I Ain't Complaining...

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Posted by panch from pool0741.cvx24-bradley.dialup.earthlink.net ( on Saturday, June 22, 2002 at 3:40PM :

..or looking for sympathy or trying to justify myself...(do I sound like I care what people think?)...when I mention again and again what happened to me and my work. In the first place I asked for it, so it isn't anybody's else's fault to begin with. I didn't think when I started that I was asking for anything bad to happen...difficult yes...but not BAD.

Something bad has happened...something very bad...and now I see myself stuck in the role of some sort of defender of the notion that we Assyrians indeed have pride and want to make a place for ourselves in the world. The only way I see to do that is through our Art and Culture. There is no such thing as uniquely Assyrian Law, or medicine, or business techniques or architecture. Our religion isn't unifying anyone and can't...for it started our disunity long ago, and we have no sense of politics at all, just a childish aping of what we see around us.

The greatest gifts to Humanity we helped develop centuries ago have been incorporated into Western Civilization and in that sense we are well represented...or would be if anyone knew about it...and knew we were still here. That's what our Art can do for us...let people know we still exist and PROVE we are descended from the ancients in about the only and the best way we could ever "prove" such a thing.

No religious argument can make that point...can prove a connection with our glorious past because we weren't Christians during that period, and many of us are ashamed to own up to those pagans, or are glad to have left them behind. Our history since turning Christian is not well known either and isn't exactly the kind of thing to inspire anyone...not unless being murdered and spit upon moves you to rapture.

I had no idea I would run into the kind of deliberate opposition, the slurs and innuendo and outright efforts to destroy years of very hard work under the most difficult conditions, that I have been subjected to. You want to be a doctor??? Give me a break...that's EASY! All you have to do is follow a prescribed route that asks nothing of you except what is spelled out and expected of everyone, Assyrian or cannibal. You also know that at the end of that arduous path there is a diploma and work and money and security and prestige waiting for you...that if you do the work, you will reap the rewards...sure thing, slam dunk.

Try to make sculpture for Assyrians and about Assyrians if you want open ended misery and indefinite hardship. Under the best of circumstances you aren't guaranteed anything, except a damn good chance to fail...to hang on by your fingernails till they break. There is no" course" of study, you're on your own...they don't teach the techniques anywhere...and a degree in Art is about as useless a thing as a pimple, in terms of guaranteeing you a livelihood, and without sales you don't get any pretige and not much sympathy either
The final irony, the nail in the coffin of my "career" and that of any other aspiring serious artist of ours, is that I WAS successful...more so I would say than any other artist of ours in the last 100 years...who's managed to sell close to $400,000 worth of bronzes in twenty years. In the beginning I was asking "way too much" for my sculptures..."hey, you are Assyrian, remember???" People used to point with wonder, not at my sculptures, but at the price tags on the pedestals. I believe I singlehandedly raised prices for all of us just by refusing to meet people's low expectations...for which we all have Narsai to thank...though I would have done the same without his help....had to.

It has been largely due to the fact that I was so successful, relatvely speaking of course, that certain people took off after me. It was because I stole their thunder, because next to a public monument, a dinner party or dance or the usual stuff they do at conventions, looked a lot less impressive, and whereas these leaders have to beg for attention, for you to "buy" what they are selling...people were willing to part with thousands of dollars to buy what I had to offer. We are so tribal that each hot shot leader in a city or region didn't want me riding in on "his" coattails and stealing "her" glory with one of my "silly statues". had I been a goof ball, they would have praised me and supported me...insisted I get up on the platform with them because they'd be certain to come off looking and sounding better. Our leaders prefer anonymity and mediocrity if for no other reason than that they avoid detection, avoid unfavorable comparison to persons and events so obviously beyond their capabilities.

The most biizzarre compliment(?) I ever got was when Janey said I should be Atour Golani's vice-president...I was THAT good!

That's where we are at...that's why no Assyrian who can count to ten wants to be associated with this heritage...because we DEMAND mediocrity...we don't WANT the best in us to come through, to shine forth...not if it means going out onto the world's stage...in a pageant or youth excellence show in a convention, it's fine...but that's not serious and we all know it...because none of them are going to risk a career on being Assyrian in any professional way. They may write well...compose a poem about "Nineveh, Oy Vey Nineveh"...but they aren't about to move in with a family of cockaroaches in Queens to try their hand at playwriting.

