Friday, August 26, 2016

Paint Like A Child

Acrylic on newsprint

It took me four years to paint like Raphael
but a lifetime to paint like a child. Picasso

Leonard Shlain had me at Chapter 1. In the first pages of his book, Art & Physics, Shlain uses the example of babies associating images with feelings before verbal communication is learned. 

      "Long before speech occurs, a baby develops an association between the image of the bottle and a feeling of satisfaction. Gradually the baby accumulates a variety images of bottles...synthesizing these images, the child's emerging conceptual faculties invent an abstract image that encompasses the idea of an entire group of objects that she or he will recognize as bottles. This step in abstraction allows the infant to understand the idea of "bottleness." Still without language, the baby can now signal desire by pointing.
   
      Then at a certain moment, in that part of the brain called Broca's area, the connections between synapses attain a critical number (tipping point), tripping a switch that suddenly lights up the magical power of language. As soon as the baby connects the bottle's image with the word "bottle", this word begins to blot out the image..."

I thought about Picasso's desire to "paint like a child." I believe what Picasso meant was his yearning to have the  ability to tune into that natural abstract state we all found ourselves bathed in at birth.

Before we had the expression of language, we verbalized through color and shape which was our first form of identification or labeling. We did not yet have the verbal tool of language. 

As abstract artists we try to paint things "that don't yet have words*" I am excited to continue this book in the hopes it will  help remove the veil of  spoken language and lead me back to the time where my only words were expressed through feelings, colors and amorphous shapes. 

*Shlain

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Creative Survival of Play

Happy

Our creativity "is a gift meant to be given, not kept." Kevin Ashton, How To Fly A Horse

When you read something so true it shoots your heart with an arrow of honesty, you take notice.

I believe our individual spark, if not encouraged to blaze into the bonfire of our light, will burn us from the inside out.  

If we keep it chained by the quiet desperation of fear and mediocrity, it will destroy us. And we will silently thrash about and anguish in the inferno of what we could have become.

Play is the mischievous handmaiden to our creativity.
Play gives us the joy we deserve
Play brings us harmony.
Play is the light.
Play is the tickle and the muse.
 Play asks for nothing but uninhibited activity.

As we begin that cautious dialogue with creativity, bring play out first. 

She will help you laugh and enjoy your stumble, bumble early strokes. She will hush the ego of obscure perfection. She will give you the courage to begin. 


Happy Dance

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Paradox of Creativity

Postulant
30 x 22.5
Ink, hibiscus tea & acrylic on paper


Waking Thoughts

Sometimes I feel 
large and bold
like the colors
of an Ellsworth Kelly painting -

free to create
sure of my strokes and gestures.

Othertimes, 
small and inconsequential -
fearfully asking,
       "what am I doing?"

quiet desperation
dripping from my brush. 


Thursday, February 4, 2016

Can a line be a metaphor for life?


The Beauty of a Line

A line is a path
simple and direct
one to another.

Can a line be a metaphor for life? 

Our lives begin in an inhale and end in an exhale. All the breaths, all the lines between, weave the tapestry of our individual, complex, mysterious, wondrous lives. A web of living.

Playful, pulsating, organic, our line is spun from the creation of the Universe. Our lines can be pure, our lines can be messy; what they can't be is straight. Our lines are meant to dance through life, undulating with grace, joy and humor.

A line so strong it tethers us to the living, yet so flexible it can twist and turn into its self and never, ever break. And at its end, it quietly whispers its self back to its origin.

The line is our soul. 


Sunday, January 24, 2016

There is beauty and then there is beauty

You Sang My Name
14 x 11
Acrylic


At a recent dinner party, one of the guests asked,
 "What was a singular event that defined your life? A moment that changed you?"

As the eight of us went around the table, sharing our experiences, I thought about the first time I discovered true beauty. I was walking home from school with my friend, Leslie. We were in seventh grade, an awkward age to begin with, made more awkward by our outward appearances. I was tall and clumsy; Leslie was short and pudgy. We had yet to grow into our grown up selves.

