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The Meaning of the Holidays: 10 Artists Share Their Thoughts

The Meaning of the Holidays: 10 Artists Share Their Thoughts

by Katie Love

Like everything in life, the meaning of the holidays is subjective. For visual artists such as the 2019 Not Real Art grant winners, it is no different. We talked to our Not Real Art extended family through a set of four questions – which our founder Scott "Sourdough" Power and I, also answered!

From our family to yours, we wish you a happy holiday season full of laughs, love, and the kind of REAL art that grabs you by the heart – or the balls, whichever rings true for you. Happy Holidays, everyone!

What does ‘giving back’ mean to you?

scott sourdough power
Scott "Sourdough" Power, Creator of NOT REAL ART. Photo credit: Josh Wattles

Scott Power: “Being empathic and nice towards people 365 days a year, and not just during the holidays!”

writer and comic katie love
Writer and Comedian Katie Love

Katie Love: “What Scott said. I like to entertain, so I throw a party every year right before Thanksgiving where I make soups and bring everyone together before we all scatter for the holidays.”

artist Beth Abaravich
Artist and NOT REAL ART Grant Winner Beth Abaravich. Photo credit: Birdman

Beth Abaravich: “Giving back is so nuanced, if you watch TV it's these grand gestures that celebs do to change the world. For me it's donating to a horse rescue for hay, buying a homeless person hot tea, or just smiling at someone like you genuinely mean it.”

Artist Marquerite Kalhor
Artist and NOT REAL ART Grant Winner Marquerite Kalhor. Photo credit: Birdman

Marguerite Kalhor: “Giving back has infinite meanings. Ultimately, it's being kind and sharing your good fortune (if you have it) with others.”

Artist Talya Coviello
Artist and NOT REAL ART Grant Winner Talya Coviello. Photo credit: Birdman

Talya Coviello: “Giving Back means maybe you've been fortunate in some way and you want to share that with others or someone has done something positive in your life and you want to reciprocate.”

Artist Jessie Noguchi
Artist and NOT REAL ART Grant Winner Jessie Noguchi. Photo credit: Birdman

Jessie Noguchi “Giving back means sharing our time, resources, feelings, talents, and love with the community to make a better world.”

Juliana Bustillo
Artist and Grant Winner Juliana Bustillo. Photo credit: Birdman

Juliana Bustillo: “Giving back is paying it forward.”

Artist Rachel O'Donnell
Artist and Grant Winner Rachel O'Donnell. Photo credit: Birdman

Rachel O’Donnell: “'Giving back' can mean a lot of things, it can be helping improve your community with volunteering or it can be more personal, like picking up all your family members from the airport so your mom can focus on finishing up the decorations! We have a huge family (our Christmas dinner will be 27 people this year) so, I always try to pitch in and make the holidays as seamless as possible for everyone!”

Artist Monica Learl Cueva
Artist and NOT REAL ART Grant Winner Monica Leal Cueva. Photo credit: Birdman

Monica Leal Cueva: “Giving back means recognizing where our opportunities have come from and acknowledging that by providing the same or similar opportunities to others. It also means remembering the rough times, the moments when you were helped, the instances when you were down, and going to the people that helped you, or going to the people that are in that same situation, and giving something of what you have managed to build for yourself.”

Artist Karen Fiorito
Artist and NOT REAL ART Grant Winner Karen Fiorito. Photo credit: Birdman

Karen Fiorito: “I am constantly donating my art and my time to charitable causes. Being a printmaker allows me to make multiples of my work, and I use those multiples to support non-profits. Through my work I have been able to raise money for Planned Parenthood, Veganuary, Fish Feel, Animal Equality, Mercy for Animals, and many, many other organizations. As an activist and artist, my mission is to spread the ideas of compassion and equality to every living being. My art is a reflection of my activism and is meant to educate, activate and agitate.”

What are some of your favorite memories or traditions during the holidays?

Scott Power: “Going winter camping and getting away from all the holiday B.S”

Katie Love: “Not what Scott said. Camping sounds like a nightmare, though glamping is fun! I grew up as a Jehovah’s Witness, so we didn’t celebrate Christmas. When I left the religion, I think the first thing I did was buy a Christmas tree and fornicate with a stranger. Maybe he was the guy that sold me the Christmas tree, I don’t remember. Anyway, to answer my own question, if there’s friends, family, laughter, an awesome food spread and some spiked eggnog, I feel like it’s a win.”

Beth Abaravich: “Just hanging out with family and friends.”

Marguerite Kalhor: ”I loved decorating cookies with my mom, spending time with family.”

Talya Coviello: “My favorite memories are just being able to spend time with my family. Very simple but sometimes we forget how important family is.”

Jessie Noguchi: “My favorite holiday is a Japanese tradition for the end of the year and New Year. It's like Thanksgiving in Japan. All offices closed from Dec 29-Jan 3rd and all the families get together. We have ritualistic customs for how to say good-bye to the year and welcome the new year internally and externally. NYE is a big cleaning day and we make a special noodle for NYE. And visit temples or shrines for thanking the year we had and wish for a better year. The air is crisp around that time and something sacred. I love that atmosphere.”

