Care Enough [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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This is my broken record moment: a system will do what it was designed to do. Sitting as I am in Kenosha, Wisconsin, the latest national flashpoint, I feel I have a front row seat to the system activating in response to a challenge.

Our system was designed to prevent “the unity of the commoner” in order to keep the focus off of the ruling aristocracy. This morning I read this sentence in the news: The president is fanning the flames of violence and dividing the country for political gain. The implication of Trump’s attacks is that there is a binary choice between law and order, and offering understanding and a path to justice for Black Americans.

A binary choice. A false choice. The commoners can EITHER have law and order OR they can stand for equal justice for all Americans. With equality comes the possibility of unity and unity is a threat to the system. In other news, just as you might suspect, vigilantism is on the rise. The system is responding exactly as designed.

Here’s the conundrum: we believe that protest and civil unrest are the path to real systems change and yet protest and civil unrest always split the community (prevent the unity of commoners). The path to social change in the USA cannot come from division. It might start there but it has to transcend the designed divide.

While the pandemic rages and the commoners are fighting each other on the streets, the stock market has soared. The United States has the highest level of income inequality among the countries in the G-7 and the gap is growing. It is not an accident that Fox News has its Henny Penny followers running around screaming “Socialism!” at the very time that America boldly steps toward an oligarchy.

My dad used to tell me that I’d educated myself into stupidity and I’d shake my head. Why would anyone choose to be uninformed? An ignorant populace is easily swung by the nose. An ignorant populace might have guns but they are unarmed where the real danger lurks.  It seems a good many of us are happily manipulated, hungrily eating anger and hate rather than asking a question or bothering to scratching the paint to discover if what we’re being sold is true or a con. It’s easy to check a fact or a source but you first must want to do it. That is where we fall down. We simply do not care. We opt for tribal division and easy blame over communal health – again, the system is doing exactly what it was designed to do.

Caring enough to question. That, too is an option. Caring enough to question is a possible path forward but requires us to look beyond the spoon-fed-rhetoric, the misinformation campaigns, and the intentionally stoked fires of division. It requires us in our questioning to shift our focus from the fight to the workings of “the ruling aristocracy.”

There’s also this: the businesses in downtown Kenosha and beyond are boarded up. The people of the community came out to paint them with messages of hope and support. Stamped on the hood of a burned out car is an appeal: Let’s Be Better Humans.

The impulse for change and a better world is there. A river of hope is there. The voices from the angry fringe will always shout loudest but I have to believe the vast majority, the quiet people who come out to paint, are looking for a common ground. There is hope, lots of hope, if we can take a look in our national mirror and see that we are doing exactly what the system is determining that we do. If we see it, we might be able to care enough to question, to deny the divide. We might be able to come together. We might be able to find a way to do better, to be better humans.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about HOPE

 

let'sbebetterhumans website box copy

 

 

Ask The Essential Question [on KS Friday]

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Quinn told me that there are really only three questions: Who am I? Where am I going? What is mine to do? All other questions can be boiled down to one of these essences. All stories can be reduced to one of these questions. And, the real kicker? There is never a single answer to these three essential questions. Life is always moving so, the moment you think you have an answer-by-the-tail, you’ve moved to a different place. You’ve changed. You will change again. And again. The story evolves. The long body of a life is rich in transition. Life is transition.

Change the pronoun. Who are we? Where are we going? What is ours to do? These are the questions beating at the heart of the American experiment. Our rhetoric is out of alignment with our reality. It turns out that our hero tale has a matching anti-hero story. We know it but do not deal with it. The shining city on the hill was built on the backs of slaves and sustains itself on a rolling subjugation of the latest arrivals. We revel in inequality while proudly pronouncing that all are created equal.

As master Shakespeare reminds us, “…but at length truth will out.” Our truth is out. We are a festival of inequity. There is a yawning maw between the haves and the have-nots. It is by design and not by accident. It is not our problem as much as it is our pattern. And so, we  ask one of the essential questions: Who are we? And, in asking it, we must first look at how we define the pronoun ‘we.’ WE. The people. Who are WE? White male land owners? The one percent? Or, many diverse and rich origin stories come together in a promise of one nation, a nation of equal opportunity for all devoid of exploitation? It is the ideal. Is it the intention? Who do we want to be?

