Deborah Luster ~ Tooth for an Eye

One of the many pleasures of New Orleans is the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. The photography curator and artist in his own right , Richard McCabe, has produced some stunning shows in the last few years. Most recently is the Tooth for an Eye : A Chorography of Violence in Orleans Parish by Deborah Luster. The exhibit took my breath away in its depth and breadth of handling the difficult and painful issue of violence in our cities. This is very important work and incredibly well done. 

Grid of Deborah's photographs at the Ogden

Gun violence is a subject that I once entertained exploring but did not have the stomach for it. As an alternative  I decided to start a blog to document daily shootings "In My Backyard."  After two days I had to stop as it was too disturbing to start my day knowing who died and where the most recent act of violence occurred. I am deeply grateful to Deborah for creating this body of work that so eloquently discusses a very dark side of the human condition.

In Deborah's words...

"With a homicide rate nearly ten times 
the national average, New Orleans stands today, as it did as far back as the 1850"s as the homicide capital of the United States." 

"TOOTH FOR AN EYE:A CHOROGRAPHY OF VIOLENCE IN ORLEANS PARISH is a project that attempts to take a very close look at something that no longer exists - an invisible population - in the only way in which one can approach such things, obliquely and through reference. The result is a photographic archive documenting contemporary and historical homicide sites in the city of New Orleans and is as well, an exploration of the empty, dizzying space at the core of violence."

"The images that populate the archive were collected with an 8x10 Deardorff field camera. The exposures in these photographs are long, and much of the action-mechanical, botanical, and human -is rendered as spectral blur, a physical representation of time like some isotropic fog, depth without defined dimension."

"Chorogrpahy is a form of geography that describes the inherent attributes of a place. These attributes may be physical, sociological, conceptual, metaphysical, or sensory. Tooth for an Eye not only documents sites where violence has occurred, it also finds itself documenting the city's physical loss as her unique material culture crumbles and transforms following generations of political failure. Many buildings that served as backgrounds for violent death have disappeared since they were photographed for this project."

 "In the atavistic culture of New Orleans, so alive with the historic, symbolic, and sensual, there exists a porousness between the worlds of the living and the dead, where time bends and flows, and neither world lives or dies free of the other's space or influence."

 These portholes have color video, one for family and one for friends...underlining the fact that many lives are at stake here,  not just those of the victims or the perpetrator.

You can check Deborah's website to see where else the work has been exhibited.
Deborah's book, Tooth for an Eye, is available on Amazon.

The Art of Human Rights and Healing ~ Survivor Quilts

Some amazing work had transpired in Chicago under the creative brainpower of Greg Halvorsen Schreck, a photography professor at Wheaton College
Greg collaborated with Chicago’s Heartland Alliance Marjorie Kovler Center in creating a photographic/quilt project with survivors of politically sponsored torture. The Kovler Center transforms the lives of individuals recovering from the complex consequences of torture,  providing medical, mental health, and social services.

Constructing the quilt 

"We had discussed possible photography projects for years. However, the need for survivor confidentiality made conventional documentary approaches impossible. Instead of a traditional documentary project, too often cementing images of individual victims, we decided to use an approach that visualized a community of survivors. Through a collaborative group project, we were able to create a process that promoted dialogue and understanding between survivors, students, and staff members. We all wanted to create an image of a supportive community that would present survivors with dignity and beauty. Posing torture survivors for photographs might reiterate the problem of someone exerting control over them, so we allowed each person to depict themselves in ways that offered self-expression, autonomy, and anonymity. The basic set consisted of a computer monitor next to a camera, allowing the subject to see each image on the screen as it was made. Most importantly, we gave them a remote control to make their own self-portraits. We wanted the survivors to see themselves in community—in solidarity with case workers and other service providers—so the Kovler Center staff participated as well." 
"After making photographs to their satisfaction, the survivors were invited to choose two photographs that they liked the best. The images were cropped into squares and printed on-site. The photographs were then cut into strips and woven back together. The editing and weaving process allowed the participants another way to alter their identity, as needed. They could control exactly how they would appear. Finally, the completed squares were sewn together to create a quilt. Students were responsible for various parts of the collaborative process: helping with the camera; editing, cropping, and printing the images; cutting the images and weaving them back together; troubleshooting and overseeing the visual design of the quilt; and sewing the quilt together. The production room was festive and energetic, with students, survivors, and Kovler Center staff working together in various combinations. The quilt was reinforced and finished at Wheaton College."

