Spine art

This is an abstract I created called “Spinal”, probably representative of  how my back felt one day! Part of my Yin Yang series.

Oil pastel on watercolor paper.

Guess I was feeling better this day!  Haha.  I gave this one to my Chiropractor. (no seriously, I did)  It is simply called “Spine”

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©Jay Mora-Shihadeh

I Want to Talk About the Digital Divide: Old School vs. New School, Ageism, Inequality and Social Injustice.

I’ve been thinking a whole lot about the Digital Divide and Old School vs. New School, and my struggles to stay afloat as I get older.

primate-ape-thinking-mimic

I wonder if Apes ponder these life questions, after-all, we descended from them, right? Apes do look so human, just sayin’. 

So, at this point, we all know the digital divide, but I feel I must weigh in on this, and throw my opinion into the mix. However, for me it isn’t the digital divide alone. No. It’s much larger and been plaguing humans for millennium (not millennials, haha kidding). In my world , my mind, my experience – it is that point I’ve reached in my life –  where I’m either choosing to evolve or decline. Simple yet profound. But reality.

So my experience , as is many people’s experience,  is aging and the digital divide. The digital divide is the discussion of the age-old-social-injusticesinequality, the have’s and have not’s, the socioeconomic divisions, ageism, gender inequality etc. –  that have plagued us humans for eons. In the animal world (like my Ape friend above) it’s ‘survival of the fittest’. My son (a millennial) and I,  feel passionate about changing the digital divide –  this Ted Talk sums it up the best.

Adrian (my son) is a classic tech nerd, he is getting ready to graduate with a degree in computer science. Some day he may work for one of those ‘mega-lithic-tech’ corporation’s. We’ve talked at length on digital responsibility and the collective accountability the developed world has. The responsibility the Tech industry has. We feel passionate toward creating digital equality.

The responsibility to address this digital inequality we face today and bridge the enormous gap we have as a society, is our social responsiblity to the world. And, it is democratically sustainable, and frankly, long overdue. It is a real problem for older folks who have little, none, zilch, zero, nada tech skills (or desire) to learn new skills. Yet, if they live ‘tight to the belt’ with minimal resources and need to work, instead of retire.   Or are older and still of working age, having to adjust to this new-school-tech world, to float above the water, or else sink to the bottom. Their world is spinning fast and they must learn to play this new techie game in life, to make end’s meet. This is wrong. Life should be easier for them. Why make it harder?

I find myself (at fifty-three) cursed by the digital divide, in my opinion too soon. Shameful, because many, many folks are trying to wrangle with this problem, and believe me, it’s a problem. But the other side of this, is the resource question, or shall I call it what it is…the poor people. ‘The divide’ is nothing new to them, they’ve lived this reality for years. Add to this, the current and longstanding, social-economic injustice problem, of the digital divide, and you’ve compounded the injustice. This is detrimental to solving poverty, here and worldwide.

Artist’s (such as myself) experience this phenomena, if they choose to stick with their hand to mouth art practice(s), and live the starving artist’s (dream) which can be a (nightmare) economically. Oddly, this is what I aspired to as a young artist. In Art School (at that time in my life) this was the norm. We snubbed technology, we were trained to live with a paintbrush and palette in our hands, not a computer. I know, some chose to embrace the digital revolution and joined the ranks of digital artist’s, illustrator’s, and photographer’s, but, seriously, a great many didn’t. They built their dreams based on the old school, old world artist lifestyle. And when many artists returned to school to learn desktop publishing and web design, many other artists, who loved the act of working with their hands, doubled down and rejected this new art form. I am one of them. The rugged, starving artist, romantic, but broke.

Today, I feel I have sputtered along over the years, patching together my techie skill set on my own. I have done pretty well, considering I did it alone. Still, it is an exhaustive process for me to keep it up at times. Let’s be real, I grew up different from today. We didn’t have a computer in tow –  everywhere we wentThat isn’t the world I lived in. I am a baby born at the beginning of the Generation Xers. Today, it has become ever-present that I must keep treading water, with computer in tow, or I will sink. Having the computer skills I have taught myself, and continue to learn and peck at, has been invaluable. A new and emerging, dare I say, LOVE of digital design and digital art – which I have poo-pooed for decades now – has gotten me riled up, excited again. I am becoming ‘the sponge’ I was in Art School, wanting to learn every technique available. Of course, it comes down to resources. What is realistic and what is folly. That’s what us artist’s do best though, dream.

