The March 2005 Edition of Street Spirit

A publication of the American Friends Service Committee


National AFSC AFSC Economic Justice BOSS Website



In this issue:

Truth About Care Not Cash

Resistance to Brown's Curfew

No Millionaire Left Behind

Bush Policies Punish the Poor

Bush Rigs U.S. Society for Rich

SOS! Save Our Services

Faith Reflection on Bush Budget

Plan to End Homelessness in Ten Years

Counted Out in San Francisco

Artist Portrays Act of Giving

Berkeley Protest Demands Shelter from the Storm

Transformation of Dignity Village

George Wynn's Homeless Fiction

Poor Leonard's Almanack

Poetry of the Streets


May 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.


Artist Depicts the Moment of Giving

A series of paintings portray the deep meaning of small, sacred acts of kindness performed unselfishly.

by Elizabeth King

"Warmth in Giving 1" by Elizabeth King

I began this series of works on "Altruism and Giving" with the intention that I, as an individual, can help those around me with 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 as small acts of kindness that can alleviate the poverty, cares and concerns of others.

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 of the contextual elements is like an interwoven tapestry, all working together, all dependent on selflessness.

I had to paint a concept I understand, act upon and experience. Altruism is the light within the integrative consciousness. The integrative consciousness is narration in action of the mythical moment of generosity taking place, with spiritual aspects of the sacred, iconic-like, 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.

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.

With the materials I use, I emphasize the content of transitory light effects of neo-impressionism. I use oil paint, which is like the fuel that feeds the fire of one's inmost being, and canvas symbolizes the need for clothing and the wood frame for shelter. In these works, I have experimented with the refractive effects of metallic paint to emphasize the immediate impression of a moment in time.

Early in life, I learned that hard work and determination are beneficial to a person's well-being. I am acquainted with the condition of poverty and the ills that follow it. When I was 18, I supported myself by means of a minimum-wage job. Because I am proficient, conscientious, and hardworking, I exchanged my hard situation for a brighter future. While I lived below the poverty level, I attended university courses and assisted in the Meals on Wheels program, and served holiday meals.

In my paintings, "Warmth in Giving 1 & 4," I did not paint the giver, but rather, the recipient and the kind act itself. I paint the theme of altruism at a microcosmic scale, as it impacts the individual. Assisting others should be first, those one knows personally, then those outside of one's known circle.

"Warmth in Giving 3" by Elizabeth King

In "Warmth in Giving 3," there exists a powerfully emotive element to the children receiving three coins in a tin cup on the street. I paint them this way to confront the issue, that handouts are not all that the poor desire. There is a misconception that those who live below the poverty level remain fixed in their situation because they do not work. However, many are children and cannot work. This painting depicts the lack of an answer to that growing issue.

Contrary to social misconception, the impoverished are not looking for handouts, as I ironically addressed in "Warmth in Giving 3." Yes, the large shelters, food banks, and meal providers are vital to meeting the needs of the homeless, elderly and others in need; but they can't meet the influx of a growing condition that exists in our society, which won't be alleviated unless one begins to look outside oneself. Therefore, I believe that if smaller community efforts were formed to meet the basic needs, the distribution assist net would widen to begin the cure for poverty.

"Warmth in Giving 2" by Elizabeth King

When I painted "Warmth in Giving 2," the emphasis was on the act of the warm coffee given. I paint iconic figures on a personal or microcosmic level. The recipient's face, painted in dynamic perspective, expectantly waits for the warm brew. The server stands poised over the sitter; only his hands and shirt can be seen, not in a monotonous action, but in a simple sacred act that is understandable to the viewer. In the process of creating this painting, I contemplated many holidays I spent pouring coffee, and it became to me an iconic act symbolizing hope.

Recently my works have evolved into a series that focuses on hands in the act of giving, with the figure implied. I focus on the action of the recipient, because I want to reach the viewer in a basic or simple concept of the action, with the viewer contemplating the meaning.

For example, in "Warmth in Giving 5," one giving pair of hands is a symbol that represents a small renovation organization. The plight of the homeless can be alleviated by small nonprofit groups in city auctions of abandoned property owned by the city.

Those hands could symbolize the work of an inner city group that I worked with, that bought abandoned homes for one dollar to renovate them for families in need of housing. One does not have to be wealthy to buy those homes; but, like the small mysterious box in the painting, it is the small efforts of local community groups that improve one life at a time.

Employment, housing, and feeding the forgotten man at the bottom of the economic pyramid, are ways to enact a positive change to meet those needs. This means, as an individual, one does not have to be a great philanthropist and donate millions of dollars to help one's community. Instead, one should give the talents and efforts that one has to help the community.

It is the small efforts of one person that can help many, which is the reason I paint the recipient and the action that takes place, and not the giver. I did not want the recipient to be faceless, or the action to have no meaning, and that would diminish the giver's role as the subject.

Every human has basic requirements needed to sustain life, and which need to be addressed -- clothing, food, sleep and shelter. When I painted this continuing series of works, I wanted to include a brief synopsis about the early condition of my life to establish to the reader that I am acquainted with and understand the condition of poverty. This is a personal series of works that I paint to express an idea of change within the integrative conscience.

I have recently displayed two of these works in a New York gallery in Soho. These works were part of the "Wa" art exhibition, which emphasized nonviolence.

If I, as an individual artist, can make a positive change in my corner of the world, then I have gained community improvement, not self-improvement, as altruism and giving is not about the bestower, but about the community.

If any reader would like to contact me concerning my works, please email me at:

"Warmth in Giving 4" by Elizabeth King

1515 Webster St,#303
Oakland, CA 94612Phone: (510) 238-8080, ext. 303

E-mail: Spirit

© 2002-2005 STREET SPIRIT. All rights reserved.

Published by American Friends Service Committee

Editor : Terry Messman

Web Design: Robert Mills, Web Weaver CyberB Solutions