Category Archives: Art

Cindy Ji: Artist Report-Sandy Skoglund

Artwork by Sandy Skoglund

 

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Artist Report by Cindy Ji, Copyright 2020

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Sandy Skoglund

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Sandy Skoglund is am American photographer, sculptor, and installation artist. She is known for creating surreal installations and photographing them without creating the space with digital technology. Bright and bold colors and sculpted life size animals set in a domestic setting acts as a motif in her photographs. Created with the Cibachrome process, the aggressive colors contrast greatly with the aesthetic of black and white photography, giving the images an unreal atmosphere. Skoglund took several months to create the set for each image, and used her neighbors as models. As Anne Reverseau writes in AWARE: Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions, Skoglund’s work perfectly symbolizes the hybrid practice of contemporary art; for her, sculpture is the starting point for organizing a space that she transforms into an installation, and which photography records. The photographic medium is vital, allowing a variety of materials to be brought together, contained within one creative process. Her works therefore exist in two forms: the installation and the photographs.”

One of the most renown pictures of Skoglund’s is Radioactive Cats. An old man sits by the table as the woman looks for food in the refrigerator. The man and the woman wear grey monotonous clothes in a grey room, in which the furniture looks broken and the walls unfinished. In that grey room, lime-green life-sized cats fill up the room. Those cats took over the room. The cats are on the floor, on the table, on the fridge and so on. It’s hinted in the title that cats turned lime-green after being exposed to radioactive materials after the atomic bombing. And, as a result, the people struggle to eat and survive. Skoglund’s photograph ridicules a possible devastating situation and turns it into a parody. The lack of color, food, and decorations in human households, compared to brightly colored, lively and healthy cats allow us to imagine a world ruled by radioactive cats. The photograph also makes fun of our physical and mental fragility to survive in a hypothetical post atomic bomb world.

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Artwork by Sandy Skoglund

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The colors and humor in Radioactive Cats is bold, and it immediately takes us to another universe created by Skoglund. This is an interpretative photograph which requires the viewer to investigate elaborate details, and to imagine a post apocalypse world run by radioactive green cats. It’s dark and humorous. When talking about this photograph, the laborious process to make this image needs to be appreciated and mentioned again. The originality of the surreal set and Skoglund approach to photography makes her one of the most important contemporary artists, sculptors and photographers in modern time.

Similar to Radioactive Cats, Germs are Everywhere, is another surreal photograph that shows Skoglund’s humor. A woman sits on a chair with a drink on her hand in a living room. The color of the room is bright green and an overwhelming amount of chewed pink gums are stuck all over the wall, furniture, chair, and even in her drink. The woman does not seem to notice existing gums in her room. The intimate and domestic place is not a place for germ infestation. The woman’s posture and the setting of the photograph remain as our everyday life. However, chewed gums which represent germs, are visible. The photograph creates a very disturbing atmosphere and makes us question invisible bacteria and germs that exist in our private spaces. It’s a nightmare coming to life. This photograph, therefore, allows us to reflect the world that we live in. Even though this photograph was made in 1984, looking at it in 2020 feels very relevant as the pandemic outbreak changes people’s behavior and lives.

Another domestic scene can be seen in Revenge of the Goldfish. This is a photograph of a blue bedroom invaded by orange goldfish. Skoglund’s choice to work with two opposing colors is noticeable in this photograph as her previous work did. The blue room elicits the room as a water tank. The water tank, instead filled with pet goldfish, trapped two humans. The orange goldfish in the room float in the room, rest on bed, and play with the bedroom lights. Revenge of the Goldfish has many similarities as Radioactive Cats and Germs are Everywhere; as the viewer starts to recognize and identify Skoglund’s motif of bright color, surreal conceptual images, sculpted animals, which all take place in a domestic/household setting. Skoglund brings an unfamiliar concept and color pallet to familiar and intimate space, and transforms it into something humorous, bizarre and intriguing.

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Artwork by Sandy Skoglund

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The next image does not take place in a domestic setting, but the way that the photograph is composed feels very familiar. Spirituality in the Flesh is a photograph of a sculpted female figure wearing a blond wig and a blue dress. The person that the figure represents feels familiar and natural. However, her skin and the walls and floors behind and underneath her is fully covered with raw meat. In the process of making the image, Skoglund bought eighty pounds of raw hamburger to cover the figure and the walls. The texture of raw meat is stomach-turning. Vivid handprints on the wall are heightened by the cleanliness of the figure’s blond hair and the blue dress. Human’s flesh became an animal’s flesh when creating a life size human figure. The ‘flesh’ we use to imply our skin because ‘flesh’ refers to dead raw animals. It’s gruesome and jarring but seeing familiar food items in a completely different environment makes it hard to take one’s eye off of it.

