Tuesday, November 27, 2018

On being an immigrant

Sacred Guardians

My mother and I immigrated to the United States when I was nine years old.

We were coming from Wiesbaden, Germany to New York City.

We weren't fleeing anything. She had married an American soldier and along with my five year old step-brother, the four of us arrived safely on U.S. shores. 

No ICE agents, no border control guards, awaited us. 

In the 1930s and 1940s there was a mass exodus out of the inferno in Europe. Many came to the peaceful, welcoming shores of the United States of America, seeking asylum. 

Together, with the creative caldera that was bubbling in New York City, America became a central force for creative expression and experimentation. Science, architecture, dance, music, sculpture, photography, psychoanalysis, painting, all exploded with newness. 

Among the painters living in America, who would tear down the establishment of realism and create a whole new world of seeing, were; Motherwell, Frankenthaler, the de Koonings, Krasner,  Pollack,  Kline, Resnik, Rauschenberg, Hartigan, and Mitchell. 

Then came the wartime flight of "the most amazing exodus in history. Internationalism was thrust upon New York by Europe." wrote Tom Hess; ArtNews Editor. 

Motherwell described the scene as a "kind of Istanbul...a great crossing place. A great bazaar." 

Those immigrants included Hans Hoffman, the Albers, Einstein, Enrico Fermi, Levi Strauss, Erich Fromm, Tocanini, Balanchine, Marcel Duchamp, Breton, Gropius, Mies van der Rohe, and Dali. 

Seemingly overnight the U.S. became the throne of the most advanced thinking in the western world and the apex of the art world; where genius mingled with the everyday and ideas filled the air like  pixie dust. 

I wonder, where would we be today if these people, along with thousands of others who helped weave the tapestry of our country's altruism and intellectualism, were denied entry?

Imagine President Roosevelt closing our borders under the canopy of fear that caravans of Nazis and Fascists were invading our homeland borders. Would we have continued on our path of becoming the lighthouse for the exchange of new thoughts, ideas, equality, hard work and dreams? Would we have made the scientific discoveries that are still informing scientists today?

I fear not. 

Monday, October 29, 2018


Cinnabar no. 2
acrylic on canvas

When you come to the edge of all light you know and are about to step off into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing one of two things will happen: there will be something solid to stand on, or you will be taught to fly. Patrick Overton

I have been painting full time for 10 months and I admit, this has been an adjustment. My biggest challenge is sticking to a schedule and making sure I am in the studio on a regular basis; keeping a disciplined practice.  

Treating it like a job has helped. Writing down my goals and checking them weekly has helped.

However, I have noticed in the dense field of creative momentum, there comes a moment, it actually steals up on me and covers me in a subtle veil of lethargy, perhaps stimulated by a nagging fear of not being worthy enough to manifest this beauty; I mean, it is all of me, coming from me, coming through me and I find my self asking; can I pull this off? Am I able? Or am I just an impostor - a poser?

I recognize this dark twin whispering empty fear into my ear and I have found the best way to silence her is to keep on working, releasing myself from myself, ignoring my mind-talk and allowing the painting to speak.

And when that happens, I see beauty, peace and an essence of spirituality in my work; meditation on canvas, expressed in line, color and form. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Perfection in the imperfect


Just where you are
that is the place to start.
                                             Pema Chodron

Perfection, by its own definition, requires nothing. 
It is a state of still silence. 
Imperfection, by human definition, requires molding, manipulation, modification.
It resides in the state of vibrancy and creation. 

This is where we all live and breathe. 

I imagine as a human, I'll achieve perfection as I release my last breath. As a being, I'm already there without the awareness that I am already there. This is the conundrum of human and beingness. 

For now, I follow the wisdom of Pema Chodron and embrace the imperfect-work-in-progress of my life. And I admit, I am not rushing towards perfection, in fact, I am moving towards it at a very, very slow pace.  

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The Hunger Games of An Art Practice

Black & White Duet
acrylic on paper

The very nature of creation is not of a performing glory on the outside.
It's a painful, difficult search inside.
              Louise Nevelson

After a less than successful day in the studio, I woke up while dawn was still sleeping, wondering, where am I going to create the vocabulary to communicate my stories?  

In the pre-dawn, micaceous oxide light, my inner inquisitor quenched herself on my insecurities. Tossing and turning in an attempt to wrestle this nascent demon from its perch, I silently wondered if I had the courage to go back into the studio this morning. 

