Friday, August 26, 2011

A Brazen Act

 Unfurled by Lynne Hurd Bryant

I did something this week that I found liberating.  I should preface this by saying that I have lived in my little home in Wyoming for five years this week, and when I moved in here, I viewed it as my five-year cocoon.  I felt that at the end of the time, I would emerge from the chrysalis a different woman, one ready for the world in a new way.  I shed my chrysalis by shedding my clothing and posing in the nude for an artist friend. 

I have had some mixed reviews, not about the painting which has been well admired and deservedly so, but comments about what is viewed as a brazen or exhibitionist act; to take my clothes off and allow someone to actually look at my body and interpret it on canvas.  I am 50, and if I am not going to let it all hang out now, then when?  I am not ashamed of my body, but I know I don't have a stunning figure...then again I never did.  It is a vessel that has served me and served me very well.  It has carried several lovely, healthy children and fed them abundantly.  It has loved, touched, worked, nurtured and done the bidding of my heart and mind for half a century.  For its contribution to me, and every life I have had the opportunity to touch, I celebrate it, in its natural state. 

How many times have I heard "I could/would never do that!" from other women?  Many times now.  For the record, I was not embarrassed in the least.  Afraid of judgment, perhaps, but not embarrassed. Had I been asked to discuss my innermost thoughts and feelings, that would be exhibitionist for one, and I would have felt extremely naked and very exposed, for two.  That is the private part of me. There is nothing remarkable in showing one's body...two arms, two legs, a head, feet, hands, belly button...we all have those, right?  It is not extraordinary, it is quite ordinary, when you think about it. 

In the end, I am what I am.  I am not ashamed of my stretchmarks anymore than I am ashamed of saying what I think, or telling a filthy joke, or being extremely direct.  Being able to pose in the nude was really about being comfortable with myself.  I know who I am, what I am, what makes me tick, what makes me happy, what makes me sad, and all points in between.  I am comfortable in my own skin, even when it is all I am wearing.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Feminine Empowerment: A Tribute to Betty Ford

Water Lily by Lynne Hurd Bryant
If one could point to one woman who changed the late 20th Century, that one woman would be Betty Ford.  She changed the way we view femininity, allowing frankness and honesty to become part of the definition.  She made it possible to be definitively lady-like and speak one's truth. She proved that wearing a dress didn't mean weakness or fragility.  We owe her much.

Mrs. Ford was the first woman to speak publicly about breast cancer and addiction.  The Betty Ford Center is her living legacy, giving a better life to tens of thousands of people who would not otherwise have sought help.  It is impossible to know how many breast cancer victims would have died, had she not encouraged all women in being examined and tested.

In thinking about the ever increasing openness she encouraged, it is easy to name a multitude of issues that are now discussed openly; homosexuality, impotence, incest, child abuse, alcoholism, HIV/AIDS, and the list goes on.  This free discussion of previously personal issues has lead us from Jerry Springer to reality TV, the down side of being able to discuss anything publicly.  These shows miss the point that Mrs. Ford brought us:  Dignity.

Reality TV, which seems to be every other show on television these days, is a chance to let people with problems bare it all.  This is summertime, my younger daughter is home from college and she loves this garbage, so I have had this inflicted upon me, once again.  These shows have always struck me as people behaving badly in front of a camera, and for the all the world to see.  Having challenges in life does not entitle one to behave badly, in front of a camera or in life.  Letting it "all hang out" doesn't solve the problems and it is anything, but dignity.

There is a fine line between being honest and saying too much, between honoring your personal reality and attention seeking, between being a good example and serving as a warning to others.  Mrs. Ford walked this line with great skill, and I admire her for it.  She was one of the last great American ladies, and a true lady, she was.

As my grandmother used to say:  It is not what happens to you, it is how you take it. Betty Ford met her challenges with grace and personal integrity, which we would all do well to remember and emulate.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Firecracker day

July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress unanimously voted for independence from British tyranny.  Our founding fathers risked their lives in this pursuit.  Under British law, this was considered treason, punishable by death.  The document ratified was written by Thomas Jefferson, a Virginia slave owner.  Benjamin Franklin and John Adams had a hand in editing some of the superb language, but felt that Jefferson's work was exquisite, as do we today. However, we feel somewhat differently about freedom than Jefferson did.

