Thursday, December 30, 2010

Will Cotton vs. Jenny Saville





Will Cotton (Image Above), Jenny Saville, (Image Below)


I've been wanting to write a post for a while about Will Cotton. He's pretty big in the media eye as of late, since he was the artistic director for Katy Perry's music video "California Gurls".

And I think this may make him sort of a sell-out in a lot of artists minds, but whatever.

I'm very intrigued by this artist. He has a great talk done by the Federation of Artists from a few years back describing everything from his working methods, his palette, and most obviously his concept.

As a modern day figurative painter, I seem to have a hard time not putting myself in two categories: Either you paint pretty women, as the history of Western Painting up until WWI did, OR you paint the gritty side of our world (hence the image of Jenny Saville above). If you paint pretty women today, one could easily argue that this beauty is trite, unfitted to todays world, or even, at very best, a spread from a glossy magazine. And if you paint pretty nudes, even worse. You are just adding to the long lineage of how the world sees women... delicate, decorative.
If you paint the grit and ugliness that is very present today, and which, to my relief, we are very much ALLOWED to paint, well, you paint ugliness. It took a lot of hard work, I think, to get away from EVERYTHING being pretty in the 1900s. Ms. Saville's paintings are NOT beautiful, in many ways, but are a means to show something completely different, another side of humanity, however much we may want to look away.

I know I'm making a big ol' box for figurative painters, but hear me out.

A little over a month ago, I participated in a show called "Women Painting Women". It was rooted from a blog by Sadie Valerie after she had gone to see a show entitled "Women in Art" a few years back. She was shocked, rightfully so, that there were no female painters represented in the show, only images of women painted by male painters. Hence she began her blog about how women have a different viewpoint on their fellow women, and hence, the show at Robert Lange Studio came to be.

So what do Women Painting Women, Will Cotton, Jenny Saville, and the struggles of Ugly versus Pretty Art have in common?

Everything.

I submit for discussion evidence A:

So here's Will Cotton: normal guy of today, well-educated, and a seriously good craftsman of his metier. At this point, if you don't know his work, you should look at his website to make some sense of what I'm going to write. He paints women in these huge canvasses, covered (partially) in everything from melting ice cream to cotton candy. I know a lot of women who have issues with this guy, but hear me out. He is, very obviously, going for a statement about gluttony and extravagance. Insatiability. Absolute decadence. And, smartly, he very often shows that decadence in an easy-access, somewhat cheap sort of way. A nude. Candy. Chocolate. Fluff. Interestingly, he also paints quite a lot of paintings that show these still lifes that he has created as maquettes eroding. Decomposing sweets.
Will cotton has found a way to go SO over the top with beauty and sweetness, that not only do we like to look at his paintings (aesthetic: check), but he has a pretty bold, modern, real statement within them (modern content: check).

Hmm.

And what does that have to do with women? Well, as a female painter, while I was on my trip in SC with 11 other female artists, I found myself pretty torn up. On one hand, I like to look at beauty. I like female nudes. I like the paintings men have created for us in history. But the other side of me also wants nothing more than to stay away from trite-ness. I don't think beauty is trite by any means, but I do think it can fall into a place of emptiness. Plus, beauty, as far as I have come into contact with it, usually has a component of surprise, chaos, and even sometimes darkness. NOT all dark, mind you... that can get twisted easily.

So as a female figurative painter, who struggles with going back and forth from beauty to reality, I give props to Mr. Cotton. A lot of my artist friends might be pretty pissed I say this. But he found a way to say something that is going on, without having to scream it. I look forward to seeing these bigger-than-life canvasses some day.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Opposing Natures

I'm not big on writing movie reviews for blogs, but I think this movie deserves some thoughts. If you haven't seen "Black Swan" yet, I will try to be thoughtful about not ruining the movie for you.
I saw this yesterday in Atlanta. I'm supposed to be in New York right now, but because of all of the blizzard complications, humans can't fly up there for a while. I say humans because my bag somehow made it up there without me.

So, Tim and I scratched our trip, and are camping in Atlanta until we figure out what to do, or at the very least, get our underwear back.

It's kind of funny... this month has been a bit of a whirlwind, not unlike the weather. A few weeks ago, my truck broke down with smoke coming out from under the hood on my way to see my students' final paintings. The next day my pt Cruiser died in the middle of East Chattanooga. I was pretty pissy for a few days, completely forgetting any kind of holiday spirit I may have had in lieu of all the cash I had to spend on cars.
And then the morning I had to go and turn in my final grades at the University, there was an ice storm and I walked instead. Walking is my most natural state, I believe. I walked through the silent streets, hovering for that moment in a suspended little scene of ice and twigs and frozen blossoms. It completely snapped me out of my funk, thankfully.

And so, for Christmas, Tim and I headed to Miami to see my dad, everyone with a fever and cough as is expected. We got to Miami, and I was blown away with my dad's new work. Photos do his sculptures no justice.
The plan after Christmas was for us to take flight straight from Miami to New York to see my sis.

And so here I am in Atlanta:(

Which is why yesterday, while waiting for our seemingly ever- invisible bags to be delivered, we went to see Black Swan.

So, here's a little info:

This is from wikipedia about the Swan Lake story line:

Princess Odette is a fictional character from the ballet Swan Lake. She is the lead ballerina role. Von Rothbart's daughter Odile is danced by the same ballerina; this explains how Odile is able to trick Prince Siegfried into being unfaithful to Odette. She also appears in many adaptations of the ballet.

Odette is an enchanted princess under a spell of the evil sorcerer Von Rothbart; she has been transformed into a swan by day and can only regain her human form at night. She has many companions under the same spell, who have made her their queen, hence her title 'The Swan Queen'. She is forced to live by a lake that was magically formed by her grieving mother's tears when Rothbart kidnapped her; Rothbart's reasons for kidnapping Odette and enchanting her are unknown in the ballet. The only way for the spell to be broken is by the power of eternal love between Odette and a young man who will remain faithful to her, for if the vow of eternal love is broken, she will remain a swan forever.

One day, the young Prince Siegfried ventures upon the lake while out hunting and sees Odette transform from her swan form back into her human form. He is so struck by her beauty that he falls in love with her at once and when she tells him her story, he promises to love her forever and invites her to a Royal Ball at his castle so he may choose her as his bride. They spend the night dancing together, falling more and more in love with each other until dawn breaks and Odette is forced to return to the lake as a swan, leaving Siegfried alone.

Siegfried waits for Odette at the Ball and believes she has attended when two strangers arrive. But it is actually Rothbart and his daughter Odile in disguise. Rothbart has planned to trick Siegfried into breaking his vow to Odette by magically disguising Odile in Odette's shape and form. Siegfried dances with her and fails to see the real Odette appearing at the window in her swan form to warn him of Rothbart's plot and pleading with him to remain faithful to her. Rothbart's plan is a success when Siegfried declares his eternal love to Odile, thinking she is Odette and Rothbart joyfully reveals that Odette is now forever in his power.

Odette flees back to the lake in distress and Siegfried follows her, begging her to forgive him, which she does but she tells him that she will never be freed from Rothbart's spell. The only way she can be freed is if she dies, for she would rather die than live without Siegfried. Siegfried cannot live without Odette and declares that he will die with her. When Rothbart appears, Odette throws herself into the lake and Siegfried follows her. In the climax of their sacrifice, Rothbart's powers are destroyed and the spell is finally broken; Odette's companions are freed from the enchantment. As the sun rises, Siegfried and Odette ascend into Heaven together, united in love for all eternity.[citation needed]



I remember seeing this ballet when I was little in New York on a class field trip. Of course I had no idea what was going on in the story, but I was enthralled with the dancers, especially the Swan Queen.
So this new rendition, if we can even say it is a rendition, is a total love/hate story. I can see why a lot of people wouldn't like "Black Swan". I absolutely loved it, even though I was uncomfortable from start to finish.

