Friday, February 24, 2017

I titled it "Spending Time"

Today I read a conversation between artists David Horvitz and Alexandar Provan wherein the topics of time and space - as delineated by modern society - are challenged or re-explored so as to perhaps find oneself unconfined by the ideas.  After all, we can mostly all agree that time and spacial organization are tools that we've devised to organize ourselves and do not actually exist apart from our mutual understanding and agreement.  There was a time (haha) when we knew approximately what time it was simply by the appearance of a star on the horizon line or by a cast shadow.  In that era, intuition and the reflexive "body clock" were still of great relevance compared to modern life - wherein we stay up all night working because the deadline is tomorrow and we need global synchronicity (ie: working simultaneously with partners in Japan) to stay ahead (of?).  Yikes!  Always trying to get ahead.  The "keeping up with the Jones" theory morphs into global competition.  What a huge drag!  How completely exhausting!
This Victorian era "clock" designed to tell time based on the moments in the day when flowers bloom should give a lift after that depressing thought:
Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus proposed use of this time keeping device in Philosophia Botanica (1751)
All that to bring up what I thought as I was reading about the irrelevance or pliability of time and space - two things: 1. I've recently learned the technique of transcendental meditation which seems to exist in a space of no time and 2. I titled my first cross stitch double portrait of myself and husband "Spending Time" - more on that....

The experience of transcendental meditation has been somewhat miraculous to me in that I haven't ever felt the way I feel while practicing this meditation.  All other types of meditation have left me feeling frustrated and wondering if "it's working" or if I'm really doing anything to help my most basic anxieties.  This technique seems to do as it's named, transcend.  I actually don't experience time (even though my thoughts are going on and on just as "normal"). Instead, there's this inexplicable experience of all and none, here and nowhere, now and forever.  I have a short, set amount of time that I'm shooting for to spend meditating and it's important that I don't meditate all day, but the precision of time just doesn't matter.  It's the activity that takes precedence and must be repeated twice daily along the rise and fall of my typical human energy levels and moods.

The more personal realization of how I work on my artwork as a timeless technique came to mind as well.  I'm currently working on the 2nd (of what may be a series of) cross stitch double portraits of myself and my husband.  There are almost 41,000 stitches equaling the number of pixels in the 10" x 16" photograph I am reproducing.  When I did the first one, titled "Spending Time," I approached it much like the honoring meditations of my repetitive artworks before it.  Spend a lot of time working on it through a repeated action, practice precision and contemplate the work as it slowly evolves however sometimes frustrating or other times freeing.  To me, this idea correlated with my understanding of myself in a long-term (marriage) relationship.  However sometimes freeing or other times frustrating, it's all time, spending time, it's an accumulation of everything all intermingled together into one big jumble of "us."  And then, there's the "no time."  I'm reminded of the buddhist "no mind." There's also the "no us" and the "no me."  The slowness of making my art also flies in the face of contemporary art making practices which run along the same rat race (art market) as the rest of our capitalism based self making.  I realize that I am just NOT cut out for that race.  So, as long as there is "no time" and  I'm "spending time" I'll be taking care of the otherworld, perhaps the neitherworld (like Horvitz captures) of the Art world.
Working on my self.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Donald Trump is the American President. I am an American.

The feelings I have about being an American have been polluted since I started voting at 18.  I remember the responsibility I felt toward choosing the best candidate for any office and then the immediate feelings of hopelessness as the more I investigated, the more impossible it felt to choose the right candidate.  And then, Barack Obama came along.  I felt that my moral upbringing, which was my compass for better or for ignorance, was finally matched with a moral, ethical, candidate of integrity.

And now, in a backlash of American ignorance to which I was truly heretofore ignorant, we have a president in office who totally ignores morality, ethics and seems to lack basic human integrity, decency, kindness, patience, and really every single positive human trait that I can think of.  These prominent publications reflect my position of frustration and deflation:
...and though I would never go so far as to put a cross-hair symbol on someone's head, I appreciate the bold honesty of these media organizations.  It seems in some ways that the media may actually be appealing to me (and I was beginning to believe that might not be possible).

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Art and practice.

