Pedirle Peras al Olmo

Preámbulo: Esta es una de esas historias que se me han clavado en el cuerpo como un cuchillo, pero que de pronto escribiéndola aquí y dejándola libre para que el universo haga con ella lo que quiera tal vez me de un poco de paz. Con este texto en español también estoy ensayando la nueva dirección de mi blog. En inglés seguiré escribiendo sobre arte pero en español me enfocaré en lo personal.

 
Siempre me tocaron ojos grises, verdes, verdiazules pero nunca ojos café… como los míos. Leí en algún lugar que enamorarse de unos ojos café puede producir insomnio. Los tuyos, con esa vulnerabilidad y tristeza, me quitaron el sueño y me hicieron llorar como no lo había hecho en un buen tiempo. Con esa labia hermosa de abogado frustrado y con aire de saber más de arte y cultura que yo, me enamoraste a pesar de no estar de acuerdo con algunos de tus argumentos, valores, opiniones, y notar la distancia que existía entre lo que decías y lo que hacías. Sabía que eras pretencioso como muchas de las personas que les fascina el arte, pero no me importó porque resultaste ser un ingeniero de sistemas que nunca terminó su abogacía y prefirió no negarse la oportunidad de un futuro financiero seguro; tu trayectoria profesional en el campo tecnológico me dio la impresión de balance.
 
Me conociste un en momento torpe de la vida. Me pregunto si aquella conmoción de transiciones te desilusiono de mí, si la diferencia de edad te asustó, o si tal vez fue no poder elevar tu posición social como hombre en el círculo en que nos conocimos, ya que no soy una mujer ni poderosa, ni rica, y mucho menos una reina de belleza. Me imagino tus contestas a estos pensamientos “soy un hombre feminista, ¡jamás pensaría así!” Pero como dije antes amor: existe una distancia entre lo que dices y lo que haces, aunque te falte la introspección para notarlo. Me diste una razón para dejarme la cual hasta el sol de hoy no creo.

De la confusión de tus silencios y desapegos me quedó dolor, tristeza y saudade.
 
¿A que le vi tanto potencial? Porque a decir verdad nunca llegamos a entablar una relación, solo nos llegamos a conocer y tratar de entender por medio de conversaciones, textos y caricias medio pudorosas que se dejaron librar por unos minutos para acabar con un beso fuerte y desesperado porque sabías que ya no me querías más en tu vida. Por compartir mis pensamientos, mi tiempo, mis risas, mi humor de nerda, y mi cuerpo, no me llegué a merecer un adiós de caballero con claridad y templanza. Solo la cortesía de hablar conmigo unos minutos más después del hecho, ser llevada a casa, y una llamada dos días después que me dejó sintiendo como un innovador vendiendo su última idea a un CEO que desde que escuchó la primera palabra supo que no la compraría pero al final dijo (como todos) “lo pensaré”.
 
Para una persona regular, recuperarse de esta situación no resulta tan difícil. ¿Cuál es la fórmula a seguir?

  • Trabajar y mantenerse ocupada
  • Salir con los amigos e ir a donde inviten
  • Viajar (en mi caso, un poco más de la cuenta)
  • Recrearse con un nuevo pasatiempo
  • Hablar con un consejero cuando sea necesario
  • Saturarse de experiencias
  • Cuando te sientas un poco más segura, salir con otros hombres

Seguí todo paso a paso. Pero cuanto más salia y más gente conocía, más amigos en común teníamos (desavenencias de vivir en una ciudad pequeña). Cuando ya no me soñaba con él, cuando pensaba que ya empezaba a olvidarlo, de repente la vida me lo recordaba con una canción, una coincidencia, una foto por Facebook, un nombre, etc. En fin, me ha llevado más de un año en lograr no pensarlo a pesar de otros besos, otros abrazos, otras salidas. Intenté empatizar con él, sabiendo que cada uno vivimos nuestros demonios y afectamos a los demás sin mucha conciencia. Intenté entender porque al querer dejarme me dijo “discúlpame si esto te duele”, ya que el si le quitó responsabilidad a él y la puso sobre mí (o sea, si me hieren sus acciones es porque así lo quiero). Intenté entender que el solo salía conmigo por divertirse un rato pero nunca me consideró una persona digna de cuidado, atención, y amor. Intenté tener simpatía por alguien que también ha sufrido por amor, por rechazo, por engaños y que con tanto atrofio le es fácil herir o jugar con los sentimientos ajenos – de pronto no conscientemente pero no le podemos pedir peras al olmo.

