Sunday, May 29, 2016

When Nuns can Change Lives - Pat Rock and Corita Kent - the Girls from Iowa

Sister Mary Corita
At least two Nuns had a profound effect on me when I was growing up in the 1960's, meaning my years in high school and college.  One taught me English and Creative writing, Sister Louis Marie aka Pat Rock, and the other taught me the meaning of individual freedom, Sister Mary Corita, aka Corita Kent.

Pat Rock
Patricia McGuire, later known as Patricia McGuire Rock, was born in Rock Rapids, Iowa in 1930.  Frances Elizabeth Kent, later known as Corita Kent, was born in Fort Dodge, Iowa in 1918.  Me, I was born in Iowa City, Iowa so we had that much in common at least.

The following is a link to a story I wrote about Pat Rock,
and it adequately describes her impact on my life.

Corita Kent, on the other hand, never taught me but Sister Louis Marie brought her radical art style to my attention when she was teaching me in the early 1960's.  If you did not live the 1960's you may never understand the meaning of revolution, change, war, academic freedom, civil rights, environmental concerns, protests, civil disobedience, riots, murder, corruption, and on and on.

I believe it was the greatest decade of upheaval in our nation's history and an unsuspecting Nun who was born in Iowa and teaching in California was a champion of change because of her unique art and powerful messages manifested in signs, slogans, and billboards.

Sister Mary Corita was such a champion that it led to her leaving the convent, just as Sister Louis Marie did a few years later.  Few people knew her back then, and fewer know her now, but it is time we learn about some of the unsung heroes in our nation's history.

Here is her story as told by the Corita Art Center in California.

Corita Kent, Warhol’s Kindred Spirit in the Convent

“The only rule is work,” read the seventh point on the Immaculate Heart College art department’s list of rules, devised by Corita Kent, known as Sister Mary Corita, one of the most unlikely Pop Art phenomena of the 1960s and ’70s.

“If you work, it will lead to something,” the edict continued. “It’s the people who do all of the work all the time who eventually catch on to things.”

Warhol and Kent art

Predating even Andy Warhol (who later became an influence on her work), Kent was an early adopter of serigraphy, or silk-screening — considered a sign painter’s lowly tool at the time. She shared Warhol’s interest in the iconography of advertising but used it to very different ends, lifting texts from advertisements and poems and deconstructing and juxtaposing them to form colorful typographic works to help people “use their whole selves better,” as she once said.

This idealism dovetailed with the zeitgeist — her work found its way into civil rights and Vietnam protests — and landed her on the cover of national magazines; a stamp she designed for the United States Postal Service sold more than 700 million copies. But today she’s mostly remembered as a cult icon of sorts, whose life and work suggest a kind of alternate history of Pop Art. The curator Ian Berry, who recently assembled a traveling exhibition of Kent’s work with another curator, Michael Duncan, describes her as “a key figure in the history of American art,” and “a fiercely independent maker with a unique voice and vision.”

Frances Elizabeth Kent was born in Fort DodgeIowa, in 1918 and grew up in Los Angeles. Her family was Catholic, and after high school, she joined the Order of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, earning an arts degree at the college the order ran. Ten years later, while pursuing her master’s degree, Kent was introduced to print making, the medium that would later bring her to the attention of art world.

By the early 1950s, she was forging her own unique aesthetic, and soon “priests and nuns from orders all over the country were sent to be educated at Immaculate Heart College,” wrote Ray Smith, director of the Corita Art Center in Los Angeles, in an email. For nearly a decade in the late ’50s and early ’60s, Kent toured widely, delivering lectures at institutions — religious and otherwise — across the country about her work.

In the late ’60s, in the wake of the Second Vatican Council — a landmark effort to modernize the church, which many Catholic clergy members took as a blessing for social and political activism — the Immaculate Heart sisters began chafing at the strictures that had traditionally bound the order.

Kent transformed Immaculate Heart College’s annual Mary’s Day procession from an austere march into a community celebration that included theatrical performances, food drives and masses of flower-decked followers holding up signs inspired by her art — part of the sisters’ campaign to bring secular and religious people closer together.

