Ceramics work by Autumn H.
"Maybe Sunday," recorded by Collin M. as CreativeContrast
It is June, it is hot, and I am at an art opening in someone’s front room, looking at ceramic cake sculptures that don’t captivate me. That remark is not to imply they are badly made, nor is it made to question whether or not they are “real art.” They’re just not my scene. I like art in vast white spaces that resemble heaven, or the light everyone is always talking about, that “end-of-the-tunnel” one. My parents, however, are in their element. They love these carefully realistic ceramic cakes. They are talking to the artist now, telling him how much they admire his work. My mother is laughing, telling the story she loves about the ceramic cake that we own, “…and he reached over and tried to take a taste! Oh, you just should have seen the look on his face.”
Disinterested, I retreat to the somehow even hotter front porch, where I take up a chair opposite a group of fifty-somethings who are discussing the relevance of our town. One remarks, “California north of Sacramento doesn’t really exist.” This is confirmed by the others with various nods and dissatisfied grumbles. And it’s true.They’re right. Chico is a town only valid in the minds of those who live here, or have lived here. Most conversations about where I’m from begin with some variation on the classic, “Oh yeah, Chico. I drove through there once,” and end up somewhere around, “I’ll have to spend more time there one of these days.”
I’ve lived here almost all my life, and for a long time I hated it. It was an absolute mystery why anyone would ever move here, stay here, like being here. Chico seemed so mundane. I wanted to live in places where no one knew each other, where things were constantly in motion, where there was always noise in the streets. Places where people walked fast and went.
And then suddenly, I didn’t.
—from an essay by Fiona M.
Stenciled spray paint pieces by Jack L.
Smells Like Yesterday
I’m not saying your room smells
like a musky basement
I’m saying I smell games
of hide-and-seek at my grandmother’s house.
I smell clothes freshly washed
but forgotten for a decade or two.
There is something in your pillows
like my grandfather setting down
a scotch, his ring clinking
against the glass before he fumbles
to light another cigarette.
I open your closet to the tune
of public radio announcing a coming
storm. Sitting at your desk I smell
the feel of cool marble table top
on a green shag carpet, grimy and unwashed.
When I leave there is a scent in my sweater
that sounds like the clink and clang
of pots and pans,
dinner being made through an open door.
The tradition of styling hair by cutting and fashioning it to one’s satisfaction can be traced to prehistory. Hair, whether short or luscious, is often attributed mythical qualities, as is the case with Lady Godiva, Medusa, Rapunzel, the Lorely myth, Struwwelpeter, and the infamous Samson and Delilah. But despite all this, orthodox human studies have barely scratched the surface of hair’s cultural and historical portrayal. We owe this to the fact that studies on traditional art and literary history are oriented towards the matter of iconography and the history of motifs. When examining these traits and their significance (or lack thereof) in cultural history, this has often resulted in a narrow critical angle. Reoccurring motifs in text and image are treated as authentic archaeological entities, meant to be traced back to their provenance and then appraised in their relevance to art. Hair—pubic hair in particular— can question this methodology. Understanding why pubic hair was depicted in a certain fashion tells much of the culture of a particular era, and provides evidence of its values and preferences, both hygienic and aesthetic.
Human hair was represented time and again as a part of the human body’s clothing in eighteenth century anthropological and art historical texts, thus functioning as a metaphor not only within but also for the artwork. Its web-like structure illustrates and accentuates that which it covers, and semantically regulates a universal visual language. The removal of pubic hair is not so much an absence than a non-presence. The lack of hair doesn’t form an overt art historical theme but is rather simply bypassed, which is neither new nor surprising. Monika Gsell, professor of Gender Studies at the University Of Zurich, states, “from antiquity to the twentieth century there have actually been very few places in which the uncovered, non-metaphorical and detailed presentation of the female genitals has been possible” (12). During the period of the antiquity into the middle ages, neither works of visual art nor art-philosophical reflections pay the phenomenon any attention. The non-representation of the female genitals acts as a topos throughout art history, beginning in the sixteenth century with Cranach the Elder and Dürer revealing the genitals of their subjects through discretionary signs including veils, hands, fig leaves, and pubic hair.
—from the introduction to Juliette M’s essay, “Why did 18th century artists depict women without pubic hair?” Painting of Eve by Cranach the Elder
Three Days on Earth, an original film shot, edited, directed & scored by Emily Y.
Personal identity is very important to me. As a seventeen-year-old girl, I (probably like most other seventeen-year-old girls) am a little bit more concerned with my appearance than perhaps I should be. I spend far too much time in the mirror. But the thing I care about is whether or not people realize I am a girl.
Things were not always this way. I was born male, and lived the first fifteen or so years of my life in the roughest theatre program known to man: the closet. Yes, I am transgender; that is my situation. I am a girl; that is my identity. So, that all being said, I tend to feel strongly about personal identity and self expression. So you could imagine my shock when, over the summer, while I was doing a stand-up comedy workshop in New York City, one of the other comedians said to me, “You’re not a normal girl, are you?”
This threw me for a loop. I come from a liberal background, and I grew up in a family that’s very LGBTQ friendly, which I am very thankful for. But I had never thought of myself as abnormal. My fellow comedian was not referring to my gender, but my vocabulary. This fellow comedian is a 71-year-old man I’ll call Jerry, and Jerry’s opinion of the youth of this nation is that we are a crass and uneducated bunch of hoodlums. He was referring, in this instance, to the fact that I had just used the word “pulchritude” in a discussion about the New York City skyline, something he did not think a modern seventeen-year-old, boy or girl, capable of. And while we soon smoothed things over after a somewhat hasty reaction, this experience got me thinking: What is normal?
—from an essay by Maggie G.
Paintings from Uzayr A’s series on crows