Otros ejercicios psicológicos consistieron en entender que culpa había tenido yo en todo esto. Acaso fui ¿grosera, ordinaria, ruin, ignorante, incompetente? Porque de parecerle boba no lo culpo… más de una vez dije tonterías por estar deslumbrada - con un hombre así no me echarían la culpa. ¡BELLO! Con una sonrisa amplia, ojos expresivos pero tristes que su palabrería y filosofía de "ser feliz y amarse a sí mismo" no lograban contradecir, de cuerpo cálido y sólido, de cabellos grises y suaves que se me enredaron en la blusa que llevaba puesta la última vez que lo vi. En fin, fue algo muy lindo y traumático a la vez. Que me pasó por ingenua y novicia, por no disfrutar el ahora, por no ser más peleona, por ser emocionalmente torpe… pero aprendí mucho de sí misma. Del cariño que aún me queda quiero desearle lo mejor en su vida, que encuentre a esa mujer que está buscando por el mundo y que me lo cuide, entienda, sepa proteger de si mismo y le enseñe a respetarla. También me gustaría darle las gracias por ayudarme a reentablar mi relación con el mundo del arte y sacar mis ideas adelante. A mí, entre tanto proyecto, viajadera, trabajo, y salidas, me queda el consuelo a medias de un examante por simple costumbre. Quedo con la esperanza de toparme con alguien que me quiera de verdad – no soy la última Coca-Cola del desierto pero un jugo de maracuyá no cae tan mal ;)  

A. Iaroc

Flores de peral para mi último M. 

Flores de peral para mi último M. 

Recommended Reading

At the moment I am doing a lot of historical reading, to put some current happenings into perspective, but there are some art historical books that provide a respite and are fun to read, specially those that are fiction. I want to share my favorites with you:

Geraldine Brook's People of the Book - Fiction based on what we know or suspect of the Sarajevo Haggadah. More info here.

Javier Sierra's The Master of the Prado - A fiction novel based on the history and some of the juiciest secrets of El Museo del Prado. More info here.

Dr. Kellie Jones' EyeMinded: Living and Writing Contemporary Art - An intimate look into art historian Kellie Jones and her family's history and how it informed her curatorial perpective. More info here.

Flavio Febbraro + Burkhard Schwetje's How To Read World History In Art - Exactly as the title instructs. More info here. Remember, just because art is at the beginning of art history does not take away from our understanding of world history. Butterfly effects and echoes... there is always a starting point not seen or understood when you are in the middle of a historical shift. 50 to 100 years later it clears up, however. Our egocentric human nature usually drives us to make grave mistakes again, collective memories are a fickle and manipulable thing.

A. Iaroc

Woo Girls

According to popular sources, the definition of a "Woo Girl" or "Woo Woo Girl" is: a young woman who screams "Wooooo!" in public, usually accompanied by a group of women her age. 

What this says to me is that happy and excited women are annoying to others and the fact that they are in a group makes it worse. From a patriarchal point of view, apart from annoying, this is an inconvenience - loud young woman in a group? no. Loud young woman? no. From a matriarchal point of view I am more confused. Is it that we have certain perspectives about our fellow women so ingrained that we can't tolerate their expression of happiness? have we bought into the adage that women's voices are annoying? Next question for both perspectives: is it just the human jealousy of seeing someone else happy when we aren't, the culprit?

I am not buying the "annoying part". It has to be more than that. I am asking for collective introspection from each and everyone who condemns these young women. I moved to the PNW from a republican, conservative state and I never heard the phrase "woo girl" used to describe young women, usually sorority girls, like I've heard it in northern, liberal spaces. There is such disdain for these "woo girls" here and I do not like that a lot of people, who consider themselves liberal and feminist, seem to be OK with that. This selective tolerance is accepted as "passable misogyny" and it is, astoundingly, an accusation celebrated by liberal members of different communities that have for a long time been discriminated against. If we read current news, articles, blogs and other writings, we know that liberal misogyny exists but it's harder to call out because of the level of denial within the moralist standards of the community. Artists, comedians, regular folks... they make fun of the woo girls, they create inspired by the disdain they feel against these women. I have heard my own friends point out that a girl is a "woo girl" when devaluing something she said or did, as if that was a valid reason. I have seen women of all ages scream "woooo!" who later disparage the women who are, by definition, doing the same thing. When did that become OK? what reasons are you building in your mind to justify the accusation towards the woo girls?

