When we walk by a homeless person, ignoring him, we lose a little bit of our own humanity. 'Nuff said.
This and many other Frank Wu images are available on T-shirts, etc. at Cafepress.
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Image (c) 2001 Frank Wu
This piece won an Art Judges' Choice ribbon at the WesterCon 54 science fiction convention.
This image and others by me are available on T-shirts at Cafepress.
I commissioned Christina Sng to write a poem about this piece:
by Christina Sng
The age of man has past.
We have been dismissed,
Flicked away like errant ants
That is no longer ours.
It is the age of cancer.
A cancer of the soul.
The world has become
We made them to be servants,
Cold and docile.
But we never knew
Hate and apathy could be learnt
Through our own arrogant indifference.
We’d programmed them too well.
One day, they just left us,
Our homes vacated,
Corporations shut down,
Our crops unattended,
Till they fed on each other
And bled. And us,
Tend them? Feed them?
We’d forgotten how.
Now we live on the city outskirts,
In the back streets and underground.
We are the new homeless.
Our houses and buildings
Ripped to the ground,
The corrupted land
For their own architecture,
That only a mech brain
We won’t last very long,
Starving and scorched
In the blistering heat
With only hot metal
To drink in
The sun’s angry gaze –
They have burnt all the trees
Since being powered
By solar energy.
As we wilt,
The last of the human race.
We try but fail
To find where we’d gone wrong.
Perhaps it is our indifference
That blinds us.
Write to Christina and tell her she's great; or visit her website.
In addition to Indifference, I commissioned Christina Sng to write poems for The Sad Girl, Resurrection Man, and Keep the Universe Beautiful.
COMMENTS ABOUT THE IMAGE. Some of these are from the Elfwood art gallery, where this work is posted.
From John Kroetch 11/6/98:
Wow... that's a powerful social statement. Good work.
From Timothy W. Mietty 11/6/98:
Nice symbolism here. The lack of colorscale also adds to the mood.
From Anonymous 11/9/98:
Trust me.. sometimes all that can be done is to feel pity.
From logan 12/29/98:
And, um, WHEN was the last time you were homeless??? I'm thinking that after being on both sides of the glass, it's very difficult to choose sides. And about this humanity bit, do you suggest me giving to all 437 homeless people at my local 7-11? Especially after I couldn't beg the time of day? And where am I now? The computer field! Don't get me wrong, I agree with you in principal. I just wanted to voice an opinion and an alternate viewpoint...
From The Goose 1/8/99:
Thanks for raising this issue. I've worked a lot with homeless people, and, sometimes I too think that no one else cares...
From Anonymous 1/17/99:
Homeless people suck. They should get jobs and stop drinking. Homeless kids --- how can you be 15 and homeless? You must be worthless -- I pass them on the street, and they come right out and say they want "Money for pot?" This is bogus.
From Jay Petersen 1/17/99:
Despite the goody-goody idea behind this image, I have to agree with the anonymous writer that homeless people, well, suck. Every one I've talked to has lied to me in order to get money (It's my birthday today, please help (but I ask 'em how old they are and they have to think about it)... I need to take a bus (but I offer them a ride and they say no thanks)...) They should get jobs
From Anonymous 1/21/99:
Homeless people blow. I have no sympathy for bozos who ask me for spare change. They should all get jobs.
From Heather E. Caulberg 1/21/99:
Not all of those who are homeless are no-gooders. Trust me, after knowing a few, I've changed my mind. Not entirely, for I know even MORE of the worthless, lazy ones.... but this still speaks to me. It's true... and it's sad that we are like this, as a whole. The shadows, the perspective, the lighting of this.... it's very great... artistically, it's a well-done piece, and esthetically, it's beautiful. I say great job.
From Ben Bridenbaugh 1/21/99:
This is a very good picture. The art quality is right up there with Kurt Buisek. It is a social, as well as a cautionary tale. In response to other's comments, sure some homeless are there because they are lazy. However, only say that of ALL homeless when you can look your own eyes in the mioor and say "This will never, thorough any reason, happen to me."
From seiler 1/26/99:
Hey, just want to say, I think you're awesome. 'Nuff said.
From Karolina Ingrid Mafalda Nilsson-Eriksson 1/29/99:
Well, about this homeless people getting a job thing, tell me who would hire a person that lives on the street and is a real "looser" rather than a fresh examined middleclass intellectual. There are not jobs to everyone and these people are the ones that¥ll be without. Great pic. Excellent technic and fresh idea.
