Monday, July 14, 2008

Here, It's Peace.

One of the really wonderful things that has happened to me in the last couple of years is I've met a really interesting, intelligent, and artistic woman through my son's friendship with a schoolmate. She's a thoughtful liberal, and a funny and complex person, which can be a little rare in the environment in which I live.

One of the really crappy things that has happened to me over the last couple of years is my situation at a job I would otherwise really like. But that changed last week.

I have been trying to see Michele's show since it started, but a combination of stress and circumstance kind of kept me away. In fact, it kept me from a lot of fun activities I would have liked to attend. Though I have seen some of the works she exhibited in the show (and maybe that's not the right word for it -- I am not a visual artist) in her home and online, I knew it wasn't the same as seeing them properly hung, with statements and context. I already knew I find her work powerful, but when the artist is standing there holding the work up before you, it is (for me) difficult to lose myself to the experience.

Though the craptacularness of my job changed by the end of last week, there were still a lot of unanswered questions, mixed emotions, and general disbelief. I walked out of work on Friday afternoon with a sort of surreal potential for celebration.

Saturday was another interesting day. I will blog about that later.

Sunday, I woke up knowing Michele was going to take down her art at 3:00 pm. It was my priority to see it before it went away. I was sad I wasn't going to see the show on a day when Michele was there to talk about it.

Michele's exhibition was titled "Here, It's Peace." I had talked with her before about the meaning of that, and I know it's meant both literally and not literally. Many of the pieces for this collection have a sort of desert camouflage motif, but even though they evoke the current combat situation in the Middle East, they do not literally depict it. And, in fact, the images are also meant to (as I understand it) evoke other types of war and peace. For example, they might suggest the "war" of an illegal alien crossing the border versus the "peace" of a family in San Diego enjoying a day at the beach. Or the "war" of a woman or children who are abused by a violent patriarch versus the "peace" of a happy marriage.

As I say, I have seen many of the works before in other contexts, and always, I have been aware of the juxtaposition of the conflict and the harmonious. But I have always related more to the socio-political implications of the works, especially with regard to the USA's current conflicts.

Sunday, I woke up with an invigorated heart and sense of self. I was ready to let the past go, and give my energy back to my personal life, my friends, and most of all, my son. After entertaining him for a few hours, I set off to see Michele's exhibition.

The San Diego Art Institute is located in Balboa Park. It was very busy, so I had to park far away from the SDAI. For some reason, I felt in a hurry, and dashed off, noticing nothing around me and passing pedestrians left and right, to get to the SDAI.

I got to the SDAI and went downstairs to see Michele's exhibition. It was a rare hot and humid day in San Diego, and I relished the cool quietness that was the exhibition room. Michele's exhibition was the first thing I saw.

I'm not sure I saw the show in the order Michele wanted me to see it, but, for me, the order in which I saw it meant everything. One of the first things that struck me was this painting. There was a poem by Ivan Sigg accompanying the painting that moved me, and I hope Michele will give me a link to it. What really struck me was that for me, the politics were in the background. They were there, but this painting reminded me that personal relationships are what's important. What transcends the politics. As I moved through the rest of the works, I saw things I hadn't seen before. I saw Michele's relationship to her motherhood, which is so similar to mine. I saw her fears and her bravado. I saw and felt orange where before I had seen only camouflage. I saw so much more than I had before.

Note: I'm still processing her piece on Ingrid Betancourt and cannot comment on it now.

Because I was by myself, I could sit on a bench and really let the pieces speak to me. I did that for awhile before I moved on to the pieces behind me.

Those pieces seemed to get more hopeful.

I must say that every piece I saw seemed to speak to me in a new way, and I kept thinking for each piece, "This is my favorite." But then I came to this:

This was the piece I felt summed up everything I was feeling. It's beautiful, it's powerful, it speaks to me about my motherhood, my nurturing, and my conflicts. I stood before it for a long time, letting it draw me in. The most important part for me is it spoke of my relationship to Michele and of our mutual relationship to our kids, our culture, and our concerns.

If you don't know Michele Guieu's work, you should.

And this is what I wrote to her soon after seeing her show:

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