I’m not sure a brief description of my art is possible other than to say all of it, in the end, is in some measure how I see the world around me. Some days, it is vibrant and glorious; other days it is dark, foreboding, terrifying. My work has always been photography based; I don’t know if that will ever change. When I became serious about photography (art); digital cameras were beginning to come to the fore so my artistic career has been solely in digital photography and the digital darkroom. While I still create what one might call “straightforward” photographs, much of my work has been in the realm of what I hate to call “digital” art (I hate to call it digital art because it is not intended solely or primarily for electronic display, but rather for print – to become an object d’art, something to be hung on the wall and enjoyed).
Meet my friend Daniel, otherwise known as incredible modern media artist, d.g. walczyk. Daniel owns and runs the premier art print and graphic source downtown, Vulcania Graphics (vgafa.com), with his partner of many years who is also a modern media artist. As I was chatting with artists from the LGBT community for my last blog, Daniel had some wonderful comments about the ties between creativity, justice and finding self in this crazy political and media climate we live in. I had to share.
For the most part, being a member of the LGBT community does not directly affect the art that I create. I would say I am an artist who is gay rather than a gay artist; just as I would say that I am an artist who is male rather than male artist. When it comes to issues of equality and justice, I think that my approach is more from a perspective of humanity / humanism. I was raised Catholic and now consider myself to be recovering Catholic; just as I am a recovering alcoholic.
Interestingly, with the recent escalation of violence (starting with Ferguson), I am acutely more aware of and understanding of the issue of white privilege. While I did not consider myself a racist prior to this escalation, I certainly have an entirely different perspective on racism. And the escalation of the hate and intolerance of the extreme religious right as regards the LGBT community has made me more acutely aware of a host of social and economic injustices and inequities. There are a number of personal recent events with peers, friends, acquaintances,and clients within the racism and religious arenas that have opened my eyes even further.
So once your eyes are opened, how does that start to change and shape your interactions? Once you have seen, can you ‘un-see’? I know there have been times I wish I could. Ignorance WAS bliss for me in certain circumstances. I had someone I considered a friend who I learned after years of working and socializing together, that this person was highly homophobic. I had another close friend, a best friend actually, who after years of excusing and overlooking and justifying, I finally had to “unfriend” because of her increasing recurrence of racist comments. I still miss my friend, but I made the right decision for me. As a gay male artist, Daniel interacts with dozens of people a day and uses his relationships and connections to pay the rent, as do most artists. So, where then, does that delicate balance fall for him?
I learned, in one instance, that a peer was criticized for utilizing our services (Vulcania Graphics & Fine Art, LLC) because the owners / partners also happen to be be gay partners, not just business partners. And I learned in this same instance that this peer is not at all a supporter of marriage equality on religious grounds. I (we) regard this person with respect and value both the friendship and the business relationship. In another instance, a peer who I already understood as having racist tendencies flew what I suspect to be an unabashedly racist flag. While I value the business this person has brought to us, I was compelled to call out the racism. It remains to be seen whether or not this will affect the business relationship, but it certainly has negatively affected the peer to peer / personal relationship. In both instances, my instinct is not to judge and to remain forgiving; but the relationships are decidedly different, even if only that I am more aware of the world in which I live and how one’s true nature can be so easily hidden or disguised.
LGBT marriages, choices about what church to attend, what shops to support, what state to move to…so much of our personal is political by necessity as well as choice. Would I love to just buy an ear of corn without wondering if its GMO, has pesticides, is locally grown and if the pickers were paid a living wage? Sure! We have a long way to go in the world before I can go back to sleep though. Thank goodness we have so many LGBT brothers and sisters on the forefront of activism who can provoke and promote sensitive levels of awareness in all that they do, even their art.
While my social, political, and religious views have rarely been at the forefront of my work, I’m sure that they inform my work on at least a subconscious level. And perhaps in light of becoming even more awake recently, my work will take a turn toward more directed activism.
“Wetiko” is in response to / inspired by the poem of the same name by local poet / spoken word artist Dustin Nispel. The term wetiko is of Native American (Cree) origin and refers to psychic/spiritual vampirism and/or cannibalism. It is a psychosis; a disease of the spirit or soul. Sadly, our nation, through its leadership and legislation, has been promulgating the spread of this disease throughout its history. The disease manifests itself outwardly from within individuals to overtake entire families, communities, states, and nations. Wetiko, among its many manifestations, is intolerance, hate, racism, injustice, greed, war, and indifference.
The only hope in fighting this disease lies within the individual’s ability and willingness to recognize and acknowledge his own evil, his own darkness and how he projects that outwardly on to the rest of humanity. Until individuals can begin to recognize their own wetiko, there is no hope in moving past the divisiveness that characterizes virtually all current socio-political events.
To use an extreme, but prototypical example, it is like someone screaming that you’re killing them as they kill you. If their insanity is reflected back to them, they think it is the mirror that is insane. Suffering from a form of psychic blindness that believes itself to be sightedness, full-blown wetikos project out their own unconscious blindness and imagine that others, instead of themselves, are the ones who are not seeing.
So the work, really a self-portrait, is an acknowledgment of my own capacity for darkness, evil, negativity and soul-suicide in order to begin the healing process. We are, none of us, separate selves in the end. What we do unto others, we truly do unto ourselves. Let us hope that the activists for equality and justice among us are on the rise and can stay the course in the fight for peace and “liberty and justice for all.”