Category: Paradoxes

Morning Keep the Streets Empty for Me

Whitetail Deer painting by Artist BZTATFor the past year and a half, I have been creeping around in my car in the early hours of the morning, pondering deep thoughts, observing the late night culture of my city, watching the urban wildlife seek refuge from my high beam headlights, and delivering newspapers to the few people who still subscribe.

The haunting melody of “Keep the Streets Empty” by Fever Ray weaves its way through my mind as I endeavor to complete this nightly job – a menial task perhaps, but one that puts me in an interesting place of contemplation.

Memory comes when memory’s old

My mind often wanders to memories of lost loves, long gone career paths, and all those hopes and dreams that never quite materialized. I ponder about how I got here, and where will I go next?

The answers are few, but the questions are many.

At 2-3 AM, there are a surprising number of people walking in the streets of Canton, OH. I do not know why. They do not seem to be causing trouble. Just walking from one place to another with seemingly aimless determination. The weather does not matter. They are walking in snow, rain, thunderstorms and fog.

Canton is not a city where there is an accepted reason to be out late at night, unless you are making early morning deliveries like me or driving a garbage truck. There is trouble on the streets, but not from these silent wanderers. They are likely victims, not perpetrators. The people I see walking in the night seem to have little to claim in life beyond the clothes on their backs and the cell phones in their hands.

What is their purpose? Are they afraid? Are they so hardened by experience that fear no longer matters? Are they oblivious to the dangers present in the night? Has our world served them well? Do they ponder deep questions like I do?

Do they whisper in their minds, “Morning keep the streets empty for me,” hoping that no harm will come to them as they forge ahead along their paths?

Karin Dreijer Andersson who wrote the lyrics for “Keep the Streets Empty” has remarked about her mesmerizing song, “It’s supposed to be a deer singing,” which makes some sense to me. Imagining the perspective of a deer is something that I often ponder in my wee hour journeys. There are many deer stalking the streets at night, and empty streets are a blessing for them. I interrupt their communal forays into the night as I follow my own path. They watch me with wary eyes, sometimes scattering as I come upon them in the dark.

There is a peacefulness in my observation of the wildlife scurrying around as I sojourn through the early morning. There is unrest in my thoughts, though. The overpopulation of humans in the natural habitat of these creatures means many will not survive.

My artist sensibilities compel me to creatively record my journeys in some way, yet I am frustrated with the unsettledness of everything around me. I seek resolution and balance and hope in my art. I am lost as I seek a thread of that in this.

Everything seems wrong to me in our world of late.

We encroach upon the habitats of other creatures, then complain that they are pests to our privileged way of life. We run ram-shod across the earth and cause irreparable harm to the environment, threatening numerous species of animal and plant life, as well as we threaten our own species’ existence.

Society has organized around principles that grant great wealth to a few, moderate wealth to some, but far too little wealth to many. We mock and disdain the people who cannot seem to amass wealth, all the while laying out the conditions that limit their opportunities to do so.

And then we wonder why they wander the streets in the early hours.

How do I find balance and resolution in that?

Karin Dreijer Andersson also claims that her song is a duet. Is the deer singing to another deer or is the interaction between the deer and humanity?

Perhaps the song, and my own musings about life in the early morning are allegorical. Animals and humans all seek safe passage, regardless of the complicated paths that we take. We interact in such a way that, as we pursue our own survival, we consider that for others as well, or do we?

So many questions.

I have no creative work yet to capture the depth of my musings. The urban wildlife whom I have encountered as I travel along my morning paper route, however, have captured my artistic attention. The deer you see above is the first in my Urban Wildlife Series. I will share more paintings of these fascinating creatures in subsequent posts.

Who knows where it will all lead?

I will be leaving the streets empty myself soon. I am ending my time as a newspaper carrier in a few days, so I will no longer be on this particular journey. The memory of the silent nightlife – the people and the creatures of the night, however, will remain with me.

Always.

I will never disappear
For forever, I’ll be here

View the entire Urban Wildlife Series in an exhibit at the Johnson Center at Malone University from October 28 – December 7, 2019.

 

Life is an Adventure!

BZTAT

 

Chaos and Course Corrections – Getting Lost in a Chaotic Cultural Crisis

"Chaos" abstract painting social commentary by BZTAT

Bill walked up to me in my tent at the Canton First Friday Art Walk, and he reached out his hand towards me. “Are you Vicki?” he asked. I replied that I was, as I awkwardly shook his hand, a bit surprised because most people refer to me as BZ in my art circles.

“I have been looking for you,” he told me with a reserved sort of eagerness. “Didn’t you used to have a blog?”

“I still do have a blog,” I told him, “although I haven’t written in it for a long time.”

Bill proceeded to tell me that he had found my blog online at some point, and that he had read a post I had written about the Canton Arts District. He said that the post helped him understand the movement to utilize the arts to help revitalize downtowns, and it helped him understand the potential hazards of gentrification. He had wanted to meet me for a long time.

I don’t know exactly which post he was referring to – I have written a few on the topic – but the fact that it had been of such value to him startled me. I often wonder if, 1) anyone reads what I write, and, 2) if anyone cares about it if they do read it.

I used to write a lot. I don’t do it so much anymore.

It isn’t because of laziness that I stopped writing. It isn’t writer’s block either. I stopped writing on purpose.

In the past, I wrote down ideas that I wanted to share with others because I had something to say, and because I thought I had a unique perspective that could benefit others. I still have a lot to say, and my perspective is still sage in some respects. I wonder, though, does sharing my perspective benefit anyone? Hmmm.