From wolf13 1/29/99:
Wow, that is so emotional.
From Alexis Rockwell 1/29/99:
Yes, yes, that's a good point. Who would hire a homeless person instead of a middle class college grad? Well, do-gooders, I suppose. There's a moving company in Frisco that hires ex-cons (which seems like a big risk, but that's worked out--- I hear only good things about them). I suspect also that homeless people will be a lot cheaper than kids with 50K in college debt to bankroll. It's a risk, but I know there are people out there-- kind hearts, say --- willing to take it.
From Carissa 1/29/99:
I love the obvious about this picture... the way people move mechanically like robots, uncapable of feeling anything for the person who is huddled on the ground. He is a human, perhaps because he's not working for the almighty dollar? Or maybe because he hasn't lost sight of the things around him. i don't know, but this picture really makes me think. good work!</td>
From Anonymous 2/7/99:
Homeless people blow chunks.
From Crystal Vivian 2/22/99:
Okay, i don't know if I'm just missing a sense of humor or something and it was supposed to be funny, but whoever said that comment about homeless people "blowing chunks" should have the decency to, oh I don't know, poke out their own eye or something really painful like that. People who are that ignorant just make me so pissed I begin to feel homocidal urges. Thank you for capturing this problem so well.
From Collin 2/25/99:
An excellent drawing. The minor details really make it work for me. I especially like the cat licking the man's fingers. And to comment on the earlier "Blow Chunks" comment...I notice they didn't even bother to leave a name. Again, great drawing!
From DigitalUnderclass 2/26/99:
VERY cool pic - finally someone with the proverbial balls to address a social issue in their work. I think it should be noted that this doesn't have to be taken quite so literally - Nobody is expected to stop and give hand-outs to every homeless person they encounter - but rather, that it's the the core of the problem that so many people are ignoring, such as the previous comment about hiring a college-educated middle-class person verses someone who is not quite so fortunate. Damn good technique in the drawing, too. Perhaps we'll see this piece on the next Rage Against the Machine album cover? ;) Just a thought. Keep it up, mon...
From themnax 3/9/99:
i've been homeless. i've also avoided annoying people whether the were homeless or not simply because they were annoying people. i never really felt like either side of that image but i know a lot of people have described doing so. i do think a lot of people make a lot of unwarranted assumptions. and i think this piece says something about blinding ourselves in more then one way and on many levels.
From Maria 'Jade' William 3/18/99:
great concept, great rendering, and although i don't agree with the idea totally (i won't get into it), i find this awesome.
From Wyrmgod 3/21/99:
I think that you've made an excellent point with this picture, even though I don't agree with you.
From Sarah Beth Courtney 3/22/99:
Great job technically, the colors and shading are wonderful. Keep up the good work!
From Civet 3/23/99:
Very nice, very powerful and symbolic piece. Do you mind if I print it out?
From Frank Wu 3/24/99:
Jade, Wyrmgod, please share more about your opinions - esp. if they disagree with me or others - I don't need to be surrounded by a bunch of "yes-men/yes-women."
From Q 3/31/99:
I suppose the robotic legs symbilizes the lost humanity? Good work.
From Maria 'Jade' William 4/3/99:
well, frank, the first opinion is that i've just noticed that most homeless people (here in new york at least) are there because they allow themselves to sink that deep. i.e., it's either drugs, alcohol, mental illness or plain "i'd rather live on the street than work" attitude. i don't feel that we lose some of our humanity when walking past a homeless person on the street. i'm not saying we shouldn't try to help these people out if we can, but i don't believe this problem will ever be eradicated, even if we were to build enough homes to fit two humankinds. just thoughts...
From chaz 4/21/99
This is for anonymous,
what would you do if you were in that position? You can't say that you would just get a job because a lot of people are like you (SELFISH, ARROGANT ASSHOLES) and won't give homeless people jobs.
This is for one of your responders.
From Dave Ayres 5/9/99:
I enjoyed your work in your gallery very much. Especially your piece "Indifference." Having been homeless myself a couple of times, I identify with this rendition. I however was never so down and out (fortunately) as this shows. I do however know several homeless people, or at least, have been homeless in the past. It is not an experience I wish to do again. I myself got lucky through the generosity of friends and family. I hope you are inspired to do more social problems such as this and bring others awareness to this most horrific situation. Sleeping on the street with a sane mind is scary enough, I can't imagine having no hope or less presence of mind and doing it again.