Weird post from me, huh? why defend these women? they are women, I was young, I am surrounded by them, and regardless of who they are I have a civic duty to defend them from ridicule. Ridicule never builds bridges of understanding. To see some people in the surrounding artistic community increasingly pile on these women, for the last couple of years or so, when the sociopolitical make up of this community is changing, is a disappointment.

Next time you see a happy, young woman screaming "wooo!" surrounded by her friends or alone, and it annoys you, ask yourself why.

A. Iaroc 

Contemporary Trends in Video Advertisement: An Art Historian’s Perspective

Video ads are an inconvenience to most of us, which is understandable – loud music, flashing letters, vapid scenes, and the shoving down of X product down our throats before we get to our video or film. While YouTube and Netflix are not the only websites that rely on marketing and advertising partnerships for revenue, billions of people use them around the world and know what to expect when they are not paying to go ad-free.

For me, some YouTube ads may be annoying but I still watch most of them because they are telling me something else. First, they tell me how the ad industry is being informed by contemporary art practices and vice versa. They also show me the ways in which the ad industry is using the elements of art and design, music, fashion, politics, and multicultural influences to get their point across. As an art historian, these things are not to be dismissed… most of the time. (I also like to catch the latest movie trailers because Wonder Woman!)

About three to five years ago an ad trend that’s picked up is the storytelling type. These storytelling formats have been in existence since the 80s but were not as common as the “IN YOUR FACE!” type of advertising preferred by companies. Echoing the narrative propaganda humans have responded well to since we started drawing on caves, these brands are confident enough to move focus away from their product and tell a story, something to connect with all people, something we all feel, wish for or admire. Tugging at heartstrings, our conscience, our regrets and desires, they successfully remind audiences of their brand but through a subtler approach… a way that humanizes and makes us believe that these brands actually care for more than their capital success and understand their customers at an emotional level.

I have enjoyed and teared up at ads that empower women. It’s not only the feminist viewpoint that touches me. The soundtracks stir memories of similar experiences and recognizable self-doubts. Here are some of my favorites (bring out your art critic eye and pay close attention - notice patterns? styles? music choices? colors? angles? what do you think?):

Curve Power

Mother E

Dove - Beautiful | Average

Nike - Greatest Athlete Ever

Some of these ads have a high cinematographic caliber and extend into short films that cement a brand's social standing or showcase the audience they are targeting or the people they want their audiences to emulate. We are primates after all.

The Gentleman's Wager

The Gentleman’s Wager II

Some of these ads really bring out the human condition, its pathos and beauty, so far away from the brand itself that only reaching out for some metaphorical theories explain why they relate to each other.

For instance Ray Ban's series of social experiment ads. Just like glasses give us clarity or blur our reality, so can our emotions and experiences.   

Ray Ban - Sound of Sorry and Eye to Eye

“The golden age of advertising may be coming to a close, but the golden age of storytelling is just getting started. Don't skip it.” Scott Donaton

A. Iaroc

Leave of Absence

Dear Readers,

There are many topics I want to write about in this blog but there are a few reasons why that has not been possible:

  • Maybe I feel passionate about certain ideas and in order to build good arguments I need to compartmentalize my emotions for your consumption. 
  • In order to do the aforementioned thing, I need time.
  • There are some writing and community projects, as well as family functions, that are taking priority over this blog. This means that that "time" requirement is out the window.

In the meantime, I wish you all a beautiful summer. Go to art shows, performances,  concerts, the outdoors, watch the XXXI Olympics, celebrate your family and friends...

Warm regards,

A. Iaroc

London in summer... © ISCU Consultants.

London in summer... © ISCU Consultants.

 

 

Shaking Dust Off

As a devoted art historian I rarely get creative. I support, encourage, teach, or consume art but it is much harder for me to take the place of an artist. Formally trained to draw, paint, and sculpt, these educational experiences partially killed any inspiration I had as a young person. However, in recent months I have allowed others to guide my path back to a more creative me.

