14 June 2002

A round woman in a stick figure world

June 14, 2002

I am a well rounded woman.  I’m five feet nine inches and I weigh 205 pounds.  This means that I have curves.  Curves where my stomach rounds away from my waist and curves where my hips curve away to my legs.  I’m more the classic pear shape than the apple shape.  I am not, by any stretch of the imagination slim, svelte, or trim.  I am soft and rounded everywhere except my elbows, knees, and feet. 

Art had an impact on me as a child.  Not necessarily the impact you would expect.  My grandfather was a hobby artist and he collect work by other people.  At my grandparents house the walls were covered in paintings and the tables supported sculptures.  The artwork was a mix of classical western styles and modern Mexican work.  I was exposed to a wide range of styles and body types in art from modern, squared off people that were more blocks of color to a lush portrait of a woman with curves like the ones I eventually developed.

At my parents home the interest in art continued.  There were four different portraits that shared a common style, some modern word art, and one great big painting of dogs gathered around a pot they had tipped off of the fire (though as a child I was always afraid that the dogs would burn up in the fire).  We also had various carousel animals, antiques, and tin soldiers, and highland supply goods around the house depending on what my father’s second business was at the time.  In addition, to the above mentioned fixtures, my parents kept collecting art as I was growing up.   I grew up surrounded by visual art– from the gaudy art of painted carousel animals to the restrained and dark portraits of the mystery people.

It was a little like living in an art gallery– and since we were in the middle of Wyoming (an eight hour drive to Denver or Salt Lake City depending on the weather) what I saw in my parents and grandparents house made up most of my exposure to what I consider fine art. 

When I moved to the big city and meet many of the good friends that I have now, I was exposed new and different art– between my college studies and my friends I absorbed everything from ElfQuest to Dante Gabriele Rossetti– with a detour into really abstract art courtesy of a painting teacher.  I enjoy portraits the most.  I really like pictures that show people as the were, or that show people doing interesting things.  Not surprisingly, I share some of my father’s artistic sensibilities.  We use the cow standard for judging art.  If I look at a piece of artwork and, regardless of the subject matter, am convinced that the artist has the skills to draw a realistic looking cow then I’m willing to give the art my full consideration.  If it doesn’t meet the cow standard then I’ll look elsewhere for artwork that I want to hang on my walls.

My artistic sensiblities are also shaped by my exposure to and interest in feminism.  I do believe that the way women are portrayed visually affect the way women as a group are perceived by men as a group.  I have seen it happen (that also is an whole different essay).  One of the things that I look for in good stories and good art is an undefinable something that draws me into the piece.  I want complexity and depth and most of what I find is shallow stereotypes and women-as-sex-objects.  I find this very frustrating.

So between the cow standard, my own body type, and my interest in feminism I struggle to find art that I find powerful and moving.  This is especially true because much of the art that I am exposed to these days is in a sub-genre of science fiction that I hang out in.  Furry fandom spends a lot of collective time and energy on what humanized-animals might look like or be like.  One advantage I have is that I am not restricted to convention art show to view furry art.  The project that I work on exposes me to some wonderful artist who take full advantage of the blend of human and animal traits to devise creatures of all different shapes and sizes in locations from the exotic to the mundane.

About two years ago I ventured out into the larger world of furry fandom and was disappointed (but not terribly surprised) to find that the art show was packed, not with what I consider to be art but with pictures of thin human shaped furs in various states of undress– some of them holding weapons of one sort or another.  Xena Warrior Princess aside, (and I was a fan of that show), I know how I would dress if I was planning to go into battle and it frustrates me to see so many female characters posing with weapons– or just plain posing.  

When I walk into an art show I want to be interested and engaged by what I see– and I want to find artwork to take home with me.  Works that reflect the diversity of the human experience and the dynamic nature of the world around us. Artwork that can hold up to being looked at again and again.  Artwork that I can get different impressions off of depending on my mood.  

I am selfish that way.  I don’t buy art to support an artist.  I buy art to support my own interest in art.

13 March 2002

Mutually Exclusive

15 March 2002

I'm a hopeless romantic at heart.  I'm also a ruthless pragmatist at heart and have been married for over ten years.  What does being married have to do with anything?  In my case, everything.

