(This piece was first published in the September 2013 issue of Country Wisdom News, in the monthly column “Bread and Roses.”)
“The worker must have bread, but she must have roses too.” This century-old labor slogan bears repeating today. Beauty, pleasure, celebration–the “roses” of life–are not extras; they’re just as essential as food and shelter to our well-being.
To start meeting everyone’s needs for both bread and roses, it’s important to insist that governments and businesses make the appropriate changes. But it’s also crucial to embrace, create, and share the bread-and-roses paradigm in our individual lives, here and now. Even in a world in which resources can seem scarce, commitment, openness, and ingenuity can reveal some amazing roses.
Local artist Andres San Millan is a great example. Awhile back he decided it was time to expand beyond his previous artistic parameters and do what he’d always wanted to do: create a really large sculpture. He knew that moving forward with his dream was a vital part of his life’s work–but he didn’t have the financial resources to purchase materials for such a large piece.
The way San Millan responded to that seeming obstacle can inspire all of us who seek more of the roses in life. He used Hudson River driftwood–and created a work infused with such grace, meaning, and power that it’s clear this artist and this medium were destined to work together.
The 13-foot sculpture, Man, on exhibit in front of Taste Budd’s Cafe in Red Hook, is a dynamic archetypal figure that carries the same energy as the driftwood of which it’s made. San Millan, who has a deep affinity for Native American culture, says, “I wanted Man to reflect those cultures, the way they flow without resisting the rhythms of nature. That’s the same reason the earth goes around the sun: nothing impedes it, so it just keeps going with the flow. Driftwood does that too.”
And that same energy powered San Millan’s creative process. Instead of resisting the circumstances with which we’re faced, he says, we can know that “we have everything we need. It’s all here.” When I stand looking at Man, I know in my bones that’s true.
My family and I attended the installation of Man looking for something interesting to do on a frigid January day. What we experienced went way beyond interesting. The power and beauty of the piece fed our souls deeply, reminding us that art is as vital as bread.
Our culture tends to pressure us to starve the right sides of our brains. San Millan says, “The right side of the brain is spiritual, empathic, creative, wild, spontaneous. It’s alive and it has needs. We absolutely need to nourish it because it’s part of us.”
To spend time with Man, on exhibit through December, visit Taste Budd’s Cafe, 40 West Market Street, Red Hook. For more on Andres San Millan (who also co-founded the Cocoon Theatre in Rhinebeck with his wife, Marguerite), visit figureartscape.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.