Was Duchamp Really An Artist?

 

duchamp2Marcel Duchamp is considered one of the brightest artists of the 20th century.  Not to me.  I pretty much hate everything he did and wouldn’t pay a plugged nickel for any of it.  But that’s okay because it’s my opinion.  Art is subjective. If a piece of art doesn’t “speak” to you emotionally, it’s not worth a plugged nickel.

I learned that lesson from an English professor who taught a class in Renaissance English poetry. (It was the only English class that fit my schedule that semester.)  At first, none of us wanted to voice our opinion on the poetry we were reading because we didn’t want to sound gauche or uninformed.  Then the professor told us that any work of art, regardless of the medium used, only has value if it speaks to us emotionally.  Without that emotional connection, art has no value.

Years later I was invited to a special exhibit in Dallas, Texas of the private collection of one of the city’s leading citizens.  The collection was a mishmash of Benin sculptures, Anasazi pots, Mayan knickknacks, some random Asian artefacts and so on.  It was a 30 or 40 year history lesson in art collecting based on what the avant-garde defined as “art.”  The owner of the collection had buckets of money but apparently collected only what everyone else collected.

That brings me back to Duchamp.  This guy is famous for displaying three panes of glass.  When one pane of glass was broken during transit, Duchamp claimed he liked the piece even more. It’s still on display somewhere with one cracked pane.

Most famously Duchamp put a urinal on display.  Viewers proclaimed that it had classic lines rather than pointing out that it was a bathroom fixture that should be returned to the men’s room down the hall.  No one wanted to be mocked by the avant-garde crowd for lacking artistic sensibilities.

It’s amazing how much guff and abuse we are willing to take to remain part of the “in” crowd.  Duchamp always reminds me of that human trait.  He not only convinced people that panes of glass and a urinal were “art,” he induced them to pay huge sums of money to own one of his pieces.  So I admire his chutzpah and think he was one of the greatest marketers of the 20th century.  But, in my opinion, Duchamp was not an artist.

About Norma Shirk

Norma started her company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, to help employers create human resources policies for their employees and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to have structure without bureaucracy. Visit Norma’s website: www.complianceriskadvisor.com/.

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Finding Inspiration in Losses

soccer-panoramic

I am constantly searching for examples of how other businesses stay successful despite losses. Examples are everywhere, but one of my favorite examples is Southampton Football Club (Southampton FC).

Southampton FC is based (obviously) in Southampton, England and it plays in England’s top football (soccer) league, the English Premier League.  Each year the club loses their best players to rival clubs with more money to spend on acquisitions. Each year they lose their head coach (manager, in England) to rival clubs.

Any business that consistently loses its best performers would be expected to slide into oblivion.  Southampton FC temporarily appeared doomed to such a fate. In 2008, Southampton FC was bankrupt and demoted. They began the 2009/2010 season in the third tier of English football. (By comparison, the U.S. has two tiers of professional soccer.)

Then a group of new owners bought the club and initiated two key strategies. First, they brought financial stability with a cash infusion and a new team of experienced financial advisers to run the back office. Southampton’s problems were apparently rooted in poor financial practices.

Second, the new owners reinforced the existing corporate culture of the club. The club has a reputation for developing young talent. Their corporate culture requires everyone from the youth academy to the senior players to use the same system of training and learn the same game tactics or style of play.  That may sound like a no-brainer, but an amazing number of businesses try to change their corporate culture each time they choose a new manager.

Southampton FC hires managers (coaches) that fit their system. The corporate culture is so resilient that each year the manager changes and the top players are sold but the club remains competitive.  It’s called “the Southampton way”.

By the 2012/2013 season, the club had played its way back into the English Premier League and has finished in the top ten every year since.  Other businesses now regularly travel to Southampton to study the club’s business model.  Southampton FC’s four-year journey from loss to success is truly inspirational.

About Norma Shirk

Norma started her company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, to help employers create human resources policies for their employees and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to have structure without bureaucracy. Visit Norma’s website: www.complianceriskadvisor.com/.

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The Other Side of the Couch – What’s in a Name?

my-name-is

A question on Facebook recently sparked my curiosity regarding names.  The question was:  Were you named after someone?  I answered that question easily because I have always known that my name reflected a generational struggle perpetuated in my family from the early days of my parents’ marriage.