It started last winter when Hannah Frelot suggested I submit a piece to a Kelly Diels’ project. I ended up writing a very intimate and vulnerable piece I'll call X. This process allowed me to write creatively and not as an academic. Even writing this blog, which started as an exercise in informal writing, has proven hard at times to execute as such.

X - that unguarded, raw prose sparked something inside.

Natasha Marin invited me to participate in the first Read & Bleed where I read X for the first time. Apart from my mom, my best friend, Kelly Diels, and the ladies that were listening that afternoon, no one yet knows what X is about. I am forever grateful to the Read & Bleed sisterhood for listening without judgement and to Natasha for creating the space in the first place. It was an honor. 

I have been part of other artists’ collaborative, community driven projects. In spite of this, I never allowed myself to be carried too much into an artist's vision until I met Natasha. While I participate when possible, mostly in the form of writing, I make sure my heart is in it. To be encouraged to do what I've had to do for Natasha, has been liberating and therapeutic. Even though I know many artists from the Seattle art scene, it wasn't until I met them at Natasha's events that we got to know each other more than professionally - we developed a closer connection. 

Last week at the Seattle Art Museum Natasha offered a Red Lineage tour and workshop. My tour was facilitated by the very talented and nurturing poet, Anastacia Tolbert. To be succinct - at times I wanted to cry when listening to others' Red Lineage poems and experiences, the writing portion allowed me to work out some of the most problematic aspects of my relationship with my father, and the experience of listening to all of us recite or sing our poems made me feel understood and part of a one and many. It was wonderful. 

To my fellow art historians and academics, who are not practicing artists:

From time to time we must shake the dust off and create something. While it is true that living day to day is an art itself and that creating is part of the daily, let us assign intention. It is easy to become jaded, to disdain the pretentiousness that permeates the art world, to get tired of the "subjectivity", but we must relearn to love art and not let the negative drag it down from its righteous place. I had some help from my friends, but you may be lucky to find the path back all on your own. 

My friend, artist Natasha Marin. You know? don't play yourself. Those eyes will see through your bullshit. #warriorwisdom, #milkandhoneysister

My friend, artist Natasha Marin. You know? don't play yourself. Those eyes will see through your bullshit. #warriorwisdom, #milkandhoneysister

A Different Wavelength

It has come to my attention that a photographer I criticized five months ago is allegedly offended at what I wrote.

There must be some concerns on his behalf I hope to address on this post.

I do not claim to be the smartest tool in the shed, my limited talent lies in researching and parsing out information for my more serious writing. This casual blog is a little place where I write “random thoughts and better organized concepts about what I see, feel, and think is happening in our fragile, dramatic, and vulnerable art world.” It is not, by any means, a deep philosophical exercise on art historical perspectives. This blog also happens to be read by a very small fraction of people and is of no consequence to someone’s big celebrated career. I am surprised he found the three-paragraph stub where I accused him, summarily, of having the arrogance of a colonizer’s lens, because Google has it hidden in its many pages. Not surprisingly, Google produces more positive, profound, informative and praising results about said photographer and his body of work. Why would he take the time to contact me to tell me off? This blog space is pretty much insignificant in the art world and for him to focus on my accusation, when there is so much good stuff out there about him, baffles me.

He and I come from different cultures and sometimes misunderstandings are bound to happen. However, for a person of mixed heritage who lives on this side of the world and has seen firsthand the damages of colonization and is particularly sensitive to what that looks like, it can be hard to pipe down and let things of this nature run me by. I take no shame in that – it is my personal experience. I also happen to live in a country that, in spite of its many flaws, is at the forefront of serious collective conversations about colonization, race, ethnicity, socio-economic, gender privilege, and cultural sensitivity.

Although, my response to the article may not have been the best or most cohesive one, and decidedly caused some stress, I still believe I have a valid point:

In the history of photography, we have seen the impact photo-journalists and other kinds of photographers have on native subjects - notably Edward S. Curtis. On the one hand, it helps document and preserve the memory of a way of life, a culture, a people. From an artistic point of view, it can be aesthetically wonderful, ground-breaking, and original. From a humanistic point of view, it shows us that we can connect and understand each other, that with enough empathy we can all inhabit this planet Earth. But it can also leave a bitter after taste.

