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Godin Defines Art, Anzaldua Discusses Art, Art City Displays Art: Portal at Burning Man

September 16, 2019



A useful definition of art by Seth Godin

Art is a human activity. It is the creation of something new, something that might not work, something that causes a viewer to be influenced.

Art uses context and culture to send a message. Instead of only a contribution of beauty or craft, art adds intent. The artist works to create something generous, something that will change us.

Art isn’t painting or canvas or prettiness. Art is work that matters.

It’s entirely possible that you’re an artist.

Everyone can be, if we choose.

“Art is work that matters.”  Just let that sink in for a moment, and reflect on what that means.

So much of what we do seems worthless, like it doesn’t matter. But it is up to us to make it matter, to make something that matters.

To have an intent that what we make is transformative, not merely transmissive. In the process of making art, we change ourselves, we change the world.

I grew up going to museums and seeing art. We couldn’t afford to buy much art so my mom rented paintings and it was like we had a rotating gallery in our home. While the walls may have been “Navajo white” the paintings gave our home and my life color and depth.

Unlike my sister and brother who could both draw, my art was writing, and lesser so, graphic design and photography so I went into newspapers, and I never saw myself as an artist.

Until I became connected with Art City. This stone sculpture studio and gallery provided me with an untapped and unknown visual arts experience beyond designing newspapers and flyers.

I hooked up with Art City not long after my first visit to Black Rock City, aka Burning Man. The combination of experiences radically changed my life. And while I continued to go to Burning Man, it took several years before fellow Art Citizens made the journey to Nevada. And even longer for anyone from Art City to apply for and get an arts honorarium.

This year, in 2019, the Art City Monsters pictured below applied for and received an honorarium to make and bring “Portal” to Burning Man’s Metamorphoses.

The Portal was a very popular art installation on the playa with many photos shot and with even a few weddings held there. It was also featured in this year’s Burning Man video by Stefan Spins who made “Home” which is one of my favorites.

The Portal invites you to pass through from one side to the other, from this to that.

Where do you want the Portal to take YOU?

This Weds, Sept. 18, my students and I will visit Art City at 197 Dubbers, located off of Olive near the Ventura Avenue Vons and the onramp to the Highway 33 and the bike route to Ojai. We will also spend time in the Avant Garden with the large stone works and permaculture where Lynne Okun will talk with us. We will likely also meet up with a few Art Citizens and Art City Monsters.

And today we will be discussing Gloria Anzaldua’s charismatic work “Path of the Red and Black Ink” where she discusses the artistic process:

1. What distinctions does Anzaldúa make between how “Western culture think(s) of art works” and how Mexican tribal cultures think of art works? About the life of the artifact, for instance? Or the idea of “virtuosity”? Or the idea of artistic “power”? Or about ethnocentrism, “borrowing,” and the role of art in everyday culture? What statement does Anzaldúa ultimately make about the future of Western culture? What solutions does she propose for the problems that “unchecked, could blow us into acid rain in a fraction of a millisecond”?

2. Is “The Path of the Red and Black Ink” a work of nonfiction or fiction? What, for instance, does the line “I write the myths in me, the myths I am, the myths I want to become” suggest about the work itself? Are there passages in which the genre of “The Path of the Red and Black Ink” seems to change, or in which the author’s relationship to something the reader might call “fact” or “reason” dramatically changes? Using the standards for creativity that Anzaldúa offers, what transformation of consciousness (if any) has occurred in those passages?

3. What is a “Borderland”? Anzaldúa writes, “Being a writer feels very much like being a Chicana, or being queer.” How does the idea of a “Borderland” describe a variety of psychological states, and positions within a society? What makes living in a “Borderland” a “numinous experience,” not a “nightmare”? How is writing–and the author’s relationship to her work–“symptomatic of a larger creative process–cultural shifts . . . cultural ambiguity”?
4. Anzaldúa describes the body as a “crossroads,” creativity as painful “continuous multiple pregnancies,” and her writing desk as an altar composed of ceremonial objects. Overall, what relationship does Anzaldúa construct between Western and tribal cultures? What objects, for instance, can be found on her desk? What is the source of her inspiration? And where (and how) does she find resolution?
AND OF NOTE: This year’s Artwalk in Ventura on Saturday September 28 from 11-7pm will feature several artworks from Burning Man including Deniz Nicole’s Kalidescope Kandeo which will be at the Ventura County Museum:



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