Friday, March 31, 2017

Who owns Aunt Jemima? (Appropriation of the black image/culture) & March Madness is White Madness

While I was listening to the Natural Blues song remixed by Moby, I found the original song that Moby sampled from Vera Hall called "Trouble so hard." And of course I reconstruct and analyze everything I do, so I started thinking about Moby using a song and reclaiming it as his own while turning it into a multi-platinum album. This reminded me of Alice Walker's story '1955' that I read a while back. Her story was about a woman who wrote a song that a young white man bought from her to use in his shows and concerts. He made so much money off of her song, he didn't know what to do with all the money. And he gave the woman a car eventually, and tried to offer her other things that would try to make him feel better for profiting off of her song. Eventually the man began to ask her the meaning of her song because even though he sings the song publicly, he didn't know what the song was about. The story by Alice was actually based on Elvis Presley reclaiming Mama Thornton's "Hound Dog" song. Similarly, this dynamic comes from the white dominated entertainment industry that approves of a select group of people who is given permission to succeed or not.

Often today, people are making money off of other people's work--especially media outlets and advertising. You begin to question: why is this particular image being used? And, who owns this image? Who owns Aunt Jemima's image? According to M. M. Manning, Aunt Jemima originally came from a minstrel show (white people in blackface) as one of their pantheon of stereotypical black characters. The character appears to have been a Reconstruction era addition to that cast. Several women have portrayed the Aunt Jemima character such as Anna Short Harrington, Lillian Richard, Nancy Green, and Ethel Ernestein Harper, but the Aunt Jemima character comes from the ideology of the Mammy who cooks and cleans for the white masters. And certainly when you ask now 'who owns Aunt Jemima's image?'-- it certainly isn't the descendants of any of the women who portrayed her. Because Aunt Jemima's image is owned by Quaker Oats which is owned by PepsiCo, it seems that the image has been historically owned by white men who are made the profits.

From what is described above comes from appropriation that exploits culture, language, and images from minority groups to be used for the majority. I must admit my own cultural appropriation and analyze it: my brothers play Korean and Japanese video games, sister is majoring in Japanese language, my partner watches anime, and I watch Korean TV shows. I have culturally appropriated in what I eat, my hobbies, or how I speak, and there is a fine line of cultural appropriation when the white majority groups appropriate images and songs for profit. I admit I too use black culture in my everyday language. This is on the spectrum of appropriating culture because it's a signal or a sign that black culture is wanted and adopted; but it's noticeably acceptable for whites to use and profit from black culture while black entertainers themselves are up against an industry that is owned and operated by the white elites.

Think of any popular slang word or phrases that are currently used today: bae, swag/ger, Yas Queen, or slay-- and you'll see that it all comes from black culture. I use all these words and my little white bro calls himself a "thug", and I find that to be like when that white vegan couple made a recipe book called "Thug Kitchen." White people get away with calling themselves "thugs" and profiteering, while Black youths get labeled a thug and it's used against them. Recently in the news of my home state, a young Black female student was told that she was not allowed to wear her hair a certain way. I can't find the news article now, but the fact that a girl cannot wear her hair a certain way just because of the way it, for one is racism, discrimination, but also it is a signal that black girls are not allowed to wear their hair a certain way while white girls do not have to have that concern. This continues to be a sign that there is a system that tells people of color that what they do is not allowed unless if white people do it, it is then acceptable.

Again, I think deeper on the culture dynamics of the United States specifically, considering there is greater diversity of cultures in the US. I wanted to write a separate essay on college basketball because March Madness is almost over, but it will work just fine as an example here. March Madness is 'White Madness', and this is because I see a sea of white people in the stands watching Black bodies hit one another. I see hints of slave fights where White slave owners would watch and bet on their slaves as they fought to the death. Basketball isn't slavery, nor is it slave fights, nor can it ever be compared to such. But, as I watch the White fans in the crowd looking down on the basketball teams that are competing for something I don't understand, I am quick to recognize this shared dynamic when we're analyzing football. But beyond the fans, there is a hole industry that profits off of the young students of college basketball from sponsors, advertisements, investors, teams, and the college students don't get a penny of it, unless if the students go pro.

