The April 2006 Edition of Street Spirit

A publication of the American Friends Service Committee


National AFSC AFSC Economic Justice BOSS Website



In this issue:

US Government Created Housing Shortages

Hate Crimes in S.F. and Boston

Urban Removal in S.F. Bayview

Stop Bulldozers of Gentrification

The Death of Two Eloquent Homeless Voices

Grandmother Is Left Homeless by Car Wreck

Building Strong Unions on U.S./ Mexico Border

Transit Justice Is Derailed

Poor People Use the Internet to Organize

Just Wage for All

Ruling Class Runs Economy into the Ground

Art & Altruism: The Paintings of Elizabeth King

Poor Leonard's Almanack: On Writers

April Poetry of the Streets


March 2006

February 2006

January 2006

November 2005

October 2005

September 2005

August 2005

July 2005

June 2005

May 2005

April 2005

March 2005

February 2005




Street Spirit is published by American Friends Service Committee.

All works are copyrighted by the authors.

The views expressed in Street Spirit are those of the individual authors alone, and not necessarily that of the American Friends Service Committee.

Artistry and Altruism: Albert Schweitzer and the "Warmth of Giving"

"My paintings emphasize selfless giving. In every work, I include the magical, the mythical and the sacred. There is something sacred about helping another's dignity."

by Elizabeth King

"Albert Schweitzer Healer of Lambarene." Painting by Elizabeth King

Throughout the month of March 2006, Elizabeth King's paintings on the themes of compassion and altruism were on display at the Failthful Fools Street Gallery in San Francisco. King's art captures the power and beauty of kindness and mercy towards the poor and homeless. Her two series of paintings depict the "Warmth of Giving" and the altruism of Albert Schweitzer.

Carmen Bardody and Andrea Jordensen of the Faithful Fools created an impressive installation of King's art and organized a public lecture by the painter. Faithful Fools is a San Francisco organization that guides non-homeless people on immersions into the reality of living on the streets so they may experience at first hand the real nature of homelessness.

Elizabeth King offered very illuminating reflections on artistry and altruism to a raptly attentive audience at the Faithful Fools gallery on March 11. Steven Gorsler transcribed her artist's statement:

Elizabeth King: When I was a child, I identified with Albert Schweitzer's empathy for humanity. He was a man with selfless endeavors -- a man blessed with many gifts, and a man willing to share them. "The only way out of today's misery is for people to become worthy of each other's trust."

Each painted scene is one which profiles the pastoral years of Schweitzer's life and philosophy. Which brings me to the impetus for these paintings: "Respect pour la Vie," or respect for life. It is the idea that all life is valued and important. An example of this is the closed composition, "Respect pour la Vie." That expressive work tends to lend itself well to the emotionally soft pastel palette.

I choose a limited palette because it lends itself well to the tonality of the meditative mood of the subject. It also provides uniformity to the group of paintings as a whole. White is not normally used as a source of light in oil painting. I use it, however, to emphasize the purity of the subject. My paintings attract attention through dynamic compositions and chiaroscuro -- that is, darker colors that contrast with the strong white which projects into the viewer's space.

I paint expressionistically, using strong brushstrokes which emphasize strong emotions, such as in "Albert Schweitzer Visits the Sick," which emphasizes Albert's sense of care and concern for others.

As a child and as an adult, I have both dreamed and imagined the completed works and later painted them. I knew someday I would paint them, but I didn't know when I would have the opportunity to synthesize such works.

Albert Schweitzer's attitudes and beliefs were concurrent with my attitudes and beliefs even as a child. His motivation to help others through his varied gifts of music, theology, ethics, philosophy and medicine inspired me to use the gifts that I have to create works that espouse the education of altruism.

His life is a good example to me to remain diverse and one's opportunities will be many. The rewards of serving others are not always appreciated or understood, but it only takes one creative person, such as Albert Schweitzer, to bring positive change. With the media's constant focus on materialism, I felt it was important to show an altruistic alternative for the viewer's consideration.

Altruism is like a flower,
which blooms by the hour,
when built on succeeding steps,
of thoughtful deeds in a parapet.
Like early groomed fields,
planted in ice and snow,
it melts misunderstanding,
gloom and woe.
It is not selfish,
arrogant or hard,
but, rather abundant in
its goodness and love.
It listens carefully with attentive ear,
and sees the rewards of its acts so clear.
Its bounty exceeds
the boundaries laid down,
till one soul by one,
is healed in its balm.
It cannot cease for humanity's sake,
nor should anyone stop,
its glorious wake.

As a child, I had the talent, intelligence, and creativity to succeed, but because I lived in penury, I didn't have the opportunity offered to me as those more fortunate in life. I was familiar with the ache of persistent hunger that I endured as a child when I lay down to sleep. However, I knew that despite my harsh environment, that by hard work and determination and talent, I would succeed in life.

After earning two degrees, I met every art opportunity with a sensibility that with failure comes success. I continued to display paintings, photographs, installations, drawings and woodcuts with the undaunted, unwavering visual art ability which I have been blessed with since birth.
Opportunities are not always what one expects to receive in life. Some artists have benevolent benefactors, while others are compelled to fjord the stream of uncertainty only to discover that there are numerous, dangerous, shallow rapids ahead. When offered an opportunity, an artist like me relies on the sales of paintings and drawings.

"Warmth in Giving 2." Painting by Elizabeth King

In my "Warmth in Giving" series, the figurative works at first appear to be monochromatic, but in fact they utilize a complementary color scheme alternating colors that are opposite on the color wheel to provide vibrancy and contrast.

The artworks depicting hands exchanging gifts mostly utilize warm colors on the palettes, almost analogous with the exception of a moire of dopamine, purple-orange swirl that has been painted over with warm colors. I still added a small amount of the complementary color to the warm cadmium red, medium yellow hue, Naples yellow, lemon and other warm colors.

I began this series of works on "Warmth and Giving" with the intention that I, as an individual, can help those around me in simple altruistic acts. My current works bring awareness to giving and its effect on humankind. Altruism, to me, is not understood from the philosophical sensibility, but rather small acts of kindness that can alleviate other's poverty, cares and concerns.

I had to paint a concept I understand, act upon and experience. The integrative consciousness is narration-in-action of the mythical moment of generosity taking place, with spiritual aspects of the sacred, iconic, everyday actions performed unselfishly. Altruism is man's contemplation of existence, which reaches into the integrative consciousness that is identifiable with the viewer. The integrative consciousness is how the viewer's existence is linked to human existence.

In every work, I include the magical, the mythical and the sacred. There is something sacred about helping another's dignity. My paintings emphasize selfless giving, with two figures, shown or implied, engaged in benevolent actions, painted in a contemplative state, absorbing the viewer in that contemplation. In poetic succession, figures progress in the acts of bestowing and receiving.

The light of caring for humanity is directing social harmony through trust. The emotive meaning is like an interwoven tapestry, all working together, and all dependent on selflessness.

In my figurative works, I paint expressionistically, like Lucian Freud (Sigmund Freud's grandson), using strong bravura and impasto brush strokes. My abstract, expressive works draw viewers into the paintings through dynamic compositions and by projecting the image into the viewer's space. I have experimented with the refractive effects of metallic paint to emphasize the immediate impression of a moment in time. With the materials I use, I emphasize the content of transitory light effects of Neo-Impressionism. Canvas symbolizes the need for clothing and the wood frame for shelter.

Every human has basic needs to sustain life, and those are clothing, food, sleep and shelter. This series of paintings portrays a community spirit, which is the narrative action of the mythical moment of simple acts of generosity taking place.

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