My speech at the ICAA for the BOOK LAUNCH/SCULPTURE SHOW
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My speech at the ICAA for the BOOK LAUNCH/SCULPTURE SHOW

My speech at the ICAA

WELCOME to this book launch and celebration of classical art!!

I am so happy to see you here, and to welcome you to this wonderful evening of discussion about the value and importance of modern classicism. It’s a quixotic but urgent topic. I am here on stage with four of my favorite people—the honorable vice consul Signore Stefano Acunto, Jim Cooper, Peter Trippi, my husband Sabin Howard–to discuss this topic with you, and I’m so excited.
Please note there’s a lovely woman with an iPhone that can take your credit card information, if you’d like to buy a book. Sarah, where are you?
Let me take this opportunity to thank a few people, the ICAA and Signore Acunto and Mrs. Carole Acunto, Jim Cooper, Peter Trippi, David Ludwig, Todd Deskins, Sarah Miniaci, Drew Stevens, Don Steelman.
So, about this book THE ART OF LIFE….
A few weeks ago, in speaking with the honorable vice consul Steve Acunto, I told him that I would begin my talk by saying, “The Republicans think art is for sissies, and Democrats think art has to be ugly to be real art.”
“Well, Traci,” responded Signore Acunto, “then you shall have to wear a breastplate and helmet.”  So rather than turn myself into a valkyrie, I decided to think more deeply about what I meant, polemics aside.
At this point I should probably disclose that, politically, I am currently a radical skeptic, and there are two groups whom I view with skepticism: Democrats and Republicans. Also, liberals and conservatives. Here in the waning years of the American Empire, partisan politics has made fools of us all.
And yes, art is political. I believe my husband Sabin will tell you that art is not political—that it transcends petty ephemeral concerns. But I believe that art speaks to who we are and how we want to live, so it’s very political.
So is ugly art real art because that gives certain groups the virtuous feeling that they support freedom?
When I ask the question that way, you already know where I stand.
It’s amazing to think that the 20th century which gave rise to repeated genocides–repeated genocides–also gave rise to new intent and new methods to better ourselves, to become, as a human race, better–peaceful and tolerant. I am thinking about Gandhi, Mother Theresa, and Dr. Martin Luther King.
Along the way to evolving and becoming better as a human race, something happened. The problem for me is that in throwing out the bathwater, we threw out the baby. In throwing out discrimination, we threw out discernment. And we need discernment.
We need to discern between what is masterful and what is silly, what is skilled and what is sloppy, what is art and what is not. Currently in the culture there’s a underlying attitude among some groups that it’s not acceptable to discern, that to say, ”Sabin Howard’s work is art and Dung Madonna is not” makes you a (fill in the blank with the latest catchphrase for bad person) Nazi rascist bigot. Sabin calls this the “I’m ok, you’re ok, even the serial killer down the road” mentality.
But we do discern. Human beings intuitively sense mastery. We have an innate ability to look at something and see that it is beautiful, that it is powerful, that thought and skill and vision went into it. We just know.
But in much of the contemporary art world we are not supposed to know. We are not supposed to look. We’re supposed to understand visual art through our ears. We are supposed to listen to the heady babble of professors, PhD’s, and my personal favorite, gallery owners who have something to sell. We’re supposed to read the manual–The New York Times. We are supposed to stifle our authentic human response to a work of art.
So when an institution such as the National Endowment for Self-Expression funds images of the Virgin Mary submerged in urine, that institution may be pretending to support freedom, but what it is actually doing is legitimizing the stifling of our authentic human response to a work of art.
Don’t buy it. They’re selling snake oil. It’s scam art.
Marcel DuChamp did us all a disservice when he foisted a urinal on us. It would have been fine for a few minutes of intellectual shock value and entertainment. But here it is, 100 years later, and art is still being flushed down the toilet.
I am here to tell you: the emperor has no clothes.
The manual is irrelevant: looking is the point. Beauty is the point. Mastery is the point.
This doesn’t mean that there isn’t a place for ornamentation, decoration, entertainment, embellishment, and illustration. This doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for freaky fun. It means you can see the difference.
Now what about the other part of my polemical statement, art is for sissies.
I think this goes back to certain prevailing cultural notions about what’s butch and what’s manly, besides creating estate tax loopholes. Because you know, creating tax loopholes is very butch. It goes to our fascination with the anti-hero, with irony. We’re Americans, we’re outlaws, we’re renegades, we’re riding into the sunset. But we’d better watch out, because China is riding back out of the sunrise toward us. They’re bringing it.
And we’re responding with irony. TV and movies, the popular culture, is full of anti-heroic irony. It’s a defense. It’s a weak defense. Ultimately, it’s a defense against an open heart.
What art does, real art, REAL ART, is gives you an experience of an open heart. Whether it’s a novel, or a movie, or a well acted King Lear, or a painting or a piece of sculpture, you have an experience or your heart opening. You’re a better person because of it.
Real art uplifts you—it transforms you. It gives you an experience of transcendence, whether of joy or of sorrow, because both joy and sorrow move through an open heart.
Sabin Howard’s pieces lack irony as a deliberate choice to give the viewer an experience of the heart opening, of upliftment, of transformation. This is the most courageous choice of all. This is the most radical choice of all. This is the most visionary choice of all.
The great poet Rumi says:
In your light I learn how to love. 