The participants’ response was overwhelmingly positive:
 “They did the worst things to me, the worst. I have scars all over from where they hurt me. I thought I didn’t have a body anymore . . . I brought my therapist with me, and then I felt okay. I made some pictures, and I started feeling happy. I could do it by myself, without the therapist anymore. I liked the pictures I saw. I started moving and having fun.”
“I realized that I could have a body again; I could be in my body. I could move. I realized I could have a life here. I could start again. I felt like I was a model, that I was beautiful.”
“After what they did to my body, I never knew I could feel this way again.”
“You made me beautiful . . . I am beautiful!”
“I felt immortal.”
"A non-traditional intervention, the finished quilt has proven to be uplifting, empowering, and transformative, beyond what any of us could have imagined. Something magical and healing occurred when survivors took the remote control in their hands, determined how to pose their own bodies, and decided when and how their image was to be recorded."

Greg shares more ideas from this past fall on working  with another underserved population in the Chicago area...
 "I started my class this semester working with the escalating refugee population in Wheaton.  Mostly from Congo and Burundi; the civil war there is pretty harrowing.  A number of us in Wheaton donated our backyards for some of them to farm.  My students documented the gardens and we had an exhibition a few weeks back: all the African gardeners came.  There was abundant Congolese and other food that they made.  Only a few of the homeowners came.  The refugees had never been to an opening, nor had most of them seen pictures of themselves.  It was quite a wild time.  So Karen and I invited our gardeners for dinner this afternoon with another refugee family.  Talk about culture shock..."

 You can read more about the quilt project HERE.

Remarks from President Obama

July 20, 2012

Following is the transcript of President Obama’s remarks on the shootings in Aurora, Colo., as released by the White House:
PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, let me, first of all, say how grateful I am for all of you being here, and how much we appreciate everything that you’ve done.  I know that there are a lot of people here who have been so engaged in the campaign, have sacrificed so much, people who’ve been involved back since 2007. (Applause.)  And so I want all of you to know how appreciative I am.
And I know many of you came here today for a campaign event. I was looking forward to having a fun conversation with you about some really important matters that we face as a country and the differences between myself and my opponent in this election.  But this morning, we woke up to news of a tragedy that reminds us of all the ways that we are united as one American family.
By now, many of you know, many of you have heard that a few miles outside of Denver in a town call Aurora, at least 12 people were killed when a gunman opened fire in a movie theater, and dozens more are being treated for injuries at a local hospital.  Some of the victims are being treated at a children’s hospital.
We’re still gathering all the facts about what happened in Aurora, but what we do know is that the police have one suspect in custody.  And the federal government stands ready to do whatever is necessary to bring whoever is responsible for this heinous crime to justice.  (Applause.)  And we will take every step possible to ensure the safety of all of our people.
We’re going to stand by our neighbors in Colorado during this extraordinarily difficult time.  And I had a chance to speak with the Mayor of Aurora as well as the Governor of Colorado to express, not just on behalf of Michelle and myself, but the entire American family, how heartbroken we are.
Now, even as we learn how this happened and who’s responsible, we may never understand what leads anybody to terrorize their fellow human beings like this.  Such violence, such evil is senseless.  It’s beyond reason.  But while we will never know fully what causes somebody to take the life of another, we do know what makes life worth living.  The people we lost in Aurora loved and they were loved.  They were mothers and fathers; they were husbands and wives; sisters and brothers; sons and daughters, friends and neighbors.  They had hopes for the future and they had dreams that were not yet fulfilled.
And if there’s anything to take away from this tragedy it’s the reminder that life is very fragile.  Our time here is limited and it is precious.  And what matters at the end of the day is not the small things, it’s not the trivial things, which so often consume us and our daily lives.  Ultimately, it’s how we choose to treat one another and how we love one another.  (Applause.)
It’s what we do on a daily basis to give our lives meaning and to give our lives purpose.  That’s what matters.  At the end of the day, what we’ll remember will be those we loved and what we did for others.  That’s why we’re here.
I’m sure that many of you who are parents here had the same reaction that I did when I heard this news.  My daughters go to the movies.  What if Malia and Sasha had been at the theater, as so many of our kids do every day?  Michelle and I will be fortunate enough to hug our girls a little tighter tonight, and I’m sure you will do the same with your children.  But for those parents who may not be so lucky, we have to embrace them and let them know we will be there for them as a nation.
So, again, I am so grateful that all of you are here.  I am so moved by your support.  But there are going to be other days for politics.  This, I think, is a day for prayer and reflection.
So what I’d ask everybody to do, I’d like us to pause in a moment of silence for the victims of this terrible tragedy, for the people who knew them and loved them, for those who are still struggling to recover, and for all the victims of less publicized acts of violence that plague our communities every single day.  So if everybody can just take a moment.
(Moment of silence.)
Thank you, everybody.  I hope all of you will keep the people of Aurora in your hearts and minds today.  May the Lord bring them comfort and healing in hard days to come.
I am grateful to all of you, and I hope that as a consequence of today’s events, as you leave here, you spend a little time thinking about the incredible blessings that God has given us.
Thank you very much, everybody.  God bless you.  God bless the United States of America.