But what does that say about the industry that tells college students to quit their education in order to make millions for a sport. I ask to myself: do these fans only love their team or do they idolize the players? Do they know the names and lives of these young students who play basketball? Do they realize the players are only 18 and 19 year old boys? Do they question if they're doing good in school while they work relentlessly for their team? One thing is for sure: basketball is corrupt like any other sport or entertainment industry. Someone was quoted saying "What if Black people were loved as much as Black culture?" And when I ponder on that statement, I wonder if Black bodies would still be used for sports and entertainment, asked to forget about their education, caged within mass incarceration, or shot down by the people that's job is to protect them.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Orange sunset landscape by Cassie K

Women of Walking Dead pencil drawings -Cassie K

Of course this is not all the women of Walking Dead; but these are my favorite characters. If you saw the Michonne (Walking Dead) portrait I did a week ago, I wanted to show you additional portraits I drew of some of the women characters of Walking Dead. Below are portraits of the characters "Sasha" and "Rosita." I may draw these on the larger 18x24 paper like Michonne.

Spring in bloom painting by Cassie Kinney

This is a painting I've been working since yesterday. I'm tired of looking at it, so I have called it finished despite the many flaws that remain. The painting is based on a photo from the early 90's of my brother and I among flowering fruit trees and tulips blooming on an Easter day where we were hunting plastic eggs.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Pol Ledent Belgium artist landscape oil paintings

Check out Pol Ledent on Facebook and Deviant art, his work is fantastic. He paints many landscapes, flowers, and abstract non objective works that I find whimsical.

pol ledent deviantart
abstract pol ledent

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Wheel art decor garden ideas

I have a piece of metal that looks like the one in the photo below; and I've been wondering what kind of artistic use I could put it to. Below are a few additional photos of ways to re-purpose wheels and similar objects as decor in the garden.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Pencil sketch portrait of Punk cowgirl by Cassie K

Comparison photo

Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) of Girl with the dragon tattoo by CK

I don't quite like this drawing and I'm struggling to figure out what I did wrong with this drawing. I think her lips were drawn too small and her face too wide or long. I have drawn this character before, even in a little sketch I done a better job at portraying her mystery.

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, "Lisbeth Salander", Noomi Rapace

Saturday, March 4, 2017

For centuries the world has been misled about the original source of the Arts and Sciences; for centuries Socrates, Plato and Aristotle have been falsely idolized as models of intellectual greatness; and for centuries the African continent has been called the Dark Continent, because Europe coveted the honor of transmitting to the world, the Arts and Sciences. It is indeed surprising how, for centuries, the Greeks have been praised by the Western World for intellectual accomplishments which belong without a doubt to the Egyptians or the peoples of North Africa.

More ways that history is white washed from George G.M. James' book Stolen Legacy: "For centuries the world has been misled about the original source of the Arts and Sciences; for centuries Socrates, Plato and Aristotle have been falsely idolized as models of intellectual greatness; and for centuries the African continent has been called the Dark Continent, because Europe coveted the honor of transmitting to the world, the Arts and Sciences. It is indeed surprising how, for centuries, the Greeks have been praised by the Western World for intellectual accomplishments which belong without a doubt to the Egyptians or the peoples of North Africa."

A conversation about suicide part II: who commits suicide?

There are approximately one million suicides every year, equating to a suicide every 40 seconds. In the US, it is one every 13 minutes. If you read my piece on Kurt Cobain and suicide, I wanted to add a little more to that discussion because I had some additional thoughts about the culture around suicide. My mind as a teen was captivated by stories of tragic artists like Cobain. I listened to his music growing up, and listened to Soundgarden and Linkin Park as a kid--all of which had a lead singer commit suicide. I'm troubled by it, and was deeply sad to hear about Chester Bennington. I had no idea that he had six children. I looked to see how many kids Chris Cornell--he had three children. These children are young as well, and honestly, it makes me mad when I think about their families left behind so early.

On the other hand, knowing some of the personal background of these musicians provides the context of their suicide. For instance, all had a history of depression, some level of psychosis due to past trauma, substance and alcohol abuse. Even the comedian Robin Williams, who committed suicide three years ago, had a history of depression and substance abuse. Williams also left behind three children. Of course, don't forget women who have committed suicide, and left behind young children. In fact, Sylvia Plath the poet left behind two children--one child that committed suicide by hanging when he was older. If there is a history of suicide in the family, there is a higher chance of suicide.