WE, as I understand it, is all inclusive. Multi-cultural as one. Both/And.

I take heart. Every caterpillar has a melt down phase en route to becoming a butterfly. The mush phase is necessary to fulfilling the mature promise, the expression of the ideal. In transition.

 

IN TRANSITION is on Kerri’s album RELEASED FROM THE HEART

 

read Kerri’s blog post about IN TRANSITION

 

 

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in transition/released from the heart ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood

waiting and knowing ©️ 2015 david robinson

De-Swash Your Font! [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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20 and Kerri can fill an entire evening with conversation about fonts. Serif and sans serif. They grimace and make faces. Some fonts are praised for their simplicity while others are disparaged as presumptuous or gauche. Baseline, Cap line. I listen with amazement. They’re both designers. To get a rise out of them, I tell them that I’ve never really thought much about fonts. They look at me with shock and disdain. Then, one or both slam me with the ultimate insult: “Well, apparently, you’ll read anything.”

At first I thought the font obsession was unique to Kerri and 20 and then I learned that Kirsten caught the font gene from her mother. Kirsten won’t take a book off a shelf if she doesn’t like the font. “Who designed this!” she shouts in the library. “Why would anyone use that font!” she adds to the patrons averting their eyes and scurrying to hide from the dangerous lady.

And then there was the frigid night in Chicago when I realized that it was a family fixation. We were walking with Craig to find the zoo lights when we passed a Barnes & Noble. Craig shook his head and said, “They really need to upgrade their font.” I stopped in my tracks. Thinking my stopped motion was a comment on his font-thought, he added, “Well they do!”

Now I spend my days worried that I, too, will soon become hyper-critical about fonts. I wonder when I will begin to scrutinize stems, ascenders, and shoulders. Will I recoil when confronted with Comic Sans or wrinkle my nose at Didot? Will I find myself asking, “Why didn’t they use Frutiger instead of Futura? Will I contract the font virus?

I pretend. I shake my head when Impact is misused. I snuff when cued at the improper use of a serif, the too-expressive vertex. The pressure to belong is intense! But, in truth, I remain a font goat. Much to the disappointment of 20, Kerri, Kirsten and Craig, I read with pleasure, absent of almost any font awareness, whatever is put in front of me. Gadzook! Bad serif!

 

read Kerri’s out of control rant about FONTS

 

 

feet on the street WI website box copy

 

 

Go Tiny And Skip! [on DR Thursday]

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Kerri called them ‘morsels,’ little snippets of my paintings. She’d isolate a spot, crop it, perhaps add some words or simply let the cropped image become a new, stand-alone design. We offered her morsels through society6.com [prints, cards, coffee cups, pillows, etc.]. This morsel is from the corner of a large painting, An Instrument of Peace.

The morsels had a profound impact on how I see my paintings. In many cases, I liked the morsels better than the paintings they came from. The morsels said more with less. They took me by the hand and led me back to the forgotten lands of shape, form, and color in their purity.

The morsels helped me comprehend and then dance back and forth across the crevasse between design and painting. Painting [for me] is a deep dive, personal spelunking. It is a meditation. Design is visual play. It’s skipping in the sunshine, looking for shells on the beach. Carefree [Kerri is the designer in our family so it is especially easy for me. I’m like the supervisor on a road crew; she does all the work and I stand there, pat my belly, look important, and get all the accolades].

Originally, Kerri made this morsel as a wish for peace. It is among her many morsels that celebrate this season, the return of the light. Peace seems in short supply in our divided nation, our angry world. She asked that we use this morsel today so I pulled it from the archive. She knows that art carries great power and can inspire people to see anew, to dance back and forth across their personal crevasses, and lead the way back to forgotten lands of community and shared vision. Shape, form, color. Beauty generated and shared inside as well as out. Reaching rather than rejecting as a first action.

