Who Decides the Culture of Our Time? Us or Future Generations?

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What is culture? Well, it’s complicated. We seem to have cultures within cultures, within cultures, and it only seems to be getting more complex and difficult to define. To my understanding, it’s the art, music, food, aesthetic, values and beliefs of a particular group of people, at a particular time in history. Culture is not static, it is ever changing along with the people who are immersed in it. It is people that decide culture. They decide what changes and what doesn’t. What parts to keep and what parts to discard, and what new ideas to include. Culture tends to shift from one generation to the next as each group of youth challenges the ideas and values of their Parent’s generation. Let’s also not ignore how our history has shown us our potential for self proclaimed superiority over another culture. An people of one culture may all but eradicate the culture of another in order to grow their own, in the name of righteousness, or progress. People have done horrific things in the name of expanding their beliefs and way of life. Culture continues to adapt over time, whether we cling to the past or not. To be cultured is to be enlightened, educated and knowledgable about the time in which we live. When we describe someone as cultured we often mean they are refined, well educated and have good taste, whatever that is, from one moment to the next?

It is interesting to me that something that is clearly so deeply valued by people, is made up of components such as art, books and music that never seem to get the recognition, validation or support they require to sustain themselves. People fight to preserve and maintain art, books and music with fierce protectiveness. We put it in museums and libraries, display it in our homes and public buildings. We spend immense amounts of money keeping it safe. We talk about it, write about it and make documentary films about it. Yet, most of the people I know who are making art, music and writing books are are struggling for recognition and to make a living wage. Centuries and centuries of people creating the art, music and books that are the essence of the culture of the time in which they were created with little to no real appreciation or support while they were actually alive and creating. Why is this? And why does it still continue to happen today?

Well, the simple answer to my mind, is that people can’t seem to see past the end of their own noses, and hind-sight is 20/20. The more complicated answer is that art captures the essence of culture in a moment in time and nobody is fully aware of what precisely the culture is while they are living it. They are quite literally caught up in the moment and continual upheaval and evolution of culture and not aware of what will be significant to their cultural time until they look back and see it clearly portrayed through the great artistic minds of the time. Nobody knew Woodstock, just a three day music festival in a farmer’s field would become the climax of what would be later known as a defining moment in our history and significant cultural marker of the 1960’s. Many of the performers that played Woodstock, like Joe Cocker (Have a Little Help From My Friends) and Crosby, Stills, Nash (and Young) (It was only their second time ever playing live), were barely known at the time and they were catapulted to stardom and cultural significance. What about all the creative minds who defined our cultural history? I would love to go back in time and ask Socrates, Mozart and Frida Kahlo about their life experience and whether or not they felt valued and supported by their community in their artistic endeavours? Books, documentaries and essays about their lives seem to suggest that no, they did not in fact get that support when they needed it. They struggled significantly and did not get the recognition they truly deserved until well after they were dead. They were not appreciated fully until they were gone. But yet, they still created because they were compelled to do so. Their work allowed them to process and understand the world around them and helped them make sense of living, even if they felt isolated and found it difficult to relate to the masses.

