Tuesday, January 21, 2014

From a Shut-in to Renewal, One Artists Life

This self portrait is quite a relevant work for this writing, as it was done during a time of change, confusion, the loss and results of wrong choices in my life – with just the faintness hope to hope for something better, as expressed by the intense mood. 
It was not very long ago, that as an adult man, I was a shut in. This sounds like an extreme statement and is hard for many to understand. My life was spent with many years indeed - in fact most of my adult life, as well as when I was young - in debilitating social anxiety, anxiety attacks, severe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and very dark depression. I passed my days hiding from the world quite literally, consumed in my emotional problems. I lived in terror of others, in terror of social situations of any kind. I stayed in a room by myself for so very many years. I spent years on medications, with some doctors just throwing up their hands not knowing what to do with me. I was in such deep suffering that there were periods that I prayed every day for the Lord to take me home. Not only do I not exaggerate the depths lived in, it merely touches the surface.
I am not alone is this kind of experience in life. There are many who suffer from these kinds of deep pain. You may never know they do, they may hold it all inside and live that part of their lives secretly out of shame. For others you may never see or know them, as they live alone, withdrawn into their own pain. For those who are close to them, or try to be – family, friends – it is all too apparent the things that are overwhelming them. Families are greatly affected. We wonder what we can do for those suffering this way and feel they are often beyond our reach or help. Others refuse to understand and just want them to snap out of it. For family members or spouses, living with someone with these issues can be a trial for them, they may feel hurt too.
There are no easy answers. Often these issues and trials last a very long time, perhaps a lifetime. For me it was most of my life. Rock bottom was an extreme place I lived permanently, a very dark place, not a single event in my life. That is why at the present time, being healed and living a life that is totally new to me is such a joy in the simplest of everyday things.
During the course of my troubled life, art was always a mainstay. Over the years I learned, honed my skill, and grew in my art abilities. Perhaps all that time alone served to somehow allow me to grow as an artist in my work, a touch of grace in the darkness. Yet, even this was not untouched, for my art became an obsessive and perfectionist endeavor that caused major anxiety attacks. Like other things, good became twisted in my unhealthy mind.
For me, healing had everything to do with two words – “But, God….” In the Bible the words “But, God” often follow very stark contrasts of suffering or weaknesses in us. I am no longer a shut in. I am part of the world, married to a wonderful wife, with doors gradually opening up for my art. I do still struggle at times to greater or lesser degrees, but with a freedom of growing and true healing that only a God rich in love and Grace could give me. Where once OCD had me out of any productive functioning at all, in a shut away world few knew, where once the smallest social encounter plunged me into terrible fear, I am now able to take part in life. I have a way to go, but I can see the clear change in healing.
It is hard to say at what point it was that God really grabbed hold of me and brought me out of this pain. You see, I had already been a Christian during most of this – I was saved around age 19 or 20 (I am now 50). One difficult part, quite frankly, is that God had to let me come utterly to and end of myself. I mean an utter end, completely. My only way to relate to Him, or the world, was so broken, unhealthy, and mentally ill. In fact, though I have never shared this publicly, my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder caused a nervous breakdown with my faith due to the severity of the OCD. My OCD here was so extreme it went into the realms of mental illness. Most do not even know, even those close to me. This was a dark period in my life. It was one of the things I never thought would be healed, but nothing is out of God's care.
Later, God had to reshape and completely reform my thinking, my emotions, my deepest innermost places - which was deeply ingrained and terribly strong in its unhealthiness and emotional trauma. Naturally this did not happen overnight.
There was one time that was also significant before this. It was a Christmas Eve service about 5 or 6 years ago, at what would, a couple years later, become the church my wife and I go to. Before we went inside, I had the distinct sense – it was quiet, yet insistent and urgent, while gentle – of God impressing upon me, “I want you to go in there and do nothing. Do not obsess, do not repetitively pray in fear and guilt ridden obsessing, do not get wrapped up in all the OCD trauma – just receive my Son.” The last part was the urgent part, just recieve my Son. I had received Christ already, as I shared - this was an urgent call to my life of healing. It was beautiful in His love and Grace. It is that free gift revealed more brightly to me, one that does not end as a single event as we walk with Him - this continual receiving of His Son that now defines my life. Freely receive, it is called grace. My life has been blessed ever as a daily act of receiving such wonderful blessings, all from His tender Grace. Soon I was finely free to begin receiving God’s wonderful love, without my mental health destroying everything.  
I can look back now and see such transformation to have come to me. To look back, after all I have been through, what a sweet joy this is to my heart. Without God’s grace, both my own brokenness and my own sinful choices would have defeated me entirely.
All my life I thought I would never get better. Indeed, that concept did not even exist to me. If God could heal me of the deepest painful roots inside and bring me to a renewed life – even with the severity of my inner problems - I see now that He can do anything in my life. As I read the Bible, I clearly see that God is not the God of the small, the almost, the nearly, or the maybe – from salvation in His Son, to healing, mercy, forgiveness, and His grace in our lives. Even after a whole lifetime of trials. God is good; God is great – all the time. Both in the deepest pains and utter defeats and the highest joys. His love is beautiful and wonderful.
Why do I share all this? Well, I was once deeply ashamed of who I was. I was filled with guilt because I was different with all these problems. I was deeply ashamed that as a grown man I lived like no one else, certainly not a "normal" life. I am no longer ashamed to be different. I know God loves me. That means everything. I also know that with Him in His grace, even after so long, the next chapters of my life are renewed, with good things I have only begun to see yet to come.

‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts. Zechariah 4:6.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Misuse of Art & A Higher Purpose for Art

My thoughts focus today on something that often weighs on my heart as an artist. What did the word "art" conjure in ones mind before what we now often see paraded as art in the media? It was once an expression of beauty, meaning, and edifying expressions of the heart. Creativity throughout history was used as a gift and expression of that place within the artist, or that which he or she sees around them in life, that touch us all. It was noble and enriching. We find ourselves now in a state in today’s culture where art is instead used as a medium to offend, outrage, and get attention. Art has become a means of provocative offense.

Ranging from the outright offensive to ugly or empty, it seems to say a great deal about us. More than we would wish. Walk down the halls of a major city’s art gallery and you see a timeline of wonderful art, until you come to the present time, when it plummets to depths that leave one shaking one's head. I am chiefly referring to art that is deliberately offensive or empty. Dry, bleak expression (such as dots on a wall, splotches of black smear, or even blank white canvasses) can leave one wondering what in the world this thing called art is really about.

How many times have the latest headlines in art news been that of offense, shock, and outrage, particularly to people with cherished values or Christian beliefs? This is portrayed by the art establishment as the modern elite aesthetic, the height of true artistic expression. This “pure”, “true” aesthetic has become synonymous with flouting values, especially if it is Judeo-Christian. Values themselves are instead redefined as destroying or denying freedom of expression, the unforgivable sin in all art forms in the modern mind. Freedom of expression is wonderful, but to abuse it as a cloak for depravity hurts us all.

Artists on the local community level are full of talent and meaning. There are many artists creating great art there. However, mass media and the higher culture shape what people ultimately see as representing art. It has now become pervasive in the mass media, is a major part of art culture in modern times. We have all heard of the examples of crucifixes in a jar of urine, baby skulls, piles of dirt on the floor, dung on religious images, religious symbols mocked or flouted in all manner of ways, pornography as art, other things that can not even be mentioned here really, all meant to deliberately outrage or offend. To shock and redefine not only artistic values, but societal values is its purpose. If the purpose were to reflect society itself, it seems only to wish to do so of depravity and empty despair. To me this is not respectful of the public, in my own opinion.

It is certainly true that there are very many and varied ways to express artistic expression in all manner of media, styles, and outlooks on life. That includes standing for something, or speaking out. It does include imaginative originality. One can portray struggles, or the painful parts of life, this is a good thing indeed. It is when art is used to outright offend people, to provoke and affront for the sake of doing that alone, that it becomes a crude blunt instrument that is really to me an irresponsible use of artistic expression. Perhaps in that way the question "does art imitate life, or does life imitate art?" is central. This is rather tragic either way. When will we once again become outraged ourselves at that which mocks and scorns what is good?

It is my heartfelt belief in creativity’s purpose to lift up and bring people together, and to respect those who view the art we create. Touching others with beauty, meaning, and inspiring the heart. To lift up the mind, society, culture, the noble part of the intellect. To show the public that they also are part of this thing we call art, an important part - and to have the utmost respect for them in the art presented.

While many use their art to "pollute the waters" so to speak, there are so many talented artists in everyday life around us, so many who do such wonderful work in every medium imaginable. It is a shame that their art is often lost in the focus on shock. We need to support them every way we can.

Some artists proffering the art referred to defend their work by telling us these things need to be seen, that art can't be defined, that we must be free to express ourselves even at the cost of decency. That people need to be shocked from their conventions. Seriously, do we really need more of that? Is life not full of violence, insensitivity, and pain already? Is that what we want art to become? Personally I find our daily lives are already cluttered with outrages.

I am not advocating censorship by any means. We all have choices we make freely. Rather, a call to the higher purpose of true art expression. A movement to bless others with art. A movement of graciousness to others. Are we snobby artists doling it out to the "unenlightened masses" whether they like it or not - or is the viewer a part of the art experience? An integral part, no less. Perhaps that hits at the heart of the matter. Artists might do well to remember that without the public, we are just expressing ourselves by ourselves, for ourselves. If one is entrusted with a talent or ability, it would be so much more enriching for us all if it is used with respectful care. That includes respect for the public and art in all its forms as well.