When I met my husband-to-be we were both in college, with not a lot of money for extras.  We also didn't `court' each other in anything resembling a traditional manner.  I was in a relationship when we first met and he was coming off of one.  We lived together (with two other friends) for one year, then lived together on our own for another year.  I remember riding in his car from his brother's house and sort of mutually deciding that we were officially `going out' (a fact that everyone around us had know for at least the last 3 months).  I don't remember exactly when we got officially `engaged' though I remember the presentation of the ring.  David brought me breakfast in bed (again at his parents house) and the ring was in my cereal box (I thought it was cute).  The presentation style was the only surprise-as we'd already discussed that we wanted to get married and we used my great-grandmother's engagement ring-so it wasn't exactly a secret.

So we never really `dated' and never had much time or inclination for other forms of traditional courtship.  I think this `meeting of the mind's style' is part of the reason we are still together over ten years later.  

By the time we had extra money to spend on anything, I had realized that I didn't want to spend money on things I would never use.  So even though my romantic side would love to get a spontaneous and expensive gift; my control freak side wants advance notice of any large expenditures.  Also, while I love the idea of jewelry-I almost never wear it.  I wear my wedding band and my glasses and that's about it most days.  I just recently had to stick some earrings in my ears just so the holes I begged for in 4th grade wouldn't grow closed.

This is a long way of saying that I can't have everything.  I know that and I still struggle with it.  I am a married woman with a 3 year-old, a housemate, a job and two pets.  All of which create both opportunity and obligation.  I am fortunate and I know it.

But I also have single friends (including my brothers) who travel a lot.  I have friends who don't have children or pets who can do things on the spur of the moment.  I have friends who live close in to the city and don't have to drive.  I have friends who are courting, and married.  Friends who are single by choice, and single by accident.

What I know is that I can't have the freedom of choice of a single person and still be married.  I can't drop things at a moments notice and still have a child.  I can't fly of to Norway for two weeks with out finding someone to cover my job and water the plants.

What I have is wonderful.  I love my parents, husband, son, and housemate.  I have really great friends who help me with my obligations.  But the fact remains that there is a lot that I would like to do that I simply can't.  I can't have everything because I have to make choices about the opportunities that come to me. 

Once those choices are made I have to live with (and enjoy) the consequences.

18 February 2002

A people's public act

18 February 2002

I have not been present for much of the public life of the people of St. George’s over the last few years.  I was recently reminded of one of the traditions of the Anglican Church that resonates with me:  our tradition of public worship and, within that worship, public affirmation and support of the life-changing vows that each of us make, to one degree or another, within the structure of the church.

I was reminded of this when I went to a friend’s wedding reception.  The wedding itself had been a small private affair while the reception was thrown open to the larger world.  When I arrived at the reception, I felt like I’d come in in the middle of things.  I felt off balance for most of the time I was there– until the very end when I volunteered to help with the clean-up and break-down of the room.  Once I had taken an active part in the reception, then, it felt like a wedding.  At that point I regained my balance.

Now that I have had some time to reflect, I realize that what I missed was participating in the service itself.  As an Anglican, I am accustomed to being asked if I will support the newly baptized, or the newly married, or the newly confirmed in their new relationship with the church and with each other.  I had not realized how powerful and important that public witness and support was to my own understanding of what it means to be ‘churched.’  

I took this opportunity for reflection to reread part of “A People Called Episcopalians” by the Rev. Dr. John H. Westerhoff, and I found this quote:  “For Anglicans, therefore, the answer to the question: ‘What is it to be an Anglican Christian?’ is, ‘Come, worship and minister with us.’”

In addition to being the People of the Book, Episcopalians are a people of public worship and public support.  Any person can walk in our door, pick up the book and follow along.  This is part of the tie that binds me to the Episcopal Church– everything that is important to the church is written down for all to see.  But like a script, it only really comes alive when many voices read the words.   We may all have small voices but when we say the words together we weave a rope of sound from our promises.  

Easter is coming, the time to renew our own baptismal vows and renew our support for one another as sisters and brothers in Christ, people of the book, and holders of the safety net.  I plan to make it to Church for the Great Vigil and reaffirm, publicly, my promises to God and to God’s family, the Church.