Welcome to Timeless Rhythms Studio, online art journal! Look at some of my posted art (above), read my entries and feel free to comment on any part of the blog that interests you! Most of my art is available for purchase and I can also be commissioned for a variety of custom painting projects, from portraits to murals. Contact me here by leaving a comment on any post. I look forward to hearing from you in my Timeless Rhythms Studio, online art journal!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The False Dichotomy Between "Work" and "Home" For Many...

Paraphrased from: Composing A Life by, Mary Catherine Bateson, copyright 1989, "A radical rethinking the concept of achievement." -San Francisco Chronical

"One of the things that haunted me while I was at Amherst was the different meanings of "work" and "home" that hide behind what is becoming a false dichotomy for many women and men. The daily walks back and forth between my office and the college-owned house where I lived and the effort to harmonize my work in each made the notion of homemaking newly mysterious and provocative. Amherst College has a committee that is responsible for deciding many issues, including making decisions on tenure and promotions. During the fall semester, this committee is always overloaded, meeting for four or five hours at a time. These meetings were especially burdensome for me, since as dean, I had the responsibility of recording the deliberations, getting up at five the morning after a meeting to prepare the minutes before the rush of boots and oatmeal and the escaping school bus. Eventually, the committee would be driven to the evenings; then, I would find myself at odds with my colleagues who preferred to take a two-hour break at home. I preferred to share a quick working supper that might allow us to adjourn at ten rather eleven at night.

My main concern was not when the meeting ended, but with the oxymoron for me of going home to relax. Going home for most of my colleagues meant putting up their feet, relaxing with a cocktail, having a meal served to them. Going home for me meant dealing with domestic emergencies and desperately trying to help with Latin homework in the kitchen while preparing a meal. For most women and for increasing numbers of men, home was a workplace, often for a second or third shift in a single day. It is still immensely difficult for a woman with a family to make the moment of walking through the front door a moment of release. There is the real work involved in housekeeping, in providing food and shelter, but even if we learn to minimize the mechanics of these jobs, the tasks of homemaking cannot be eliminated for their value goes beyond the mechanical. We enact and strengthen our relationships by performing dozens of small practical rituals, setting the table, making coffee, raking the lawn_ giving and receiving material tokens, even in a household of servants. I entertained steadily in that house in Amherst, as if the passing of wine and cheese could repair the erosion of trust and intimacy that had happened at the college during the previous decade.
Marriage creates work, far beyond the apparent practical need, in order that work may create marriage. Couples rely on real tasks and shared effort or, lacking these, they invent endless elaborations of unnecessary tasks to assure themselves that their relationship and their need for each other is real, to knit it together from day to day. Women living alone, men living alone, even women and men heading households with young children get the practical chores done, but they do less housework than women living with husbands. If you compare statistics on different types of households, you find that the presence of an adult male means more additional work for the woman than the presence of a child under ten, even when the man believes himself to be sharing the housework equally.* What is not usually pointed out is that it is aggregate work that is increased by marriage. It is not that males generate more laundry or dirty dishes or exude far more than their share of the fuzz that accumulates under the beds but that new tasks are created by standards and expectations.

*Heidi I. Hartman, "The Family as the Locus of Gender, Class, and Political Struggle: The Examples of Housework," Signs: Journal of Women in Culture & Society 6(3): 366-94 (1980).

My husband and I live in an apartment in Cambridge, but increasingly I do my serious writing in our studio in New Hampshire, a single room with a loft, perched above a stream. When I am working alone, I throw together a meal and eat it in a half an hour. My husband does the same thing when he is alone in Cambridge. But when we combine forces, working in the kitchen side by side, an hour is not nearly enough- it will be two hours before we have finished our meal. It's nicer and it's a better dinner, but we don't seem to be able to control it; as a result, both of us prefer to be alone when we have intensive work to do. The high points of Johnnetta's life have been the weekends spent with her sons or the time spent in courting a sweetheart in Washington, but she wonders out loud whether she could possibly live her present life if she were making a home for her menfolk day in and day out, even with domestic help."

