'California: Asphyxiate', 30" x 20" oil on canvas by artist and creative Jamie Berry

California: Asphyxiate

This is part of a set of pictures inspired by California. They are literal, and tightly done, and open to interpretation; they are colorful and monochromatic, repetitive and random. They are waves that have broken shore for me during our time here.

‘It’s the only world we’ve got. Let’s protect it while we can. That’s all there is, and there ain’t no more.’ – Jello Biafra, from ‘Hellnation’, by Dead Kennedys

There are no beaches in California, not even the most elite or erudite, that have escaped the legacy of our human presence, our human industriousness – our human dominance. I have often wondered what the land must have looked like to the original inhabitants, when the sky was clear, when the distant mountains didn’t induce a heart attack at having suddenly appeared out of thin air on one of the scant few green days in the valley.

It is something we created, and our capacity to endure the discomfort that we have ourselves wrought is truly astonishing. Changing ourselves seems the more arduous task. We enjoy our conveniences and the money they produce and have little time or care for foresight or sorting out their repercussions.

This is a mindset, something fluid, something we can change and from which ultimately all change comes. How much easier would it be, and how much better would our lives be if we chose to work in tandem with the natural forces from which our very being has arisen? How much more would we prosper with consciousness and conscientiousness?

We need the Earth, and we need the land. We are of the land and on the land. The land asks for very little in return.

The Earth does not need us, nor does the land need us. It was here millennia before we made our first faltering steps, and it will remain long after we have released our final breath into the open sky.

Who in that scenario truly holds dominion?

Stewardship and ownership are two very different concepts, and it is a distinction it would behoove us to learn.

A personal postscript: Los Angeles is actually my father’s city of birth. He left as a very young man, never to return in his lifetime but once, to visit me. During my own 2.5 years in California, I suffered from chronic nosebleeds, burning eyes, and a weakened cardiovascular system in spite of being extremely physically fit. My wife developed chronic acid reflux environmental asthma, crippling migraines, and a host of allergies she had never experienced before in her life. Having been gone for a number of months, 100% of these issues have disappeared completely without any direct intervention from us other than removing ourselves from the environment. As our polluted states in The U.S. haven’t quite achieved the same threshold as some of our foreign neighbors, it’s not too late to turn it around (and to its credit, the state of California takes this very seriously and has indeed made great strides). We are truly foolish, however, if we do not believe our actions are taking their toll on us in myriad ways.

'California: Asphyxiate', 30" x 20" oil on canvas by artist and creative Jamie Berry

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2 comments

Art Dork
Aug 30, 2016

That is just great. I lived in CA too, and I don’t know what to make of it either. I guess I hope we can all work it out someday.

Jamie
Sep 06, 2016

Everybody everywhere is trying to do the best that they know how, with varying degrees of success. I think a little kindness and forgiveness go a long way.

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