How Art Helped Me Through the Pandemic

It’s been a tough year. No matter which school you go to, you likely had to stay home and work online for at least part of the school year. However, though it was a struggle to adjust, I find myself satisfied with how both semesters went. Why? It’s simple; art. 

I suppose art is a section of me – a chance for others to tap into parts of who I am that I wouldn’t naturally express, by choice. It’s a means to show a complete picture, whether it be raw emotion or opinions I hold, with full colors. In other words, art isn’t a wall to hide behind, it’s a banner to adhere to.  

Though art can be applied outside of quarantine, it made an important “comeback” for me then. When the significance of school is all you can focus on, it makes a difference on one’s attitude, and therefore art. However, this year gave me a chance to see both sides of the coin – to experience what it would be like to continue academic studies at home. As a result, my dedication to the arts increased as my worries over projects and exams were reduced. And though I’m eager to get back into a classroom, I can’t help but appreciate the extra minutes spent on what I love most. 

I asked a friend about how she felt art impacted her during the pandemic. She mentioned similar points, but one comment stood out to me. She stated that quarantine helped her “put experiences and memories to a distance,” where she could view them less “in the moment,” and more with an objective, artistic view. In short, it was her reminder of the freer days and old times, her method to arouse hope in an already difficult situation. 

Here are some tips if you ever need to “let go” and release. These tools apply no matter the situation! 

  1. Write. Don’t worry about complexity, just go for emotion. Sometimes the best work is done raw, rather than with technicalities. 
  2. Draw. Just scribble! Pour out what you’re going through. If it’s anger, doodle shapes, or simpler characters and backgrounds. If it’s joy, attempt to draw whatever makes/is making you happy. 
  3. If all else fails, read! There’s so much to choose from!

-Emilia D.

The Moon and Sixpence by William Somerset Maugham

The Moon and Sixpence by W. Somerset Maugham: 9780143039341 |  PenguinRandomHouse.com: Books

In his novels, Maugham deeply discusses the contradiction and interaction between life and art. The escapist theme revealed by the novel coincided with the pursuit of many people in the West and became a popular novel in the 20th century. Maugham’s novel The Moon and Sixpence, inspired by Gauguin, was undoubtedly more fiction than fact. For the next decade, Gauguin thought he would finally be able to enjoy the fruits of his success and reunite the family. By comparing novels with reality, we can find that Gauguin’s pursuit of painting has its causal relationship and process development. But Strickland’s departure is very abrupt and too intense. In addition to the author’s use of fictional plots and narrative techniques, he has created a so-called pure sense of the artist who is unworldly. Compared with Gauguin’s departure, Strickland’s departure is completely out of line with the logic of reality and is even more incomprehensible to the reader. There is a deeper reason why Maugham is writing this way: the virtual satisfaction of Maugham’s ego. Sixpence was the smallest unit of silver in England at that time. People often forget the sixpence at their feet when they look at the moon. The moon is the ideal high above, the sixpence is the reality. The modernity of The Moon and Sixpence is first manifested in its conceptuality. In the The Moon and Sixpence, Maugham ostensibly describes the fate and encounter of the protagonist, but in fact reflects his own thinking on the relationship between art and life.

The questions that haunt the protagonist Strickland are what is the nature of art, how to deal with the relationship between art and experience, whether traditional means of expression are reliable, and the exploration of new forms of modern thinking. After experiencing constant twists and turns, Charles Strickland finally realized that art was a thing with great autonomy and independence, and different narrative perspectives would lead to different endings. Real life is real, ugly, cruel and heartless. Therefore, the beautiful and elegant art on the surface is only the whitewash of reality, while the essence of art is false. In the novel, Strickland also showed his extreme distrust of traditional artistic means. This kind of feeling made him have many difficulties in painting performance, and he fell into the dilemma of silence and inaction, and had to find a new way of expression suitable for himself. Maugham added his thoughts on artistic issues into his novel, which gave the novel a strong conceptual nature. This conceptual nature endowed the novel with rich and complex meanings. Through the surface layer and the deep layer, the confrontation between narration and ideas, the novel has broad tension and connotation, showing the strong characteristics of modern novels. The modernity of the The Moon and Sixpence is also reflected in the fictions of the characters.

Its characters do not pay attention to the distinctive personality characteristics, nor is it the representative of a certain type of characters, but often is a symbol of passion and a spirit. The image of the character is vague and unsentimental, like the background of a distant mountain in ink painting, which is lightly blurred. The reader needs to guess and infer from the suspense, hints, details, inspirations, and general atmosphere that the author places, and then gradually discover the symbolic meaning behind the characters. This is evident in the case of Strickland. There was always an unconventionality of mystery in his conduct, a preventive abruptness, and a succession of extraordinary acts. He is taciturn in speech who always speaks with half-utterance and is short and fragmented, concise as a telegram, or simply avoids direct contact with the reader and gives indirect hints through other witnesses. This often gives people a vague impression of looking at flowers in the fog. This behavior of Strickland showed his distrust of established language. In his view, the connection between language and what it refers to has been broken by the erosion of ugly reality. Language has become a web of consciousness permeated with the bourgeois concept of utility, a withered material, unable to express their inner exploration of the true meaning of things, so he cannot speak without searching for the right words and hesitation. His behavior also shows his fear and anxiety about revealing his true self.

