Class Photo




“I Want to Paint the Night Sky with Stars”

If you add blue to red it makes purple. If you throw an oversize white-T over your neck and pull it over your chest and arms, you will avoid splashing purple paint on your clothes.  If you swirl your brush, twisting your wrist just so, you will get texture. If you want the night to be filled with stars, you make stars.  When you spend your afternoon creating art, you will be here and not there.  Here, at 7743 Hamilton Avenue in Homewood North you can spend the afternoon letting frustration, sadness, or elation travel through you and onto a plank of wood. 

If my hands were anything other than hands they would be a street corner jazz quintet.  Those are the words of Vanessa German.  She is an artist like her mother before her.  She grew up creating and brought this habit with her when she moved to Homewood North seven years ago.  The wiry sculptures that she twisted with her hands on her wooden porch caught the attention of her neighbors.  Kids stood to stare by the front gate and asked if they could make something like Ms. Vanessa did. 

The answer was they could.  Art is love. The community is the museum, the gallery, and the exhibition space.  Those are the words of Vanessa German.  She and her partner scoured their apartment for materials: brushes, wood, scrap metal—anything that could be molded, melded, or created.  She took the supplies and spread them across her porch, and this caught the attention of the neighbors.  The result was Love Front Porch a space for kids of Homewood North, South, and West to get creative. 


In Pittsburgh there has been a move to revitalize art programs aimed at the city’s youth.  This is because the creative process is so valuable to those with developing minds.  Art, in whatever form it takes, can be used as a way to sharpen critical thinking, develop communication skills, all while being extremely therapeutic, serving as a mode of self expression.   There is no right or wrong in art, so with the completion of a project, a child can feel successful.  Which is sometimes hard for a child.  Art takes children seriously.

Art covers the bridge from what our schools can do and what certain programs can do. Those are the words of Vanessa German.  But here are some of mine: I can’t imagine growing up without it.  Back in the late nineties when my dad was acting up and my mom needed to get away for a bit, my sister and I would be dumped at our grandma’s. Upon entering the portal to the quaint colonial in Wynnewood, a weight was lifted, and we were free.

Three things were guaranteed at Grandma’s.  A story at bedtime, Mickey Mouse pancakes, and an art project. In that house I was a child prodigy, my grandma peered over my shoulder as I worked, and asked me to explain the meaning behind the frowning face of the sun.  In the attic was the studio, our little home where she would crouch down as to not hit her head while dropping a pile of magazines before me.  These were materials for my collage.  She would sit in the corner either with her knitting needles or at her sewing machine, creating a project of her own, while I created mine. 

In summertime, the art moved outside. We made statues out of wooden pieces to be placed in the garden among the green things. There were “The Ladies” who in stood with their sunglasses and martini glasses among the rose bushes and the “Wicked Witch” whose green nose protruded out from behind grandpa’s shed next to the tomato plants.  We sat in the buzzing garden and sketched the flowers we liked best.  My mediocre watercolor of lilacs, purple and blue, still hangs on her wall.

Art made us better.  It was her thing.  Hers, my sister’s, and mine.  When I think of the times we shared, I think of the things we made.  The things we carved, painted, ripped, and glued.  It’s the ability to manage what’s on the canvass when you can’t control the things going on around you, or even the things in your own head.  It’s adding blue to red to make purple.  It’s swirling your brush a certain way to make clouds.  It’s your thing. You can do with it what you want. 


Works Cited:

O’Neil, Brian. “There’s an art to making good use of a front porch”. Pittsburgh Post Gazette. 29 Jul. 2012. <;.

Williams, Geraldine H. Developmental Art Therapy. University Park Press. Baltimore, Maryland. 1977.

The Overview Effect

Gravity’s my enemy

It grabs at me like I’m money

Stars are banging close to me

As I’m floating in a life oddassey

–M.I.A. “Space” 

     I have faith in science. More faith in science than maybe anything else. What I don’t have faith in – or what I don’t trust – is the people who make rushed and selfish interpretations of that science. Hitler, for instance, used science as cloud-cover for his racist rampage across Europe. Jews, blacks, homosexuals were all “genetically inferior” and thus OK to be slaughtered. That’s the type of event that gives science a bad name. That and Monsanto. And creationism. And capitalism.

Jebus, does anyone do anything useful with science? Doctors, yes, but anyone else? Oh! I know who, astronomers and cosmologists! People who study space work in a science as out-of-this-world as possible but also a science that involves everything in the universe – including humanity.

We need to listen to these scientists more often. Astronauts (with the exception of that one that drove 12 hours in a space diaper to kidnap and kill another female astronaut out of “star-crossed lover rage”) return to Earth with a new cosmic perspective on the world. Astronomers call this “awesome” new perspective “the Overview Effect.” Philosopher Daivd Loy who studies this effect explains how it changes astronauts returning to earth.

To have the experience of awe is, at least for that moment, to let go of yourself, to transcend the sense of separation. So it’s not just that they were experiencing something other than them but they were, at some very deep level, integrating; realizing their connectedness with that beautiful blue-green ball.

This is a perspective that can add weight to Latour’s compositionist narrative. No just the principle of gravity as I originally though, but an understanding of gravity on Earth. You have to be able to understand your existence on “spaceship Earth.” Once you understand how fortunate we are to have a planet like Earth you can understand just how much we all depend on each other. “We are in space already,” says Overview Institute co-founder David Beaver, “it’s just that we haven’t brought that into our perspective as we live here on earth. The overview effect is simply the sudden recognition that we live on a planet – and all the implications that it brings to life on Earth.”

Love your monsters, love your technology, love your existence in cosmic unity!