But one note:
While we were walking to the theater yesterday, I asked Tim what his life story would be if he had to tell me in 5 minutes. I won't tell you what he said, but it was good. He asked me to do the same. I found myself talking half of the time about how I wanted to be a painter of my generation. I want to show the struggles and joys that my generation deals with but in a timeless way. And I've said it before, but I think the people of today deal a lot with polarizations. Polar opposites. Extremes. Attached/detached. Interested/bored. Consumers/ purists. Modern/vintage. Expressive/denying. Painfully removed/ unwillingly associated. More/less. Surely we are not the first generation to go through this. But the image of a small crevice expanding is what comes to mind. And that's all OK. We are BOTH. It is the personal story of the people today that makes this part of our "both-ness" a great thing.

Most of this movie is about opposing roles. I found myself thinking about all of the times that I have ever been asked to be one person only. It never really works out, and you end up sort of exploding into someone else after a while. Like my friend Meg says, "AND not OR"
OR can be one of the worst things to go through. If you ask me, it is the most unnatural state humans, or at the very least, I (since that's the only human I can really speak for) can be in.

Props to the director Darren Aronofky for making such an AND movie... dark, gorgeous, visceral, gritty, refined. Even the movie poster shows both beauty and darkness.

So I take it back, I'm not going to write a movie review. Go see it for yourself, but be warned it is not for the faint-hearted. When Tim and I got out of the theater, we didn't quite know what to say, but were both bursting with ideas.

A lot to think about when heading into 2011. More to come!!
Thanks for reading, and I hope you all have/had/are having a great holiday!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Coins.



soooo.....I WAS going to write a blog about how Crayola is going to save the world (albeit I had a few glasses of wine in me). They seem to be the only toy company trying to get kids away from a screen. Perhaps some of you have seen their new toy? A glow-up dome that kids can draw whatever they choose on the inside, only to have it staged into a sort of little theater production! (not that I want one or anything.... uh...hm.....ug)


BBBBUUUUUTTTTT.....



I'm feeling a little deeper (this is news) than crayola tonight.

So thanksgiving came and went. I was thankful on and off throughout the weekend. I saw family, some my own, some not, and even some pets I was truly thankful to know.
I was also very self absorbed.
Here I am, on the brink of some really cool stuff happening with my career, and I'm absorbed with the fact that I don't always know what to paint.

May I mention that the same week I was in Charleston, my little sister found out she is moving to New York City! Which is so, so so exciting! And sad, of course, since I am losing my beautiful, witty, courageous roommate to the hands of the Big Apple.

So, there's these two things going all on the time, it seems, for me. One is that I feel a little too much thanks and gratitude. I have been known to burst into tears at sunsets, at men holding babies, hell, even when those women on tv get a total makeover and their families see them for the first time and cry. I cry because I think it is so awesome, this world we live in. When I was eleven years old, I would cry myself to bed fairly often thinking about how it wasn't fair that handicapped kids couldn't play certain sports with other kids. But I cried even harder when I thought of the kids who DID play with them. I'm a soft heart, I've been told.

And then. And then.

And then I am totally absorbed in my own painting world. "How am I going to get old and gray and continue to paint?". "What do I think people see when they see my paintings?" "Are my paintings too feminine? Too Masculine?" " Do I show beauty or grit?" oh, and the oldy but ever-present "What is my REAL intention when I paint?" Yeah... that one looks like a big lizard. No, like Godzilla Himself. With two heads. and he's pissed off. and he sits right on my shoulder every day, snapping up flies. my flies. grrrrrrr.

I like to make my own fears look like animals.... lizards being the animal of choice for my friend Meg and I. So creepy and sneaky. She has been calling her fears banshees, which I really like too.

So, in a nutshell, I feel totally thankful and crazy. There.

Meg has said this thing to me since I met her (though I don't think it's her own idea). We are a two-sided coin. On one side, this time, you get all the amazing gifts that you feel, that you live, that you would do anything to protect. On the other side, you get selfishness, consumption, total tunnel-vision.
So If you try to throw one side of the coin away, you are, without fail, throwing the entire coin.... BOTH sides.

hmm.


I HATE it when she's right.

It happens a lot, this two-sidedness. You are in love, but scared out of your mind. If you are not scared, chances are you are probably not in love.

So I had to stop beating myself up today for my moments of absolute short-sightedness. I've been so worried about my art. But it's because I care so much. And I care because of that other side of my coin.... because I am a lucky, feeling, empathetic person.






Sometimes.

Monday, November 15, 2010

BAAAAAAAAMMMMMMMM!!!!!!







It's monday morning (er....afternoon)

I'm sitting having a coffee, still slightly reeling from the past week.

About a week and a half ago, I left with fellow Chattanoogan and Badass painter Cindy Procious, coffee in hand (this is a theme with me...), ready to burn some serious rubber in her soccer mom van towards Charleston, SC. Van loaded with everything from hairspray to turpentine, we hit the road, not knowing what was going to happen in the upcoming week. All we knew was that we would be painting for a week with ten other women painters in a house on the beach of Sullivan's Island, and that we both had two paintings being shown for a big show called Women Painting Women at the Robert Lange Studios Gallery.

After 8 hours of laughter and tears, we pulled up the the enormous house. Wind blowing, tired legs shaking, we knocked on the door, only to hear a squeal from inside, then to be greeted with a hug that lifted me off of the floor by head honcho Alia El-Bermani! Her and Diane Feissel were in hysterics! Here we were, 4 grown women who had never met, screaming like little kids when they run into a new hotel room and absolutely must jump on every bed to test it out.
Shortly after, more of the women kept arriving ( Sadie Valeri, Linda Tracey Brandon, Terry Moore Strickland, Alexandra Tyng, Rachel Constantine, Kate Stone, Catherine Prescott,and Stefanie Tewes ) and we started to all get a little nervous over our pre-exhibit get-together at Robert Lange Studio.

As we parked in downtown Charleston, and walked out all together, I felt something I have never felt before, really. Here I was with women of all different ages, not really knowing many of them, not knowing their backgrounds or stories, or how they came into this crazy profession. But each one of them had a big smile on their face and eyes of awe as we walked into the gallery. There it was, the works of over 50 female painters from across the US and Europe, all hanging beautifully side by side, a mix between a grouping of colorful flowers and a tiny army.

We all walked in a bit of silenced awe, just taking in how wonderful it looked, and how unusually strong the work was. Megan Lange, owner of the gallery and fellow painter, greeted each and every one of us as we walked in, smile and warmth in abundance, and a great sense of pride filled the place right then. Here we were, a night before the opening, all sort of teary in the gallery and thankful to be in such company.

Of course the night proceeded with going to Carri Schwab's house (gallery director) and drinking a little too much and laughing a little too hard. I mean, just cause it's a room of lovely ladies doesn't mean we don't get down and party a little too hard ;)

Ironically, the next morning we had a model come to the house at 9 am. There we were, in a living room-turned-makeshift studio, painting in our pajamas, coffee and turp side-by side.
OH! And the painting gear!! Folks, you have not seen painting gear until you are in a house of twelve landscape painting easels, 10 jugs of turp, enough paper towels to soak up an oil spill, rags, brushes, gloves, paints, bags, panels, hats, bug spray, sunscreen, canvas....... it was all SO HARDCORE.

My painting was a load of poop that morning, but I loved being hungover and still getting something done.

The rest of the afternoon was spent painting on the beach and eating.
Then, at around 4:30, there was a sudden flurry of women getting ready. We had transformed, as a collective group, from painting die-hards in ripped jeans and sweatshirts, to frolicking women in dresses and jewelry. Hair spray, makeup, curling irons, too many heels, pantyhose, it was all over the place. Every bathroom in the house had 3-4 women plucking, drawing, polishing, fluffing.

We left in 3 cars, butterflies in stomachs, final swipes of mascara still being applied.

We got to the gallery a little late (fashionably...). I did not expect what I saw. The place was PACKED. You couldn't even walk in!! All the other galleries on the street were sort of going, but nothing like our place! There must have been several hundreds of people trying to come through, hanging out in the street, waiting to get in!!!