It's hard to define the minimum needed to provide a sense of home sufficient to sustain relationships and growth, especially in this society of material opulence in which we generate endless hours of needless work to cancel the savings offered by technology. I struggle to be a homemaker without being drawn into the wasted labor of most housekeeping. Many people have pointed out that the introduction of computers in offices, though it may increase productivity, does not tend to reduce labor. This is not news; the pattern has been obvious for over fifty years, ever since the mechanical washing machine was used not to reduce time spent doing laundry, but to make it possible to change sheets and clothing two to three times more often. In the past ten years, the pressure has been rising to use up the gains of convenience foods by elaborate gourmandise. We are a restlessly busy society, with little capacity to loaf in the sun (though we work hard at getting tans) or to laze in bed (where "joy" is a serious obligation). We are bullied by the obese Sunday paper as our New England ancestors were by two-hour sermons. There is some hope that even as the traditional distinction between home and work, which was elaborated to justify sharply divided gender roles, gives way before new kinds of family life, the distinction between work and leisure will also shift. The maintenance of relationships and refreshment of spirit associated with home and leisure are surely frontiers for the world of work, while more and more kinds of challenging effort find their way into off-duty hours. Increasingly, during the years of being a working mother and searching for quality time with my daughter, I have become convinced that the best times actually occur in the kitchen or the car, when some simple task like shelling peas or getting to the supermarket defines the time and space in which to strengthen our communication.

Relationships need the continuity of repeated actions and familiar space almost as much as human beings need food and shelter, but it is not clear how much food and shelter must be elaborated. I have always been moved by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas' description of the temporary homes the Bushmen build during periods of frequent moves through the Kalahari Desert.* As is true anywhere, there is a need for shelter; desert temperatures may drop below freezing at night. This need is met by a shallow concavity scooped out of the ground and lined with grasses. There, body warmth can be sheltered from the wind and conserved by a piece of hide. But shelter cannot be considered a home, even for a night, unless it has a hearth and an entrance as well as space to lie. The alignment of these establishes the internal order needed for privacy and propriety, and distinguishes the woman's side of the fire from the man's side, to keep elemental forces sorted out for the health of the community and success in hunting. For the Bushmen, a curved branch, leaning sideways, one end embedded in the ground, is the necessary minimum to define entrance. The arrangement of concavity, hearth, and doorway orders the common activities of a household; it defines the home. When people live together, the high purposes of that common living, including the binding and the freeing each, become expressed in very concrete details. The details vary, and we can experiment with changing them as we wish, but material tokens are a necessary part of those relationships.

*Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, The Harmless People (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1959), 40-41, 196, 221.

All huma groups share food in one way or another, often using different kinds of foods differently. The Bushmen share the roots and nuts gathered by women within the household, while they divide the game killed by the men among the larger community fo the band. But not all human groups use the ceremony of eating together to establish and maintain relationships as we have tended to do in the Western Tradition, and as we have elaborated in our Eucharists and Seders and wakes. The Passover Seder is an elaboration of the institution anthropologists call "commensality," eating at a common table. The rituals of the Seder echo the function of other family meals in defining relationships and reaffirming and passing on tradition, but this is not true for all cultures. A young American woman who went to Manus Island in New Guinea with my mother was scandalized to see her taking her meals alone and not inviting the villagers to join her at her table, convinced she had discovered evidence of racism. But my mother explained that even a traditional Manus feast did not involve eating together, but rather offering gifts of food to be taken home: families and friendships were not defined by shared meals.
It was not necessarily ominous that the formal family dinner is declining in many households or becoming limited to special occasions. We might be better off if we could separate food as nourishment and pleasure from food as the currency of care that leaves so many women laboring long hours to prove affection in the semantic muddle called nurturance. There is the splendid lesson to be learned from the elaborate labor involved in infant feeding during the forties and fifties- the sterilization, the equipment, the rigid schedules- before the rediscovery of the simplicity of the breast. The ideal is to find simple forms that can be elaborated for delight or turned into art rather than onerous obligations. But the giving and receiving of these simpler material tokens of caring will still be essential.

To be continued...

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Great Blog Swap Experience, Featuring: Carrie Ure

From The Feminine Mystique to the Female Mystic, A New Feminism Dawns
Athena by Carrie Ure

I'm accustomed to riding the autumn breeze like a blown leaf, content to rest in the rich hummus only when my pretty colors have faded to quiet earth tones. I suppose that's how I arrived here. Serendipity landed me on an artist's blog, with it's colorful moving feast for the eyes. I've temporarily drifted from my own stark white canvas and Times New Roman font just long enough to experience lift-off and magic. In the process I've come to understand just how much the Mystic and the Artist have in common.

