Web F, by Rosemarie Castoro, NY, NY, 1983

This piece of art by Rosemarie Castoro is stunningly beautiful. Amelia loves everything about it.

It reminds her of a drawing she used to make on the chalkboard when teaching college; she wanted students to have a visual representation of Post Modernism. This visual seemed needed for those who read Saussure’s concepts of the sign, the signifier, and the signified and then read Derrida and still scratched their heads. To them, Amelia would say…. “Well, in Modernism, there was one truth- and everyone was seeking that essence or that ultimate ‘Truth’ and needs to spend every waking moment convincing everyone else of the validity of that truth. Think of this as a wheel with all the spokes meeting at a shared hub. But, in Post Modernism, there is a philosophical and cultural breakdown of ‘Truth’ and it is postured that there are ‘many truths’ or ‘no truth.’ The diagram helps to understand the philosophical discourse. A dear friend writes, “Thank you Amy. I was ignorant of Rosemarie Castoro. On enlarging the image at the top of your folly post, immediately I had a sense of discovery. Many things that one image makes me feel and want to say. Political beyond political.” These are very important words; do them again please.

This painting, titled Web F, like my rudimentary chalk drawings, are all about the possibility of many intersections, and a comfort in this multiple crossings. To only know where one line connects with another line will never present a cohesive representation. Castoro feels this as deeply as I do, and loves the chance, and the beauty with which one can play with these cultural contestations by making stunning black lines on mylar. In her intersections, there are many glimmers of truth; but really it is only one’s ability to see the big or whole composition, that brings beauty; and since there is such a seductive shiny surface you may end up just seeing the shiny surface.  A good example of this might be when one thinks they are a humanitarian, when they are not- think shiny surface with no other content.

Can you imagine that one intersection means one thing to a Hispanic gay, and another to a white male, or other still to the underserved single mother, or still yet another to the elderly millionaire’s wife?

Ken Wilber’s writings, while studying in the MIT Artificial Intelligence lab, made some observations about human nature and building machines that must always be part of any post modern pluralism conversation. His philosophical work was laden with this premise:  if humanity is broken, then we shouldn’t be designing machines because we will inherently create dysfunctional machines, and making dysfunctional machines doesn’t advance civilization and may in fact be part of its demise. He realized he needed to fully understand the places where culture failed as a means of breaking the cycle in the “next generation” of humans and machines.

While Amelia found the last book she read by him to be a bit annoying, albeit honest with its acknowledged pervasive sexuality, Boomeritis: The Novel That Will Set You Free helped Amelia gain a really proficient understanding of spiral dynamics. I applaud Wilber for translation of this psycho/philosophical framework into reductive terms and examples; it helps make it more accessible to a larger audience, and this can only aid in a cultural evolution. Pshychological factors highly in the Political. Amelia finds it fun to think this way (since I am writing a novel that draws from my every day life for inspiration and fecundity, and from philosophy and political commentary as genres).

“The question here is not, is it raining outside? The question here is, when I tell you it is raining outside, am I telling you the truth or am I lying?” You see, it is not so much a question of whether the map matches the territory, but whether the mapmaker can be trusted. Amelia might lie to you. Amelia might lie to herself. She might misrepresent and not even know it. How do you find the truth? How do I find the truth? Why is it that she is constantly called a liar? Because a simplistic reduction to this level of psychological warfare, like Sue or the bully football players on the TV show Glee, is easier for some to actualize than taking the time to assess that there are many maps and they just might have the wrong map for the information/story that they are seeking.

Thank you Ms. Castoro, for making a stunning piece of art that assists me in thinking these thoughts among push mowers and folding laundry and cooking dinner and writing history. This is what great art does- it shows you simple intersections that become complex, yet desirable, at the same time. And great art keeps reappearing in the mind’s eye long after one has stopped looking at it (like a song repeats).  I own hair scans by Castoro; I keep seeing them even now, and have owned it for years.

And thank you to the great matrilieage of women artists who have consistently held their own at the table with all the great art boys. You, Castoro, are a leader of generations, keep on rocking everyone’s world one piece at a time; you do mine.  

“Each thing is a perspective before it is anything else. And this means that in the manifest world, there are no perceptions, only perspectives…” (Ken Wilber: Integral Spirituality, 2006, pp 255).

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