What? We Don’t Have Free Speech?




The Speaker, mixed media



The above image is of a construction I made a long time ago. It still hangs in my studio.





A studio mate gave me a wonderful piece of wood that he said came from an airplane body. It was thin and delicately curved and it had a beautiful grey patina. On one end were two holes, and it looked as though some metal had at one time held this piece to another.

Rule of thumb if you are a maker. Never throw interesting things out.

At the time I was constructing my paintings–I use the term paintings loosely–by pasting small bits of paper onto a canvas until the whole thing was covered in bits of paper. I’d pour on thin layers of paint, then stick on more bits of paper until I found something that resonated for me. There were many reasons for working in this way, not the least of which was poverty–and a concern for the environment. And I was all about the idea of finding that thin line between order and chaos, and how this line shifts as our perceptions change.

So this piece of wood moved from one studio to the next, and one day I place an old tree root against it…hmm, a face. I set it aside again and went on with other things. But the root stayed where it was, and a couple of pieces of fabric woven to look like tapestry became the colour in the eyes, and a speaker was  a mouth. The Speaker was born. Kitsch? Probably. Most likely, but it I like it.

Free Speech

Lately, I’ve become aware that there is a great deal of worry in some quarters, especially on university campuses that free speech is threatened. Whaaat? At Universities? In Canada and the USA? Isn’t that where you learn to speak, to debate, to be wrong and to be right.

I did a bit of research, and a lot of thinking.

A long time ago, when we lived in smaller cities, towns and villages, you could count on it, that some people with a little clout and a lot to say would ostracize someone who activated their sense of disgust. I’m old enough to have lived in such a small town. I’ve been on both ends of that disgust. Maybe you have too.

Now here’s the thing. We have the interwebz and a global village, and man we can do a lot of damage if we want to. So, what I’m thinking is maybe shut up sometimes and listen. Listen and remember that you’re talking to another person, not a disgusting IT. You might even have an interesting debate. They maybe right and you might be wrong, or perhaps you were right and they were wrong, but you learned something, and that other one? That other one is now a human being and not a disgusting something on the bottom of your shoe.

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