Searching for suggestions on life’s many questions

Josie Mai - Assistant Professor of Art

Josie Mai – Assistant Professor of Art

Josie Mai

When asked to write this column, my first inclination was to shrivel inside from the pressure. The writing should be inspirational, educational, maybe even transformational. This was a unique opportunity for the whole campus, not just the art department, to listen to me rant. I put this pressure on myself because, as an artist, I’m not a reporter, I am a reflector. I don’t just invent creative solutions, I ask questions. So I dug past the pressurized layer and found some of the questions I obsess over, floating freely over one another in a gooey quagmire. Here are a few of them: Why am I here? Not just on the planet, but in Joplin, at this University? What difference can I make? Is this job a paycheck or a calling? How will I choose to look at it, because isn’t my frame of reference ultimately the one that matters most? Where does all the garbage go? How can I live more simply? What is excessive consumption? How are my friends in Africa? Are they healthy and happy? Should I adopt all of the orphans or build schools for them? Does my vote really matter? Am I truly a Democrat, a Republican, an independent? Does it really matter? Why don’t artists protest anymore? What can I do about this? Does my artwork need to reflect these thoughts or something more political, more social, or more autobiographical? Why does this campus have such a lack of color in its landscaping, its architecture, its inhabitants? Do my friends in the minority–gay, of color, disabled, from outside the four-state area–feel empowered on this campus? If not, what is my responsibility? Do my students ask these kinds of questions? Are they afraid to say them aloud? Do they care? Do my colleagues still ask these questions? How can I start a dialogue of inclusion? If you have any insight into these questions, please email me at [email protected]. My answers at times sound like a broken record. Remember records?