Carvings for Springtime and Liberation!

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Take heart, Valentine!

In my family, Valentine’s Day was always a day when the women in our family did nice things for each other.

When we were little, my sister and I got stuffed animals and pjs with hearts on them, and when we got older we started buying each other jewelry. One year when she was still in high school, my little sister saved up and got me the most beautiful ring–I still wear it every day.

I don’t know exactly how it started. I think maybe my grandma* started it by giving little stickers and toys to my mom and uncle when they were little, and my mom continued it when my sister and I were born.

It’s not about romance. It’s about pink and red heart shaped things. It’s about stickers and candy. It’s about being too old for a stuffed animal but loving it anyway. It’s about doing something unexpectedly nice.

It’s not about a date. It’s about construction paper.

It’s not about love. It’s about love.

Does that make any sense at all?

This world of ours can be lonely and hard. We all deserve a day when we give each other notes that we sign “<3,” a day when we pause to honor the love that is there, that is always there, a love that we are entitled to just by being born. You are special. You are loved. You make the world a better place.

I hope people see my art this February and feel stronger. I want them to look at it and feel their hearts pump strong and loud like drums. I hope they feel heartened, courageous, like they have the power to change the world one step at a time. I hope they feel like they matter. I hope they feel loved.

I hope my art can be just another little love note to all the good people of the world, just in time for Valentine’s Day.

 

 

*My grandma, by the way, was totally badass and not at all averse to political protest. She got arrested in the 1930s for protesting on behalf of unions for the right to strike.

The Year of the Rooster

It is the year of the rooster, and roosters WAKE. US. UP.

Good f**king morning, my dears! It is time to get up, get woke, get going, and fight the system that is trying to tear apart everything good and beautiful in this country.

I believe in the power of art to help us heal and to help us rally. We will not let Trump and his ilk destroy us. We will protest, we will call, we will push for a healthier world.

Let’s do this!

On “Wokeness”

Dear Politically Savvy Reader,

I love the idea that being politically aware and mindful of the impact one’s behaviors have upon the world, especially with regard to systems of social and political oppression, is the same as being awake.

I love the idea that it is now a trendy bit of slang to be “woke.” I love that young people in this world are interested in being aware of systems of oppression, that they prize being that kind of aware, that awakened, that “woke.” I love that my art show, “Get Woke, Stay Woke,” falls during Black History Month–I hope my use of the term “woke” can help wake people up to the importance of fighting against racial prejudice.

I love Erykah Badu, and I have great respect for her 2008 song “Master Teacher,” which is sometimes credited with being the first use of the term “woke.”

That said, I am not African American. I stand in solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter, and I will forever fight racial prejudice whenever and wherever it rears its ugly head in our world. But I am not African American, and I always try to steer clear of racial appropriation.

If you are at all offended by my use of the term “woke” in the title of my recent show, please let me know. (Email jojo.j.art@gmail.com.) I would like to engage with you. I would like to hear your point of view. Perhaps your point of view will shape my own–I am always learning, always growing.

My most heartfelt thanks for your interest in my art and in my political views.

In gratitude and solidarity,

JoJo

Why the ACLU?

I felt like I was watching a tank run over my little backyard garden.

I knew Trump was going to be bad, but during the first week of his Presidency he made so many horrible executive orders that he seemed completely unstoppable. We protested and called, but each day there were more and more horrible things happening that we couldn’t stop. No one seemed to be able to do anything at all. The House and the Senate and even a Supreme Court nominee–they were so powerful, and we didn’t have a leg to stand on.

They kept doing unprecedented things, nightmarish things, so quickly we couldn’t keep up. They smashed the environment and healthcare, they hired actual Nazis, they threatened LGBTQ equality, and they halted immigration. People have already died because of their reckless first week.

It seemed like the beginning of dystopia. I felt like any moment I’d hear about them sending the army in to “disappear” people, and there wasn’t a thing anyone could do. We were doomed.

But then the lawyers came. Not the kind who wear expensive suits and who find loopholes for corporations, but the kind that I know, the kind I saw work through law school wearing glasses and fleece sweaters and slouching from staying up too late reading. They came to the protests. They came to the airports. They sat on the ground, hunched over on their laptops, working feverishly when we most needed them, to make sure that the people who were being unjustly victimized by an insane autocrat could continue with their travel plans and come inside our country.

And they won! I couldn’t believe it. There was actually a tiny sliver of hope in this insane political climate. The nerds who geeked out over boring legal details actually got the travel ban lifted–they were our sweet tiny David to Trump’s monstrous Goliath. They threw a pebble at the giant machine and crammed its gears enough to give us a moment of hope.

The political horrors have continued. Trump is still banning people from coming in the country, still talking about building a wall, still fighting lawyers and the press and everything else that is beautiful and good in this life. But we can fight back. We will stuffer a lot of losses, but we can gain small victories that will help us remain strong together.

Those lawyers saved people’s lives, and they showed us that there ARE things we can do that will make a difference. They rescued our hope, and for that I will forever be grateful.

 

I’m donating all the money I get from my latest artistic endeavor to the ACLU. The title of the show is “Get Woke, Stay Woke,” and it’s on display at Ula in Jamaica Plain until the first week of March. I’m suggesting about $20 for each piece, but really, it’s a pay-what-you-can situation. Make me an offer! I’ll take it, and give you whatever piece(s) of art you request. (Email jojo.j.art@gmail.com.)

Trump can take away funding for the arts and the humanities, but he will never take away art itself.