As we entered the hallway leading to my apartment, Leslie was saying something and as I turned to look at her, the key frozen into the lock, a stream of sun was encasing her curly red hair and drenching her appearance and I realized how beautiful she was. 

I was seeing inside Leslie. Her beauty revealed itself in that holy moment. And my twelve year old self was struck with the knowledge that outside beauty and inside beauty were not the same. In that defining moment I was shown how to see.  

Fifty three years later I marvel at that miracle and feel so fortunate that I was given a gift that would mould my mind into the territory of the extraordinary. 

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Where does our art come from?

Nebula
30 x 30 inches
Acrylic & India Ink

Nebula, the birth place of stars. Souls of the Universe. 

That's where my art comes from, my soul. And since my soul is infinite and I am not, the inspiration is infinite, too.

It's all been done, but not by me. When I paint, or write, I'm not doing or saying anything that hasn't been done or written before, but not by me. So that makes my contribution original and authentic.

We all have that ability, but I think as we get older, we get more shy about showing our innerselves. Fear of peer ridicule, insecurities, our ego makes us prisoners of that chiding voice. But I have found that when I speak from the heart, which is where my soul lives, people respond, or maybe it's their soul responding to mine. We all get lifted up by the exchange. 

So don't hide your own, unique creative star. It's your own flame. And the rest of us will be more enlightened  when you give us a glimpse of your brillance.



Sunday, January 10, 2016

Humility

Crow no 13
20 x 16
Acrylic on frosted mylar

Poems arrive
ready to begin.
Poets are only
the transportation.
             Mary Oliver; Humility

The same is true for any art and artist. When we create we enter into an agreement with our muse. The art lives and breathes beyond our physicality. We are the instrument of realization.

And once we create it, that euphoric, mysterious, beautiful something, the agreement is, we give it back so others can experience it, too. 

Whether it whispers between the pages of paper or steps out clearly on canvas or stone, it rejoices in the community of man, as it never was ours to begin with.




Sunday, January 3, 2016

Let's think with our hearts

Thinking With My Heart
24 x 17.5 inches
Mixed media on cradle board

Art reminds me we have souls. 
Tilda Swinton

I was watching CBS Sunday Morning and was struck, during their review of the past week, how every story was bad news. And I thought, something good was going on each of those days, why is it the bad makes it to the top? 

Why do we give voice to the disturbing and not to the glorious? As our national rhetoric becomes more frantic and fanatic we turn more and more towards the darkness. The incessant bombardment and fascination with 24/7 news is making us into a fearful people. 

I believe this current fascination began on September 11, 2001 when the unthinkable happened - terrorism landed on the shores of New York. Since that day we collectively wonder, "has another disaster happened while I slept?" So we turn on the news to find out. And our days begin with headlines written in an almost lurid, sensational language. 

This fear is escalating thanks to the outrageous statements being made by our politicians. What's true? I feel as if we are being brainwashed into believing this is the worst of the worst of times. 

Read history. I guarantee, we aren't even close. And yet, thanks to that pulsing big box in everyone's home, we are being convinced these are. 

Following on the heels of this madness comes a misguided renewed patriotic vigor, for some, even fanaticism. The message is clear, don't trust the foreigners. Instead of joining we are being told to tear apart, isolate and separate. 

Tilda Swinton's speech at the 2014 Rothko Chapel Visionary Awards ceremony talked about a world I believe we were born to live in;

I believe that all great art holds the power to dissolve things: time, distance, difference, injustice, alienation, despair.

I believe that all great art holds the power to mend things: join, comfort, inspire hope in fellowship, and reconcile us to ourselves.

Art is good for my soul precisely because it reminds me we HAVE souls in the first place. 

Let's put our reptilian third brain back to sleep and turn to the light and illumination of our creative beings. Let's think for ourselves. Let's think with our hearts. 



Sunday, December 20, 2015

Visual Sanctuary


This is my morning sanctuary. After collecting a cup of coffee, I go to this corner in our kitchen and select three books.

