some 60+ years later this July I completed my quest for the FCC Technician and then General class license. I’m a ham and get to chat with folks all over the world!

    The memorial is still a work in progress. I have two large exquisitely colorful USArmy Air Force silk escape maps given to flyers during the war. My other Uncle Nat- a flyer in the Pacific Theater- gave these to me around the same time as his brother Lou gave me the receiver. These maps really are works of art. With the help of my daughter Deborah, I am in the process of framing them to hang over the receiver and the pictures of my uncles.

    There’s a bit more to the story. I wrote to a British author and prominent podcaster about my two uncles’ experiences during the war (as well as my dad’s much more humorous “contributions”). The podcaster/author and I exchanged a series of emails which he used word for word in one of his episodes. He’s the one who urged me to put together the memorial so I owe him a debt of gratitude. If you want ten minutes of alternating horror and humor, check out Episode #56 of the Fighting Through Podcast starting at around the 6:15 mark. http://fightingthroughpodcast.co.uk/?fbclid=IwAR2AYZQqXUKn8zLGfrB7Fn6Ha2arcK1E4sKqN9Q6XAtlquKwF0s270gkRjI . He’s a captivating narrator.

  2. Thanks Kim – beautiful! This is inspiration to get back to my art…

    Vic, my dad and brother were avid ham radio operators in the 60s and 70s. They taught me Morse Code too ( I remember: dah-dit-dah-dit, dah-dah-dit-dah), hearing them awake at night talking to Russians during the cold war, and tracking the huge world map on the wall with increasing numbers of red push-pins showing where they’ve been in touch with people. Thanks for the memories!

    Karen

  3. Thank you, querida Kim, for including my new “baby” book, SWEET TARTS! You remember how adamant I was two years ago about never writing another book. Well, never say never! This has been a fun pandemic project. Mucho love from SMA (and come back soon!), BB xx

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