Political Protest and Art

Images have the power to comfort us when we are in pain and the power to stir us to action when we are in danger of becoming too complacent.

We need to be comforted. And sometimes, in the very same instant, we need to be stirred up and roused to action. We can’t take the schemes of Trump and all of his cronies lying down. We can’t let ourselves become too overwhelmed. We can’t just spend all day sobbing or drinking or imagining how we might build bunkers during the apocalypse. We need to take courage, to fight back, to band together and give it everything we’ve got.

Art will help us in all of these things.

Lace up your glittery combat boots, friends. We’re just getting started.

The Artist on a Ladder with Friends

Sometimes doing art involves pens and paper or paintbrushes and canvas or fabric and thread and glue.

Sometimes doing art involves other things, like ladders and wire and new email addresses and blog posts and anxiety and silliness and wine and celebratory toasts.

Art is so wonderful! The world is full of amazing!

Thank you, dear friends, who came to help me hang art and toast my accomplishments as we wind our ways down this road of life. Here’s to another wonderful day engaging in the world–l’chaim!

Upon Sharing One’s Art with the World

Next Tuesday, May 17th, would have been my beloved Grandma’s 100th birthday. She died 11 months ago.

In honor of my grandma’s memory, I am sharing a little story and something very important to me.

First, the story.

About 9 or 10 years ago, when Gma was a bit more lucid, I sat down with her to ask her some questions about her life. Even though I had known her all my life, she still managed to surprise me with some of her answers.

I asked her her greatest accomplishment, and she said that besides her children, being editor of Westways Magazine was her greatest feat.

I asked her if she wanted to be reincarnated as anything. I assumed she would roll her eyes at me and tell me to stop talking nonsense–she always laughed at spiritual questions. But instead, she grew quiet and thoughtful for a moment, and she replied that she’s always had a great affinity for little birds.

I asked her if she had any regrets.

I assumed she would say “of course not!” because she always lived her life to the fullest.

In fact, she told me that she regretted not publishing more of her own writing.

What an interesting and beautiful regret!

There was no man who got away in her life. There were no stories of ruined friendship or missed trips to Paris. She didn’t long to see New York just one more time, and she didn’t say anything about wishing she went to college. No, my Gma’s only regret was that she didn’t share more of herself with the world. She wished she focused more on her writing, she wished she paid attention to honing her skills, she wished she took her talent more seriously, and she wished she put herself out there more.

I take that bit of wisdom very much to heart in sharing this next item with you.

Next Tuesday night, May 17th, I will be hanging a collection of my art at Ula Cafe’s art gallery. It is the very first time I will show my work to the public, and it just so happens that the first date I can hang my work falls on Gma’s 100th birthday.

I am happy, I am sad, I am scared, I am rejoicing–I’m a big jumbled up mess! But I am heeding my Gma’s words and sharing more of myself with the world.

For the past 11 months, I have felt compelled toward creativity. I’ve drawn more, I’ve written more, I’ve painted more. This moment, this season, feels like an appropriate time to finally open up and share my art with the world.

Friends, if any of you are in the area and happen to have the evening free, I’d love it if you joined me at Ula pre-hanging from 5pm to 6pm or at Bella Luna for cocktails afterwards (probably at 7:30ish).

And for everyone who can’t make it, I’ll post photos! Your love and support from afar means the world to me.

May we all share ourselves and our art with the world in meaningful ways.

Ready or Not

It was winter in college, and I was horribly depressed. I didn’t want to do anything but sleep all day. Whenever I forced myself to go outside, all I saw was gray. Clouds in the sky, trash in the gutters, nothingness all around me. Anguish. Everything was painful.

One afternoon, I felt a sudden overwhelming desire to paint. I found the school supplies section of the local grocery store, grabbed some crayola watercolors, and rushed back to my apartment.

I started painting, and for the first time in weeks I felt alive.

I painted and painted. I painted flowers and dancers and the ocean and myself. I painted reds and yellows and fiery oranges, I painted frenzied visions of life and dreams and what music would look like if you could see it, and I painted my very soul on a canvas. My art was passionate, and it was beautiful, and it brought me back to life.

And then when everything dried, I put all of the paintings away in a box, and I put the box away my closet. My art was beautiful, but I didn’t know what to do with it. I didn’t think I could ever show it to the world.

I have never thought I could show that part of myself to the world. I didn’t know how to explain it. That was definitely not my only bout with depression, and that was not the only time I’ve been stricken with a sudden and overwhelming desire to create art. I have so many beautiful works of art hidden in my closets, hidden in the attic, but they’ve never seen the light of day.

Until now.

About two months ago (near the winter solstice) I had a terrible week, and I started drawing again. After a few frenzied days of creation, I looked around me and thought, “I’m not hiding them anymore. This is who I am, and it’s time.”

I still can’t explain it, but I don’t care anymore. It’s time to share this part of me with the world. This is who I am, and it’s time I share it with the world.

On Being Overwhelmed by One’s Own Soul

Being an artist is the most important aspect of my identity, but it’s also something I’m terrified of. Artists are crazy. Artists are freaks. People say they like artists, but they only like a token few of them, and even then, people don’t want to see the messy parts. People don’t want to see the experimental, the discordant, the political critiques of modern society. They don’t want the naked howling banshee art; people want artists to wear black clothes and have berets.

 
As much as I dreaded the art in my soul, I could never deny it. When I finally let myself create, I feel the Universe coursing through my veins.