The story of my collaboration with artist Kerrie Wrye begins with our virtual community of networked bloggers. Several weeks ago Sarah Rahman, a young college blogger living in Pakistan, came up with the idea of a swap to shake things up in the blogosphere. Before I can say "shiver my soul," Sarah pairs me with my alter-ego, a woman very much like me in many ways. Kerrie is near my age, a mother, free-thinker, cultural creative and yogini. Our first names are synonyms. Our last names are eerily similar. We live within a few hours of one another in the Pacific Northwest and we're both juggling our craft with the need to find paying work.

Yet it takes another synchronicity to uncover a commonality much deeper. Within a day of meeting Kerrie via email, my sweetheart takes me to see the movie Séraphine. Later on Facebook, Kerrie happens to catch my endorsement of the film.

"That's funny," La Femme Artiste comments, "I studied her in college."

Cherchez la femme!

Kerrie and I immediately recognize our common karmic link to a new movement I'm calling the Way of the Female Mystic.

Séraphine, the 2008 French art film co-written and directed by Martin Provost, beautifully depicts the life of a feminine mystic, the true story of Séraphine Louis of Senlis, France (1864-1942), a self-taught painter of the Naive movement. Yolande Moreau's César Award (French equivalent of the Oscar) winning performance only heightens the major question of the movie: how could such an artistic genius, compared in her day to Picasso, Rousseau and Van Gogh, have escaped worldwide notoriety?

Much as in the United States today, the first half of the 20th century was a time of great chaos and reordering in Europe. Séraphine's lifetime, spent in the countryside outside Paris, spanned unprecedented cultural changes stemming from the industrial revolution and two devastating world wars. She embodied the uneasy transition between a faith-based, patriarchal, religious moral order and a new society emboldened by economic progress and mobility.

Every epoch has its mystics, those individuals who don't quite fit in because they see God in the people and processes around them. Sadly, Séraphine, the mystic artist, lacked the skills to adapt to the rapid societal changes around her. She had only the humble survival instincts of an uneducated, unmarried woman with few economic advantages. Once discovered and exposed, her remarkable gifts awed art dealers, but her unconventional lifestyle frightened her provincial community. Like female mystics from every age, Séraphine was banished to the insane asylum.

Indeed, few female mystics from any era become household names, let alone thrive with a room of their own.

The story of Séraphine captures the imagination of this modern mystic, because it so poignantly illustrates the passionate marriage of art and mysticism. Besides being visionaries and saints, a high percentage of female mystics have been writers, poets, artists, and musicians. Psychologists theorize that woman are able to communicate their mystical experiences more easily than men owing to the feminine brain's more numerous left-right neural pathways. And yet, throughout the ages, those female visions, whether poetry, prose, music or visual arts, have been undervalued.

In the fascinating sacred feminine spiral that is "herstory," it turns out that Betty Friedan graduated from Smith College in 1942, the same year Séraphine Louis died in France. Friedan would eventually survey the women from her graduating class in preparation for writing her seminal (can I say that?) work published in 1963, The Feminine Mystique. The book incited a generation of western women, bent on reversing centuries of despair over their material condition, to march in the streets with a new battle cry. This was not a philosophical or spiritual stance, but rather an action-oriented demand for material parity with men.

In her 1998 book, At the Root of This Longing: Reconciling a Spiritual Hunger and a Feminist Thirst, Carol Lee Flinders contrasts the feminist and the mystic:

"Spiritual seekers must learn to be silent, restrain the ego, resist desire, and remove themselves from the world. But the feminist credo is just the opposite: Find your voice, know who you are, reclaim your body and its desires, and move in the world freely, without fear."

If the devil is in the details, God lives in the paradoxes. Surely only the Divine could sort out the apparent oxymoron, "mystic feminism." Yet this enigmatically feminine paradox is precisely how I would describe the New Feminism.

In a short history of female mystics written over a decade ago for New Renaissance Magazine, Mary Devlin predicted the rise of this new feminism. She made the point that we were entering the solar or energy age, and there would be a resurgence of female energy to match. This has indeed been the case. Since the days of the bra-burning 60s marches, women, especially many in the industrialized west, have gained some material ground, it's true. But we have not attained anything resembling equality as movers and shakers in finance, business or government. Where has female leadership energy gone?

In the past few decades, women have disproportionately ascended to spiritual rock-stardom, with the likes of Marianne Williamson, Joanna Macy, Tsultrim Allione, Pema Chodron, Caroline Myss, Louise Hay, just to name a few. Unlike every previous period in the modern era, the hegemony of the religious patriarchy has developed some large cracks, and women have filled those gaps in large numbers.

