PS. . .this post is in no way intended to poke fun at anything except myself.
So you can cancel the doomsday PR toot sweet. (Damnit Man! I never could spell in French.)
PSPS Love you more. xoxo
PS. . .this post is in no way intended to poke fun at anything except myself.
So you can cancel the doomsday PR toot sweet. (Damnit Man! I never could spell in French.)
PSPS Love you more. xoxo
How can one help shivering with delight when one’s hot fingers close around the stem of a live flower, cool from the shade and stiff with newborn vigor! ~Colette
Such is inspiration that gives one more reason to spend time as supplicant of the garden again.
When you have only two pennies left in the world, buy a loaf of bread with one, and a lily with the other. ~Chinese Proverb
The flower is the poetry of reproduction. It is an example of the eternal seductiveness of life. ~Jean Giraudoux
Inspired by all of these, I made some flower art too:
Shakespeare Called the Moon a Moist Star
When the earth laughs, a flower is born
Emerson once said something
to this effect—Think of a river somewhere—
anywhere. . .the hillsides painted
in guffaws, titters, tulips. Silk chapeau
and bawdy cackle. The Turks say tulbend
or turban. At the time of tulipmania,
one might have sailed across an ocean
or the English Channel—simply for a love
of tulips. The Wind Trade they called this
tuberous pearl, spring-blooming,
unearthed and exchanged for its weight
in seventeenth century florins.
I once read having an orgasm
is like laughing out your legs. When the sky laughs
might we expect an exhalation
of small planets? A star shower preceded immediately
by a gravity of salmon underneath our skins
Somewhere somebody is thinking,
Perhaps it is the moisture that makes
all the difference
silk tassel, periwinkle—
you see? Oh, yes—milk thistle, day lily
and sweet sweet William.
–Tess Farnham (MIdwest Quarterly, 2003)
A bread and butter fashioned of flowers. http://www.etsy.com/listing/97529448/floral-abstract-impressionist
The other day I found myself lost in thought as I followed the hand movements of a young therapist intern who was making notes on a whiteboard for myself and others diagnosed with various illnesses caused by biological and trauma-related hypersensitivity and emotional dysregulation. It is in this room we gather once a week for instructional and motivational therapy.
I was especially focused on the way she drew the circles for the o’s and a’s, beginning at the right of the round shape and then continuing the curve in a clockwise path. It was fascinating to study that process, at the same time overwhelming from a flood of sadness and empathy;
though I may have been projecting, I imagined the act of mirror image character-making as a kind of struggle, as if her wrist and brain were working harder somehow. . .maybe some leftover trickled down from the fine motor constaints of the Spencerian Method.
And in doing so, I got lost in my own inner dialogue drawing parallels between that act and the act of trying to thrive and survive as an uber-sensitive intuitive in a world that is forever trying to suppress that in you. . .and force its own agenda of bootstraps, categorization, and adherence to inflexible schedules.
And those mental images were followed by the ones of native American schoolchildren, severely reprimanded for speaking in their native languages; in the meantime. .. all those beautiful and musical syllables and sounds silenced and sentenced to death by the queen’s linguistic lynch mobs.
The truth is, I don’t think I’ve ever had a left-handed instructor before, so I’d never had the chance to ponder it from the perspective of a student.
But recently as I’ve been trying and trying to function in the workforce at various times and venues, and thrive under the supervision of management who, for all intents and purposes, are just doing what’s asked of them, (those things that every manager of personnel does to keep an employee on the straight and narrow),
it’s just become increasingly apparent to me that for all their efforts to keep me in line, for all the admonishment, advice and disciplinary actions, it’s just been making things harder for me to get the job done.
I am not a left-brained, linear, logical thinker. What I am is a right-brained, emotionally-charged intuitive and creative thinker. And it’s been a whole lifetime of trying to fit into that first category. . .a lifetime of going against my better instincts after having been accused of laziness or stupidity or willful disobedience . . .that has kept my world in a constant state of chaos and frustration.