On the days when poetry seems to flow from my painting tools, I am happy, I am brave, but on those difficult days when I leave the studio defeated in the creative wrestling match of trying to make sense of color, shape and line, it takes an act of faith to go back the next day. 

Faith and memory give me the courage to re-enter. This is not new, it's just part of the process. And the reward for allowing the work not to be perfect are those heady times when there is no separation between me and the work; my ego becomes mute and I become aware. 

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Tuscan Series
Quattrocento #2
Oil/Cold Wax

Some people never know the profound pleasure
 of the work for its own sake. They work only to live. 
Alex Castro to Anne Truitt: Daybook

The pure pleasure, we artists are fortunate enough to experience, losing ourselves in the action and activity of "the making".

Currently I am swimming in the indulgence of color. The Tuscan Series is focused on my memories of Italy and the soft, golden suns and walls, sienna and dove grey foundations; textures and colors fashioned through the erosion of time, visible in the ancient architecture, are like decadent, dark chocolate for my mind. 

The sensuous pleasure I experience mixing hues together, as my eyes and then my mind, coalesce into a sacred ecstasy as new colors appear under the magic wand of the palette knife.

This joy - it comes from the work. I am daily grateful that I am in a time and place where I can indulge myself in this practice. 

And yet it's not entirely an indulgence. It's a very strong yet flexible thread to my survival. It gives my life purpose. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Abstrakt Gaze #4


When a friend recently said I was “fearless” after seeing a major shift in one of my paintings, 
that set me on an internal journey.

My definition of fearlessness for an artist and a human, being;

Complete surrender surrounded by dense uncertainty.

There comes a moment when our internal gaze informs us
we need to step out of what is,
in search of what is possible.

Resplendent jeopardy of ruination awaits,
if we cower from the urge-
the abyss of mediocrity is ready to capture our fear,

and transform us into
denizens of the unknown.

Like the Phoenix
we rise from the ashes of our blind leaps –
golden egg in our heart
to place on the altar of creativity.

Other times we must take
those ashes and begin again.

The more often we trust those urges and step out
the easier it becomes to survive the catastrophes.
The magic of what is possible
 is in the fearless leap.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Beginning With Nothing, Ending With Something

What Are You Thinking?

How to describe that feeling- 
the electrical charge of the first stroke 
on the pristine white canvas-
suddenly the canvas 
becomes real. 

Beginning with nothing and ending with something,
energy captured 
between the boundaries of the stretcher bars,
it's magic-
the magic of my imagination. 

When someone asks an artist to explain their art, well the difficulty of that sits in the space with no sound - a whisper of creation only the artist hears - a secret language that's not a language at all - a conundrum of communication.

We mine the library of our conscious thoughts in an effort to describe the miracle of our imaginations. 

For the first six months of our lives, we see only through the rods of our black and white world- then one day we blink our eyes open and tadaa our cones have matured and our world becomes the Land of Oz, a kaleidoscope of hues.

What did our six month-old selves think?

We had no alphabet to bridge the sense of sight with the nebula of thought - 
objects were simple color fields,
we hadn't learned the art of naming things,
so how did we think? 
without words?

That's art and what I believe Picasso meant when he said, "I want to paint like a child." Which is why that five minute elevator speech is so damn hard to write. 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Bittersweet; A Valentine

Mixed Media

Let's go out and feel the night.
                                                  Neil Young*
I was bald. I was sick. I was going through chemotherapy treatment. It was the summer of 2007. 

One night, there was a sultry, Key West breeze blowing through the flat lands of the Midwest. We decided to take a drive into the little village about 3 miles from our home. 

One of my favorite indulgences is ice-cream. Not that soft serve, ultra-sweet kind, that is extruded out of a machine much like poo. No, I like the creamy, full- throated, sensuous, dense-with-flavor ice cream made by Baskin & Robbins, scooped up by a muscled teenager. 

After parking the car, we walked to the ice cream shop and ordered a cone. Mine was cake, his was sugar.  Two scoops each. We left with our sugar prizes in hand; the streets were crowded with teenagers enjoying the night. We wanted somewhere quiet to sit and savor our sweets, so we wandered over to the railroad tracks and sat on a bench as if waiting for the next Amtrack. 

The light was soft denim blue. It seemed to cocoon us in a suspended state of peace. 

It was a silent communication between to halves of a whole, each savoring the cool, sweet, lava flow of flavor dancing on our tongues. At one point we began to discuss that the most delicious anticipation is that final bite of cone with melted ice-cream exploding like an ocean of flavor in our mouths. 

Even now, 10 years later, I can feel the wonder, hope, and love we shared.  Most importantly, I remember a visceral passion to carry on.

