Newton Artist Dick Simon Finds “a Whole New Dimension” Behind the Camera
Syria: Faces from “The Axis of Evil”
Photographs by Dick Simon
At Newton Open Studios last month, I took in Dick Simon’s wonderful collection of photographs from his recent trip to Syria. His pictures tell a timely story. They are a study in contrasts, yet they project feelings of warmth, and they are quite beautiful.
“My family and I went to Syria to better understand the human story inside this Axis of Evil. The Syria we experienced was not what we expected, the way our media has portrayed it. We found Syria to be a beautiful place with wonderful people.” ~ excerpted from Dick Simon’s artist’s statement
In the photo below, see Patty Simon dressed in red strolling comfortably near women covered in black. In another, the ancient narrow street frames a stylish line of clothing hung on hangers. In yet another, a shop window displays golden mannequins wrapped in chic headscarves. Some of these pictures reminded me of other ancient cities I visited on my trip to Italy in 2005. But this is not romantic Italy. This is Syria, with all the cliches about a country full of terrorists and zealots, a dangerous place according to some press stories. These wonderful images help to extinguish negative associations. They are in themselves a visual exercise in “Understanding Our Differences.”
Roger Ebert wrote a blog post, “How Did They Get to Be Like That?” In it he says, “… I saw black people differently–and brown people and Asians as well. I made friends, I dated, I worked with them, I drank with them, we cooked, we partied, we laughed, sometimes we loved. This is as it should have been from the start of my life, but I was born into a different America and was a child of my times until I learned enough to grow up. I do not propose myself as an example, because I was carried along with my society as it awkwardly felt and fought its way out of racism.”
In Dick Simon’s artist’s statement, there is a quote from Mark Twain.
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”
I was fortunate enough to get to know Dick Simon when our children went to the same elementary school. I knew him to be a strong community leader, a successful businessman, and a loving family man. Last year I learned about his fascinating and successful urban farming venture. Dick and his family have multiple organic vegetable flats in their yard next to the inground pool. (Talk about juxtapositions!) During The Newton Open Studios this May, visitors were equally interested in the garden along with the art. Now I see Dick as an artist. He has clear vision and makes brilliant connections. He lives his life doing good work. He is a humanitarian and I feel blessed to have him in my sphere.
Clint Eastwood said, “The less secure a.” Dick is secure enough to take risks by venturing into new disciplines. With his art, he is opening dimensions for us all.
man is, the more likely he is to have extreme prejudice