And I guess what hurts most about all of this is having to live with this label of not trying hard enough. . .of all the above mentioned things. .because damn it nothing could be further from the truth. I am a madhouse of activity when I get rolling, but the part where I have to keep drawing all the circles backwards to suit the tyranny of a system that just keeps taking the pencil out of my hand and trying to make me write the other way is nothing short of exhausting. And if I am resting, it’s because my god does anybody hear me when I say that I simply must work twice as hard to fail at being someone alien to the way I was born?
And so rather than follow along with others who say that mental illness is mostly caused by biological factors and family stress, I would like to offer that maybe just maybe it gets even worse when everybody tries to make us contort into some other version of ourselves that is not only inauthentic, but freakish. . .like a sideshow of misfits on display to make the rest of the world feel glad about being healthy and normal.
And in suggesting this, I am not saying that I am impervious to working on strategies to fit in better, because I know there are areas of my brain that can be re-wired in ways that will make it easier to manage the navigation of these rocky waters. And I am more than willing to work at that. (At this point of already having tried everything from isolation and shock treatments to medication and trauma talk, I am ready to try anything that brings relief from this and results, which isn’t so much admirable behavior as anesthesia seeking) And the truth is, the new therapy, which through some miracle of miracles, I’ve been fortunate enough to qualify in getting financial assistance for, is working. And the reason it’s working is because the repetitive coaching and calming techniques are helping to rebuild the broken bridges in my brain, ones that have made it extremely difficult to manage complex emotions of feeling trapped and isolated as a result of this misfit existence I’ve been living forever. Sadly, this therapy is mostly unavailable to most folks because insurance companies refuse to pay for it (due to the enormous costs of constant on-call monitoring and coaching) so you can imagine what it’s like trying to get it for the uninsured. Like I said, I’ve been blessed to have it, but also I had to be recommended for it by a team of therapists, and after I was approved (mostly by virtue of repeated suicide attempts and hospitalizations) I was put on a 2-year waiting list. My heart goes out to others who go without such help to manange illnesses as borderline personality disorder and complex post-traumatic stress disorder as they must simply endure without effective treatment, via medication and cognitive therapy, treatment that oftentimes has proven to do more harm than good.
I am also insanely thankful to my therapists and doctors, friends and family so very much as well. Without their patience, love and caring, no doubt I would have just given up altogether and banished myself to a life on the fringes somewhere. And to Dr. Marsha Linehan, the patient turned physician who, through her own struggles and suicide attempts, became the creator of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, therapy that has been life-saving to the others of us with similar challenges.
But also to those who have come forward to share their stories of hope and survival, I say “thanks for lighting the way for the rest of us who are afraid to speak openly about this.”
It is because of you, all of you, that I am certain we can do this thing, come out of the mental illness closets and find a way to ask for back-up and support somehow someway if only we push for legislation and listening from folks who could help us be safe in talking about it. I mean, anybody who’s been there, done that knows that it’s at best humiliating and awkward to ask for any kind of accomodations in this world, let alone inappropriate and unreasonable, where the policy of “don’t ask; don’t tell” is pretty much a given.
And to those who say it can’t be done, that the only way to fit in is to suffer in silence, I can only quote the words from John Lewis in 1765, words that have re-emerged to become the outcry of the civil rights movement: “If not us, then who? If not now, then when?”
–Vincent Van Gogh, “The Sower”
So what to do when you’ve had a huge fight with your bestie in forever
and the thing has snowballed to the size of Argentina in a heatwave. ..
and you have been ridiculous and he has been insensitive. . .
and hammered at each other to the point of senselessness. ..
each too stubborn to give an inch, but especially HIM?
Listen, you reptilain toad fart! So I don’t have to say this again:
I am sorry for being such a three-headed she-beast..
Now stop brooding about and give me a hug, please. You know you miss me already and the feeling is mutual.
What do you say we go a couple more rounds in imaginary Japan?
xoxo Kisses and Hugs from your bestie who can’t imagine a minute of madnees without you.
Ah get born, keep warm
Short pants, romance, learn to dance
Get dressed, get blessed
Try to be a success
Please her, please him, buy gifts
Don’t steal, don’t lift
Twenty years of schoolin’
And they put you on the day shift
Look out kid
They keep it all hid
Better jump down a manhole
Light yourself a candle
Don’t wear sandals
Try to avoid the scandals
Don’t wanna be a bum
You better chew gum
The pump don’t work
‘Cause the vandals took the handles.