I don’t know, maybe it’s the HRT, maybe it’s the getting older thing, but I love making art without getting paint all over me (well, honestly, it’s the clean-up I loathe). Haha, I guess with my transition, I’m changing. I love painting, don’t get me wrong. I’m still a painter at heart, BUT,  I feel I’ve grown and opened myself to all artistic tools now. Whereas in the past I was stoic and rigid, rejecting of the ‘new school’. Evolving from the ‘old school’ isn’t as bad as I feared. Challenging? Yes. But that’s okay, I’m up for the challenge.

As far as the divide, I do feel it is imperative that the digital divide become eradicated from the face of the earth immediately. Humans can do better than this. In order for the world to thrive, we must care for others. Division and greed must die off, and social responsibility, social justice, must prevail. It must prevail – not because it’s trendy, not because we are greedy, creating wealth off a shallow trendy idea of ‘Digital Equality’ –  but because literally – we should want better as loving human beings.

Gender Identity and the Dreaded Self Portait; At Least I Didn’t Cut My Ear Off

 

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Vincent Van Gogh “Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear” (Photo Credit: Public Domain)

Vincent Van Gogh cut his ear off. They claim he had mental Illness. Maybe he did – maybe he didn’t, I don’t know. Artists have demons. His demons caused him such distress that he physically harmed himself. He was emotional, passionate and intense; yet out of his element in that century. Van Gogh is one of my favorite painters. I related to him as an artist. Perhaps he struggled with his identity? He may have even hated his self-portraits. I dreaded mine. Self-portraits exposed me. I didn’t like being exposed. Deep down I knew something wasn’t right inside me. I never felt comfortable with my image. But at least I didn’t cut my ear off.

This past July I was recruited to do an “Ask Me Anything!” (AMA) event after being “found” on an illustrators group. I’d never heard of it before but after researching it, I was intrigued. I immediately signed up and soon after was hosting my first event.  The experience really touched me personally. It was this event that spawned the idea of  revamping my old blog. If you haven’t heard of AMA events, I urge you to check them out amafeed.com . I want to expound a bit on my answers to some very insightful questions I got from people during my event. One of the questions I was asked was, did I think hating my self-portraits had anything to do with my gender identity crises? To that I said, “I absolutely do!”  In fact as good as others thought my art was, I often felt it was not good enough or worse yet, they are lying (just to make me feel better) weird right? The imposter syndrome was always with me. Sure I liked my art. Sometimes I even loved my art. BUT it definitely brought out my self-hatred too, especially when I had to look in the mirror and do a self-portrait. I guess it was not the usual self-loathing that most people experience. It was a fear to portray myself as female. I thought to myself, is it okay that I looked and felt kinda like a guy anyhow? Gender identity was my Achilles heel . I was always trying to walk an imaginary line of androgyny. After all, androgyny was cool I thought, I’m an artist right? Also, I was struggling with never feeling quite right with being a “lesbian”. In fact, I never really self-identified that way, preferring instead to say that I was gay. This way I could avoid the female connotation, it was an easy and more accepted identity for me. I am very comfortable and relieved now that I’m not a lesbian. I never was. I am a male who is binary and straight. I was born transgender not cis-gender. This has been a huge relief because I harbored feelings that I might be homophobic or hated lesbians and felt extremely guilty about that. I haven’t picked up and explored self-portraits since transitioning. I suspect when I do it will be a better experience. I like how I look and feel now. I am not saying I won’t struggle at all, that would be absurd. However, I don’t have to agonize over my female features anymore. I can look in the mirror with confidence and ease. I finally like they way I look. Self-portaits aside, having transitioned to male and feeling my gender dysphoria slowly dissolve has been a sheer joy. This artistic journey, this human journey leaves me to wonder, what if Van Gogh lived today? Would it be different for him. Maybe he wouldn’t have cut off his ear?

© [Jay Mora-Shihadeh] and [artistfromtheinsideout.wordpress.com], [2018]. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, artwork, or photo’s without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to [Jay Mora-Shihadeh] and [artistfromtheinsideout.wordpress.com] with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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