Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Love Letters to my life #13: Reflecting on honeymoons and reflections


Morning in Reno
by Joyce Wycoff
 
(We know the day we were born, but most of us do not know the day we will die. This love letter to my life is written on the day I've designated as my death day, the 17th of every month, and reminds me to be grateful for my incredible life.)
 
Everyone loves a honeymoon. Everything’s all bright and shiny and you don’t have to do dishes. 

That’s where I am with Reno … being a casino-town that bills itself as “quirky by choice,” everything about Reno is neon bright and gaudy shiny, and in a tiny house with a tiny kitchen, cooking is minimal and dishes are what you do while the tea water is boiling. The wonder of honeymoons is the childlike delight in discovering each new facet of the beloved.

For instance, on the second morning of the Reno Mural Festival, I had trouble walking the few blocks to my destination. The early morning sun threw reflections across the cityscape that kept blinding me to the task at hand. Like a raven, I kept turning this way and that, not knowing which shiny object to approach first. Finally, I gave in and just started shooting with little thought in mind, until … the whole idea of reflections stopped me.

Reflections aren’t just mirrored images on shiny surfaces. Or, as Wikipedia defines it, "Reflection is the change in direction of a wavefront at an interface between two different media so that the wavefront returns into the medium from which it originated.” Talk about a buzz kill! My preferred definition:

Reflection is two surfaces dancing to the music of light. 
 
Reflections on Lake Chapala
I have long loved photographing reflections without thinking much about the magic of two or more surfaces collaborating in an instant of light. There is a “nowness” about reflections. In that moment, something is created that will never exist again in exactly the same way. There is a creative confusion about reflections: confusion about what is “real” and what merely the play of light on a reflective surface, creative as, in this particular moment, something ephemeral is created.

There is a random and generous abundance about reflections, requiring only that I open my eyes to see them. 

Flags after the Rain in Ajijic
Maybe that’s why I move. Being in a new environment forces me to open my eyes. There is a honeymoon period to each new place. However, honeymoons end and a deeper, more nuanced relationship begins to form. As I go through these early, bright and shiny days, when even the tiles in bathrooms call to me, I think there is enough here to build a lasting foundation.  
 
Bathroom tiles
Is this forever? In these early days, it’s too soon to say, but I love the wonder of having my eyes wide open. 
 

Sunday, July 14, 2019

WINNERS Reno Mural Festival 2019

All the murals were outstanding. As one viewer remarked, "All of them make our community a better place." 

That said, the judging must have been really hard ... and the 3 top choices of the official judges were not the same as my 3 top choices, so I will indicate both. The judges with the prize; mine with * - first; ** - second; *** - third. Of course, my opinion doesn't have any monetary value

What fun it was to meet these talented artists and watch them at work. Their murals will remain up until next year when it's time for Reno's 2020 Mural Festival.

"Imagination" by David Puck  **
David Puck: “Imagination" **
@DavidPuckArtist 

“To the eyes of imagination, Nature is Imagination itself.” — William Blake

Artist bio: David Puck is a figurative painter and muralist, working in spray paint & oil. Originally from England, they are currently based in California. Through colorful abstracted portraits, their work explores queer experience and mental health. They are inspired by the balance and interaction of opposing forces - realism and abstraction, narrative and obfuscation, joy and melancholy. They have an academic background in Queer History from The University of Oxford, and is currently studying towards working in mental health support. Collectors include Mayim Bialik (TV's Big Bang Theory) and brand Hank&Henry Beauty. Their supporters include drag icons Jinkx Monsoon, Mayhem Miller and Delta Work. Notable mural projects include NYC World Pride, Wide Open Walls festival, Art Share LA, and Meeting Of Styles - so far they have painted murals in eight countries - from Nicaragua to Germany. They are represented by Art Attack SF for the Bay Area CA, and exhibit internationally. 

"Fat Bird" by Eric Weatherford *** (tie)
Eric Weatherford:
"Fat Bird" *** (tie)
OddWall Painting, Decatur, Ill
@oddwallpainting

After receiving his BA in Studio Art from Millikin University in Decatur IL, Eric has been doing freelance painting and design throughout the Central Illinois area. He has painted murals all across the Midwest, designed logos for local businesses, displayed his paintings at galleries all over the nation, and has now created ODDWALL Painting to bring his creative talent to those looking to take their business or home to the next level.