Aug, 1964 Hotel DelMonico, New York City:
After much anticipation and excitement, Dylan meets the Beatles for the first time. . .his jealousy over their “bubble gum” success almost palpable. . .
As the story goes, the unwashed phenomenon offers the fab four their first marijuana cigarette and bam, music is changed forever.
At least that is what they say anyway. It was the drugs that did it.
Fine. I will grant you that one in theory. No doubt the sloshing and slowdown of brain function had an impact. . .there’s zero denying that. Love minus zero denying the altered state and how it changes things. And if you want to go to that altar and worship the gods of creativity, you can use drugs to do it. . .
Or you can just let the awkardly emo chips fall where they may.
There is a price to pay for imbibing. . .no denying that either. And speaking strictly for me, I would have to admit that my own delicate physiological state can’t absorb the shock of it so I choose to abstain. . . not out of any kind of moral high ground choice. . .it’s just simply a result of cause, effect and lesson learned. I simply cannot handle the crash that follows a high. It feeds these suicidal tendencies, ones that I already have a hard enough time with, minus any other kind of input from unprescribed chemistry. But there is also a price to pay for sobriety, especially when it comes to friends and fitting in, having something significant to offer in a situation wherein many of the participants are saying things you really can’t relate to. . .
It’s not hip to open that can of worms, I know. And I await the backlash to come. But whatever. (I still say that 40 minutes of meditation does a kickass job at calming the nerves and relieving social anxiety, without the accompanying slowdown of actual awareness followed by a significant chemistry crash and paranoia. And people forget to mention it. ..especially in a culture dominated by a consumer mindset, one that says if you are lacking something, especially charisma, creativity, self-confidence, there’s an app for that.)
Again, you get screwed up for turning it down too. . .you spend a lot of artist time alone for being such a square that way. . . That’s life, I guess.
So anyway, back to the Beatles vs. Bob and August 1964.
And a question for you to ponder. Just suspend your belief system for a minute with me here, and then let go of everything you know about music and drugs. Then consider this question and proposal if you will:
What happens when strong emotional input follows intellectual stimulation, mixed with a bit of jealous venom from the guy who could/would smash the competition in a single strum?
And there is just no denying it. Something happened that day. ..something that had a massive impact on the fab four plus one. So here we go again. ..which one had the most impact that day? The weed or the seed? Maybe a bit of both; you decide.
No doubt it had to hurt the first time the boys heard Bob’s unabashedly sneering parody of Norwegian Wood. . .
Enough for them to have wanted to break free of that kind of scrutiny, looking for the cracks in the floor, lettin the shortcomings slip into them. . .
And what ARE you really saying with your art when all you do is sit in a room and pencil dream about some girl who’s got you by the short and curly:
And then enter Yoko, who was undeservingly designated as breakup scapegoat for a lot of years. . .I guess if you forget about Bob, you might want to grab a club and go after that, but think about it. That moment when Dylan saunters out of the room after having been introduced to the newest Lennon/McCartney collaboration.
Think of it again. Hard. Imagine half of that creative team walking away that much more determined in his resolve to writing “Silly Love Songs,” and the other just feeling crushed and stuck to the bottom of Bob’s bootheel.
And now to drive it home and see if I can get there without anybody getting hurt by this rant. ..(with apologies to Doors fans as well as anybody who has to deal with the insanity of the prison industrial complex, one that punishes us all for just trying to escape this ratrace and make some art. Love to you all. xoxo)
This is your brain on Bob.
Much to the chagrin of a strict and Puritanical Catholic school upbringing, and with no apologies whatsoever to Sister Madeline, the nun who educated my third grade class on the horrors of war,
but also ironically taught us to accept the shame that follows “attention-seeking” episodes of histrionic post traumatic distress,
here I sit at this desk composing a post on a topic I can’t even say without having to put a hand over my mouth and mumble .