If you want to be a writer, be a reader. 

Current on the list: Mercy by Leonard Cohen, Just Kids by Patti Smith and The Art Rules by Paul Klein. 

In Klein's book he references Jason Middlebrook's three C's; Content, Composition and Context. When Klein asks the question how do we contribute to making a larger difference? What's the context?

I sat and listened to the quiet of the morning. My mind wandered and the phrase 
 Visual Sanctuary floated by. I began to write in my journal; 

I make art from a place of beauty and joy. 
I want people to feel those emotions when they look at my work.
I want people to be able to lose themselves in the work; a sense of meditation.

That doesn't mean there's not energy in the work, it's more of a flow than a push. 

I see my paintings as visual sanctuaries. 
A place of rest.
An oasis from all the frenetic action around us. 

That's what I hope to convey. That's why I make my way to my studio as often as I can. It's an oasis for me, a place where I quench my artistic thirst. 

Mercy Me
Acrylic

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Our creativity is not benign

Mercy Me
12 x 9 inches
Acrylic on stone paper

I left formal religion years ago. I don't believe God only resides in the four walls in a building and I don't believe God judges us by where or how we worship. 

This quote from the Gnostic Gospel seems appropriate on this Sunday;

If we bring forth what is within us, it will save us. If we do not bring forth what is within us, it will destroy us.                
                                                                                              
Our creativity is not benign. When I heard Elizabeth Gilbert say that in a radio interview, it knocked me down with the truth of it.

These words are my gospel, my tabernacle of devotion. I believe we were all put here to leave a unique mark, one that can only be made by us.

When I have a difficult day in the studio, I want to open a bottle of wine and wallow in it. I want to numb my failure in a bath of alcohol. I don't do this, I just feel like doing it.

Before I recommitted myself to making art, I did drink too much. Weekends were the worst. All that time stretched out like an ocean with no land in sight. I would start in the afternoon and by evening the living took on a numbing haze. I was bored. That's the destructive force of creativity. When it's ignored or denied, it will find other ways to manifest. 

Okay, if you won't let me out, let's knock you out. 

Once I got back into making art, my thirst faded and as I grew more devoted to my passion my creativity served me once again. We are now in a partnership. I show up and do the work. I push past the lure of resistance and sometimes I'm rewarded by making something I really like. And it's enough to keep me coming back. And when inertia rears its head, I recognize it for what it is. I've pushed past it before and I'll push past it again and again and again. 

At a  workshop last summer, one of the instructors, Audrey Phillips turned to us and said, "no matter what happens in our lives, we will always have our art. We are so lucky to have that."

She's right. And since we have chosen to bring it forth, it nourishes us in ways food and drink never can. 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Do you want to know what saved me?

Devotion
oil/cold wax 
12 x 12 inches

Do you want to know what saved me? Art. The countless hours of meditation, prayer and devotion in front of the canvas altar.  The release of the control and the outcome. Georgia O'Keeffe referred to this as, making your unknown known.

Nature saved Mary Oliver. You sense this when you read her poems, written with a humble, delicate hand as she describes the small and infinite miracles she observes in her daily walks. She finds equal beauty in mud as in the delicate wings of a dragon fly, a blade of grass or the song of the Mockingbird.  

I suppose at the root, it's really love and beauty that saves us. If we watch and listen, they lead us to our passions and devotions. 

Can love alone save? I'm not sure that is possible - love for love either creates suffocation or loss, when that love becomes possession and brings along its companions, jealousy and envy. 

When your love becomes an obsession, eventually you smother that which you love. The object of your love begins to feel trapped in a cocoon which tightens over time. As there is no room for them to spread their own wings, your love becomes a mantle of suffocation, so they whisper, "please - let me go." 

And if you truly love, not for yourself, but for them, you have no choice but to let go. Loss.

Yes, love each other fiercely and completely, but make space for yourself to explore and discover other passions, as there lays true salvation and happiness. 

