Sunday, October 28, 2007

Authentic


Webster’s dictionary defines authentic as, “original, genuine; one who does anything with his/her own hand; being what it purports to be; not false or fictitious; genuine; valid; verified; authoritative; reliable.” I have been obsessing about this for the last two weeks because of two separate situations. They both deal with religion and politics.

My friend, Bo, and I have been friends for over 40 years. He was the one who turned me on to smoking pot. He helped to nurture my growing interest in Jazz. He was the person who taught me how to be a carpenter. After all these years I am still pretty much a liberal (with some libertarian overtones) while he has grown more and more conservative, both in political and (organized) Christian attitudes. Like old friends everywhere, we spar and debate on issues that are important to us. Over the years we have learned that friends do not need to always agree.

A public figure that acts as a lightning rod for some of these dialogues is the (quasi) religious leader, James Dobson. He is the head of the conservative socio-religious group, Focus On The Family. Dobson has stated that the two most important issues facing the US today are abortion and gay marriage. Well, not only do I disagree with that statement but I also think that it is a biased load of crap. I see it as a prejudiced statement being used as a scare tactic to manipulate peoples’ thinking. Of course, my friend disagrees. This was a wonderful opportunity for debate. God, how I love a good fight!

I don’t necessarily believe in abortion but I do believe in choice. I believe in people’s rights to make their own decisions on how to live their lives. I also don’t want anyone to interfere with me on how to live my life. I am capable of screwing it up all by myself, thank you very much. I believe that the current worst evil in the US is economic injustice. I believe it to be the root cause of so many social ills. I also see that attitudes on the conservative right as being so screwed up that even a contortionist would stand in awe. Part of my argument against the radical right is that the life is only sacred until it is born. After birth the child no longer matters. If you grow up in poverty with inadequate food and housing, well too bad. If you don’t have health insurance, too bad. Part of the problem is that the radical right just doesn’t want to put their money where their mouth is.


My youngest daughter feels the consequences of this attitude. She is a single mother. Even though she works she doesn’t earn enough (including child support) to support herself and the child. She lives with us and we help her where we can (we are on a fixed income) because we fell that is what an authentic family would do. Her employer does not provide health insurance and the state says she makes too much money to be eligible for health benefits. I somehow don’t see how an annual income of $10,000 is “too much” to support a family of two. I argued to my friend that she was raised in a pro-choice household knowing that whatever she chose to do, we would support her. Her choice altered the course of my life and that’s just fine with me. Without hesitation we chose to support her whereas the state and the radical right chose to abandon her. Last week my old friend sent her a substantial check (he is also on a fixed income) because he knew that to be authentic to his beliefs that he needed to live them and not just talk about them. He put his money where is mouth is.

The other incident is with someone who is becoming a new friend. Rosie is a dancer, a teacher, and a student in a fairly conservative seminary. In her ethics class that day the discussion was about gay marriage. She said it turned into a gay bashing session with hers being the only dissonant voice. She has been selected to present an opposing argument to the class next week. I am not a religious person but I am spiritual by nature. I was raised in the Roman Catholic Church. I have studied Christian theology as well as the theology of other traditions. I am conversant in Christian orthodoxy and the bible. I am, however, not conversant in being a homophobic moron. I’m just a poor dumb artist but I just don’t understand how someone who professes to be an authentic Christian can believe in and speak hatred, ignorance, and prejudice.

About four years ago, our oldest daughter came out to us that she is a lesbian. Our response to her was, “Okay.” She was being true to herself she was being authentic. She is my daughter and I love her. All I have ever wanted for her was to lead a good and happy life. To become the person she was meant to be, a real person. She is one of the most creative, intelligent, and compassionate people that I have ever met. How could I be true to my beliefs and myself if I couldn’t accept who she is as a person?

What does all of this have to do with art? Well, being authentic as a person effects whether or not my art will be authentic. Becoming true to myself, becoming more authentic to myself has never been easy. It means risk and vulnerability. In the case of my disability, my mental illness it means risking ridicule and becoming ostracized. It may sound odd but losing my last job because of this was one of the best things that ever happened to me. It gave me a great freedom. I no longer had to pretend to be someone other than myself. If people ask me if I’m crazy I can proudly answer yes, certifiably so!