Let’s face it. The internet has made it possible for anyone to share an opinion about anything in an instant with millions of people. Cottage industries have developed out of making internet stars of people who post images and videos of gratuitous junk. Prospering from impulsive outrageousness is big business, making intelligent reasoning seem quaint. Trolling and harassment tends to destroy any opportunity for civil dialog. Propaganda and conspiracy theories dominate our cultural landscape with a ferocity that squelches any legitimate debate.

What room is there in this chaotic ethos for an artist and writer who carefully considers her world and comes to thoughtful conclusions? Can I even come to any thoughtful conclusions when our present day culture is so tumultuous and upended?

My dearth of writing of late has been a course correction of sorts.

Previously, my art and my blogging was an intentional course of commentary on the world around me. I was marching towards understanding, and I was sharing my discoveries along the way. Something changed on that path, though. Somewhere on that journey, it became clear to me that the sort of understanding that I had been seeking was no longer a reachable goal.

All I was discovering was chaos. Nothing was understandable. The things that mattered to me previously seemed either irrelevant or insignificant, or they no longer made sense to me. When nothing made sense, writing no longer seemed apropos to me on any topic.

How does one chart an intentional course of commentary, when you can’t even find your way through the mist?

I honestly had no answer to that question. So I changed course. As I floundered in my course of seeking meaning and purpose in my life, I stopped sharing literary commentary.

My circumstance could be called a “midlife crisis” or some other function of age. I am getting older, and that does change the way you experience things. I believe this is bigger than an individual emotional upheaval, however. Our world is in crisis, not just me. My reaction to that crisis is my path, as I have always been one to reflect upon the bigger picture in my life as an artist. It is both a gift and a curse.

Could a new course correction be coming?

Bill and his daughter at Canton First Friday

Something changed in that moment that Bill walked into my art tent. The fact that he had sought me out because my words in a previous commentary had been meaningful to him – well, that shook me up. He helped me see that holding back my thoughts serves no one, especially if there are people wanting to consider them in their own life journeys.

Writing right now is painful. It does not flow. It does not conclude. Everything is up in the air and hard to grasp with a definitive statement. Is that enough reason not to do it? Or is it reason enough to summon new energy within myself to find a new course?

 I live each day of my life by my motto, “Life is an adventure!” I try to approach each new experience as something to be explored and not just endured. Some adventures are not enjoyed, but the exploration reaps benefits, nonetheless. I need to keep reminding myself of this.

Thanks for stopping by my tent, Bill. I am glad that you found me. And thanks to anyone else who has happened to have found this piece of writing. Share your own thoughts, if you wish, in the comments below.

Perhaps your thoughts might trigger a new direction for my adventurous journey.

Life is an Adventure!

BZTAT

Random Conversations in a Chaotic World

Random Conversations - Digital Art by BZTAT
“Random Conversations” Digital Art by BZTAT

People are talking. A lot.

Wherever you go, there are random conversations going on about the state of the chaotic world in which we live.

You may want to pretend that these conversations are not happening. But you can’t. You just can’t.

Even if you try, you cannot avoid the reality that the earth’s axis has shifted metaphorically, and people are not going to be silent about it. 

People are talking. The question is, is anyone listening?

I noticed these two gentlemen who sat down across from me today at a local restaurant where I had camped out with my laptop to do some work. It is a common thing to see older men hanging out at local fast food joints, espousing their opinions on the state of things. Something about these two men intrigued me. I took their photo and played with it a bit with some digital filters, creating an artwork that captured a moment of conversation.

I pondered about the idea of the artist as participant observer as I considered them from a disengaged distance.

One man proudly wore a hat that let me know he had served in a war that ripped our country apart many years ago. “He has seen a lot,” I thought to myself. His posture and gaze away from his companion suggested a hesitance, while the other man was perched and engaged, seeking some kind of validation from his friend for his desire to pontificate.

His friend apparently failed in giving him that validation, as he soon sought it from me. I was no longer disengaged.

What started as a commentary about the ferocious snow shower outside quickly evolved into a discussion about global warming, armed teachers in schools, gun violence in general, young people and technology, etc.

I shared my thoughts. He shared his. I listened. He listened. We were not that far apart in our general thoughts about things. He thought arming teachers was the stupidist thing he had ever heard. He didn’t “believe in global warming”, but he did think that our polluting the environment was connected to “this crazy weather”. He agreed that we needed to look at creating jobs for the future instead of trying to bring back jobs that are now obsolete.

He seemed to believe that young people and their focus on technology, however, were responsible for all things evil in the world. He shared a belief that all young people were on drugs and that they were destroying the world with technology. 

He listened when I shared a different view, and despite some obvious biases, I think his perspective was broadened a bit. Even so, his brusque comments led to a young African American couple who were sitting nearby to abruptly move to a table out of earshot from us.

That saddened me.

The conversation ended as randomly as it started. I had to take a call from my mechanic, and the men left while I was on the phone. I likely won’t see them again. Still yet, the conversation stays with me.

Where do these conversations go? Do they solve anything? Am I different for it? Is he?

Did I miss an opportunity to connect with the couple who apparently felt pushed away? 

What does his friend think? He did not shared his thoughts with me.

What is the role of the artist in chaotic times like these? Observer? Participant? Documenter? Pontificator? Where does the artist begin to express her thoughts, her aesthetic, her passions, her fears when everything she knows is upended?

Hmmm.

Just hmmm.

I guess I will start with random conversations. You?

Prints of the image above are available. Contact BZTAT for information.

Life is an Adventure!

BZTAT