BAAAAAAAAMMMMMMM!!!!!!!

I was so, so proud to be in this show.



So, I'm going to spare you every detail, for fear of going on a little longer than most modern attention spans can handle. I can say this: I sold both my paintings before the opening, met some incredible people, and sort of fell in love with both the ladies I showed with and the Robert Lange Studio!

The rest of the week was a blast. We painted together almost every night until 11 pm sometimes, and I doubt that rental beach house had ever seen so many drop cloths and easels in its past.
(notice that we hung a background cloth over the flatscreen tv... my kind of ladies..)

So, I have to recap a few things worth interest, and that I noticed. Being in a fairly safe place with other women opened up a lot of conversations that I have never had the opportunity to have. How do these female painters feel about having kids? Do women fetch lower prices in galleries? Are women painters a weaker investment for collectors? Does any of that stuff even apply anymore?
Many of the women in the group were a bit older than me.... and had seen very different times for female artists. In fact, we all realized pretty soon on that naming female artists was something that most people can't do easily.
But before some of you think that we were all in two camps of either feminists or mothers, let me say something. There was a line that Cathy Prescott said on our last day that really got to me. We were all talking about how women have a unique viewpoint that is very worthy in art. And Cathy started talking about how she had once painted a nude of her daughter, and how she loved painting every inch of the canvas because it was a painting of the skin she had once made from her own body. It was a place in art that was very specific, very special, and very true.

And so I have been thinking about that a lot since I got back. How women paint themselves, or other women, is something unique. I look at my own pieces I sold at the show, a self-portrait, and one of my best friend Erica, and I see something in them that came out, perhaps without my knowing. They are both sad a bit, very mysterious and beautiful. They are also very off-beat. They are not actually pretty at all. And I know this sounds a little obvious as a description of women, but my mom said it best: they are evocative. They are recollections of something I saw or experienced. Something unique to me.
And many of the pieces in the show had this sensitivity. It is not better or worse than a male perspective. Just different. And there is now, because of a lot of hard work, room for this difference.

Thank you to all of those ladies, to the Robert Lange Studio, to all of the family and friends who have supported me, and to everyone out there who tries to see things for what they are.

I'm such a sap.










Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Stuck in the Middle

Oh, my dearies, it has been a while!! I'm so, so sorry!

So much has happened (could you think differently?). Well, I got a truck!! I bartered a painting for a pick-up truck, so am now officially a bonified redneck! Ha! No, seriously, I got a great little pick-up truck for a painting. Win /win if you ask me.
What else? I'm moving YET AGAIN! So the truck came at a good moment. I'm switching studios yet again. Photos to come for sure...


I was going to write a post about the personality of cars, and how my PT Cruiser is a fat white boy who wears one of those awkward rainbow hats with the propeller on top. And my new pick up is a hard workin' cowgirl with a manicure.

However, instead, I want to address something that is on my mind. I just finished watching a very interesting talk on youtube by artist Scott Burdick (thanks, Steve!). Scott is an acquaintance of mine, and a wonderful painter. His 4 part talk on youtube is about modern art versus traditional figurative art. He goes through a lot of examples from both camps. His arguments are rooted in some very important thoughts, and I don't disagree with a lot of it. He talks about how the biggest reason why many traditionalist painters today are unseen in museums is because of their subject matter, specifically that it is beautiful. In order to be in a museum today, you must paint paintings that are void of beauty, is his argument. Not such a crazy argument to make, when you think about it. He goes on to root this issue as being in the power of the critics and curators of museums. Since traditional art takes much longer to produce, artists who chose simpler methods of painting (i.e uglier at times) were able to produce more work, thus making them a more profitable commodity to sell. Some points that Scott also mentioned (and I'm leaving a lot out, so you should listen for yourself) are about how modernists believe beauty to be a shallow subject, and how beautiful art is uplifting and therefore reminding people of the good in the world.
So, I don't disagree. But I do.
And watching this video has made me really come to terms with being in the middle of a changing tide. I am part of a generation that is slightly lost as to how to use the tools we are given. Personally, I have been trained to paint beauty well. I'm nowhere near the best in my field at this, but I am technically more proficient than a majority. And yet, I struggle with how to use this skill. I struggle with the idea that I should use this skill to only paint beauty.
I do agree that I think somewhere in art history people got fed up with having to go through all sorts of painting training, and the "ugly duckling" syndrome was born. By this, I mean the glorification of decidedly NOT being competently trained in your craft. I'm not for that idea at all. It is anti-education.

BUT, and there is always a BUT.... is beauty the only way? Granted, the best point Scott makes is that he does not want to see modern art destroyed. He just wants to see traditional art accepted in museums and given the same rights. fair enough. I totally agree... it is an assault on human choice to not include other types of works in museums. Modern traditional painters are alive today.. they are modern.

BUT I'm a little stuck. There has been many a moment when I have taken refuge in front of a Rothko, and basked in the glory of NOT BEING TOLD WHAT IT IS ABOUT. I don't agree that you have to know all about abstract painting history in order to enjoy an abstract painting. Sometimes, it is quite the opposite. It is almost a child-like love to just look at big shapes and colors and let them take over. Sometimes the very strong dialogues found in many a figurative painting can get a bit loud. No, I don't always want to see pretty women, or babies, or mountains or religious icons.Or old men with interesting wrinkles or paintings of foreign people. Sometimes I want the open space that isn't telling me what to think or feel whatsoever.
Maybe I'm a little bit of a hippie at heart.
And so, as a creator of visual works, I am constantly stuck in the middle of these two places. Which is why I am so fascinated by artists who learn a craft entirely, then abandon it for abstraction. Why? Why could Picasso paint pretty well when he was younger, then progressively walk away from technique?
I have no idea.
The only thing I do know is that if there are two opposing sides, I'm smack in the middle. Strangely, there are not too many people who paint from that middle place. There are more musicians coming at it from this perspective. Classically trained musicians who use their education and love to produce very new work. But in painting it's not so easy. To paint something open and modern that is a mirror of how life works TODAY is extremely hard when your tools are from the past. But I DO believe it is possible. And far more interesting.
So, for all of my gibbering, I want to ask you, dear readers, if this same problem is true in your field of work? Because I have seen it very much so in a lot of other art forms. Photographers have never had such good technology as they do today. And yet, if you read about Annie Leibovitz, she talks about keeping her set-up and craft as simple as possible. This woman is literally at the top of her field, and she chooses simplicity. And with this, her photos are both beautiful and ugly.
One could argue technology is the same way. We are INCREDIBLY skilled as far as technology is concerned. And yet, we write messages about when we are going to a friend's hous eon FaceBook.
I guess, in a very long-winded kind of way, I really hope to see the few artists who have taken the time to train and equip themselves with skill properly make an effort to make their art relevant. And maybe the whole point that Scott was making is that beauty will always be relevant. BUT I'm not always sold that pretty girls and old men are the only way to show this:)

on another note, I leave you with this:



MY CAR:


PERSONIFIED:



It's for sale, by the way:)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Put the Needle in the Dot.


Oh, dear, readers! It would seem like my turning 30 means I have no more time for you!

But alas, I have only been storing up all sorts of amazing stories to tell you!!

Where to start?

Well, first of all, I have had an amazing past week. Or two, actually. Right after my birthday, Tim took me to the aquarium here to see an exhibit on Jellyfish. I WISH I had the footage he and I took of these amazing creatures. Living poetry, honestly. I told Tim he should use some of the footage for a music video. It puts art to shame, honestly.

What else? Well, this past week was particularly eventful. Where do I start?

Well, I guess I will start with the magic that happened to me at the library.

