Monday, April 13, 2009

Kimono Series

More photos will be added soon.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Art as a Catalyst for Social Change

(This is a speech I gave in April, 2007 for the Festival diapente called "Art As A Catalyst For Social Change" part of The Van Wezel Program for the show Embracing our Differences that will explain who I am and what my art is all about).

Embracing Our Differences

For all of us gathered here today I believe you would all agree that art is an essential part of what is called "Quality of Life."

If one views my body of work in its entirety it would reveal that a significant portion of my art identifies with the wounded of the world.

I was born in the lower east side of New York. My parents were immigrants who came to America from Poland and Rumania. Since only Yiddish was spoken in the home, at the time I started school I was unable to speak English.

I grew up with two cousins who were stricken with Polio at an early age and as a result they each remained disabled for the rest of their lives.

Of course, as an artist I had my eccentricities and did not fit into the mainstream childhood experiences.

As a result of these childhood experiences I developed a lifelong empathy for people with disabilities or who were quote " a little different." With the support of my husband, children and family I have had the opportunity to embrace these life experiences and turn them into my life’s work as an artist.

As an artist, my intention from the very beginning was to create a body of work which would influence and hopefully change for the better the way people viewed the world around them. In attempting to carry out my intentions, I have created works with varied and unusual themes.

I have created a series of works in which I have attempted to break down the barriers of discrimination by educating and inspiring the viewer to have an appreciation and understanding of people with disabilities in all walks of life and in all stages of life.

I appeared on television with my painting entitled "A child’s Eye" it is a painting of a young white man pushing a black man who is seated in a wheel chair. During the creation of the painting I had a young girl fill in the background of the painting with pastel chalk so that she would have the physical experience during the creation process of relating to people who were different from her.

In 1980 I created a seven foot painting of my mother in the nude when she was 70 years old to illustrate that beauty transcends all ages. (Of course, as a result my mother became very popular and loved every minute).

I have touched many sensitive subjects through my art over a more than four-decade career. Subjects such as religious intolerance, the Holocaust, cultural barriers, domestic violence, age discrimination, and the overweight, many of which were not fashionable at the time they were created.

Social change is a gradual process. However, the artist must create what she feels is necessary and vital at the time and not what is trendy or fashionable at that particular moment in history.
An artist who believes in her work must be patient knowing that the time will come when her work would be given the recognition it deserves.

I painted this image entitled OFF WHITE 17 years ago. (The white mask is a casting of myself) This painting is one of many paintings I created in 1990 entitled my screaming series.

It gives me extreme satisfaction as an artist knowing that a painting which I created in New York 17 years ago is being viewed in a most public place in Sarasota Florida and is as relevant today as it was 17 years ago and indeed maybe even more so.

April, 2007 Miriam Cassell