And in the interest of helping you understand why I chose to do such a thing, especially with someone like the ghost of Sister Madeline looking so disappovingly over my shoulder, I will first explain that I was never really one to surrender to the conventions of conformity. And by this I don’t mean to say I actually chose the path less traveled. . .instead I am saying that I more or less had noplace else to go.
And so consequently, and despite everyone’s best efforts to mold me into someone who looks and behaves like this:
I ended up a person who makes art that looks like this:
And tragically somehow, I suppose you could say I seem to have managed to evolve into this embarrassingly
unquiet person who writes and makes art about taboos, ones including but not exclusively limited to: mental illness, feminism, sexuality. . .
and as I type, the one thought I have spinning upstairs in the lost attic of my brain is,
“Oh, man my priest is gonna kill me in the confessional with a buttload of puragatorial “Hail Mary‘s” if he ever finds out.”
I felt the same way about my seventh grade journal though. The one I kept under lock and key.
And in admitting this, I am not really looking to cast aspersions on any of our formative oppressors; it doesn’t help anyway. . . just leads to more defensive arguments about how we need to do as we are told and soldier on. Besides, we are people whose ancestors were schooled by the Great Depression, persecution, what have you. . .so if we start pointing a finger of blame, we just end up having to point it at ourselves too, if only for the modicum of conformity we embrace just to keep peace at times. ..to protect ourselves from further pecking and scratching at those open wounds trying to heal themselves. ..
At any rate, in light of the knowledge that every role model and scholar in this journey has had something to offer, and out of my own need to honor them for trying to keep us safe from harm, I am just going to embrace that part of my past for what it was, a learning experience.
To be fair, I also feel a need to acknowledge that silence and lying was the way of past generations, men and women who had no idea for themselves how to heal from their own awfulest of traumas.
And in spite of it all, we manage to find ourselves in an age when the boundaries have been stretched a bit; even so, it’s still there, that little dark cloud that envelops our private parts.
And if I had the hours to write a paper on the negative effects of puritanical shame and other abominations committed in the name of religion, and how that shame has ultimately led to the abuse of innocent victims of all ages, shapes, sexual orientation and sexes, I would gladly go there, but to save space I will just try to make do with the time I’ve got.
But back to what I was saying before, let me just reiterate and remind myself that sadly and tragically here in America, girls are still implicitly taught to walk a wide path around impure thoughts, unfresh scents or anything else remotely connected to normal and healthy bodily functioning and perception,
not to mention overall good health and normal development.
It’s a dirty job, but somebody has to tell us keep our butts out of the gutter, right?
Bad things happen down there and maybe if we keep our mouths shut about them, they will just go away.
And what about those cliches that people said to us, the ones that made us so creeped out we slipped on three pairs underwear each day to keep it bottled up inside.
“Knees together please. Nobody needs to see what you have in there.”
“Don’t sit like that. People will get the wrong idea.”
“Pull your skirt down, for Chrissake. You are adverstising something you do not want to sell.”
And to that, you just know we all wanted to scream:
“I am eight years old. I have no idea what that means.”
It has taken years and years of invasive therapy to even begin to process this stuff for a very large segment of the XX population, but there you go.
And if reading words like “therapy” and “private parts” makes you feel uncomfortable,
I am sorry for that. Sorry for your discomfort, a discomfort that has become the default for all of us when people bring up sexual violence and/or exploitation taboos. I am sorry for such discomfort, but not sorry for the words.
And please know that I am not trying to embarrass anyone. I write for a lot of reasons, but mainly towards the end of a universal healing process, language passed from hand to hand to hand,
and nurtured by beloved teachers, one in particular who let me bleed and bleed all over the pages of my fifth grade looseleaf, bringing fists and fists of fresh pages, which I was also asked to read to my classmates.
It’s funny how the title embarrasses me still. “Laugh at Me if You Want.”
I wrote it the year I also pushed my head through the window glass playing outside. . .my rabbit fur hat bloodied a little and the shard of glass plucked proudly from my forehead, its indent as prelude to parting my hair to the opposite side and barretting it to make sure everyone saw the scab.
It’s been a few years since I saw “The Vagina Monologues,” and I remember being incredibly moved throughout.
