Photo courtesy Heather Mull
“We put no margins on what can and can’t be a blessing,” says Vanessa German, a visual and performance artist living and working in Homewood, PA. She recently shared three powerful blessings, as ringtones, with Locally Toned.
When asked about her approach creating and contributing her sounds to the project, she said, “I thought we could all use more blessings in our lives. Perhaps in a ringtone, a blessing can also come, and influence more than we think it can, on this device which plays everywhere. Maybe blessings can be everywhere. Any of these sounds are good for repelling depression, for repelling any negative force. They’re good poems to have for putting around yourself–a kind of an aura, a corona of positivity and incandescence.”
Photo courtesy Heather Mull
About her blessing, Stay On Your Grind, German says, “Within the tumult of hard times, I want people to just to recognize that you can stay on your grind. If all you can do is focus on one or two things that can bring you love joy and truth, than you will rise strengthened.”
Google Map image of corner in Homewood, PA
Her blessing When They Offer You (the Opportunity to Be Mediocre) was written for young people in her neighborhood. “Up on Frankstown Avenue, in Homewood, there’s all these places where you see people standing–on crates, under trees–they will set up a tarp and sell incense and CDs, or sometimes shiestier things. I would leave one of the schools I was teaching at, and realize how much pressure there is for young people to do things fast. I wasn’t sure that the young people were hearing enough that they could turn down [the opportunity to be mediocre]. I wanted to speak to them directly, to say, ‘It won’t be easy, but tell those people that you have dreams! Recognize the choices that are given to you. Realize your power to stand, your right to say, ‘I’VE GOT STUFF TO DO, and I’m going to do it.’
I also wrote this blessing because you see street lights around here wrapped with baloons and teddy bears, where people were shot and killed, and I think about the young or older black men, standing around, holding up those poles where those lives were lost.”
Image of “Power Figure to Keep Me Alive” (sculpture) by Vanessa German / photo courtesy the artist. The sculpture is inn the permanent collection of the Progressive Contemporary Art Collection, in Cleveland Ohio
Her third blessing, If My Hands, is a powerful poem written to cure cancer. “It’s as if I could make a medicinal non-toxic chemo through sound, to attack tumors and to push cancer out of body. I imagine that every time I read this poem–that it attacks cancer cells–and I imagine that the cells rise up, and push out of people’s bodies, through their tissue, and dissipate in the air. Like fog, you can see it in the morning, and then it goes away. ”
I wondered how German came to write and perform her blessings. “It’s important to note,” she said, “that I try as much as possible, to write ‘in blessings.’ It can be very difficult for me to fend off negativity–my own negativity–and the sorrow, grief, and short tempered meanness that just seeps in around me. I am not a blessing mastermind or anything, but I do Believe, I have Faith, and when I’m at my best, I can tap into it so thoroughly that it lifts me. I hope that in any way small or momentous, that these tones might move forth to do this also [for others].”
Thanks to Vanessa German for her soulful contribution to the project. Read more about the artist’s work in this article. See a sample of her performance work here.
Interested in other ringtones within this project that take the form of prayers? Read about contributor Heather Mull’s Buddhist Chant Ringtones here.
This ringtone recording session was made possible by a generous grant from The Fine Foundation.