Tag: politics

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?


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!




Why #Imwithher.

Hillary Clinton #imwithher art by artist BZTAT
Art by BZTAT

I don’t often get political on this blog. Most of my artwork revolves around pet themes, so my writing here typically follows similar paths.

Today I am changing my norm. It is a historical day, and I feel that my art and my words need to acknowledge it.

It is a historical day because, for the first time in history, a woman has been nominated by a major political party as their candidate for president of the United States.

Let that sink in. A woman has been nominated by a major political party as their candidate for president of the United States.

She has been reviled. She has been castigated. She has been falsely accused of everything under the sun. She has been publicly humiliated for deeply personal family problems, then, ironically, she has been criticized for clinging to her need for privacy.

But she has prevailed. And #imwithher.

I have followed Hillary Clinton for many years. I have held admiration for her stands on healthcare, worldwide women’s rights, gun rights and many other issues. I was a therapist for children for 20 years, and I personally saw the impact of her efforts to get healthcare and other needed services for families. I cherished my copy of “It Takes a Village” for its wisdom and its prescience.

I have not liked everything about Hillary, but she has been on the correct side of the values and issues that matter most to me for a long time. She served as a United States senator and as the United States Secretary of State with honor and dignity. She managed to work with disparate parties to get things done on a national and a world stage. These are no small accomplishments.

Despite all that she has done, she has faced unbelievable criticism. Her motives have been questioned, and because she has done so much, she has been criticized for being an “insider”. Although her accomplishments have been awe-inspiring, her voice is considered “shrill” by some, and thus, her oratory skills have been pilloried.

But she has prevailed. And #imwithher.

Hillary has had an upward climb for everything she has gained. Even though she may have had privileged access in some circumstances because of her FLOTUS role, she has faced fierce opposition at every turn. She has endured criticism that no male candidate would ever face, yet she has continued to stand tall and march on.

Yes, she is a politician. Yes, she is an insider. But as such, she has built coalitions and led people towards mutual goals. As much as we may despise it, that’s what it takes to create lasting change on a grand scale.

Hillary Clinton fits no ideal in the minds of Americans. She is a 69 year old woman who bears the scars of battle and carries the girth that most women gain as the years pass. She wears awkward pantsuits, and she sometimes fails to fuss up her makeup and hair. She is not “human enough” for some flashy TV commentators, and she is not hip enough for the Twitterverse.

But over time, she has prevailed. And #imwithher.

I like Hillary, because she has fought long and hard for causes that matter. She has absorbed herself in the details that most of us disdain, because someone had to do it, and because she was good at it. She has not led with her own personality as some would like her to do, rather, she has led by mobilizing others towards important concerns. She has focused on what mattered, and not on prettying herself up for the cameras.

Whatever her motives, and whatever her purposes, Hillary has worked tirelessly for the common good. As opportunist as some may call her, she has earned more grief than she has gained pleasure or undeserved power. Even so, she has a track record of accomplishment that few can match.

Whatever you think of Hillary Clinton, she is not the Claire Underwood character from House of Cards that she has been portrayed to be. She is not a conniving and selfish female caricature whose singular focus is power. Whatever her motives, she has committed herself to service, and she has many people standing by her and thanking her for it.

And despite all, she has prevailed. And #imwithher.

Hillary Clinton has faced down the bitterest of critics and she is still standing. Not only is she still standing, she is continuing to fight for what she believes is right. She is uniquely talented with the political skills that perhaps we all hate, but the ones that it takes to get things done. Lets not be naive. Our next president needs to be able to work within the system our founders created, and she needs to be able to enlist the support of others to do it.

I found information about on the website . I calmed down and started to wait for the weekends as manna from heaven, but no such luck. My friend broke his leg.

That is why #imwithher, and why I am committed to helping her to prevail in November.

I feel strongly about Hillary Clinton as a candidate on her own merits. My desire to see her win the presidency, however, is heightened by the frightening possibility of her opponent winning. In my 54 years on this earth, I have never before witnessed a candidate presenting danger to the presidency like Donald Trump does. I have disliked candidates before, and I have feared the directions that their policies might take us. But I have never seen a candidate whose behavior is so reckless and whose ideas are so far away from our country’s values.

Hillary Clinton MUST prevail in November.

#Iamwithher. I hope that, even if she is not your ideal candidate, you will find it within yourself to vote for her to.

Life is an Adventure!