The UTC library is a glorious thing in Chattanooga. It is home to more art books than anywhere else, is open until midnight, and they don't even seem to mind if you are lugging along your cold coffee in hand. So I went in this past tuesday, and decided, since I am still frustrated and totally obsessed with this motion series I am trying to, very slowly, paint. I looked up books on Futurism, since that is the only period of past art I can think of that relates to this specific cause.
What I found was mind-blowing. I picked up a book on Boccioni.
Now, when I think of Boccioni, I think of the Italian nickel (pre-uaro days) and a very blurry art history class in Rhode Island that I should have been paying attention to. I think of this image:


Kind of amazing. A sculpture that looks like it is moving is no small endeavor. So that's what I thought I was getting. What was the MAGIC was this image that was painted a few years just before:


HOLY CRAP. I lost it. So, there have been two things I have been working on pretty intensely. One, being the motion paintings that I am struggling with, and two, a new painting technique that came to me somewhat out of nowhere about 6 months ago. It is where you start a painting using a series of dots, then layer their complimentary colors over it. (a little like Pointillism, without the garish colors). Now, folks, lets get one thing straight, I have NEVER been taught this method of painting, but have found it easier to work with, more enjoyable results, and able to compose more accurately.

The painting above is by Boccioni as well, and the technique is a series of dots that have been layered. It is called Divisionism.

Ok, freaky. I look up this artist for movement, knowing nothing about him, and find my own technique smack dab in the middle of the book.

(insert twilight zone music here)

He also painted a lot of very strange movement paintings with a lot of missing information.
Obviously, I want to do things a little differently, but I felt like I had just read about some distant soul that I had a lot in common with. Past Lives? Maybe. Secrets shared? Maybe. New crush on a dead white guy? Definitely.

What else? Well, this past week at UTC was an event called the Marek Visiting Artists Series. A very generous family, the Mareks, pays for two artists to come to UTC, stay for a week, speak to the students, and have a show in the gallery. This year, the two artists were Rose Freymuth-Frazier and Michael Vasquez.
I have to say, they were both wonderful people and excellent painters. Both are roughly my age, and had a lot to share as far as professionalism, materials, themes, and just living the artist life in general. I felt very lucky to be able to spend a good portion of the week with them.

And since all my posts have to have something new-agey in them, I want to share that today I went for my first session of acupuncture with Wayne Stephens.
Now, I don't know how many of you have seen an acupuncturist, but it is not what I thought it would be. Or feel like. I went because I had (yet another) headache. As a promise to myself when I turned 30, I have decided to take better care of myself physically. So, I decided to give acupuncture a whirl.
Wow.

I'm a new addict.

Wayne was not only kind and generous in explaining to me how it is done, but he zapped my pain.
Entering the house where Wayne's studio is set up, you open the door to very faint NPR and the fragrant smell of lavender. The rooms are clean, if not slightly bare, but kind. There is a good energy to the place. There are books about China in the waiting area, and a photo book filled with pictures of foreign places.

"You had me at China"


Then I picked up a book called "The Illustrated Guide to Chinese Medicine". Hmm... like Chinese Medicine for Dummies?
Not quite. The first chapter seemed to be about Yin and Yang mostly.
Ok, so I kind of think of Dolphins and Sunflowers and YinYang charms in 1994 when I see this symbol. But as I read about Yin and Yang, it occurred to me that I know nothing about what the symbol means, except some random guess that male/female-all things-change-and-there's-nothing-we-can-do-about-it sort of thing.

Wrong.

Yin is dark, passive, restful, potential and downward. Yang is hot, active, bright and upward. What was funny about this book is it had little quizzes at the end of the chapter to see if you understood. Like a picture of ice and asking if this was a Yin or Yang property. Hmm. It's Yin. Water or steam would be the Yang. The only way I could remember was "Yin" sounds like "in", and inwardly we are quiet and full of potential.
This book said that illness is caused from too much of one or the other, or not allowing one to turn into the other. Like a fever is too much Yang, but when it breaks, it turns to Yin.
Confused yet? I had to read it a few times. I kept thinking of my motion paintings, and how much I find them in the world.

But I've led you down a rabbit hole (full of Yin).

Back to acupuncture.

So once I told Wayne all about my headaches, he got behind me and pushed on my neck in a place that no massage therapist has ever seemed to find. It was sore, and I hadn't even known it. He did this poking several times, in my neck, up and down my spine and so on. Then he left and I got under the sheets on the main massage table and waited.
Then he came back in , and the needles began.
When I was telling this story to Tim afterwards, I could see him getting green at the word "needles". Ok, so acupuncture isn't for everyone. But just an fyi...the needles are as thick as two human hairs. But they feel AMAZING when they are in the right spot. The ones in my neck I could really feel. It didn't hurt, it just felt like some very ancient pain was being poked for the first time.
I paid for a session for next month already. It's a slightly expensive habit, but well worth it, I think. Plus I really liked the ten minutes when he left me alone, full of needles, and I pretended I was a porcupine. :)











Saturday, September 4, 2010

Some day I'm going to be famous.

I'm over the hump!!!


Ha ha! Just kidding.... 30 is still far from any hump (insert obvious sexual comment here). I had a FABULOUS week. 30 is proving to kick 29's ass, as it turns out. The week was complete with massages, sushi, birthday breakfasts, flowers, obnoxiously bright festive decorations, a few too many vodka tonics, a stunning homemade cake, friends, hugs, and the obligatory drag queens.


So tonight, I'm sitting on my front porch in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The heat, for the first time in almost three months, has let up. It is a perfect temperature.

I tried to write a post about an hour ago. But it was just so damn happy and boring, so I erased it. And one of the cool quirks with Blogger is that you can look at other blogs you have written. So I started to read my blog from 2 years ago, openfire. It is absolutely hilarious! Ok, so the last post was very, very sad. I was very, very sad. A large part of this year was spent licking the wounds from that time. I spent the rest of 2009 lost, I can say. I also had some amazing things happen to me . I met my most amazing boyfriend Tim last December. Poor Tim had to deal with a lot of the scars on my heart from last summer. And wait it out with me. And put up with my knee-jerk reactions. But people come into your life right when you need them. And the ones you don't need find their way out.
Ok, but I'm not ALL sadness! Some of the posts are a total roar, if I don't say so myself. There is a post entitled pack rat that was written about my sister and her hoard of bizarre hobbies that I almost pissed myself reading. Or when I went to New York and heard Enya playing at a Burger King in the Bronx. I'm not ALWAYS writing about Zen and keeping it all together and letting the moment be with you. Sometimes I just want to laugh my ass off. Sometimes artists get SO caught up in their survival and what it all means and all the hustle that is required, they forget to take a freakin piss at the world.
Tim and I had this conversation recently. He has a man-crush on some photographer that doesn't post anything about himself, just his work. On FaceBook. Freakin' FaceBook. The guy doesn't put photos of himself, or any info. That's fine... I get that part. The only info he DOES put, however, is that one day he is going to be famous.
Don't get me wrong, the guy is very talented.

But what a D-Bag.

Tim, having seen this, became self-conscious about how much personal info he has on the internet. He likes to write on FB about what people are doing, what he likes, photos of those around him. His website has info about him, his background, etc...In short, he is connected. He opens himself up for targets and also for friends.

He was self-conscious about not having enough mystery, and therefore, not doing a proper job in selling his goods.

I truly think, in my heart, that mystery is overrated. It is obvious, it is everyday. Move on. We can't know. That is so, so obvious. But to use this fact as a sales tactic, is, in my opinion a waste of time, in the long-run.
Ok, not everyone should know when you go to the bathroom and wipe you ass. There is a grey zone here. But to purposely HIDE yourself is something totally different. There are repercussions. No one ever knows you. No one can see you vulnerable. No one can know you are HUMAN.
I know some artists (including myself at different times) who only put out information that sells them. No funny business. Make a buzz, sort of speak. And, supposedly, their artwork is enough for you to know about them.
Ok, let's set things straight. I think artwork should speak for itself. It doesn't matter who the artist is if it sucks.
But, BUT, do the REAL great artists conceal everything?? In my mind Thom Yorke and Bjork are two VERY great artists. I know exactly why Thom Yorke has a wonky eye. I know he laughs like a dork. I know he is a classically trained musician. I know Bjork was a slightly bored teenager who took long trip into the wilderness. I know she is a total nut and hard to listen to in interviews.
And I love both of them even more for this. I love that they talk about their work. I love that it makes the work more accessible. I love that I can enjoy their music even more. I am officially obsessed with both.
And one of the most redeeming qualities about all the hoop-la surrounding artist Richard Schmid is that he put info about himself in his book, Alla Prima. It is not a dry, sterile book on painting. It is full of laughter and wittiness. It is a little piece of him.

