et al. 2020 | Claire Lee on Greta Thunberg | Letter to Greta: From Artist to Activist

Claire Lee, Seizure, 2014, print on archival paper, 48.4 x 122 cm. Image courtesy of the artist.
Portrait of Greta Thunberg at the European Parliament. Image courtesy of European Parliament.
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“No greta mind has ever existed without a touch of madness.”

— Aristotle


Dear Greta,

Please forgive my silly misspelling above as you are my favourite typo I regularly make.

Instead of reflecting states of the external world as you do on climate emergency, my art reflects the inner state of one’s mind. This, at least, for us as activist and artist respectively, we seem to share the core meaning of expression. It is not necessarily limited to feelings, but that ideas or thoughts can be expressed, as they clearly are in a speech or strike. Understanding, embracing and celebrating different ways of thinking and doing is also the true power of a creative mind. The tenacity in challenging opinions and unique thought processes; these are important qualities which make a work stand the test of time.

At a time, when the art world seems particularly vulnerable to developing a narcissistic mindset, an image of you striking from school alone on the street gave me powerful visuals of a lone flower—the creativity that is not learnt, but simply something you are.


Claire Lee, Seizure, 2014, print on archival paper, 48.4 x 122 cm. Image courtesy of the artist.

Poem by Claire Lee

Because life isn’t all about growing up, it’s about growing wild
flowers don’t command and don’t make you bow
But there is dignity and grace in a bloom
in an unexpected place. Being gentle and fragile
are the shouts inside a slender stem that only few can hear.

Generous father of the colossal sky
She can almost touch him upside-down inside
a small raindrop on her petal, less than one millimetre in size
She feels sad
for his power of all-knowing is the loneliest presence
He loses pleasure of small ways
patience for small ideas to encourage kindness and thoughtfulness
A pathetically small flower experiences inner qualities
She begins to create her own peace.

Watching birds and bees, she learns
what it means to practice the excellence of one’s kind, to be fully being
Earth’s wounds and their delicate seams
Mother sits alone with quiet rebellion within
That is why all things break.
Father sets fire at one place and outbursts of cries on the other end
Life remains serene and the world is a mess.

She sees silent weepers walking through the meadow
Depression is thunder without a voice, and voices without a sound
This little heart of a flower stumbles down without a beat because it beats too fast
Daring to his ignorance
she closes the petals to make a fist
But it doesn’t last.
The quiet ones who want to be understood
always end up understanding the most and disappear.
One by one all stems are bending, as if he is learning
the art of flower arranging
Sadly, instead of empathy he learns only in tragedies.

Quiet determination of a warrior
Her original intention will guide her through the dark
as well as the brightest
The ego thinks. The spirit knows.
It knows the road before light first appears
As far as my little wildflower can visualize tomorrow
Land to sink but the entire meadow will float.


Portrait of Greta Thunberg at the European Parliament. Image courtesy of European Parliament.


Greta, the poem is for you. Thank you for being you.

Same with you I have Asperger’s Syndrome.
I had a late diagnosis two years ago at the age of 41. The struggles, isolations and all
my life suddenly made sense to me. I was unaware that by masking myself constantly trying to fit into a world that isn’t the right shape for me had in fact limited my real potentials to develop. I know what it is to be undermined, as a child and as an adult. But the creative expression saved my life when I chose to become an artist. Asperger’s should be identified more by observation of strengths and talents, rather than try to change it. There is no shame in having Asperger’s—if anything, the reverse.

I believe real power comes from kindness. And as you grow older and may struggle to balance demands of life, the advice I can give is to guard well your alone moments. Solitude can leave you calmer and centred in the midst of all craziness. At last, let’s be inspired by this quote which embraces the creative process:


“If you want to build
a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” 
— Antoine de Saint-Exupéry


Creative thinking encourages thoughts to become actions. May your unique abilities and the inner fire within you to ignite imaginations and ideas strengthen your ways of expression for a very long way.

With respect and love, I wish you a “greta” success!


Claire Lee
January 2020, United Kingdom


Portrait of Greta Thunberg at the European Parliament. Image courtesy of European Parliament.


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