Shelley Calton ~ Licensed to Carry, Ladies of Caliber

Shelley Calton is another photographer I met at Fotofest with an inside track into the world of firearms. She has turned the camera on a very sensitive and timely subject. Guns are in the news everyday and the cause of tremendous suffering. I  find these photographs very powerful and incredibly disturbing. 

That is all I want to say... the rest is for you to consider.

In Shelley's words...

"Since the early pioneer days, women have armed themselves.  As a young girl growing up in Texas, I was taught about guns and learned to shoot. My father kept a pistol in his nightstand and rifles for hunting. Today only the predators and laws have changed. There is a growing trend in the number of licensed women handgun carriers. These women are empowered and armed for protection.  They have been tested, fingerprinted, and schooled to use a firearm effectively." 

 "Until recently I have maintained an apprehensive distance from guns except through the lens of my camera. Yet, firearms have interestingly integrated themselves into my work, i.e., Hard Knocks, “Tex Offender’s Pistols” and Nécessaire “Colt 44.” In Licensed to Carry, I decided to explore the private lives of women who arm themselves and join them in becoming a licensed handgun owner. The photographs are set against everyday scenarios, the guns are prominently featured, and contrast their otherwise concealed nature." 

"Women who carry guns are unassuming: she may be the mother in line next to you at the grocery store checkout counter, the grandmother walking her dog, or the woman parking next to you at the shopping mall.  This is not an exclusive club and is open to anyone except a convicted felon."

"While owning and/or carrying a gun is not always kept a secret, it is seldom boasted or talked about.  That being said, when you ask a female gun owner to talk about her guns, she will open up, get excited, and proudly tell you about each gun.  What I didn’t expect and what I discovered through photographing these women is that many collect handguns as they would Wedgwood china or high heel shoes."


Waste Landscape ~ Elise Morin and Clemence Eliard

WASTE LANDSCAPE - Centquatre 104 - 21-07 // 11-09-2011 from elise morin on Vimeo.

A project by Elise Morin and Clémence Eliard

"WasteLandscape" is a 500 square meters artificial undulating landscape covered by an armor of 65 000 unsold or collected CDs, which have been sorted and hand-sewn. It is well known that CDs are condemned to gradually disappear from our daily life, and to later participate in the construction of immense open-air, floating or buried toxic waste reception centers.Made of petroleum, this reflecting slick of CDs forms a still sea of metallic dunes: the art work's monumental scale reveals the precious aspect of a small daily object. The project joins a global, innovative and committed approach, from its means of production until the end of its "life"."WasteLandscape" will be displayed in locations coherent with the stakes of the project: art role in society, raising consciousness to environmental problems through culture, alternative mode of production and valuation of district associative work and professional rehabilitation. Over the course of multiple exhibitions, "WasteLandscape" will go through quite a few transformations before being entirely recycled into polycarbonate. The roaming will allow both artists to pursue new awareness-raising activities.