What do you think??

I don't have anything figured out in this business. I suck at it, frankly. But I know, in my gut, that hiding myself isn't a smart move. I'm smart and fairly together... why wouldn't that help me sell my work? I don't think my personality will take away from my art. Hopefully, someday, my work will be thousands of miles away from me. And I can laugh my head off as best as I want to with my friends and it won't make me a less professional artist.
But what do I know.

For now, I'm happy to laugh, enjoy my friends and family, and try not to get too serious about myself. It's not always easy.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Mitterand

So It's 10:46 pm on sunday night.

My sis and I are sitting in her bedroom listening to NPR's "This American Life". This is a noticeably weird episode. It is about the President of France in the early nineties, Fran├žois Mitterrand, and his last meal. If any of you have spent any time around me, you know that for a long time I used to ask people what their last meal would be, cook it with them, and then send them a photo of it 6 months later. I did this a lot when I lived in Boston. MOST people (with a few exceptions) fall into three categories:
1) Their mom made it for them their whole life
2) It was a treat of exquisite value (lobster)
3) it was something they had every single day (cereal and fruit for a few)

weird, right? Doing this project with several friends, I ate scrambled eggs, fried chicken, Portugese eggs and cod, and PBR and cigarettes. hmm.

But I digress.

So this most informative episode talks about the former President of Frances' last cravings.

One of those things, ironically, being a small, thumb-sized bird called Orelin, which symbolized the French Soul throughout history.
You see, this bird is illegal to cook. It is an overfed, small songbird that has been known to drown in cognac. Hence why the French are drawn to it.

hmm.


So I wondered.... what food would symbolize the artist soul?? A chicken? ha! A bull?
Maybe a small plate of something "exotic but also simple? Italian? " (my sis) A good Roma tomato? Good when ripe. lousy when spent. No frills, useful and fairly resourceful. Good for a while in the fridge. However, when overly ripe, or totally green, one of the worst things you can use as a main ingredient.
hmm. Any ideas? What food would you be?
My sis says she is ratatouille (stew of tomatoes, onions, squash and zuchinni). Wonderful any time, great side dish, but can be eaten alone. Vegetarian, and thus, modern.


Me, I think I may just be salami.


Wonderfully salty and exotic, easy to get sick of, tied to tradition, pushing barriers of what meat can do. hmm. Oh, and a high percentage of wonderful fat. Revolting to some. Not something you order at a bar, but maybe when you are on vacation. Beloved by traditionalists and foodies alike. I will not inset a cracker joke here. Or the obvious phallic reference.
Not carried at Walmart...fyi. Neither is ratatouille.

So, when you think about it, it is pretty weird that NPR did a story on Mitterrand eating his own country's soul.
Just a thought that maybe could be shared.

Maybe you've got one eyebrow up???

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Nope

In every artists' life (or anybody, for that matter) comes a moment (or lots) of rejection. And it is even harder when it is about something you REALLY care about. Be it rejection of an idea, rejection of something you made, rejection of values, rejection from someone. It sucks, no way around it.

You know, I write this blog fairly often (although not in the past 2 weeks...sorry!). I write about things like karma, openness, vulnerability, fear, etc... How the hard stuff in life is supposed to help you out, how it is supposed to make you who you are. How you react to it all is up to you.

First and foremost, I'm full of crap.

I don't mean that in a "oh, woe is me" sort of way. I genuinely cannot do what I write about. I would LIKE to do those things. I would LIKE to react in a positive, open manner when rejection comes busting through my walls. I would LIKE to look at it in the eyes and say it's going to be ok. I would LIKE to not judge myself and those around me.

But in the end, or at least for now, I suck at it. I got rejection yesterday, and I did not act like a little Zen master. Or student. Or anything close to Zen -like, for that matter. I was a little girl, and I wanted someone to go beat up the big bad monster out there. Enough with all the openness... I just want to be comfortable.

Ha. I guess that's not really what I signed up for, is it?


One time my sis and I went for a hike. We both have a weird fear of bears, but for that moment, we were ok. I asked her why she thought we were so scared all the time of such weird stuff. Were we scaredy-cats?? We are both always worrying about everything. Don't jump off of a high rock into the river with these two gals. We will pee all over ourselves with worry that you may hit your head, end up in the hospital, and we have to go along for the ride. She looked at me after I asked this and said, very wittily as always "Mia. Seriously? You are a painter and I'm a writer. We both live our lives in a way that most people would be too fearful to even try. We are just scared of stupid stuff and not important stuff."
hmm.
Very right she is, most of the time.
Maybe some of you have had this? Your ideals are a little ahead of you? It is not wrong to have ideals. It is a good thing to look at yourself, like this morning, and sort of laugh at how silly you can be, and how off -beat you are.
Sometimes, in my head, I think of the people whom I really admire in my field of work/love/study. I think of them as never truly struggling. They were just BORN talented, and everyone knew it. They never had a mediocre moment in their life. Or, on the flip side, I think they have worked their butts off, and every inch of their development was hard, hard, HARD! work. Excruciating, really.
So I guess I find myself in the middle with not knowing what to do. I'm a hard worker, with moments of laziness. I've been told I'm talented all of my life, but never really enough to believe. I have dedicated myself to art more than many amateurs, but not quite as much as many pros. I have days when I want to quit, days where I feel on top of the world. Days where I wonder what's it all for, days where I think civilization would die if it weren't for art. I'm like everyone else.
hmm.

And sometimes I react well, and sometimes not so well.

I turn 30 in one week. It's actually not that big of a deal, but I'm feeling it.
Ironically, Tim said to me yesterday," You know, I've heard that your 20s are for figuring stuff out, your 30s are for the hard work, and your 40s are for enjoying the fruits of your labor". In my mind I was saying " F#*@! You mean the hard work is about to START??? What the hell was all of that then???"

Not quite Buddha on the Mountain.




Not me....


That's more like it....

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Where I come from


In preparing for a POSSIBLE trip to Canada (I'm still waiting for my passport in the mail..), and a birthday coming up, I though I would introduce my parents to the blogisphere.
First, my mom. My mom is an amazing woman who just retired from UPS after working there 10 years. My mom may be good at the branding she did for UPS, but her true love is food. Seriously, folks, she is a total foodie to the max. She is trying to start a private dinner club in Atlanta soon that will feature harvest produce and explore french haute cuisine (I think...). She is an amazing listener to all of my bitching, and has been a supporter of my habit (aka art) since I can remember. Let's just say I got lucky. She is also taking a road trip up the east coast this summer. Check out her blog to see where she is.
And my dad. My dad is a wonderfully creative man. Him and my mom owned a graphic design firm for most of my life in NYC and Atlanta. My dad headed the ship with his ideas and patience for detail. Type is his thing, in graphic design speak. Recently, he decided that it was time to live his dream, and has become a full-time sculptor. That's where I get my weirdness (thanks, dad). Check out his latest creation.... I think it is roughly 3 feet high (maybe bigger..). Very cool!



And since we are on the subject of awesome family members, my sister is a writer (my parents will never retire) , whom I am constantly trying to copy in my blog writings. Her new website is: www.veroniquebergeron.wordpress.com
She also writes some hilarious pieces for Chattaratti.

