The concept of “intersection” has been a recurring theme for me lately.
I was playing with watercolor on this page. First, swirling some umber onto the page…tho I think of it as tan. It was a bit of a mess, and so I loaded my brush with blue and made some intentional stripes up and down the page.
The page was getting soggy, so the top of a blue downward stroke started bleeding into the tan. Well fine, you’re going to run, we’ll just see how much! I loaded more blue, and dipped it in my water and dropped it from above the page in a satisfying SPLOTCH. It bled and gathered along an edge of a blue stroke, held in place by surface tension.
Now I was facing a watercolor challenge…how many more satisfying SPLOTCHES could I add to the page and bleed into something interesting? The answer: 3. Curious to note it is the same as the number of licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop. After three more splotches, it felt like the page might get away from me. Water and color no longer in an interesting relationship, but one large blob.
I needed more interaction with the paint, but the idea of adding another color or more water to the page was rejected as I considered it. I picked up the book and tilted it one way—not too steeply because the surface tension had to be broken slowly and gently to create without just splashing off the page. Rivulets joined with other rivulets in broad, wet lanes or dense, narrow drips as I tilted the book first one way and then another.
On my mind as I was playing around with the page, had been a running mental debate on the simultaneously false- and true-seeming advice I’d read which was given to a person by another well-intentioned individual on the Internet.
The internet…where complex ideas and subtleties get boiled down to a sentence offered up by a thousand voices as the most original, recently discovered, personal truth that will help you out! It is easy to conjure to mind the scenario that fits the advice.
The particular advice I read was given to an artist. The artist was asking for a critique of a poster meant to draw in new business (pardon my pun). In her poster, she said she would be happy to discuss projects in different styles than her own. The well-intentioned comment was left with several helpful tips, and the last tip on the list was to always remain true to her style. WRONG!
While I can think of artists who have thrived by pursuing a singular style, there are just as many who have launched themselves in different directions and achieved wonderful results.
There is an intersection in this commenter’s advice that renders her words true and false at the same time, and that intersection is the complexity of the individual (artist in this case) and her path through life. Does her flexibility to create art in different styles mean that the resulting art is somehow less art? No. Is she less of an artist? No, in fact, she has shown herself adaptable. Has she compromised her integrity? Resounding no. She has pivoted her skills and talents to suit the needs and aesthetics of her client.
Then I think of artists from my own community who have quite distinct styles…three come to mind—Rebecca Venn, John Bloner, and Chet Griffith. Reading the commenter’s advice with them in mind, I would have to conclude, CORRECT! Although, if any of these artists chose to pursue a different style for a bit, all the previous questions and answers about multiple-style artists would still apply.
At the intersection of Wrong and Correct, I’m sad to say, Wrong is Correct.
The flaw in the commenter’s advice is the desire to put the artist in question into a box of the commenter’s own design. In this box, the only “real artists” in the world are artists who have found a singular style. I pity the commenter because she is missing the grand and varied delight of art.
The Fundamental Flaw
This fundamental flaw of framing the world the way only we wish to (or can) see it seems to be at the heart of many of the issues we face today.
Looking at a problem in one way to create a universal solution removes the possibility of variables. Delaying a solution until all the variables can be accounted for might be problematic because so many of our problems reside at a critical juncture or intersection that is particularly individual.
On a Completely Different Topic About the Same Topic
Kimberlé Crenshaw’s TED talk “The Urgency of Intersectionality”
Professor Crenshaw’s presentation on TED was another specific mention of intersections brought to my consciousness within the past couple of weeks.
I will not dive into her examples of double social injustices visited on black women even today, because her presentation is illuminating and an important study to help understand the urgency of establishing social justice. Do yourself a favor and watch it.
While on the topic of racial injustice, I’m going to digress and tell you a story of my increased awakening to the way the world actually works.
First, a confession, I’m a serial rerun watcher. Top of my list at the moment is Grey’s Anatomy.
There was an episode in which an 11-year-old black boy had lost the key to his house. His family lived in a nice neighborhood, and he knew a window to crawl in to get inside. The neighbors called the police, the police shot the boy, and a lot of other really horrible stuff happened that was cringe worthy.
That evening Dr. Bailey sat her own pre-teen son, Tucker, on the couch and had “the talk.” You know the one…how to interact with the police should the need arise.
Stepping out of the show and into my memories of childhood, my father—a police officer—had a talk with me too, so I knew what was coming…at least I thought I did.
The talk Tuck received was so very different than the one I did. Tucker’s talk was one predicated on the assumption he could possibly die in the encounter if he did not adhere to the advice he received.
I was floored by this. I was floored by the implication that all young black and brown CHILDREN had to live in fear of the police! The idea that anyone felt they had to live in fear of my father or of officer friendly was, and remains, deeply shocking and unsettling to me. The thought that children couldn’t (and can’t!) assume a person wearing a police uniform means safety and refuge amidst trouble makes me want to scream in horror.
My own talk had been one of white privilege. I’d been told to be polite and follow instructions, and show the same respect to the police officer I would to Mom and Dad. And Dad told me if I ever got into any real trouble, I should call him and he would come and get me and make sure I was safe. We would talk about the rest later. There was not a hint of concern in my father’s advice that I would be at risk for my life as soon as the police arrived on the scene.
The stark contrast between the two drove home to me just one fundamental aspect of social injustice. I grew up in a society with a safety net a single phone call away, but a lot of kids don’t have that basic comfort. They absolutely should.
There is so much more to discuss here, but that discussion is happening throughout the nation. I’m going to boil my thoughts down to one point (tsk, tsk, tsk, Nan):
We can not call ourselves truly civilized until all children and adults can assume the same levels of protection—criminal justice, equal pay, educational opportunity, financial security, physical sovereignty, and access to affordable healthcare.
We don’t spend as much time as we could examining problems (or ideas) from multiple angles and appreciating the intersections or influences.
It is advisable to spend more time looking for the intersections in life because nothing happens in a vacuum. Researching the relationships between seemingly divergent ideas is likely uncover flaws or benefits to systems as a whole.
Seems like some really interesting stuff happens at the intersections.
This article was started in July 2020 and completed in December 2020. I mention this because I believe I had a much larger point to make at the end, but it escapes me now. How do I know this? Because the subhead that currently reads “In Conclusion” formerly read “Intersection Writ Large”—yep, there was going to be a big finish. If it comes to me after I press “publish” I’ll make an edit.