Sunday, June 29, 2008

New Middle Name for Now

From this day forth, until the election is over, I have added a middle name: Hussein. I am sick to death of the racism, sexism, and religious bigotry, all of which is coming to the surface in this election. I think the fact that true feelings are being expressed is good. We don't change until we face what needs to be changed. But I must weigh in, along with the bigots.

Barack Hussein Obama looks like my sons. That is the first reason I decided to vote for him. But being a thinking person, I knew I must read and look into who he is. There are plenty of bad people in the world that look like my sons! I read both his books. I searched the internet for articles about him from the right and the left points of view. I do not discount people from the right, even though I mostly view the world from the left.  I read about his mother, a woman who had her mixed son around the same time I had my mixed sons, when segregation was still the law of the land. 

More than just a gut feeling that I am looking at my son emerged. Senator Obama is intelligent, well read, well spoken, a person who believes in mediation. He doesn't discount people just because they don't agree with him. I was horrified when Bush won the second term and he said, "Now I have a mandate. I don't have to listen to anyone." That meant I don't count in his world, since I disagree with him on many things. I wrote him a letter a day for a year expressing the point that I, too, am American and it is his job to listen to all of us, not just those who agree. This President in the White House refused to represent any part of me. That isn't the ideal of America I grew up to love. 

So I feel it is time we have someone in the White House who understands compromise, that all must be included in some way or another, who is a learning, curious and questioning type of person. He understands that no one point of view always wins. We must give and take to accommodate the differences that make up our country. I know first hand from my family. It is a lot of work to understand our difference.

The group of folks who make fun of Senator Obama's name gleaned from his father, who insist on spreading lies about what religion he practices, who insist on demonizing Islam in general, and who confuse the people who are terrorists, who happen to be Muslim, as all of the Islamic community. There are fanatics who call themselves Christian, who in the name of religion thought it was okay to shoot a doctor because he provided abortions for women who needed them. Whether you agree with abortion or not, "Thou shalt not kill," is written in every religion. But fanatics find excuses to do all manner of immoral things to justify their behavior. I have a branch of my family that is Muslim, another branch is Christian, another branch is Jewish, another branch is Buddhist, and some declare no religion. No one in my family are terrorists, but our diversity is American. 

So, I declare a middle name Hussein. I like that Barrack Obama has running through his veins blood from many continents. Like my family, it is hard to go to war some where without discovering a relative. It changes ones perspective if you think about the world in that way. Some times bad guys force you to act, but we've all had a relation who was out of control and the family had to take a stand. The twin towers was one of those times. But we were side tracked. Maybe with a Barrack Hussein Obama in the White House we can hold the real culprits accountable. At least, that is my bet, and thus my vote. So call me Shirley Hussein A. Blair Keller.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Arenas Gallery: Artist's Reception

This evening is the Artist's Reception at the Arenas Gallery in Visalia. Kathy and Steve Diamant, Kay Gaston, Jeri Burzin and I will be showing our arts and crafts. We mailed postcards and fliers to friends and art patrons. And we each have been told by many there will be a good response this evening. The Arenas' usually provide a very good spread. Laurel and Jay Bergman from Redwood City are coming specifically for this event, staying over night in our home. We will have a brunch for friends tomorrow and they return to the Bay Area in the afternoon. So all indications this will be a "party."

I cannot shake a negative cloud around my head. Only nine days ago my sister died. She was my younger sister so her going before me is out of turn. With she and our parents gone, too, I am the only person living who grew up in our small family. I do have an adopted brother and step sisters and a half sister, whom I love, but I didn't live with them growing up. Of course, I feel attached to them, but it feels weird that every person who lived in my childhood home are gone. I left home before my brother was adopted so he was my younger sister's sibling, not mine, in reality. So I suspect the cloud is all to do with this loss and hindering the joy and excitement of doing a body of work and having it enjoyed by many this evening.

Because I was so caught up in going back and forth to Los Angeles to spend time with my sister, the preparation for this show was limited. My focus was south, not here. I also have the studio tour at the end of month and didn't want to deplete that event. So I picked three masks, two photographs (1st and 2nd place winners at the Tulare Co. Fair the last couple of years), and gift cards of my photos. My friends have so much more in the show. My stuff is displayed in the back of the gallery in a small cubie type section, not open for all to see like the rest of the art. I was disappointed when I went to preview, knowing we will be too busy to enjoy the show itself tonight. I grasp at positivity and know that grief sometimes over shadows our daily existence, which is for me, lucky and happy and there is no real cloud, just a perceived one. So I will spend today in preparation, finishing a knitted sweater in bamboo yarn that I hope to wear tonight, and take photos of wildflowers that grow through our hills, and enjoy this day, with my sisters memory sitting on my forehead, taking a ride. And the big question, "Will I sell?" left for the future to answer.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Learning Continues...

A friend spent time showing me a little about the Internet this morning. She has a website, and a bloggers site and is further along than I am in understanding how all the parts fit together. So here I am trying out what she taught me. Adding images, and journaling and playing. It is a puzzle to me how all of this will evolve but I am excited about following this path to see where it leads.

March 29-30th we will host a Three Rivers Artists Studio Tour. It is the 8th in the last sixteen, held every other year. Last time I was invited as a writer. When we held the artist's pre-tour, and visited one another's studios, the artists filled my studio, and were less interested in my writing, and more in the Ink Quilts lining my walls. To my surprise they considered them art. I hadn't really thought about. I made collages that were inspired by a dream.

I had written a story about my ex-husband's grandmother. When I went to meet her, the first things she said to me was, "I remember the day slavery ended. I was five years old." The shock to my 18 year old white gut stayed with me. The idea that this little wizened old woman was someone's property repelled me. When I wrote the story 50 years later I had a dream. On a museum wall was what looked like a quilt. But when I approached and touched it, it was white wooden frames that enclosed "patches," each a collage of the chapters of the memoir I had been writing about my inter-cultural, inter-religious, inter-racial family. The next morning I began to make the Ink Quilts that the artists now were admiring.

Now I consider myself an artist. I play with clay (masks a passion), write (freelance for a local magazine company, Direct Media Inc. out of Visalia, CA, and still hope to publish my creative writings), and continue making Ink Quilts. I've gone from illustrating my memoir, to doing pieces that share how nature impinges on our lives in Sequoia country. And have added photography to the mix, trying to capture the beauty all around us that seems to be disappearing as fast as I take pictures. The human need to use every inch available seems insatiable. So I record it so we will have memory of something other than buildings.

I look forward to this tour. Last time I met some wonderful people from as far north as Oregon, and far south as San Diego. So who knows what this tour will bring. I sent postcard invites to locals, too, this time. We didn't think it was necessary last time since there are posters every where and the local paper advertises the event. But to my surprise, few locals came through. And since receiving the cards I have had locals call and thank me for including them and thus they are coming. I guess people feel like I do, they want to be included!!!! :)