"The installation has been developped by Elise Morin and Clémence Eliard in collaboration with the 104"
"The building has been refurbished by atelier Novembre: Marc Iseppi & Jacques pajot"

In Memory of 9/11 ~ Quelling the Violence

It was unintentional but on the eve of the 10th anniversary of 9/11 I went to see the movie The Interrupters. I had been trying to seeing it for some time but it took a while to open in Chicago and then I was out of town for all the sold out record breaking performances at the Gene Siskel Film Center. I was pleased to see they had another short run in a theater near me. I have been tracking this movie for some time because I had at one time considered working on a photographic project on gun violence. At the time of doing the research, I learned of this film in the making. I was so pleased that the extraordinary filmmakers, Kartemquin, of Hoop Dreams, were tackling the issue. The film focuses on universal themes of hope, compassion and love while following people in a south side Chicago neighborhood as they interrupt the cycle of violence. The model of intervention that the program Cease Fire uses could be applied world wide. The film has won multiple awards and should not be missed. Please, please, please go see it. You won't be disappointed.

Another person tackling the subject of epidemic gun violence is photographer extraordinaire, Carlos Javier Ortiz. He is giving a lecture about his work at the Filter Photo Festival in Chicago on Wednesday, October 12th at 7pm. Make your reservation HERE.

© Carlos Javier Ortiz

© Carlos Javier Ortiz

Last Night ~ Barack Obama's 50th Birthday Celebration in Chicago

Everyone singing Happy Birthday to the President, led by Jennifer Hudson

In case you were wondering how Barack Obama's 50th Birthday Celebration went, here are a few photographs from the night. It was thrilling to be there. The music was fabulous, the energy electric. They had a slide show with lots of people holding up signs "I'm In" for the 2012 race. He did say that today is his actual birthday and that he'll wake up with an email from AARP telling him to “call President Obama and tell him to protect Medicare.”

No SLR cameras were allowed on the floor

Herbie Hancock was so amazing. I can't begin to tell you how hot it was standing there. And then the music started and everyone forgot how uncomfortable it was. We were just mesmerized by the artistry of the musicians.

My only regret is not video taping Jennifer Hudson singing. Her performance got to the essence of the soul.

President Obama went out to shake hands with his fans...I was just too far back but did shake hands with our new Chicago Mayor, Rahm Emanuel

August 4 ~ my favorite photograph of the night

"Im In" ...are you?

I woke up this morning to a wonderful email from Michelle Obama.

Jane --

Every day, I see Barack make choices he knows will affect every American family. That's no small task for anyone -- and more proof that he's earning every last one of those gray hairs.

This has been a busy week in Washington, but today happens to be Barack's 50th birthday. I'm writing to you because this year, the girls and I would like to do something a little different.

I'm asking friends and supporters of this campaign to wish him a happy birthday by signing his card, and sharing why you're on this journey with us.

Your names and notes will become part of a book that tells the story of this campaign -- who's building it, why we're in this thing, and what he means to us. We'll deliver a copy to Barack and send one to our campaign offices across the country. I've known Barack for more than 20 of his 50 years, and we've been through quite a lot together.

It still amazes me that no matter how many decisions and distractions he's faced with every day, he's always able to focus on the bigger picture. One way he does that is by making time for stories and letters from people like you -- because he knows that this job isn't about him, but about the millions of folks around the country he's fighting for.

This day -- and this campaign -- isn't just about Barack, either. So our team put together a video telling the story of another one of our supporters born 50 years ago today, talking about where he wants to see our country go and why he's in this fight with us. Watch it, and add your note to Barack's birthday card:

This next year will challenge us all to work harder than ever before, but the crucial thing is that you're here now, early on, helping to build this campaign.

I know that, like Barack and me, you have your own reasons why, so I hope you'll take a moment to sign the card and share your story with him and other supporters of this campaign.

Thanks for being a part of this,


You can Sign The Card for President Obama HERE.