John Adams was an intense personality with a fiery temper.  His views arose from deep sentiment and a strong sense of morality.  On July 3, 1776, he wrote three letters to his wife, Abigail. He expressed a great deal of excitement in the last letter of that day, the day before that most auspicious of days, July 4, the day that would change the world, the day that set forth radical ideas and would ultimately change the course of mankind.  Adams sensed this and with his usual verve, he wrote Abigail with his visions for the future.  He felt that July 4th would be celebrated as a national holiday with fireworks and parties in the streets.  He understood the magnitude of this event before it had even taken place.  He could not have envisioned the magnitude of current events.

I live in a small town in Wyoming where people are allowed to shoot off fireworks.  Families often spend more on fireworks than on Christmas so that the air is heavy with sulfurous smoke and the roads littered with garbage. This is done without understanding the purpose of the day.  In the last couple of years, I have asked neighborhood children why we shoot off fireworks on July 4th.  The reply?  Because it is firecracker day!  I said no, it is the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.  What is that?  The day we celebrate the end of British rule and British tyranny, the day we became a nation in our own right.  They looked at me as if I were speaking Greek.  It would seem we have taken Jesus Christ out of Christmas and now we have taken freedom out of the 4th of July.  I wonder what Adams and Jefferson would say to this. 

George Washington, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were the first three presidents of a great nation we call the United States of America.  Washington lead an army for freedom.  Adams lit the flames on the torch of patriotism for the new nation.  Jefferson gave us heart and inspiration.  Today, our army fights for freedom, though not ours. The flames of patriotism are often merely the smoke that blinds us to the needs of one another.  Our heart and inspiration have become an attitude of individuality that cares not for the common good. 

These 235 years on, it is time to revisit our history books and our forefathers.  It is time to understand that while we fought back tyranny of one kind, we traded it for another; a tyranny of apathy, disinterest and ignorance.  We have come full circle to taxation without true representation and to the type of bloated federal machine that has no more concern or understanding of its citizens than King George III had for the colonists.

This is the year to declare our independence once again.  It is time to understand history so we are not doomed to repeat it.  It is time to understand that the gift of freedom carries a burden of responsibility, and that those responsibilities belong to all of us.  The unalienable rights, to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is the American definition of freedom, but freedom is not freedom without equity.  It is time to go back to the source, read it and understand it; create a few fireworks of home grown variety.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

It was better than sex!

Golden Grin   10 x 14 Watercolor 

There is sex, that physical act, and then there is love making.  While often playing semantics, there is a discernible difference between the two.  Making love implies an emotional connection, a certain intimacy that transcends the physical, and often has nothing to do with sexual intercourse.  Making love can be present in all kinds of relationships, in fact, as it is the uniquely human ability to connect on a spiritual plane.

Suze Orman says, quite accurately, that women are more relational than men.  A woman cannot do well with anything in her life, unless she has a relationship with it.  While Suze is talking about women and money, I think this idea is important.  How many things do you have in your life, and how many of these things do you see in terms of relationship?

For me, one of these things is my artwork.  I have never considered that I have a relationship with it, nor have I felt that having a relationship with my art is important.  I have always considered my art to be an extension of myself, the "self" within.  When I post my work online I often feel naked, as though I have exposed something that should be kept covered up and private.  It feels as though I am baring my soul for the world to see.  Perhaps that is true, but there are other forces at work here too.

If you were to ask me two weeks ago if I had a relationship with my art, I'd have thought for a moment and felt, in a vague way, that it was a relationship of sorts, but a contentious one; I do a lot of fighting and arguing, frequently feeling a lot of disgust and frustration.  If I had a human life partner and we shared the sort of angst I have had with my art, we would soon be divorced.  No one likes to live like that!

Two days after my birthday, February 20, I had a "better than sex" experience with making art.  I made love with my art.  I have never done that before.  I realized, quite suddenly, that this is more than an extension of the self.  I suddenly understood that I have to build a relationship with this activity.  I have to love it unconditionally, appreciate it, build on it, trust it, believe in it, nurture it, as I would any important relationship in my life.  Then, and only then, am going to be able to relate to it as intimately as I did last week.  It was the most singular experience of my life, quite the defining moment.  It was the most intoxicating and draining, energizing and exciting emotional experience of my life.  It was like discovering that a passionate lover lives next door and it only took 37 years to notice how attractive that person is!

The brass tacks of painting will never be the same for me.  I have a profoundly intimate relationship with something of beauty and delicate substance, if I chose to honor it with my love.  And I do