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Artwork by Sandy Skoglund

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Last but not least, Skoglund’s Walking on Eggshells, is a photograph of a beige colored bathroom where bathroom tiles are replaced by eggshells, and filled with rabbits and snakes. Two nude models face their back as they walk toward the sink and the bathtub. The footprints are shows as remnants of fragmented eggshells.  are visible left footprints on floor. Unlike Skoglund’s other work (Radioactive Cats, and Revenge of the Goldfish), the color palette used in Walking on Eggshell is limited and muted. Because of this, the formal quality and the composition of the photograph is highlighted. Once again, the viewer sees the recurring theme of the domestic scene, sculpted animals, and surreal quality of the set. Elaborate decorative tiles of hieroglyphic imagery on the wall completes the surreal quality of the image. As mentioned in the title, Walking on Eggshell, the models walk on figural and literal eggshells. Skoglund’s play with visual imagery and idiom is humorous and brilliant. Both in figurative and literal sense, it’s anxiety provoking to think about walking into a bathroom covered with egg shelled tiles and rabbits and snakes.

Sandy Skoglund’s meticulous way of making photographs needs to be praised and recognized as brilliant artists, sculptor, and photographer. She merges two mediums in intricate ways and incorporates her humor to marry familiar and unfamiliar concepts in one space. For these reasons, her photographs are very much praised as one of the best contemporary artworks in America.

Bibliography

Barrett, Terry. Criticizing Photographs : an Introduction to Understanding Images 4th ed.    

Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2006.

Bloomfield, Paul. 2008. “Sandy Skoglund: Radioactive Cats.” Exhibit 29 (5): 39–39.

Reverseau, Anne. n.d. “Sandy Skoglund.” AWARE Women Artists / Femmes Artistes.

Accessed March 30, 2020. https://awarewomenartists.com/en/artiste/sandy-skoglund/.

“Skoglund, Sandy.” n.d. Grove Art Online. Accessed March 30, 2020.

https://www.oxfordartonline.com/groveart/view/10.1093/gao/9781884446054.001.0001/oao-9781884446054-e-7000097698.

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About the Author: Cindy Ji is a Junior at Bryn Mawr College. Class of 2021. To access additional articles by Cindy Ji, click here: https://tonyward.com/flower-show/

 

Also posted in Affiliates, Blog, commentary, Current Events, Environment, Friends of TWS, Haverford College, History, Photography, Popular Culture, Student Life, Women

A.H. Scott: Happy Time Press Conferences

Artwork by Thomcat23, Copyright 2020

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Photography and Text by A.H. Scott, Copyright 2020

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Happy Time Press Conferences (A Dispatch From New York City)

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New York City never stops – until one day it does.

I’ll admit that sentence is one that I never thought would be possibly use in describing my hometown.

Welcome to New York City in life during wartime.

‘This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco.

This ain’t no fooling around.

No time for dancing, or lovey dovey.

I ain’t got time for that now’ – Talking Heads, “Life During Wartime”, 1978 [1]

How did I get here? Let me take you back just a little bit over one month ago.

The last week of February 2020, I could see a few things here and there; but, I’ll admit that I just brushed off what I saw as a trickle of anomalies.

Back on that final week of February, when I would pass by one person walking down a crowded New York City street coming in the opposite direction from me in a surgical mask; I would barely pay it any attention at all. I probably chalked it up in my own mind as the person being a hospital worker going on their way to start a shift. I mean to me, it was nothing unusual or out of sorts in seeing a person in a surgical mask and sometimes hospital scrubs under their jackets or coats. It seemed unremarkable back then.

God, it was only a month ago.

February 2020 came and went drifting by with a droplet of ripples as the tide of March 2020 rose upon my hometown.

For those of us in New York City, our arms outstretched in a greeting for embracing family, friends and even acquaintances in hugs; has now transformed into a physical manifestation of estimating social distancing.

Elbow bumps have gone the way of an Edsel.

Stay home. Stop the spread. Save lives.

In March, the sidewalks were becoming life-size chessboards with all of us spreading out a little more and more.

On March 9th, I caught myself for the first time in my life; making physical movements in public that I suddenly became more aware of.

Oh no, I’m not making light out of how my own body was motioning. Uh-uh. And, it was not a twitch, spasm or malady. On that Monday of March 9th, I felt almost as if I were being choreographed by Bob Fosse in making a few side slides to move out of people’s way. For me in that span of moments walking around the lower east side of New York City, that was when I felt a change within.

There was ‘something’ in my hometown. It was that ‘something’ which my own words find complex to explain in expressing it in writing.

Stay home. Stop the spread. Save lives.

By March 16th, we pieces upon that chessboard were less and less. The social distancing was taking hold. Or, so it would seem upon the surface. Yet on March 17th, it was evident that some of my fellow New Yorkers seemed not to heed the warning.

Inconsiderate souls make it hard for those of us who follow the rules of social distancing.

For those not familiar with New York City, the subway system is the heart and lifeline for New Yorkers to make our way around our four boroughs of Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and the one leading to the ferry to Staten Island.

In a time when there should be space between seats on all trains and staggered travel times by New Yorkers; 5 to 10 people is the model for social distancing in a single train car, while 15 to 28 people that are situated ass to jowl with babies crying and kids scurrying about is not.

Oh, and by the way, this event occurred after New York City schools have been closed and the stay-in-place order has been enacted in New York State.

My advice to that oblivious smattering of my fellow New Yorkers is blunt – “Don’t be an asshole!”

Oh, and by the way, this advice goes to the insipid ass-shakers on Florida beaches, parade goers whooping it up with beads and booze at Mardi Gras, and fools that have Coronavirus Parties.

C’mon, what part of social distancing can you not get through your thick skulls? Holes of asses make it hard for the rest of us masses!