"The Price of Royalty" by Ivan Roque  *
Ivan Roque:
 “The Price of Royalty" *
@ivanjroque

Ivan is a prolific muralist focusing on contemporary metaphorical themes in nature. He uses an unusual form of grid which we decided to call a "doodle grid.” Grids tend to be mathematical and linear. Ivan’s grid is loose, uses symbols placed in a somewhat chaotic form on the wall, and as Ivan says, “It’s fun." The sketch is then transferred to wall using the grid. 

                                                                          
"Frida" by Rafael Blanco - 3rd prize
Rafael Blanco: “Frida” 
-- 3rd prize

Painter, muralist and Art Professor at Feather River College in Quincy, California.

"Astro Crab" by Kate O'Hara - 2nd prize
Kate O’Hara:
“Astro Crab" - 2nd prize
Interview: 
@kateoharaillustration

I'm a freelance Illustrator living in Reno, Nevada. I graduated from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia with a BFA in illustration and typography. I'm currently available for projects, please contact me at kateoharaillustration@gmail.com.

Tahoe Black Bear" by Melissa Ghiglieri - 1st prize & People's Choice
Melissa Ghiglieri: 
“Tahoe Black Bear” 
- 1st prize & People's Choice
Instagram: @mel.ghig

"Ice Queen" by Jiminai - *** (tie)
Jiminai:
"Ice Queen" - *** (tie)
@jiminai

Muralist inspired by all things Japanese.

Dandelion Fluff



Dandelion Fluff

I used to have a path … 
Well, I thought I should have a path
It was slow in coming … 
Seven long decades slow,

But, now I know ...
I’m just dandelion fluff, blowing in the wind
          
Funny thing, though, 
I’m enjoying the ride.
No excuses needed: 
... the wind did it.

No demanding, high-octane plans,
Just this way … and then that.

No one really cares.
Expectations are gone.

They just laugh …
roll their eyes,
saying “dandelion fluff,
blowing in the wind." 

And, as for me … ?

I wish I’d always known
I was just dandelion fluff.   

-- Joyce Wycoff

Reno Mural Festival - End Day 1



While the muralists were getting ready for another long, hot day, the sun was painting its own murals across Reno.

All the muralists made amazing progress last night and today in spite of the heat. Apparently there are five judges and it will be “brushes down” at 10:00 am tomorrow. I wouldn’t want to be one of the judges. This is an amazing group of artists and choosing one would be torture.

People’s choice award voting will happen all day tomorrow at the ArtFest booth in front of the murals on the walls of Circus Circus. The last picture taken for each artist is shown by their names. Some are close to being finished; some will still change significantly.

David Puck - “Imagination"
Instagram @DavidPuckArtist 
@davidpuckartist

“To the eyes of imagination, Nature is Imagination itself.” — William Blake

Artist bio: David Puck is a figurative painter and muralist, working in spray paint & oil. Originally from England, they are currently based in California. Through colorful abstracted portraits, their work explores queer experience and mental health. They are inspired by the balance and interaction of opposing forces - realism and abstraction, narrative and obfuscation, joy and melancholy. They have an academic background in Queer History from The University of Oxford, and is currently studying towards working in mental health support. Collectors include Mayim Bialik (TV's Big Bang Theory) and brand Hank&Henry Beauty. Their supporters include drag icons Jinkx Monsoon, Mayhem Miller and Delta Work. Notable mural projects include NYC World Pride, Wide Open Walls festival, Art Share LA, and Meeting Of Styles - so far they have painted murals in eight countries - from Nicaragua to Germany. They are represented by Art Attack SF for the Bay Area CA, and exhibit internationally. 