Speaking of books, another book I have been reading is Buddha mind in contemporary Art, a collection of essays and interviews regarding the relationship of Buddhism to art making and artworks.  There are so many valuable and inspiring commentaries by artists, critics, curators, and just art "people "in this book that it is difficult to choose one idea to share here.  I picked up the book because of a curator I liked - a few of his writings I'd read just rang true to me.  I've  always been interested in Buddhism, so this book has proven inspiring to me as it addresses, from various points of view, the  remarkable similarity between mindfulness practice and art making.

When I was in college, I studied printmaking and fiber arts as I was magnetically pulled toward those  repetitive disciplines.   Much like my love for running as exercise, hiking, and other sustained, contemplative activities, I was unaware of how my art-making resembled mindfulness practice and pointed to my essential desire to create space in my own mind and cultivate the mental state of flow.

 Upon introduction to meditation technique, I realized my art making was so similar. I also realized my art making could provide context and  inspiration for mindfulness as the end result is a product that continues to exist beyond my own contemplative practice. So I started to make  art, however sophomorically, that pointed toward these ideas I was learning in a novice Buddhist study.  I still love many of those well intentioned works.

In my recent years of having stepped away from the art community, I find (through reading, art making and learning new art 'languages' such as piano and Spanish),  that my mindfulness practice is stronger and more important to me than ever.  As a student, I was not fully aware of the potential for mindfulness practice in my art making, but over time I see there is always an unfolding realization of this essential aspect of my work.   Perhaps the only purpose of art making for me is to cultivate and present the possibility for mindful living.
Current progress in my time of slow contemplation of my marriage, the "spending time" that is "us" and that unequivocally builds my awareness for our growth (with all it's rises and pitfalls) as partners.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Read Alain de Botton

Currently reading

Read this book.

And I think the share I have to share first is (from pages 64 & 65):

What, then, are the consequences of holding to a therapeutic vision of art?  Principally, the conviction that the main point of engaging with art is toe help us lead better lives - to access better versions of ourselves.  If art has such a power, it is because it is a tool that can correct or compensate for a range of psychological frailties....
1  A CORRECTIVE OF BAD MEMORY  Art makes memorable and renewable the fruits of experience.  It is a mechanism to keep precious things, and our best insights, in good condition and makes them publicly accessible.  Art banks our collective winnings. 
2  A PURVEYOR OF HOPE  Art keeps pleasant and cheering things in view.  it knows we despair too easily. 
3  A SOURCE OF DIGNIFIED SORROW  Art reminds us of the legitimate place of sorrow in a good life, so that we panic less about our difficulties and recognize them as parts of a noble existence. 
4  A BALANCING AGENT  Art encodes with unusual clarity the essence of our good qualities and holds them up before us, in a variety of media, to help rebalance our natures and direct us towards our best possibilities. 
5  A GUIDE TO SELF-KNOWLEDGE  Art can help us identify what is central to ourselves, but hard to put into words.  Much that is human is not readily available in language  We can hold up art objects and say, confusedly but importantly, 'This is me.' 
6  A GUIDE TO THE EXTENSION OF EXPERIENCE  Art is an immensely sophisticated accumulation of the experiences of others, presented to us in well-shaped and well-organized forms.  It can provide us with some of the most eloquent instances of the voices of other cultures so that an engagement with artworks stretches our notions of ourselves and our world.  At first, much of art seems merely 'other', but we can discover that it can contain ideas and attitudes that we can make our own in ways that enrich us.  Not everything we need to become better versions of ourselves is already [at hand]. 
7  A RE-SENSITIZATION TOOL  Art peels away our shell and saves us from our spoilt, habitual disregard for what is all around us.  We recover our sensitivity; we look at the old in new ways.  We are prevented from assuming that novelty and glamour are the only solutions.

Excerpted from Art As Therapy, Alain de Botton & John Armstrong.  Phaidon. pgs. 64, 65.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

November happened.... I swear.

It's hard to believe, but the month of November actually happened.