Happy Birthday President Obama

August 3, 2011 ~ image by Mr. Brainwash

Today is President Obama's birthday. He is my hero and I am going to see him tonight along with Herbie Hancock, OK Go, and Jennifer Hudson at the Aragon Ballroom, just a stones throw from home. It was disappointing to wake up to the morning newspaper headlines saying he has suffered politically from the financial fiasco in Washington. Running this country with so many fundamentalists is no easy task. Change is not easy and compromise a challenge.

I watched the movie Invictus this past weekend and it was truly inspiring. After 27 years in jail, Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) is released in 1990. His immediate challenge is "balancing black aspirations with white fears", as racial tensions from the apartheid era have not completely disappeared. The title of the movie comes from a poem by William Ernest Henley, that was the spiritual cornerstone and support of Nelson Mandela's 27 year imprisonment.

"Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishment the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul."

I couldn't help but see the parallels between what happened in South Africa and the divide that is deepening in this country.
Fear and misunderstand abound.

We must try to understand the other side, and at times compromise in an attempt to create wholeness.

Using Art Making to Change the World

June 22 ~ Home by TreManda Pewett

Home, an installation piece to discuss homelessness, was created by 11th grader TreManda Pewett, from a 2 day inaugural Art Works Projects' Workshop to Change the World. It was organized by Leslie Thomas, the Executive and Creative Director of Art Works Projects and held at Marwen in Chicago. I was asked to be a creative advisor as students worked on varying topics that included water pollution, domestic and teen violence, bullying, genocide and homelessness. In a mere 2 days the work and ideas that were generated by these very talented youth (ranging from 8th grade to Sr. in High School) was astonishing.

You can learn more about the workshop by visiting their facebook page HERE or by visiting the Art Works Projects website HERE.

Vik Muniz ~ Wasteland

Thank you , Cathy, for this tip on an extraordinary project that photographer Vik Muniz created...using art to address his humanitarian concerns. I heard him speak a few years ago at the Art Institute of Chicago and his humanity shined thru. He makes art from pretty much anything, be it shredded paper, wire, clouds or diamonds.

There was a wonderful NYT article about the project HERE.

Vik Muniz was born into a working-class family in Sao Paulo, Brazil in 1961. As a young man he was shot in the leg whilst trying to break up a fight. He received compensation for his injuries and used this money to fund a trip to New York City, where he has lived and worked since the late 1980s. He began his career as a sculptor but gradually became more interested in photographic reproductions of his work, eventually turning his attention exclusively to photography. He incorporates a multiplicity of unlikely materials into this photographic process. Often working in series, Vik has used dirt, diamonds, sugar, string, chocolate syrup and garbage to create bold, witty and often deceiving images drawn from the pages of photojournalism and art history. His work has been met with both commercial success and critical acclaim, and has been exhibited worldwide. His solo show at MAM in Rio de Janeiro was second only to Picasso in attendance records; it was here that Vik first exhibited his “Pictures of Garbage Series” in Brazil. (from Wastelands website)

This trailer for the movie (available thru netflix streaming) gives you preview of his truly inspired work.

And here, on a TED video Vik Muniz describes the thinking behind his work.

Celebrate : Save A Mother - by Nicholas D. Kristof

I read this article last year on Mothers Day in the New York Times. It helps me to rethink alternative ways to celebrate our Mothers.

Celebrate: Save a Mother

Published: May 8, 2010

Happy Mother’s Day! And let me be clear: I’m in favor of flowers, lavish brunches, and every other token of gratitude for mothers and other goddesses.

Let me also add that your mom — yes, I’m speaking to you — is particularly deserving. (As is mine, as is my wife. And my mother-in-law!)

And because so many people feel that way, some $14 billion will be spent in the United States for Mother’s Day this year, according to the National Retail Federation. That includes $2.9 billion in meals, $2.5 billion in jewelry and $1.9 billion in flowers.

To put that sum in context, it’s enough to pay for a primary school education for all 60 million girls around the world who aren’t attending school. That would pretty much end female illiteracy.

These numbers are fuzzy and uncertain, but it appears that there would be enough money left over for programs to reduce deaths in childbirth by about three-quarters, saving perhaps 260,000 women’s lives a year.

