Wednesday, January 2, 2008


New Year's Eve

We retreated into our respective corners, recovering from the everywhere-cold and awaiting that hour where things instantly change from old news ‘last year’ to 2008. To potential. To that glittering ‘future’, where anything can happen.

A year ago, Global Warming was the big concern. In Niagara on the Lake, we walked to the exhibit over grass, watching squirrels scamper as if spring were in the air, wondering how much longer this warmth would last, and how creative we would have to be to keep it from slowing us down.

We felt part of The Important Effort, our work bringing consciousness to the problem we all share: that human beings are exceeding the carrying capacity of the planet. As artists, our work is ice. A year later, Jaz signs up for Greenpeace, but the bergs are still melting at an alarming rate, and you have to ask: what is really being done? (

This year, we are perched high above the center of the downtown in one of North America’s largest cities.

Global Waming might just be something to chat about at a holiday party, as all things modern are consumable, and all things consumable are wrapped and lit up, glistening for the ubiquitous effort, aimed at The Spender. Silver bells, city sidewalks, red ribbons -- all conspirators. Even the Christmas tree, which still holds a glimpse of childhood enchantment for me, is trotted out, dressed up and put to work.

Still there are things to be enjoyed, and we succumbed without much resistance. Our three-man crew had tickets to a music concert, “The Black Kids”. We dressed up and sat at a table for two at China Grill.

The Hard Rock Hotel teemed with well dressed young visitors; neon yellow wrist bands sorted us from strangers-to-the-hotel and elevators stopped frequently, filled with revellers on a mission. Chicago knows how to party!

Before the clock struck, we had flicked on the television, and Bono was giving a speech about ending world poverty.

A day later, we shared dinner in our suite, as the youngsters told about their New Year’s Eve adventures (flirtations, band music, ear plugs and front-of-the-line treatment from young women at a Mexican greasy spoon).

At the end of our New Year’s supper, we found ourselves in a discussion about the homeless. In the midst of all the glitz and class (even the malls seem like opera houses made for royalty), there is a daily element of people who aren’t on the same ride.

They stand in sub zero temperatures, in worn, dirty clothes shaking their plastic cups, as well- dressed shoppers pass, leaning against the bitter wind. Sometimes a musician on sax or drum. We shell out regularly. Lately I’ve given them chocolates.Ari has struck up a relationship with one of them. The man’s wife has cancer, and at last conversation, didn’t know if she would make it through the night.

This is where we find ourselves at the turn of the year, in a highrise with a view and every convenience just steps away. Busy with our all consuming work, musing about the limited usefulness of our compassion, with the world as it is.

Cement and asphalt underfoot at the turn of the year. No earth visible, everything in hibernation, except human beings. Unless of course, you count the weather. The snow, the crystals. With the difference of a degree, moving towards slush, or towards ice. Alive, somehow in the cold. Precious and fragile. Just like we all, we each, are.

1 comment:

Mary said...

What wonderfully evocative writing! It's such a pleasure to visit Chicago through the lens of Paintings Below Zero. I'd love to visit!