At the same time, Kent’s work was becoming increasingly political, addressing the Vietnam War and humanitarian crises. Tensions between the order and the church leadership in Los Angeles mounted, and Sister Mary Corita left the order in 1968, returning to secular life as Corita Kent. (Most of the other Immaculate Heart sisters followed suit not long after; in 1969, the order separated from the church, continuing its work as a lay organization. The Immaculate Heart College closed in 1980.)

Kent continued printmaking, even through the 12-year battle with the cancer that finally claimed her life in 1986, at age 67. Some of her work achieved prominence in the ’80s, though few people who saw it would have known the name of the artist; she was commissioned for several corporate and public arts projects, including designs for a Boston Gas Company fuel tank and the Postal Service’s “Love” stamp. Still, her work is not in many large museum collections, and until recently was rarely shown outside the Corita Art Center, which was established in her memory shortly after her death.

The Corita Art Center has a vast catalog of unprocessed photographs of Kent and her work. The photographer Suzanna Zak recently went digging through them and turned up a remarkable record of Kent’s life. The selection here includes images of Kent teaching as well as many photographs that Kent herself took.

Memorial Day - Need we say anymore?


Double click to enlarge picture

Friday, May 27, 2016

China's Proudest Moment at Harvard - A Celebration Honoring He Jiang

The first Chinese citizen to give a Harvard graduation speech recalled why his mom lit his hand on fire

Zheping Huang,Quartz

A biology student from rural China became the first Chinese citizen to deliver a graduation speech at Harvard University this week.
On Wednesday (May 26), He Jiang, a doctoral student in biochemistry, spoke about the time his mother set his hand on fire when he was a boy, after a poisonous spider bit him. The incident inspired him to bring scientific knowledge to where it’s needed the most, he said.
The graduate explained he grew up in a village in central China’s Hunan province. When he was bit by the spider 15 years ago, there was no doctor in the area. So his mother wrapped his hand with layers of cotton, soaked the cotton in wine, and ignited it. The pain made him want to scream, he said, but “all I could do was watch my hand burn—one minute, then two minutes—until mom put out the fire.”
Heat deactivates proteins, which is what a spider’s venom is made of, so his mother’s cure was actually effective. “I now know that better, less painful, and less risky treatments existed… why didn’t I receive one at the time?” he asked in the speech. He said he is “troubled by the unequal distribution of scientific knowledge throughout the world,” and dedicated to communicate what he has learned to those who need it, like “the farmers in my village.”
He was one of the three graduate speakers at Harvard’s 365th commencement. China’s state media outlets bragged he was “making history” and have run many profiles of him leading up to the graduation.
He was the first in his family to attend college. “If you don’t study hard and leave this village, you will be farming your whole life,” he said his father always told him.
Here’s the full text of He’s speech, in both English and Chinese, from financial publisher Caixin.

