Do Artists have a Responsibility to Society?

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Inspiring view from my balcony, Lake Arenal, Costa Rica.

It is my opinion, as an artist, that we do not have a responsibility to society. We are not answerable to anyone other than ourselves.

As artists our struggle is to be true to our own voices, not some else’s. An artist shouldn’t feel a burden or obligation to set an example for the entire world. They shouldn’t feel that they have to reflect the beliefs or opinions of a certain segment of society. Pressure should not be put on an artist to “set a good example.” Or to change people’s political or moral views.

The first books I created were beautiful and sweet children’s books. The Rumpoles & The Barleys series, which I wrote and illustrated, will always be favorites of mine. I am blessed to know they have been a positive force in the lives of children around the world. On the other hand, I always knew I had so much more to say and I fought for years to be able to say it. With my creative nonfiction works and the publication of the NIGHT ANGELS CHRONCILES, I feel I am finally an artist who is true to myself.

Artists create from a deep place inside. It takes courage to go to that place and to let it out. Sometimes this can be horrifying. Sometimes it can be beautiful. Sometimes it can be painful. Sometimes it can be sweet and innocent. Playful. Brutal. Violent. X-rated.

My art (and I mean my paintings and drawings and writing) is mostly fantastical worlds of escape. This is because I find the real world to be horrifying on so many levels. I don’t have answers to the world’s problems. Well, actually, the world doesn’t need answers, it is humanity that needs a makeover. I don’t think we have even come close to figuring out those answers. Or perhaps we are afraid of them…or…I just don’t know. Due to my personality, my life experiences, my spirit, I am compelled to create art that uplifts and brings a ray of light to the darkness. That said, my art can be quite dark in its reflection of my own experiences and the suffering that I see around me.

As a woman artist, once I was married and had children, I was told over and over in many different ways, all of them painful, that I should put aside my compulsion to create, for the sake of my family. That my art should no longer be important. I had a husband and children now. They should be my focus. Of course, they were my focus. But I did not understand why being a good wife and mother and being an artist wasn’t possible. I couldn’t give up creating on paper. I couldn’t give up my imagination or the stories inside of me. Not any more than I could give up breathing. This was a difficult time for me as an artist and as a woman. And it went on for many years.

At various times, I have been told by the men in my life, that they needed to guide me. That I wasn’t a real artist, I was just pretending. That I needed to stop because the amount of time I spent doing my art didn’t make sense monetarily. Once, a drawing that I had worked on at night when my family slept, was thrown in the fire the next morning because it was “worthless.” My nose was broken as a punishment when I painted a picture that did not measure up to my husband’s standard. My writing was ridiculous and why would anyone ever want to read it? I should give up. I was a bad wife and mother because my focus wasn’t completely on them. Anyway, I was far too shy and I had no ability to “sell myself.” On and on. Even when I was finally a free woman and I was seeing someone “in the business,” he told me I should leave it all to him. I didn’t have the experience or the personality to know what was best or how to present anything.

My children are grown now and I am without “entanglements.” I am traveling and writing. I embrace all my life experiences. It comes out in my work. It is coming out right now as I write this! I have remained true to my love of fantasy and now I can indulge it. Fantasy is what got me through the darkness. I love creating that darkness in my writing. And then filtering in those moments of light. I know how it feels. I lived through it. How tragic it would be if I had given up. To think that if I had listened to those voices I would never have written Key of Mystery or Book of Angels, or gone on this NIGHT ANGELS CHRONCILES journey.

We all live through darkness. We are all artists trying to express ourselves. Art is so powerful. It can uplift us. It can spiral us further down. A song or a poem can inspire kindness to a neighbor. Or it can lead to murder and suicide. It can incite riots. It can spark a revolution. It can bring reconciliation. I can’t judge any of that. I don’t understand enough about the forces and motivations behind it all, on a spiritual level.

For so much of my life I was bombarded with angry, resentful voices of society, telling me what I should do with my art. If I had listened to all those voices and let them guide me, I would have lost my balance and fallen too far into the darkness. With my spirit, with the way I see the world, how would I have faced each day?

How can I breathe if I can’t tell a story?

 

 

Interview about MY WORLD PROJECT

The Missing Slate, Interview with My World Project Founder Karen Hunt

For me, this is a way of life. It isn’t a “cause,” it isn’t a “movement.” I can’t put some spin on it. There aren’t any buzz words. It is how I choose to live, and I really can’t help it. It is so much a part of who I am.”

