Hoy es Hoy/ Today is Today

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Art by Javier Marin, 2006

This 13-foot bronze sculpture of a women’s head was purchased by the Jacksonville International Airport from the J. Johnson Gallery and placed in the  ‘flag pavilion’ area.

This new area (on the corner of Pecan Park Road and Yankee Clipper Drive, adjacent to the JAA Administration Building) features the sculpture set against curved black granite walls with a waterfall.

The artist, Javier Marin drew his inspiration from many different cultures—Mexican, Native American, and Asian.

This piece is representative of the Airport’s value of multi-culturalism and places the City on an international level for public art.

Additionally, to the JIA Arts Commission, Hoy es Hoy is the first piece by an international artist placed at the Airport and symbolizes the forward thinking and positive progress of our program.

information taken from: https://www.jiaarts.org/hoy

Sculptor Francis Miller

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When I met sculptor Francis Miller, he was finishing  up a days work on Deerfield’s Civil war monument. He was putting his tools in his truck and probably about to drive off but then I came…and two more people after that. 

I had always wanted to hear a sculpture’s opinion about historic monuments being taken down and after introducing myself he very kindly, answered my questions. 

What you think about historic monuments being taken down?

… I think about the reason it was put up and how it functions today…if something is causing harm, it is a problem…however, there’s a flip side. I understand why so many people- white people  in the south predominantly-  are tying to hold on to these Civil War icons… icons to them [anyway].

I did some work in Arkansas at the national cemetery on the Minnesota monument. After the war they brought down grand from Minnesota- beautiful grand plant- they built a really tall, a 10 foot tall Union Solider on top… then from here to the flag pole there’s a little obelisk about yay high built out of marble leaning to the side and it reads: here are buried 540 confederate deaths.

So, after the war, the north clearly didn’t try economically and somewhat socially,…to  make amends for all the damage that they caused within that community….and that would be for the whites…. After that kind of devastation and poverty they were trying to hold on to something for identity and I think it became the Civil War leaders. I can’t fault them for grabbing on to something, it’s just the wrong thing.

 What about honoring the past regardless of whose past it is?….I understand, this statue is not representing you or you disagree with what he did in the past but it’s the past… When we look at history and we open up our books, if there’s something to represent that history, then we can tell our kids- this is the place where so and so happened and even though we don’t agree with what was done or said, in the past they really honored him which is why there is a statue of him here.

Right, but then the problem I had was a lot of them were put up in the Jim Crow era. So they were put up as a means of oppression right in the heart of the city… still claiming that dominance. And that was the line  I thought was crossed when I learned about the history of the monuments…[These statues] were not generated immediately after the Civil War [or during the] historical period [it seemingly represented], [the statues were built much later to keep a whole community of people under oppression]….

So, yeah, I don’t have a problem with those moments coming down.

If they…were closely aligned with the Civil War and were honoring the people who they thought were important for their community heritage and history, then I wouldn’t think they should be torn down because it would mark history.

It’s still not an easy thing to grapple with and it would be ashamed if all of the statues come down….However these newer monuments? We should put the brakes on these monuments. We should think about when they were invented and why and who funded them? What the climate was at that time- socially? I think there are some legitimate reasons to get these things removed.

I also was thinking about …communities…[particularly poor communities] with historical monuments. Instead of spending so much time [trying to figure out if a monument should be taken down or should we build a new one], there’s also other monuments that are still standing that need to be taken care of, like what you are doing here…

Exactly.

There is a wall in Brooklyn, a frieze, done by a very prominent artist during the 20’s and 30’s. Richmond Barthe. A Harlem Renaissance artist. It was done during the great depression I think.

What is it?

It’s like a wall mural but it’s not a painting, it’s like a …carving into a stone wall ….its an image of blacks dancing and slaves escaping.  The wall is cracking and it’s not being taken care of.  We spend so much time on taking something down or breaking something up, lets take care of what we have as well…the art that is meaningful. 

Yeah, I agree. The civil war monuments are so charged. They are charged emotionally. They are charged politically.

I think another issue is, when it’s taken down…Its still apart of history. It’s still saying something. Like when I go to Florida and I see the statue of Andrew Jackson, we know what he stood for but he’s there…I know he had a lot say about my people but I don’t know if today it would really mean anything if we just took it down….and then put it where? Where would we put it? I remember I went to Argentina and saw they did something similar. They took down statues…and at the back of their ‘White House’ they had so many statues there. It was an eyesore. What are you going to do with that?!

In my heart, I love preserving things. I always have and that’s my initial reaction for anything- save. And culturally I think we are much richer having these things even if there may be some controversy but I think there is a limit.   

How did you get into sculpting anyway, Mr. Miller?

In middle school, I started making a ton of stuff. My family took a trip to the grand canyon and we went to a Native American Shop. Everything was probably made in China… but I was fascinated with these little sculptures that was in this shop! And I said, Wow, that’s what I wanna do. I want to make sculpture.

What are the names of your favorite artist?

I have a pretty broad range. One of my favorite artist is, Alberto Giacometti. I love his work so much. Kiki Smith, a more contemporary sculpture…Richard Sarra….

You ever heard of Augusta Savage?

No, not by name.

She was also a sculpture and lived during the 20’s and 30’s. She graduated from Cooper Union and during the world’s fair she created a piece called Lift Every Voice and Sing or The Harp…However not much of her work was preserved…

Let me see if I can pull it up. Oh, there she is…let…Oh, yeah, there she is. Cool. Let me put on my glasses…Wow! And African American Sculpture!! That just wasn’t prominent at all!! 

We spoke until an older gentleman came by and asked Mr. Miller for help taking a photo the Civil War monument.

If you are interested in the Harlem Renaissance Frieze piece by Richmond Barthe here is a link to the article:  https://hyperallergic.com/473342/an-iconic-harlem-renaissance-frieze-is-crumbling-in-brooklyn/

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One week in Aberdeen, Mississippi

Taken from different Journal Entries:

This is my second GO (Global Outreach) trip with Fordham University.

I don’t know if its because I am more mature or more aware of my race and what its representation means but being here has evoked many thoughts and feelings.

At St. Francis of Assisi

We attended mass at the Aberdeen Catholic church, St. Francis of Assisi,  that is affiliated with the camp. The priest,  spoke very matter of factually and was full of arrogance. I found myself blocking out what he was saying because I could not get over his character. I thought it was a bit…dainty and very turn stand-offish. However, at the very end of the sermon, he said these words:

‘…in the mean time, while I wait for the Lord to return and take me, I will joyfully do his work’ which spoke to me because one, as a Christian, I am seriously waiting for Jesus’ return and this thing called life- which is a full time Job- I want to do with a smile on my face. It’s always easy to dismiss people and very seldom do they captivate me again once I’ve dismissed them- and he did.

A Black Virgin Mary 

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What Can I give while I am here?

I sat still and thought, here I am taking. As my neighbor once said to me, don’t always be ready to take. Give. I thought, what can I give? I can give joy and love and a real smile even when I am uncomfortable or in the middle of dismissing someone or an idea.

Constant Inspiration

‘Pray Big. Love Big’ A quote on the back of a tee shirt. I am surrounded by a lot of quotes. Almost everyday someone wears a tee with an inspiring quote.

Comparing my GO acceptance

I can’t help but think the reason I had to wait so long to be accepted to a GO trip (many years ago) was because so many students were leading trips and feeding their own prejudices. I mean really, I waited about three years to be picked! And, GO trips are about giving back to communities not picking and choosing friends.

GO Alaska was totally friendship.

Thinking about Back Home

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I’ts 6am and I am up in the main cabin. My biological clock gets me up at 4am daily and since I couldn’t go back to sleep, I prayed and tried to shake off thoughts of my friends and family back home. I can play Pandora but its so peaceful here. The birds are singing and rising with the sun.

Observations and Answers to Questions

I have eight children in my group. 5 blacks and 3 whites.

While talking about race, a black young man who works at the camp, told me most of the slave homes are passed down through generations so the white own most of the property and blacks are dispersed throughout Mississippi.

As we drive, I see that red looking sand that many authors wrote about when writing about the deep south.

Hand-games

I taught the girls how to play ‘Tweet Baby’. The black girls got it so fast. I only wanted to slap with them. I feel that we are all really related by some common thread. I thought of two things, how difficult would it be to start a black cultural camp or run a camp at my church?

Some History of the Camp

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I am now outside near a lake. Ms. Heidi showed me a special place to sit and watch the sunrise. The Presbyterians built the camp in the 1940’s. There is a little outdoor chapel.  and leading to the outdoor chapel, there is a sign that reads, ‘The Lord is in His Holy Temple, Let all the Earth Keep Silent before Him”. As you continue to walk, there is a arch that reads ‘Let’s worship God’.

The lizard in the girls dorm

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When we got back from lunch, the girls let out a shriek.

A lizard!!

They crowed around the door all eager to see the green medium lizard. The news of the new comer spread like wildfire. The camp counselors gathered in the bathroom and spent several minutes trying to catch it.

Aberdeen Lock and Dam/ Aka the Waterway

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There was a short nap time. Then the girls were told to put on their swim suits and the whole sun screen and bug spray parade began. The air went from fresh to chemicals.

We all boarded a yellow school bus and went to Aberdeen’s waterway. I watched as children and adults got into a lake to swim. This truly is living with the land. Simple living at its best. The water dirty and muddy.  I’ve never swam in a lake before.

Happy Times Consist of…

Driving through the county, smelling the grass. Listening to the language of the children. Hearing their accents and looking at their expressions.

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Dialogue- Let me Slap you 

Camp Counselor: Stand still! There’s a bug on your back! Let me slap it!

Me: Wait! No!! Just fan it off.

Camp Counselor: I won’t hurt you!

I started jiggling so it’ll fly away. Bug flies away

Camp Counselor: I wasn’t going to hurt you. Those bugs bite and leave bumps as big as this (uses both hands to show how big the bump can get)!

Me thinking: No bug was going to bite me and one one was about to slap me.

Dialogue- Slap Me!

Me (calmly): There’s a bug on you.

Camp Counselor: Slap It!

Me: No, I don’t slap bugs.

Camp Counselor clicks teeth and rolls eyes.

Camp Counselor 2: Turn, let me help.

Camp Counselor 1 turns.

Camp Counselor 2 slaps back with force.

Camp Counselor 1: aaaahhhh! Ouch!!!

Me: Roll eyes.

What you wanna Be?

During free time, I spoke to one of the young girls and asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up. She told me she didn’t really know even though she loved to draw.

Really, you draw?

Yeah. I can really draw.

Then draw something for me in my journal.

Give me something to draw.

I went on my phone and pulled down this image from Instagram. (https://www.instagram.com/p/BopR_2zFzi8/)

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And she sat there and drew it.

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When I saw her work, I was blown away. We spoke more about her career. I showed her different works of art to encourage her and give her some ideas.  She was really interested in Cliffanie Forrester, who is a teen from Brooklyn whose painting hangs in the Met.

Finally, she asked me about a career I had never heard about- Textile Technologist- She said she was interested in textiles. We looked it up  and spoke about different art mediums and how to mix textiles. I told her about the artist Jackie Peters-Cully who I just learned about at BAM before I went to Mississippi.