All of this possibility, hope, an enormous wish, carried in one little tiny morsel.

 

 

 

read Kerri’s blog post about PEACE ON EARTH

 

PeaceOnEarth copy

for a print or wall art of this image, go here

 

 

oversizedjoy copley place website box copy

 

an instrument of piece ©️ 2015 david robinson

morsel: peace on earth ©️ 2018 david robinson & kerri sherwood

Make A Curvy Road [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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The approach to the ferry at Northport is made intentionally curvy. It was designed to slow people down.

The intentional slow down is not like a speed bump or round-a-bout. It is not a mechanism to slow traffic before entering the ferry zone. It is meant to help folks to mindfulness. The place is beautiful. In a world dedicated to rushing through to the next thing, at a place on earth where the ferry will not wait for you, a winding road just might help a dedicated-race-to-the-next-thing-mind to recognize that this-moment-might-be-just-as-valuable-as-the-next. Experience it. Be in it.

It is a good design. In the many times this year that we’ve taken the winding road, it never fails that we see multiple cars stopped. People get out. They look. They take pictures. They point and talk and laugh. They stand in silence and breathe it in. It is performance art at its finest.

We slow down, too. Each time, the race to reach the ferry evaporates from our mind. We see. Kerri stops the car, “I have to get a picture of this!” she says. I appreciate her appreciation; there are layers to good design. Each time we greet the winding road I wonder what our world would be like if our design intention was to slow down rather than race through. Rather than divert our attention, what if, like great art, the purpose was to bring us into the vast expanse of this moment?

 

read Kerri’s blog post about the WINDING ROAD

 

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Follow The Trail [on KS Friday]

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I like the idea of a blueprint for souls. As if each life has an underlying design. As if each day of life was part of the overall construction.

When Kerri and I talk about our story we often talk about design. The impossible sequence of random coincidences that led to our paths crossing. Have you ever played that game: what if I left the house 2 minutes earlier? What if I’d decided not to go?

Lately, many people have been telling us their stories of things-that-were-meant-to-happen. “The pieces just fell into place,” they say. “That’s the sign it was supposed to be.” I’m not the only one who likes the notion of a blueprint. Ease is a sign.

We can only see the connected dots when looking backward. Sense-making is rarely a forward looking affair. Yet, Kerri’s BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL is like a popcorn trail through the woods. It is a kernel of hope that leads to another kernel of hope and, if you follow the hope-trail long enough, you come to a place where you can turn around and see with clear eyes the path, the unique life that was designed by you, just for you.

 

 

BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL on the album BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL is available on iTunes & CDBaby

 

read Kerri’s blog post about BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL

 

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blueprint for my soul/blueprint for my soul ©️ 1997 kerri sherwood

Bend It [on DR Thursday]

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The terminology in art reads like so much poetry. Zero point perspective. Chiaroscuro. Foreshortening. Rococo. Image plane. Vanishing point. Oblique projection. Intaglio. It goes on and on, these tasty and magical words.

They should be poetry. They describe fields of possibility. They attempt to codify the making of illusion or the impulse of an explorer. Bending space. Deconstructing and reconstituting. Perceptual distinctions. The visual language of cultural norms.

There has been for centuries a mathematics of art. Optics and relativity, movements in science that have their conjoined artistic twins. Rebellions. The maintenance of form. Rules and rule breakers.

I sat in on a class taught by a master artist. He was a lover of landscape (another yummy word) and taught his students an earth-shattering lesson: reality, like time, cannot be caught. It’s a fools errand to try. Painting is a conversation. It is an infinite game. Bend space. Move the tree. Color is fluid, moving, never fixed.  Be like color. Play. Discover. Transform.

I do not consider myself a landscape painter. And then I remember the master teacher and I remove the word ‘landscape’ from my vernacular. And then, suddenly, there is a universe of movement, color, light, and shapes to bend.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about a LANDSCAPE SKETCH

 

Newborn copy

newborn. deconstruction. reconstitution.

