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? 
FEAR. 

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

Vizier
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

beginning
30x22 
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. 















Tuesday, April 18, 2017

I remember the first time I died

If you want to catch a butterfly,
open your hand.

I remember the first time I died. I was twelve. 

We were living in a four flat apartment, lower middle class neighborhood and my parents were frozen in a cube of unhappiness. It was twilight on a fall day when I decided I would not live my life like theirs. 

This was the first time I died. It took a while to be reborn.

Six years later, on a winter night, I snuck out of my house, and with the help of my best friend's older brother, I left for good. 

It would be years before I saw my parents again and even more years when I opened my heart to let them in. 

In that six year period, I met a man - really a boy becoming a man. He taught me, through his unconditional love, my worth and my ability to love and to be loved. I was reborn. 

The second time I died was 17 years later. I left that now fully formed man. We had taught each other all we could and for some reason, like a deflated balloon, we lost the oxygen of our love. I saw the desert of my life before me and thought,
I can't live this way. I won't live this way. 

I was only in my mid 30's and the thought of living in quiet despair killed me. I left that life, not without consequences, but I accept them. 

I have learned in my 66 precious years on this planet, that we die everytime we change course, find a new path, and are reborn a better, more open person. These are not physical deaths, these are deaths of thoughts and habits, so we can create new thoughts and attitudes. 

Sometimes the people we know best, don't want us to make these changes, but if we don't we die a different kind of death, the death of living without purpose.This jaded death leaves us numb. 

Live with your heart, first, then join your mind. The mind is about boundaries and survival. The heart is about unconditional love and the gifts we receive when we give. These periodic deaths are simply the act of letting go. We can't travel forward if we drag the corpses of old behaviors. We must die to change. 

Remember the last time you did something with no conditions, with no expectations of something in return? That's the feeling of love.  Live there. And welcome these deaths of change.























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. 

Why?

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
48x30
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. 









Thursday, February 16, 2017

There is a lover beyond another






There Is A Lover Beyond Another

There is a lover
beyond another-
one I am gladly
bound to.

One whom I
can not ignore
for risk of great
unhappiness.

One in whom I
see myself so clearly,
where I can fly beyond
the dimensions of
space and time.

One who nourishes me
with wings of eternity.

There is a lover
beyond another-
one I am gladly
slave to.

A life lived not in
richness and in health,
but in the concrete of
boredom and the ordinary,
will surely be my destiny
if I heed not her siren song.

I gladly go
and perform
the struggle, tug and push
in the solitude of my studio.

I give her voice-
I worship at her feet.

There is a lover
beyond another-
gratefully so. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Creative inspirations


In Honor of Mary Oliver

Her arcane appeal 
is shrouded in her simplicity
of profoundness.

Her ability to word-paint 
the wonder 
of the natural world
with crystal, innocence-

I feel her awe and devotion
in my mitochondrial soul-
and I want to stand beside her
upstream. 


Mary Oliver is one of my creative inspirations. Her words, an extension of her lovely soul, reach deep inside me and awake the wonder of this magical place we call Earth. We share and worship in the same cathedral, the expansive outdoors. 

Her most recent book; Upstream; Selected Essays is a joy to read. Thank you, Mary Oliver, for using the lens of your words to paint a world of magical mystery. Bravo. 








Saturday, February 4, 2017

Wait For Me


Wait For Me

Acres over my head
gliding across the grey winter sky
the lone cry of a Canadian goose
pierces an arrow of melancholy
into my heart.

Wait
wait
wait
for me-

I wonder,
what were you doing
when your flock took off without you?
Captured by your image in the pond
you floated across as a group?

Or perhaps you were off in a field of
never ending grass, grazing away
as your brothers and sisters
ran the runway of the plains
up into the air.

And now what?

Plaintively crying out
hoping your voice will boomerang forward
and the tip of an arrow of geese
 will come flying towards you
drawing you back into the fold
of your companions.

I toss up a prayer
that that is so. 







Sunday, January 22, 2017

Link to my sanity

Born In A Dream

I am nothing
I am everything
the paradox
the conundrum.

"Without me, you would not be."
I ponder this
and respectively reply,
"But without me,
you would not be known."*

This is the symbiotic paradox we swim in. 

This is the conversation between the artist and the blank canvas. Until we make that first mark, there is nothing. 


I think, why am I drawn to do this? 


Imagining my life without making art is like looking into a large Vantablack hole...suffocating madness. This is my link to sanity, my holy grail, the chalice of my human redemption. 


We all need a purpose to feel alive, making art is my "aliveness." When I pour myself onto the canvas my soul breathes. A sigh of calm descends and I am transcended. 


* Paraphrase conversation between Abraham & God. 
















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