Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Power of Images and Words

I woke up this morning to pouring rain and a family running around in stealth mode as they prepared for Mom's Day. H took the kids out and I sat down at the computer for some leisurely surfing with my tea and breakfast.

First video I saw was MIA's Born Free. Holy Wow. I wish I had been more prepared. My gut was churning, and I was trembling for at least an hour afterward. Take that as a warning if you plan to watch the video. It is intense. Violent. MIA flips stereotypes upside down by showing US forces rounding up redheaded young males and taking them into the desert to pick them off one by one in a sort of "redhead genocide". Disturbing, to say the least. And kind of eye-opening, too. I'm sure it will/does challenge many viewers' assumptions and associations with certain images and representations.

I wandered around afterward, searching for ways to get back to that leisurely space I was in pre-MIA-video, and it struck me how privileged I am - to know that my kids are safe. That I can sit at my computer and leisurely surf while eating breakfast. That I know I'll wake up tomorrow and celebrate with my family. What a jolt to be reminded that these are considered privileges and not rights. Basic human rights.

I didn't know what to do with myself because I was a bit of a mess with those images still fresh in my mind. So I started tidying up, a trick I learned from my mother who was always a bit of a mess :). And my eyes lit upon a video the hubs brought home - Tell Them Anything You Want: A Portrait of Maurice Sendak, by Lance Bangs and Spike Jonze. I popped it in. The images of trees, the silence of Connecticut in the winter, the colour of leaves in the fall, the love between siblings and friends and family, and the connection with animals were soothing. Reminded me of the fragile, but persistent struggle for Life to prevail, even in the harshest of circumstances.

I thought, too, of what a gift words and images can be - what a soothing balm they often have been. Bringing me off ledges and surrounding me in warmth and safety. Sometimes tearing me down and other times building me up.

There were many poignant moments in the video, but here are a few quotes from Sendak's interview in Tell Them Anything You Want:

About Where the Wild Things Are, "I knew, I knew, I knew it would cause a lot of trouble. And my editor knew it and all she did was encourage me. 'Go for it, go for it. Don't worry about anything or anybody'."

About his editor, "Her name was Ursula Nordstrom. She made me who I am. She gave me a book every year. She kept me working. I mean, can you imagine mentorship from a publishing house? She intended that I should be an important illustrator. She knew I could be. I had bad habits, I never went to art school, I drew in a clumsy fashion, but she could see beneath that."

"It's not true that I write books for children because I have this adoration of childhood. No. It's a peculiarity of mine that I do this. What I do is peculiar, but it's all I can do."

"Having children takes talent, like any creative thing you want to do - if you want to be good at it."

"When I was gay, the world was extremely unwelcoming and it was very different. And it was something you hid...I missed out on a lot of fun... When I was young, I was worried that that knowledge, were it to come out, would ruin my career."

"I did some good books, which mostly is an isolationist's form of life--doing books, doing pictures. And it is the only true happiness I've ever, ever enjoyed in my life. It's sublime. To just go into another room and make pictures. It's magic time, where all your weaknesses of character and all blemishes of personality and whatever else torments you fades away...it just doesn't matter. You're doing the one thing you want to do and you do it well and you know you do it well and you're happy."

"I think what I offered was different, but not because I drew better than anybody, or wrote better than anybody, but because I was more honest than anybody."

"And in the discussion of children and the lives of children and fantasies of children and the language of children, I said anything I wanted. Because I don't believe...that there's a demarcation - 'well, you mustn't tell them that and you mustn't tell them that.' You can tell them anything you want. Just tell them if it's true. If it's true, you tell them."

1 comment:

Adventures in Children's Publishing said...

Fantastic and well-written post! Thank you so much for sharing this. I'll have to check out the Sendak video.

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