Category Archives: Multicultural Arts

Multicultural Art and Poetry

A New Year Journal – by Martin Kimeldorf

Across all ages or stages of life we ask different questions of a similar nature. I think the most enduring questions were penned by the FitzGerald-Khayyám Rubáiyát team when they asked, Why are we here? Where have we come from? Where are we going? At each life-stage the questions take different forms. When younger we ask Who Am I? Then at midlife we ponder: Is This All There Is? and Where Am I Going? And finally in old age as we review our journey, we ask How Have I Lived My Life? and How Do I Want To Be Remembered? Of course all these questions can all be asked repeatedly at any age.

On New Years Eve 2017 we bade adieu to one of the historically worst years of our lives. Certainly we enjoyed some good moments, but overall a darkness descended when that old suicidal devil revealed his ugly Trump face, and made appearances in Europe, the Middle and Far East, and Africa. While summing up the well-lived and terrified parts of that year, Judy asked, “I wonder if I have lived a small life?” Of course she is not asking about size, and rather if her life mattered.

As humans we can only use ourselves as a measuring stick. We stand squarely at the midpoint point between the microscopic and cosmic. On one hand we diddle with our genetic codes that drive much of our physical existence. I would also argue that our gene codes holds our inherited instructions for much of our mortal journey. Then at the other end, we jet out to the edge of our solar system and look back at Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot and see our tremendous insignificance.

An interpretation of Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot image
In 1993 Sagan wrote in his Pale Blue Dot book (and speech) the following words:

     In the photograph, Earth’s apparent size is less than a single pixel; the planet appears as a tiny dot against the vastness of space, among bands of sunlight scattered by the camera’s optics…That’s home. That’s us. On it, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives.

     The aggregate of all our joys and sufferings, thousands of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilizations, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every hopeful child, every mother and father, every inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every superstar, every supreme leader, every saint and sinner in the history of our species, lived there – on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam.

     The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and in triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of the dot on scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner of the dot. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

When Judy asks the question about living a small life it is not about the size. She runs up against Carl’s words about our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe. Our physical size is infinitesimally small, the word insignificance does not adequately describe the accomplishment of our species, our communities, our individual stories….all of which disappear within the blink of cosmic or geological time. When my uncle’s opera the Blue Plum Tree hero wales upon the stage, “Who will remember me now?” the answer comes in the form of silence.

For me, a small life means living in a small self-contained world whether a blue dot or our physical body. But it is through our adaptive intelligence that we escape the limits of our small selves. As Martin Luther King once noted, “Everyone can be great because everyone can serve.” Thus, we achieve greatness when we reach out beyond the limits of our individual selves.

Reaching beyond takes many forms. If we pursue a liberal arts education we study our literature, art, history, and politics. We realize we belong to more than a single family or tribe or nation. This was captured best in Edward Steichen’s photo-exhibit and book The Family of Man brought to life in the 1950s, in the middle for the cold war growing into a hot war.

When we return to Sagan’s and King’s reflections (and most progressive religious and scientific thinkers) the measure of a life can be found in Winston Churchill words: We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give. Our importance is not found in our size but in how we imagine we transcending our individual size and purpose. And this is best measured in how we contribute to our community. It is the how and why the ape-creature survived and eventually flourished in a jungle dominated by dangerously large obstacles and creatures. As we forget this truth, we forget our way, we forget our homo-sapiens purpose.

MK-Quatrain CXXXII

Our pale blue dot barely seen in sunlight, where chosen peoples justify their fight. Will our insignificance teach the value
of working together in the vast dark night?

Time is the only wealth we truly inherit at birth. As we age we see how our health becomes a foundation for enjoying this wealth. Our well-being often reflects the sum or our physical and emotional states. Learning how to laugh to survive strengthens these states. The right to laugh comes with the freedom to cry before the daily cruelties and disappointments that cross our paths. The size of our life is often enhanced by spending our wealth on others.

A small life is limited to it’s home, it’s accumulation, it’s appetites. A large life studies the starry night, tries to grasp the significance of tiny carbon monoxide molecules, applauds the grand gesture of erecting a bridge, and keeps clapping for those who reach across time and space to help others ravaged by natural and man-made disasters. On the day-to-day level, we still get up to fry an egg in the morning, but we pause long enough to consider how that egg got to our home, how the frying pan was fashioned from the earth, the magical heat that instantly appears on the stove, and the blessing of time enough with which to prepare and consume the meal…no longer limited to being hunters and gatherers.

