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Guest viewpoint: Michelle Tynan

Artist wishes mural teaches lasting lesson of tolerance

December 01, 2010 - I worked three years on a mural on 5 S. Main Street that was covered with white paint. Since being publically admonished and humiliated, I feel ashamed.

Not that the painting is gone, the building owner lost money, or was embarrassed by it, or anyone thinks I'm unorganized, unmotivated, untalented, unskilled, or incapable as business person.

Only that I may have doubted myself, that I led any of you to believe the picture I painted depended on your approval, and I set an example for kids in this community that what is most important in matters of interpretation is the appearance of majority opinion. It is not.

Your white wall and united village opinion as a whole combined aren't worth more in matters of interpretation than mine, or anyone's authority of their own works. It's our first inalienable right. You've been misguided by our city that majority rules in matters of self expression. It does not. A mockery has been made out of village governing by confusing its function with that of an evangelizing commercial corporation, and you've proved nothing by tearing up my work, other than as a village you cannot be satisfied because your qualifiers are insubstantial and based on snobbery.

The paper has since been riddled lamenting and new ideas for "better" paintings than my attempt presented. Even the biggest haters of "the mural" now have an antipathy about the alternative, a white wall, and also crave a "correction". That somehow the definition of art is what fits in your terms as a village, a singular village opinion afraid to lose its weight because any opinion on its own is vulnerable, hence the mountain of anonymous mural hate mail to the greater media. Some even promote art inappropriately in an official capacity as if they have the high esteem to represent all of our tastes by setting the bar for what is 'good art' and compatible with this village and legislate it. That as if a pronouncement like: "and if it makes me a snob, than so be it!" justifies censorship (ask a soldier in Iraq what it makes you).

Here's how I see it: It doesn't make you a snob, it makes you a bully. You threw a punch that knocked me down. Called me names and tore up my work. But, you only got one of us. There are more.

For those who have asked the rhetorical question: "Is there bullying going on in your child's world?" Do you think there's a chance there's not an affirmative answer? Whenever there's a voice that doesn't want to conform, there's a bully to police it.

The time to be concerned is when the policing results in the person being bullied being corrected. In this case, anyone supporting my efforts, whether the picture I painted was their personal taste or not, was bullied.

No matter how inept you may think anyone is, as an artist, "wall painter," or the whatever way they choose to express themselves, your singular village reprisal violates one of our highest virtues, freedom of expression, a virtue many have given their lives for. Which artist will serve you correctly now and what will qualify them?

Among others, there are young impressionable minds in our audience. Some of them have been bullied too. Cast out, or they just don't want to fit in.

Some WANT to be different. They want to stand out. They want to be heard, and like everybody, they want to be loved and accepted, and some could use an outlet for their visions.

Many times these are the people who paint or want to paint, and sometimes these are reasons why they paint. Nobody wants to believe their child is waning or weak because they're noticeably "different". But, they're not weak because they're different, and if they're not supported they're weak because they're expected to be the same.

These are our artists, (painters, writers, poets, musicians), and they might not want to be our quarterbacks and cheerleaders, but they can give us as much and more.

You can't put them in a box and say these are your limits because Clarkston has (pretentious and infirm) standards that make us all proud. You can't call them names and not expect a fight, and you can't correct their ideas inside your terms when those terms are qualified by snobbery.

They need gigantic white walls to fill up with ideas and paint, they need to spend time on them, erase and edit their ideas, share them, get input and make them better according to their own standards, by constantly challenging themselves, and accepting differences in opinions. They don't want to please you, they want to excite and inspire you. Some live here too, and they need support.

I called the painting "Sobad's Hope" after a story I wrote about a miracle. The building owner named it "An Obituary for Hope" after an announcement he wrote about an execution.

Under the white death there's a vestige, a nuisance of hope that 's urging blank walls in the village to resurrect its voice.

For those who campaigned "Mr. Sherman: Tear Down That Wall!!!" How 'bout an emphatic "No." Please give that wall a voice again.

By our artist's creating new work and relating to each other through the commonality of our differences through the expression of art we become more unified as a diverse community, not divided.

By engaging unique thoughts and ideas in a community, as opposed to marginalizing them, we grow as community, and by understanding there is not a better picture than the last one, or the next one, just a different one, we show kids that there is not one correct picture to represent us. It is NOT the picture that defines us, it is the VISION.

Michelle Tynan lives in Clarkston.

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