If art is going to continue to roll around in the muck and mire, we need this movement from both artists and the public to instead focus on shining light in the world. Art has the unique ability to touch the human mind and heart in that way. For the many artists I see out there who do wonderful work, what a shame it is that the other side is the face the public often sees.

Jeffrey M Green

Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things. Philippians 4:8, the Bible.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A Look Back at Artworks Created and Events of 2013.

Thank you 2013 supporters!
Jeffrey M Green

Facebook Page (please share with your friends): https://www.facebook.com/jeffreymgreen.artist

Website: http://jeffreymgreenartist.yolasite.com/

Blog, "The Artists Corner": http://theartistscorner-jeff.blogspot.com/

Peace and Beauty Studios: http://peaceandbeautystudios.yolasite.com/

Google + Business Page: https://plus.google.com/115755843035597966268/posts.

Thank You 2013 Supporters

This past year has been such a blessing for my art. So many doors opened, from events and published works, to commissioned pieces. None of this would of been possible without the support of others. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.
Below are the many who were instrumental this year. Thank you all for your support, encouragement, very real help, and opportunities! This was help of every kind - from gifts and financial help, to opportunities and support.

First and foremost, I thank the Lord who is my utmost joy - who has turned a shut in, who could not function in life without terrible ordeals (they very truly took me out of life for most of it) into someone who can contribute to the world. What can a man give to God? The more I go along in my walk with Christ, the more I see being His child as a continual act of receiving. It is all from His hand, His gifts are manifold and ever healing.

Thank you:

My mom, Carole Ketaner and step-dad Jeff
My wife, Cherie Green
Aunt Nancy and Uncle Gene Suydam
The Belsky's

Penny Hochella, Erik Chuss, Grace Fried, Bob Jordon, Edie DeProfio,
and all the folks at Forks Area Art Society. Everyone at FAAS have given me such warm support, thank you all.

The folks of First United Methodist Church Bangor, Pa. There are so many who warmly supported me. Among them: Donna Koehler, Maureen Brown, Carolyn and Shap Shaplin, Annette and Frank DiGiacamo, Cheryl Hower, Carol Shaplin, Linda Davis, and the FUMC women's Bible study.

MariAn Olson of The Gallery at St John's, Easton, PA.

Brenda Voll of the Nazareth Center for the Arts.

Sharon Cromer of Dallas, Texas.

Marion Romig of Rochester, NY.

Diane and Pete Gruber of Glen Rose, Texas.

Sally Ford of COLORED PENCIL Magazine.

Ann Kullberg of CP Magazine.

Susan Kalan, Arts Around Town, WFMZ online.

The folks at the Paint Box Art Club, Nazareth, Pa. Including Jackie Shoup and Janine Watt.

Marie Gelsomino, Will and Barbara Daskal of the Pocono Mountains Art Group.

Jim and Barbara Witczak.

Our neighbors Heidi and Cindy.

Stephanie Rhoades & Don Roth

Diane and Lewis Paulhamus.

So many more supported, prayed, and gave their encouragement. Thank you so much!

God bless you with a wonderful 2014,

Jeffrey M Green
Website: http://jeffreymgreenartist.yolasite.com/
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/jeffreymgreen.artist

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Traditional Classic Art, Undervalued Today?

After reading some negative comments in another forum concerning some very worthy and wonderful artists, it again called to my attention something I have felt for some time now.  It is big issue today in the art world.  What follows is my own opinion and meant merely as such, they are not meant as blanket statements.  It concerns the current mindset among very many indeed that traditional or classic art are dirty words.

Most major city galleries are solely devoted to modern/contemporary art. These art circles are inclusive to themselves.  Modern art has become quite mainstream, defining what art is for much of the most public and popular art.  Yet it is the attitude itself from there that comes across so strongly.  It seems that all the negative energy and defiance from artists we so often hear in the media, or of those in the art world, is actually needed for much of modern art, as most art speaks for itself.  I know of so many artists who create beautiful work.  When you view the work, you are inspired and have that wonderful feeling inside that art can give.  A great piece speaks for itself on many levels.  It has been that way for centuries.    
As you tour a major city art museum you see a timeline of centuries of beautiful art of every kind - until you come to the 50’s and 60’s, at which point art becomes dark, muddy, bare, purposely ugly, and purposely devoid of any meaning.  Yet at the same time the artist and his or her voice becomes louder, defiant, self-important, and looking to fight every moral and aesthetic convention in society.  This can feed an inclusive art society of itself for a time, yet do not we as artists want to reach everyone - not just artists among artists?

I do think all kinds of art belong in the public arena.  I am not by any means against modern or contemporary art – though I personally value modern art that upholds aesthetic ideal in its portrayal.  It really becomes the voices so loudly clamoring there is exclusion that ends up the ones who are mainstream and excluding, while traditional/classic art goes on quietly speaking to art lovers universally.  Real people like you and me.  People who find joy in creating, or in that which is created by others.