That attitude has carried over into my painting. Something happened recently, I’m not really sure what it was, that allowed me to break a link that was holding me back. I was able to break free from concerns about financial success or acceptance in the art community. The more I accept who and what I am the more authenticity I see in my paintings. If my work is not true and authentic to me they will never be perceived that way by anyone else.


These paintings are a continuation of my using the cold wax medium. I am finding that it is really unifying my style and technique. I am finding that my work is becoming more unified as a whole. The first image is a continuation of my daily walks with the dogs. It measures about 15” X 15” and is oil on paper. The next image is based on a bridge that I used to see everyday when I was still working. It measures 30” X 48” and is oil on hardwood panel. The wax medium gives me more confidence to work larger. Finally, poor Jafabrit made the unfortunate mistake of posting a photo of herself and her dog, Rufi, on her blog. Well, I have been wanting to practice my portrait skills so I took the opportunity. If anyone else is daring enough to post their photo or email me one, I will probably attempt one of you. This piece is 24” X 20” and is oil on hardwood panel.

20 Comments:

Blogger andrea said...

This post was a pleasure to read, Ed. I love the way you connected all these concerns and unwound them for us. Thank you.

As for the conservative right, to those of us who live outside the USA this extreme conservatism is cause for considerable curiosity. It may be a mainstream ideology in the USA but carries far less political/social power in other developed/Christian countries. Interesting.

9:35 PM  
Blogger Ed Maskevich said...

I find it interesting that the conservative christian right in the US doesn't recognize that they are the same as all the other fanatical groups that they oppose.

12:25 PM  
Blogger HMBT said...

Great post, I too have been dealing with letting go of the "social standard" and living by own rules. I too have felt this seemingly small choice make sweeping changes in my artwork. So glad you posted and spoke so openly about your life...it make your art so much more meaningful to know more about you and your work. your post also helped me to feel a little less alone "out here". Your kids are lucky to have you.
Love the new works, and your wax method is amazing for color and detail. I would love to see a work in progress to better understand the method. Pretty Please!

6:50 AM  
Blogger Ed Maskevich said...

Thanks Heather. I have photographed a number of them as there were "in progress." I will try to post them or I could email them to you. Let me know.

11:18 AM  
Blogger San said...

Ed, thanks for a wonderful, sincere post. When I attend church, it's a liberal Christian church where the minister is always pointing out that true "fundamentalism" concerns itself with matters of social justice. All of this refusal to see the sick and the poor and the gay as fellow humans deserving a right to a good life is a bizarre distortion of Christian values. It's truly frightening.

Also, being new to your blog, I haven't read about your mental health troubles. I do know that indigenous cultures honor the unusual visions of those who are ostracized in our madly money-driven society. My theory: If the values of our culture were more authetically human, fewer people would suffer from "mental illness."

Oh, and your paintings look really great too.

2:07 PM  
Blogger Ed Maskevich said...

Hi San, thanks for stopping by. What a wonderful place Sante Fe must be to live. I hope that your gallery does well. Artists and mental health seem to go hand in hand. We are those people who live on the peripheral edges of society. Personally, I like it out here on the edges.

12:18 PM  
Blogger Catnapping said...

A great post! I love how you look at things.

And I am in love with that first painting. I actually held my breath when I saw it. Gorgeous!

2:40 PM  
Blogger Ed Maskevich said...

Hi catnapping, WOW! I have never ever taken anyone's breath away. thank you.

4:30 PM  
Blogger Philip said...

Excellent article Ed and I agree with every single word! I despair of the far right and the damage they have done to the US and its status internationally. You are a man after my own heart. I also echo what San said.

I recognised the picture of Corrine immediately! Just great!

2:00 AM  
Blogger Jafabrit said...

Oh my god what a post and I agree with andrea how you explained the connections.

While I have lived in the usa a long time I still find myself horrified and intrigued by the Christian right. It's a version of Christianity I just was never exposed to in England growing up.

Sometimes it is a real challenge tbut when we let go and let your art speak honestly it is so worth it.

Unfortunate, moi! ha, I don't think so. I had fun seeing how you interpreted me with paint and wax, and I love the effect on the hair of me and rufus. Rufus agrees, he thinks he looks brilliant-woof! The colours are very intense and I really like that, gives them an edge.

ps. your daughters are truly blessed :)

8:52 AM  
Blogger Philip said...

Jafabrit

I think its a fundamental version of Christianity which in essence is very un-Christian.I hate it with a vengeance.

2:15 PM  
Blogger Ed Maskevich said...

