Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Independence Day at the Beach

Beautiful weather for the 4th of July this year! Here are some pastel memories from the Coney Island beach.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

"Porcelain Grove" Solo Ceramics Show

Porcelain Grove

For the last few months, I've been busy putting together my new ceramics collection "Porcelain Grove" about trees and their meaning. As of today, the show is on view at Choplet Gallery, 238 Grand St, Brooklyn, NY, till August 3rd. Hope you can come see it! Gallery is open Mon-Fri until 11pm; Sat-Sun until 7pm. Here are a few snapshots from the 40+ collection.

Weeping Willow
Orange Tree
Sequoia Trees
Oak Tree
Baobab Tree

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Not My President's Day Rally

On this President's Day, an estimated fifteen thousand people came to the Not My President's Day rally near the Trump International Hotel and Tower at Columbus Circle in New York. According to the Facebook event for NYC, 47 thousand people marked themselves as planning to go. There were two dozen sister rallies happening around the country. The fact that this president lost the popular vote cannot be denied. "A lot of people are angry because he lost the popular vote and is ruling like somebody who won by a landslide," Lexell said (from a CNN article here).

One month into the presidency, We the People resist the new administration's executive orders that ban refugees and Muslim immigrants, that dismantle Wall Street regulations and environmental protections. We the People resist attacks on women's rights, LGBTQ rights, free speech and free media. We the People are outraged at the endless conflicts of interest, murky dealings with the Russian government and demand an investigation into the Russian interference in the election. We the People are appalled by the constant lies and the lack of moral integrity... The list just goes on, and on, and on... We the People do not accept the 45th president as legitimate. We the People want him impeached.

See more drawings by my fellow artists for democracy on Instagram @ArtistsForDemocracy

"You're Fired!"
Trump International Hotel and Tower surrounded by the protesters chanting "Not My President".

Central Park West packed with people from Columbus Circle to 68th street
Swarms of cops with batons, unleashed to disperse the rally

A faction of Trump supporters showed up after the sunset - way after the rally was over - to chant "USA! USA!" and to yell over the human wall of police separating the opposing sides "Snowflakes" and "Go Home".  They still believe in "Drain the Swamp" campaign promise, apparently. And...they are, somehow, angry, even though their "beloved" is now in the oval office.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Muslim Solidarity Rally in Times Square

Thousands of people gathered in Times Square last Sunday to say "Today I'm a Muslim Too". It was a beautiful event, with speakers of all creeds - Hindu, Jewish, Christian - who denounced the Muslim Ban and the xenophobic rhetoric of the government. The message was one of unity and equality: "Make America for Everyone". Check out @ArtistsForDemocracy on Instagram to see drawings of this event by my fellow artists.

#resist #nobannowall

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

LGBTQ Solidarity Rally NYC: A Liberal Diversity Blizzard

This past Saturday, February 4th 2017, my fellow @ArtistsForDemocracy and I were at yet another rally, this time in solidarity with the LGBTQ community. All minorities feel threatened under the new administration, and the LGBTQ rights are as fragile as ever. Many of the rally speakers talked about being refugees, persecuted in their native countries for having different gender identities. So their confluence of sexual orientations, gender identities, countries of origin and immigration or refugee statuses made them that much more vulnerable in present-day America. However, Senator Chuck Schumer, Comptroller Scott Stringer and other officials, who attended this rally, repeatedly vowed to keep New York a sanctuary city. The mood at the rally was most positive and optimistic.

Director of NYU Islamic Center started his speech with "Our Jewish Brothers and Sisters..." He condemned the president for omitting Jews in his speech on the Holocaust Remembrance Day. He ended with "You don't have to be Jewish to stand for Jewish rights. You don't have to be a woman to stand for women's rights. You don't have to be gay to stand for gay rights. You don't have to be Muslim to stand for Muslim rights."
Openly gay New York State Senator Brad Hoylman, who had swastikas etched on his house after the appointment of Bannon. The Senator called everyone to text the word "TAXES" to the 41411 number, as a way of casting a vote for disclosure of taxes for presidential candidates.