-----


Eric Weatherford - "Fat Bird"
OddWall Painting, Decatur, Ill
@oddwallpainting

After receiving his BA in Studio Art from Millikin University in Decatur IL, Eric has been doing freelance painting and design throughout the Central Illinois area. He has painted murals all across the Midwest, designed logos for local businesses, displayed his paintings at galleries all over the nation, and has now created ODDWALL Painting to bring his creative talent to those looking to take their business or home to the next level.
----

Ivan Roque - “The Price of Royalty"
@ivanjroque

Ivan is a prolific muralist focusing on contemporary metaphorical themes in nature. He uses an unusual form of grid which we decided to call a "doodle grid.” Grids tend to be mathematical and linear. Ivan’s grid is loose, uses symbols placed in a somewhat chaotic form on the wall, and as Ivan says, “It’s fun." The sketch is then transferred to wall using the  grid. 

                                                                              ----

Rafael Blanco - “Frida”

Painter, muralist and Art Professor at Feather River College in Quincy, California.



 

----
 
Kate O’Hara - “Crab"
Interview: 
@kateoharaillustration 
 Interview:

I'm a freelance Illustrator living in Reno, Nevada. I graduated from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia with a BFA in illustration and typography. I'm currently available for projects, please contact me at kateoharaillustration@gmail.com.

----

Melissa Ghiglieri - “Bear”
Instagram: @mel.ghig










----

Jiminai - 
@jiminai

Muralist inspired by all things Japanese.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Peace of Wild Things

Seeing the muralists making art this morning, plus thinking about the magic of reflections, plus too many weeks away from art, called me like a siren song ... irresistible ... and led to "The Peace of Wild Things," obviously inspired by the incredible Wendell Berry poem.

Wendell's thoughts so reflect our current worries and fears, and, perhaps, he finds the only solution available to us.  Bill Moyers offers us these beautiful words in the voice of the poet ...

In these unsure times, take to heart the words of poet, writer, activist and farmer Wendell Berry:

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

 With the peace of wild things ... at least for a moment ... we can be free.

Reno 24-Hour Mural Festival: Day 1


July in Reno is Arttown, a month of everything-art and regarded as one of the most comprehensive arts festivals in the country by the National Endowment for the Arts. 
 
Dance. Music. Theater. Film. Literature. Art and crafts. … And, one of my favorites: the 24-hour mural festival with seven artists turning blank walls at the Circus Circus Casino into coloful art.

I don’t remember exactly when I fell in love with public art and murals, but gradually, it became something I sought out in the cities I travelled to and a prime criteria when choosing a place to live. Murals are more than a piece of art … they are an act of democracy, inviting viewers in, changing with light and time, becoming part of the community.

Cities and towns around the world have found that public art, sculptures and murals, are important. Muralist Grace McCammond said, “Murals build a sense of community. “They make it welcoming and walkable, and they make you want to go there.” (1)

The seven artists for Reno’s 24-hour Mural Festival arrived on Friday afternoon to blank walls (scaffolding or lifts already in place) and a sketch. For most of them, the first part of their process was to create a grid and transfer the sketch. Ivan Roque, a Cuban-American artist from Miami, however began painting his wall solid red. 
 
 
Here’s a series from Melissa Ghiglieri: 
 

David Puck, originally from England and currently based in California, mixes paint and shows us his sketch of his sister Claire.



Eric Weatherford's ... also known as ODDWALL painting ... sketch:


Jiminai (pronounced Gemini) from Austin after a couple of hours:

Kate O'Hara from Reno just getting started:


Rafael Blanco, originally from Spain, now living in Chicago:

 

And a view of the project as it starts to take shape:


 It's now 6:30 am on Day 2 and I am off to see how much progress our artists made over night.
 

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Book Review: Democracy in Chains, The deep history of the radical right’s stealth plan for America



by Joyce Wycoff
Nancy MacLean is the award-winning author of Behind the Mask of Chivalry (a New York Times “noteworthy” book of the year) and Freedom is not Enough, which was called by the Chicago Tribune “contemporary history at its best.” The William H. Chafe Professor of History and Pubic Policy at Duke University, she lives in North Carolina, a once moderate state now radically changed.