I was named “Susan” after my maternal great-grandmother, Susan Crawford White, and “Elisabeth” after by paternal great-grandmother, Elizabeth Wilson Mosier.  Please note the “s” in my name and the “z” in my great-grandmother’s name.  Because of that difference in spelling, my paternal grandmother rejected the idea that I was named after her mother.  The way she saw it was that my mother’s family had “won” some unnamed contest.

This “contest” reflected the merger of two different cultures – that of my mother’s family and my father’s family.  Mimi, my maternal grandmother, came from a Nashville family that had acquired some success.  Mimi’s younger brother, Weldon White, was an attorney who later became a Supreme Court justice in Tennessee.  Her family highly valued education; she graduated from Hume Fogg High School, and after her husband suffered financial reverses after WWI, she became the stable family breadwinner, teaching first grade in the Nashville public schools for forty years. A pioneer in her own way, she pursued her own college degree and graduated from Peabody College for Teachers at the advanced age of 47.  She was a life-long Democrat and supported the Equal rights Amendment when she was in her seventies.

Mam-ma, my dad’s mother, came from a different situation.  Her father moved his family repeatedly, always in search of a better situation.  Mam-ma left school after 8th grade, in part due to this constant moving.  She married at 20 to a young man who had ambition to get off the farm, and my grandfather won a position as a railroad mail clerk, moving the family to Nashville in 1924.   Mam-ma was very proud of her home and her homemaking skills; her home was her pride and joy.  A product of extreme poverty (her family never owned land and farmed for others), she believed in very traditional family values.  My grandfather was a staunch Republican, and she never questioned his positions.  However, they supported and were completely proud of my father’s college and medical school successes, and they made sure that their daughter also went to college.

So, what was the struggle?  These two strong women were jockeying for what they perceived as inclusion in the household that I entered as an infant.   Mimi was often present, always a helper, always looking for something to do that would be useful.  Mam-ma and Poppy visited often, but were the “fun” grandparents who brought us treats, took us to do fun things, but were not helpers in the way that Mimi was.  Mimi saw Mam-ma as overly frank, too direct, and a bit uncouth.  Mam-ma saw Mimi as a snob who was hypocritical.  My parents, and to some extent the children as well, were aware of navigating challenging waters between Mimi and Mam-ma.   Never overtly antagonistic, they nevertheless were cut from very different cloths and called each by their last names for all the years of my growing up.

One letter of the alphabet became emblematic of a much larger issue.  Who is included?  Who is on the outside?  How does a family navigate the choppy waters of extended family life?  How do mothers and mothers-in-law manage the tasks of allowing room for the new family to emerge?  It took these two women many years; I was an adult with a child of my own before they called each other by their first names.

The stories of my grandmothers seem to me to be emblematic of the divide that is roiling our country today.  One strand focuses on equal rights and embraces change; the other strand highly values continuity and traditional values.  I loved both of them dearly, and I celebrated the day they finally reconciled themselves to each other and to the family that my mother and father created.  Both were born at the tail-end of the 19th century; both lived to see changes that were unimaginable at their births.

The important part of this story is that they found a way to respect each other.  It was a process that was grounded in love.

What is the story of naming in your family?

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP:

Susan is a communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, and proud native Nashvillian. She has been in private practice for over 30 years. As she says, “I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts.”  Contact Susan at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com

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Thoughts for a Savvy New Year

new-year-2017Lucky me, I get to write the very first post of 2017! Most years I find it pretty easy to anticipate the New Year with excitement and optimism. I confess, this time it’s been much tougher. In many ways I feel worn out and beaten down. My usual sunny outlook has been dimmed by disappointment and shock at the anger and pain that bubbled just under the surface of our American psyche.

I’m trying to remember how I felt exactly one year ago. Was I excited? Optimistic? Joyful? Yes, yes and yes. Why? A new year is an unwritten story, a chance to start fresh, blah, blah, blah. No! Last year I was excited to usher in a new era in our history. There was the promise of more progress for women, minorities, LGBT, the differently abled, indeed for all of us. Because when one of us rises, we all rise together.

Today I feel afraid that the progress made in my lifetime could be pushed back and that my children and grandchildren will have to fight all over again. Irrational fears? Perhaps. But since there is only one way to go, forward, I am mustering my powers of optimism and hope. I’m practicing gratitude for my life, my good health, my family and friends and for all of the Savvy women who paved the way for me. Their fight was not in vain. I, and the women of my generation, will not forget and we will share the stories of those struggles with our daughters and granddaughters, and with our sons and grandsons. And the time will pass, and we will all be watching, working, safeguarding and remembering so that we can write the next chapter in our American history.