Damn, people! Be smart, Be wise.

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Now back to this dispatch from New York City. March 27th the subway schedules have been cut-back severely. The ridership is sparse and the train stations are consumed with desolation.

Ironically, as I was riding the subway on that day, a troubadour with guitar strummed and sang a melody in his native tongue. You see, even in the middle of my fellow riders with face masks on and the reality of an unspoken heaviness filled the air; New Yorkers can always find a flicker of faith. I guess that guy with the guitar singing was expressing his own type of faith in these harsh times surrounding each of us.

I’d like to give a word of thanks to the men and women of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for keeping our subways rolling and New Yorkers moving around. THANK YOU, MTA!!

Thank you to all NYPD, FDNY, New York City public employees, hospital workers, delivery workers, grocery store workers, wireless phone store employees, FEDEX, UPS, bodega owners,, USPS, convenience store employees, truck drivers, farmers, for everything you have done in the past days and will do in the present and future.

Stay home. Stop the spread. Save lives.

Uptown, downtown, east side, west side, and beyond the borough of Manhattan; the shift has taken hold. Pulse of life here is descending in pace from how it was just within the last month of February.

Near my own apartment building, seeing an ambulance with EMTs gathering their equipment was something at this point in time that was ordinary. Yet, for the first time I have ever seen it, there was a second vehicle that rolled up behind it. It was a red FDNY vehicle with two technicians who were adorning themselves in a light yellow, plastic gown over their dark blue uniforms.

Once seeing that, I was totally done emotionally and got myself inside my building and upstairs to my apartment. To know something is far away across an ocean is one thing you come to understand exists. But, seeing it in less than a block’s area of proximity can really scramble your mind a bit.

Sounds of the city are now few and far between, compared to how it used to be around here. Mostly now, all that I hear from outside my apartment are sounds of ambulance sirens, which send an immediate chill down my spine.

When things were ‘normal’, the sirens were most drowned out by the integrated rhythm of the city. From car horns blaring, music wailing from open windows, a swirl of arguments or laughter being heard on the streets, or even that of an errant firecracker being set off beneath the cover of moonlight every now and then was the melody. That’s how it used to be in my hometown.

A light whizz of sound would roll by and fade into distance. But, now those sirens can loudly fill the silence in a five to six mile projection from Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital southward to Harlem Hospital, and even further downtown to near where some members of my own family reside in the area around Mount-Sinai Hospital.

Stay home. Stop the spread. Save lives.

I’ve got to admit it’s quite eerie when those sirens blare and you realize time is of the essence for the ambulance to make it to a hospital. Whenever I hear it, I actually stand still for a few moments.

Damn, even the sound of dogs barking is no more. That would be a relief to hear something aside from the nothingness and the heaviness that is enveloping the air around us in New York City.

Heaviness is that invisible thing you can’t put your finger on it; but, it’s there, all around you. It’s the haunted look in the eyes of the few souls I pass at a safe distance when trying to just purchase a few items at the grocery store. That glint in the eye of another person that appears to exhibit elements of being shell-shocked has arrived in New York City.

Oh, I’ve lived through strikes, blackouts, September 11th, 2001 and Hurricane Sandy; but, this thing – and, I don’t know how else to call it – yet, it is an unseen entity that is taken lives ever so quickly – it is an asphyxiating beast that sees no age, creed, economic status, or artificial borders of humanity.

Unlike the various threads of strife that had been experienced in New York City before, this is not a situation which is uniting but disuniting. Although, we are all unified in our valiant struggle to tackle the Coronavirus pandemic, we are doing at arm’s length for the prudency of our health. Or, to be more precise, it is at the pace of six feet of distance. There will be no embraces of sisterhood or fist-bumps of brotherhood.

Going outside has become more slight, strategic and mired in the protocols of the present moment.

Cover up! Glove up! Have your sanitizer!

I use caution with Clorox wipes and gloves whenever I have to embark on a quick trip to get food, supplies, or run a much needed errand around my hometown. Luckily, if I have to take off those plastic gloves, I have my handy Purell at the ready. And, when I am blessed to get back indoors, I wash my hands for more than the suggested 20 seconds. Usually as soon as I get in, I go for a good foaming of soap for over 2 whole minutes and then scrub my hands to the extent of making them look like prunes and become a bit raw at times. But, for me, a little soreness in the present is more than worth it to prevent the spread of this disease.

Wash your hands, wash your hands!!

I guess you could say the isolation has a way of taking a toll on a person. Texting and calling another human being is way different than sitting next to them, touching their hand or looking in their eyes when laughing at memories of days gone by.

There are members of my family that I can’t visit, because of their age and others with medical vulnerabilities. So, my contact with them right now is only a call or texts.

My 80-year old neighbor who leaves next to me used to have his grandchildren stay with him afterschool until his son would pick up after work and a home health aide who’d come by every other day. Now, there are no sounds of youth running up and down the hallways playing. For the past couple of weeks, the only visitor outside of his son coming by to check up on him every day has been a deliveryman with his prescriptions from the pharmacy down the street. Everything has changed, even in the way goods are delivered. The guy from the pharmacy actually has to leave the prescription in a bag on the doorknob without making contact with my neighbor.

You see, as I pointed out earlier; this damnable disease is disuniting us in so many small and large ways. Even to the extent of how a package is delivered to an apartment door.