Introduction:
(This is a well-written, important book that deserves to be read in full. This synopsis is offered for those who may not have the time or inclination to read the entire book. Any errors in interpretation are my own. JW)

Not quite a hundred years after the Civil War ended, a second civil war began in 1955. I was ten years old and didn’t notice it. Actually, almost no one noticed. There were no brothers fighting on opposite sides of battle fields, no cannons, no bloody uniforms. 
Instead, it was sparked by a Supreme Court action and launched in a quiet office of a respected southern university, when a young economics professor, requested funding for a new project and it was granted by the university president who had already answered for himself the question that would fuel the new war: which is more important - private property or public good?

The original players in this story are:
  • Colgate Whitehead Darden, Jr., President of the University of Virginia
  • James McGill Buchanan, thirty-seven year-old chairman of the department of economics for the University
  • Brown v. Board of Education, Supreme Court Ruling, 1955, calling for the dismantling of school segregation  
  • Charles Koch, billionaire entrepreneur who would become an avid player later in the story.
The second civil war began and continues to be fought in stealth, underground, watered by massive amounts of money and organized and dedicated efforts following a carefully constructed plan. It took decades before people started looking around wondering what was happening. 
When I first read an article about this book by Nancy MacLean, it was like the curtain parted, revealing the wizard … only it wasn’t a small man with a lot of technology … it was a megalithic, insatiable, Hydra-headed monster  with “property rights” tattooed across each head. 

It sounds like a comic tale, or the worst of conspiracy theories, but it’s the all-too-true story of US politics over the past sixty years, uncovered by a historian who stumbled upon the pieces and assembled them into a picture that revealed a terrifying assault on our democratic principles.

It wasn’t until 2010, the author states, that we began to notice troubling actions that seemed to arise with unusual vehemence in unexpected places ...
  • Wisconsin, 2011, newly elected governor Scott Walker introduced legislation to strip public employees of nearly all of their collective bargaining rights, even after the unions had already expressed a readiness to make concessions. 
  • New Jersey, Chris Christie started attacking teachers.  
  • Citizens United, Supreme Court decision which granted personhood to corporations allowing them to support candidates with donations and Super PACs.
  • Several states wounded public schools with deep budget cuts and support for unregulated charter schools and tax subsidies for private schools.
  • In 2011 and 2012, 41 states introduced 180 bills to restrict who could vote and how.
  • Affordable Care Act, developed as suggested by a conservative think tank and tested by Republican Mitt Romney when he was governor of Massachusetts, was denounced as “socialism."
  • Vicious partisanship became the norm.
  • Mitch McConnell refused to even consider a Supreme Court nominee named by President Obama.
  • Secretive organization ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) produced model laws with a 20% success rate in red states.
  • Charles and David Koch poured 100 million dollars into a “war against Obama." 
This book, according to the author, is the true origin story of today’s well-heeled radical right following a plan formulated by James McGill Buchanan with the specific objective of rewriting the rules of the game in a way that would elevate property rights over any idea of “public good.”

The author’s involvement with this project involved a lot of synchronicities, including finding Buchanan’s archives in an untended state after his death. Slowly, she unraveled the linkage between Buchanan and Charles Koch. “What became clear is that by the late 1990s, Koch had concluded that he’d finally found the set of ideas he had been seeking for at least a quarter century by then —ideas so groundbreaking, so thoroughly thought out, so rigorously tight, that once put into operation, they could secure the transformation in American government he wanted … to save capitalism from democracy — permanently.

