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.