Debra has worked for over 25 years as a clinical and industrial/organizational psychologist. She is also a researcher focusing on the psychological study of social issues, and a national bestselling Random House author. This background informed her reaction to the U.S. 2016 presidential election and its aftermath, impelling her to begin painting again after a three decade hiatus.
Like so many of my fellow citizens, our current collective nightmare demanded that I become politically informed and active in a way I had never been, vis-a-vis, even, my early days of marching in the Bay Area during 41’s administration or in New York City during 43’s terms in office. Still, one only has so much energy for phoning and writing members of congress, attending town halls, phone banking for midterm and primary candidates, or organizing and showing up for political activism marches and events. And then there is the waiting, the gutting through, the slogging through to the other side — with seemingly very little to show, at times, for our relentless efforts to pay attention, for our tireless hard work and sleepless nights: we know this is going to be a long, strange trip.
I also needed a way to express — on a more metaphysical, intuitive, and spiritual level — my sense that our current sociopolitical climate is dire: 'This is the long distance call' Paul Simon sings about; this is a reminder, a wakeup call, and a warning that we cannot afford to luxuriate in denial, nor can we capitulate to the exhaustion we feel fielding the myriad crises and circus side shows that are hurled at us daily. But, man, some days it is hard, hard to keep up the faith and the fight. One of my late grad school professors, Rollo May, wrote, in his book, The Courage To Create: 'To live into the future means to leap into the unknown, and this requires a degree of courage for which there is no immediate precedent and which few people realize. What is courage? This courage will not be the opposite of despair. We shall often be faced with despair, as indeed every sensitive person has been during the last several decades in this country. ...courage is not the absence of despair; it is, rather, the capacity to move ahead in spite of despair.” Painting shores up my courage.
French philosopher, mystic, and political activist Simone Weil said, “Absolutely unmixed attention is prayer.” Reflecting on this quote, I realized that focusing my unmixed attention on painting the Prayers For Democracy series is, for me, a form of prayer, as well as another form of my political activism: painting is another outlet for bearing witness to and communicating about the threatened destruction to our democracy that is this current administration — and a way to express my belief that what we tolerate, we become. Carl Jung believed that the act of communicating an idea, sharing information, showing a piece of art to even one other person has the power to change the collective consciousness in small, unknowable ways. It is my hope that Prayers For Democracy will, in some way, contribute to a shift in our perspective as well as shore up our hope and resilience—and our resolve to fight to get beyond this dark time in our country."
ORIGINAL WORKS BY DEBRA CONDREN. ALL PHOTOS, PAINTINGS, AND CONTENT COPYRIGHT © 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022