Appreciation for a culture is a delicate line to walk and what may be OK with some members is not OK with others. Romanticized portraiture of "Vanishing Peoples" doesn’t do any favors to the generations that come after, for as cultures naturally fuse and change they will never live up to a what is portrayed by an outsider. This photographer is not the only one to go down this path, however.

I honestly do not know how this photographer supported the community or in what ways he empowered them to retain their traditions. If his point was to teach me a lesson and put me in my place, it just reinforced my original impression of him. I think we all could have learned more if he would have confronted me with the issues at hand instead of sending an ad hominen rebuke.

As my original stub expressed, I believe his photographs to be beautiful and appreciate the fact that he did not direct their poses – they appeared however they wanted to. It is not the work itself but the way the photographer talked about this culture that touched a nerve. A nerve honed to hurt when White/Western men talk about people in developing countries and their way of life to serve a personal agenda. A nerve that pricks at the whispers of Primitivism, Orientalism, Exoticism, and Otherness.

A. Iaroc

Female Body Autonomy

"Body autonomy means a person has control over who or what uses their body, for what, and for how long." 

If body autonomy is really important and understood by a person, that also means that person is capable of respecting the intentions behind another person's motivation to control and display their body. Calling people out for "exhibitionism" for doing an art piece naked is the antithesis of the previous statement. Do not let the bizarre, contrarian relationship to nudity and sexuality in this country confuse you into prudish ways.  

Do not worry American! those European libertines were once there, too. 

My favorite art historical example is this capolavoro by Edouard Manet:

Édouard Manet, "Olympia", 1863. © Musée d'Orsay 

In 2016 this painting of a nude woman with her maid and cat does not cause too much controversy, except maybe for the racial disparity between the two female figures and their social standing at the time. In 1863 this was a shocker, madness I tell you! how dare Manet confront the French art establishment with a disgraceful portrait of a courtesan? while the men at the time (like many men today) felt comfortable hiring courtesans (prostitutes) for sexual pleasures and lively conversation, just like Roman men in symposiums were intellectually and sexually entertained by the hetaerae, they refused to accept one in an art museum. 

What is so bad about this? have humans not created female nudes since antiquity? Well... yes, there have been nudes for thousands of years (Venus of Willendorf) but if you pay close attention you will see that these nudes either do not have defined faces or are innocently looking away:

Venus Kallypigos, 1st Century, © Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli. 

Venus Kallypigos, 1st Century, © Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

It is quite convenient for a patriarchal society (in the making since 4000 BCE) to let the male gaze eat up a woman's naked body without her intruding by looking back at them. So when we had Manet turn this concept on it's head, people were angry. One would think that after such a move the history of art was going to prove everyone we are capable of fast adaptation and open mindedness.

Le sigh.

It really bothers me when I see artists after Manet - male or female - cover, distort, or remove a nude's face. Let me see the face of the body's owner! Look at Olympia; she isn't allowing the audience power to slut shame her (not a term used back then but same foundation). She even looks down in condescension, don't you think?

And yet, I see this in the XXI century:

Giovanni Di Rosa, Untitled (#20), © BAC Bogota Arte Contemporaneo

Giovanni Di Rosa, Untitled (#20), © BAC Bogota Arte Contemporaneo

At the same time, I want to check myself by giving power to the models and female artists who do have a legitimate reason for covering their or the subject's faces. I just hope they understand the history behind that action. As for male artists: if you guys are using a female model ask how she feels about having her face covered/distorted/removed/frontally depicted, etc. and take into account you are portraying a gender that your frame of reference will not allow you to fully understand. Both male and female bodies should be depicted with all respect, of course, but female nudity has been manipulated in ways male nudity has not. At least, as a well read art historian, I have not seen anything to indicate they are at the same level of violation. 

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Update: I started my research paper on cultural hybridity!! :) cannot wait to finish and submit it to the College Art Association's Art Bulletin in four years or so. In the meantime I have some calls to make to an artist in Dubai. 

Also, in the spirit of female body autonomy, I want to share with you an event I will be participating in. It is called Read + Bleed. It is a "women only" event at Twilight Gallery on February 13, 5 to 8pm. Click on the blue highlighted link to learn more. 

A. Iaroc