It inspires me still. Not only for the narratives that were so engaging and validating, but for giving me permission to write and make art that challenges the status quo for exploratory works.
This is the place where our stories come from. Here is the light that shines from the center of us, the entranceway through which we all must pass.
First I am going to share something to make you laugh perhaps, and that is a little gem found on a friend’s facebook page this morning, the link attached to a site that advertises something called a “vagisoft blanket,” which in theory is something we need to wrap around ourselves anyway although perhaps not commercially.
But still, I feel the need to point out the advertising and marketing is really quite genius, with slogans saying things like:
“soft as the marshmallow womb of a mermaid”
“the cotton fields of heaven”
“the **** of a silkworm”
And can you imagine the impact of that kind of advertising on the minds of a next generation of independent sexually empowered and safe men, women, transgendered and transexual folks from all over the place?
So anyway that was the part of my blog (with thanks to Charles Colyott, sci-fi fiction and horror writer, for posting it on his status today)
that was for the sake of making light of a difficult topic. . .
and here, dear friends who have stuck with this awkwardest of topics thus far, is the end of this journey, but for many of you, the beginning of another.
As a precautionary measure, I must warn you that it’s not my style to set something up so playfully and then switch to a serious topic, but these are the layers of who we are, all shades of the rainbow in healing ourselves.
This next passage is called “My Vagina is My Village.” It is a very short film of Eve Ensler performing a piece from her book, “The Vagina Monologues,” and it is not easy to watch, but validating of universal struggle and suffering I promise you. If this doesn’t break your heart and make you wish we could change the shame and insanity that leads to such tragedies, tragedies that also occur outside of wartime, then nothing will.
Today right off the bat, as I opened the dashboard on my tumblr account, smack! this image hits me right between the eyes. Seriously! Like pow right in the kisser and then some!
Really engaging you know. . .understated. ..movie star glamour, movie star glamour ..and beautiful and minimalist yet oddly sort of disturbingly like a few of the works from my own portfolio. ..online portfolio, also mind you. ..except you know minimalist!
Minimalist and kickass!
(which if I had a lick of sense I would learn to do myself instead of so many feathers and flourishes all the time. ..alas poor Yorick I knew he used too much mascara.)
But back to my initial rant. About the work that wasn’t mine. . .
I know! Yipes, right? My ideas are still mine and nobody else can borrow.
Just look adoringly and you know longingly. . .with much respect and appreciation for the genius that isn’t me.
me thinking I had been so original with that star man stuff. . .first using a small school of fish to represent he form of an intangible man, young girl embracing it as if. ..well you know, aria and chrysanthemums everywhere. ..
So of course the minimalist version of either of those would just be this:
A piece that is called ironically enough, “Catwalk for the Gutter.”
So anyway, sadness sets in when I see this Tumblr collage image that depicts, sigh, a bombshell from the fifties (silky locks, slinky evening gown.) .locked in an embrace with a silhouette of stars, I think to myself:
Hey! Wait a minute! I save stars! I mean books and books of stars in my life here!
Nebulas, and galaxies and Chevy Novas!
And damn, I wanted that woman embracing a silouhette of star-like stuff to just be mine.
But then I remembered something. . .kind of in the back of my head. . .
Sledgehammer video. Peter Gabriel. Circa something the eighties. . .
Guy made of stars. . .remember that, sort of this big hulking dude all made of stars.
at any rate, whatever you do, do not let yourself be tempted to google images using these keywords “Sledgehammer star man.” All you get is a screen full of porn!
And then you know there’s Moby. As in the opposite of minimalist concrete art. ..and this song, which is pretty great too. So I guess, it wasn’t my idea anyway. . . not anybody’s really. Just part of the fabric of you and me all woven together like a sweater. . .made of yeah, you guessed it:
Inspiration for mixed media
This new piece began, believe or not, with a series of events set in motion by an initial fascination with Bob Dylan‘s music, a fascination that led to a lot of questions as I began to listen more and more fervently to the lyrics, especially those so heavily laden with metaphor and image, not so much narrative as language poetry, I guess. And I found them mostly in those songs from 1966, songs like “Just Like a Woman,” ”Desolation Row” and “Visions of Johnanna.” My questions led to investigation, which took this writer time and time again to Google searches, fine tooth searches that ultimately led to the internet discussion boards. . . places where they have threads with names like “Who is the Jack of Hearts and What Do You Think He’s Doing These Days.”