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Purity of now

Nectar
6 x 12 inches
Diptych on cradle boards

I suddenly saw the day lay out before me and knew it would be good, and a feeling of calm happiness settled over me.

I was anxious to get into my studio, but was reluctant to leave this moment of quiet - enjoying the only sound around me - the hum of the refrigerator.

Don't wish your time away, you once said. 

These words have followed me, like wise friends through the years, anchoring me in the purity of now. Be here. Enjoy where you are.

We seem to live in three primary states of awareness; what was, what is, what will be; past, present, future.

Why do we spend so little time in the present stage of awareness? Why do we get lost in our thoughts seeming to prefer the past or the future to what is happening at the precise moment?

Mary Oliver writes a poem about hummingbirds - how we can only imagine them, "as they are as swift as the wind and fly not across the pages, but between them".

Is this an analogy of now? We can only imagine it because it flies so swiftly from us? Because the now is past before it is even written on the page? 

In meditation we are taught to focus on the now, follow our breath in and follow it out. Quiet the monkey mind, stop the past and future chatter, silence the ego; observe, melt into nothing. 

I must admit, this is quite difficult. I have a very active monkey racing around the maze of my cerebral cortex. She seems to mock me and my attempts to quiet her. 

Honestly, the only time I get close to this state is when I paint and here is the paradox of that; I'm in the now and not even aware of it, I am aware of nothing. I am just, performing in front of a canvas, hoping it will somehow transform into something that is unique to me.  

Friday, November 20, 2015

Dazzled

Crow 11; Meditating
14 x 11 inches
acrylic on frosted mylar

Today, poet Mary Oliver dazzled me with her path of words, strung into a lovely poem and collected onto a page.

Writer, Dani Shapiro helped me realize talking about your ideas too soon is often the path to destruction or stagnation.

"That for which we find words is already dead in our heart." 
Frederick Nietzsche

Often, by talking about an idea before action, seems to toss the inspiration into the air and off it floats  - perhaps landing in another artist's mind. Poof - there goes. Better to keep a journal.

Painter, Janice Mason Steeves wrote, "don't show your babies too soon". I take her words to heart.
Early critique can become a straight jacket for your muse. Better to keep your babies tucked away, at least until they reach adolescence and can stand on their own. 

I've come to learn, if I want to be a painter, and I do, it has to be my job. It's the only way I will produce anything significant.

For now, it will be my second job, since my day job pays the way for my second job. 

One day painting will be my one and only job. And "my days will be shaped by me, rather than for me", Dani Shapiro.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Midnight Perfume

Reverence Immortalized
Photograph
Midnight Perfume
We had a midnight visitor all summer.
We recognized him by his strangely, peculiar scent.
Now that summer is over,
so is his life.

Midnight Soliloquy
It's me, just out for my midnight stroll, the moon my very bright companion, investigating the wonders along my busy trail. I respectfully leave my aromatic calling card so you will know to leave me be. 
********
I haven't been woken in a couple of weeks by the pungent smell of our neighborhood skunk. I believe I know why. I was driving down a street close to our home and I saw a delicate, little black and white shape, lying unnaturally still, in the middle of the road. 

Unlike most people, I like skunks. Thanks to Warner Brother's French aristocratic Pepe Le Pew; watching his black and white antics, trying to capture love. How could I not love a skunk that loved to love; was in love with love?

The little woodpecker above was lying in our driveway when I got back from a walk. So eloquently poised, as if recalling some long forgotten memory.  I placed him in my garden. 

This brings me to the subject of this blog. If we believe that all beings are sentient, (which I do), how can we leave these animal beings scattered along the roads after they have been knocked back to before they were born. We wouldn't do that if it were a human being. Why do we think it's okay and just drive by? Sometimes even running over them, again. 

We call them, "road kill". An offensive term. 

I miss our midnight guest. I miss him waking me with his strangely peculiar scent, and I regret not having stopped my car, taking him from the asphalt and placing him in a shady spot, under a tree or bush.