I wanna see you dance again...
                                       Neil Young*

* Lyrics from; Harvest Moon

Monday, January 8, 2018

Something Wonderful is Happening

The Feminine Series

You're It

as a myriad of things and
playing a game 
of tag

has kissed you and said
"You're it-
I mean, you're REALLY IT!"

it does not matter 
what we believe or feel
for something wonderful,
major-league Wonderful
is someday going 

This Christmas I was given a book of poetry by the Sufi poet, Hafiz. When I read this poem it spoke directly to the new year, new chapter in my life. Something wonderful is happening. 

After being in the corporate world for more than 37 years, I am closing those chapters and opening a new gateway to full time painting. 

I never dreamed I'd get to play
the greatest role of all: myself. 
                                                Kia LaBeija

No doubt, there is some angst. Part of the mind shift deals with perception semantics - I no longer tell myself "I'm going to the office." instead, "I'm going to the studio." And I am no longer going to work; I am going to my practice. 

This mental shift helps break the paradigm of the  corporate"40 hour week" and places it smack into the unknown reality of creativity which has no time or space, but it does have discipline if it is to manifest. 

Venturing onto a blank canvas
means going into an unknown situation. 
                                                    Robert Diebenkorn

This is something I have been yearning to do for quite some time and with the love and support of my life partner, I have been given the oars to glide, tumble, and steer my vessel into new horizons.

I am not interested in art 
as a means of making a living, 
but I am interested
in art
as a means of living a life.
                                                          Robert Henri

The wisdom and truth in those words sing to my soul. 

Friday, November 17, 2017

New Body of Work


The modern artist, unlike his (her) artistic ancestors is in a sense forced to invent (her) own pictorial language before (she) can even think about elaborating on this language. (She) has the problem of both invention and elaboration. 
Robert Motherwell

That elusive complex director, inspiration, has a way of manifesting in unexpected ways. Take these five figures above. On the one hand, they just appeared on the canvas, spontaneous marks made by my hand and yet, when I look at them, I realize I brought them back with me from France. 

Earlier this summer I visited the Chartres Cathedral, one of the oldest cathedrals in Europe. I wanted to go there because I read the light within this place was supernaturally beautiful and there was a feeling of spirituality within its ancient walls.  When I entered the nave I was enveloped in the reverent quietude and felt I was in a place of grace. 

Looking around I noted the beautiful Madonnas captured in the colorful pieces of stained glass and the compassionate Madonnas resting throughout in graceful sculptural forms. Not knowing it then, they would become the foundation for a new body of work. 

Pilgrim no. 1

 Robert Motherwell is my biggest artistic influence, a genius of abstraction and philosophy. Reading the passage above in; Robert Motherwell, 100 Years, I thought about this figurative mark, making its presence known on the canvas. Is this my language?  I'm not sure, but I will continue to explore it until it becomes silent.

Like an author writing a novel, at some point, the characters begin to breathe magical life into their own narrative, and every good author allows them to.

Abstract painting is the same. It starts as an idea and if allowed, begins to paint its own story. The human has to get out of the way so the muse can be heard. 

After the five figures made their appearance on the canvas, I was flipping through the Motherwell book and came across this painting; Spanish Elegy XV.

And before leaving for France, I took this picture during one of my morning walks.
Five Pilgrims 

 These unexplained connections excite me. I feel there is something blooming on the horizon.  And I look forward to the exploration and discovery. 

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Mollie's Story

Sister Brother

The first time I saw you
I knew we were kin -

You – you were
cautious and upset.

Until me-
you were one of one
and you loved it that way.

I changed all that.

My love was
instant and unconditional.

When I came close
you growled a growl that had no bite
you moved
me - I moved too.

I needed to be next to you
and eventually you knew
you needed me too.

Now we are Siamese twins
joined by one father
separated by three years.

They call me black and tan
they call you chocolate-tri

We call each other
sister brother.

Max & Mollie

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Before the morning nonsense

Ink and Acrylic on frosted mylar

Before The Morning Nonsense Begins

You and I can sit
in perfect silence - 
each quiet in our own personal thoughts -
and be blissfully happy.

You always get up first
then I follow.

This is our time- 
before the others
before the one you call love & husband
before the one I call master & protector - 
and before her -
the princess -
half-sister who once up
insists on being in the middle of everything.

Your hand cannot rest upon my head
without her insistent black snout nosing in.

Alas, no matter how much I wish her gone
she is here to stay
and truth be known
she's okay.