Here was a place where you could literally log in from home and talk about Bob with insomniacs all over the globe, people who couldn’t fall asleep for those same burning questions that could only be answered by the man himself. ..man of mystery and seclusion, but especially since the incident involving a souvenir-seeking concert-goer, armed with a pair of styling scissors. . . for the rest of us, we guessed the internet would be a place we might find him somehow, perhaps even hiding behind his own persona and avatar. .. as one of us.
Alas, if Bob wasn’t going to give any clues to those inscrutable lyrics, here was a community of strangers that would try and channel them somehow.
And at this point I must also confess I was drawn to the photos as well, photos both showing the innocence of that unwashed moppet face,
and every incarnation of it. ..
from relaxed and happy activist mode to cocaine-addled “I don’t much give a damn mode,”
the one that was launched across an ocean in the act that would eventually be referenced as the electric tour. These performances got him tremendous praise and pummeling from fans and critics alike, some becoming so enraged and crazy they couldn’t decide whether to crown or disembowel him for that tour, especially the English leg. .
Alas I digress but that last sentence is kind of an appropriate segue into the next part of my story, the pinnacle of enlightenment and embarrassment as well as source of numerous neuroses brought on by a secondary obsession, that of posting under a pitiful series of usernames on aforementioned forum, one that, to save further embarrassment. ..shall remain nameless.
At any rate, this was a time of learning a great deal about internet entanglements and much ado about nothing. ..of how the world worked when people hid behind musical usernames and the most flattering of avatars, which made it way too easy to lob a lot of potshots and innuendoes at one another, a sordid seedy underbelly of the poetry and music scene. ..and a place where you meet some of the most interesting people. . .
enraging and engaging one another in various on and off topics, topics involving everything from the intricacies of symbolism and metaphor in music to the unabashed eruditeness of threads entitled “What color is Bob’s underwear?”. . .each of us at home, screaming, spitting and oftentimes flirting with the printed words and photos of our fellow posters, and coffee cups launched across the room with laughter. . . and other kinds of incidents involving tears, humiliation, and the craziest kind of intangible anger imaginable.
It was in this atmosphere of high anxiety and insanity that I met the muse for much of my recent work.
We started off on the most mangled and crazy foot imaginable. . . you might say. . .with myself more or less playing the role of idiot in distress and him looking past the insanity that was me. ..
to defend my honor anonymously against all manner of masked and tyrannical attack. (Admittedly I deserved it though. But will spare this gentle reader the boredom of those details. . .except to say that it was comforting to be defended in such a playfully strange and gallant way, from so far across the ocean, where he sat in his Swedish apartment, consoling with words of encouragement . . .)
We became fast friends in the private message area, where I initially thanked him for the uninvited kindness but also warned that the geography and age difference would prove to be difficult if ever we became too attached.
That all fell away in a matter of days as we more or less became inseperable as chatting companions.
In all my life, I’d never met anyone who could turn a phrase the way he did, (especially in a second language) or make me laugh and react. .finding all the right songs by indie artists I’d never heard of. .. and then passing them across on MSN, both of us blabbering on for hours and hours, me dripping and drooling with interest for his quirky and insightful criticism. . .and him just so happy with the fact that I adored it.
The most challenging thing for us, was the distance part, I guess, and we were able to bridge it a little with incessent chatting and skyping.
He often liked having someone to listen while he practiced playing guitar and singing. . . and I liked having someone to comment on my work in between sets.
Anyway, as relationships go, this whole arrangement just defies definition as again, I am considerably older and then there is the matter of distance. . .and as the days pass and the birthdays go by, I think of every reason I should be ashamed of myself. ..and sigh.
So we just take it a day at a time and I make a lot of art. . .we exchange overseas home-made presents and candy in the mail. . .and it’s lovely to come home to his puffy chartreuse envelopes, postmarked from Sweden. . .
