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BmoreArt Releases Issue 17: Transformation

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The Skeletons of Joyce J. Scott

Editor’s Letter: The Transformation Issue

A caterpillar’s job is to be ravenous. Some eat so much that they grow to 3000 times their hatch size in two weeks. When their skin will not allow them to grow any more, they find a quiet place to wriggle out of it and surrender to the chrysalis waiting underneath.

We all know this process ends with the manifestation of a magnificent new life form, but the most shocking part of this metamorphosis is that it only arrives after the resolution of an epic battle.

Inside the cocoon, the caterpillar digests itself into organic goo, while dormant “imaginal cells” begin to create a new organism. At first, these undifferentiated cells, which contain the blueprint for the entire butterfly, operate independently as single-cell organisms. The caterpillar’s immune system views them as a threat and attacks, killing them in waves, but these cells don’t quit.

They multiply and join together, forming clusters; they feed on the soupy remains of the caterpillar and pulse with shared information until the war is finally won. The imaginal cells cease to be individuals and bond into a multicellular organism, transforming into the butterfly’s eyes, legs, wings, and organs.

I was surprised at first that nature insists on a transformative process that is difficult, depletes energy, and takes time, rendering a butterfly more vulnerable than would seem necessary. However, it is the struggle that makes each organism stronger, ensuring that the imaginal cells survive as robust and highly functional entities. While the chrysalis can be romanticized as a peaceful oasis, biology reveals that it is chaotic and full of conflict.

 

We need to support creative thinkers in all disciplines who present a radical vision for the future and convince us to act in our own best interests, even when it makes us uncomfortable and afraid.
Cara Ober

All organisms fear and resist change, especially humans. Despite the exquisite beauty that is a butterfly, there are few moments where any of us would choose radical transformation over that which is familiar, even when our reality is unbearable. Like the caterpillar, we are forced to accept life-changing moments, for better or worse. It’s a challenge to appreciate the constant state of unpredictability that life brings and even more difficult to accept generative adaptation whenever possible.

At this moment in history, we are facing dire opposition to progress: to environmental and social equity, to economic justice, and to democracy in general.

It’s worth reminding ourselves that the process of transformation—whether biological, political, sociological, or intellectual—is necessary, but always a struggle. It’s an election year and our cultural “imaginal cells” are under attack, perhaps more than ever before. Progress is not an inevitable outcome and it provokes violent resistance.

The battle between those who want to live in the past and those who push for a better, albeit unfamiliar, future functions to pave the way for hard-earned gains, despite setbacks and disappointment.

In our newest issue, we present the region’s “imaginal cells”: courageous leaders, creative explorers, and ground-breaking thinkers who are envisioning a better future and joining with others to make these collective dreams a reality.

 

Our 17th issue examines transformative action within cultural spaces and communities, artwork that addresses ideas of rebirth and reinvention, as well as individuals who have made significant changes in their lives—professionally and/or personally—whose stories can challenge or inspire others. We highlight these luminous visionaries helping us to meet the challenges of our time and place, existing at the forefront of change and innovation, because they are desperately needed now.

This issue includes Kotic Couture, Lane Harlan, The Voxel Theater, Fruit Camp, Raúl de Nieves, Elliot Doughtie, muralists Jessie and Katey, good neighbor, Tonya Miller Hall, and many other artists who place innovation at the center of their practice. Our incredible contributors to Issue 17 include designer Tony Venne, writers Coley Gray, Nani Ferreira-Mathews, Michael Anthony Farley, Alanah Nichole Davis, Siân Evans, Rahne Alexander, Laurence Ross, Amber Eve Anderson, Raquel Castedo, Radamés JB Cordero, Chelsea Lemon Fetzer, and Sofia Hailu. Our photographers include Vivian Marie Doering, Justin Tsucalas, Saskia Kahn, Jae Sip, Kelvin Bulluck, Jill Fannon, Chris Ashworth, Karl Connolly, Kiirstn Pagan, Alec Sparks, Mollye Miller, Joseph Hyde, with a stunning cover by E. Brady Robinson.

Although we can all agree that Baltimore is a truly spectacular place, a city of artists, we are in need of dramatic change in order to achieve our full potential. We need to support creative thinkers in all disciplines who present a radical vision for the future and convince us to act in our own best interests, even when it makes us uncomfortable and afraid.

To be truly transformative, our artists, scientists, creatives, and visionaries need to play a greater role within government, philanthropy, and institutional leadership, transforming into the “imaginal cells” needed to address the unique challenges and opportunities of our time. This will always be a battle and it will always be worth fighting.
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This story is from Issue 17: Transformation, available here.

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