Ok, sorry for the personal hoop-la blog, but you gotta give a shout out to your fam every once in a while.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

BOOM

Yesterday was one of those days that just kicks your ass. Most of every part of yesterday was hard. I have no idea why. I woke up in a bad mood at 5 a.m, forced myself to my studio, only to totally freak out at a huge painting I am working on. After a few hours of wrestling with it, I went home for lunch and decided the only thing to be done was to take a nap.
After more sleeping than I would like to admit to, I drug myself back to my studio and began a somewhat trippy painting session that involved bizarre lighting and too much Peter Gabriel. By the end of a few hours, I thought I had pulled myself out of the rut. With a better attitude, I left for dinner, only to come back and wipe out my painting once again before midnight.
Like I said, yesterday was rough.

So why do I write this? No, I don't believe the blogisphere is a place for self pity. I'm writing about it because yesterday was a very unifying day. Not only was I miserable and unable to get to my "zen" place, but I was even kind of mad at the thought of trying to be zen-like. I just wanted to curl up in a ball and close the lights. Enough of this nonsense about finding the moment and breathing in kindness to myself and the world. I wanted mac and cheese, a bad romantic comedy, and to forget the word PAINTING entirely.

So there.

I got home last night, in tears, thinking the world would end because I couldn't paint, couldn't express, didn't even know WHAT I was trying to paint. "Who the hell am I to teach people to paint", I said to myself. I am a liar and a fake, and it will all come tumbling down on me.

So I was in a pretty fear-based space, if you can't tell already.
I woke up again this morning, pissed at yesterday, not taking note of the sunrise, the dew on the grass, the smell of the coffee. All I could sit with for the first hour of today was how much I suck at all of this.

I don't know if this sounds familiar to any of you. I imagine it does, but about different things.

See, when I take a student on, I ask them to have a few things. I ask them to work on a vision book. This is a binder or desktop folder with images of everything that inspires them. I also ask them to write down what they want their work to be about, and what their fears are. I got this idea from one of my students, Meg, who is a life coach. It's sort of a joke that I teach her, since she is usually the one leading me. Either way, she taught me something very very useful.

We all go through something like a butterfly cycle. The first part of the circle is a catalytic event. Something happens in you ( or outside of you) to make you move. You want to create, you want to write, you want to act, you want to leave. The next part is the big dreaming, when you plan and scheme. This is the exciting part, and it is the part that is the "this is what I am about" . You want to be about creativity, about truth, about love, about uprighted-ness. Then comes the next part..FEAR.... "What if I can't do this?" "Who am I kidding, I can't do this at my age.." "I will be found out" "People will turn their back on me" and so on. Then, after a chunk of time, you can't stay here. By the law of survival, you begin to try. You make the big movement involved. Maybe you go back to school. Maybe you take a yoga class. Maybe you get a studio. Whatever it is, this phase is the spot where you take big actions. Then, you move on to baby steps. You plug away at what you want. You work every single day towards it. You are the busy worker.

And then BOOM! Some event happens, and you go through the entire cycle again, but for some different reason.

So I guess I was in the fear "I can't do this" stage yesterday. And luckily, by sheer nature and grace, today I am in the next phase. Sometimes you go through this cycle ten times in one day. Sometimes it can take years.
You can see why a vision book would help. When you are in fear mode, you have something to go to that is your rock. Who are you? What are you about? What qualities do you want more of in your life? What good things do you give? What would you like people to say about you (and your work) when you die? What do you pride yourself in? Maybe you have something about your beliefs here.
It's funny. I think teaching has been given to me in this time in my life so that I can be taught. I watch students of all ages go through this cycle about everything from using paint instead of charcoal to entering artwork in a show. I walk with them, never saying I know where they are or even how to get out of it. I just watch and walk next to them. And somehow, they always survive.
So why, in times like yesterday, is it so hard to remember that I go through the same thing? I think, and I definitely don't know, but because suffering and fear are the things that unify us as humans. We all feel pain. All of us have had a moment when we didn't know if we could make it through. That is the moment that binds us. That is what connects me with a homeless person, with a millionaire, with a foreigner. It's the "Oh shit" moment. To think we are the only ones having a moment like that is to completely deny our fellow humans. Separate, in my opinion, is tragic. It is also trying to move through a natural cycle that we are all involved in. We hate pain. We hate discomfort. And yet, we have all got it. It is what makes us very un-different from our neighbors.
So I thought about that this morning. Who am I kidding to be the only person who thinks they can't paint? I get paid 4 times a week by people who think the same thing. I'm no different, and for this I am very thankful. Baby steps are the course of action for me today. No big paintings, no big, dramatic, life-as-we-know-it will end sort of tactics. Today is baby steps. Clean my studio to get ready to move. Finish some small commissions. Write my blog. Call my parents. You know, small stuff. I'm sure next week I will have some big episode again.

AND THAT'S OK.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Circles


I went to see the new movie "Inception" the other night. Actually, I saw it twice this past weekend. I don't know how many of you, dear readers, have seen this movie yet. As much as I hate writing a movie review, there are a few points about this film that need discussion.
One of the most interesting parts about it is the blurred line between reality and dreams. As many of you know, I am a big fan of getting my head all wound up in thoughts about what is really going on. This film was totally appealing to my "c'mon give me something to scramble my brains with " characteristic. I won't go into detail, since I don't want to ruin anything for those of you who have not seen it. It was just a fascinating way of diving into what triggers memories and dreams (things we cannot control) and how much those things play out in our "awake" life.

Ok, I just realized this is not the first time I am starting my blog with a movie opinion.... hmm. Perhaps I spend too much time in the theater.

I also wanted to write on the idea of understanding. Not understanding in a big, Buddha, Universal sort of way. Understanding in your daily life and with the people whom are closest.

?

I guess what I am trying to get at is that for many people, change (there's that word again) means leaving some of the people they love. I don't mean physically, per say, although sometimes this is part of it. But for many of us, we are a certain way for a long period of our life, maybe our childhood, maybe most of our adulthood, and then OOPS! You drastically change something about yourself, and some of the people around you are left scratching their heads. They may even disapprove, and tell you all about it. Or they may be secretive about it. And sometimes, whatever change you went through might be so big, you actually keep it a secret from the people you know won't come down the road with you.
I think most of us have had instances of this in our life. Relationally, spiritually, professionally, heck, even dietary. And somewhere in there you had to drop a couple people. Erase the line that holds you back, sort of thing. And when I say drop, I mean nothing more than no longer being vulnerable with the people who do not approve/don't understand your change. It doesn't mean erasing their name from your phone (although I have done this too...) or banishing them to your mind's underworld. It only means protecting yourself, and not with any kind of armor. For that instance, you choose to love and protect YOU over someone else. Sometimes the protection is actually in trying to explain, sometimes it is simply not mentioning the change again. It all depends, I think.

What is so absolutely beautiful in realizing that you can't take all of your buddies and family with you on the road is that there is a lot of freedom. Agree to disagree, and move on. It also makes you more empathetic towards all of the people in the world who feel misunderstood.

So I ask you two questions, on this beautiful morning, to any of you dear readers. The first is to ask yourself if there is anyone out there who really misunderstands you or something about you. Hopefully (or not) you are bobbing your head at a screen. Next ask yourself if this REALLY REALLY Bugs you. If it does, ask yourself if you had some sort of expectation of this person. More than likely, there is a yes here too. And more than likely, your expectation of this person to react a certain way to a change in your life is actually quite impossible for them, for now. You can't give what you don't possess. THEY can't give what they don't possess , yet.

Now second question. Is there someone in your life who you just don't understand why they have changed? Maybe they were SO great before, but now they are a little annoying and stuck on themself? Maybe you admired them completely, but now there is a big, gaping gap in their character? Or maybe they are spiritually or morally not as upright as you thought? You are probably, if you are being honest, bobbing your head again at your screen. I know I am. Ask yourself if you have really understood what this person is going through. Maybe it is change, maybe it is pulling the layers off, maybe it is what was there all along. Whatever it may be, your idea of them has changed, and you're not so hot about it.
See how the two are related? See how if you take that knot in your stomach that comes with somebody TOTALLY misreading you and apply it to your empathy of someone else, it can make you almost cry at the thought that you might be doing the same thing to someone.

Empathy is the damnedest thing.