This is the dilemna we face.....that we, the people, need the very thing our leaders are afraid of because it will displace them...put them out of a job...demand a professionalism they haven't the time or capacity for....because they "lead us" in their spare time and are only as good as any other person would be under those circumstances. You don't get to be much of a brain surgeon studying and practising in your "spare time". It takes constant and continuous devotion and dedication. They can see I have that, that others have the potential...that I've been doing nothing BUT that for years, but instead of inspiring them, giving them the hope that they can concentrate now on their families and real careers because they have in me, and others, dedicated professionals willing to work very hard for little in the way of material compensation. Instead they flare up, feel threatened, want us neutered or done away with and all because we threaten their HOBBY.

And so...we will remain amateurs and we will continue to lose ground, even as the declarations become more strident and forceful, because they grow more desperate...go longer and longer without seeing anything meaningful they've ever proposed come to pass.

I could have placed a monument every three years in cities around the world...and that's just what scared these leaders. And it isn't just me...I know my limitations well and am under no illusions about my own Gratness. But I work hard and I don't give up easily...this side of a jackass which also proves I'm an Assyrian. I was "good enough",,,I was as good as I needed to be to get us the kind of exposure we need if we want this heritage to breathe and live ...not just moulder away in dank museums and even danker hotel basements.

That's why I can't stop...can't back down...no matter what it costs. It isn't only because I stand to lose so much after finally having come this far as a sculptor...but because the very soul and essence of what I was really working for,,,to inspire those children in Chicago and elsewhere, is in danger of being undone...and if these people succeed, and we see them get away with it, it will be a long long time before someone else dares venture this much.

In one way it was easier for me because I could afford to maintain the illusion that my work and my dreams would be well received...that the harder I studied and worked and the more I was willing to sacrifice for this noble goal, the more people would appreciate and support it. It was a reasonable thing to expect...after all isn't everyone wailing for their Ooompapatah?

Now, we know better. Now there is my example on the horizon, when there wasn't any such thing before. Now we know that great and well respected leaders of ours will lie...will discriminate...will deceive...will use every dirty trick they can think of to block and frustrate...that when something can't be put to THEIR benefit first of all...they'll sink it rather than have it benefit us and our children...without them.

This is the point we stand at....we look to the future now not certain what to believe. ARE these leaders really interested in us, in the heritage...in promoting and preserving it, or in what promotes them and makes them the objects of our envy? Am I an egotist who has to have every little thing his own way and will destroy a monument, even if I paid for it, because I can't have my own way, or am I hell bent on completing my work the way I know it has to be done?

Am I a freak, or is this pretty much the way any dedicated pro would behave when people who don't know your work try to interfere and then ruin it if they can't get it away from you? Because if what I did was standard procedure, then every other serious artist now knows what can happen...and more than that, what we will allow to happen to him or her. And that man or woman of the future will think long and hard before venturing out here in this direction.

As an aside I can't help but mention again...it isn't as if the money or the very concept came from other people...like I was commissioned and given a budget. The idea was my own...indeed I had to overcome skepticism and inertia and not a few people's open distrust of what they thought was a clever scam to play on people's desires and emotions and hopes...not to mention rob them into the bargain.

I paid for the monuments myself, from the sale of my own sculpture...that's why it was so funny when Janey said she would "demand" I pay back the money "given" to me for the Hammurabi maquettes! I not only paid for them myself, inspiring Helen to contribute and Narsai and IBM...but I handled the correspondence with the cities and answered their questions and met their requirements...I even delivered the statues! To do all of that work...with other potential Assyrian artists and patrons and buyers watching...then to be expected to hand the whole thing over, on opening night no less...and then to be shunned and blacklisted at the last moment because I would not hand over MY own work to someone else desperate to reap the recognition from us for having "brought" this gift to you all..and on top of that to have my income ruined, my means of supporting my children, Assyrian children, and to be threatened with arrest, again....well....like I said, I have to fight this. I did all of this for the rest of us as well...and in that spirit I have to continue it.

-- panch
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