The truth is, that all art, music and writing is capturing the essence of culture as it is happening. It would be impossible not to. We are all living it and all trying to make sense of what is going on around us and within us, and the artistic community is often slightly removed from mainstream culture and being on the fringe tends to give one a better vantage point to see what is actually going on around them. We are a product of our time and the culture that exists at that time, and no matter when in history we are, culture is constantly in flux, so it can be very confusing and difficult to make sense of. Joan Didion, an American journalist and writer, famous for her writing in the 1960’s-70’s about cultural chaos and social fragmentation said, “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.” I couldn’t agree more. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the music, art and writing of the 1960’s resonates so deeply with me as an artist and writer myself given all the cultural parallels to our current time. The cultural chaos that Joan Didion wrote about reflected a time of deep generational divide in values, major political upheaval, the threat of war, and ramped up racial discrimination and civil rights activism. Today we are facing all of the same issues in different packaging. In the 60’s women were burning their bras, today we attend the Women’s March and hashtag #timesup on social media in support of equal pay for women. The Black Panther Party was created in 1966 to protect African American citizens from police brutality, today we have the Black Lives Matter activist movement. In the 60’s, an entire generation challenged the status quo, railing against the rigid family structure and cultural values of the 1950s’, conservative, religious, hard-working middle class. They rejected old cultural structures, preferring freedom, less lifestyle restrictions, less materialism, and embraced eastern philosophy, spirituality and the recreational use of marijuana. Today, we have the millennial generation rejecting old political and social structures and values, fighting for a better quality of life with less emphasis on material gain, the ability to love who they want and define themselves as they wish. Again, eastern philosophy and spiritual practices are being embraced in an even bigger way and marijuana is back in popular culture with the use of CBD Oil (Cannabis Based Drug) on the rise in the medical industry and the legalization of Cannabis for medical use in the U.S. in 29 States already and Canada slated to legalize this year. The parallel’s between the 1960’s and today are uncanny. There are song lyrics and magazine articles written from that time in history that could easily have been written today.

Culture is continually changing and reflecting the social issues and values of the time, but I would argue that people have changed very little. While our world looks very different now in terms of infrastructure and population growth, and technology changing the world dramatically, the human condition is ticking along slowly like it somehow has not learned from itself at all. We are still walking around blind and reactionary to the shifting cultural values as they happen before our eyes and not valuing and supporting the artistic community that is capturing it as it happens until we look back years later and it’s often too late to support them. Joan Didion also wrote “In theory momentos serve to bring back the moment. In fact they serve only to make clear how inadequately I appreciated the moment when it was here.” If you have ever read any of my previous writing, you’ll know that I am a big believer in self examination, personal evolution and intentional living. A big part of this is evaluating how much we have learned from our past and what we choose to do differently as a result. What if we didn’t wait for hind-sight to show us what is culturally relevant and what artists, musicians and writers we should have supported while they were giving all of themselves to their generation? What if we decided for ourselves what is relevant right now? What if we took the reins and intentionally voted with our dollars and our attention what we want to go down in history? What if we didn’t wait for our children and grandchildren to decide what was culturally relevant from our generation, but instead, we stood back, saw the bigger picture and realized the pattern that has shown us again and again that it’s the people challenging the status quo who define the culture of the time? Those fringe artists are right on the pulse of the cultural shift and the cusp of change is right there captured within their art for all to see. If they bother to look. What if we got on board early and supported that change instead of sitting back and watching where the pieces fall?

So, how do we do that? Well, we can start by acknowledging how important art, music and writing is to society! Show me a home that you would like to live in that has no books, music or art displayed? A home void of those things is a sad place indeed. You have an opinion and taste of your own. Don’t wait for the masses to decide for you what is good and culturally significant. Go watch local bands play and buy their music. Find them on Spotify, listen to them in your home and tell your friends about them. Check out a local market or festival and purchase art from artists and makers in your own city. Ask them about their work when you are face to face with them. Buy books directly from Author’s websites or their booth at conventions where they receive all of the money, not just a tiny percentage that they get when they sell at big book stores like Chapters. The people who are quite literally capturing and defining our current culture should be able to make a living wage and support themselves at the very least. They are doing good, important work for their community and I think it’s time we recognized it. Why do we need to continue to wait for future generations to decide for us what was culturally relevant during our generation? We have a role in history and we have the opportunity to spend our money on the things we want more of in our world and support the things we think are important. The painting you bought that’s a sanitized knock off of a knock off from Winners will have no cultural relevance or significance in history, but that little book you buy off of an Author’s table at a market could turn out to be the next great philosophical work of our time. That writer could be the Socrates of the the Twenty-first century, and you would have been part of that greatness for supporting it and making it possible for her to continue her work. That kid you watched play his guitar and sing at a little folk festival in a small town, could be the next Bob Dylan and his songs might go down in history as some of the most influetial words of the 2010’s. You never know, but at any given moment, you could be supporting an incredible mind and creative genius, and have a part to play in changing the world as we know it. At the very least, you will be woven into the cultural fabric of an important moment in human history, and I think that is more than worth your attention.