You don't have to be a hippie to notice that we've entered a New Age, a time when the very survival of the human species here on earth depends on larger-than-life solutions. As the institutional hallmarks of our male-dominated, fossil-fuel driven, materially-based western culture seem to collapse one by one under their own weight, we're called to abandon those paths that have lead to the destruction and degradation of humanity through war, greed and political injustice.
In our age, just as we've begun to value global and local community, there is a renewed search for a sense of belonging; an eye toward healing and sustaining the earth; a movement toward personal choice and away from the reliance on the corporation ("The Man"); a call to a government beholden to its citizenry; a demand that children be the first to be fed, clothed and healed; a shift from entertainment to education; an embracing of history and lineage. This looks to me like women's work.

And if these sound like fighting words, listen closely. The fighting has been necessary but it has only brought us so far. If we're going to solve the world's problems we're going to have to drop our insistence on dualistic notions of us against them and instead adopt a wholistic approach. We need a global feminism that attracts men as well as women, one that surrenders to inclusion, connection, love.

In this new world order, the mystic and the artist, the feminine and the feminist become one. Transcending cultural, political and gender differences, Séraphine Louis and Betty Friedan, march side by side, the spiritual and the practical merge.

We have entered the golden age of the Female Mystic who is happy to link arms with La Femme Artiste, for the enlightenment of all.

Carrie Ure is a freelance writer, editor, spiritual companion and mother living in Portland, Oregon. She writes about everyday mysticism on her blog, A Modern Mystic.

Find my post on Carrie Ure's blog: A Modern Mystic, here!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Artists, Community & State Arts Organizations MUST assertively advocate direct quality of cultural presence in communities/country!

Arts Groups, Artists Face Second Year of State Budget Cuts

Faced with declining tax revenues, many states are slashing their arts funding for a second consecutive year, dealing a serious blow to arts groups and individual artists, the Associated Press reports.

According to the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, states reduced their arts funding by 7 percent on average for the fiscal year that began July 1. However, the figure jumps to 14 percent when Minnesota, which this year nearly tripled its arts budget to $30.2 million, is excluded. In financially strapped states such as Arizona, South Carolina, Georgia, Ohio, Louisiana, and Florida, arts budgets fell by at least 30 percent, while in Pennsylvania and Connecticut, lawmakers are considering eliminating their state arts agencies entirely.

Indeed, over the past two years, arts budgets nationally have fallen some 20 percent, compared with 38 percent between 2001 and 2004 and 28 percent during the early 1990s, said NASAA spokeswoman Angela Han. This year, states got a bit of a boost from increases in National Endowment for the Arts and federal stimulus funding, but many state officials say the new funding won't make up for what they had lost. While states are responsible for just 2 percent of total annual arts revenue in the United States, according to Americans for the Arts, organizations often use those funds to leverage money from local governments, match federal funding, and attract private donations.

"[The cuts are] really going to have a devastating effect," said Terry Scrogum, executive director of the Illinois Arts Council, which saw its budget fall by 51 percent this year, to $7.8 million. "We're going to try to maintain as many of the operating grants as we can. They're obviously going to be at a reduced level. Others will be whittled down or suspended."

Twiddy, David. “Arts an Easy Target as Many States Cut Budgets.” Associated Press 8/29/09.

and this reader's comment: "Maybe we should just stop taking state and federal money and dispel the illusion that any govt. in the US significantly supports art or artists. Maybe then the public would stop complaining about misuse of tax money and take responsibility for funding art on themselves."
9/2/2009 10:17AM

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A Room of Her Own Foundation

A Room Of Her Own such an incredible commitment this non-profit has, to the works of women writers! Discovering the founding women of AROHO and their work on behalf of women writers is enlivening for me! The discovery of my own tribe; women who think and act as I do and as I would like to in the world. I have spoken this dream for twenty years to my daughter while I raised her and made my own art!
Today, I received a notification from the Associate Director, Tracey Craven-Gras that my work will indeed be hanging in the AROHO cyberspace gallery amid the company of women artists already featured there! It is my privilege to post this recognition and invite you to visit this online resource for women in the arts. Consider making a donation while you are there! (Scroll down until you see my name: Kerrie B. Wrye, under the two images of my paintings that are included in the gallery there_ thanks!) Spelling details on my name and the paintings' working titles to be added soon!