This is a new era, perhaps not the one we anticipated, but it is here nonetheless. Be vigilant, savvy readers, be hopeful, be joyful and most of all, love one another. Happy 2017 to all!

About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the creator of The Peretz Project: Stories from the Shoah: Next Generation.  The Peretz Project, named for her late father-in-law who was a Holocaust survivor, is collecting testimony from children of survivors.  Check it out at http://www.theperetzproject.com.  If you are, or someone you know is, the child of survivors of the Shoah, The Holocaust, and you would like to tell your story please leave a comment and Barbara will contact you.

Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share, but please… Give HerSavvy credit. Thanks!

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Women’s Policy

institute-for-womens-policy-research

With the recent presidential election, I have become more interested in human rights. Women’s rights and our impact upon government are particularly top of mind. While looking for information I came across the website, StatusofWomenData.org, a project of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.  Compilations of information about women’s lives nationwide are ranked state by state on topics of employment & earnings, poverty & opportunity, work & family, violence & safety, reproductive rights, health & well-being and political participation. For Tennessee, our highest ranking among these topics was 34th, with a C- for employment & earnings. Yes, our highest ranking.

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) conducts rigorous research and disseminates its findings to address the needs of women, promote public dialog, and strengthen families, communities, and societies. IWPR works with policymakers, scholars, and public interest groups to design, execute, and disseminate research that illuminates economic and social policy issues affecting women and families and to build a network of individuals and organizations that conduct and use women-oriented policy research. I invite you to explore its resources.

About Renee Bates

Renee is an artist focused on growing a newfound ability to express herself through oil painting, recently leaving her role as executive director of the non-profit, Greenways for Nashville. Renee is inspired by nature and enjoys hiking, birding, and the garden. She contributes to HerSavvy, a blog featuring writings from a group of well-informed women wishing to share their support and experience with others. Married to David Bates of Bates Nursery and Garden Center, enjoying flora and fauna is a family affair.

Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share, but please… Give HerSavvy credit. Thanks!

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A Christmas Truce

a-christmas-truce

December is a difficult time of year for many people.  December can be especially lonely for soldiers who are far from home.  In 1914, lonely soldiers caused one of the most extraordinary Christmas events.  They (briefly) stopped the First World War.

The impromptu ceasefire began on December 7, 1914, when Pope Benedict XV suggested a temporary ceasefire so that the soldiers in the trenches could celebrate Christmas.  The governments of Britain, France and Germany refused to observe an official ceasefire.

It’s not clear why they said no, but there were probably two main reasons for refusing a ceasefire.  First, no one was tired of the war.  In December 1914, the war was only about five months old.  The major slaughters, like the Battle of the Somme when a million men were casualties, didn’t happen until 1916.

Second, and I think more importantly, the governments opposed a ceasefire out of fear.  Specifically, fear of fraternization.  Soldiers are better able to do their job of killing the enemy if they don’t know their enemy.  It’s why we demonize our opponents as a faceless “other” and use derogatory nicknames to dehumanize them.  If a soldier sees the enemy as human with a family and personal aspirations, it becomes difficult to shoot to kill.

Consider the line “from a distance, you look like my friend, even though we are at war.”  It’s taken from an anti-war song called “From a Distance.”  The song became popular during the First Persian Gulf War in the early 1990’s and it evokes a universal sentiment.

In 1914, the soldiers in the trenches ignored their governments and saw the enemy as a friend.  On Christmas Eve, they sang Christmas carols to each other across no-man’s land.  On Christmas Day, they crossed no-man’s land to exchange food and talk of their families back home.  In one instance, they played a game of football (i.e., soccer).

After Christmas, some of the soldiers decided they couldn’t return to war.  One anecdote says that some French and German soldiers refused to fight each other.  Their commanders threatened them with all sorts of disciplinary action to no avail.  Eventually, the affected French and German units were pulled out of their trenches and sent to fight in other sectors.

The Christmas Truce of 1914 has never been repeated.  As wars continue around the world, that is one of the saddest commentaries on this holiday season.

About Norma Shirk

Norma started her company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, to help employers create human resources policies for their employees and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to have structure without bureaucracy. Visit Norma’s website: www.complianceriskadvisor.com/.

Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share, but please… Give HerSavvy credit. Thanks!

