Is it just me, or is life just surreal? The common theme of this photo series is conveying everyday surreality. Granted that New York is a very good place to capture this, but to some degree, examples of this can be found everywhere. There is normality and order, and then there are exceptions to this. I find the exceptions stirring. Is there a moral or profound conclusion? I don’t think so. Some aspects of life can escape notice to an untrained eye — I used my camera to linger on them long enough, intending to bring them more firmly into the conscious mind.
As humans, we are relational beings. Most obviously, we develop and rely on relationships with others (e.g., family, friends, or work associates), creating a sense of community. Less obvious are the relationships we create with ourselves, with activities we do that give us purpose, and with nature. The following poetry collection touches on a variety of impactful relationships between an individual and the self; parents, grandparents, and cherished things; community during a crisis; tribal/clan culture; and God and nature. Who are we if not a compilation of who and what we choose to surround ourselves with?
“The Winning Way” examines the slow, insidious chipping away of one’s own conscience through adherence to rigid belief systems, which provide a comforting certainty. It takes a hard look at what humans are willing to give up to feel connected, and how easy it is for us to fall prey to sinister ideas and beliefs when we are hungry, nearly starving with unmet needs. This story taps into a drama currently playing out in the world, as COVID-19 runs rampant, along with conspiracies. Many families are watching as vulnerable loved ones cleave to groups such as QAnon. They ask themselves, “How can they believe these things?” This story is a response to that question.
How does art act as an indication of societal upheaval? This unique piece combines personal narrative and art history to remind us the roles we play are often conditioned by the structures we rail against.
How do we heal from trauma? Can we truly learn from traumatic events or are we doomed to repeat the same mistakes, mindlessly, until death? To deal with trauma, what defenses do we put up, and how do we keep those defenses from blocking our growth?
How do we keep our emotionality in check? As a species, what regulatory mechanisms do we employ to balance negative and positive experiences? Does society influence our psychological balancing act, or is this primarily an individual responsibility?
If ‘good’ is what causes pleasure and ‘evil’ is what causes pain, is death evil? Or, do we live in a universe where what happens to is indifferent and only how we relate to it is good or bad? Is death a transformative experience or the cessation of life and consciousness?
Are we benefiting from mental health diagnoses, medications, and treatments? Or, is the current mental health industry causing more harm than healing? How do we accurately deal with psychological distress?
Can extreme religious behavior or ideation be considered an addiction in the same way drug and substance abuse is? How can this categorization affect the way we understand mental health issues?
Can understanding the political trauma of the past help to contextualize the present?