The Dalai Lama once said that empathy is, at the core, true love. Once you have felt injustice put against yourself, you feel it for all other human beings who must endure it. A full circle, if you think about it.

Speaking of circles, and also to lighten things up a little, I think I am getting a tattoo of a circle for my 30th birthday. I'm going to try to ask this very wonderful Chinese calligraphist (who is 85 years old, and a total badass, may I say) to paint me, in one swoop, an ink circle with one of her brushes. Circles keep popping up in my life. Or I guess you could say they have probably been there all the time, and I am starting to see them. I believe suffering to be a circle. I believe creativity to be a circle. I believe empathy and love to be a circle. I believe family to be a circle.



Thursday, July 1, 2010

Oceans of Movement


Hello, everyone!

I'm writing on two very different, but very much on my mind topics today. First.... Oceans. I saw the film "Oceans" the other night, and it made me cry like a little girl for some reason. It's been a long time since something naturally and purely visual has brought me to tears. Funny enough, this is a documentary film on the oceans of the world and their inhabitants. Nothing made up, no huge story line. But the cinematography is AMAZING. It was shot by two french filmmakers who really know what they are doing. There is a scene of a sea slug that is called the Spanish Dancer that has colors in it I could never even try to paint as far as beauty is concerned. It is playing at the dollar movie here in town, and is truly a gorgeous film.

Ok, the other topic. Last night was the Pulse's (a free magazine in town) State of the Arts party. Basically, it was a reason to have an opening with music, food and art (oh, and booze) in the name of a publication.
Last night was also the first time I showed some of my new work, a series I call MIEKKO.
These drawings are a huge step for me. They are not much to start, and I hope to start a few oil paintings soon, but they are a big process.
I also realized yesterday that many people will not understand where I am coming from, and that is ok.
But I thought I would give a little bit of a voice to why I am doing these movement drawings.
First.... drawings are easier to get your ideas out, and cheaper. I have a tendency to want to go BIG! and CRAZY! But when you are really changing something, especially within yourself, baby steps are a bit of a better, longer-lasting idea.

Why movement? This past year I have spent a lot of time thinking about what I like. As older posts suggest, I like a huge variety of art. I spent a good portion of this past year in artistic hibernation, spending time taking a good hard look at what I do and why. To be really blunt, I looked at many of my portraits, and although I adore each one of them and find many of them beautiful, they are very different from what I think about all day long and how I see the world. I am a firm believer (and this has not changed one bit) that ART mimics part of the truth of life. I'm not going to get gushy here. I'm not saying that it explains it or even makes sense of it. It mimics it, and this is how each human being learns. We mimic when we are babies. We are ingrained with this sense of trying to be and live in something we don't know.
I guess as a portrait artist, I only find PARTS of truth. You paint a face, and a few weeks later, it is already different. How many times have I come back to one of my paintings in someone's house a few years later, and the subject has changed immensely. And that's ok. It is a wonderful process to be a part of.
So I guess I have spent the past year thinking about changes. How EVERYTHING changes. How the second you hold on to something, it is already different.

I read somewhere that human suffering is caused from our want to hold on.

Think about it. We hold on to old pains and continue to hold onto resentment, which makes us miserable on a daily basis. We hold on to past good times, and we are sad that they are gone. We hold on to old loves and don't want them to grow into something different.
And I started to think about this in my work. How the sheer act of trying to catch a personality on canvas, was in way, going against what naturally is happening all the time... change. People are not who you think they are, they are not one way.

My friend Meg told me that "and" is so much of a better word than "or".

My friend Hank once asked me what the most moving pieces of art I had ever seen were. I answered, very easily, the captive slaves by Michelangelo in Florence, Italy. These massive chunks of rock show different slaves, either being sucked back into the rock, or trying forcefully to be free of it. I saw a lot of my own humanity in those. Always trying to express something so inexpressible that is a definite truth. Never free of it, never totally consumed by it.
My other answer to him was actually a work of art I have not seen in real life. The photos of Rothko's Chapel in Houston really did me in. One of my dreams is to see this place. There is something about this place of prayer and how he interpreted sacred space without telling you what to feel that I truly admire.
So this is a bit where I am coming from, I guess. I plan on changing a lot anyway. But movement, the thing that sometimes makes people in our life almost unrecognizable, is a place I feel very close to and very in awe by. For one moment, you see something, and then it changes. Just as you recognize what's going on, it changes on you. And I love this part of life, even if it scares the living %$@t out of me. It's the grey zone, the free-fall zone, the figure -turned- abstract spot. The echo or memory of something that no longer exists. I believe very much in the beauty that hides right there.... in the place that doesn't need to be put in a box.
Maybe I will fall flat on my face... who knows. For now these are my babies.
We will see where it takes me! I was thrilled by the reception of my work last night. I think it surprised a lot of people, and I am thankful for this. Thank you all for reading my babble!

Michelangelo's Captive Slave:


Rothko's Chapel:

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tonglen


Maybe this blog is supposed to be about painting, but my, my do I find so many other things that relate to art!

So, this entire past weekend I suffered from a pretty bad tension headache. To keep it short, I have a lot of headaches, and also have problems sleeping. When I was younger, a school nurse told me I needed to breathe when I was in pain. I was never really told HOW to breathe, I just figured to do what I did naturally, but, well, more of it and deeper.

Well, as I said before, I have been reading another fabulous book by Pema Chodron called "Start Where You Are". Throughout this book, she talks about tonglen breathing. This is a type of breathing that Buddhists use not only to center themselves, but also to connect to pain.
Yesterday morning, at my wits end, I decided to try it. Sitting in my little bedroom at around 8 a.m, I closed my eyes, put my hands on my legs, and tried to breathe this way. What is so unusual about tonglen breathing is that when you inhale, you take IN the pain. Supposedly, this connects you to your own pain, as well as all the pain others are feeling at that moment. You breathe it in, and sit with it for a minute. You allow it to be with you and in you. Then on the exhale, you send peace and good thoughts OUT. This is almost like the prayer part of the breath. You send good energy to yourself and to all.
Ok, so you may be reading this post and rolling your eyes at my new-age-ness. But it dawned on my yesterday that all day long, especially when I am in pain or sadness, I breathe in the COMPLETE OPPOSITE WAY. I breathe in, almost like sucking air for survival, like a taking of sorts. Then I exhale and try to get rid of all the bad crap inside and put it out to the universe.

hmm. Inhale. Exhale. All. Day. Long.

So when I tried this new way of breathing, it was like trying to rewrite that one sentence that defines the whole plot of a book. It's hard. I had "monkey mind" for at least half of it (swinging from thought to thought like limbs of a tree). But I was nice to myself, didn't judge that I suck at this, and kept trying.
Within 30 minutes of doing this, my headache was gone, and I fell into one of the deepest, most-needed sleeps I have ever had.

Ok, it may have been too much oxygen to the brain. It may have been that I just stopped for the first time in a while. It may have been how I was sitting.... whatever. It doesn't matter. I was given an insight into something about me that I don't even NOTICE. Something so ingrained, I've been doing it blindly for almost 30 years.

So here is my dare to everyone reading this. You don't have to be new-age oriented. You don't have to be a Buddhist, or believe in anything else for that matter. But right now, pay attention not only to the rate in which you breathe, but HOW you breathe. Try ten breaths like what I mentioned. If you are not in pain, great! Then breathe in all the good you are feeling, and send it out to others too.

I feel like I should market this exercise in conjunction to some sort of cool breath mint.... what do you think? ;) Tonglen tingle mints???

What, you may be asking, does this breathing stuff have to do with art? Well, when I am painting at my best, I am not trying to be in any other moment than the one I am in. I accept the difficult passages I have to paint, the ones that nature has made confusing for me. I accept it, wish myself luck, and know that it's ok if I mess up. I let in the things I fear, rather than freaking out and telling myself "THERE IS NO WAY I CAN PAINT THAT! LOOK AT IT!". Usually when I just let myself be where I am, I paint like a ninja, if I don't say so myself. Unfortunately, the ninja part of me is a VERY little ninja that only comes out every once in a while.

