Taking the First Step: A Profile of Artist Melissa Joseph

On April 12th of 2015, Melissa Joseph changed the course of her career. Even if she didn’t exactly know it yet.

She had tried to actively avoid violence most of her life, and growing up in the small town of St. Marys, Pennsylvania she, for the most part, was able to. But as she moved away, moved on, and came into her own, she realized that it was an irresponsible way to live.

April 12th 2015, when Freddie Gray died, the violence the world exuded became unavoidable for her. It was time for a change; time to face the rage that presented itself in the news, on street corners, and around the globe in almost every household.

 “I can’t do nothing anymore. I have to do something. And as an artist, this is what I have to give.”

After spending time as an art teacher in private and public schools in Washington D.C., Cincinnati, and Rome Italy, Melissa had thought she had found her life’s calling. She wanted to help people capture their inner self and work through their emotions with art, something she had been doing for years.

Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche and Ricky John Best. Hollywood Transit Center, Portland OR
Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche and Ricky John Best. Hollywood Transit Center, Portland OR

Then tragedy struck Melissa at home. Her father passed away suddenly. Her thoughts shifted, time seemed to stop while emotions swirled and started to change her mind on her life’s course again. Life is so ephemeral and it only gives you a fleeting chance to live the way you want. She needed to produce art, not just teach others how to do it.

Being a teacher is a lifestyle. It’s being there for the young adults and children you teach for ball games, recitals, concerts, and plays. It’s being there for all the school activities that are necessary for encouragement and proper development. She no longer thought that she could provide the right perspective for her own work while devoting so much of her time to the development of others.

Freddie Gray. Stop 2: N. Fremont Ave. & Mosher St, Baltimore
Freddie Gray. Stop 2: N. Fremont Ave. & Mosher St, Baltimore

 “I feel strongly that it’s even more than a lifestyle but its own vocation.  It’s a special calling, just like being an artist. I realized that I had something to say and I couldn’t give teaching what it deserved because I felt so strongly about getting my own work out.”

With her already embedded feelings of angst and despair coagulating, her father’s death provided the catalyst to finding her artistic voice. It had to be exercised and metered out in healthy doses upon the world, recycling the anger into something useful, something beautiful; something that could be better understood.

“This is what I have to do.”

Her first project was icons but she shifted rather quickly to working with cement and stone to represent the hard to handle subject matter. She felt as if she needed to physically work through the global stories of violence and rage with her own muscles, bones, and sweat. The heavy feeling of someone you know dying, transcribed into a physical specimen designed to evoke those same emotions.

Philando Castile. Larpenteur Ave, Falcon Heights MN
Philando Castile. Larpenteur Ave, Falcon Heights MN

She was finding that trying to use words about her emotions was too difficult. They would get in the way and clout her ability to reason and speak directly and clearly. The conversations would shut down and that was not helpful to Melissa or anyone.

“If you’re going to tackle something this heavy you have to be ready for the conversation.”

But for Melissa, it’s not about lecture it’s about connection.

“There’s no blame in it. It’s strictly anti-violence. Everyone is held accountable. It’s not just one thing, it’s everything.”

Her newest series takes a look at spots where people in America and around the world have died from needless violence. The images, ink with brushes on paper, are bare, stark, and have nothing living in them. Just the street corner and the buildings that surround. There’s no cars, birds, or bugs and certainly no humans. They are an attempt to remember the countless names that flash on the nightly news and in the papers daily. The new name just pushes the old name out, making it meaningless and totally forgettable.

“It represents the void left in people leaving and it helps to remember the ones who have died by the hands of violence in the world.”

The death of Freddie Gray triggered a need to react to the violence, but for Melissa, it’s not just about cops or youth, it’s about people, all people, and more specifically those needlessly dying by the hands of reactive violence.  No matter their profession, or race, or gender, or reason, the experience of having someone taken from you so suddenly is unnecessary.

Lylliana Mendoza & Aslemarie Torres. 3000 Block of Lawrence St. North Philly
Lylliana Mendoza & Aslemarie Torres. 3000 Block of Lawrence St. North Philly

Freddie Gray may have triggered the need for the discussion, but her father’s death triggered the need to start the discussion. The bravery needed to utter the first word, pick up a pen or a brush, or take that first step is inconceivable to most. Luckily for us, it wasn’t for Melissa Joseph.

You can currently view Melissa’s work at the Woodmere Museum with another being added in October. Updates will be on her website.

For more about Melissa Joseph, her mission and her work, please visit www.melissajoseph.net or @melissajoseph_art on Instagram.

To get involved please visit the following sites:

http://blacklivesmatter.com/getinvolved/

http://www.mothersincharge.org/

baseball vs football

Baseball is Timeless

It’s playoff baseball season but you probably didn’t notice.  Maybe you saw a passing story line in the runner on the bottom of ESPN, a quick blurb that indicated that teams have been chosen.  But it’s difficult to notice baseball buried deep under the NFL’s teeming headlines, every injury report, every power ranking, arrest, comments, analysis, drama, and every single little side note taking precedent over all other sports.  The NFL is king of ratings and the talk around most water coolers every Monday, Tuesday, and Friday.