Juliana Bustillo: “Going to the lot and picking your tree. Taking it home and decorating it. Then waiting for the smell to take over the house.”

Rachel O’Donnell: “I really love finding gifts for people! I make notes throughout the year on my iPhone whenever someone says something like 'Oh, I've always wanted XYZ' so I can find them the best gift possible! If I won the lottery, I'd definitely spoil my friends. Money's no good if you don't share it!”

Monica Leal Cuevo: “My mom used to display a gigantic nativity set made of up to 40 pieces. We would build it from scratch by placing boxes of all sizes (representing mountains and hills) and covering them with moss. A mirror would play part as a lake, and little figurines like ducks would be ‘crossing the lake.’ The rest of the nativity set was made of cows, sheep, shepherds, town people and of course Mary, Joseph, Jesus and the three Kings. We would put Christmas lights under the moss, so it would appear as if it was glowing. The enormity of it all is something I don't see anymore. It was truly a work of art to put that set together.”

Karen Fiorito: “Even though I am not really "into" Christmas, my husband and I put up a Christmas tree every year. It is the same tree we have had since our first Christmas together. It was a $15 tree from Walmart, but we like it just fine. Every year when we set it up, drink some champagne, light a fire (or play one on YouTube) and spend the day decorating.”

What should be a holiday, but isn’t?

Scott Power: “National Neighbor Day celebrating and honoring the folks living next door to you."

Katie Love: “Aunt Katie Day” There’s Mother’s Day and Father’s day, but the aunts and uncles get left out. Why? We’re the people you call when you can’t stand your parents anymore. I want a present for that and a homemade artful card. And more spiked eggnog.”

Beth Abaravich: “I think the month of August should be a holiday. Like in Europe when they shut everything down. Then you know everyone you're traveling with will be off and can just enjoy it.”

Marguerite Kalhor: “Everyone should be able to pick one day in the year where they can take the day off and get paid for it. Holiday pay, of course.”

Talya Coviello: “BUY ART DAY!”

Jessie Noguchi: “International Workers Day on May 1rst!”

Juliana Bustillo: “Can’t think of a new holiday…everything literally has an international day now!”

Rachel O’Donnell: “I really believe Election Day should be a holiday so people can go out and vote! We need as many people as possible to become involved in our government!”

Monica Leal Cuevo: “We all need a TURN YOUR LIGHTS OFF AND LET'S LOOK AT THE STARS day.”

Karen Fiorito: “It seems like there is a holiday for everything anymore: National Donut Day, World Chocolate Day, etc. I do like the idea of Indigenous Peoples' Day instead of Columbus Day, since he was an insane murderer. I hope someday Columbus Day will be replaced by Indigenous People's Day.”

What sucks about the holidays?

Scott Power: “Rampant and pervasive commercialism. I don't trust any holiday that is essential for driving a country's GDP! ”

Katie Love: “Because I grew up in a cult religion that didn’t celebrate holidays (and for the record, my definition of a cult is any religion that demands that families and friends shun each other for differing beliefs, based on a made-up doctrine that doesn’t serve everyone equally) I can’t wrap a present to save my life. I also don’t know the words to any Christmas songs, so I make up my own lyrics, which is kind of disrespectful to the songwriter. Sorry!”

Beth Abaravich: “Um, X-mas music before Halloween (So Wrong) The colors Red and Green, Really? UGLY! How about hot pink and orange, with turquoise accents. The holidays have become so commercial and glossy. I adore glossy but this isn't a good application.”

Marguerite Kalhor: “The inevitable flu/cold and stress, be it financial or familial.”

Talya Coviello: “Sometimes you can't spend time with everyone you want to because a lot of people go home for the holidays. So, I think that’s what sucks for me because I want to be able to spend the Holidays with all my friends too!”

Jessie Noguchi: “If there are no family members or friends around, it can be a very lonely and sad time.”

Juliana Bustillo: “Being poor sucks about the holidays, man.”

Rachel O’Donnell: “Honestly, the holidays are not my favorite time of year. It's so stressful and expensive. So, I'm a bit of a grinch, but who wouldn't be with so many years in retail!”

Monica Leal Cuevo: “The most horrendous part about the holidays is the shopping and the almost unavoidable trip to the mall.”

Karen Fiorto: “I know I sound like a Grinch, but growing up poor, Christmas was always a depressing time. My mother would always get upset because she could not give us what we wanted, so I don't have a lot of good memories. Also as an anti-capitalist, the commercialism of Christmas and the emphasis on consumerism is nauseating. I hate receiving "presents" that are disposable or useless pieces of plastic which will later get thrown away. I tell everyone not to get me anything: I would prefer nothing to something I don't want or need.”

Written by Katie Love

Artists photos by: Birdman

Scott Power

Scott "Sourdough" Power, Creator of NOT REAL ART

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