In your beauty, how to make poems. 

You dance inside my chest where no-one sees you, 

but sometimes I do, 

and that sight becomes this art.
Thank you.

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BOOKPLEASURES.COM wrote a great, 5 star review of our sculpture book THE ART OF LIFE.

In part, Norm Goldman and his wife Lily wrote: “…with Sabin Howard’s and Traci L. Slatton’s The Art of Life you are in the possession of a beautiful collection of personal essays and visually stunning content that renders to its readers a vivid glimpse into the world of sculpture and in particular the work of a young American classical figurative sculptor, Sabin Howard….

Quite engrossing and gripping is the last chapter where Sabin illustrates his beautiful intricate anatomical drawings that have been garnered from his decades of experience in the studio, his many tens of thousands of hours working with life models and his sixteen years of teaching of the models for his sculptures that translate life into artistic terms. The sensuality of his creations, the sobriety of his material and the intricate details all give personality to his sculptures that participate in the art of living and create a visual conquest. The functional becomes poetry as these incredible realistic sculptures seem to evolve into a world in perpetual movement.”

It’s always wonderful to get a good review, but it’s especially fulfilling when a really smart reviewer gets it, gets the whole picture. Check out the review, check out this lively book review site.



THE ART OF LIFE by Sabin Howard and Traci L. Slatton
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THE ART OF LIFE by Sabin Howard and Traci L. Slatton

THE ART OF LIFE by Sabin Howard and Traci L. Slatton
THE ART OF LIFE by Sabin Howard

The sculpture/art history/art philosophy book that I wrote with my husband has some wonderful surprises in it, including a section in the back that reproduces Sabin’s drawings from his 16 years of teaching….

Why is figurative sculpture important?
With lush photos and vivid narrative, THE ART OF LIFE explores figurative sculpture from the earliest times to the present. The work of ancient and classical sculptors, along with that of Michelangelo, Bernini, Canova, and Sabin Howard, is showcased. The book also details Sabin Howard’s clay-to-bronze process, his philosophy, and his drawings.
Fire Island
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Fire Island

Fire Island

What is it about children and the beach? Such innocent and intense joy! My little one was so happy to go that she left love notes all over the house for her father and me: “I love to go swiming, I love the water, love, me.”
Ecco, Fire Island. It’s no Truro, and I have a wistful love for the Cape, in all its scruffy pine and sandbar glory. But neither is Fire Island 5 hours away. (Unless you leave for the ferry at the wrong time on Friday afternoon). It’s an hour and ten without traffic, and then a short ferry ride.
Ocean Beach has a honky tonk strip where too much raucous music spills out of bars and too many yahoos hang out, beer in one hand and cigarette in the other. Deer roam the sidewalks and every time I see one, I think: yikes! Lyme disease!
But… the beach, the beach, the beach. It’s beautiful. It’s fun.
The Benefits of Radical Anarchy: Enjoying Family Dinners
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The Benefits of Radical Anarchy: Enjoying Family Dinners

The Benefits of Radical Anarchy: Enjoying Family Dinners

My blogs of late have emphasized my dissatisfaction with some thoroughly corrupt institutions in our lives: government and big business. Radical anarchy may be the only solution. And radical anarchy has so many applications. Once you get in the hang of it, it’s a useful approach to so very many situations. All this time I’ve considered myself a one woman stand against entropy. Maybe it’s time to rethink that.

Like family dinners. Getting all 4 of my daughters to sit down to a meal with my husband and me is like herding feral cats. Two are in college and are often in their distant cities. Even when they’re around, this one is working, that one has dinner with the other parent, the other one has two parties and, like, six best friends who demand to see her!
There are always the emotional undercurrents of getting a bunch of women together, who’s mad at whom and why. There’s the emphasis on relationships, makeup, hot guys, relationships, clothes, and hot guys. Did I mention there’s a lot of discussion about relationships and hot guys?
It’s not like we don’t talk about other things as well. Books, movies, TV shows, politics, and the current topics in their majors, neurobiology and sociology. But sooner or later…
“Do you think I should cut my hair real short and wear a lot of eye make-up?” one daughter asks.
“Do you think I should get an apartment with my boyfriend this summer?” asks another daughter.
“Do you think it’s okay to date a guy if I’ve already dated his best friend slash roommate?” asks the third. “Does it matter if the guy I dumped is stalking me now?”
“Can I paint my fingernails and get a dress like Mary had on at the Christmas party?” asks the little one.
“Oh my god, it’s an estrogen-fest,” my husband Sabin moans.
Then the dog barfs on the floor after eating someone’s purse, and the 5 year old breaks a glass and turns off all the lights in the house. The Christmas tree falls over, disgorging its lights, and all the iPhones in the house beep with simultaneous texts. The middle daughter chooses that moment to explain exactly why her boyfriend should be so much more grateful and appreciative to be dating her than he is–all while she in-boxes three guys she’s keeping on the hook for later, maybe. Sabin stabs himself in the knuckles with a fork just to distract himself.
And if you are in the mental state to enjoy radical anarchy: it is a rich feast for whimsy.
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Bittersweet: About Karma