I make sure I always tell my family I love them when we can connect over the phone or a quick text. You never know what the next 24 hours holds, or even the next 60 seconds in the way the world is spinning today.

Spinning away and slipping away is that topsy-turvy feeling that has a way of coming over a person when they least expect it; as also is that which is the polar opposite that reveals itself to you.

With life whirling and spinning about, things have a way of revealing clarity. For me, it’s pulling my thoughts together in some formation of resemblance’s order.

Labeling three elements loosely in the percolation of the feelings and emotions I have inside of me are the following:

First – Stillness     

Second – The Absence of Distinction

Third – The Un’s Have It

Stillness –

Stillness can be a blessing, as it also can be a curse of sorts. Stillness which is solace is that calming reverie in silence that rejuvenates the soul. Stillness that is stagnancy can reveal itself as a queasiness stirring in the pit of a person’s stomach. For me, I’ve been touched by both aspects of what stillness is. Staying at home, I got a lot of time to feel the calmness of not being out in the calamitous crossfire of Coronavirus. At the same time, this stillness is the unease that can pepper one’s thoughts.

I say to anyone who has any trickle of creative flair in their disposition to find a way to focus a little time in their days creating small bits of something. Anything!

It could be just one silly sentence on a page of paper. But, please make sure it isn’t “Jack is a good boy”, typed over and over again, because that would be another can of worms you would have to be dealing with. Sorry, I just had to toss a little icebreaker in the mix with that one in.

Whew, so I’ll continue with my dispatch.

I haven’t been writing anything at all since this whole crisis has taken shape in New York City. For me, it seems that nothing else has been able to break through, because all the space in my head is engulfed in the here and now of uncertainty.

One thing I am realizing is that I have got to get out of my own head. Unplug from the news for an hour or two. Watch a comedy, game show, or soap opera to take you away from the darkness of the day.

Speaking of the latter; I’d like to give a hand of applause to the casts and production crews of CBS’ “The Bold and The Beautiful” and ABC’s “General Hospital” for allowing me as a viewer to just sit back and enjoy a respite from what exists outside my window in New York City.

Suddenly, I cherish cleaning my apartment, watering my plants and doing a little re-reading here and there. As for exercising, that’s where my friend, Good ‘Ol Mr. Treadmill comes to my rescue. Flip on the radio or pop in a cd and I’m off into focusing my mind and body somewhere else.

Sounds boring, I know. But, it is a window into my world right now.

These things that I have noted above may seem like such frivolous actions to partake in during this era of sadness. And, maybe they are. But, I just have to unplug, unwind and let my senses recharge in some way. 

Not forgetting what is going on, but putting it on pause just for a breather.

What you are reading now is actually the first thing I have written, or even focused on outside of what’s going on outside in the city that I was born in and I love.

Instead of giving anyone who is reading this out there any form of advice I’m going to take my own and make sure a few words get scribbled on a piece of paper or flipped across my keyboard. And, that’s whether I have the motivation to do it or not. I have got to start pushing back against the stagnancy that’s starting to creep up.

The Absence of Distinction –

The absence of distinction has worked itself into my life, as coming to wonder which day starting with the letter T of the week it is without looking at a calendar. Or, exactly what time of the day it actually is without looking at my phone or hearing it on a radio. Days casually slip into becoming a run-on of minutes and hours.

The Un’s Have It –

Unexpected cessation of my daily routine; which may have been boring before this second in life, would be a beacon of hope. Unknown and insidious infection can touch anyone at anytime with a finger of fateful sorrow. Unnerved, unsettled, and unbalanced feeling I have within myself caused by the shift that the present moment has fallen upon. Untaken actions in the past when foolishly being under the illusion that time would continue and anything a person could desire to come to pass would happen down the lane of life.

The un’s have it. And, they maintain the control over the curveballs in our lives that none of us can ever predict or steal the signs of the future to prevent what will happen to any of us.

Unease is that fearing of the evaporation of control many of us attempt to have over our lives. That’s gone, for now.

But, maybe, just maybe something can return.

You know, as I’m sitting here writing this and if I didn’t know it was me writing it, I’d think it were some sort of end-of-the-world, apocalyptic work of fiction. I know that sounds weird, but it’s how it feels to me.

I hope and yes, of course I believe it is not the end of the world or the end of New York City; but, what I have experienced is such a devastating blow to my own simple existence and psyche. I wish I could close my eyes and it would not be as it is.

But, it is real. All of it is real. The first responders and other essential workers that are on the frontlines of keeping this city going are real. The social distancing of keeping away other people and being vigilant in staying home most of the time is real. Even catching a glimpse in the bathroom mirror gazing with a faraway look in my own eyes is real. All of it is real.

Days go by…..dread has settled in. And, that is whether a logical person wants to admit it or not.

I’ll admit it; I am afraid of what happens when the peak of this wave occurs in the coming days.

The pulse of New York City is slowing as its’ heart is breaking with the sorrow of what is happening here and soon to come in days across the United States of America.

Stay home. Stop the spread. Save lives.

Make no doubt about, it is us in New York City today. But, to all the small towns, hamlets, cities and states across this country; it is coming to your doorstep also.

New York City may be a bit knocked about, but, New Yorkers are not down for the count.