Jafabrit, actually the conservative right wing Christian movement in the US had its roots in Great Britain. In the latter half of the 19th century there was a movement called “Dispensationalism.” It apparently never took off in the UK but rooted deeply in the US. It is the basis for the modern day Apocalyptic and End-of Time movements in the US. It is the sort of bastard child you get when politics and religion merge. On another note, if you would like your portrait I’ll be glad to send it to you.

Philip, glad that you liked the post. It is why I make a distinction between religious and spiritual. Below is a quote from a book, MYTHS OF RELIGION, by one of my favorite authors, Andrew Greely. He is a Catholic priest, a sociologist, and write fiction and romance novels to support his work. I think that this applies equally well to religious AND political views.

“The late social psychologist, Gordon Allport, in his researches on the various dimensions of religion shed considerable light in vain and frivolous religion. Allport was fascinated by the finding that those who seem to be the most religious on a number of measures of religiousness (such as church attendance) were also the most likely to score high on measures of prejudice, discrimination, and bigotry. He ban to wonder how it could possibly be that those who professed faith in a gracious and loving God could themselves be so ungracious and unloving in their relationships with others. He proceeded, then, to develop a socio-psychological instrument which measured (at least in its initial form) two ‘dimensions’ of religiousness; the intrinsic and the extrinsic. Those who were extrinsically religious ‘used’ religion. It brought them peace of mind, reassurance, security in dealing with the problems of everyday life. Those who were intrinsically religious viewed religion not so much as a way of acquiring peace and security but rather as a means of opening themselves out to the world and to their fellow men. Not surprisingly, Allport’s research demonstrated that it was only the extrinsics who were prejudiced. Those who professed an intrinsic religion were the least likely of all his respondents to be bigots.”

4:09 PM  
Blogger Philip said...

Interesting read Ed - it makes sense!

9:23 AM  
Blogger Philip said...

By the way -

"We are those people who live on the peripheral edges of society." Perhaps its the other way around - society lives on the peripheral edges of us. And perhaps it is society that has all the mental health problems - in fact I am sure of this!

9:26 AM  
Blogger Jafabrit said...

I am not the least bit surprised it didn't take off in England lol! But what is it about America that makes it so attractive?

I would love the painting ed, you want to do some kind of a trade.

"Those who were extrinsically religious ‘used’ religion. It brought them peace of mind, reassurance, security in dealing with the problems of everyday life."

My friend found jesus in the loo (while she listened to the religious radio as recommended by her aa mentor)and did a complete turnaround and evangelical. Now I have words to describe it and yes she is very much extrinsic. WEll we aren't friends now, she turned her back on most of her old pals, although she doesn't see it that way.

8:55 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Ed - wonderful post. I've been thinking about the word authentic myself for other reasons. Your post was a wonderful affirmation of my thoughts. Thanks.

9:27 PM  
Blogger leslyf said...

So enjoyed your last post and this one too, Ed. I love the results you are getting with your new wax and oils method .... and I think I would recognise your paintings anywhere.

I too agree with all you've said here. But I have to disagree somewhat with Andrea .... extreme conservatism is to be found in virtually every country in the world sadly.

Carry on with the lovely paintings!

7:14 PM  
Blogger The Anonymous said...

Hi! My name is Project 71. Weird name I know, but my masters are weird too. My masters also say that I'm a really interesting website. So why don't you consider reading what I am. Masters say it won't take you more than 22s to read. :) http://www.project71.com/readme Enjoyy!

2:06 PM  
Blogger Camplin said...

Many post-modern writers think that nothing can be authentic because all authorities over the authentic are suspect of there motives of power over the 'other.' However, your musings on the subject make an authentic experience something beautiful and therefore I do not question your motives. Your power is not from the bias ego, but from the reality of existence and acceptance.

2:11 AM  
Blogger leslyf said...

Hi Ed ... thank you for this very interesting and insightful post, it is great that you are able to share with us so eloquently. Your posts are always very well written and give plenty of food for thought. As someone who has suffered from periods of clinical depression in the past I can relate to many of your experiences, although the longer I am on this planet the more I think that most people are probably a little 'crazy' to a greater or lesser degree! Its all a matter of perspective!

Your art has moved forward so much in the past year .... and you now have a very coherent painterly body of work. I admire your application and perseverance so much. May 2008 bring you much satisfaction and peace of mind.

5:07 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home