Honored to have this interview, by Constance A. Dunn, published in The Missing Slate, an international arts and literary magazine. The interview tells about My World Project and the backstory leading up to it. Here is a brief excerpt from the backstory…

“I went on a personal quest…I met a woman named Alma Woods, who was responsible for single-handedly getting the Watts Library built. And to illustrate the politics, they didn’t want to name the library after her, they wanted to name it after some big-wig politician and there was a huge outcry and they had no choice but to buckle under public pressure and name the library after her. She was a simple lady, lived in a simple house in Watts and I would go and visit her and “sit at her feet,” as it were, she was a real guru, she taught me so much! She would take me around her neighborhood and I saw Watts through her eyes. If there were kids loitering outside the liquor store she would reprimand them and they would hang their heads in guilt and listen to her. She was respected. She was fearless. I grew to love her. She encouraged me to follow my heart and not be afraid of where it led me. It was after that that I went into Central Juvenile Hall and talked to the principal, Dr. Arthur McCoy, an older version of the nutty professor and the most amazing human being, and he let me start teaching there, along with the amazing teacher in the girls’ school, Cheryl Neely.

Like a beautiful, magical web, one person has led to another in my life. Not big celebrities, or what you would call “movers and shakers,” but the salt of the earth people. The ones who really have the power because they don’t care about it. They are the ones who truly balance the good against the evil. The ones we never hear about. I know I use the word amazing a lot, but really, there is no better word for all these people.

TRAVELING THE HARD ROAD

I just received a phone call.

“Governor Brown signed her release!”

My heart soared. It was Silvia’s sister, Veronica, telling me that after twenty years in prison, Silvia was going to be set free.

I met Silvia in 1996, at Central Juvenile Hall, where she was awaiting her trial for a murder committed by her older, abusive boyfriend. She was accused of being an accomplice. She was sixteen years old. Along with seven other girls, Silvia was in my creative writing group. Twice a week I taught them at a steel table in a big room called Omega Unit. The room was filled with forty girls sitting on bunk beds, or walking around, laughing and talking. Baywatch was usually blasting from the television. It was chaos.

But somehow, we blocked it all out and let loose our imaginations. That steel table was like a little boat sailing us away to beautiful shores. There was magic at that table.

Silvia had a powerful voice and her words haunted me when I returned home at night and typed up the girls’ prose and poetry. Through Silvia’s writing, exploring how she became involved in abusive relationships, I was able to face the truth of my own life. It was the beginning of a hard road.

There are many roads, either easy or hard, and myriad reasons why we travel them. Silvia and I parted ways when she was twenty. She went from being chosen prom queen at the first-ever prom at Central, to serving a twenty-five years to life sentence at Chowchilla Women’s Prison. It seemed that the years would never pass. That the road she had been propelled onto would be endless and filled only with despair. There was no reason to believe that she would ever get out.

But the spirit can be incredibly strong. It can overcome the greatest obstacles and lift us from the darkest prison into the heavens. Times change. Climates can turn from icy cold to warm and caressing.

In one single moment, hearing those words, “Governor Brown signed her release,” all the sweat and the agony, all the tears and depression, all the climbing of the mountains, all the enduring of the dangerous quicksand, the stormy darkness, the feeling of losing one’s way–it all fell by the wayside.

For myself, the doubt and the pain that I have experienced over the years, well, I now know it was worth it.

At the end of that hard road, there is another beginning.

SUCRE, BOLIVIA, HERE I COME

Yeah, so, off on another adventure to Sucre, Bolivia, on April 6th, to write for two months. Working on Cave of Secrets, the third book in the NIGHT ANGELS CHRONICLES. Just finished Book of Angels, the second book!!!!! So, am I a digital nomad? This is the term I hear these days. I looked it up on the good ol’ internet and, sure enough, there were all kinds of places I could pay to “join” these communities. Because the people who started the communities are trying to make money off of “digital nomads.” So that they can then call themselves “digital nomads!”

And, of course, there were courses I could take to learn how to be one. Really? Sorry, but I am living this. This is LIFE. I am happiest with one small suitcase, my laptop, my phone, and my tablet, and whatever visas and innoculations I need, to get to where I want to go.

And btw, whatever you do, don’t try to steal my tablet, I will hurt you. It has all the books I want to read downloaded on it. Don’t even have to mention my laptop with all my writing!!! More to come!!!!!

JUST BECAUSE I’M AN “ARTIST” I MUST BE FLIGHTY AND DISORGANIZED…EXCUSE ME, WHAT?

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Writing in a café in Kranj, Slovenia

Throughout my life the assumption has repeatedly been made that because I am an artist (include writer in that title), I must therefore be flighty, impractical, moody and disorganized.

Oh, and most likely a drug addict and/or alcoholic, have loose morals and most definitely, my bedroom must be a mess. The list goes on.

“Artists are ‘all over the place,’ aren’t they?”

All over what place? All over the world? Because I have traveled all over the world, but I did it with super organized planning and a dedication and determination to accomplish  important goals.

