Thom C. improves world, provides balm to artist's soul

(Luckiest Gnome in Minneapolis gets Mail art from Thom C.)

Hi, this is the luckiest Gnome in Minneapolis reporting live from St. Paul, MN.  I just received the most supportive, warmest, most politically aligned and world-improving art mail from Thom.  Through it he addresses some of the most painful parts of our political and personal realities today and creates what feels like an art hug, a swath of sunshine, hope and happiness to address them.  His solidarity is a beautiful and healing thing. 

He has put this all in a clear envelope and sent it out across the postal mail system.  It’s just wonderful, very meaningful, and it makes the world a better place.  I wish my words were better at describing it, but I’ll do my best today. 

I draw your attention to EXHIBIT A, the front of the envelope, shown above.  It’s stamped “FIRST CLASS” on the Victorian style mailing label, and that’s exactly what it is.  I love the font of the “first class” stamp.  I love the intricacy of the mailing label.  I love how it’s soothing antique yellow-white compliments the blues and reds within it.  There’s a Harvey Milk stamp on it, plus two fabulous arti-stamps from the Republique de Coeur.  One shows the false god of money as a background and says “Health Care For All”.  The other is a pixelated retro picture of a mouth with cartoon bubble stating, “Black lives matter.  Queer lives matter.”  Through the clear envelope you see a man with a staff, shiny balloons and stars, and behind them a hand knitted, sunshine yellow, soft, warm and comforting knit pouch. 

EXHIBIT B, the back of the envelope, tells us we’ve got mail art from IUOMA (nice artistamp!), it shows a Holstein Friesians milk cow, red barn, green trees and a couple silos.  There are more balloons, metallic, shimmering fish and…well…”there’s something about” it that feels great.  Now we get a bigger picture of this cable knit piece with color change across it. 

I won’t keep you waiting, EXHIBIT C and D show the front and back of the knitted pouch inside the clear envelope.  If I owned a smart phone, this is what I would keep it in so that I could touch it’s cabled goodness every day.  It is perfectly postcard sized, it’s vibrantly colored, it’s very useful and expertly knit.  As I’ve said before, Thom C is an expert / master level knitter.  I don’t even know how to change color when knitting, much less do all this fancy work.   Hand knit items carry a special beauty and comfort.  Someone made every loop, someone created this magic with needles, yarn, skill and imagination.  The soft yet vibrant yellow reminds me of sunshine.  The squishy-ness of the fiber is a tactile delight…for lack of better words, it just feels good.  Hand knit items are about comfort, and it is as though Thom set out to bring comfort to a world that is suffering through this piece.

Inside the pouch is a postcard and a poem.  I don’t know if I should include the poem here, because I don’t want to ruin it for anyone who might get a copy of it in the future from him.  The back of the postcard lists the names and ages of all 49 victims of the Orlando massacre.  The poem is beautiful, deep and well written.  With the artist's permission, here is a scan of the poem:


Why this art matters so much to me personally:

I like having anonymity on the internet, and on IUOMA, but I’ve learned that the personal is political, and vice versa.  One way to create change in our world is for individuals to open up, to be honest publicly, to “say it like it is” (Tracey Chapman) and share how our political world affects our lives personally.  If it were not for TBLG people bravely facing the dangers of coming out on a large scale, we would not be as far along as we are today in achieving legal equality.  It takes knowing that your brother, aunt, uncle, mom, dad, granddad, grandson, cousin, classmate, friend or coworker is queer for people to start saying to themselves en masse, “Wait, I know a good person who is queer.  I’m going to vote so that he’ll have the same right to marry, hold a job or have housing that I do.  It matters to me.  Let’s do what’s fair by ‘Joe down the street’.”.  I think Mail Art can create more than positive change in our personal lives.  By discussing political art, I think we can move the wheels to create political change as well.  So here goes… 

I, for one, as I’m sure goes for many, am having a hard time coping with the institutionalized and personal racism, homophobia and transphobia rampant in our society.  Black people in the USA have been targeted due to the color of their skin for hundreds of years.  Today they are still harassed and murdered by tax dollar funded police officers who know they will never face prosecution.  I am white and I live in fear that my partner, the love of my life, a man of mixed genetic heritage including African American, who walks through this life with an Arabic name, will be murdered because of the color of his skin.  When he leaves the house to go to work or even for a walk, we both know he’s wearing a target on his back.  It’s bad enough that he is refused equal opportunity in employment for which he is clearly overqualified, which helps keep us poor.  It is bad enough that he is repeatedly targeted, assaulted by and harassed by police.  It is bad enough that he is followed by shop owners and employees unless I, as a white person, am directly by his side.  It’s disheartening and depressing that some neighbors won’t reply to his sunny “good morning” greeting and that people driving down the street shout racial slurs at him.  To add to the daily pressure of being African American, he and I are also afraid that he will be killed for nothing but the amount of pigment in his skin.  I lose sleep about it, cry about it, feel depression crashing over me due to the pressure of it.  I bring up and discuss with him how to safely interact with police or avoid them at all costs on a regular basis.  I feel like throwing up in terror when we see police in the library we frequent together.  I am afraid for his life every. single. day.  Amidst all of these personal reactions as a white person, I am aware of my privilege.  If I were born an African American woman, I would have been living this reality every day of my life from the day I was born.  I would have to worry about every black man in my life, my father, grandfather, brother, cousin, nephew, husband and sons being targeted and murdered for being black men.  Black lives matter.    

