A Visual Response

For my research, I will be exploring the relationship between writing and art. For my first project, I created a visual response to two different kinds of short stories:

Responding to a Flash Story: “20 Minutes”

Read Original Story Here 

20 Minutes

Throughout history, humans have been looking for ways to be immortal. Life expectancies are always increasing, and we still look for more ways to keep our bodies alive.  Between prosthetics, medications and the long list of evolving technologies, humans and machines are not entirely separate. The story and imagery within “20 Minutes” by Catalina Florescu demonstrates how intertwined the organic and inorganic world has become.

For instance, the setting of a hospital room brings to mind sterile white beds, plain gray walls and heavy black cords. No color or comfort, especially with a comatose patient and a grieving lover. However, the woman looks out the window to a cherry tree. She describes how the rain washed away the petals, but, as witnessed annually, the cherry “would grow other [petals] next year. However, when overcome by the inevitable death of a loved one, the woman seems to think he will still be there next year, like the cherry blossoms; “this is a clear sign in the story when, as readers, we realize that the human body, at least in some cases and/or towards the end, is not resourceful enough to attempt a successful return to health and normal function.”.

Then, our life cycle has become wrapped up in what is natural and unnatural. The idea that we can live forever is a beautiful fantasy while the reality is we are still mortal creatures. The cherry tree is light, beautiful image that contrasts with the heavy dark wire, which the woman totally distraught by suffering uses it to take her life. The man’s life ends with the unplugging of a machine and the woman’s ends with the twisting of the same cord. Both deaths occur by the cord while the backdrop of the outside world is beautiful and organic. Therefore, through a simple narrative device, the story takes us back to its beginning where two worlds, organic and inorganic, humans and machines, seem to create some sort of dialogue and ask us, the readers, to think further to discover other ways to investigates the limits of our embodiment.

In this illustration, I reduced the story to the cherry branch and the cord. With thin, delicate arms, the cherry tree branch represents the fragility of life within the piece. A simple rain washes away the petals like grief washes away the woman’s life. On the other hand, the thick black cord cuts through the branch like the harsh reality of morality. The snake like qualities also echo to the Adam and Eve reference within the piece. Like the snake in the Bible, the cord ends a relationship that was once perfect.

To a Personal Piece: “My Blue Escape, My Otherness of Being”

Read Original Story Here

 

In this piece, the author, Catalina Florescu, discusses her mother’s cancer and the effect it had on her life. Along with personal reactions to her mother’s diagnosis and then passing, the piece reminisces on the times of the author’s young life with her mother. She talks about the connection she felt with her mother’s sickness and how it related to her own being.

Though the story is extremely personal, there are aspects that extend to the wider experience of those with a serious illness and their loved ones. Although we like to think we are invincible, humans are delicate creatures. Our bodies wear and expire, and our emotions are tested time and time again. Whether one is sick or someone close to them is sick, it’s like being ripped apart emotionally and physically. Doctors cut and stitch in the literal since. Loved ones take memories in the same way the author clings to memories of her mother when she was healthy. We ourselves take a toll on our bodies. As it says in the piece, “We wear our bodies almost uninterruptedly, from dawn until night”. We try very hard to hold ourselves together, till we simply can no longer.

In this illustration, I wanted to demonstrate that feeling of being torn up emotionally, in a physical way. All the pieces of the woman are flying outward as if a pressure inside is exploding. The pressure of the stress and emotion that come with terminal illness are overwhelming. However, I made the conscious choice to keep the wounds to be within the areas describes in the piece (arms and breasts). Her nakedness represents that vulnerability one feels when the loose control of their body.  The only thing that keeps her from being completely exposed is the blue fabric. The author holds on the memory of the blue dress for comfort when thinking about her mother. The figure has the blue clothe wrapped around her for some remaining comfort.

A Renaissance of Tibetan Art and Culture

In my research so far, I have made multiple visits to document and experience the “Anonymous: Contemporary Tibetan Art” exhibit at SUNY New Paltz. I have also interviewed the contemporary Tibetan artist, Kesang Lamdark, as well as met artist Tenzing Rigdol and made plans to interview him in the future. I attended a curator-led gallery tour of the “Anonymous” show and a lecture over contemporary Tibetan Art, Culture, and Identity. My literature review is steadily growing as I continue to add sources and synopses. I’ve also had a review of the “Anonymous” exhibit published by an online contemporary art magazine: ArtExperienceNYC. Finally, I have drafted a detailed outline for the entire research paper and am developing my own terminology to better discuss the issues, symbols, and styles of contemporary Tibetan art and culture.

Through discussion and research, Dr. Lee and I have developed the hypothesis that there is a Renaissance of Tibetan art and culture in the Tibet Autonomous Region and the Tibetan diaspora. There is an outpouring of contemporary art within the TAR and abroad, drawing on centuries of traditional Tibetan art and adapting it, fusing it, and creating something entirely new. The scope of style, subject matter, and theme differ between artists. The over-arching mission is instead a redefining of Tibetan culture by addressing what it means to be Tibetan in the 21st century. Three main themes occur within that redefinition: Identity, Culture Convergence, and Political Commentary. Due to the limited amount of research still within the contemporary Tibetan art field, my comparisons, conclusions, and new terminology will hopefully push for further scholarship and establish an understanding of Tibetan art as a means for cultural preservation, resurrection, and evolution.

I am still in the phase of my research where I feel like I am left with more questions than answers. For example, I am still trying to understand why there are only two established female Tibetan contemporary artists among a sea of male artists. Is there a cultural stigma against women artists? Were no Tibetan Buddhist nuns ever trained in the art of thangka painting? I’m also wondering if contemporary Tibetan art, particularly those that utilize Buddhist iconography, is still seen as blasphemous since they are not executed with the same pious rituals or in the proper style? These questions don’t daunt me but instead further my interest in the research to uncover the answers and flesh out my arguments further!