Besides Cobain, all men mentioned committed suicide by hanging. Suicide by hanging is the most common method and has the highest mortality rate. Note that every artist mentioned so far is a white male. White males account for 72% of all suicides, and 90% of suicide related deaths account for both White females and males. And even though males commit suicide at a higher rate than females, females attempt suicide at a higher rate than men. According to Chang, in the United States suicide is higher among White men older than 80 years although younger people more frequently attempt suicide.

When you factor in occupation, however, those with the highest rates of suicide among physicians, male and female commit suicide at the same rate. Interestingly, the highest rates of females committing suicide is in South Korea according to Värnik. China is also one country where women have a higher rate of suicide than men. Strikingly from 1980 and 1995, the rates of suicide  increased by 120% among white youth and 223% among black youth between the ages of 10-14. Between the ages of 15-19, suicide increased by 126% for Black youth and 19% for White youth.

This is us. This is our culture. And when I refer to this phenomena as "culture" or 'cultural', I mean to make the distinction that the most (three quarters) suicides that occur worldwide are those in the developing world. Alaska and Montana in the US have the highest rates of suicide, with my state of Kentucky not too far behind. Alaska has high rates where Alaskan men make up a higher portion of the suicides of other races of men in the US. I imagine there is a trend here where the poorest of populations are the most affected by social and environmental factors that would lead to their suicide.

Actually I have to admit, I continue to remain captivated by the many stories of artists, actors, actresses, singers, and the like that died at my age of 27 called 'the 27 club.' I do not mean to romanticize these instances, and I find that the media often sensationalizes the stories as it is. And I worry that the romanticism of suicide and depression influenced me growing up. When I recollect back to the narratives of those lost souls, the hopelessly hopeless, I think: this is me too. I remember reading about Elliot Smith's suicide, and asking myself the question that many of us have asked: will I have a breaking point? I can't tell you of a particular song, band, movie, story, or image, but in my past when I watched people living aimlessly, I was drawn to those images. The drugs, the drinking, smoking, dancing like no one is watching, and living manic and reckless looked like people were just having fun to me. The kind of I imagined myself smoking and drinking, writing and painting, and going mad in my own house. I could only imagine myself as those young artists that lived in style, carving out their own space,  rejecting the mainstream, rebelling against the system. But what I got out of that, was more of the same feelings of sad and loneliness that I also saw in the artists I admired, or the characters I saw in movies. I predicted for myself that I was like these characters that go mad to the point of ending their lives. I, too, felt that. I, too, noticed these same characters of this world, were those who had a breakdown or meltdown, and I felt that too.

I cannot complain about my childhood, I suppose. However, there are parts of me that have drove my mind to torture myself. I, too, had moments in my life as an artist when I was drinking in the woods, or smoking dope in an abandoned car, or going to class at 8 in the morning after doing shrooms all night; and I felt like a piece of shit nobody that will never get anywhere in life. I remember once I ran to the woods and climbed to the top of the hill and asked myself: how would I do it? how could I do it? There's no cliff or edge to fall off of, there's no gun to end it all, there's no sleeping pills, there's no heroin to OD on. My mind still tortures me. I felt the privilege of the world that which my culture gave to me, and because I found it all to be distasteful, I refused to participate in the system.

An artist refuses and rejects this routine sort of life like an office space, which is why I wondered if artists that struggled were more likely to be driven to suicide. Probably not, considering there are all types of people that take their own lives because of mental illness, substance abuse, financial crisis, homelessness, aging veterans with PTSD, etc. As I have said, physicians have one of the highest rates of suicide among other professions, but according to Business Insider, artists, sculptors and painters are 2.12 times more likely to commit suicide than average. This does not include photographers who are 2.50 times more likely to commit suicide than average; nor does this include authors who I also consider artists. Authors are 2.60 times more likely to commit suicide than average. Dancers and actors/actresses have higher rates of suicide than authors and other artists; but that doesn't compare to musicians who are 3.60 times more likely to commit suicide than average. The truth of the matter is that the research still concludes that rich people and rich countries are happier which facilitates the assumption that happiness does not lead to suicide. Mattimore of ChinaDaily says however the correlation between income and happiness gets weaker in wealthier countries. Fairchild of Huffington post states "Although people making less than $10,000 are 50 percent more likely to commit suicide than those with incomes above $60,000, the San Francisco Federal Reserve paper shows that comparing yourself to those around you might have a larger impact on happiness than personal net worth" which supports one study that found for  “higher earnings of neighbors were associated with lower level of self-reported happiness.”