There would probably even be enough remaining to treat tens of thousands of young women suffering from one of the most terrible things that can happen to a person, a childbirth injury called an obstetric fistula. Fistulas leave women incontinent and dribbling wastes, turning them into pariahs — and the injuries are usually fixable with a $450 operation.

So let’s celebrate Mother’s Day with all the flowers and brunches we can muster: no reason to feel guilty about a dollop of hedonism to compensate for 365 days of maternal toil. But let’s also think about moving the apostrophe so that it becomes not just Mother’s Day, honoring a single mother, but Mothers’ Day — an occasion to try to help other mothers around the globe as well.

Oddly, for a culture that celebrates motherhood, we’ve never been particularly interested in maternal health. The United States ranks 41st in the world in maternal mortality, according to an Amnesty International report, or 37th according to a major new study in the medical journal The Lancet, using different data sources.

Using either set of statistics, an American woman is at least twice as likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth as a woman in much of Europe.

A friend of mine in New York, a young woman who minds her health and has even worked on maternal health issues, nearly joined the data set last month. She had an ectopic pregnancy that she was unaware of until her fallopian tube ruptured and she almost died.

Maternal mortality is far more common in Africa and Asia. In the West African country of Niger, a woman has about a one-in-seven lifetime risk of dying from pregnancy complications. Women there often aren’t supposed to go to a doctor if the husband hasn’t granted express permission — so if he’s 100 miles away when she has labor complications, she may just die at home.

On the 50th anniversary of the pill, it’s also worth noting that birth control is an excellent way to reduce deaths in childbirth. If there were half as many pregnancies in poor countries, there would be half as many maternal deaths.

It’s certainly not inevitable that women die in childbirth, and some poor countries — like Sri Lanka — have done a remarkable job curbing maternal mortality. But in many places, women’s lives are not a priority.

There’s no silver bullet to end maternal mortality, but we know steps that have made a big difference in some countries. Bipartisan legislation to be introduced this year by Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut aims to have the United States build on these proven methods to tackle obstetric fistulas and maternal health globally.

Just the money that Americans will spend on Mother’s Day greeting cards for today — about $670 million — would save the lives of many thousands of women. Many organizations do wonderful work in this area, from the giants like CARE and Save the Children to the tiny Edna Maternity Hospital in Somaliland. Women Deliver and the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood do important advocacy work. And the Fistula Foundation and Worldwide Fistula Fund help women who have obstetric fistulas. (Details are on my blog,

So if one way to mark Mothers’ Day is to buy flowers for that special mom, another is to make this a safer planet for moms in general. And since we men are going to be focused on the flowers, maybe mothers themselves can work on making motherhood less lethal.

I had a letter the other day from a woman in Connecticut, Eva Hausman, who was so appalled when she learned about obstetric fistulas that she e-mailed her friends and asked them to contribute at least $20. To date she has raised $9,000 for the Fistula Foundation.

“Most of the contributions were accompanied by thank-you notes,” she told me. When people thank you for allowing them to donate — that’s truly a heartwarming cause, and a beautiful way to celebrate Mothers’ Day.

Care and Heifer

The Cove

I just finished watching the award winning documentary, The Cove. It was an AMAZING film. Such courage and passion. In it there was the following quote....

"Never depend upon institutions or government to solve any problem. All social movements are founded by, guided by, motivated and seen through by the passion of individuals. " Margaret Mead

So much yet to be done....

Life Support Japan Print Sale

Facebook at its best.

Friday morning I checking into Facebook and read Aline Smithson's entry "We are preparing ourselves for something on the west coast...all very unnerving. Thoughts and sympathies to all friends in Japan." I had no idea what she was talking about...only that she lives in LA and I have many relatives on the west coast. I quickly checked into the news and learned about the devastating earthquake.

Within hours, Aline and Wall Space Gallery director, Crista Dix's put together Life-Support Japan with the contributions of many, many photographers. The print sale has raised nearly $6,000 in 24 hours. 100% of the proceeds benefit Direct Relief International and Habitat for Humanity. It is so impressive.

If you were thinking of contributing please check out the site. More prints will be added daily.