I couldn't let you think I was getting too serious......

Sunday, June 13, 2010

cha cha cha changes

I'm sitting in the home of my mom in Atlanta this morning. It's her birthday. She has had quite a year of changes, just like all the rest of my family members. Whether it be career shifts, love interests, or body changes, it has all happened very quickly to each one of us.

I thought I would share two really wonderful sources that I found this week. Both have to do with growing and changing.

The first is a book I am reading. It is called "Start Where You Are" by Pema Chodron. Pema Chodron is a female Buddhist monk who is part of one of the only Buddhist monasteries in North America. She is great because she is a bit of a go-between for western and eastern thinking. What I like so much about her book is that it seems to really stress how much wasted time we spend on grabbing on to the past and future, and how useless of an act this is. We are always trying to change, trying to be better, trying to be somewhere we are not, rather than looking at all of the messy and beautiful stuff we are made of today. I won't get into it too much, but I HIGHLY recommend this wonderful author to anyhone who wants to get a little quieter with themselves and have some help on the way.

The other source is an old high school friend of mine, Danny. Through Facebook (it's always Facebook, it seems) we reconnected after a little while of silence. He has a WONDERFUL website. Basically, he quit his job, and is out to prove, for the next 4-5 years, that anyone can pick up a new interest or love and do it full-time. Danny was a professional photographer, and quit his job in April to go on a quest to put in 10,000 hours in becoming a professional golfer. Why? Because he has never had much experience in playing golf, and wants to see if at his age (30), anyone can, through deliberate practice, become professional at something they love. I fully support this idea.. Please check out his website www.thedanplan.com. .. He explains it way better than I can.
Ok, more later! Thanks for reading.... now I gotta go celebrate with La Mama.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Bubbles


Hello, Dearies!!! My, my have I missed you!
Actually, is it even possible to have missed the cyber-world? Hmm.

I have been sitting in Stone Cup Cafe for three hours trying to catch up on all of my email fiasco. I don't have internet at my house or studio, so this is the place to go (all the other cafes in town seem to have dysfunctional wi-fi).
Prompted by my friend Jeff Cannon this morning, who, very wittily told me that he has de-fanned this blog because of my lack of writing, I decided to write tonight.
Not that I'm searching for fans..

However, I did kind of leave the last blog on a bit of a downer.... workshops? really? so sorry.

I've been traveling a lot this month. I was in Kentucky, Indiana, Georgia.....and all throughout Tennessee. I've seen many a cow, many a rainstorm, and I even saw a rainbow glare off of a semi truck as I was on the highway in Louisville! I was blinded by the oxymoron, to say the least.
I met some pretty interesting people on my travels too. Agents, clients, family, fellow-pit-stoppers, doctors, nurses, truckers, librarians, actors, painters.
Your eyes may have stopped at doctors and nurses. I'm fine. My mom had a surgery in Atlanta last week, which went VERY smoothly, thankfully.
But seeing all of these people got me thinking... how many of them think about art? I mean, here I am, thinking everyday how my profession is one of the most intense, pain- staking, soul-searching, rip- your- guts-out-and -take- it -personally sort of jobs. And then I stop at a gas station, look around and see a couple of locals smoking about 5 feet from the gas pumps, a cute high school girl reading a magazine behind the counter, and an old man with his dog falling asleep on the front bench.
Do any of them really give a sh#$t about art? really?
And what's worse, would I give a sh$%t about their professions if I knew what they were?

It occurs to me almost daily that we are all in little bubbles. Ok, this is not some new idea. It's the only way we can manage our lives, most of the time.
I'm going to get personal right now. An anonymous friend of mine, who is an artist, went for a weekend trip for a job interview for a corporation (the horrible word for an artist) that specialized in machinery. He went, sort of laboring over the idea that he was so different, that he would stand out too much, that he was a bit too "artsy" for the group of people he was interviewing with. He would sort of have to "deal" with his differences.
When he got back, he wept at the fact that these colleagues had taken him in as one of their own. They didn't pretend to understand everything about what he might do at the company. They just welcomed him and were willing to learn.
Needless to say, he took the job happily. It was a moment when, not only was he humbled, but also made to look out of the bubble.
I love these moments. When I'm really alert and awake, I live for them. Those moments when someone steps into your bubble, or you into theirs, and you have the odd feeling like you want to know more. Like your eyes are open. Like that is the only moment you've got.
So why was it so hard for me to do that at the gas station? And why is it so hard to do with my own friends back here in Chattanooga? Why am I always protecting myself?
It's the same with paint, for me. When I take that bizarre step into something new that I don't know AT ALL how to do, I am always curious and fascinated for more. I wonder what it would look like if every artist did this every day? Is it even possible? Or would our heads explode and confetti come flying out? I prefer to think I would have sprinkles in my head.... like the ones you get on soft-serve ice cream. :)

Monday, April 5, 2010

Thursday, March 11, 2010

New York

HI, Everyone! I just got back from a whirlwind weekend in New York City! The reason for my trip was that recently I was asked to be one of the artists of Portraits Inc. This was great news, since they only accepted three artists this year. I am predominantly painting small 8"x10" oil sketches through them. For those of you not familiar with Portraits Inc, they are a portrait brokerage house that finds clients and artists and joins them up accordingly.
They had their annual seminar in New York, and it was loads of fun. I got to see some of the painters I met last year at the Portrait Society of America's conference , like Rich Nelson, Chris Saper, Tom Donahue, and a whole lot of others. I met Everett Raymond Kinstler and John Howard Sanden as well, which were really nice and interesting men.
My weekend was, however, a little bit cut in two. After having a wonderful tour of the Player's Club, I decided to take a complete leap in another direction and go to the MOMA. There is a tim Burton show there right now, but it was sold out, so I didn't get to see it. I did, however, got to spend a fair amount of time in the permanent collection. I went through the photography collection especially..... so fascinating. There were some gorgeous compositions, and breathtaking Avedon photographs. I also really enjoyed the second half of the paintings and drawings collection. There was a huge Mark Rothko, and a Robert Motherwell that I was really amazed with.
The MOMA did, however, stir up a lot of stuff in me. Here I am, one of the youngest new members of a fairly prestigious portrait brokerage, looking and gawking at Rothkos. It feels a little weird. Whereas some of the artists in Portraits Inc ( and a lot of the figurative art community, if I may say) seem to have a vast distaste for Modern Art, I find myself in a bit of a crush with it.
And I guess the past year sums up a lot of these feelings. What is someone in my age group to do? I'm not quite part of the generation after me which is using technology as an ends to really get a lot done. I still learned my craft from my elders. But I'm not like them either, I am finding. Whether talking with an older friend of mine about the New York art scene in the 60's and 70's, to talking with older skilled figurative painters, I never really feel like I have given my allegiance to any one camp.
Oh, wait.... THAT'S A GOOD THING!!!!!
It did, and has been dawning on me that I'm in a really great place. I have been trained quite well, but was brought up in a city that wants anything but normal. Quality, quantity, you name it... it's in new York.
So on the flight back on monday, I wrote down all the visual elements I really can't live without. Next to each, I wrote down an artist that did just that element really well. What on earth does this mean? Well, here's part of my list:

1. Strong design (Hokusai, Motherwell, Sargent, Diebenkorn)
2. Bold/subtle lines (Issey Miyake, John White Alexander, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Frankenthaler, Burton Silverman)
3. Exquisite painting (Lipking, Bastien-Lepage, Hokusai, Velasquez, Pat Steir)
4. Use of patterns and prints (most Ukiyo-e printmakers, Cambodian textiles, Sarah Moon)
5. Subtle/bold colors (Richard Schmid, Lipking, Alex kanevsky, Issey Miyake)

ok... there's a lot more, but I could go on and on. Looking at my list, I realized that all of these artists give something really wonderful to art, regardless of their time period.
I'm excited to continue working on the thing which I love, and finding what rings true to people in my generation, somewhat stuck in between to very different time periods.