 I suppose the crows will clean him up. 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Who Am I...Really?

Muse
15 x 11
oil/ cold wax

Or maybe the question is; What Am I?

Jeff Lieberman, MIT graduate and scientist posed this idea in a TED talk:

Maybe I'm not a human being that has consciousness, 
maybe I'm consciousness that is shaped into a human being. 

He begins the talk by saying he is a community of cells, billions of cells, which are racing around his physical encapsulation. He's static, to our eyes, but he's actually in constant motion. Looking further, scientifically, those cells disappear into sheer energy, no form, no boundaries; pure, fantastic energy. 

In order for energy to manifest itself on this physical plane, it has to have a host form. I am not a scientist, not even close, but there is a knowing in what Lieberman says. It rings true.

Coincidentally, in Elizabeth Gilbert's new book, Big Magic, she writes about ideas being alive. To manifest themselves they need a human collaborator to move from the ether to a form that can be seen and appreciated by this human audience. 

If we can stay on this plane, what a magical, curious and surprising life. This is why we are driven to create. 

It's not in us, it's of us. 
It's around us. 
It envelopes us. 

And if we open our minds, our hearts, our arms, it will surround us with something so wonderful, there is no language to neither describe nor contain it. 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

At The Risk Of Looking Foolish

Dynamic Tension
22 x 30
mixed media

When I was 11 years old I won a citywide essay contest. The competition was open to all grade school and high school students. My picture was in the paper, along with a little article. It was a big deal, for me and my family; a proud moment.

When we're young, our parents indulge and encourage our fantasies and escapades; but as we get closer to leaving home, they begin to pour the syrup of reality over our dreams.

"Yes, it's wonderful that you like to (fill in your dream), but how are you going to support yourself? It takes a lot of luck to succeed at..... Perhaps it's better you study (fill in your "responsible" career)." 

Any tangible commodity guaranteed to make you employable and your parents, once again, proud and happy. 
"Thank god she got over that!" 

Out into the world  you go, years pass and suddenly you're in a place of dissatisfaction. You have more time, your days aren't filled with busy activities and there it is - that nugget of self denial that has been living quietly inside you since you veered off of your creative path. 

Only now, that there is more space, more internal silence, the nugget feels like a boulder.

My husband and I were having this conversation last night; about the risk of looking foolish. In the halcyon days of childhood, looking and acting foolish was part of our play, but when you're in your 50's, 60's, 70's and beyond, the risk of looking foolish can be paralyzing. 

Which is why, we don't risk, instead we avoid that thing that made us feel so alive. 

We can change that. 

Ask
Where does your curiosity lead you? -
and follow that.

What makes you forget about time and space? -
and reach for that.  

What makes you forget your self?-
be that. 

Do you want to leave this plane with a smile, knowing that you allowed yourself to access that unique grace within you? That you LIVED your life on fire and fanned the flames.
Wow - seems the risk of looking foolish is a very small price to pay when it allows you to find that incredible lightness of grace that was planted in you the day you were born. 

This is how I want to spend my life - collaborating to the best of my ability with forces of inspiration that I can neither see, nor prove, nor command, nor understand.
I can not think of a better way to pass my days. Elizabeth Gilbert; Big Magic 

I want that.  

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Call of the Crow

Dreaming Crow
14 x 11
acrylic on frosted mylar


Crows

From a single grain they have multiplied.
When you look in the eyes of one
you have seen them all. 

At the endges of highways
they pick at limp things.
They are anything but refined.

Or they fly out over the corn
like pellets of black fire,
like overlords.

Crow is crow, you say.
What else is there to say?
Drive down any road,

take a train or an airplane
across the world, leave
your old life behind,

die and be born again - 
wherever you arrive
they'll be there first,

glossy and rowdy
and indistinguishable.
The deep muscle of the world. 
                                           by Mary Oliver


Who else could so eloquently see crows in their majestic mystery? Their fire,their color, buried within. They seem to be a metaphor for life. They have been designed to barely be looked at. For most they are a noisy nuisance. And yet, Mary Oliver chose to immortalize them in a poem.  Makes me wonder, what else are we missing?