Every time when it came to the subject of the ego, he either hedged and dithered to conceal his true heart, or he pretended to be deaf and dumb and remained silent for a long time in deep meditation. Even forced responses were questions and answers, extremely brief, devoid of any passion for conversation or desire for expression. At the end of the novel, he tries to hide his true self by simply escaping from European civilization and fleeing to uninhabited islands. Both of these situations, whether the extreme distrust of words or the fear of revealing one’s true self, have strong modern meanings. The modernity of The Moon and Sixpence is also reflected in the exploration of the role of human irrational consciousness, especially the primitive wild force in civilized society. Throughout the 19th century it was believed that a healthy life could not be lived without a reverence for form, order, organization, and pattern. It became a fashion for writers at that time to seek for order and a certain mode of time in order to transcend the random events. Strickland in The Moon and Sixpence began to live for many years in the rational rhythm of rigid rules. But he soon discovers that in this quiet order of life he gradually drains himself of his talents, his spirit, his vitality, and his creativity. Therefore, he went to the other extreme of life, allowing irrational consciousness to overflow and attack the rational order on the surface of life with savage, primitive and merciless forces.

He had become a dark and haughty monster of unfeeling power, a voice from the threshold of eternal darkness. His whole life was encompassed with sin and wickedness. In the end of the article after constant exploration, he finally came to realize that extreme rationality and irrationality are not healthy life. A healthy life is a rhythmic oscillation and inertia, a transient equilibrium point in a constantly changing life. One should have sincere courage and a faithful attitude towards life to resist the dark, pitiless, vast and gloomy primitive forces of nature. Maugham’s application of the narrator “I” also makes his novels unique. The narrator, on the one hand, has the function of connecting several plates experienced by the protagonist in structure, connecting them, either explicitly or implicitly, intentionally or unintentionally, into a whole in structure. “I”, as the witness of the event, has a direct relationship with the characters in the book and plays a role in promoting the development of the plot. On the other hand, “I”, the narrator, also has a complex and subtle relationship with the author and the reader, which can be said to be a medium for the connection between them. The narrative examination may be either a prop for the author to convey his thoughts to the reader, or it may be a smokescreen that Maugham deliberately creates in order to bring the reader closer to his thoughts. In The Moon and Sixpence, Strickland’s wife is stricken with grief when she learns that her husband has left home.

Combined with the vitriolic, vicious and merciless abuse that the wife later hurled at her husband, Charles Strickland, it is natural that the reader would discern in the attitude of the observer, “I,” that her grief was a mask. The narrator’s manner, however, was so vague that no one dared to judge whether it concealed a deeper meaning, or whether observing the movements of the furniture might be an attempt to conceal his genuine sympathy. Because in fact the narrator, “I,” develops itself into a veritable outsider, a true observer. He has also become a victim of the vagueness and ambiguity of his own making, and has lost the power of interpretation of the life presented to him as the reader. This is the attitude of the narrator, both true and false, both believable and unbelievable, reflecting the essence of complex life. Then, suddenly confused and ignorant again, the narrator, “I,” is charged with persuading Charles Strickland to return to his family. Filled with shallow curiosity, he questioned Charles Strickland, seeking out more anecdotes, and using the exhortation as a kind of charity, trying to bring Charles Strickland back to a life he despised. The more stupid and ignorant the narrator is, the more ridiculous he seems. When the reader finally decipher the author’s trap and decipher the word “freedom” from the plot, he finds that the mad-looking narrator is only a tool for the author to urge the reader to think. In this way, Maugham flexibly adjusts the relationship between readers, author and characters by means of narrators, making readers unconsciously accept their guidance without damaging their independence and confidence, adjusting their ideas, understanding and finally getting in line with the author, and finally accepting the author’s thoughts.

-Coreen C.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Extraordinarily crafted and presented, Donna Tartt’s 2013 novel The Goldfinch tells the story of Theodore Decker, a young man plagued by memories of his experiences in an act of terrorism, the loss of his mother, and one piece of artwork that alters his life — and history — forever.

Deemed a Dickensian-style coming of age novel, for its poetic air and substantial length (771 pages, beginning to end), “The Goldfinch” recounts a large sequence of Theodore’s life from his point of view, as he moves from New York to Las Vegas and back again, and ages from thirteen to mid-twenties. The novel stretches broadly across a grand array of emotions, written in descriptive and illustrious sentences: orchestrations of edge and tension, raw reflection and self-discovery, dreamy chains of events.

