Tag Archives: art

Meditations for the New Republic

It has been five days since one of the most divisive, contentious, and baffling elections in the history of America came to a close. Even people on the same side of the fence continue to find ourselves at loggerheads over what happened and what to do next.

Superpower: FREEDOM!
Superpower: FREEDOM! © Lauren Ayer 2014

Since that day my mind has been turning over the results and what they might mean for the world, and what my responsibility will be in our uncertain new republic. Our country has survived the unthinkable many times over and I believe with all my heart that, once again, we will find our way through. Here is what I plan to do:

  • Choose the one thing that matters most and the the most important tools and allies to create, defend, or support it, then devote myself tireless on its behalf. Yes, only one thing–ideally something very specific (think solar power accessibility not global climate change). Otherwise my energy will be divided and i may falter over time. Trust others will attend to what I cannot.
  • Attend to my body’s physical needs. Sleep. Eat nourishing foods. Exercise. Our bodies and minds are the most important tools we have, and this is a marathon, not a sprint.
  • I will do my very best not to be led by pain, hate, or fear. Instead I will follow hope, compassion, and my dreams of a better world. We cannot know what will happen until it does. It is important to recognize and prepare for the worst, but equally important to work toward the best. Fear will not sustain us over the long haul. Only love can do that.
Superpower: LOVE!
Superpower: LOVE! © Lauren Ayer 2013

As for me, this overgrown, neglected garden is the hill upon which I will stand. My tools are ink and paper, needle and thread, this voice, and the art and stories I create with them. My Quest, to sow hope, cultivate resilience and positive action, and inspire others to do the same.

Superpower: GROWTH!
Superpower: GROWTH! © Lauren Ayer 2014

But no one of us can do this alone, and so I invite you to join me. What will your one thing be? What tools will you need? How can I help?

Mourning the Living

RIP Great Barrier Reef
Illustration: Andrew Holder

I have a confession to make. A few days ago, I came across an article that made me lose hope. According to an obituary published on Outside Magazine’s website by writer Rowan Jacobsen, the Great Barrier Reef has died. And though other sources have argued that it still shows some signs of life, even they imply that hope for recovery is slim.

It took me a while to find words to talk about this. One of the most beautiful and important environments on the planet, teaming with life and color, has gone cold and gray. It is a loss so great that I can’t get my head around it. I almost can’t believe it. I don’t want to believe it. It is so horrific and terrifying that I would rather believe it’s a lie trumped up to scare us into changing our ways. It makes me understand how people could consider climate change a conspiracy theory despite the overwhelming data all around us proving that it’s true.

I won’t ask how we got here. That part is glaring and obvious. The more important question is what do we do now? As for me, the answer is get back to work.

This is a time of mourning, but we can’t let it stop us from doing all we can to prevent future loss, to reclaim all we can of the beauty that seems to be fleeing this world at ever increasing speeds–before it’s all gone.

Even if some part of it survives, the reef will never again be what it was, but there is still great beauty in this world of ours. And there are so many ways to protect what we still have. And so many ways to add more. If not a reef, a painting. If not a crystalline blue sky, a poem. If not a rain forest, a song. Because I believe, as I have said before, that the only antidote to the hatred and fear and destruction in and of this world is to create. Make art. Make love. Plant a tree. Believe.

Don’t mourn the living. Fight for them.

Feature Friday: Red Sky

Lately I have been witnessing a shift in the way art is made, from DIY to what wonder tracker Jeffrey Davis calls DIT–Do It Together. Take for example recent works from photographer Cara Walton and poet Brenna Layne whose collaborative series, TempusVolat explores the question:

A photograph captures a moment, but what if those moments could speak?

The answers are both stunningly beautiful and lingeringly haunting. And this latest installment, Red Sky, their response to a request for a piece to feature in our Apocalypse Garden, is no exception. To see the rest of the series and purchase prints, visit the TempusVolat online gallery.

Red Sky
Red Sky ©Cara Walton and Brenna Layne, 2015

This is one example of DIT at its best–a creation that is more than the sum of its parts. And I can’t help but wonder, what if we brought DIT into the realm of apocalypse planning and survival, to the task of saving the world? So many preppers like to go it solo–to protect their hoards of water, weapons, and food. They feel they can do better on their own. But can we, really? I can understand the fear and scarcity thinking that might lead to this conclusion, but I have to stand on the side of safety in numbers and that together we can make a bigger impact, imagine more creative solutions,  and create more abundance than any one of us could alone.

And so, in the spirit of DIT, I offer you an invitation. Red Sky is the first new seed in our Apocalypse Garden planted by a reader. Guidelines and a call for submissions of art, poetry, stories, essays will be posted in the coming weeks.

Will you plant the next seed?

Feature Friday: Return to the Trembling Heart

On January 12, 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit Haiti just outside the town of Léogâne, just 16 miles from the capitol city, Port-au-Prince. Buildings were crushed, monuments toppled, and as many as 220,000 people lost their lives.

In the face of this disaster, radical arts collective Atis Rezistans and the children’s offshoot Timoun Rezistans that inhabit the Grand Rue, began to transform what was left of their world.

Return to the Trembling Heart: Grand Rue, Port au Prince from Peter Dean Rickards on Vimeo.

The Arts of Survival

Creativity can give us options. Creativity can give us something to fight for. And creativity can help us recover from the worst when it happens. Like in 2010, when Mt. Merapi erupted in Indonesia, monsoon rains flooded the Indus river in Pakistan, and a 7.0 magnitude earthquake shook Haiti to it’s core. Or in 2005, after Hurricane Katrina.