Regard, Resist, React ~ Artists Responding

A few of my Crude Awakening images will be exhibited in a group show, Regard, Resist, React ~ Artists Responding; an exhibition of art in which the artists discuss their personal, emotional, and/or intellectual issues. Other artists included in the show are NICK AZZARO, LYNN BASA, WAFAA BILAL, ALEXANDER BRUEHL, HOLLY CAHILL, CLEVELAND DEAN, RILEY HENDERSON, FREDERICK HOLLAND, SALVADOR JIMENEZ, SIOBAN LOMBARDI, JESSICA MUNGUIA, YVA NEAL, ROLAND ORIA, JENNIFER TRAFF, MONIKA WULFERS, curated by SUSAN AURINKO, and JEFF STEVENSON
Visual Arts Gallery, Governors State University,1 University Parkway, University Park, Illinois. The opening reception is this Saturday, March 5th from 4:30 - 6:30 and runs thru March 25th.

© Life Guards, 2010 from Crude Awakening

Martin Luther King Day

In thinking about Martin Luther King and his message of non- violence, it is hard not to think about the culture of violence today in our country. The programming on TV and radio reflects so much that is unhealthy in our society. Violence is epidemic.

Here is a poem written by Shakita Winters from H.B Stowe Arts Academy in Chicago. She is the 8th grade winner of the 2nd annual Too Hot to Handel Poetry Contest.


Our community is like a hateful song
This crime in the streets causes everything to go wrong
When the grass is green and the sun is beaming
You seem to hear a lot of crying and screaming
But, Martin Luther King had a dream to bring all of us together
So that our children can show love and respect for one another
Despite your race.....
Red, Black, White, or Gray
We still have a chance to join together TODAY!!!!
It's best if we stop the violence
And keep the peace
In order to turn things around for YOU and ME!!!!!!!

I am hopeful that this new documentary, The Interrupters, will shed some light on the subject. The world premier is on January 21st at the Sundance Festival. The film will screen 3 more times at the festival. Tickets are now 'wait list only.' There is already an incredible buzz around it. The movie discusses how a national public health strategy, Cease Fire, is trying to stem the epidemic and has been scientifically proven to reduce shootings and killings.

The wisdom and compassion from our President and First Lady is truly remarkable. They are the true moral leaders of our time...

An Open Letter to Parents Following the Tragedy in Tucson
Posted by First Lady Michelle Obama on January 13, 2011 at 06:07 PM EST

Dear Parents,

Like so many Americans all across the country, Barack and I were shocked and heartbroken by the horrific act of violence committed in Arizona this past weekend. Yesterday, we had the chance to attend a memorial service and meet with some of the families of those who lost their lives, and both of us were deeply moved by their strength and resilience in the face of such unspeakable tragedy.

As parents, an event like this hits home especially hard. It makes our hearts ache for those who lost loved ones. It makes us want to hug our own families a little tighter. And it makes us think about what an event like this says about the world we live in – and the world in which our children will grow up.

In the days and weeks ahead, as we struggle with these issues ourselves, many of us will find that our children are struggling with them as well. The questions my daughters have asked are the same ones that many of your children will have – and they don’t lend themselves to easy answers. But they will provide an opportunity for us as parents to teach some valuable lessons – about the character of our country, about the values we hold dear, and about finding hope at a time when it seems far away.

We can teach our children that here in America, we embrace each other, and support each other, in times of crisis. And we can help them do that in their own small way – whether it’s by sending a letter, or saying a prayer, or just keeping the victims and their families in their thoughts.

We can teach them the value of tolerance – the practice of assuming the best, rather than the worst, about those around us. We can teach them to give others the benefit of the doubt, particularly those with whom they disagree.

We can also teach our children about the tremendous sacrifices made by the men and women who serve our country and by their families. We can explain to them that although we might not always agree with those who represent us, anyone who enters public life does so because they love their country and want to serve it.

Christina Green felt that call. She was just nine years old when she lost her life. But she was at that store that day because she was passionate about serving others. She had just been elected to her school’s student council, and she wanted to meet her Congresswoman and learn more about politics and public life.