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Where are you?

Quiet Attitude
36 x 12 inches
acrylic on canvas

I was watching an interview; subject, mindfulness. The author explained how simple being mindful can be. Simply, be here.

He asked the interviewer; when you're in the shower, are you in the shower or are you at work, planning your day? When you first wake in the morning, do you take a moment to enjoy the sensation, or do your thoughts take you someplace else?

 Here is the dichotomy; simplicity is difficult. 

For instance, during my short morning meditation, I noticed how often, even though my body was still, my mind was traveling, emotional and physically, to other places. It amused and frustrated me, not exactly what you're supposed to be experiencing during meditation. 

Free range thinking, that's what goes on during my attempts to reach the oasis of silence. 

Creativity comes through free range thinking. Allowing the mind to meander opens the portal to our creative side.

Have you ever found yourself in the midst of creating, looked up at the time and were astonished at how much of it had passed, seemingly without your notice? If you had been aware of every moment, would you have been as creative?

I think being mindful is an important activity, but not every moment of your day. 



Monday, August 10, 2015

Do we make art, or does the art make us?

Nascent
12 x 12"
oil and cold wax

I was having tea with a friend and the discussion turned to art, and she said, "I don't think we make art, I think the art makes us."

We continued to talk and eventually it was time to say good-bye, and even though I left her company, her comment has been walking next to me ever since. 

Since 2007 when I got back to making art, how have I changed? Probably the most visible is a new circle of friends. People I never would have gotten to know were it not for being an artist. These people have all influenced me. And those experiences haven't really changed me as much as allowed me to express who I am; below the surface.

Getting to know that part, intimately, has altered my aura, my energy field, so those around me, especially those who knew me before 2007, have sensed a change. 

For one, I am more happy, more joyful, more grateful, because I am creating something out of that sweet, silent, soulful part that is really an extension of everyone and everything.

When I enter my studio I travel into the original world; molten, dark, mysterious and wondrously scary. From there I create the art and the art creates me. It's symbiotic. One cannot be realized without the other. 




Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Why Do You Take So Many Workshops?

Ink, gesso & metallic pigment
on paper

Last year I attended ISS (Intensive Studies Seminar), Taos, NM. There were 80 artists and four teachers; Skip Lawrence, Fran Larsen,   Katherine Chang Liu (the reason I went), and Christopher "Toph" Schink.  

There were four pods, 20 artists per podd, and one teacher assigned to each pod. Fran Larsen was our pod's teacher. When we had our first one on one meeting, she asked, "Why do you take so many workshops?" 

Indeed, why? "Primarily to be with other artists and learning from teachers whom I admire."

 If she were to ask me that question, today, I would add, "workshops are incubators for creative expansion."

When creative minds collect, with a gifted facilitator, in an environment that allows the focus to be solely on developing the artists, we become creative atoms bouncing off of each other; a virtual pinball machine of creative collision.

There was a time in our history where creative expansion was almost viral, the Italian Renaissance. From 1400-1600, creativity flourished with abandon. Why then?

In his book, Creative Intelligence, Bruce Nussbaum explains it was a combination of social and cultural environments.

The wealthy showcased their wealth through the acquisition of art and Renaissance Florence was an immensely rich city-state. Supply and demand. Patrons wanted art which created a demand for artists. Art became an industry and an industry needs inventory.  Art communities were established and artists collaborated, critiqued and competed with each other in efforts to acquire commissions from the wealthy patrons.

In a way, workshops provide a similar environment. We gather together and push each other to create quite a volume of work in a short period of time. Being with like minded spirits seems to encourage us to higher plateaus of creativity. With the right blend of teacher and students, it can be an enormously enriching experience. And usually, it continues to unfold long after the workshop is over.

The creative harmony and vibrations that travel around us as we work, together, yet alone, cannot be replicated or achieved solitary in a studio. Creative magic meets creative muse.