Following my passion? I might surprise you.

Urban Dilemmas - Digital Art by BZTAT
“Urban Dilemmas” Digital Art by BZTAT

Many creative people in mundane jobs dream of quitting and following their creative passion. You may think I was one of them. But really, it did not happen in the way that you would expect.

I never really dreamed of being a full-time artist. Well, OK, I might have done that back when I was in art school and the first 6 months of post academic reality. But truly, I had a stronger passion than being an artist. I had a passion for making a difference in my world in a way that was essential somehow.

My first 6 months of post academic reality showed me that I did not have the artistic or personal maturity to make a difference in a way that felt essential through my art. So I went back to school and became a counselor for children and families affected by serious emotional problems. I then spent 20 years making a difference by helping people improve their lives and by advocating for systemic changes on their behalf.

After 20 years, though, I felt myself slipping. I was losing battles to cultural changes that were out of my control. Suddenly behaviors that once were considered “disordered” were commonplace among all youth. Parents were resisting taking responsibility for parenting roles. And funding limitations were leading to bad policies and service cuts from agencies more concerned with their own survival than they were with helping people.

I no longer felt that I was helping in an essential way.

As this evolution was occurring, my creative passions were becoming more of a force in my life. I began to blog on some political websites and I became involved in political dialogs and movements. I protested the Iraqi War before it was cool to do so. I created artworks that were very political and somewhat harsh to express my inner dialog about changes going on in my world in a visual manner.

I eventually moved away from the general political discourse, and my artwork returned to more pleasant themes, but I continued with my passion for making change in the world. My move to the Canton Ohio Arts District was following my passion to create change in my community. I was inspired by Robb Hankins, new CEO of Arts in Stark, to create community change through the arts.

I quit my job as a counselor because a tension grew between the private nature of the counseling relationship and the very public nature of being an emerging artist helping to grow the local art scene. It was obvious to me that the artistic passion, and the passion for making a difference through my art was eclipsing my role as a counselor. It has been a very uneasy financial choice, but it was one I had to make.

And we did it! We built a FABULOUS arts district that has become the centerpiece of the city!

Except for one thing…The Albatross.

What seemed like a good idea at the time has turned into a real challenge to the sustainability of the arts district. A call center business purchased the building directly across the street from my building, and they have rapidly increased their workforce in a way that has created significant problems for the residents and other businesses downtown.

It seemed like a good idea to bring the jobs and growing business to an empty building. But it was soon evident that the building itself, parking resources, and city services were totally inadequate for the large increase of people, many whom have highly unprofessional behaviors. All of this was thrust upon a very vulnerable community that was just getting its creative legs.

The call center jobs are not high income ones, and they have drawn a work force that is full of people who behave in a manner consistent with the behaviors of the wayward youth I use to counsel. The behaviors are basically going on unchecked all the time.

Loitering, parking, employees’ smoking, poor security and traffic jams have made it a huge challenge to remain positive about the district. All of the problems I shared in this post in May have grown exponentially.

The fact that these problems have grown steadily over the past year have put a huge strain on the downtown businesses. It has affected me personally and professionally, as I cannot escape it. I live and work across the street from this constant and disruptive commotion.

To say that it has affected my psyche is putting it mild. I have gone from anger and frustration to complete pessimism to wanting to escape at all costs back to optimism and then back down again. I am quite often miserable, and my attitude is frequently negative. I really despise feeling this discouraged.

Prompted by the company’s public celebration of hiring their 1000th employee, that old passion to make a difference in my world arose in me again. I wrote a letter to the editor to my local paper, and I spoke out at my City Council’s meeting about the lack of attention to the problems facing downtown businesses and residences.

To my surprise, I got a response. My pessimism leaves me wondering if it will truly make a sustainable difference, but I have to at least try. I am meeting with the President of City Council next week, and I received a phone call from the Operations Director of the Company. A renewed urgency to correct the problems has been voiced. We will see if it is followed by action.

The Canton Arts District arose somewhat organically with some planning, but with more of a “lets throw it all out there and see what sticks” mentality. Private entities led the effort with the city government looking the other way. Not having the City as a partner all along seems to have been a flaw in the development, looking at it in restrospect.

If you are a part of a similar effort in your community, take heed. One choice could potentially derail your whole train.

I am hoping that we can get our train back on the track. I will let you know how it all rolls.

Life is an Adventure!