Archive for September 15, 2013

A Reflection On Reflections

Over the years I have had something of a love/hate relationship with reflections.  When I was young, I always wanted, just once, for the person I saw reflected in the mirror to be a movie star, and not the awkward girl that I perceived myself to be.  As I grew older, I began to understand that our expectations of what we wanted to see in the mirror were based on the deliberate marketing of false expectations that fed our insecurities.  I also began to realize that much of what women were expected to look like was informed by the male gaze.  Wall upon wall in museums were (and still are) filled with images of how men see women and television and the movies are, even today, dominated by male perceptions of what women should look like.

Some years ago, those realizations led to my doing a series of artistic explorations about how women see themselves including several pieces on mirror glass that are impossible to view without one’s own reflection becoming part of what is seen, as mine is in this photo of Venus Deconstructed.  By definition, this work looks different to each person as they become reflected in the mirrored surface as they view it.

With Venus 1 Copyright

My reflection in “Venus Deconstructed”, photo and mixed media collage by Lucinda Marshall, ©2013.

More recently, I’ve worked with some photographic reflections that by virtue of technique completely change the nature of what is reflected, using duplicating lenses and shooting images in multi-dimensional surfaces (think disco balls).  When the subject of the photo is a person, it is usually me because I’m not comfortable asking others to subject themselves to my reflected distortions.

Duplicated Self Portrait in Mirror with Pottery Copyright

Duplicated Self Portrait in Mirror with Pottery, photo by Lucinda Marshall, © 2013

Some of the most breathtaking reflections are of course found in nature, something I was reminded of a few weeks ago when walking at a nearby lake which contains a stunning field of water lotuses.  Growing as they do in the water, on a sunny day it is almost as if the field is of double density because you see not only the lotuses but also their reflections.  But what is particularly breathtaking is the subtle difference between the flowers and their reflections in the water.  To my eye, the image of the flower and its reflection is beautiful and each taken separately is also beautiful.  But perhaps if I was the flower, I would hate that my petals look so dark and that the image in the water seems so flat.

Lotus Reflection in Water 5 Copyright

Water Lotus Reflection in Water, photo by Lucinda Marshall, ©2013

So why do I tell you all this?  Because much of what we see, whether it is in a mirror, or in an advertisement for the latest shade of lipstick or the idealized images on a museum wall, are distortions of reality, whether due to optical effect or the subjective gaze of the image’s creator.  Yet these distortions so often become the reality of what we see that, to borrow from my favorite Lily Tomlin monologue, it becomes quite difficult to explain the difference between a can of soup and an Warhol painting of the same.

I show’em this can of Campbell’s tomato soup.
I say,
“This is soup”.
Then I show’em a picture of Andy Warhol’s painting
of a can of Campbell’s tomato soup. I say,
“This is art.”

“This is soup.”

“And this is art.”

Then I shuffle the two behind my back.

Now what is this?

this is soup and this is art!

I dread having to explain tartar sauce!

Whatever you may think of the reflected lotus in the photo above, it isn’t the same as the lotus and our reflection in the mirror is not who we are or even what we look like. And airbrushed advertisements are not what the models we think we are seeing look like and the people in a Picasso painting most definitely aren’t the distortions that he painted. Maybe that is obvious, but I know that I spend way too much time in front of mirrors trying to make myself look a little better than I think I look and perhaps it is useful to reflect on the fact that we aren’t our reflections, nor are we how others view us.

Sunday Morning Talk Show Fantasy Guest Lineup, Women Talking About Syria Edition

Some people have fantasy football teams.  I have fantasy Sunday morning talk show guest panels that are made up entirely of women.  These are my picks for my fantasy panel, Syria edition.

As U.S. posturing on Syria has escalated, the media has trotted out old white guy after old white guy as “experts”, never mind many of them are the same men who lied to us about chemical weapons in Iraq and then commenced to bomb the Iraqis with all manner of chemical weapons which left a horrifying epidemic of cancer, birth defects and death in that country and have backed U.S. policies that have contributed to the current situation in Syria and Middle East unrest in general.

I think most of us are supremely tired of listening to these guys and of a media that simply parrots the  talking points of U.S. military domination.

Imagine if instead they presented a balanced view that brought in people who articulate alternative visions and oh what the heck, how about we just kick all the men out and listen to women for a change.