As I am writing this now in 2020, I by happenstance came upon a quote I wrote back on March 28th, 2012 about fear and courage in the harshest moments. Re-reading my own words, I think they are quite fitting for the present:

“Fear can liquefy your spine or solidify your backbone. Cowering in the face of fear is almost as if you’re wrapping a fuzzy blanket around yourself on a cold night. You will be enveloped in comfort and calmness. Courage in facing your fears is placing an invisible armor upon your heart and standing against the onslaught of criticism and diminishment of a person’s worth. Brisk wind of bitterness will become sand against your face and nothing will come so simple. Yet, each sting of those grains of sand will prove that you are stronger than you ever thought you could be. You do have courage to face fear and stand up straight to any corner of your world. Life may be static in oh, too many moments for all of us. But, there is a satisfaction to be held within the soul, which comes in certain stillness of conviction.” – A.H. Scott, 3/28/12

#NewYorkStrong #AllInThisTogether

Stay home. Stop the spread. Save lives.

So, in this time of unease, maybe I could look beyond New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio or New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to another individual at the federal level of government.

A hero of some sorts; maybe one who holds levers of power way beyond a local or a state official might just be a logical answer to questions which a citizen may seek.

Hey, and if I’m lucky it could be someone born locally. You know, a native New Yorker; just like me.

Who is this person that could be a hero and send the full request of ventilators (and supplies from the national stockpile) to the city of his birth?

“You know, a ventilator is a machine. It’s a very complex machine. And to think that we have to order hundreds of thousands – nobody has ever heard of a thing like this. With that being said, General Motors, Ford, so many companies – I had three calls yesterday directly. Without having to institute – like, “You will do this” – these companies are making them right now. But to think of these numbers, it’s pretty – it’s pretty mindboggling” – President Donald J. Trump, March 21st 2020, in response to calls for him to invoke the Defense Production Act [2]

You would figure that someone born in New York City, specifically the borough of Queens would actually give half a damn or even have a twinge of a pang of solidarity with his fellow New Yorkers. But, then again, the man who now resides in the house of white has no compunctions, pangs or solidarity with anyone.

Pity, that this person can’t even fake giving a fig about others in this time of sorrow and uncertainty.

I just gotta write it as I feel it; but, damn man, where is your empathy, sympathy or even a cast-off crumb of humanity?

Twinge of commonality is nonexistent within him, as that poisonous tinge of a tangerines’ nauseous nightmare is at the core of his consistency.

One would figure that when a person drapes themselves under the hallowed banner of being a ‘Wartime President’ there would be an accentuation of a critical element of leadership. Someone that would take charge, take the helm, grab the wheel of the ship of state.

Hopefully it could be a man that wouldn’t feast on his own pettiness of a bruised ego in not being appreciated and fawned over enough by other elected, public officials who are begging for federal assistance in this expanding pandemic.

“Don’t call the woman in Michigan” – Donald J. Trump, March 27th 2020 (in referencing Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s plea for medical supplies)

Yet, what occurs from the White House briefing room is a dizzying mash-up of front-loaded “Happy Time Press Conferences” filled with rah-rah’s of Presidential self back-patting, with a side order of sobering scientific reality coming up the back.

Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx seem in some ways  the visual props of propriety that are validate the puffery which is spoken at the beginning of the Press Conference, with Vice-President Mike Pence as the bridge between his boss and the scientific facts.

Although, there a statements made by the illustrative and well-respected Dr. Deborah Birx that have me scratching my head in wondering if she’s picked up her pom-poms to lead us all in a celebratory cheer for him.

“He’s been so attentive to the scientific literature and the details and the data” – Dr. Deborah Birx, March 26th, 2020, Christian Broadcasting Network [3]

It seems just like everything else in the United States of America, division of halves comes into view in that briefing room.

One half is a self-serving smattering of blathering minutes from a man devoted to only himself and his constant craving for the spotlight. He’s gotta get that campaign rally fix any way he can. And, these briefings are his narcotic to hold him over for a good 24 hours.

When a person says they are a “Wartime President”, but act as Chief Commander of Snarkiness; that aforementioned label proves the buck of responsibility is one which does not stop on their desk. Mr. Oh No Not Me acts as if he hasn’t been in office for three years as of now. 

The buck is on your desk and in your briefing room every time that you speak to the American public and world. I respectfully implore you to deal with it wisely, Mr. President.

As for the other half, it is a concise and factual rundown of what’s going with the pandemic is given by medical professionals in the room.

Dr. Fauci speaks with clarity and facts behind what he says, as the man in charge seems to project a clueless character of the magnitude of the tragedy transpiring across this nation.

But it’s nothing new for him to push what is so evident right off the table and onto someone else’s lap. He’s done it before, and he’s doing it right now.

What? Who me? Mr. Responsibility? Oh, no, you must have me mistaken with someone else.

“I don’t take responsibility at all.”  – President Donald J. Trump, March 14th 2020 [4]

Within a ten-minute period of give and take between the most powerful man in the world, President of the United States of America and the assembled White House press corps, the act of cluelessness came about once more:

“I don’t know anything about it” – President Donald J. Trump, March 14th 2020 [4]

Insults and Donald J. Trump are like peanut butter and jelly; they go together even when they are apart.