Homophobic hatred pollutes the souls of people of all sexual orientations and manifests as individual and mass murder of TBLG people.  I was not surprised by the Orlando shooting.  I was more surprised when at 20 years old I went into a Lesbian bar for the first time in my life, saw women dancing together and there _wasn’t_ a crowd waiting outside for us with shotguns and pitchforks.  I sat there and wept on that bar stool because I had never dared imagine it possible to be “out” in a public venue without being assaulted or murdered.  Queer lives matter. 

In one of the richest nations in the world we have vital health care denied due to inability to pay, which means that the wealthy are given excellent health care while the poor are needlessly suffering in disability and pain for decades on end, dying much sooner and unable to live to their fullest potentials.  I grew up with my mother having to decide where to spend her limited money, would she go to the doctor or would her children go?  How much food, electricity, water, heating, clothing or school supplies would we have to go without because I had to see a doctor for another ear infection?  Would she manage to live long enough to raise me to age 18, and if not, who would take care of me after she died?  My mother was sick my entire life, but if we had more money for health care maybe she wouldn’t have had to be.  We are a wealthy enough society to provide health care for all.

Yes, the world we live in is unfair and it hurts.  What _helps_ are the compassion and solidarity shown through artistic acts like the one Thom C. just engaged in.  I think we should all continue to focus on what _we_ can do, as individuals and as political players in a democratic society, to make the world a better place.  Smile at someone of a different race and mean it.  Hold open the door for them at the store, say hello.  Show Muslims they are welcome in your neighborhood with a cheery good morning.  Grin with joy at the love and bravery you see, instead of grimacing in disgust, when a same sex couple walks by holding hands.  Tell a trans woman you love her earrings.  Pull out your cell phone and live stream any police interactions which are turning aggressive or abusive.  Be brave enough to disagree out loud with the appropriateness of “jokes” that target the differently abled, women, people of other ethnic or racial groups, the aged and TBLG people when and where they are told.  Doing so will make anyone nearby who might be part of those groups feel safer and respected, and your actions will embolden others to do the same in the future when faced with similar circumstances. 

Views: 184

Tags: All, Black, Care, Coeur, Courcelle, Harvey, Health, Knit, Lives, Matter, More…Milk, Queer, Republique, Thom, du, equality, for, justice, personal, poem, political, postcard


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Comment by Minneapolis Gnome on February 9, 2022 at 6:30pm

Thanks, Gwendolynium.  Our Minneapolis Police Department has just murdered yet another black man, Amir Locke, on a no-knock warrant.  So angry, sick about it and sick of it.  Keep up the good fight, friends, it's the only thing we can do.

Comment by Gwendolynium on February 1, 2022 at 9:05pm

Curious about how much black lives matter in this community, I typed it into the search bar and this post was the main result. Good one, Gnome!

Comment by Minneapolis Gnome on August 3, 2016 at 5:02pm

Thanks for permission to share the poem, Thom!  I've attached it to the blog so folks can read it.  You Rock!

Comment by Amy Irwen on August 2, 2016 at 9:06pm

I LOVE IT Thom!  the colors you added just gives life to this piece....

Comment by Thom Courcelle on August 2, 2016 at 9:01pm

Jeepers Creepers and wowzers...that there's some mighty wonderful compliments. And your written commentary is so eloquently stated on.  The personal and the private and the political ARE all intertwined...poet Adrienne Rich used to say so herself.

I have worked (professionally) in LGBT and human rights work for over twenty years (and one could say, a participant in LGBT human rights issues a whole lifetime, I suppose), and the things you say are true...personal interaction...knowing someone TBLG[Q] (as you say) personally truly does make a difference...if only because it helps one to realize there are ALWAYS more things we have in common than there are things different. Thanks for you personal story...telling our stories is what also makes a difference. Human beings are storytelling creatures. We certainly have seen some amazing changes in the world during our lifetimes...and yet our successes sometimes belie the fact that discrimination and the challenges of growing up LGBTQ won't ever really change. There's still work to be done. (Much like how the remedy cocktail that has been so successful against the AIDS virus is a wonderful thing....but doesn't and hasn't changed the vast worldwide epidemic problem or the number of people who become infected.)

I'm completely fine if you'd like to share the poem. It's already been sent out to several correspondence friends.

Comment by Minneapolis Gnome on August 2, 2016 at 7:55pm

Wellll...I don't know if you should go _that_ far about me, TH.  I'm not _all_ peaches and sunshine.  Sometimes?  When no one's looking?  I make mail art out of trash and send it to perfectly nice people I don't even know.  And then?  I write warnings to them in 3rd person about the trash I mailed  in order to deflect the blame from myself and make it appear that they have choice or agency in the matter of whether to open it or not.  Oh.  And ocular sadism and bad poetry, I've inflicted both of those things on perfect strangers without prior consent.   Nope.  There's definitely something more than angel wings and gossamer to MG.  He's a shady, mysterious character who should be regarded with guarded amusement...or...something.   

As for Thom C. and my partner?  Yes.  Both probably angels on earth.  Very good people making positive change on the world and those around them.  My partner is  my personal hero, I try to be more like him all the time.  At least _he_ doesn't force the employees of the USPS handle trash post consumer waste and deliver it to people's personal mail boxes.


Comment by Toni Hanner -- tonipoet on August 2, 2016 at 7:01pm

MG, you are an angel. No, I mean this literally. You are an actual living breathing angel. Thom Courcelle is one, also. And your man, since he loves you, I'm sure he must be as well. Thank you for your openness, your courage, your Gnominess. I love you.


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