Portraits of more speakers. One of them is a Jewish gay man who fights for Muslim rights. Oliver from Nigeria, who was persecuted for being a gay activist there, found his refuge in America; he pleaded with us not to preach to the choir, but to those who support Trump.  And another speaker, whose name I, sadly, didn't catch, said that being called a liberal snowflake is appropriate, because no two snowflakes are alike, and together we create a diversity blizzard. I loved that metaphor.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Rally and March for Muslims and Allies in Foley Square

"Human Beings Will Never Be Illegal" 

Rally under the Triumph of the Human Spirit Sculpture in Foley Square.
The Rally for Muslims and Allies, organized by a well-spoken 17-year-old Hebh Jamal (below), had a crowd of more than a thousand tonight. One of the rally speakers pointed out that the resistance movement is the present-day civil rights movement of the young generation. The high-school and college contingent in the crowd represented by loudly cheering. It was awe-some to once again feel the energy of the city - people coming together and rising in peaceful protest. Tomorrow, Yemenese-run bodegas, that comprise 90% of the delis in New York, will show their resistance by shutting down 12pm-8pm. So many gatherings and rallies are happening, basically, every day, that I hope we, the people, don't run out of steam. It's only been 2 weeks of the new administration, but it feels like 10 years.

Hebh Jamal under the Triumph of the Human Spirit Sculpture

"Nothing in the world 
is more dangerous 
than sincere ignorance 
and conscientious stupidity."
- Martin Luther King Jr.

Freedom Tower was in attendance as well.
Marching towards the Immigration Court
Chanting crowd on Broadway
26 Federal Plaza building that houses the Immigration Court.

The great thing is that people - especially young people - are getting involved like never before. Women are running for local governments, volunteering in communities is on the rise, donations are pouring in for advocate groups like ACLU. Below, I'm pasting something that circulated on FB the other day, for posterity.

For everyone who did something, small or big, your efforts have been successful. Because of you:
1. Federal hiring freeze is reversed for VA (Veteran Affairs).
2. Court order Partial Stay of the immigration ban for those with valid visas.
3. Green card holders can get back in country.
4. Uber pledges $3M and immigration lawyers for its drivers after #DeleteUber trends on Twitter.
5. Affordable Care Act enrollment ads are still going to air.
6. The ACLU raised $24 million over the weekend (normally $3-4 million/year).
7. HHS, EPA, USDA gag order lifted.
8. EPA climate data no longer scrubbed from website.
9. More people of different career/religious/economic/race backgrounds are considering running for political office than ever before.
10. MOST importantly, since we live in a participatory democracy, the people are engaged.
While more is needed, sometimes you have to celebrate your wins.
Stay vigilant, but also take self care seriously. Activist burnout is a thing. Marathon, don't sprint.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Refugees Are Welcome Here

Saturday, January 28th, 2017, 6-8pm
Emergency Immigration Detention Rally 
JFK Airport, Terminal 4, Arrivals.

The newly sworn-in president had signed yet another executive order late on Friday. It's just now coming to light that his intent was, indeed, to make it a Muslim Ban (read article.) The phrasing of the executive order, however, was about a travel/immigration ban from 7 Muslim-majority countries. Interestingly, none of the countries that actually produced terrorists who affected USA were on that list (read article.) Trump also halted USA's acceptance of Syrian refugees.

The outrage at the discriminatory ban, as well as 11 detained people at the JFK airport, who were en route as the travel ban was announced, prompted massive crowds of protesters to flood JFK's terminal 4 on Saturday. By the time I got there for the 6pm rally, all the major news outlets had stationed their vans, cameras and reporters in the parking lot of terminal 4 arrivals. 

I held back tears, standing in the crowd that was chanting "Let Them In".

My family landed at JFK on July 1, 1994. We were refugees, fleeing anti-Semitism in Russia. The military coup of 1991 in Moscow convinced my father to make the hard decision to immigrate. He didn't want to leave the country where his parents are buried. It took my parents 3 years to file all the paperwork, stand in lines in bitter cold for rounds of interviews at the embassy, sell belongings and the apartment, quit jobs and say goodbyes. 

The most vulnerable I've ever felt in my entire life was when we deplaned at JFK. There was nothing to return to. Future was unknown. We had 2 bags and money from the sold apartment. And we had family expecting us on the other side of the customs.