Across all four regions and cultures survivors turned to art to reclaim their homes. In 2011 some of that art was featured in an exhibit called The Arts of Survival: Folk Expression in the Face of Disaster at the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

“The Arts of Survival provides a window to the many ways contemporary folk artists use what they know best to respond to natural disaster with vision, perseverance, dignity and imagination-even in the midst of political infighting, infrastructural log jams, and environmental after affects. Through this experience, they learn that the most fundamental power is the indomitable spirit of mankind.”  — Exhibition curator Dr. Suzanne Seriff

In Indonesia, master makers created shadow puppets representing the volcano with fire and ash spewing from it to memorialize the story.

In Pakistan local craftswomen took to needle and thread, creating ralli purrs (quilt tops) from excess clothing from relief efforts into much needed blankets, both for warmth and to raise funds for rebuilding.

In Haiti, street artists pulled scrap metal from the wreckage, transforming it into sculptures depicting the terror they had experienced. Others stitched Vodou Flags or crafted terrifying papier-mâché masks.

Evelyne Alcide, Earthquake!
Evelyne Alcide, “Earthquake!”


In New Orleans, they painted poems on the sides of broken houses, stitched quilted memorials from moldy bedsheets pulled from drowned buildings. One built an entire village from broken furniture, old chain link fencing, and other salvaged materials.

When asked  why, one artist answered:

“My reason for making this is to bring together the human family, so we can get together and rebuild New Orleans, so we can rebuild ourselves and our soul.” Joe Minter

Joe Minter, Rebuild and Restore New Orleans
Joe Minter, “Rebuild and Restore New Orleans,” 2007, mixed media. Photo: Paul Smutko


Feature Friday: @Large Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz

This past December I visited Alcatraz for the first time. The decaying former prison feels haunted. It echoes with each step. It’s cold, and damp and inhospitable, and the perfect place for Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei’s latest installation: @Large, a multi-piece experience that asks us to look deeply into the themes of imprisonment and freedom.

“The misconception of totalitarianism is that freedom can be imprisoned. This is not the case. When you constrain freedom, freedom will take flight and land on a windowsill.”
— Ai Weiwei

As in The City, Not Long After, Ai Weiwei’s work shows us that freedom is worth fighting for, and that art can be an even more powerful weapon than guns in that fight.

To learn more about this exhibit visit for-site.org.

The City, Not Long After

The City, Not Long AfterTITLE: The City, Not Long After
AUTHOR: Pat Murphy
PUB DATE: February 1990
SECONDARY THREAT: Invasion, martial law

Of all the apocalypse novels I’ve read, and there have been many, this is the one most filled with beauty and hope. Not long after a plague decimates global populations, San Francisco has been taken over by artists–painters, writers, musicians, tinkerers, makers–who have crafted along the way a sort of utopia. What they can’t find, or make or grow, they trade for at Duff’s. And all seems well, until a nameless girl comes to town.

I had planned to give you the full run-down of the story, pointing out the pieces that most speak to me, the preps hidden within the story, but I just can’t. Not with this book. Because I want you to read it. With its magic untainted.

What I will tell you is that the book deals with themes that include robotics and humanity, love and loss, art and war, isolation and collaboration, pacifism, ghosts, angels, the consciousness of a place, creativity and freedom, and the costs of peace. It even includes a nod to one of my most personally treasured myths at the very end.

But I will give you this–a quick peek into the poetry of the work:

Her mother had told her about San Francisco. Bedtime stories always began, “Back in San Francisco before the plague…” The stories were odd and disjointed, fragments of her mother’s life. Bright memories of the Chinese New Year’s parade, touched with the scent of gunpowder from fireworks. Remembrances of neighbors: the old woman with twenty-nine cats, the young man who practiced Tai Chi on the roof.

From her mother’s memories, the girl had created her own picture of San Francisco: a place as exotic as Oz, with tremendous hills over which cable cars rolled. She had asked her mother once why they could not go back there. Her mother had shaken her head. “Too many ghosts there. I can’t go back.”

Pat Murphy is an award-winning writer, scientist, and occasional toy-maker. Learn more here.


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Art and The City

The City, Not Long AfterI have had a book stuck in my head for months. I’ve read the book before, at least once. but the more I dig into what exactly I want this blog to become, the more strongly I knew that it was time to re-read it. Unfortunately, my well-loved copy was in a box in my sister’s California basement, 1,200 miles away. At least it was until holiday visiting time. Now that book is sitting on the table beside me, bookmarked 155 pages in. Pages read on yesterday’s return flight home. That book is The City, Not Long After by Pat Murphy.

When Danny-Boy was eight years old, he learned that art could change the world.

If Gene Wilder crooning Pure Imagination is the Apocalypse Garden’s theme song, then that line is its mantra. Art can change the world. In my world, art begins with story, and Pat’s is filled with magic and beauty, despite loss and fear and threat. Sure, it may not teach us how to build a crossbow, but it gives us survival skills just as important: community building and creativity, two traits that can serve us all well, be it the end of days, or everyday.

Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red

Today, in honor of Armistice Day (Veterans Day in the US) and the 100th anniversary of the war to end all wars, the final of 888,246 ceramic poppies was placed at the Tower of London–one for every British or British colonial soldier lost in World War I.

If only it was the war that ended war, but with every escalation into battle, every advancement in war machine technology, every additional life lost, it feels more like the beginning of the end not of war, but of us.

My grandfather fought in the second World War–enlisted, in fact. And I am proud and grateful. But more than that, I wish there hadn’t been a war for him to fight in so he could have stayed with us longer. But absent that dream, I am glad for such a beautiful and impactful remembrance. They fought. They died. It is up to us not to forget. It is up to us to try and prevent future lives lost.

For some stunning images visit CNN World.
Learn more about ceramic artist Paul Cummins and theater designer Tom Piper.