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The Other Side of the Couch – What Do You Do When Your Heart Is Broken?

broken-heart

November 8, 2016 started out as a day of hope for millions of United States citizens.  By November 9 that hope had been transformed into what felt and has continued to feel like a surreal nightmare.  As one young friend said to me that day, “This is not the country that I thought I lived in.”  Reminding one’s self that this election did not reflect the majority vote is helpful, but it does not change the fact that the person who triumphed in this race did so by unleashing the forces of bigotry and hate.

What can a person do who is struggling with what happened?  What do we tell our children, who in many cases have awoken to a totally unexpected world – a world in which bullies triumph and hate speech is condoned.  What do we tell our friends from other countries, whose skin color, accent, race or religion have been targeted?  What do we tell each other as women, whose ability to have control over our own bodies is in jeopardy?

I don’t have good answers to these questions.  I know that in this democracy power is passed peaceably.  I try not to believe that all the people who voted for him support these kinds of attitudes.  I have heard people say that they voted for him in spite of these attitudes because they are so desperate for change and felt so unheard.  Well, good luck with that.  You have unleased the genie, and putting all of this anger and hatred back in the bottle is going to be a hard job.

I know that he will be the 45th president.  I also know that I can’t give up and stop trying to effect change, be it at the most micro level by the way I talk to someone, listen to someone, write to someone, challenge someone.  I will hold my broken heart and sew it back together with words and actions that continue to support the values of caring and inclusion on which I have based my life.

What will you do?

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP:

Susan is a communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, and proud native Nashvillian. She has been in private practice for over 30 years. As she says, “I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts.”  Contact Susan at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com

Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share, but please… Give HerSavvy credit. Thanks!

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The Women’s Movement:  Still Work To Be Done

equality

My greatest role model was my mother, a true woman of the 1950s.  She was, and remains for me, the smartest person I’ve ever known.  She was college educated, well traveled, cultured, the only child of a high profile, socially and politically active local power couple.  But when she expressed her desire to become a lawyer, her father, the judge, encouraged her to become a teacher.  Much more appropriate for a woman, he told her.  Women lawyers at the time were considered, in her words,  “mannish,” and not attractive as wives and mothers.  And so she became a teacher, married, raised a family, cared for elderly parents, volunteered and eventually, re-entered her profession.  She was a voracious reader and encouraged discourse during family dinners.  No topic was off limits.

During my childhood in the 1960s and ‘70s I had a front row seat to watch the women’s movement unfold, although I was too young to be an active participant.  Sometimes I feel like I fell between the cracks; too young to claim the struggle and too old to be a real beneficiary of my older sisters’ fight.  And so I began my adult life without a template, my bra a bit singed but still intact, my mother’s encouragement that I could be anything I wanted ringing in my ears, but still unsure of how to carve out a path.

Over the years, I’ve managed to raise kids, own a business, return to grad school twice and become a community leader.  I’ve watched my daughter grow into a strong, independent, free thinker whose life choices so far are very different from my own.  She and her generation are the real legacy of those that fought the good fight.

And yet, there is still work to be done.  A few years ago we were shopping for a family car.  At the time, I was a stay-at-home mom and the car was for me to drive while schlepping kids around.  At the dealership, the salesman continually addressed my husband with details about the car, despite the fact that I was the one asking the questions.  At one point my husband, God love him, looked the salesman straight in the eye and said, “You should talk to her.  She’s the one who will be driving the car and she’s making the decision.”

I am now about to open a new business and on a recent afternoon, meeting with a leasing agent for a space, my business partner and I were encouraged to “work our feminine wiles,” to get a good deal.  My partner, who is much younger than I am, blew it off.  I, however, am still seething.  This man, about my own age, objectified us and when I called him out for his sexist stereotyping of us, he defaulted to the old, “I’m just kidding,” response.  It was not funny to me.

So what’s next?  At this time in our nation’s history, I fear the progress my older sisters fought for will be rolled back.  A journalism professor of mine, who’d been a wartime reporter in Vietnam, wrote about the influence of birth control on women entering the workforce.  Armed with the ability to choose when, and if, to start a family, women had more control over their lives.  So, too, with Roe v. Wade, women can control their own health care decisions.  Will this all disappear?  The public discourse today sounds to me like an old newsreel from my childhood.  Sadly, it’s not.

The Spanish philosopher George Santayana wrote in 1905, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  And while it’s easy these days to give in to despair and fear, I am determined to remain hopeful and heartened.  I remind myself that everything changes and I can be a catalyst for positive change.  I also take heart as I watch my daughter embark on a career once reserved only for men, in the world of sports.  She has found a place in which to express her passion and talents and I hope she will also reach back into her history and know she stands on some very strong shoulders.