But for now
it's just you and me.
I roll over and am in ecstasy
as you rub my belly.

I sigh, I snort, I am content.  


Sunday, September 10, 2017

Blessings disguised as hardships

Graphite on paper

I used to draw, mostly in pencil. Then in 1986 I stopped. It wasn't a conscious decision, it just happened. 

My life took a dramatic shift, I divorced my first husband, buried myself in work and only my ghost stayed the studio.  

Not creating was like losing a lover; a big void in my heart. At first I didn't see what was happening. But over time, little by little, I lost sight of myself.  And even though I was in the embrace of a new and exciting relationship, I was restless. 

Fourteen years later, my muse decided to wake me up. I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I realized if I was going to get back into making art, I better start, now. 

I made a vow to myself, after treatment, I would find a workshop. I would no longer just look at my studio; I would re-claim my creative territory.

So why did I stop and why did it take me so long to go back? 

The longer I stayed away, the scarier it got. I was out of practice. I could no longer "see." That creative agility seemed to be gone. 

Now I look back at those fourteen lost years, and wonder where my art would be today if I hadn't stopped. I know it's a foolish thing; I can't re-claim lost time, but sometimes I can't help but think that way. 

I'm not the first to say this; getting sick was one of the best things that happened especially since this was just a warning shot.  

Like all artists, I have my spectacular days, my ordinary days and my crappy days in the studio, but I show up. That's really all that is asked. Show up. Be a partner. Pay attention to that very important part of you. 

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

My addiction

Arches oil paper
22.5 x 15 inches
oil, cold wax, lithograph pencil 

Every artist seeks recognition. Otherwise why make the work? Without an audience we are just creating visual soliloquies in the dark, alone, hiding our star. 

Look at social media. The lure of seeing "how many likes and comments" we received on a post.  It's addictive. And it can damage our ability to take those necessary risks that push our work from mediocre to something truly real and sublime. 

If trapped by "recognition" we can actually watch our singular, extraordinary genius swirl down the drain into the pool of the ordinary. 

Making work to please an audience instead of pleasing ourselves is a death sentence to our authenticity. The first person that needs to recognize our work is us. We need to aim to work "above ourselves in order that we may be able to live with ourselves." Friedrich Nietzsche

I'm a victim of this internet disease. I use facebook and instagram to promote my work, but I can't help myself from checking my posts to see how they are "trending". 

Elizabeth Gilbert writes in, Big Magic, that our creativity is not benign. If we don't listen and answer to our muse, she will find a way to lead us into a dark, unhappy place.

We will try to quiet her by anesthetizing ourselves with some other form of addiction, most of which are not going to do us any favors: alcoholism, drug addiction, sex addiction, spending addiction, king midas addiction. They're all around us. We see and hear about them every day. 

Its hard work and scary to develop your creative self. Doubt swirls around like a smoke ring whispering; do you even know what you're doing? why? who cares?

 But if we can gather the courage to just do it anyway, Wow, we can create some amazing stuff. We see it around us every day.  It is joyful and makes us happy.

When hesitating to go into my studio for a laundry basket full of excuses I remind myself; this is my one life, my one chance; do not deny it. 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Learning fear is part of creativity

carbon & acrylic
first marks

A painting is often more interesting at the beginning than at the end. 
Enrique Martinez Celaya; On Art & Mindfulness

How often I am tempted to stop before the painting can be painted. I fall in love with those early, freely deployed marks. No thought No fear. No judgement. 

Freely deployed. I'm not "trying" to make anything. I just let my hand speak to the surface and absorb the energy I place on it with whatever writing tool I'm using.  

How to stay in that initial zone? That's where I struggle. I know the painting isn't finished, how could it be? this is way to easy, the surface is barely scratched, there is too much naked canvas.

So in I go, like an explorer mapping a new territory and at some point, it gets really messy.  I bemoan that earlier painting that has long been buried in the debris of my ineptitude. That's how it feels. And the inner dialogue starts;
I completely messed it up.
What am I doing? 
Why am I doing this?
I don't know what I'm doing!
I should just quit. 

This is where it's crucial to stay in my studio and keep going. This is where something will happen. This is where I need to step out of my head and let the painting become realized.

At this point in the process, the painting is so far off that I get back to where I started. I have nothing to lose, so I re-enter that earlier zone; no thought, no fear, no judgement. 

Sometimes nothing great happens and that's okay, I look at it as a research session. Another building block on my foundation of information. I've been painting steadily for 10 years and early on I almost became paralyzed with the fear of destroying the work.

