Thursday, April 7, 2011

Gina Genis Faces the Recession with ECONOMY PORTRAITS! Photo Journal by Ginger Van Hook

Gina Genis reveals the crisis of our economy
as she puts a face to the struggle of every day Americans.
Photo by Ginger Van Hook©2011

Gina Genis poses in front of one of her ECONOMY PORTRAITS.
 In his own handwriting, one of the
the residents of Huntington Beach Todd Love states
 "How great it is to be living in the land of the Free! But there's no jobs!"
Photo by Ginger Van Hook© 2011
 Closing Celebration for Gina Genis's Economy Portraits and 3 other Artist-In-Residence artists at the Huntington Beach Art Center is this Friday night, 7-9 p.m. Free event, free parking. 538 Main Street, Huntington Beach CA 92648 714.374.1650

“How has the economic crisis affected YOUR life?” Gina Genis asks as she snaps my picture for her Economy Portrait Series while she works in the spacious gallery at the Huntington Beach Art Center, Wednesday, April 7th. As she nears the completion of the first phase of her project Gina tells me she hopes the politicians see the pain that has been inflicted upon our hardworking Americans. Her portraits are unique because they reflect the statements of hundreds of everyday citizens struggling to adapt to near impossible economic restraints.  The issue is of course, that these citizens are the victims of upper level greed that has come down the pike. While the major corporations, banks and bank officials are battling it out over who gets the bigger market shares of fancy products and coveted services, the Americans are paying the price. While corporate managers are sailing on bales of money, the working Americans are continuing to bail out Wall Street from their mismanaged portfolios and paperless transactions that are being revealed to have led to false foreclosures. With all this anguish, Gina Genis’s Economy Portraits hit a HUGE nerve.

The anguish is in the faces of our citizens. Genis captures the essence of the struggle in the statements each person writes in their own handwriting. Then she scans in this handwritten document and superimposes the writing upon the image. As she nears completion of the project, an American Flag emerges with the character of struggle, sending ripples of discontent across the wall. She prints the lines of the American flag in red and white backgrounds and reserves the black background for the stars.

Obviously she was very busy with this consuming process, but I lured her away for an hour for a lunch interview just to ask her what the particular motivation was for her furious revelation of economic dissent in ink and paper. The artist is often the one that projects a very personal message into the artwork and I discovered a painful origin that has emerged in a very beautiful context. Art is about the struggle. Gina Genis is no different when it comes to the artistic struggle. She manages to infuse her photography with deep emotion. As the economic tide began sweeping across the country, her husband who was a Real Estate agent at the time, got caught up in the economic tsunami. With no sales and no income trickling in, her husband made one of the most difficult decisions facing Americans today. He opted to make the ultimate sacrifice for his family and his country by joining the military and left for the Army in 2007, leaving Gina Genis to work fast and furiously to cope with the personal issues at home: Her aging mother and the difficult task of dealing with her mom’s dementia while juggling her photography business, her camera workshops and a life of an Army-wife, alone…joining the ranks of army-wives across the country carrying similar burdens across America. Thus the poignant beauty of the American Flag and the faces of our countrymen and women sets itself apart from any other piece of contemporary artwork because it carries with it, the burden the people are carrying. This piece of work reveals the American struggle and becomes the voice of our people, the voices of the people around the globe who struggle to cope with the mistakes made by money managers at the top, disconnected from the real struggle of life, the daily task of putting food on the table for our children, educating our future generations, providing shelter and the human rights and dignities promised to us by our forefathers in a land of the free.

Gina Genis’s ECONOMY PORTRAITS reveals that freedom isn’t free and one of our basic rights in addition to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is the right to have a job in one of the richest countries in the free world…not to belabor this point, but we’ve certainly EARNED this privilege…afterall, isn’t our country still paying for our recent Wall Street bailout?

Ginger Van Hook’s additional notes:

When Gina Genis asked me how I was coping with the economic crisis, I took a long hard look at the last five years since I’d graduated with my MFA at Otis College. My husband Luke and I had made a conscious decision to become students again to complete our degrees and we had sold our homes in Nevada and moved to Los Angeles to begin our careers in the artworld in the year 2000 with the goal of buying a new home once we graduated. 
I certainly didn’t have any expectations to land the perfect job out of college because I had already had a 15-year career in radio broadcasting before I became a serious writer and photographer. But Luke and I were hardly prepared to watch all our friends lose their homes one after another and we knew there was nothing we could do to help and we certainly couldn’t now afford to buy here in Los Angeles so we still rent. Our struggle has been with our expectations. Our lives are not what we expected financially. There have been little to few art sales, no jobs forthcoming; so we too are tightening our belts and continue to help my parents with their engineering business which faces sluggish manufacturing sales as well. But Luke and I have a “Lemonade mentality” to our goals. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade! We struggle with our choice to stay artists. No longer having the label of starving students…we’ve gone on to adopt the label of starving artists. 
But overall, we know we are really not starving. This is a miss-nomer. There is real hunger, real starvation and real strife all over the world. We are blessed to practice our artwork here in Los Angeles. We are blessed with a few generous collectors and mostly blessed with generous parents and friends. In actuality, we could not have made it this far, had not it been for the kindness of strangers who now are friends. We’ve cut out movie theater nights and cook our own meals, no cable TV, replaced our entertainment with netflix and we don’t buy new clothes, we recycle what we’ve got or do the antique stores for whatever breaks. We donate what we don’t need to the goodwill and then turn around and support the goodwill by purchasing quality items in “pre-owned” conditions much like one would purchase a pre-owned car. We put off buying new cars and still drive our economic Toyotas, that while worn with age and paint scratches, still get us to where we gotta go. Overall, we struggle to hang on to our dream, a dream of being artists that when we got married, was a special promise to ourselves. We promised to share ourselves with the world, no matter what.
 Thus I began this blogging venture. In Fine Art Trekkin’ I document the struggles of our contemporary artists in our local communities. We utilize all the avenues of distribution that are free and open to the public. We will not sacrifice our promise to share ourselves, although daily, this has become much harder than it looks. The tools we presently use for distribution are the currently available social media circles of Facebook, You Tube, Twitter and ArtSlant.

On the boardwalk in Huntington Beach, California
these blooming snapdragons welcome visitors to the 
Huntington Beach Art Center on Main Street.
Photo by Ginger Van Hook©2011