So for the benefit of the media,  here are some voices you ought to be including as commentators in your coverage of Syria:

1.  Sarah Van Gelder writes in Yes! Magazine that, “there are at least six strategies that could hold wrongdoers to account, deter war crimes of all sorts, and build peace”:

  1. Bring those guilty of atrocities to justice
  2. Call for a United Nations embargo on arms, military supplies, and logistical support for both Damascus and opposition forces
  3. The U.N. Security Council should hold an international peace conference
  4. Offer aid and support to the nonviolent movements within Syria
  5. Provide the humanitarian aid desperately needed by the millions of displaced people
  6. Force the hand of Russia and China in the Security Council

2.  The women’s human rights organization MADRE similarly calls for the Obama Administration to:

  1. Stop the flow of weapons into Syria
  2. Renew focus on diplomacy to end the conflict
  3. Increase humanitarian aid to the region

3.  The Nobel Women’s Initiative (who unlike President Obama, are using their status as Nobel Peace Prize winners  to promote peaceful solutions) has put out a statement that reads:

The use of chemical weapons in Syria is a crime that cannot be ignored but bombing Syria is not the answer. Military intervention in Syria can only lead to more death and destruction, and further fuel the volatile situation in the region.

We applaud the vote of the UK’s Parliament against endorsing British involvement in attacks on Syria, and call upon the United States to step back from the brink of attacking yet another country in the Middle East/North Africa region. Such a move can only result in more hatred, more violence and more retaliation.

We call upon the UN Security Council to accept its responsibility to act in response to the use of chemical weapons in Syria instead of the ongoing posturing of its members based on their own self-interest instead of concern about the people of Syria.

We urge the Security Council to ensure the nonviolent resolution of this crisis within the ongoing crisis of the civil war in Syria. We call upon the Security Council to refer the matter to the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

We also call on the International Community to urgently convene the Syria Peace Conference, known as Geneva II, and to ensure women meaningfully participate. (emphasis mine)

4.  Sonali Kolhatkar of KPKF’s Uprising radio program and Co-Director of the Afghan Women’s Mission writes,

Students of American imperial history do not have to look too far back to see the disastrous consequences of bombing dictatorial governments. As the debate over a US military strike on Syria heats up in Congress, American antiwar activists are clear in their opposition to the push for war. And they are correct to oppose any sort of military strikes if the long arc of destructive US foreign policy is to be trusted to remain the same.

5.  Medea Benjamin points out that most Americans do not support the idea of bombing Syria.

6. Amnesty International looks at the problems of sexual harassment and forced marriages faced by Syrian women refugees.

7.  The Women’s Media Center’s Women Under Siege has run a number of pieces about women in Syria.

The U.S. media owes its audience a fair and balanced representation of the issues, not just pro-war talking points and they need to include women’s voices and concerns as part of that discussion.


Postscript–As several readers have pointed out, I left out the crucial voice of Phyllis Benis.

The Fourth Metamorphosis

Butterfly Pavilion 2

Photo by Lucinda Marshall, ©2012

One morning late last winter, feeling deeply depleted, I yanked the router cable from the wall, turned off my computer and crawled in bed with pen and paper and gave myself permission to write whatever I needed to write. I thought perhaps I might do some journaling but what ended up on the paper was poetry, something I hadn’t written for many years. As I wrote, I realized I’d been suffering from paragraph fatigue and needed to be able to write in a far less rigid mode. Quite a few pages later, I crawled out of bed and reconnected the wifi, but I didn’t put down the pen. As I continue to explore poetry, my work is once again flourishing and I consider it a necessary part of my writing life.

And thus begins what I consider the fourth metamorphosis of my work, which began in architectural design with some vague idea of designing Utopia and at the very least in the meantime, some earth-friendly structures. After the birth of my first child I migrated into art–painting whimsical furnishings and making fabric baskets and some really bad ass and sometimes erotic mixed media art about how women see women because I was damned tired of going to museums and seeing how men see women.

In 2001, in response to the deep misogyny that was surfacing in the anti-war movement, and my concerns about how war in Afghanistan and Iraq would impact women, I founded the Feminist Peace Network. At the time I didn’t expect it to replace the art, but it became clear after awhile that while I was both a visual and verbal creator, I was dreadful at doing both at the same time. Since then, I’ve written about many issues, often with little turn around time in the 24/7 media world. Part of that work has been writing the FPN blog and since 2006, that has added up to almost 1800 posts! It’s been a privilege to do this writing, but somewhere along the line, my personal has gotten lost in my political and I need to re-balance the gaze and pace of my writing.

To accomplish that, I am ending the FPN blog so that I may free up the time and energy for new work (although I still plan to maintain the website and Facebook and Twitter feeds and be involved in human rights and social justice work). I will continue to write opinion pieces when I am so moved and they will appear on this, my personal blog, but they will be interspersed with poetry and pictures of wondrous things and great silences that you may presume are filled with my feet hiking along a trail, a good nap or perhaps deep meditation and lots of good food and laughter and hugging my loved ones, working in my own community and yes, you’ll no doubt still find me at demonstrations now and again carrying signs and standing my peace.