War Comes to America

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September 20, 2001: Did any of you see the female Afghan-British investigative reporter's documentary "Beneath the Veil," a report of the plight of the people under the rule of the Taliban last night? Particularly upsetting is the plight of the women who have been widowed, because they are forbidden to work and have no form of financial support. Women are unable to get even basic medical care because the female doctors aren't allowed to work and have gone elsewhere and the women are not allowed to go to male doctors. The hospital was filthy. The documentary showed men and women publicly executed for infringement of some so-called religious law. It showed three young girls whose mother had been murdered in front of them by Taliban members because she objected to them taking over her home after killing her husband. Then the Taliban troops stayed two more days and the three children, girls twelve and under who had been crying for three weeks, refused to say what the Taliban had done to them during those two days. They simply sat there with tears streaming from their eyes.  Some Afghan women in the village are holding underground schools for the girls for which they can be killed if caught. None of this is new news. A number of us signed a petition a year or two ago asking for relief for these women. Seeing it anew  is enough to turn anyone against organized religion. Does anyone know of any effort or ability to bring relief to these people?  Somehow lighting a candle so NASA can position a satellite to record the glow does not seem enough for these oppressed people and for those throughout the world who are so bereaved by this attack. 

I was quite interested to see that one of the scholars, a Muslim, in the discussion that followed the airing of the documentary denounced the activities of the Taliban as an example of fundamentalist extremism and a distortion of true religion and is, to quote him, "just like your Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson." This is the first time I have heard anyone publicly imply that the extremist views of these two men (regarded as religious leaders in America by some people) and their rhetoric can incite extremist behavior among their listeners and followers.  Remember, Jerry Falwell is reported to have publicly stated on the 700 Club that America and all those who were killed in the terrorist attack September 11th got what we deserved. His apology that I saw posted on his web site was not for what he said, but because he regrets that in his view,  his words were taken out of context. CNN later reported that Falwell admitted that his words were "ill timed, insensitive, and divisive," I saw nowhere that he admits  what his words expressed, that all the victims deserved their fate,  was wrong.

Religious fanaticism inevitably ends in oppression and mistreatment of others, regardless of its origin.

September 19, 2001: Watching special programs initiated by various Muslim organizations over the past week, I gathered that our Muslims fellow Americans feel that some of us non-Muslims have misconceptions about their religion. I have decided to educate myself a bit more about this and have found that I certainly had misconceptions and little knowledge of the beliefs and customs of many of my fellow Americans. Many sites exist that can offer scholarly information. I am including one here that I found by typing the subject of Islamic religion into a search engine. If you are interested, click here as a beginning.  I hope we will all avail ourselves of the multitude of web sites to help us improve our basic understanding of the cultures with which our lives are linked. The Teaching Company also has a 50 lecture course on "Great World Religions" that includes a ten-lecture segment on Islam.  I also looked up various countries on the Internet and found the history of Afghanistan and Pakistan fascinating. One begins to get a grasp of the enormous complexity of these Asian cultures.  

September 17, 2001: I am not able to write about the anguish caused our country during this terrible week. A powerful series of photographs of the outpouring of sympathy from across the world toward the United States and the victims of the terrorist attack was posted on the Web for a while. A measure of healing was contained in this evidence of others sharing our grief.  

September 11, 2001: War came to America this morning in the form of the terrorist attack that destroyed the World Trade Center buildings and killed and injured some five thousand innocent people who were working in those buildings and who were on the hijacked airplanes that were flown into the buildings. 

September 1, 2001: I remember some funny times when I was taking painting classes. As anyone who paints knows, the bare canvas or piece of watercolor paper is quite daunting. My teachers repeatedly told us to hurry and put something down to get over that hurdle. One of the instructors took a colleague's paper, put it on the floor and stepped on it and said, "There. It is no longer precious. Now  you can start painting on it." Another time I was painting away in a class and the teacher came and watched over my shoulder without saying anything, then he told the class he had to run to the campus book store and to finish up by the time he returned and we would have critique.

Critique time is when I really learned, both from seeing how differently each class member treated the same subject and from the comments of the instructor about each painting. When it came time for my painting to be put up for discussion, he said, "Rheba had a beautiful painting going, and while I was gone she niggled it and niggled it until she ruined it." I had to look up niggled. One of its meanings is "overly elaborate in execution." I felt sick and asked him why he didn't tell me it was finished before he left. He said, "You won't forget this lesson, now will you?" Obviously I haven't. He did show me how to rescue the painting, but it was not as good as it was originally.

That instructor was Doug Walton of Ruston, Louisiana, from whom I learned a lot. Doug taught us that images for our paintings are all around us.  He  insisted that we make our paintings entertaining to the eye. As we were painting he often gave us odd objects telling us to incorporate the shape into our paintings. It could be pencil sharpening shavings, popcorn, a wooden statue, or he would hand out different magazines and instruct everyone to turn to page number such and such, and then he would tell us there was something on that page for our paintings. Remember, each magazine was different, so it was no telling what image or shape the artist would find that could be incorporated into the painting. If someone's page was only printed words, the option was to use a letter of the alphabet or a word or go to another page. These exercises encouraged inventiveness.

 Most artists keep a morgue, an awful name for files full of resources for sketching, painting, collage, ideas. Part of the fun is to make something new from some image. For instance, the goldfish painting on page two in my Studio Gallery came from sketches of a carved teakwood goldfish. The changes in the images and the colors came from my imagination and the memory of Greta Garbo, a fantail goldfish we once had who got her name from the fact she wanted to be alone. Any other fish we put in the bowl with her invariably was a dead goldfish the next day.   The flower images came from the woody base of  some exotic flower long dead, imported from some other country. The ribbon-like shapes in the image came from a piece of entirely white embossed wallpaper. Anything is game for inclusion in a painting.

At an art show one day I saw some beautiful watercolors done on aluminum foil, of all things. The artist generously told me how he prepared the foil to receive the watercolors and I went home and painted a watercolor on foil. I loved the way the paint acted, the natural texture from minute creases in the foil and the way tiny bits of glitter from the foil enliven the painting. It is in Lynette's collection  and I had her send me a photo of it; the photo was taken at a slight angle, but you can see how vibrant the brush strokes and colors are:

passion flowers

I thought of these things because I have upgraded Procreation's Painter and they have added a lot of new technology. I have been struggling to learn to control the new watercolor and liquid ink brushes and "paint." I struggle every bit as much as I did in painting class, and while I was working some of my past experiences were playing in my mind.

While taking classes at New Orleans' Academy of Fine Art, I took some classes in life drawing, or drawing the human figure. I took one or two after leaving New Orleans, but life drawing classes and live models are hard to come by when one lives in a rural area.  I located a resource that is the next best thing for someone who does not have access to such classes. It is a program that contains a number of models and the user can turn the figure so that all angles of the pose can be drawn. It is called "Virtual Pose ." If you wish to learn more about this resource for artists, click here.

I have added a few images of my former studio work in my Studio Gallery, and a few new ones to the Digital Gallery. I have reorganized the galleries, and have added new pages to them. I will continue to add new pages to keep the download times from being so long.  I just completed another digital collage and was tempted to put it up in the Collage Gallery, but I have decided to do several versions of the same subject and then choose the one I think is best to display. That should strengthen my discipline muscles.   

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Last revised: November 26, 2010




Copyright 2001-2010 Rheba Kramer Mitchell. All rights reserved.