Archive for March, 2009

March 19, 2009

Blessings and curses


One of our favorite sayings in the VCReporter office is “No good deed goes unpunished.” Indeed, local artist MB Hanrahan must be acquainted with the real life manifestation of this dictum as her latest philanthropic contribution to the city of Ventura has come under scrutiny.

As detailed in a recent story in the Reporter by Michael Sullivan, Hanrahan brought her talent and heart to a county  juvenile facility where together with a handful of boys incarcerated there, she conceptualized and painted a series of panels depicting themes and scenes from the controversial book Bless Me Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya.

It’s a vivid coming-of-age tale about reconciling cultural and religious differences in the World War II era which was read by hundreds of thousands of students across the U.S. as part of the national BIG READ project. The story is visually rich and blood is a recurring element both metaphorically and literally, which brings me to the point of this post.

It seems there are people in the city, specifically the downtown area, who take issue with  some of the imagery painted on the mural installation which has a temporary home in the mini park downtown between Oak and Palm streets.

Because weapons and blood are depicted alongside other powerful images of despair, confusion and redemption, certain people find the mural distasteful and out of place in a business district.

Grow some cojones, people.

If, as a business district, you’re going to lean on the arts for identity, going as far as to call yourself a cultural district under the moniker”New Art City,” you must understand the nature and purpose of art. Art is not  a pretty decoration, though it often lends beauty and artists are not decorators; like musicians they are translators who thankfully, via their vision and skill, give the rest of us a way to understand life and humanity. The book is daring and the mural is daring, but it is a real expression brought forth from the hearts and minds of people who are not only culturally connected to the story but to our community.

By deeming their expression unsightly you are not only de-valuing their expression, you are also demeaning their stories and the stories of their ancestors, all of which play an important role in American and specifically California culture.

Pretty lights and potted plants are nice, but meaninful artistic expression is  the only way to give authenticity to the New Art City tag.

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