From John Teall, (Click here to visit!) 6/5/99:
well jade - there ARE a lot of not very nice people on the streets and a lot of them who think that alcohol is some kind of a god - but i also know that if you realy looked you would find as much of a cross-section as at any other level of society. and frankly, anyone who'd rather starve then reward aggressiveness i salute with all my heart and soul... (and i don't believe its valid to equate that with an unwillingness to exert effort either - some may SAY they choose not to do anything but almost anybody would rather be doing SOMEthing - just not necessarily remunerative as we've been brainwashed into conceiving of it...)
From Nimrod's Girl 6/9/99:
Whether anyone agrees with the subject of any work of art is irrelevant; art exists to raise questions about one's own beliefs. This remains powerful work, Mr. Wu. Thank you.
From QuMu..? 6/11/99:
Maria 'Jade'.. Umm... they allow themselves to be mentally ill? I'll agree that there are some homeless people, that are simply lazy, but so many more have no other choice, being constantly let down by authorities...Frank, it´s a marvelous piece, it could probably be used in some sort of welfare campaign...
From 420 Man 6/19/99:
I pay my homage to this artist of unbelievable talent in using imagery to convey a message. Unfortunately, not enough people in this world realize what it's like being on the street. The reasons that seem so obvious to most of us are only a fraction of the reality behind it all. Experience is the first step to understanding. This piece has really touched me.
From Echo reflection 6/20/99:
Beautiful. Leave out the 'Nuff said', and there would be some real feeling in this "picture + statement". Pertaining to the homeless, it may be true that some have allowed themselves to fall that low, but I would have to disagree somewhat with "Jade". It would be excellent if the homeless did more than buy drink with money given to them, but not all of them should be faulted. Think: what are the children of the homeless? Homeless as well? Are they responsible for their condition? What are "children"? Life and death. Believe...
From Kathryn Adamson, (Click here to visit!) 7/11/99:
I don't believe you could do this, nor anyone else. I have to agree. I hated it when we visited England and we'd pass people on the streets. Knowing I couldn't do anything at all about. Since I was only 9 at the time. This is so--good. Even though it is depressing. It has a really good message.
From Sir Lancelot 7/13/99:
Good job, but I have a few questions 1) Is the reason that the people are bones in because they are walking past homeless people? and 2) What's with the background? don't take me wrong I like the background but no other page has a background.
By the way I hate it to.
From Nina Elaine Chambers, (Click here to visit!) 7/28/99:
From Arius 8/28/99:
It's really GOOD. I am used to looking at these scenes, but i can never think "it's normal"... Even if i am one of the robots ... Here in Brazil these situations are more common than it seems. And it just got worse in last years...
From Elvira 'Willow' Haberland, (Click here to visit!) 10/29/99:
This is a terrific piece of work! Not only the way you draw is good, but also the concept behind it. People becoming apathetic about the tragic things that happen in this world. My five cents of psychological comments for today....
From Veronica Chan 11/5/99:
I have found your artwork on the web and I was especially inspired by your piece called "Indifference." Homelessness is a serious problem that people tend tend to think that because there may not be a solution it is just easier to overlook it. I believe that every little bit counts whether it be sparing change, donating to a charity, volunteering at a soup kitchen, or building houses and finding jobs for homeless. I am part of a community service club called SHOUT (Students for Homeless Outreach United Together) at UC Irvine. SHOUT is holding an event called "A Night Without A Home" in correspondence to the National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. I was wondering if I could use your image on flyers in order to spread awareness throughout the campus. We are a non profit organization and your image in our fundraiser will help us out a lot. Please get back to me. [Veronica, of course, was given permission - FW]
From Bess 1/13/00
absolutely stunning. your social commentary is amazingly portrayed. you truly deserve any and all praise this art gets, because it is truly art.
From a silly little elf 2/24/00
INCREDIBLE . . . I feel the same way . . . I have to walk by homeless people without doing a durn thing so often, because there are so many of them, and I have so little money of my own. But I can't ignore them, and I can't not care . . . of course it sucks, but what can I do? I'm not Bill Gates . . . and the question is, will the aforementioned do more than he's doing now? Would the next multi-billionaire do very much? Will the cycle ever be broken?