She's the best antidote to today's selfish thinking

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She's an artist, teacher-therapist and giver who donates all proceeds from the sale of her art to charity. She's the opposite of the "greed-is-good" poison.

Ayn Rand would have made her a villain in Atlas Shrugged because she helps other people. Paul Ryan and the Koch Brothers would accuse her of coddling the needy. She's a one-woman answer to the tea party-GOP.

But to everyone who isn't mean-spirited, she's at least four, good, accomplished women rolled into one powerful advertisement for being a mensch.

The first Connie Silver is a South Floridian and artist who signs her work "C. McSilver," and creates art for art's sake — and then some. In 2012, her exhibition "People Treed" was displayed at Art Basel Miami Beach.

Her style is immediately recognizable. The twists and turns of the shapes within many of her paintings look like the meanderings of a vertical Ouija board. A disarming exuberance of McSilver's color and cheer draws casual observers in, even if they never probe beyond the superficial.

But pause to try and sort out the dizzying array of images and you begin to uncover layer after layer of meaning. The maze of "On the Way to Heaven" is a dig at the "goody two-shoes" almost everyone loves to hate. In the tongue-in-cheek "Loving Sisters," one appears ready to kill the unsuspecting other.

In fiberglass and automotive paint, McSilver's sculptures are whimsical interpretations of conflicted, sometimes tragic, states of mind, like the single figure of "Split Personality," whose smile masks its internal struggle. "Whoopie" is an endearing caricature of a social outcast, the consummate klutz, who will never be asked to dance, though she's aching to be accepted. The snake in her hat symbolizes her self-defeating demons.

The second Connie Silver is a teacher-therapist, which explains the psychological tensions of her art. By 1981, her entire client group was made up of young men dying of AIDS. In addition to working with individuals, for more than 20 years, she has taught courses on death and dying and individual and family therapy at the New York University School of Social Work.

"I need a paint brush in my hand to translate horrific, sometimes individually monumental, discussions for myself," the Miami resident says. "Everyone I see is in a state of imbalance," which explains why her figures rarely have both feet planted on the ground.

The third Connie Silver is a "giver," who turns her art into action guided by her career as a teacher-therapist. "There's no such thing as altruism," she says. She gets psychological payback for everything she gives: "As long as I'm doing good things for others, I feel good." She donates all of the proceeds from the sale of her art for student financial aid.

"Kids are not a private responsibility; they are our responsibility," she believes. "There are far too many talented, deserving kids out there that need help. They require the assurance of adequate food, basic health care, a loving supportive family and the opportunity of an excellent, focused education."

Silver and her husband Martin, both NYU alumni, have established the McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research at NYU and made a major contribution to its School of Social Work.

The fourth Connie Silver reconciles any contradictions that might appear to characterize her life. She came from a dysfunctional family. But no matter how hard she had things, she tried to help others — like the impoverished girl in her first-grade class who was always hungry and with whom Silver shared her lunch. Her teacher called her "my little social worker" — and the role stuck.

I suspect that Connie Silver was born restless, with an overdose of chutzpah. If she were to write her autobiography, she might call it Atlas Slugged: Ayn Rand, I'll give you a hand.

She's that generous — and forgiving. Atlas may have shrugged — but she won't.

Contact Stephen Goldstein on Twitter@drslgoldstein or by email at trendsman@aol.com

 

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Editorial Poll


THE EDITORIAL BOARD


Andy Green, the opinion editor, has taken the "know a little bit about everything" approach in his time at The Sun. He was the city/state editor before coming to the editorial board, and prior to that he covered the State House and Baltimore County government.

Tricia Bishop, the deputy editorial page editor, was a reporter in the business and metro sections covering biotechnology, education and city and federal courts prior to joining the board.

Peter Jensen, former State House reporter and features writer, takes the lead on state government, transportation issues and the environment; he is the board's resident funny man and capital schmooze.

Glenn McNatt, who returned to editorial writing after serving as the newspaper's art critic, keeps an eye on the arts, culture, politics and the law for the editorial board.

Portland's potty water problem [Poll]

The Portland (Oregon) Water Bureau ordered 38 million gallons of clean, potable water drained after a smirking teen-ager urinated in a reservoir. Was that an overreaction?

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