 

coffee cups in scion website box copy

 

newborn /landscape sketch ©️ 2019 david robinson

 

 

Mess With It [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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A simple image skewed. It becomes something else. The original was beautiful, simple stark contrasts. Iron grey corrugated metal meeting untouched snow.  Textures. Man made meeting nature made. It looked like an abstract painting.

When Kerri is restless she plays with images. My composer wife has a better visual eye than her painter husband. She can play for hours with a single image, designing from an inner imperative that words cannot reach. “What are you messing with?” I ask, already knowing the answer. Silence. She shakes her head, my question a horsefly to her concentration.

A curator might tell you that this photo represents a dream gone awry. A door that opened. A possibility that whispered. And then, like the iron grey metal meeting the snow, the dream met the realities of the moment and tilted. The door, the possibility was a mirage, a vanishing oasis.

Of course, a curator might say it represents any number of things and we’d affix their meaning to the image, even if we didn’t want to.  Words are powerful. Sticky.

A simple image. Another day. Another step. Skewed. What are you messing with? I already know the answer. Tell me what it means.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about SKEWED

 

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Play Your Part [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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It is our grocery store ritual. We wander up and down the tissue aisle and Kerri disparages the box designs. “Ugly!” she exclaims. “Who designs this stuff?!” she howls as frightened shoppers turn their carts and flee.

My role in the ritual is to suffer silently, to feign agreement. “Yes, it’s horrible,” I say. Inside, I wonder why I’ve never noticed or given any thought to the design of tissue boxes. “We should get a box cover that you like,” I suggest in ritual male fix-it-mode.

Kerri huffs in disapproval. “They should let me design the boxes!” she mutters as she rejects another design. I imagine the layers of security assigned to prevent her from gaining access to the tissue box design studio. A kind of tissue TSA. I turn away to hide my smile. This is serious stuff!

True to our ritual, on the third pass down the aisle, after each box has been considered and rejected at least twice, she pulls two from the shelf and thrusts them in my direction. “Which of these is least offensive,” she glares, making the decision mine. “Hmmmmmm,” I respond in a desperate attempt to stall. I’d be a fool to express a preference, especially since I don’t have one. I pretending to scrutinize the boxes. I stroke my beard, “I don’t know. What do you think?” I ask in ritual male-avoidance-mode.

“It doesn’t matter!” she frowns, tossing a box with a happy phrase into our basket, handing the losing dot pattern box to me. I gently place the second least offensive design back on the shelf.

“You’d think they’d design more attractive boxes,” she says, completing this ritual and heading for the laundry detergent aisle. Pushing the basket, I prepare myself for our next custom: opening bottles of fabric softener and huffing scents to find the least offensive smell.

As I roll toward this ritual assault on my sense of smell, I always think, “Well, at least the tissue ritual doesn’t give me a headache,” and I wonder how I lived so long without thinking about or at least considering the scent of fabric softener.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about TISSUE BOX DESIGN

 

wideopenmouths website box copy

Get Ready To Bowl [on DR Thursday]

bowling primary image BOX copy

Kerri laughed when she made this morsel. “It looks like a bowling ball, doesn’t it?” she giggled. It is a slice from one of her favorite paintings, Joy. “I can’t believe I’m seeing a bowling ball!” her snicker bursting into a full laughter blossom. “Do you hate that I’m seeing a bowling ball?” she asked, struggling to stifle her chortle.

READY TO BOWL PRODUCT BOX copyBefore I could answer she had already launched into designing products. “Oh my god! It makes a cool pillow!” she turned her computer to show me  but before I could see the pillow she spun the computer back around and was already dropping the image into the next design possibility. “This is fantastic!” she declared. “This cracks me up!” Her chuckle was infectious and I began to laugh. “It’s a great tote bag!” she howled.

I love watching her design.

The painting is called Joy. It is one of her favorites. Watching her do this design work is pure joy. It is magic. It is one of my favorites.

 

 

read Kerri’s blog post on READY TO BOWL

www.kerrianddavid.com

 

joy ©️ 2014 david robinson

ready to bowl designs/products ©️ 2018 david robinson & kerri sherwood