·                                 143


2016年05月27日 10:14 来源于 财新网
  撰文 | 何江
  责编 | 李晓明、陈晓雪


  The Spider’s Bite
  When I was in middle school, a poisonous spider bit my right hand. I ran to my mom for help—but instead of taking me to a doctor, my mom set my hand on fire.
  After wrapping my hand with several layers of cotton, then soaking it in wine, she put a chopstick into my mouth, and ignited the cotton. Heat quickly penetrated the cotton and began to roast my hand. The searing pain made me want to scream, but the chopstick prevented it. All I could do was watch my hand burn - one minute, then two minutes –until mom put out the fire. 
  You see, the part of China I grew up in was a rural village, and at that time pre-industrial. When I was born, my village had no cars, no telephones, no electricity, not even running water. And we certainly didn’t have access to modern medical resources. There was no doctor my mother could bring me to see about my spider bite. 
  For those who study biology, you may have grasped the science behind my mom’s cure: heat deactivates proteins, and a spider’s venom is simply a form of protein. It’s cool how that folk remedy actually incorporates basic biochemistry, isn’t it? But I am a PhD student in biochemistry at Harvard, I now know that better, less painful and less risky treatments existed. So I can’t help but ask myself, why I didn’t receive one at the time?
  Fifteen years have passed since that incident. I am happy to report that my hand is fine. But this question lingers, and I continue to be troubled by the unequal distribution of scientific knowledge throughout the world. We have learned to edit the human genome and unlock many secrets of how cancer progresses. We can manipulate neuronal activity literally with the switch of a light. Each year brings more advances in biomedical research-exciting, transformative accomplishments. Yet, despite the knowledge we have amassed, we haven’t been so successful in deploying it to where it’s needed most. According to the World Bank, twelve percent of the world’s population lives on less than $2 a day. Malnutrition kills more than 3 million children annually. Three hundred million people are afflicted by malaria globally. All over the world, we constantly see these problems of poverty, illness, and lack of resources impeding the flow of scientific information. Lifesaving knowledge we take for granted in the modern world is often unavailable in these underdeveloped regions.  And in far too many places, people are still essentially trying to cure a spider bite with fire. 
  While studying at Harvard, I saw how scientific knowledge can help others in simple, yet profound ways. The bird flu pandemic in the 2000s looked to my village like a spell cast by demons. Our folk medicine didn’t even have half-measures to offer. What’s more, farmers didn’t know the difference between common cold and flu; they didn’t understand that the flu was much more lethal than the common cold. Most people were also unaware that the virus could transmit across different species. 
  So when I realized that simple hygiene practices like separating different animal species could contain the spread of the disease, and that I could help make this knowledge available to my village, that was my first “Aha” moment as a budding scientist. But it was more than that: it was also a vital inflection point in my own ethical development, my own self-understanding as a member of the global community. 
  Harvard dares us to dream big, to aspire to change the world. Here on this Commencement Day, we are probably thinking of grand destinations and big adventures that await us. As for me, I am also thinking of the farmers in my village. My experience here reminds me how important it is for researchers to communicate our knowledge to those who need it. Because by using the science we already have, we could probably bring my village and thousands like it into the world you and I take for granted every day. And that’s an impact every one of us can make! 
  But the question is, will we make the effort or not? 
  More than ever before, our society emphasizes science and innovation. But an equally important emphasis should be on distributing the knowledge we have to where it’s needed. Changing the world doesn’t mean that everyone has to find the next big thing. It can be as simple as becoming better communicators, and finding more creative ways to pass on the knowledge we have to people like my mom and the farmers in their local community. Our society also needs to recognize that the equal distribution of knowledge is a pivotal step of human development, and work to bring this into reality. 
  And if we do that, then perhaps a teenager in rural China who is bitten by a spider will not have to burn his hand, but will know to seek a doctor instead. ■

责任编辑:崔筝 | 版面编辑:李丽莎(ZN024)
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Memorial Day - Honoring our Heroes



It is Memorial Day weekend - time to forget, forgive, and then love, and live


I do not know about you but I really need a break from reality, at least for a weekend.  What better way to change your outlook than by focusing on the sacrifices by so many members of our armed forces, dating back to George Washington and his ragtag Continental Army.

We all know people who have served, or we are beneficiaries of the service by others who gave us freedom, hope, equality and justice.  I suppose if one were realistic, they would say we honor those who sacrificed for others, yet wonder about those who ignore the sacrifices and do things that are not in the public interest.

When I was young I lived to have the opportunity to defend freedom.  My career in both sports and education were preparation for joining the military.  Even as I was playing basketball at the University of Arizona I was immersed in an intensive Reserve Officer Training Program to prepare me for the inevitable service during the Vietnam war.

However, Divine Providence has other ideas for us on occasion so at the moment I volunteered for the draft armed only with exceptional ratings in ROTC, they discovered my body had been permanently damaged from 15 years of intensive sports achievement.

Rather than military service, I was confined to public service and spent much of the next three decades working in government and politics at all levels from local, to state, to national offices.  It was a far cry from my dream but at least a way to make sure we could enjoy the opportunities given to us by our patriotic and dedicated military.

So this weekend, as I do every year, I will honor our fallen heroes.  I will honor those who have not fallen but gave up their lives for us through injury and stress and will never be able to lead a normal life.  I will honor the families of those heroes whose lives were changed forever by wars halfway around the world.

Here is a song I wrote to honor those heroes.  It is performed by my band, Nashville Bound. I hope you take the time to listen to it.  The name of the song is "No One's Left Keeping Score."  Click on the link below to hear it.