What is Art? Part 1

People often ask me, after some time, for my definition or understanding of art. What is more important: to define or to understand? Art cannot be defined so it’s better to try and explain how it can be understood. The way I understand art is not definitive. Different kinds of artworks demand different standards and criteria, if not values. It is true for every discipline: how can you judge ballroom dancing the same way as hiphop? How can you judge a novel on the same terms as a poem? How could you compare techno to bluegrass? You can and you can’t; it is both true and unjust. Continue reading “What is Art? Part 1”

Uncompromising: the Bilingual Mind

It’s always been difficult for me, as a teacher mostly, but as a person, to say no, absolutely not, I’m putting my foot down and won’t budge. I find it so unhealthy in the latter and necessary in the former. Definitely, this has caused some conflict at work and I’m beginning to wonder, for personal matters, if it is really the right way (at least I should lax or slacken my pace on my way to “perfection”)

I tend to associate unwillingness to poor communication skills externally and immaturity internally. I value the ability to listen to someone from ta place of empathy, receptivity, and openness; it is immature to always have your way and worse, throw a tantrum if you don’t get it. Apparently, to grow up means to convert this tantrum into violence or threat of violence. Unwillingness and stubbornness stall peace and understanding.

However, in Cisneros’ 1992 interview, in which she explains her bilingual style, she makes comments that are righteously uncompromising, in a way I admire and hold to great esteem. When the interview suggested that she translated her work internally, she corrected him: “Sometimes.” The interview agreed: “Not all of it.” She reaffirms: “No, I don’t have to.” Continue reading “Uncompromising: the Bilingual Mind”

Music and Witness in Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues”

It is undeniable that Sonny’s Blues is purposefully ambiguous in its title: it is about music and his sorrows. Sonny’s blues are little brother’s blues. In a way, in our own lives, we always have some “older brother”: someone looming over us telling us what to do or shitting on our dreams as a form of love out of “what’s best for us” (exactly what are you going to do with that “Art” degree?).

Sonny mopes around the house wanting to drop out of school to become a musician. his father isn’t having it, probably for witnessing his own brother’s death. His own brother (sonny’s uncle) was flattened, reduced to wood, “blood, and pulp.” The wood was his guitar. Walking in the moonlight, Sonny’s uncle (a teenager at the time) was run overr by drunk drivers, drunk enough to want to scare him, too drunk to swerve out of the way, white enough to keep driving. Sonny’s father wouldn’t let this happen again, not on his watch.

Oddly enough, the story is told in first person narrative through Sonny’s unnamed older brother (who I shall now refer to as OB). OB is as clueless as he is stable (clueless therefore stable?). He’s so far out of the loop but it’s safe there because in the loop of Harlem, is darkness, Baldwin writes. In the loop there is the cycle, and the cycle affects everyone; the wisest way it was put was through Sonny’s mama: “It aint a question of [Sonny] being a good boy or his having good sense. It ain’t only the badness, not yet the dumb ones that get sucked under.” Why is it that we want maximum punishment for those who have wronged us and that we want minimum punishment (and maximum empathy) for those who we have wronged? Continue reading “Music and Witness in Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues””

Colton: A Hologram of Sound

I know a boy who is trying to keep himself together, trying to make a man of himself, trying to keep his band together, but I already said that: I said he was trying to keep himself together. When I say keep his band together, you should’ve read “he’s trying to keep himself together” for the second time. It’s a rock band, and he’s jazz, the best you’ve ever heard because it’s so desperate (don’t misconstrue: he isn’t desperate, his music is).

This one is a martyr, like all artists are, not the triers, the doers, the ones on pursuit, the ones with no Plan B, the ones whose core is not a heart, and lungs, and liver, but everyone’s suffering and you wonder: “How can his body endure it; how can one body store so much suffering?”

It becomes transformed, maybe, in its expulsion into sonic sorrow, and when the sound fades, sorrow with it. Remember the dying note. Remember its final axis: the very exact second sound meets silence. I want to live there; I’ve never known so much peace as the peace of that exact moment. Continue reading “Colton: A Hologram of Sound”

Interior Ocean

In the yoga studio, the fifteen of us lie still, at the end, and our breaths are in unison; our breaths resemble the sound of waves. I’m rocked back into my memories.

The darkness behind my eyelids is softened by the low lit screens all around us. Though I’m perfectly still on the ground, my body lightens and begins to feel as if it is swaying.

My breathing channels through my body like waves and I feel layers of me shifting surfaces, moving forward and backward, forward and backward, swinging. The breaths of others around me are the waves gently lapping the coast, the distant waves folding into themselves; they are the waves molding over my skin, like an aqueous shield, but soon breaking in foam all around me. Continue reading “Interior Ocean”

Home Thoughts

When I see your pale face and black hair I ask myself if you could be Hispanic. In fact, I think of my childhood doctor Dr.Bengochea.

I see a woman’s printed pants: black, white, and blue, and it reminds me of the tiles in Sevilla, Spain.

It makes me yearn for home and I wonder why I’m not home. But then I remember I don’t belong there. I don’t belong here either.

I’m in between and never really comfortable anywhere .

I thought of the essay “Elsewhere”, by Kundera. I thought about self-exiles and displacement: it isn’t very much a tragedy, so much as an acceptance that nowhere will ever be just right.

Some people are born with their homes on their back

Shakespeare, Faulkner, and Tattoos

My best friend Basak is getting a tattoo, of a skull, on her right ankle. I said I’d get a matching one. Surprised and touched, she yelled in excitement and curiosity “Baby!” . She didn’t question me “Are you sure?” She already knew that there was something deeper. I’m not the type of woman to follow just to follow. I’m not silly enough to get a permanent mark on my body just to fit in. I’m not that whimsical. So…. why?

Life is surprising, that is why. Unpack that: Continue reading “Shakespeare, Faulkner, and Tattoos”

Watching Ballet

For a moment, I saw my humanity lying on the floor on a stage during a ballet performance. He laid there with his eyes dutifully glued to the ceiling. I could see him because my ticket said A24. Only once he tried to roll his eyes back to see his colleague dancing. How difficult it must be to lay there with everyone dancing behind you, just out of reach. Right now, it’s not my turn dance but to quiet catch my breath, looking dutifully where I’m supposed to, because it’s a part of my performance.

I started to cry and directed all my concentration on him. I hope he could feel it: the human extension.

The second time I felt my worth, was during the duet. This time I felt myself on Earth, as a part of a whole. I felt all the tenderness of touch . Most importantly, it reminded me that I was full of love and emotion. It seemed that there (in that moment), I had no more hate to give. How could I let this (my will) expire? No, this (feeling) could not be wrong. No, this should not be snuffed. There was no man, no woman, no black, no what; there wasn’t a thing as power. It was me, the world, the world within and without me.

How beautiful a thing that as humans, we dance for each other. We play music for each other. We give each other these gifts. It made me feel very hopeful and glad to be alive.

If art is not your most valuable currency, then I am a pauper. 

Watching 21st Century Choreographers at the New York City Ballet, May 1, 2018.
                   Dance Odyssey 
                   Pictures at an Exhibition
                   Year of the Rabbit 

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