If you want to describe me as a high achiever, I’m fine with that. If you want to say, wow, you sure have an imagination that is bigger than most, that’s okay too. It you want to say I am a visionary, hey, I don’t mind. If you want to say I am a pain in the ass because I never give up, even when it seems like no one could care less about what I am creating, I will give you a high-five. And, if you want to point out that I spend days, months and years working on projects that do not seem to make me a whole lot of money, I will have to agree with you.

Island of Dreams

 

One of my pieces of artwork inspired by a story I wrote, The Pool of Labrith, which I have yet to see published.

BUT, don’t dare to suggest that I am disorganized. I really take offense to that. I cannot create in chaos. I have to have a clean and orderly environment in order for me to focus.

Although, I must say, even when my kids were little, I could sit down at the table and focus despite the chaos of them running around and playing and crawling under my feet. I could get up, make the lunch, come back and enter the world of my imagination once again. It wasn’t easy, mind you, but it was out of necessity. It was an acceptable chaos, of a positive nature: my children growing before me. It was not the chaos of a disorganized mind.

And no, I do not wait for inspiration to strike. If I did, I would not have nineteen children’s books published and numerous essays and short stories. I would not have won awards, co-founded a creative writing nonprofit and now, at last realized my dream of Key of Mystery, the first book in the NIGHT ANGELS CHRONICLES, being published.

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Accepting the WOMAN OF DISTINCTION AWARD from the Soroptimists

I do not have to be drunk or high. I confess to having tried marijuana a few times and it was not for me. I have never used any other drugs, no exaggeration. Never. I cannot stand being drunk, but I love a glass of wine or a gin and tonic. Yes, I was young once…. I do know how to have a good time, but I don’t need to be high for that.

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College party at St. John’s College, York, England. The artist paints herself as if she is a garden, sort of.

I am self-disciplined and I work out almost every single day. I do not indulge my feelings, I set goals and go at them with energy. And I teach boxing and kickboxing at a martial arts gym.

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Where I used to teach, I now teach at House of Champions

Of course, there are artists who have drug problems, who are messy, who are impractical. There are lazy people and driven people in every field. There are also messy plumbers who are like that, and drug-addicted doctors (unfortunately) and even impractical lawyers. You can’t automatically lump one group of people together and assume they are all a certain way.

Now, I might not be a drug addict, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have other issues. I am not good at picking the right men to marry, that is for sure. And I can get depressed about life in general. Like everyone, I have my own weaknesses that I need to overcome. Just don’t put me in a box. I most certainly will jump out.

One thing all us artists will agree on is that it is a lonely calling and requires a huge amount of self-discipline and self-motivation. You are not punching a time-clock. No one is telling you to get the job done. Creating my NIGHT ANGELS CHRONICLES series meant a few years of dogged writing, where no one but myself was encouraging me to do it. There is the danger of beginning to suffer from a myopic view of your art, leading to doubt and discouragement.

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Such an amazing moment, to see my book in print after so much hard work for so long.

But, if you are determined and self-disciplined, you do not rely on your feelings, good or bad. You keep on going.

Never give up, never give in. Write or die. Might sound extreme, but that is my motto, because being an artist is as much a part of me as breathing.

 

TWELVE OF MY FAVORITE WRITING LOCATIONS

Although I live a simple life, and in fact, as a single mother, I have often struggled to make ends meet, somehow, through sheer determination and for the love of it, I have managed to write in some of the most astounding places. The views from my windows and terraces have inspired my works. How insipid and flat would be the world of the Night Angels if I had not climbed the dunes of Merzouga or walked the streets of Istanbul?  Here are twelve of my favorites, so far…

1. LAKE BLED, SLOVENIA

395941_10151139635875360_660401846_n[1]This was my view, once upon a time, when I was writing at Lake Bled. You can see the castle rising from the mist, perched on the rocky ledge. My inspiration for Professor Strejan’s castle in the NIGHT ANGELS CHRONICLES.

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This lake, that I came to as a child, just ten years old, and then as a teenager, vowing that I would come back and live here, and low and behold, I did as an adult. My daughter is half Slovene. I lived here when it was part of communist Yugoslavia and I still consider it my second home and visit often. I have many dear friends here and it is a place I always feel welcome. What a treasure.

 

2. FEZ, MOROCCO

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This most breathtaking view of Fez has a special place in my heart. After one month in the Sahara Desert without hot water, or even a real shower ever, or proper heating (don’t get me started), my friend Lux and I escaped on the night bus to Fez, where we found the most fabulous hotel in the Medina and climbed our way to the top to sit and drink martinis and be inspired, her in her art and me in my writing.

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What’s not to love about writing in a room like this, in the heart of the Medina?

3. LAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND

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This is Ouchy, near Lausanne, Switzerland, on Lake Geneva. The little pink building towards the left is where I stayed with my daughter and my niece. I was working on my childhood memoir, Into the World, and had traveled all this way to visit the 17th century castle I had lived in as a child; chateau d’Echendens, on a hill above the city. In the mornings I ran along the lake side and the day we went to visit the castle…well, it was as if I was back there again as a child, running through the streets of the village after school, being chased by the children, who wanted to fight me and my sister, because they were convinced we came from the land of “Zorro,” since it was the only American TV show, besides Perdue dans la Space (Lost in Space). My sister and I would climb over the castle wall and peer back and taunt them.

4. DJERASSI ARTISTS RETREAT, BIG SUR, CALIFORNIA, USA

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This is the view from my time at Djerassi in Northern California, where I spent one week living in a pod-like room with this amazing view, and working on Key of Mystery, book I in the Night Angels Chronicles.

5. ISTANBUL, TURKEY

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And I suppose you could say my favorite place ever, the penthouse terrace on the steep little street, just off Istiklal Cadessi, in Beyuglu, Istanbul. From here, I could watch the ships come and go on the Bosporus, the knife that slices through the East and the West, the inspiration for Into the World and the Night Angels Chronicles.

6. MARTHA’S VINEYARD, UNITED STATES

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I guess they are all favorite spots. This is Martha’s Vineyard, where I have been three times as a writer’s resident at Noepe. I think I will keep returning. There is something magical about this island in October when all the tourists are gone, the shops close for the winter and it is just the ghosts of the past.

7. LAKE ARENAL, COSTA RICA

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Where I spent one month of bliss, in Costa Rica, writing every day. First, in a house overlooking Lake Arenal, then at the Arenal Observatory Lodge, right beneath the active volcano, and last, on the coast, the sunsets held inside of me forever.

8. SAHARA DESERT, MOROCCO

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Here is the view from my monkish room in the Sahara Desert, in Morocco, where I spent one month writing. It was not an easy time. But the magic is apparent. Birds were my constant companion, flying in and out of the open window.

9. SEDONA AND PHOENIX, ARIZONA, USA

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Sedona and Phoenix, where I spend quite a lot of time, visiting my son and his partner, and writing, writing! These are both views from my rooms where I write.

10. OJAI, CALIFORNIA, USA

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Closest to home, and what feels most  like home, is Ojai. I go here on many weekends just to get away and write and see a peaceful perspective. The horse always says hello to me.

11. TYRONE GUTHRIE CENTRE, IRELAND

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Here, the most brooding and mystical place, where I must return, Tyrone Guthrie Centre, in Ireland. This was my view from my bedroom window. This was and is pure magic.

12. HAMBIDGE CENTER, GEORGIA, USA

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And here, the little cabin I called my own while a resident at the Hambidge Center in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Georgia. My very own cabin, where I was free to dream and create.

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Most appropriate to end with the street that I walked up and down, to and from my penthouse flat in Istanbul. I would return there in a second. I think Istanbul, so far, is my favorite city, and my most city to write. I would say Ireland, so far, is my most inspiring countryside.

I say, SO FAR, because who knows what my favorite will be tomorrow?

INTERVIEW IN UK, Key of Mystery

Interview, Key of Mystery

This is a pretty cool interview, and it includes one of my recent playlists from my boxing classes.

 

USA Today’s Happily Ever After Interview

USA Today interview

Take a look at my interview, live today, about Key of Mystery and the NIGHT ANGELS CHRONICLES. I am writing this series under the name KH Mezek.

KEY OF MYSTERY Released Today

NIGHT ANGELS CHRONICLES by KH Mezek

Key of Mystery on Amazon

Be careful who you love. It just might kill you.”

When Sera’s father is killed in a horrific accident, all he leaves behind is a mysterious key. Sera places the key on a chain around her neck and vows to avenge her father. Strange characters arrive in town, including the otherworldly Night Angels, who claim to be sent for her protection.

Sera falls hard for one of them–exotic, arrogant Peter. But what if his promise of love is only a ruse to gain access to the key? As Sera’s connection to the key grows, so do her supernatural powers. Guided by clues let by her father, Sera searches for the hidden chamber beneath the city, hoping to save what lies within before the sinister mayor and his deadly followers drown humanity in a bloodbath.

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WINNER: WHY I CHOOSE TO REMEMBER MY 50TH BLOOD-BLATH OF A BIRTHDAY INSTEAD OF TRYING TO FORGET IT

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Pooled Ink Editor’s Pick Wow, so much happening on the writing front! So proud to have my essay, WHY I CHOOSE TO REMEMBER MY 50TH BLOOD-BATH OF A BIRTHDAY INSTEAD OF TRYING TO FORGET IT chosen for publication in “Pooled Ink.” It is an ‘editor’s pick’ thanks to the wonderful Jennifer Top.