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Hustle & Bustle/Downriver House, 2016 by Bruno Canadien

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The Vessel by David Altmejd

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The Vessel by David Altmejd

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SHIELD, 2017 by Caroline Monnet

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Joey Senft

STYLING, HAIR & MAKEUP BY: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams

NEW FASHION: Black wool tam from The Haberdashery. Nude bodysuit by American Apparel. Fringe earrings made with salvaged materials by The Salvage Heart.

THRIFTED FASHION: Gold snake belt and wide leg checkered pants.

VINTAGE FASHION: Pink satin coat from Shop Take Care. Red embroidered shoes from Wildwoodrose and PJ Vintage.

LOCATION: Winnipeg Art Gallery, *INSURGENCE/RESURGENCE

*INSURGENCE/RESURGENCE brings together 29 emerging-to-established Indigenous artists who are pushing boundaries with their work. The collection considers political insurgency and cultural resurgence to radically shift our understanding of Canada, now and in the future. Working in a variety of media, the artists focus on Indigenous intergenerational cultural knowledge within land based practices, gender, traditional aesthetics, language revitalization, interconnected kinships, identity, and material culture. INSURGENCE/RESURGENCE is the WAG’s largest-ever exhibition of contemporary Indigenous art and includes 12 new commissions from artists across Canadian territories and nations. –Winnipeg Art Gallery Website

 

The Art of Life

“There is no such thing as work-life balance. Everything worth fighting for unbalances your life.”
― Alain de Botton

“The great Sufi poet and philosopher Rumi once advised his students to write down the three things they most wanted in life. If any item on the list clashes with any other item, Rumi warned, you are destined for unhappiness. Better to live a life of single-pointed focus, he taught. But what about the benefits of living harmoniously among extremes? What if you could somehow create an expansive enough life that you could synchronize seemingly incongruous opposites into a worldview that excludes nothing?” ― Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

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Crystals from SHAKTI, Photo by Michael Sanders

Life can be very complicated one moment and very simple the next.  One minute you feel you have found the perfect balance between all the things that are important to you, and the next minute you wonder how the hell you ever got yourself into this mess of a life!

When it comes to work/life balance, I have learned this.  You need to measure balance not from day to day, week to week or even year to year.  You must measure balance in years or even decades, or you will drive yourself mad with what appears to be a life of complete imbalance and utter chaos.  There is such a thing as a crappy year or a fantastic decade.  Balance can only be seen in hindsight after many years have passed and you can see the ebbs and flows and how it all eventually evens out.  The hard part of course is the patience and faith required to allow life to unfold without madly trying to control every twist and turn along the way.

It’s this patience (with more than a few meltdowns) and faith (interspersed with intense periods of doubt), that I have made a major life overhaul with my Husband Gregory.  As of this month, we are embarking on a year of pursuing our artistic passions full-time while juggling two dogs and two small boys who will for the first time be full-time at school.  Since our first son was born 7 years ago, I gave up my 10 year career in Environmental Science and have been a stay-at-home Mom squeezing out moments to pursue fashion styling, bellydancing and blogging, which were all passions I did as “hobbies” while working. My Husband has worked as a high school teacher by day and an author/illustrator/artist whenever he possibly could.  In a nutshell, life has been madly unbalanced.

“When you go through a hard period,  When everything seems to oppose you,
… When you feel you cannot even bear one more minute,
NEVER GIVE UP!
Because it is the time and place that the course will divert!”
― Jalaluddin Rumi, The Essential Rumi

The last couple of years have been a real struggle for me to re-establish my place as not just Mother, Wife and housekeeper, but Woman, Entrepreneur and Artist.  I have reached that place where I couldn’t stand one more minute, and like Rumi said, I did not give up, because somewhere deep in the depths of my being, I understood that the road was about to divert.

