Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Be Yourself

The artist today is Camille Billops.  And the title of my blog today is in honor of Camille.  I don't know how to really explain how I feel about this artist.  It's complicated.

She is a visual artist and a filmmaker and she has created some pretty interesting films.  One called The KKK Boutique Ain't Just Rednecks and more personal films such as Older Woman and Love,
© Camille Billops
and Suzanne, Suzanne. which is about her niece's heroin addiction and abusive father.  Her movie
© Camille Billops - from Suzanne, Suzanne
Finding Christa won the Sundance Film Festival’s Best Documentary in 1992, Finding Christa is a memoir of Billops’ decision to give her daughter up for adoption at the age of 4 and what happened when she reunited with her daughter 20 years later.  In an interview for BOMB Magazine she says:
Finding Christa is a plea for women to think about their choices. You should never let anyone take those choices away from you. The control words for women are moral words. They will call you a whore if you want to stand out on the street, just to find out the news. You can’t hang out on that street. Men will circle and drive you away from the public space. So I was always curious about that. I am a feminist, but some of the white women, like the Kate Millets and that group who wanted to go to Iran to liberate the women behind the veil; I said, “Put your ass out on the streets, see how liberated you are. Check out that corner, you need a submachine gun.” But we don’t know the end of this yet, it’s been a very interesting exploration. . . .People see it as bravery, I think of it as a cleansing. A lot of men want to wrestle you to the ground, make you say you’re sorry: “Aren’t you happy you found her?” They’re saying, “Aren’t you going to make this up and repent? And be a real mother now that you have a chance?” An old friend of mine who never got married—he was saying, “You must do this for her, and you must do that.” And I said, “I don’t take that from childless men.” They want you to be a good girl. But many people are thinking people. And it does make people think.
Speaking about coming up with the idea for the KKK Boutique she says about her and her husband Jim's thinking process:
     For the KKK: Boutique, we were going to have our friends come over and talk about their individual racism. But they’re all older and tight, closed and guarded. I was talking to kids at the Chicago Arts Institute, and maybe because certain sadnesses have not happened to them, they were much more open. I told them that we don’t have permission to talk about our racism because it’s such a shameful thing. You’re not supposed to have it. It’s too bad, we should treat it like TB. Suppose you were ashamed to have tuberculosis, like it used to be. I talked about my racism. I said, “Look at it this way. It’s a bad servant, it does not deliver what you want it to deliver. The person you hate does not go away, the situation does not go away by hating, and you are reactive and put your body in a very stressful situation, and if you do it over a period of time, you will come down with diseases. You blow all your energy.”
     People come here with preconceived attitudes. They have those attitudes in their own country about color and class. I saw it all in Egypt: the light-skinned people walking in and the dark ones holding the door open. And in Taiwan, all the girls have gloves on and little white hats on, because they don’t want to get dark. One student was out in the surf, wading around out in the ocean, hiding under an umbrella. I said, “You’re not going to get dark, the sun’s down.”
     In this country, we always talk about the black and white of things. Black people accusing white people, and in between, we all just do each other as dirty as we can. Black America has a hard time with other minorities, because they see them as between them and the prize, which they feel is their due because of slavery. So, we want to talk about and address all the dynamics of this, but we also want to deal with the madness of things like . . . why do poor whites become Neo-Nazis? They are one of the most ignored groups in America. The upper-classes always call poor white people “trash.” So how do they get your attention? By acting out, becoming Neo-Nazis, Klansmen, the Aryan nation, the White People’s Party, Skinheads. And then their counterparts, who get to go to Harvard, just keep you out of the club and out of the neighborhood. And out of the power at the cocktail parties. Are they any different?
© Camille Billops
Camille Billops and her husband, James Hatch
Very good points about racism I think...feminism too.  But mostly I admire Camille Billops because it seems that she made it a point to just be herself.  Knowing how imperfect she is and how perfect that could be.  She did her best to try to raise her daughter and wasn't so egotistical to believe that she could do it best and loved her child enough to want the best for her...and loved herself enough to want what was best for herself.  She didn't say, "this is how I should be" but rather "this is who I am and what I am called to do."
© Camille Billops-Three Headed Fountain (1969)
Hope you enjoyed learning about this artist with me today and that you are having a very good middle of the week.

'Til tomorrow!