For me, the final insult among oh too many coming from the occupant of the White House was two seemingly innocuous words from an overall odious quote made on the final Saturday of March 2020.

Specificity of these actions that were pondered by him had been targeted at New Yorkers, as well as the residents of the tri-state area.

“Some people would like to see New York quarantined because it’s a hotspot — New York, New Jersey maybe one or two other places, certain parts of Connecticut quarantined.” – President Donald J. Trump, March 28th, 2020 [5]

I’m a mellow and laid-back person, but this really grumbled my granola. Yeah, this is a low blow from someone in the highest position in this country.

Two words, ‘some people’.

No, Mr. President; it is not ‘some people’ that will be the ones who will sign off on that type of critical declaration of quarantine that you bandied about so recklessly.

The signature would not be Vice-President Mike Pence, a Governor who lets spring-breakers shake it while it’s hot on a beach down in Florida, or anyone on a platinum plateau who whispers in your ear of what to do or what to say.

It is you. You, and you alone.

If you huff and puff and tell everybody that you are the Grand Poobah then own it. Own it outright and not hide behind saying something as inane as ‘somebody’ else wants something done; almost like the wizard behind the curtain is pulling the strings. Don’t shrink from it. Don’t shirk from it. Own it! Own that YOU are the person who wants a specific outcome or action taken. Own it!

Because, right now we who are here on the ground in New York City are in need of leadership, not word salad tossed up in the air and hoping it will look good for ‘middle America’ to get your poll position up in excoriating New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut as scapegoats.

It’s real – right here on the ground in New York City. It’s not some Happy Time Press Conference you can just half-heartedly adlib from the White House briefing room.

Then there is one Coronavirus Task Force member who sometimes looks so embarrassed when standing behind the President of the United States speaking at the lectern.

It’s almost as if we can all read a thought bubble above Dr. Anthony Fauci’s head that has flashing lights which would say: Let the science speak for itself!

To anyone who is reading this now, I give the platform over to the words from a man of science, Dr. Anthony Fauci. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci’s, January 23rd, 2020 article, titled, “Coronavirus Infections: More Than Just the Common Cold”; published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, he and colleagues Dr. Catharine I. Paules and Dr. Hilary D. Marston delve into Coronavirus and the origins of this pathogen.

In this fascinating article, the final paragraph pretty much sums up the dire situation of this present pathogen and also those in the future:

‘While the trajectory of this outbreak is impossible to predict, effective response requires prompt action from the standpoint of classic public health strategies to the timely development and implementation of effective countermeasures. The emergence of yet another outbreak of human disease caused by a pathogen from a viral family formerly thought to be relatively benign underscores the perpetual challenge of emerging infectious diseases and the importance of sustained preparedness.’ – (source, Journal of the American Medical Association, January 23rd 2020)[6]

I have no doubt that the man which Dr. Deborah Birx described as being ‘attentive to the scientific literature and the details’ did not peruse this article by this member of his own Coronavirus Task Force.

He may call himself ‘a very stable genius’, but, uh-uh, I don’t think so.

And, if the ‘very stable genius’  missed the above mentioned article of Dr. Anthony Fauci, he definitely would have gotten more information about COVID-19 in reading another insightful bit of analysis, written almost a month later.

In the February 28th, 2020 article titled, “Covid-19: Navigating the Uncharted”, of the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Anthony Fauci, along with a pair of colleagues, Dr. H. Clifford Lane and Dr. Robert R. Redfield, gave a bit of roadmap on where the medical community should focus upon involving global health threats of today and tomorrow.

As they write, it is obvious that this current outbreak may just be a harbinger of things to come in the future:

‘The Covid-19 outbreak is a stark reminder of the ongoing challenge of emerging and reemerging infectious pathogens and the need for constant surveillance, prompt diagnosis, and robust research to understand the basic biology of new organisms and our susceptibilities to them, as well as to develop effective countermeasures.’ – (source, New England Journal of Medicine, February 28th, 2020)[7]

Using part of the title from the article listed above, “…Navigating the Uncharted”; for a person calling himself a ‘Wartime President’, he should easily be able to stand at the helm of the ship of state and lead into calmer waters.

But, who the Hell am I kidding in thinking that could be done with the occupant in the house of white.

“It will go away” – President Donald Trump [8]

The first known case of Coronavirus in New York State was diagnosed on March 1st, 2020; that is 29 days ago. And, the roll call of those being called to heaven continues to rise as I write this article on March 30th, 2020.

As I sit here in New York City, I am a witness to tell you that it’s not going away any time soon. In fact, the wave which Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio continue to warn of us here in my hometown is coming within days. And, New Yorkers are in some ways on our own. Oh, of course the Army Corps of Engineers, FEMA and the members of the USNS Comfort Hospital are with us and doing their job. As are the countless and nameless first responders who are selfless in providing courageous care in a war zone of diminishing PPE’s and accelerating numbers of patients stricken with this damnable respiratory disease that was recognized in December of 2019.

Right now, we have the Jacob Javitz Convention Center reconfigured as a hospital, also in a section of Central Park a field hospital being constructed, as well as the arrival of naval ship Comfort along Pier 90 along the West Side Highway.

Oh yeah, this is real!