About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the creator of The Peretz Project: Stories from the Shoah: Next Generation.  The Peretz Project, named for her late father-in-law who was a Holocaust survivor, is collecting testimony from children of survivors.  Check it out at http://www.theperetzproject.com.  If you are, or someone you know is, the child of survivors of the Shoah, The Holocaust, and you would like to tell your story please leave a comment and Barbara will contact you.

Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share, but please… Give HerSavvy credit. Thanks!

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Sexism in America

jon-stewart-pic-hp

As host of The Daily Show Jon Stewart brought us a fun and sometimes uncomfortable view of ourselves, getting through the news of the day with humor while making serious points. I miss his expressive face delivering smartly written reports.

After the recent loss for our first woman presidential candidate, particularly for the younger women who feel scared and unsure of the future because of the sexist history of the president-elect, it is good to know there are smart people out there who will shine a light on the issues.

From the workplace to the campus, to politics, “…with consistently perfect delivery, Stewart mocked and ridiculed sexism while acknowledging its dangerous impact on the way women live,” writes Amanda Duberman in the article, “11 Times Jon Stewart Threw Down For Feminism” on Huffington Post. Here are some excerpts from the show and the article in its entirety:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/jon-stewarts-most-feminist-moments_us_55c0cf94e4b06f8bedb5f5e2

Trevor Noah, the new host of The Daily Show, is worth watching. He brings a unique perspective, being raised in South Africa.

About Renee Bates

Renee is an artist focused on growing a newfound ability to express herself through oil painting, recently leaving her role as executive director of the non-profit, Greenways for Nashville. Renee is inspired by nature and enjoys hiking, birding, and the garden. She contributes to HerSavvy, a blog featuring writings from a group of well-informed women wishing to share their support and experience with others. Married to David Bates of Bates Nursery and Garden Center, enjoying flora and fauna is a family affair.

Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share, but please… Give HerSavvy credit. Thanks!

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From First Lady to FLOTUS

eleanor-roosevelt-2

When the founders of the U.S. created the office of President they didn’t waste any time on the role of the First Lady.  That’s not surprising.  The founders were all men and in the 1780’s, married women were expected to keep quiet, have lots of babies and not interfere in politics.

Martha Washington was the original First Lady and she followed the social standards of her day.  She hosted salons, genteel affairs where the upper crust of society could hobnob with the President and members of the Cabinet.  But she stayed firmly in the background and had no political opinions.

The women who succeeded Martha Washington are mostly cyphers forgotten by history.  The one exception in the 19th century is Mary Todd Lincoln.  She is remembered because she had a dreadful life in the White House.

Her husband was despised by half the country, including many northerners and Mary lacked the political smarts to be an asset to him.  Her political follies could fill a book. For example, she decided to redecorate the White House and was shocked when journalists attacked her for wasting money on new curtains and china while the country was at war.

She also endured personal tragedy.  Most of her family sided with the Confederacy which led the newspapers to brand her a traitor living in the White House.  She lost her son Willie to a lingering illness.  The crowning sorrow was the assassination of her husband.

For decades after that, First Ladies kept a low profile until social standards changed the role of women.  The epitome of the modern First Lady is Eleanor Roosevelt.  She entered the White House with her own political agenda.  She wrote a daily newspaper column arguing for labor rights, an end to racial segregation, and much more.  She was so busy she developed her own office and a staff.

Since then, each First Lady is given an official staff and expected to support her own causes. Recently, she even became an acronym: First Lady of the United States (FLOTUS).  However, First Ladies must still avoid being too overtly political.  Eleanor Roosevelt and Hillary Clinton were criticized for interfering in politics.  As a result, First Ladies tend to support “women’s issues” such as children’s health and education. Michelle Obama supported healthier lifestyles to reduce childhood obesity.

It will be months before the in-coming First Lady defines her role as FLOTUS. She certainly has a wide range of role models to choose from.  But her choices may be more limited than other recent First Ladies because the last time an incoming president was this unpopular was 1861.  The only certainty is that the newest FLOTUS will mirror some aspect of current social standards for women.

About Norma Shirk

Norma started her company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, to help employers create human resources policies for their employees and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to have structure without bureaucracy. Visit Norma’s website: www.complianceriskadvisor.com/.

Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share, but please… Give HerSavvy credit. Thanks!

Leave a comment

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