June 21st, 2013  |  Published in June 2013


by Saad Ghosn

• Images For A Better World: Rob JEFFERSON, Visual Artist

Rob Jefferson was born in 1970 on a naval base in Memphis, Tennessee, and has lived in Cincinnati ever since. A graduate of the Art Academy of Cincinnati with a BFA degree in painting and drawing (1992), his work has been featured in various publications including 100 Midwest Artists, New American Paintings and Playboy Magazine. It can also be found in the permanent collections of the Cincinnati Art Museum, Otterbein College, and in private collections across the country.

Jefferson’s work has varied stylistically over the years, especially between drawing and paintings, fine art and illustration, but in this body of black and white oil paintings, visual patterns evolve through themes of anonymity within the working class. Walls of people coexist in a common goal to become a dense, blue collar blur with little individual identity, and in some cases, no option to choose otherwise.

Pickpocket, oil on panel

Once suspicion is cast within the mob mentality, anyone in a crowd can be guilty even if there is no crime. But, perhaps there is a crime. Who could it be and why? At times, the lines between morality and survival lose focus.


Workers II, oil on canvas

Droves of union men stand in the heat ready to start work, their identities unknown. Their backs will support a growing nation that will unlikely return the favor as they age and become sick. A disparity overlooked, that is the price they pay.

Transmitter, oil on canvas

The war effort united patriots to help in whatever ways they could; here they radiate out from a seemingly endless production line like the radios they are assembling. It is the working class who gives and suffers the most at the hands of the policy makers, who remain largely removed.

Uptown, oil on canvas

Summer night at the dance hall, a wall of revelers. Travelers on a shared journey, it’s a chance to hold each other up, reclaim a moment of happiness, and find a life outside the mechanics of servitude.


Maypole, oil on canvas

Repetition as a connecting principle, escapism delights us in many forms, but sometimes, even in play, we go through the motions and adhere to the rules of the game.


• Words For A Better World: Armando ROMERO, Literary Artist

Armando Romero, son of a white collar worker, was born in 1944 and raised in poor, proletarian neighborhoods of Cali, Colombia. Growing up, the disadvantages of poverty were compensated by his fertile imagination. In a country as violent and as poor as Colombia, he had to invent his toys and his world. Fortunately, his loving parents provided him with a comforting protection that sheltered in him the writer and the poet. The many people he met and knew in the “barrios” stayed with him, accompanied him all his life and found their way in his poems, novels and short-stories.

The need to travel, to see different places, to experience the presence of other people, became pressing early in his adolescence. By age 23 Romero had already visited all of Colombia, jungles, deserts, cities, as well as several countries in South America. Even though Colombia remains strongly his country, he does not live there anymore. Romero lived in several countries in America, Europe and Asia, including Mexico and Venezuela; he currently resides in Cincinnati.

In order to subsist as an independent writer, Romero did many jobs: carpenter, bookseller, accountant, copywriter, journalist, ghost-writer, art critic… He finally settled as a university professor and is currently the Charles Phelps Taft Professor at the University of Cincinnati. He also holds the title of Doctor Honorius Cause from the University of Athens, Greece
Romero has published several books of poems, short stories and novels. The Wheel of Chicago (2004) was awarded the best novel of adventure (Latino Book Festival, New York, 2005) and Cajambre (2011), the Award Pola de Siero (Spain) for short novels.

• Since he was a child, Romero experienced the many faces of poverty. Poverty was there accompanying his mother to the kitchen when she would ask: “What are we going to eat today, my God?”

The Poor

And the poor do not quiet with screams
the fear that covers them,
do not return to undo the sacred
in their nocturnal prayers.
They just walk by the edge
of the sidewalk
thinking of the precipice.
In them remain little bits of rage
enough to light the fire,
to curse the beautiful
and the ugly,
the harsh and the tender.
For in the poor has died the patience,
the hole where lied the wait.

• Romero wrote his poem “Bad Poetry” in Paris, wandering through the city. It was Colombia, his country, however, which was in his mind.

Bad Poetry

Where is the guillotine
the head comes announcing.
Where untangle the gallows
the neck jumps singing.
Where tortures are tied up
the body keeps swaying.
Where wars are concocted
death remains ruminating.
Here’s the old rhetoric
that rimes the gerund
attached to the noun,
to make sure our
everyday cruelty
is indeed
bad poetry.

• Romero was practically a child when he joined, in Colombia, the avant-garde literary movement, Nadaismo. The Nadaismo’s slogan was then: “We are geniuses, mad and crazy”.

Song of Disobedient Children

If we can only protest
we would think well about it
and hide under the table.
For there is no lie
that is not truth
in the morning paper.
The saints go open-mouthed
and do not respond:
not to mention the prayers
and the candles.
One more such truth
and our stomach will ache.
One proclamation to fix the world
and our throat will choke.
If we can only protest
we’d better put it on fire.

• Once talking politics with his son Alfonso, Romero suddenly saw, in front of his eyes, the image of President GW Bush. His poem “To Stop History” is also a hidden homage to Walter Benjamin.

To Stop History
To Alfonso

The emperor on call got out
today of his imperial cot
to stop history with his hands,
with his feet.
He does it everyday as this is his mission.
It was that of his ancestors,
it will be that of his heirs.
Strange reality and job for this man
Omnipotent for a while:
History before, pushed back with force;
now it is tired,
Like a stone on the road.
But the emperor on call does not want
it to back down, nor to be considered defeated,
because his mission is to stop it.
Without it he would have neither present nor future.
Every morning the emperor on call
smiles and makes gestures of joy
In front of the multitude stuck to their tv,
while history, arrested, grumbles,
and making an effort, strains,
listening attentive to the clamor of its intestines.

• Romero wrote the poem “Blossoms of Uranium” in Cali at the beginning of the sixties, when he and his friends thought that atomic bombs would put a mushroom in their heads.

Blossoms of Uranium

The three of them arrived at the same spot
They ordered foaming drinks
They greeted the courteous multitude

All three went up to the same table
They drank smoking potions
They knew nobody
They were not uncomfortable

And lo and behold,
When all three jumped together
Over the cornice
Over the window
Over the hole
The woman at the bar said there was no reason to be afraid
Since they were a new flower brought from the East

But when they came down again and killed the whole multitude
She said before dying that there was nothing to fear
That she had come upon the wrong garden
That she was mistaken about the flower
And that instead of blossoms from Buddha
She had brought blossoms of Uranium 

• The poem “Sugar on the Lips” represents that rare occasion when Romero wrote something just for the sake of feeling good.

Sugar on the Lips

Sugar on the Lips
From the wife of the shopkeeper
to Conchita the redhead,
and from Jesus the shoemaker
to Roberto the school principal,
all, without exception, woke up
with a lump of sugar
on the tip of their tongues.
The only ones who realized what had happened, however,
were the ones who kissed each other in the morning.

Note: Romero’s poems were translated from Spanish.


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