In the end, the larger life begins in the mind and is nourished across time by the heart’s emotions. Our lives expand beyond our reach, beyond our mortal stature, when we both pursue large thoughts and humbly perform small acts of kindness. In this manner we break the bondage of our smaller selfish selves. Escaping the tiny, insignificant life is built on following our natural curiosity and life-long learning. It grant us a moment of awe when staring at the night sky. Our small creative and compassionate acts enlarge the footprint we leave behind in times temporary sands.

Yes Judy, you and I can gently exhale, knowing we made an effort to look beyond our narcissist reflection. And yes, no one may remember us, or what we did. And, like others, we will return to sleep with the stardust from which we originally sprang. In this fashion we complete a heavenly cycle and rejoin the larger life that belongs to what I call the Greater Continuity.

Wish for the New Year – Poem by Yvor Stoakley

Another year has come and gone and a new one just begun.
We completed another circuit around our brilliant Sun.
As we reflect on how we fared in 2017,
Let’s also pause to consider what each of our relationships to us mean.

There are people that we value for their wisdom and insight,
And others who will stand by us in any righteous fight.
There are those we know through love, through friendship, and through tears,
And those with whom we work or worship or were classmates through the years.

Continue reading Wish for the New Year – Poem by Yvor Stoakley

Kwaanza Quest — Poem by Vincent Ivan Phipps

After the presents have been opened and our belly’s are put to rest,

On the day after Christmas, we pay tribute to the first fruits of the harvest.

Acknowledging the tradition followed by 18 million since 1966 from East to the West,

Understanding Kwanzaa’s guidelines is part of our growing culture quest.

Continue reading Kwaanza Quest — Poem by Vincent Ivan Phipps

Engender Exhibit Goes Beyond the Binary

(Artwork by Jonathan Lyndon Chase – Pulpit)
Kohn Gallery presents Engender, a group exhibition featuring  contemporary artists who are revolutionizing the way we visualize conventional gender as exclusively male or female. Established in 1985, the Kohn Gallery has presented historically significant exhibitions in Los Angeles alongside exciting contemporary artists, creating meaningful contexts to establish links to a greater art historical continuum.

Through painting, a medium that has traditionally embraced this binary, these artists are pushing the genre in new, unprecedented directions, challenging the ways in which paintings can be used to deconstruct and rewrite conventional notions of personal identity. The exhibition highlights the inter-blending of traditional and figurative abstraction as the foundation for more fluid and inclusive expressions of identity, engendering a new visual pronoun. Engender is beyond the binary.

“If the show can expose people to questions about gender, questions that they may have never known to ask, that would be a success in my book.  I want people to be exposed to this topic first and foremost.  I think awareness is what will lead to further conversation.  When you have something so tethered to a long history of cultural categorizations such as gender, assumptions occurs.  Assumptions that negate proper exposure, discussion, and education on a very complex and multilayered component of all our lives.  The artists in the exhibition are reclaiming that narrative, visually crafting languages that speak to their own unique experience, and yet can very much be understood by all.”
~
Joshua Friedman, Curator and Associate Director of Kohn Gallery 
Continue reading Engender Exhibit Goes Beyond the Binary

Come Back for Me: A Novel by Sharon Hart-Green

Loss, trauma, memory, and the impenetrable ties of family are the elements that weave together Sharon Hart-Green’s panoramic debut novel Come Back for Me (New Jewish Press). Set in the aftermath of World War II, it is a gripping story about the redemptive power of love and self-understanding.

Come Back for Me tells the story of two young Jewish characters; one is a Hungarian Holocaust survivor Artur Mandelkorn who is on a desperate quest to find his beloved sister, Manya, after they become separated during the war. Artur’s journey takes him to Israel where he falls in love with Fanny, a young woman who still bears the scars of her own tragic past in Germany.

Continue reading Come Back for Me: A Novel by Sharon Hart-Green

ViVi’s Transformation – Poem by Sharon Mishler Fox

Metamorphosis (Butterflies for Marcus) by Deidre DeFranceaux http://www.deidre-defranceaux.com/paintings/metamorphosis/
Metamorphosis
(Butterflies for Marcus) by Deidre DeFranceaux
http://www.deidre-defranceaux.com/paintings/metamorphosis/

 

I am ViVi’s skin

 

 

 

 

I am a place of disquiet;
I am uncomfortable, aflame
with the desire to become
who I was always meant to be.
My cheeks burn
where the laser singes away
what once was dark beard stubble.

Continue reading ViVi’s Transformation – Poem by Sharon Mishler Fox