Those of us who are not touched personally by COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and kept safe from the spread are not really safe at all; for we’ve been changed. We’ve shifted who we were the day before, the month before, the year before the droplet of ripples began.

We are New York! We are New Yorkers!

We’ll be here. Different, but still here.

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President Trump’s Coronavirus Guidelines For America

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HAPPY TIME PRESS CONFERENCES (A DISPATCH FROM NEW YORK CITY)

A.H. Scott

March 2020

FOOTNOTES

[1] “Life During Wartime” -https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_During_Wartime_(song)

[2] “Trump’s Premature Claim About Ventilator Production” – https://www.factcheck.org/2020/03/trumps-premature-claim-about-ventilator-production/

[3] “Deborah Birx Praised Trump As AttentiveTo Scientific Literature And Details” – https://www.vox.com/2020/3/27/21197074/deborah-birx-praised-trump-scientific-literature-coronavirus

[4] “Trump Says He Had No Idea His Pandemic Response Team Was Disbanded” –

https://theintercept.com/2020/03/14/trump-says-no-idea-pandemic-response-team-disbanded-thats-true/

[5] “Trump Considers Quarantine for States Near Epicenter of U.S. Coronovirus Outbreak” – https://www.axios.com/coronavirus-trump-new-york-new-jersey-a8aadeac-fb71-4cdf-97eb-295c7a8f0306.html

[6] “Coronavirus Infections – More Than Just The Common Cold” –

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2759815

[7] “Covid-19 – Navigating the Unchartered” –

https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMe2002387?query=RP

[8] “5 Times Trump & US Officials Downplayed Coronavirus” – https://www.businessinsider.com/five-times-the-trump-administration-downplayed-the-coronavirus-2020-3

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About The Author: A.H. Scott is a poet based in New York City and frequent contributor to Tony Ward Studio. To read additional articles by Ms. Scott, go here: https://tonywardstudio.com/blog/a-h-scott-the-spartacus-effect/

 

Also posted in Affiliates, Architecture, Blog, Current Events, Documentary, Environment, Friends of TWS, Health Care, History, News, Politics, Popular Culture, Travel, Women

Athena Intanate: Love is a Lamp-Lit Room

Photo: Atena Intanate, Copyright 2020

 

Photography and Text by Athena Intanate, Copyright 2020

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Love is a Lamp-Lit Room

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I never particularly liked my dorm room until I started putting up my photographs in it. Its yellowed cinder block walls are sticky with age, and the carpeted floor is in dire need of a deep clean. My bed’s propped next to the wall with a gaping one foot gap, unable to be bridged because of an oddly situated pillar jutting out from the corner. But just like any new place, I needed more than to simply occupy that irregularly cuboidal space. I needed to make it mine, in order to make it a place I desired to be. 

Bedrooms are very private spaces, where we are allowed to feel all our emotions in their completeness. We sleep there, we dream there, but we cry, think, and laugh there too. University has been daunting and breathtaking to experience all at the same time, and if my bedroom was a person it has been the one that has comforted me most. There is sadness and despair, that is undeniable, but they are sutured in such close proximity to happiness and love that the fluidity that exists between each individual emotion amalgamates them. This is why I had one protagonist situated in one room – to represent the ever-changing nature of how we feel. ‘Love is a Lamp-Lit Room’ is, if anything, a self-portrait of how I navigate this turbulence. 

There exists a certain shard of despair in needing to get up and go to work at 5am five times a week, as I do. I fumble in the dimness, struggling to tie the laces of my shoes.

After eight hours of shifts on top of four hours of class, sometimes I am rendered exhausted, emotionally drained. All I want to do is curl up and bask in silence. 

Is the selfie a mark of vanity? Or is it a sign of self-love?

Happiness can be found in people, but also the things that I loved doing in the past. Reading has become conflated with homework, but can it bring happiness too? 

These were all thoughts that swirled around in my head as I attempted to reconstruct my own narrative into 35 frames. 

But at the end of the day my room is loved, as am I. I am enfolded in softness – the yellow glow from my bed-side lamp reminds me so.

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Portrait of Athena Intanate by Cindy Ji, Copyright 2020

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About the Author: Athena Intanate is a freshman enrolled at Haverford College, Class of 2023.

Also posted in Blog, Environment, Friends of TWS, Haverford College, Health Care, lifestyle, Photography, Popular Culture, Portraiture, Student Life, Women

Bob Shell: Marijuana and Mind

Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2020

 

 

Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2020

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Photography by Tony Ward, Copyright 2020

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The March/April 2020 issue of Discover magazine has a couple very interesting articles on scientific research into the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), shows great promise in treating ARML (Age Related Memory Loss), dementia, and may even reverse Alzheimer’s. That’s pretty amazing to me, because back in 1969 I was arrested for possession of marijuana, one single joint in the pocket of a man who didn’t live with us, was just visiting. Five people in the apartment, one had marijuana, all five were charged with possession! Not only were the four of us who had no marijuana charged with possession, we were each facing up to thirty years in prison!

And this being Richmond, Virginia, we were all convicted! I got a three year sentence, thankfully suspended, and had to fight to get that conviction expunged so I could vote, own firearms, and exercise constitutional rights that most people take for granted.

My life was totally disrupted, and one of my best friends who’d been living with me in the apartment put a gun in his mouth and killed himself over it. I’ve never completely gotten over that. A young life ended by the evil of misguided government.