Earl: “Look! Shampoo that’s not tested on animals. I feel bad for those lab animals running around with dirty hair, but if it’s better for the environment, that’s the sacrifice they have to make.” Jason Lee as Earl Hickey, MY NAME IS EARL Karma is a funny thing

There are some humorless men in my life. A few months ago I sent an email to two of them. It was pretty funny: UFO’s, aliens, subliminal programming with muzak, ex-CIA agents who can be hired to forcibly waterboard someone, without their consent, and beating my rascally middle daughter with a stick in Riverside Park were all mentioned. Admittedly, my sense of humor is offbeat and irreverent. Still, this email was juicy. But did they respond to it AT ALL? Oh, nooooooooooo. They just pretended it didn’t exist.
This current husband of mine read the missive before I sent it. “Don’t send that,” he said, with a flat expression. Hmph. My third husband will have a rich sense of humor. He will be able to laugh with me. At me, okay, that’s gonna happen, alas. Even I spend plenty of time laughing at me. (Definition of ‘rueful,’ anyone?) But, definitely, also, with me.
Over the last few years I’ve been working with Buddhist concepts and with the Bhagavad Gita. In the spirit of “what goes around comes around,” I have to wonder, when did I not laugh at people that has reached fruition with this overabundance of humorless men in my life?
Should I rack what’s left of the gray matter rattling around my cranium to recall anyone whose joke I did not get, then make a list, seek them out, and make restitution by letting them tell me their favorite jokes, which culminates in my laughing uproariously? Will that plant new seeds for me, seeds that will sprout into men with some sparkle to their personality?
Maybe it’s a past life thing. I was an uptight guy in the 17th century who inflicted lethal self-seriousness on the long-suffering women in my life. Now I’m reaping my just rewards, and there’s no going back to pull the poker out of my former derriere. Karma’s a complicated thing, and hard to navigate exactly. Those of us like me who aren’t enlightened can’t parse it.
It’s easier to see the working of karma in other people’s lives. I tread carefully here, being mindful of Rabbi Jesus’ words, “Why worry about the mote in your brother’s eye when there’s a beam in your own?”
But I am a careful observer of people, both because people are a novelist’s raw material, and because I’m fascinated with human beings, those conscious and inconsistent creatures. While not positing myself as a perfect person, I can discern. I can learn from others.
There’s a man I know who’s recently had many business reversals. He’s brilliant, educated, competent, personable. Indeed, he exudes a charm that many people can’t see through. I’ve watched with breathless awe as he’s snowed them totally. It’s a virtuoso act.
Unfortunately, the charm obscures a negative side. He’s acted from that negative side over the last several years, threatening me and others with litigation, co-opting tactics of bullying and intimidation, twisting reality to suit the ends of malice, never using a kind word when hostility will make the point for him. And there seems to be no one in his life who will call him on his stuff. His family has always lent him blind entitlement, and his close friends only affirm his better points, of which there are many.
I suppose this is when I am grateful that my close friends hold me to a high level of personal accountability. “So Traci,” my friend Gerda will say, in her patient voice, “are you acting out of negative intent? Are you acting out of fear or out of love?”
Or even my friend Marcia will ask, “Yes, but is that about your self-esteem? Can you phrase that in a way that’s less ambiguous?” Rachel usually foists a zinger, with less concern for my vulnerability and more concern for the bull’s eye of painful truth.
But I don’t think the benighted man in question, may all the gods bless him, has anyone speaking this way to him. Nor does there seem to be anyone reminding him about the Law of Return, that whatever you give out inevitably comes back to you. So it is no surprise to me that, despite his many talents, he is suffering business losses that cause him personal anguish.
Not that he would or could ever see the relationship between his abusive actions and the unfoldment of his life. It’s hard for all of us. There is the real cause of things and the apparent cause. What is apparent is the economy, the paternalistic government, the state of the world, etc. But in this view that seeks to go deeper than appearances–and even the Talmud talks about “measure for measure” and “As one does, so they do to him”–we are all guided toward spiritual forces of cause and effect.
Which leads me back to the lab animals with dirty hair, making sacrifices for the environment. I can only hope they transmigrate species, and reincarnate as higher beings. Perhaps humorless men.