And that’s something else we can do for our children – we can tell them about Christina and about how much she wanted to give back. We can tell them about John Roll, a judge with a reputation for fairness; about Dorothy Morris, a devoted wife to her husband, her high school sweetheart, to whom she’d been married for 55 years; about Phyllis Schneck, a great-grandmother who sewed aprons for church fundraisers; about Dorwan Stoddard, a retired construction worker who helped neighbors down on their luck; and about Gabe Zimmerman, who did community outreach for Congresswoman Giffords, working tirelessly to help folks who were struggling, and was engaged to be married next year. We can tell them about the brave men and women who risked their lives that day to save others. And we can work together to honor their legacy by following their example – by embracing our fellow citizens; by standing up for what we believe is right; and by doing our part, however we can, to serve our communities and our country.


Michelle Obama

Industrial Scars ~ J Henry Fair

I just came across the work of J Henry Fair and it is powerful. His book, the day after tomorrow, images of our earth in crisis, will be released soon by PowerHouse Books.

Fair states...."Industrial Scars is an aesthetic look at some of our most egregious injuries to the system that sustains us in hopes that the viewer will come away with an innate understanding of her complicity and a will to make a difference. My work is a response to my vision of society."

He continues, "I see our culture as being addicted to petroleum and the unsustainable consumption of other natural resources, which seems to portend a future of scarcity. My vision is of a different possibility, arrived at through careful husbandry of resources and adjustment of our desires and consumption patterns toward a future of health and plenty. To gear our civilization toward sustainability does not necessitate sacrifice today, as many naysayers would argue, but simply adjustment. There are many societies existing at present that have a standard of living at least as high as ours while consuming and polluting a fraction of what is the norm in the United States.

As an artist with a message, one asks oneself: how do I translate my message to my medium such that it will effect the change I want?

At first, I photographed “ugly” things; which is, in essence, throwing the issue in people’s faces. Over time, I began to photograph all these things with an eye to making them both beautiful and frightening simultaneously, a seemingly irreconcilable mission, but actually quite achievable given the subject matter. These are all photographs of things I have found in my explorations. Other than standard photographic adjustments of contrast, they are unmodified."

J Henry Fair
all images ©2010

His NYC show opens tonight at the Gerald Peters Gallery.

President Obama's speech in Tucson

In case you missed it, here is an excerpt. It was truly inspirational.

"But at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized — at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do — it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.

Scripture tells us that there is evil in the world, and that terrible things happen for reasons that defy human understanding. In the words of Job, “when I looked for light, then came darkness.” Bad things happen, and we must guard against simple explanations in the aftermath.

For the truth is that none of us can know exactly what triggered this vicious attack. None of us can know with any certainty what might have stopped those shots from being fired, or what thoughts lurked in the inner recesses of a violent man’s mind.

So yes, we must examine all the facts behind this tragedy. We cannot and will not be passive in the face of such violence. We should be willing to challenge old assumptions in order to lessen the prospects of violence in the future.

But what we can’t do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on one another. As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility. Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let us use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together.

After all, that’s what most of us do when we lose someone in our family — especially if the loss is unexpected. We’re shaken from our routines, and forced to look inward. We reflect on the past. Did we spend enough time with an aging parent, we wonder. Did we express our gratitude for all the sacrifices they made for us? Did we tell a spouse just how desperately we loved them, not just once in awhile but every single day?

So sudden loss causes us to look backward — but it also forces us to look forward, to reflect on the present and the future, on the manner in which we live our lives and nurture our relationships with those who are still with us. We may ask ourselves if we’ve shown enough kindness and generosity and compassion to the people in our lives. Perhaps we question whether we are doing right by our children, or our community, and whether our priorities are in order. We recognize our own mortality, and are reminded that in the fleeting time we have on this earth, what matters is not wealth, or status, or power, or fame — but rather, how well we have loved, and what small part we have played in bettering the lives of others....

...The loss of these wonderful people should make every one of us strive to be better in our private lives — to be better friends and neighbors, co-workers and parents. And if, as has been discussed in recent days, their deaths help usher in more civility in our public discourse, let’s remember that it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy, but rather because only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to our challenges as a nation, in a way that would make them proud."

The full text can be found HERE.