Both Buchanan and Koch recognized the importance of stealth.
"Since we are greatly outnumbered," Koch conceded to the assembled team, the movement could not win simply by persuasion. Instead, the cause’s insiders had to use their knowledge of the “rules of the game” — that game being how modern democratic governance works — “to create winning strategies.” A brilliant engineer with three degrees from MIT, Koch warned, “The failure to use our superior technology ensures failure.” Translation: the American people would not support their plans, so to win they had to work behind the scenes, using a covert strategy instead of open declaration of what they really wanted.
What animated Buchanan was his vision of the past when men were unrestricted in their efforts to create wealth and the current state where the government felt entitled to force individuals with wealth to pay for a growing number of public goods and social programs they had no personal say in approving. 
"To Buchanan, what others described as taxation to advance social justice or the common good was nothing more than a modern version of mob attempt to take by force what the takers had no moral right to: the fruits of another person’s efforts. In his mind, to protect wealth was to protect the individual against a form of legally sanctioned gangsterism.”
Buchanan identified the main source of the problem as all collective actions intended to change public policy: social movements, labor unions, groups wanting fairness and equality. The justice of their cause did not move him. As a collective, they had power to vote out politicians who did not respond to their needs. He felt this was unfair and unAmerican. He called it "coercion of the minority and a violation of the liberty of individual taxpayers. A form of government corruption.”
“His study of how government officials make decisions became “public choice economics”; his analysis of how the rules of government might be altered so officials could not act on the will of majority became “constitutional economics.” The enemy became “the collective order,” a code phrase for organized social and political groups that looked to government."
Buchanan was disappointed in the implementation of his theory as presidents such as Nixon continued to expand government, the opposite of what he intended. Then Charles Koch stepped in with his "unrealized dream of liberty, of a capitalism all but free of governmental interference."

Koch formed the Libertarian Party to run against Reagan in 1980 and failed, sending him on a journey to figure out how to change the rules of politics. He wanted to find constitutional ways to shackle pubic officials so they would not be able to respond to the will of the majorities. These shackles had to be binding and permanent.  He wanted a "constitutional revolution."

Koch knew his cause was radical; knew that he was not a "conservative." He deliberately learned from Vladimir Lenin how to form a revolutionary organization. He also knew he need a following larger than the few dedicated libertarians, so he camouflaged some of his more radical intentions in order to be accepted by the conservatives. 

This same motivation made him decide to make peace "-- at least in the short term --" with the religious right although Buchanan was an atheist who looked down on those who believed in God. However, Koch's most successful move was to "wrest control over the machinery of the Republican Party."

The author states: "the cadre's loyalty is not to the Grand Old Party or its traditions or standard-bearers. Their loyalty is to their revolutionary cause." Their entire loyalty is to unfettered capitalism, and to the protection of private property. They had no problem going after old time Republicans who didn't share their views: Senator Arlen Specter, Orrin Hatch, John Boehner are mentioned by the author with Boehner calling Ted Cruz, "Lucifer in the flesh."

The author laments: "We don't understand that the old Republican Party, the one my own father voted for during most of his life, exists no more. ... The Republican Party is now in the control of group of true believers for whom compromise is a dirty word. 

"Their cause, they say, is liberty. But by that they mean the insulation of private property rights from the reach of government -- and the takeover of what was long public (schools, prisons, western lands, and much more) by corporations, a system that would radically reduce the freedom of the many.

"In a nutshell, they aim to hollow out democratic resistance. And by its own lights, the cause is nearing success." Orrin Hatch said after they funded his opposition, "These people are not conservatives. They're not Republicans. They're radical libertarians ... I despise these people."


Prologue: The Marx of the Master Class

Chapter  1: There Was No Stopping Us

Part I: THE IDEAS TAKE SHAPE

Chapter 2: A Country Boy Goes to the Windy City

Chapter 3: The Real Purpose of the Program

Chapter 4: Letting the Chips Fall Where They May

Chapter 5: To Protect Capitalism from Government

Chapter 6: A Counterrevolution Takes Time

Chapter 7: A World Gone Mad

Part II: IDEAS IN ACTION

Chapter 8: Large Things Can Start from Small Beginnings

Chapter 9: Never Compromise

Chapter 10: A Constitution with Locks and Bolts

Chapter 11: Democracy Defeats the Doctrine

Chapter 12: The Kind of Force that Propelled Colmbus

Part III: THE FALLOUT

Conclusion: Get Ready

Monday, July 1, 2019

What is a Wise Woman?


Ajijic: fallen flowers after the rain
Recently, as my life took an abrupt turn, I’ve been thinking about this stage of life and about “wise women.” 
Talking about this with a friend, we started designing a retreat for wise women. The retreat idea hit a snag, but it left me still thinking about this stage of life and what lessons are to be learned during this time we have left on this planet, in this body.

The questions are many and the answers few. It seems to make sense that the first question might be: 
what is a wise woman? 

