Pain to Creative Expression: Art as a Dynamic Power of Now.
Turning scars into art is somewhat of a theme at Rebelle Society. As is the role of art in healing.
Rebelle Society is comprised of many of us who have chosen to turn our pain into the most compostable thing we can: Art. Using our creative gifts to enact healing is a conscious act of rebellion against suffering. We create as a means to communicate what is happening in both our individual and collective worlds. We create because there is much work to be done, and there is nothing more powerful to do with the pain but use it as a tool.
In this new collective, this new virtual country called Rebelle Society, we truly believe that “Creativity is the greatest form of rebellion.” ~ Osho
We also believe that “when it comes to technology and communication, we’re at a place of synergy and synchronicity like never before. It is imperative that we make a mindful, heartfelt use of it.”
As a self-professed Rebelle recruiter, I am always on the look out for those among us who also “… regard Art as a dynamic matter of Now.”
I seek those whose actions manifest the shared understanding that:
“Art is not just a museum affair. Objects are less than people and no work of art is ever finished. We are our own living collage of images, memories, experiences, relationships, thoughts and feelings. As such, we must constantly make Art that is synonymous with Life.” ~ Rebelle Society Creative Manifesto
As I watch events unfold in this land of interwebs and virtuality, I am always on the lookout for new contributors. I scout out those who are taking risks and making a stand in creative ways — those rebelling against the pain with beauty. I also try to pay close attention to the news. And those who create it.
And so, without further ado, I would like to introduce the work of artist Howard Barry and journalist Kenya Vaughn. Barry was interviewed by Vaughn recently, regarding the use of his local newspaper as a canvas for his art, which is often inspired by the events in his daily life.
Through a generous collaboration with the St. Louis American and with the permission of the artist, I am able to share an excerpt from the interview, along with selected pieces of Howard Barry’s artwork. It is my effort at helping to curate our global community. And a warm welcome to all our brothers and sisters from St. Louis to the fold of creative rebellion. You are welcome here. Your passport was issued at birth and cannot be revoked.
The world is watching. And waiting. Rebelle On.
*headline: ‘american’ becomes canvas for ferguson-inspired protest art (by Kenya Vaughn)
“Using The St. Louis American, let me take what I had going on in my head and how I’m dealing with this situation — and what I want to say about it through my art — and lent credibility to my voice,” said creative artist and graphic designer Howard Barry.
Since the August 14 edition of The American hit newsstands across the city and county, Barry has been using the pages related to the Michael Brown tragedy as his personal canvas.
That Thursday’s paper was a front-to-back commemoration of the thoughts, feelings and perspectives that emerged in response to Brown’s death and the subsequent community outrage that would ultimately capture the world’s attention.
“I needed something to lock it in for me — kind of like they do with hostages where they make them take a picture with that newspaper to stamp the time and the date,” Barry said. “I wanted that for me. I didn’t want it to be another one of those things where we get mad and then we move on.“
Barry has created more than 50 pieces of art with pages from The American as his backdrop.
“For me it was kind of like therapy,” Barry said. “I had to find some kind of way of dealing with what was going on, but not just being another angry voice.“
The killing of unarmed teen Michael Brown on August 9 at the hands of Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson hit especially close to home for Barry as a resident of neighboring Northwoods.
A working visual artist and designer, Barry is currently pursuing his undergraduate degree at University of Missouri, St. Louis. He returned to his childhood passion of art after a traumatic brain injury forced him to leave the military after 10 years and return to his hometown.
“I would find myself trying to go on with my everyday life, but I’m going down West Florissant and the roads are blocked and I’m seeing everybody’s reaction,” Barry said. “I would come home and try to work and be so frustrated that it was coming out in other things that I was doing. I had pieces I was working on, and every facial expression was angry.“
While carrying on with his usual Thursday ritual of picking up the paper, Barry stumbled upon a creative outlet to channel his rage.
He made the pages of the paper cry with images that captured Michael Brown’s parents reacting to the teen’s death. Antonio French, who had been on the frontlines of Ferguson, was depicted with a face twisted and tired from the daily frustrations of peaceful protests marred by an overly aggressive police force.
“Going through the paper and some of the images that I had in mind, the headlines and the articles seemed to be a perfect fit,” Barry said. “I had to go get more copies of the papers, because once I started with them, they just kept coming.“
A native of neighboring Kinloch who was once a young black male teen targeted by police, the connection with the Michael Brown tragedy was more than a geographical one for Barry.
“I grew up knowing that there were people who for arbitrary reasons put a bull’s eye on me,” Barry said. “My dad wouldn’t let me go into Ferguson or Berkeley or the surrounding areas for that reason. He was constantly coaching me on what to say when I encountered those officers and made me aware that my life was on the line.“
Barry wants to have an exhibition in the near future to showcase the work and — strictly due to demand — is selling reprints of select pieces. He said he will donate a portion of proceeds to organizations that are helping bring healing to Ferguson.
“In the future when people talk about this, I want to show people it wasn’t just a story that you read about in books,” Barry said. “These were people with years of emotional hurt, things that they’ve been choking down for years, and they finally said, ‘Enough is enough.’“
We agree, then. Enough is Enough. This is not just a story in a book or a page from a newspaper. This is Life. This is Art.
This is about real people who are hurting and in pain and in need of healing. This is about a world that is in need of healing. And this is about creating the means to rebel against the systems of injustice that kill and maim and wound us all. This is about standing together as a global community, comprised of billions of individual humans. It’s about humanity, damnit! And it’s about time we are all finally treated as humans.
Look at the faces you see. Do not turn away from those you meet.
There is no Us and Them.
And please, please, please… from Gaza to Ferguson, from Liberia to NYC, from Afghanistan to Ukraine, please please please Stop Killing Us. Stop.
* Original article on Barry’s work was written by Kenya Vaughn and published Thursday, September 18, 2014 in The St. Louis American. It is reprinted with permission.