And here, is the latest attempt at reaching out to my dear friend so far across the world. ..a gift inspired by his love of black and white photos, avante garde and bizarre images, horror and Lovecraft, the latter obsession leading to more discord and dismemberment between us than I care to elaborate on, especially when I can’t get past my own insecurities about losing him somehow. .. to the demons that take him away from me.
Well, I have precooked my holiday meal. .. all that is left is taking the bird from the brine, stuffing it with fruit and herbs, closing the oven door on it and waiting for its heady scent to fill the house. It’s just me and my cat today, a copy of James Baldwin’s “Go Tell it on the Mountain“ or maybe just some movies from my unlimited supply of Netflix films on the laptop.
Still I wish to say Happy Thanksgiving to everyone and hugs to the others who are home alone this day. And to let the latter know I feel you . . .that little stab in your side with memories of car rides with family to Grandma’s house, and thankful to have them. . .the other stab that says “Dear God, I am so glad I don’t have to be a third wheel with the huggy cuddly couples today…” but also thankful for warmth and sustenance. . .even in this self-imposed solitude.
So anyway here is a quote from one of my favorite books, Hemingway’s “A Movable Feast,” a title that comes to mind most every holiday. . .but especially relevant because I’ve moved myself so far from family to find four walls in the strange but comforting presence of what has been called “the most dangerous city in America.”
And I am still feeling very well-fed by mother earth and have found a lot of love here in Da Lou, but that emptiness inside where family should be. . .I guess I have learned to fill it in other ways but still. . .I can so relate to Hemingway’s words about how much you come to understand about life through these periods of dearth, of longing. . .those incredible passages that describe what it was like to view the works of Cezanne, his favorite painter, on an empty stomach. It was as if he could see more clearly in those times, or perhaps the ache of longing made the experience that much more satisfying, the juxtaposition of emptiness and fulfillment, the thing that he could do so very well. ..on days like this, it helps to have words like his:
“On a cold windswept street, this was a warm, cheerful place with a big stove in winter, tables and shelves of books, new books in the window, and photographs on the wall of famous writers both dead and living. The photographs all looked like snapshots and even the dead writers looked as though they had really been alive.” -Ernest Hemingway, “Shakespeare and Company,” A Moveable Feast
“Hunger is a good discipline and you learn from it.” –Ernest Hemingway
Last night as I was poring through my collection of gardening catalogs, tearing at pages with white flowers mostly: roses, irises, magnolia. . .I was thinking about the mixed media piece I wanted to finish, but also getting an itch to paint again. So now I’ve taped more photos over the drafting board and small easel, assembled my brushes and paints. . .the prints from Chagall and Degas are permanent fixtures. Sometimes I add or subtract things, but the photo(s) in the bottom right corner is/are always changing from project to project. Mother Nature has a way with the arrangement of color and line and I like to follow her suggestions for abstract.
This is almost a spiritual activity for me. I am particular and superstitious about these two things; the same way a little kid can be vigilant about avoiding cracks in the sidewalk, I am persistent about avoiding a naked workspace. After I finish one project and clear the easel or table, I go to the basement and take out a new canvas or wood panel. . .depending on the project, a sheet of Arches, Canson Mixed Media or Mei Teints paper. I may not touch that blank slate for days; nevertheless, I find its placement necessary. It’s my dreaming time, a time for walking past the table or easel and imagining the possibilities.
In the same way, I also like to have drafts of poetry or blog posts accessible. . .folded fabric and patterns. . .the spices set out for a dish I plan to cook.
I need to rest in between projects as well. I have to crash. . .to sleep for hours and hours, I guess to incubate and charge my batteries. I think perhaps it’s part of what we do as artists, these periods of intense creating followed by quiet time. Perhaps it’s just mania followed by depression. ..I’m not sure. . ..the scariest feeling being the one when I fear the sleepiness won’t go away. ..I won’t ever write or paint again. ..or be able to stay awake.
And on this final note, I will end with an amazing clip of Tom Waits reading Charles Bukowski, two of my favorite artists, guys who are quite familiar with the reality of the outsider stance and the very real feelings that lead to it. I hope it inspires you. . . .