UPTOWN — An Uptown artist says his new book, "We the (Little) People" conveys a simple, vital message: "humanity needs to get its act together."
"We the (Little) People" contains 50 black and white pencil drawings, most allegorical depictions of scores of tiny stick figures working together to change the world. Other drawings are abstract images of individuals to remind viewers that unity and individuality are not mutually exclusive.
(Click the slideshow to view images from "We the (Little) People.")
The man behind the book is a 62-year-old Uptown artist who goes by the name ISz (pronounced "is"). ISz said composing "We the (Little) People" was a response to "a lack of oneness in global society." His moniker, ISz said, expresses "that which simply 'is' — the immediate and active life-state and timeless connection in all things."
"My whole philosophy is immersed in the concept of oneness," explained the artist, born Richard Struben in southern Pennsylvania.
He said the book amounts to his life's work. The very first image is at least 30 years old. It shows a drawing of the earth pinned to a bulletin board with a push tack, with a "Help Wanted" sign beneath.
The artwork in "We the (Little) People" holds a lot of energy, and a lot of disparate elements bound together. Images teeter between cartoonish humor and melancholy, and include puns and clever plays on words that convey spiritually uplifting messages and calls to action.
There's a drawing captioned "Time IV Peace," that shows stick figures working to move the hands of a pocket watch that has a globe etched on it. In another drawing captioned "Pull 2gether," the legions of stick figures attempt to pull the Earth out of what looks to be an enormous oil slick.
Saturday, ISz has plans for a book launch reception at his art studio above the office of his publisher, ACTA Publications, 4848 N. Clark St. The studio is connected to an apartment he shares with his wife of 22 years above Acta, which is owned by a close friend of his.
ISz stood in the studio this week wearing a paint-splattered black hoodie, looking all the part of a zany creative type, yet sounding more like a preacher than artist.
Excitement lit his eyes as he shared dreams of loading his art on a truck, traveling around the country to show it to anyone who would look, and touting his message of "oneness" to anyone willing to listen.
His hands were a flurry of gestures as he explained his philosophy, bouncing every now and then on the balls of his feet in the dimly lit studio, where paintings and drawings lined the walls and art supplies were strewn.
He called himself "a cheerleader for humanity," and can't remember a time when he didn't see "oneness" as humanity's salvation.
"I think at a very young age I acquired this information, and I never let go of it," he said. "I never let the educational system take it out of me. I never let the political system take it out of me, I never let anything remove that from me, because I think we come here with that. I believe I was sent here this way."
When he looks at the world, the artist said, he sees teeming anger, rampant xenophobia and disconnect between cultures, religions races, and individuals regardless of background. The reasons people "choose to separate ourselves from one another seem to be so small, so petty," he said.
But he has hope, and thinks his art can help stir souls and shift minds toward new paradigms.
"I think I can touch your genetic code with this stuff," ISz said. "I think I can cause you to have a thought that maybe you've never had before."
"We the (Little) People" can be purchased at the publisher ACTA Publications' website, here.
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