This morning, with my bags already packed for my move to Reno, I woke up with this question in my mind. The answer that came to me  was:

A Wise Woman is someone 
who has been through the fires of life 
and emerged tempered, stronger, 
                               lessons in hand, grateful and generous.

That’s my answer for now, but I would like to hear yours. Please comment below.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Love Letters to my life #12: Finding my third stage calling, a gift from Mexico


by Joyce Wycoff
Afternoon light in an Ajijic house.
(We know the day we were born, but most of us do not know the day we will die. This love letter to my life is written on the day I've designated as my death day, the 17th of every month, and reminds me to be grateful for my incredible life.)


"Things gotta change around here.” 
— Mavis Staples

One of the first murals I fell in love with in Ajijic.
I could blame Mexico.

Two years ago I moved to Lake Chapala, selling almost everything I owned: house, car, furniture and miscellaneous treasures. I followed all the dots to become a permanent resident of Mexico and intended to stay forever. 

However, I’ve lived with myself long enough to know that change happens. Knowing that didn’t prevent the shock that came as I walked through the neighborhood on the first morning after arriving at my daughter’s house for the graduation ceremonies of both granddaughters.


"Come Home"

It was a lovely crisp, cool morning, and when the tears began, I was baffled. Even though this was a neighborhood in a city that I’ve long admired but never lived in, the thought that came was that I wanted to come home. 

That puzzled me because I’ve called Mexico home for two years. I've been delighted to be here, making new friends, exploring new places. What then was this thing pulling the tears, urging me to make such a huge, unexpected change?

Zacatecas man in front of Cathedral
I have loved Mexico so much … it’s beauty, food, history, culture … even the rockets shocking my system at odd hours … and, most of all the strong, kind, generous Mexican people. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to many parts of this incredible country, learning more about the rich blending of cultures that stretches back thousands of years while still showing up in the art and costumes I saw in many villages and city streets.

During my latest Mexico trip, where I spent three weeks in Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, I met a historian guide who unlocked more of the history of Mexico. I was thrilled as we sat looking at the Juan O'Gorman mural in the  Biblioteca Pública Federal Gertrudis Bocanegra seeing the layers of history that have made Mexico such a fascinating country. (See more at Murals: The first Twitter of Mexico?)

One segment of the O'Gorman mural
I wanted to know more and began planning other trips to other murals and places, including a month-long, possible-move exploration of Morelia. I remember having a conversation with a friend where I wondered why Mexico history fascinated me so much more than US history. The question hung in the air as I left for Reno three days later.

It’s now a week and a half since the morning walk that prompted the complete about-face. Synchronicities brought me the perfect place to live and the perfect car, but left me to face the inevitable bureaucracies on my own. (Since I gave my car to my daughter when I left for Mexico, I have been uninsured for two years dropping me from good-driver rates to “there must be something wrong with you" highest rates.)

The biggest question continues to be: what now?

Some say Confucius said it first: no matter where you go; there you are. Mexico or Reno, in many ways, it doesn’t matter which one … it’s still me making my way through life.  

After making the decision to move to Reno next month, I've begun to feel like I am coming home to my own story … my country with all its glaring problems, my family as unconventional as it is, my self and my own crooked but unique path. As much as I love Mexico, the Universe put me in the United States, and, for me, I think it’s time to embrace this story and the lessons it offers me.

Being a project-oriented person, I wondered what project might appear in this new chapter. After mindmapping possibilities, I remembered an interesting model found in an article on Ikigai, a Japanese concept meaning "a reason for being.” 

That's what I was looking for ... my reason for being, my reason for leaving the life I thought was forever. Copies of the model were all over the internet … such as this one found at noborderslearning.com

It’s not unusual for me to see models and want to tweak them. The one above was no different. It didn’t quite fit my older-adult, retired-self who is done with jobs and new businesses (I hope). 

So here’s the revised version that I wound up using instead:

I turned the questions into a quadrant and added to it over several days. I now think I have a set of criteria for judging potential new projects that might show up when I actually arrive back in Reno.




What am I good at or 
want to learn more about?

What are my gifts
What is still possible?

What does the world need?


 Thank you, Mexico ... you have given me many gifts
and you will always be part of my heart.

More Information: