Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Monthly Art: May 2014

Cod Liver Oil
Paper collage and silicone on cardboard
11 7/8" x 11 7/8"

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Mail Art: Halona Hilbertz to Gail Mitchell, April 2014

Another raw old book cover....nothing much added, just a few...asteroids?

Mail Art: Halona Hilbertz to Shannon Miller, April 2014

Raw and brittle old book cover with one square cut-out added...interested to see if it survives the postal route!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Monthly Art: April 2014

One Sweater, One Stick. SOLD
Wood, fabric, thread, silicone, acrylic.
16" high.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Movies & Children / A very personal critique, based on "The Lego Movie"

Our little family recently saw "The Lego Movie". We'd heard that friends in our son's age group loved it...Hopper's father and I ended up glancing at each other in horror at what we had taken our 4-year-old to see. It didn't help that we arrived early, to be bombarded with that many more loud, flashy previews of other kids' movies. And possibly our son was just too young for this one. I had looked up the rating beforehand - it "wasn't rated yet" - but decided a movie with all this hype about, for cryin' out loud, LEGOS should be ok for a four-year-old...

As parents, we felt about this movie as we've felt about other contemporary children's movies we've seen: TOO FAST. This one, WAY too fast. Roller-coaster flying rides through space, catching one-second-views of intricate (lego-) spaces meant to impress, never with enough time to zero in on anything, to contemplate anything, to observe anything. Breath-taking space-rides zooming in, zooming out, cut to the next scenes of action, always super-fast. Snapshots following snapshots. Quick references to other movies, other mainstream media. Never allowing the audience a minute to relax. It's as though the movie's creators feel they can only enter a kid's brain by competing with video games, on video games' terms. Speed, speed, speed. Not giving kids a chance to absorb.

Then, the snarkiness. We see it in other contemporary children's movies. The snarky, cynical, ironic comments that characters throw around. The "Umm, dude, I don't want to move in on your personal space, but your hair is on fire"....ha ha ha haaaa...everybody laughs about side-characters' misfortunes. The obsession with mainstream, not-very-intelligent, all-American one-upmanship, to the exclusion of other cultures, other ideas, other ways of life. The schadenfreude that is the opposite of a basic, natural, caring sense of humanity.

There's usually a very adolescent approach to love to be found, a pubescent romanticism founded in superficial ideas of beauty. Always headed in the direction of suburban-high-school-type "dating" alongside its ideas of "popularity" and "marriage". The moment where the "lego-chick" throws her colored hair strands around and "lego-guy" watches in slow-motion while falling for her coolness forever had us cringing in our seats...

And then, the violence. It was clear to me from the start that in "The Lego Movie", we as viewers were "inside a child's mental landscape of play", where plenty of violence - and hence, learning to cope with violence - takes place. That's all good. But the kind of violence depicted in this movie was too adult for us to feel comfortable witnessing in a movie intended for children. Even if we would not have been there with a child, it makes you feel like an accomplice in "prepping" young minds for living with basically violent entertainment, and it makes you feel manipulated into being a passive consumer of that violence.  Scenes of "torture", always infused with that speed that doesn't allow the viewer, especially the young viewer, the time to mentally deal with it. I told my son, "If this gets too scary, tell me, we can leave anytime". He said ok, that so far he could handle it. A bit later, he said "This is getting too scary", but of course - here we were on a rare movie outing - he didn't want to leave quite yet. He stuck it out. So did we, squirming.

Toward the end in this movie, a drastic scene alteration happens, one that I was half expecting, but was nonetheless good; or, more precisely, WOULD have been good, had it happened much earlier in the movie.

The newer "Lorax" movie was another perfect example of how a wonderful book by Dr.Seuss with an incredibly important environmental message (which the author was brilliantly early to deliver, many times: consider that  Dr. Seuss wrote "Bartholomew and the Oobleck" in 1949!!) was transferred into a sad fest of adolescent snarkiness with imagery far removed from the beauty and anti-greed goodness the whole story is about. (Hopper loves the movie; we don't. Of course we prefer to read the book with him instead. I also looked up the original, much simpler, much shorter 1972 tv short on youtube.)

There's a certain degree of vulgarity and consumerism that has soaked into these types of movies.

It baffles me that friends have been, if not critical, but surprised that we let Hopper watch the classic Walt Disney movies very early. People have memories from their childhood of dealing with the absolute sadness of Bambi's mother's death, or the meanness of the kids taunting Dumbo for his ears and the subsequent lockup of his mother. And I understand the worry of "traumatizing" young kids with movie experiences that scared you yourself when you were small. But when guided by patient and attentive, explaining parents, watching such classics (or reading them in books, of course) may help kids come to terms with the complications of life. (And I fear my kid will be "traumatized" by the tackiness and lovelessness of today's movies much more.) The witch in Snow White is too scary for some today, especially after being exposed to modern-day sanitized versions that focus on the "princess" dreams that seem to affect so many little girls today (and, dare I say it, plague their parents).

Although I understand these concerns, I think these old movies with their slowness; their delicate, downright STUNNING portrayal of Nature; and their easy-to-spot, simple depiction of "Evil" are a much better foil against which a child can start thinking about all those parts of the human story that aren't easy, but that we will all face, sooner or later: Adversity - Brutality - Loss - Death. It works in these old movies, because the negative forces are presented with care, and alongside the positive forces that make life wonderful: Beauty - Imagination - Perseverance - Love.

Have you seen how WATER was depicted in those old Disney movies? Nobody - not any computer-generated imagery in the world - does it better. Watch the rainy, drippy forest early in the Bambi movie, and you'll know what I mean.

It doesn't surprise me that our children today have high incidences of ADD and ADHD (even if much of it is falsely diagnosed). Our lives are data-oriented; screen-oriented; soundbite-oriented; sit-your-body-down-while-your-brain-takes-in-information-with-speed oriented. There is too much pure INFORMATION out there in the world. Children need real, physical spaces to explore again; to move; to be "bored" in again, so they start inventing things. So they use their imagination, instead of being served pre-digested entertainment.

(And while they need some guidance in exploring the world, kids also need a certain amount of freedom from supervision while doing it. I had that freedom as a child; I fear my son will never completely know that freedom, because we live in a very different world now. But I'm trying to give some back.)

Children need this access to physical activity, and they desperately need access to NATURE. They need to have the opportunity to watch ants for an hour, to see a spider eat its prey, to get dirty, to find out more about the real world by DOING as opposed to doing a Google search (though screen time can certainly supplement real-life experience). All of our son's friends who have visited our cabin the forest LOVE it. They love the tire swing, the campfires, the insects, the creeks, the sand stones mud trees wind sun moon and stars...What was Hopper's German cousin's favorite part of his trip to our exciting world city New York? Our weekend trip to the cabin.

Movies just put into a condensed form those aspects that inform our everyday. I'm worried that our children have to deal with too much information. They receive lots of input, lots of stimulation, and speed is necessarily a part of the game. Let's give them back some slowness, some emptiness, some un-structured, un-entertained playtime - let's give them of much of it as we possibly can. It means giving them the building blocks to build their own world: it means giving them SPACE and TIME.

Personal space and time will also help instill in our children the respect and love for Nature that we urgently need, as a society, in facing the huge climate change challenges that we are up against.

Mail Art: Gail Mitchell to Halona Hilbertz, March 2014

Mail Art: Shannon Miller to Halona Hilbertz, March 2014