So, as the summer ends and September arrives, we have given up the steady, reliable pay check and a status quo lifestyle, for a taste of living our art.  My greatest hope is that the four of us will find some beautiful way of weaving all of our interests and passions together in an overlapping and entwined creation all our own. This year will be about making things, sharing and designing a lifestyle that suites who we are instead of trying to force ourselves into boxes we have never properly fit in or liked. This year will be about sharing all of the responsibilities in a more balanced way and making room for each other to grow. I hope by watching us, our boys will be inspired to make choices in their life based on what is most important to them and not to fall into the trap of doing things like everyone else because that’s the only choice they think they have, or because they are disheartened by the criticism and doubt from others.

Life is a work of art.  It is your greatest creation and should be treated as such. You begin with a blank canvas and you can create anything you want in whatever way you want to.  In my case, I want to create, but not in isolation from my family. I did not quit my career and stay at home with my boys, just to get so busy now that I never see them. I want us to consciously create our life together and for all of us to be an integral part of each others creation.  I chose to be married, I chose to have children, and I chose to become a fashion stylist/blogger.  I don’t believe that I have to choose one of those things over the others to focus on in order to be happy as Rumi suggests.  I believe I can have them all if I don’t expect every day to be perfectly balanced. Some days I will focus on one, and other days I will focus on another, and sometimes I’ll juggle them all at once. Each stroke of a brush does not make a complete painting, like each day does not make a complete life.  Time and effort, patience and faith, and lots and lots of love, encouragement and unity with my family will create this work of art I call My Life.

My sincerest hope is that you will come along with me for the ride!  I plan to bring you new fashion and life inspiration WEEKLY beginning NOW!

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6×6 Canvas and drift-wood isle made by Gregory, Photo by Michael Sanders

Photo by Michael Sanders

Photo by Michael Sanders

 

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We kept the splattered drift wood for our garden

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beach sand and feathers for added texture

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

STYLING BY: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams

MODELS: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Gregory Chomichuk, Lief Chomichuk, Finnley Chomichuk, and our Dogs: Leotie and Saga

FASHION: White bikini by Perry Ellis; wrap-around pants by Patron of Dreams; boys shorts by The Children’s Place; men’s cargo shorts by Old Navy; rose-quartz necklace by BCP Jewelry; and gorgeous giant crystals from SHAKTI.

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Sand Sirens

Photo by Michael Sanders

Photo by Michael Sanders

“First you will come to the Sirens who enchant all who come near them.  If any one unwarily draws in too close and hears the singing of the Sirens, his wife and children will never welcome him home again, for they sit in a green field and warble him to death with the sweetness of their song.”

– The Odyssey, By Homer (Translated by Samuel Butler) 

Photo by Michael Sanders

Photo by Michael Sanders

Photo by Michael Sanders

Photo by Michael Sanders

The Siren is both alluring and terrifying.  She draws you in, enticing you with the promise of something you desire, only to destroy you when you finally succumb to her.  Or does she destroy you?  Maybe she is a symbol of your innermost dreams and desires.  A symbol of that nagging feeling you have when you know you are not living up to your greatest potential.  When you are idle and settling for mediocrity because you are afraid. That feeling that draws you back to your dreams. That feeling that you find both alluring and terrifying because you know what it means if you give in to it.  It will pull you towards change, transformation and the death of life as you now know it.  As a caterpillar becomes a butterfly, it must experience the destruction of its old form and the discomfort of evolving into something new and magnificent.  Maybe if you face your fear and answer the Siren’s song, you will find your truest self.  Maybe you will become the greatest version of you that is possible.