Now, fifty-one long years later, we’re finally getting around to doing the research to find out what marijuana actually does when ingested by humans. And we’re finding out that it does some remarkable things, like restoring memory function to aging brains when used in moderate quantities.

Serious research was blocked for generations by stupid regulations that made such research almost impossible.

Actually, the research had unwittingly already been done in the field. There are areas in Kashmir and other high Himalayan regions where people have cooked their food in Red Oil, marijuana oil, for centuries. All we need to do is compare them with others who live in similar localities but use other oils for cooking.

When National Geographic sent a team into the area years ago for a story, the photographers and writers ate what the locals were eating, and found themselves too high to function. It took them weeks to get accustomed to having high levels of THC in their systems and become functional again. But the people who cook with Red Oil aren’t any less healthy than their neighbors who don’t, and show no increased level of mental problems. They live quiet, happy lives.

Is marijuana totally harmless, then? No, (and probably should only be used by adults, as it may be harmful to developing brains), but neither is coffee, chocolate, tea, or countless other plant products. Demonizing marijuana, as the U.S. government did for years, ruined lives and was far more harmful to society than marijuana ever could have been, even if the lies about it had been true.

Here in backwater, backward Virginia, people have even seen the light. Our legislature, the General Assembly, which likes to remind us that it is the oldest elected legislature in America, has finally passed a bill to decriminalize marijuana, and our Governor says he will sign it. But decriminalization is not legalizing, and they’ll still be able to bust you for having it. It will just be a fine instead of jail or prison.

We’ve had a “medical marijuana” law in Virginia for years. It says they can’t charge anyone for possession if they have a valid prescription from a Virginia doctor. But doctors here were not allowed to write such prescriptions! And prescriptions from one of the surrounding states or D.C. weren’t any good.

All laws making marijuana illegal need to just be struck from the books. For that matter, it is my opinion that all drug laws do far more harm than good. We could save a hell of a lot of money and break the backs of the drug cartels by ending unproductive prohibition and disbanding the Drug Enforcement Administration, and have local police stop wasting time and money harassing people for simple possession. All those millions of tax dollars could then be put to productive use.

Almost all of the Democratic presidential hopefuls say they favor legalizing marijuana, as has President Trump. I say, stop talking and do it! Trump could do it with the stroke of a pen with an Executive Order, as could the next president, if it’s not him. Fifty-one years is too long to wait.

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About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author and former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine. He is currently serving a 35 year sentence for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models.  He is serving the 11th year of his sentence at Pocahontas State Correctional Facility, Virginia. To read more letters from prison by Bob Shell, click here: https://tonyward.com/bob-shell-finally-something-good-to-report/

Also posted in Affiliates, Environment, Friends of TWS, Health Care, History, lifestyle, News, Popular Culture, Science

Alejandra Guerrero: Wicked Women

Photo: Alejandra Guerro, Copyright 2020

 

Photography and Text by Alejandra Guerrero, Copyright 2020

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WICKED WOMEN

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Wicked Women is my first solo book and a photographic monograph of 12 years of my works in erotica with emphasis in fetish photography. It presents my vision of sensual, strong and sexually confident women, with images full of narrative and erotically charged stark portraits. It presents my visual aesthetic, including elements of fashion and fetishism blending seamlessly together. Fetishism relies heavily on garments as symbolic elements of power and surrender which I delight in using in my work. It presents a type of woman I like to call a “Vamp”, a seductress, dark and mysterious with a bit of film noir, Femme Fatale. She is in tune to her desires and her fantasies, without apologizing. It flows sensually and provocatively. 

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Photo: Alejandra Guerrero, Copyright 2020

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The story of how this project came about happened in New York City in the Spring of 2018, when I met David Jenkins, the editor in chief at Circa Press, London, England. He had an interest in doing a book with me. I had some ideas, but then a section on my web site I had called “Wicked Women”, to group the more fetish oriented photos caught his attention as well as the title I  used for the body of work. We settled in the name quickly and then worked on selecting photos I had already shot that fit the theme of the book.  After we met,  I shot a few new photos to add to the portfolio, as well as the cover image, but the work was largely there from our first conversation. 

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Photo: Alejandra Guerreo, Copyright 2020

As a collector of books that have inspired and entertained me since getting into photography, I’m very excited and thrilled to launch my Wicked Women unto the world. Please support my Kickstarter campaign by clicking on this link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1649001578/alejandra-guerrero-wicked-women

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Photo: Alejandra Guerrero, Copyright 2020

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Portrait of Alejandra Guerrero by Tony Ward, Copyright 2020

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About The Author: Alejandra Guerrero is a photographer that has been establishing her unique vision for female empowered eroticism, fashion and fetish.  It is a vision that can be traced back to her early upbringing in Bogota, Colombia. A more conservative society, its constraints did wha  constraints so often do: the reverse of what was intended.  They filled her with a desire and curiosity that would eventually be satiated in the less judgmental underground communities in the US, where the erotic/fetish community would embrace her and show her that people could have more open minds about how they express their sexuality.  For Alejandra, this expression would take the form of a unique combination of seductive fashion, erotic fantasy and an unapologetic embracing of fetish as seen through the eyes of a powerful woman.

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