But the painting in it's current state was mediocre, good at best. And that's not the kind of paintings I want to make; there is no choice, I have to keep working. 

My work has deepened over the years, I can see it in my early work compared to today, but I look at those early pieces and I still like them, because they are authentic to me and I had the courage to let that show. 

Friday, May 26, 2017

I'm trying to save myself

The Game

I recently read an article about the importance of an artist's "elevator speech"; that crucial 5 minutes after someone finds out you are an artist and they ask you "what kind of art do you do?"

My typical response is panicked silence followed by something generic and lame, like "abstract".  And that's followed by the other person nodding in an absent manner and moving on. 

So I've been writing up different "speeches" and frankly, they all sound pompous and totally inauthentic for me. 

Finally, the other morning I stopped writing and began thinking...what really turns me on about painting? And instead of listening with my mind, I listened with my heart.

In truth, I paint because it makes me feel like a kid.  The play, the discovery, the wonder, the smell of the paint, the feel of the paint, all those go into the sandbox of my emotions. 

I realize I am not trying to save the world, I'm trying to save myself and bring joy to those around me. 

That is what I want to communicate with my art. And hopefully those emotions transfer onto the canvas and the person looking at my work feels the the joy of being human. 

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Where Are The Women; Mr. Shlain?

Helen Frankenthaler
color field painting

Dear Mr. Shlain,

I am nearing the end of your fascinating book; Art & Physics, Parallel Visions in Space, Time and Light by Leonard Shlain, and I am amazed and appalled. 

In spite of the knowledge and insights I have gleaned from this 437 page historical telescope regarding the prescient visions of artists and the scientific breakthroughs of scientists, I am left in a conundrum...where are the women? 

In my personal view, the advent of the abstract expressionists is one of the most exciting turning points in art. Here we have innovative giant pioneers like Louise Nevelson, Helen Frankenthaler, Grace Hartigan, Joan Mitchell, Lee Krasner and hundreds more; all silent between your pages.

Only the male voices are heard and recognized. You are obviously a talented and sensitive detective of history, combing through the archeology of innovation and discovery with the precision-like scalpel of your physicians mind, and yet, you are blind to an entire group of contributors. 


This is the reason women are not as visible in the arts and sciences, men like you do not investigate further nor give recognition to these incredible innovators. Therefore, we are not written into the historical fabric. 

The irony, you began this book because your twelve year old daughter inspired it during a visit to the MOMA. How do you explain to her why no women artists, mathematicians, nor scientists are listed in your discoveries or observations? 

Along with the artists above, here are just three visionary scientists left out of your book:

Hypatia; 415 AD, Greek mathmatician, astronomer and philosopher. Head of the Neoplationic school of Alexandria, where she taught philosophy and astronomy.
Marie Curie; 1867-1934, Polish-French physicist, chemist, and pioneer in the theory of radioactivity and X-ray. First and only woman to receive the Nobel Prize, twice. 
Rosalind Franklin; 1920-1958, English chemist and X-ray crystallographer, largely responsible for discovering DNA double helix, which Watson and Crick received the recognition and Nobel Prize in 1962, after stealing her research..

Another 437 pages could be written regarding the contributions of women in all sectors of the arts and sciences. 

It's time our stories were told. It's time we begin to tell them, ourselves. If we leave it up to the men, we will be forever silent and deeply buried between the pages of discovery and history. 

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Here I am, see me

Tangled Alphabet
Mixed Media

I listened to an interview with abstract painter,  Aida Tomescu

At one point she said, "abstraction is a language, it can never be a style because it's not fixed, it is forever evolving." 

Which reminded me of a conversation I had with another artist who lamented, "abstraction is the last new thing, I don't think there's anything we can do as artists that will be a breakthrough like abstraction."  The paradox, she was right and wrong at the same time.  

As artists we crave to express ourselves different from our peers. As Tomescu states, abstraction will never be fixed, just as we aren't. Since abstraction comes from within, we each can peer over the edge of unlimited possibilities that make up the chambers of our minds.

As we bravely step into the abyss, we manifest the path to our unique language; an abstract alphabet that constitutes our private vocabulary, the foundation which is built through our individual experiences and how we interpret the realities around us. 

Taking these abstract puzzle pieces, we create our inner pictorial maps. Even though each is as different as we are from each other, on a collective subconsciousness we can unravel each other's language, a visceral understanding borne out of our joined humanity.

So when we are courageous enough to express our unique authenticity, we give each other a precious gift;
Here I am, see me.