Tartt presents a diverse and complex cast of characters accompanying Theo in his spiraling search for answers, including his informal guardian and (eventual) business partner Hobie and his risk-taking Ukrainian friend Boris. Each character — individual in their own stories, mannerisms, beauty — pulls new aspects into the course of Theo’s life and leads to the ultimate fate of the story.

Theo’s desire for control and hunt for resolutions to his long-standing questions remains central to the heart of “The Goldfinch.” Still utterly infatuated with Carel Fabritius’s painting, the namesake of the novel, Theo expresses his connection to the painting and the fact that it acted as a piece of joy, a piece of history that he had an impact on: “And I add my own love to the history of people who have loved beautiful things, and looked out for them, and pulled them from the fire, and sought them when they were lost…” (Tartt 771).

The Goldfinch is brought to a close in the midst of loose ends; what happens between the characters is still unclear, left at the hands of the audience to decide the character’s stories. And, after pages and pages of Tartt’s beautifully written masterwork, we can’t help but imagine our very own endings for the characters we’ve grown so fond of.

-Keira D.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Even Recap: San Diego Comic Con International 2019

On July 18-21st, the San Diego Convention Center hosted its biggest and arguably most fun event of the year: Comic Con. And this year, for the first time, I was fortunate enough to attend. SDCC is acclaimed for is fantastic Hall H panes, its fabulous stands of fan-made art and official merchandise, its booths of magical colorful posters and pins. Over 150,000 people attend this legendary event this year, and, as one of those lucky people, I’m going to tell you how it went down.

Now, while SDCC actually occurs in July, tickets are bought in early November and December, and are extremely difficult to get your hands on. The actual Convention takes place at the San Diego Convention Center and the Marriott next door to it. It consists of hundreds of rooms and halls in which the legendary panels and game shows are hosted, including the magnificent Hall H. On the ground floor, the huge event hall takes up the majority of the space, and this is where you will find various stands, official and fan-run, selling anything and everything fan-related.

I myself didn’t attend many panels, only 2, but both of them were fantastic. I spent most of my time doing two things: loitering around the official Marvel booth, and wandering around the event hall. Even so, it was an amazing experience. Although tickets can be expensive, I honestly think the experience is worth it if you’re a fan of anything present at the Con. And there is no shortage of options, either. The booths and panels range from superhero to anime to video games. It’s truly a place for all kinds of people to come together and celebrate the one thing they all share: obsession.

Overall, I couldn’t have had more fun at SDCC 2019. It’s truly one of the most entertaining events of the year, and I’m super excited to attend next year, and the year after that, and the year after that, and the year after that… But in all seriousness, if you’re a superfan of almost anything at all, I recommend going to SDCC.

-Arushi S.

A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park

Image result for a single shard plotAn orphan boy named Tree-ear lives in a village in 12th-century Korea. Tree-ear lives under a bridge with Crane-man, a very nice but destitute vagabond. Tree-ear’s story begins after watching a potter named Master Min make flawless potteries.

Nowadays, it’s hard for us to imagine how bad conditions might be if our parents passed away. Often times, books are not just elucidating a story to us, but also teach us lessons for life. When children in our modern society are asking for a brand new iPhone X, Tree-ear was busy scrounging for food.

One day, Tree-ear was a little avid to take a peek at Min’s pottery, so he sneaked into his backyard but accidentally broke a pot. You can’t really say it’s a calamity for him, but a surprise. As recompense, Tree-ear lived in Min’s house and learned how to make potteries until one day he was being sent to the King and exhibit him Min’s masterpiece. It wasn’t until the village dwindled its shabby shadow he realized that his life’s been edited.

This book incorporated a lot of life lessons that everybody needs to learn. If life gives you an absinthe, someday you will receive a fondant.

-April L.

A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

The Google Art Project

The Google Art Project is a vast collection of art and from different museums from all over the world that can be visited without leaving the house. There are many benefits to visiting this online museum, and while these benefits are very helpful, some could be improved.

As I was exploring the different features, I found many perks in visiting the Google Art Project. For example, I found a panel that grouped pieces of art by the artist, medium, art movement, historical events or figures, and places. This was nice because it allowed me to find many art pieces in a certain category. One of my favorite things while visiting this online museum was the zoom feature, which lets me see finer details, such as printed text and small, intricate designs left by the artist, I would not have otherwise been able to see had I gone to a regular museum. The drawback to this, however, was that although I could see the artwork in more detail, it took a long time to load when I wanted to zoom in very closely, so it wastes some time, too. Another helpful thing the museum has is virtual tours of some museums.

The Google Art Project, in making art and museums more accessible to the general public, allows people to appreciate art and history to a greater degree, and I believe that this is important in a society. While the Art Project could be improved and expanded, I think that it’s a good start in allowing more people who may not have the time or don’t live close to a museum to access artworks.

-Aliya A.