Each NFL fan tunes in on Sunday’s in fall and winter, a crucial time in advertising for the holiday season. If they sit for all 3 games on a Sunday, that’s about a 12 hour day.  Every NFL game contains around 100 commercials, according to The Wall Street Journal, accumulating around 75 minutes of air time per game.  The same NFL game will contain around 17 minutes of official review and only around 11 minutes of actual football game action on the field.  If you sit for 12 hours of games you will have watched over 300 commercials totaling almost 4 full hours.  You will have watched an hour of officials reviewing calls and about a half hour of actual football game action.  The other 7.5 hours leftover in those 12 will be spent watching teams huddle, referees line the ball up with chains and sticks, players milling around waiting for a call from the sidelines, and analysts discussing various players and strategies.

It’s playoff baseball season, but you probably didn’t notice.  Most NFL fans aren’t Baseball fans.  The game is too slow they say, not enough action they claim, not enough excitement, and the game is way too long.  The average NFL game is around 13 minutes longer on average than that of the average baseball game.  Baseball’s time of action rings in around 17 minutes compared to the NFL’s 13, and due to the nature of the game only stopping for inning changes, the average amount of commercials is around 50.

This doesn’t equate to baseball being more or less “exciting”.  The question is why is baseball considered boring and why isn’t the NFL?  Baseball has fewer collisions and less serious injury. Maybe the clear and present danger of a season ending injury looming over the head of an NFL athlete is enough to keep the viewer more engaged?  The NFL also has only a few games in comparison to baseball, and it could be argued that every NFL is extremely important, while in baseball not every game has the weight of the entire season.  But starting an NFL season 0-2 usually results in missing the playoffs. Why watch your team after week 2 if they probably will not make the playoffs? (NFL teams have a 10% chance of making the playoffs if they start the season 0-2)  Starting 0-3 makes it even less likely.  Could your season be over by the end of September?

The game of Football is very intense.  We are told that every play, every single down matters in a season because the season is short and tough.  Everyone plays at 100% all the time which means you have to be tough in will and endurance.  It is not a game for the weak and so its fans are just as intense, burning their eyes not to blink, not to miss a game, never to miss a play, to be there for their team; if the players must act like gladiators then so must its supporters.  The time clock in the corner of the screen forever reminding you that the game is short, like the season, and that it is imperative that you must win, you must conquer the opponent, give your body up for the glory of another “W”.  The season is ticking away.

So much of life runs on a clock.  There are always deadlines to meet, business hours, commute times, call times, wait times, conference calls, meetings and everything running on a time clock.  We count down the days to the weekend, to vacation, to our next big project and so on.  It makes the day nerve wracking, the weeks fly by, and the years seem like hours.  Baseball is a beautiful and graceful game played with no clock.  There is no time ticking down and away, no deadline to get the next point or score.  It’s just a game.  To watch its best men and women play is like watching ballet or an artist at work; you can see the years of practice, the time that it took to build their skill, their repertoire and you can lose yourself in it.  These things are priceless and timeless and it’s meant to be relaxing, not boring, it’s meant to be graceful, beautiful, artful.  Its nuances aren’t pointless, they’re poetry.  Baseball is meant to be enjoyed, at a summer’s pace, with your friends and family, at ease.

The argument that football is more exciting than baseball could just come down to aesthetics.  Maybe football is just inherently more exciting because of all the things previously stated and not just one being more important than the other.  Maybe the time of year, plus the inherent danger, plus the weight of the season, plus the overall showmanship of the camera angles and slow motion replay make the NFL seem more exciting.  Mathematically by the numbers it’s not.  Or maybe that’s too complex.  Maybe it’s just the time clock in the corner of the screen, pushing the viewer to stay tuned, keeping them on schedule, forcing suspense onto the viewer as the game, the season, and the day ticks away.

There shouldn’t be a comparison.  They are two different sports meant to be enjoyed differently.  Take away time and there is no comparison.

 

Playoff Baseball: A Poem

Everyone says,

“Baseball is boring”

“There’s not enough action”

“Too many people standing around

Looking awkwardly at each other and

Talking at the bases with the other team”.

“Where’s the blood and chronic traumatic encephalopathy”?

“Where’s the comparison to gladiators and war”?

“Baseball is too boring!”

But they’re wrong.

It’s not boring.

It’s timeless.

They should be asking themselves

“Why does a time clock add so much suspense?”

To hell with time!

Let’s go watch some playoff baseball, dude.

And just for once, forget time exists.

 

Anthony N. White is a writer currently living in Rochester, NY.

He can be heckled on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat @Ruthieshusband

Or on Facebook, of course.