Photo by Michael Sanders

Photo by Michael Sanders

Photo by Michael Sanders

Photo by Michael Sanders

Photo by Michael Sanders

Photo by Michael Sanders

Photo by Michael Sanders

Photo by Michael Sanders

Photo by Michael Sanders

Photo by Michael Sanders

Photo by Michael Sanders

Photo by Michael Sanders

Photo by Michael Sanders

Photo by Michael Sanders

Photo by Michael Sanders

Photo by Michael Sanders

Photo by Michael Sanders

Photo by Michael Sanders

PHOTOGRAPHY:

Photography By: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

Styling By: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams

Modelling By: Accalia Robertson, Laura Canfield, and Tara Cole-McCaffrey

Hair By: The Rain and Wind

Makeup By: Toban Schioler & Ashleigh Hawrysh Haier

VIDEO:

Produced By: Michael Sanders and Tara Cole-McCaffrey

Music By: Preston Cole-McCaffrey

Featured Designers:

Metalsan Jewelry: Earrings, cuff bracelets, rings and necklaces

Rampant Design Custom Leather: Water Warrior Harness, Long Water Fringe Collar and Water Fringe Cuff

Melodia Designs: Diana Bamboo Wrap Halter tops (Copper, Creme, Teal)

Vintage: Rajasthani anklets and belts

Thrift: Pink faux fur jacket and black shag cardigan.  Harem pants custom design by Patron of Dreams.

On Trend: Sequin shorts and gold chain belt by H&M, turquoise disco shorts by American Apparel 

“When the tides change, you have two choices. You can either stand there, letting the water wash over you and your feet sink deeper into the wet sand…or you can get out of the way. You can move up the beach – or off the beach, if you want. The point is to not get stuck.”
-Tricia Rayburn, Undercurrent

Photo by Michael Sanders

Photo by Michael Sanders

Urban Mermaid

Cool town, evening in the city
Dressing so fine and looking so pretty
Cool cat, looking for a kitty
Gonna look in every corner of the city
Till I’m wheezing like a bus stop
Running up the stairs, gonna meet you on the rooftop

 Lovin Spoonful – Summer In The City

Photo by Michael Sanders

Photo by Michael Sanders

Summer has arrived! If you are like me, you will undoubtedly endeavour to carve out as many opportunities for fun in the sun. I will spend as much time as possible at the beach, with family at the cabin and camping at music festivals. I will commune with nature, feel its rhythms, watch the clouds during the day and the stars at night. But…
I will feel the pull of summer in the city. The sultry nights at street festivals and carnivals, picnics in the park and the thrum of downtown energy.  And of course, let’s not forget about creating fabulous outfits to strut your summer stuff around town!

I am an urban mermaid. A city slicker with messy hair and bare feet.  I want the best of what both nature and the city have to offer! What nature offers is boundless and requires no explanation, but the city, the city is full of hidden gems and discoveries to be made by anyone adventurous enough to explore it. For instance, did you know that the Delta Winnipeg Hotel in the heart of downtown has a rooftop pool?  An urban oasis with turquoise waters tucked in the middle of the concrete jungle.

Photo by Michael Sanders

Photo by Michael Sanders

 

Photo by Michael Sanders

Photo by Michael Sanders

Photo by Michael Sanders

Photo by Michael Sanders

Photo by Michael Sanders

Photo by Michael Sanders

Photo by Michael Sanders

Photo by Michael Sanders

Photo by Michael Sanders

Photo by Michael Sanders

Photo by Michael Sanders

Photo by Michael Sanders

Photo by Michael Sanders

Photo by Michael Sanders

Photo by Michael Sanders

Photo by Michael Sanders

Photo by Michael Sanders

Photo by Michael Sanders

Photo by Michael Sanders

Photo by Michael Sanders

Photo by Michael Sanders

Photo by Michael Sanders

Many thanks to the Odyssey Health Club at The Delta Winnipeg Hotel for your gracious hospitality. What a pleasure!

PHOTOS BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

STYLING, HAIR & MAKEUP BY: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams

Sequin skirt, H&M; t-shirt and hair extensions, Ardene; booties, Pyramidis by GVD from Winners; vegan leather moto jacket, American Eagle Outfitters; sunglasses, Urban Waves Winnipeg; lapis earrings, created by Tara Cole-McCaffrey

VINTAGE: turquoise and lapis lazuli rings

THRIFT: shell and freshwater pearl necklace and bracelet

I would love to hear about the magical places and hidden treasures you’ve discovered in your own city! Please share! Maybe I will visit them some day…

Photo by Michael Sanders

Photo by Michael Sanders