Blog: Melting Pot

Christine Alfery

Posted on November 24 2020

Blog: Melting Pot

Featured Image: Circus Lions And Acrobats by Christine Alfery

 

With art as in nature I believe things are exactly the way they should be. With nature as with art, I love both of their inconsistencies, their contradictions.  I love that rivers and streams find their own way, when we let them.  I love that in America, people are all free, when we let them be free. Even the selfish have their own place on this earth. I love that things change. I love that we can build fences and that we can tear them down. I love that I can think I have one life time and I have an eternal life, while others can think that there are many lifetimes they will experience. I love that really really, no one knows for certain, even if they think they do, even if science states that they are right.  I love when people question and can take another position on somethings. I would make the world unfair.  Why?  Because only in a world like this one, complicated, complex and unfair is the world a place where everything needs everything else.  I want to be fully here. Fully alive. 

I love that I can live where I want to live and be who I want to be. That I can sit out in my backyard in my PJ’s and bother no one.  And that I can change if I want to. And that I can be inconsistent and contradict myself. The very first statement, in the U.S. Declaration of Independence is:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”   

I love the fact that we can understand that statement differently and that there is not one equal – why because we all are unique.  Using an example that I have used before, there are many trees in the woods, all trees start as a seed, they are all trees, but each is born to be part of different families- oaks, birch, pine, palm etc.  For me with the concept of trees or equal, breaks down to families, or gender, or amount of water, amount of soil etc etc – the general word tree no longer represents the concept of equal.  As life continues for trees different things happen, the wind, rains and weather can destroy the tree, or destroy all things around it and make its chances of survival better.  The tree could have been born in a nursery and getting pampered at birth.  

While using the life of a tree as an example to illustrate the point I am trying to make it has nowhere near the same value in our country as a human life has.  That wasn’t my point – my point is we are born, we all start as a seedling, that is a natural thing.  We are born in the U.S. to be free.  As I said above, we all are born in a country that lets us choose what we wish to do with this freedom.  Including thinking differently like choosing one God over many Gods or no god.  But those choices we make are not part of the fact that we “all” are equal.  

The romantic concepts behind the Declaration of Independence are progressive and are in no way meant to classify, order and label a tree anything but a tree.  And the notion of “all” in the Declaration is just that we are all human beings, like all trees are trees.  Beyond that context and context inter the arena and then all things beyond the “all” in the Declaration, is broken down into labels, and classifications, and categories, context and content …. If all ventures beyond the generalized point of the concept of human beings, and moves into classifications, categories, labels, context and content then it is very very hard to justify and understand what our founding fathers meant by that work.  But the labels and classification and categories helps us understand the word difference, and unique, originals and one of a kind.  

We the art arena often use the word monochromatic. The word in the art world generally means that a work of art, mainly a paintings, are  generally in one color with different tones and values of that color caused by light.  I spoke of this in a different blog post. Click below if you would like further clarification on this. 

https://christinealfery.com/blogs/blog/blog-when-did-the-word-equal-here-become-monochromatic if you would like further clarification on this. 

When the word "equal" enters the art arena it doesn’t mean monochromatic. I don’t know when it started – I am sure some historian will point to it’s birth – but I don’t love the fact that we are becoming monochromatic, and the richness of otherness, of difference gets melted into one stew and that we are all the same color. We are not – we are not.  Let me give you an example: I remember when my kids were writing essays for their college entrance exams.  One of the questions asked was:“ What does it mean that America is one big melting pot?”  

Wikipedia answers the question this way; 

“The melting pot is a monocultural metaphor for a heterogeneous society becoming more homogeneous, the different elements "melting together" with a common culture; an alternative being a homogeneous society becoming more heterogeneous through the influx of foreign elements with different cultural backgrounds, possessing the potential to create disharmony within the previous culture. Historically, it is often used to describe the cultural integration of immigrants to the United States. 
The melting-together metaphor was in use by the 1780s. The exact term "melting pot" came into general usage in the United States after it was used as a metaphor describing a fusion of nationalities, cultures and ethnicities in the 1908 play of the same name.”

 

Wikipedia understands that there are two different kinds of melting pots. 

  1. One that takes and heterogenous body and makes them homogeneous. 
  2. One that takes a homogeneous body through the influx of different elements. 

The Declaration did not use the word equal to mean homogeneous, the folks that wrote the Declaration thought of the word as heterogenous, understand that we have a heterogenous culture, and the goal of the culture of the U.S. is not to make us all homogeneous.  We need to celebrate the notion of the melting pot being understood as heterogenous, with choice.  We need to celebrate the notion of equal as homogenous as something that is natural for all of us and we cannot change that. 

How did this fit into art and the concept of art?  All potential works of art begin the same way.  There is an artist who wants to plant a seed.  The seed is a concept.  What happens after that is a matter of choice for the artist.  I for one promote art as unique original and one of a kind, art cannot be monochromatic nor can the idea for a work of art be for the good of the homogeneous body.  If there is a body of work that chooses to push work as art, but it is just reinforcing a political idea of others, then it is not art.  If there is a body of work that promotes the artist is free to think of a new concept, idea, and then the artist is able to choose how to make visible that idea, and if those choices champion uniqueness and originality then this body of work is indeed art.  

 

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