With this in mind, the idea that a starving artist may be more likely to commit suicide versus a wealthy artist may become tricky to explain. One thing is for sure though, you can be a rich or poor artist, but it is a dangerous gamble to be an artist that also abuses drugs and alcohol when they're depressed. And yet, the artists I watched dabble in drugs and alcohol to cope with the daily torment of the mind, I still find them much more intriguing because they were elusive in some way. 

Growing up, Vincent van Gogh was my favorite artist, and later when I found out that he was just another struggling artist that ended it for himself, I felt that too. Someone wrote that he was "the quintessential misunderstood genius, the artist 'where discourses on madness and creativity converge.'" I have reflected on this many times in my childhood where if I ever did receive recognition, it would be if I am dead and gone. These are the common thoughts I had growing up where my idols were artists that killed themselves or would later take their lives because they didn't fit into this ugly world.

What people don't tell you about Vincent van Gogh is that he painted when he was medicated. He was actually institutionalized and painted his psychiatrists. So this narrative that we need pain to create art will only be the one we hear until we do the research ourselves. Because to make art, we need our mental health, we need to treat mental illness in order to do our work.

As I said in part I of this essay, I have heard of men that do despicable acts of violence will kill themselves before ever taking fault or before ever going to prison so they are not punished. But I am not focused on these people and I am only to focus on the youth that is troubled by struggle; and perhaps conversations like this can prevent suicide. Although I have spent much time asking why it matters so much to prevent death when it inevitably happens anyway; I still go back to my own way to coping by asking how my life can be impactful rather than my death. A couple months back when 45 was elected as the POTUS, someone told me that her daughter's friends that were in a same-sex relationship killed themselves the night after in fear that progress for LGBTQ people will be reversed, and that there will be more backlash for LGBTQ youth.
From here I consider those youth that take their life because they're bullied. Or the gay youth that fear disapproval from their family, friends, community. According to many researchers, LGBTQ youth have the highest rates of suicide attempts in comparison to the general population, especially in areas where homophobia and social stigma is blatant. Besides bullying as the contributing factor for suicide or suicide attempts among LGBTQ youth, there is also high rates of substance abuse associated with this. It is not so much being LGBTQ that puts a person at risk of suicide, but the associated factors like anxiety, social stigma, verbal/physical abuse from bullying, substance abuse, elevate the risk of suicide. This induces minority stress, which is especially true for persons of color in the LGBTQ community. LGBTQ youth that are homeless after coming out are greatly at risk of suicide as well.

Once again, I am at a loss for final words on this discussion of a dark topic. I have reflected on suicide at the intersection of art, substance abuse, and LGBTQ youth. I suppose I focused on these intersections because I too have felt this waning gloom over me as an artist who abused drugs and alcohol, that had thoughts of suicide, and for someone that identifies as a queer woman. I wanted to convey my own experiences because I can personally dive into my past thoughts and emotions to relate to others. I believe in several of my previous posts, in addition to part I on this discussion of suicide, I have mentioned that the forms of art I create have helped me cope with this life-long strain of depression. Just because you're an artist doesn't mean you're tortured; even though our society tells us the more tortured the artist, the better the art; and I have heard several times from people that musicians only write and perform good music when they were sad and penniless.

Although, some of my greatest thoughts, writings and paintings come from a place of bliss and happiness. So I realize as someone that is an artist and someone that has depression, there is a usefulness of turning depression into art. I turn my pain into art, and I write out my pain. And this is the best advice I can give because I am at a time and place in my life where I am still at a young age, and I don't have answers to how and why we should prevent suicide. When we have a culture that romanticizes (or at least normalizes) suicide and depression while simultaneously fetishizing fame and fortune mixed with drugs and alcohol, what are we asking out of the youth of today? And, who are going to be the role models of this generation that will be an uplifting voice in the darkness? What spaces can be created for those looking for understanding, safety, and security? What can you or I do today to make just one other person, or yourself, feel that life would be uninteresting without them?