And then I tried to imagine what it is like to be a refugee whose home/city/country is bombed into none-existence, no money, no relatives to rely on. I also tried to imagine what it feels like when you deplane and are told that you can't pass the customs. You are no longer welcome, and it doesn't matter that you have a green card or a visa. There's no turning back, but there's no going forward either. And what about all those who were in the midst of making arrangements to immigrate? It takes years to prepare, where each step is progressively more irreversible. 
An older couple stood next to me in the crowd. They both had silk white sashes with blue Yiddish writing. I asked them what it says. "A Better and More Beautiful World", they replied. 
 My friend and artist Audrey and I finally managed to find each other in the sea of people, and proceeded to draw next to each other, despite our frozen fingers. You can check out her beautiful art blog here.

Then I saw this young woman in a head scarf. She was filming the chanting protesters on her phone. Her kids were in the car next to her, peaking through the open windows - they also chanted. In their little high-pitched voices. " No Hate, No Fear! No Hate, No Fear!". She told me they're from Egypt, landed in JFK 16 years ago. I felt our kinship: both lucky to be here. 

The evening ended with the news of the federal judge granting emergency and temporary stay to detainees. 

Multiple airport protests erupted all over the country in response to Trump's immigration policies.

 Sunday, January 29th, 2017, 2pm
"We Will End the Refugee & Muslim Ban"
March & Rally
Battery Park, NYC

 The following day, there was a rally and a march in Battery Park, with unprecedented and electrifying crowds. Literally everyone held either a sign or a flag; some wore pussy hats or Lady Liberty crowns; some even had messages written on their faces. So many parents brought their kids: babies in harnesses, toddlers riding the shoulders, elementary-schoolers proudly holding hand-made signs...

The speakers at the rally repeatedly denounced Trump's refugee and immigration policies as unconstitutional and illegal, reiterating that his executive order discriminates based on the country of origin and religion.  

Senator Cory Booker passionately reminded us that "The opposite of love is not hate: it's apathy."*  

The New York City mayor Bill de Blasio assured: "We will not let the beacon to be put out by Donald Trump."

At the end of the rally, as the crowds shifted, Audrey and I finally found our art friends Sunil and Veronica (here is her incredible reportage illustration site), and together we marched.  On the way out of the Park, we passed a praying Muslim woman. She knelt on a little rug, with Lady Liberty directly behind her, guarding the harbor. One of the rally speakers reminded that the Statue of Liberty was originally a Muslim woman

"Bartholdi’s concept morphed from “a gigantic female fellah, or Arab peasant” into “a colossal goddess.”  -more on that here, Smithsonian.com

"No One Is Free When Others Are Oppressed"

The march terminated in Foley Square. At some point, we marched directly towards the Freedom Tower, with Lady Liberty behind us, adding our voices to the choire: "No Ban! No Wall! No Ban! No Wall! No Hate! No Fear! Refugees Are Welcome Here!"

It's far from over... There are other marches planned this week, next month and several months from now. We are all shocked, appalled and so ready to fight back, to protect the values that make America the greatest experiment in human history, the melting pot, the beacon of hope, the land of the free. 

"The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of beauty is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, but indifference between life and death."- Elie Wiesel

 #artistsfordemocracy #resist

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

NYC Emergency Rally for Muslim and Immigrant Rights

I love the spirit of my city! In response to President Trump's executive orders on building the Dakota pipe line and the Mexican border wall, on immigration ban from 7 Muslim countries and on suspended acceptance of Syrian refugees, a big emergency rally was organized in a matter of hours in Washington Square Park. As I was approaching the park, a deafening roar of the crowd was radiating several blocks out from under the Washington Square Arch. People were responding to key speakers - law students, ACLU, elected city officials, congressmen/women, Jewish and Muslim-Americans - who spoke against these executive orders and called to civil resistance and action. The hand-held signs and chants of the crowd around me summed up New York attitude towards the new administration: "We are better than this", "Resist", "Donal Trump is not America, We are America", "Make love, not walls", "We are one", "Refugees welcome". And here is Veronica Lawlor's report on the event, in words and drawings. Lastly, since I foresee many more protests in the future, here's a good article with tips and legal rights of peaceful protesters.