It's December 1st.  I've been thinking for a few days about writing a post during the month of November (Somehow, keeping the blog current, ie: at least one post per month, seems like the "right" thing to do, but really, whatever.  Is anyone reading?  Doesn't matter.), but then, I just didn't.  I've been feeling worn out and low-down lately for a number of reasons.

Peru and Me, communing in the 1st Chakra
 garden on my last day at Willka T'ika.
I returned from Peru October 31 and hit the ground running.  Peru was fantastic.  I think I belong there.  The people are incredible, the countryside of the Sacred Valley along the Urubamba river is beautiful and rejuvinating, and the centuries old style of artesanias hit the nail on the head (for me).  I may catalog my acquisitions from the trip on this blog's next post....

Anyway, when I returned, I had this great homecoming with Christian, enjoyed the beauty and cleanliness of my home, partied late into the night with some new friends, celebrated my birthday(!!!!) ...and then, Trump was elected president.

...this seems to be the general consensus
in my neighborhood.
Wow.  Not a hoax.  For real.  I know many of my peers are deflated and feeling disoriented and wondering what the hell is going to happen now.  The month of November has been clouded over by this potentially devastating reality.  Or, we have no idea what may come of this change.  Perhaps the USA will not go down in flames.  (That's my little hopeful voice.)

mural beginnings after measuring
& chalking lines for 2 days

On the first day after that reality struck, I spent my day painting a mural on my friends, Russ and Shannon's Salon.  The exterior wall facing the alley was in pretty bad shape, so we decided, before I left for Peru, that I would paint the mural when I returned from my trip.  It was good to be outside and doing physical labor - I called it Art Labor and Heart Therapy - after the election result shock.  So I spent the next 3 days measuring and prepping to paint.  We visited our friend in Portland for a long weekend.  That was awesome because I love him and I love our other friends that we got to see there - so a little pick-me-up.  Then I worked for 3 more long days on the mural, trying to get it done before the temps of mid Nov. start to plummet.  So hard on my body!  So beautiful a result though...

The golden goodness of simple patterns, textile style on Russ Salon, 3221 East Colfax Ave. Denver, CO 80206.  I am super proud of this great, big achievement.  ...I'm also grateful for friends who trust that art and beauty matter!

Anyway, all this to say, I didn't really get to process the trip to Peru.  So much psychological and emotional shifting took place because of traveling by myself to such an awesome place, and I had some really important things to process, and I still feel like I'm hanging out in liminal space with all of it still unsettled (Run! Run-on sentence!).  Feeling unsettled always makes me feel depressed.  The cold weather of November's second half has been rough.  Thank goodness for Thanksgiving!  I needed that fun, fun time with tight friends and totally delicious, incredible, artful food.  All along, I've also been in the midst of work for our friend Caroline's new restaurant.  Christian did the architecture and we worked together on the interior finishes, much of which will be handled by my very own hands.  I'm into that.  That also means I'm missing working on my own artwork.  The cross stitch sits untouched for about 2 months now.  I find it hard to get back on that wagon - it feels like the feeling of starting a new project, like having to take the leap again.

So, if you're out there, reading this, and it occurs to you to think of me, send me some loving encouragement vibes.  I'm working really hard, but I'm not feeling the flow or just feeling good, and the lack of specificity around that issue feeds into some weird, self destructive internal thinking.
I need what the Peruvians call, Munay - "love and will."

Just makes sense to end with an image of this precious sheep, Obobo who lived where I last stayed in Peru.  He was such a comfort and a delight to me when I was alone and wasn't feeling well.  Just thinking of him makes me feel a little better.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

this is not a parody

this is not a parody 
Let us all remember that this hilarious and horrifyingly entertaining show we call Donald Trump is in fact, NOT a parody.  Yes, a sociopathic, xenophobic, white supremacist is running for the highest office of our country, the United States of America.  I am, however, supremely impressed with the effects this man has on all corners of our country (to all degrees of power and media coverage, abuse and exploitation).

I am also intrigued to hear about this "trojan horse" that, apparently, a politically conservative pop news creator curated (?) managed to organize for a Brooklyn gallery.  Yes, a far right political group (of artists?) tricked a gallery into believing that their Trump show was a parody (easy to do because this all seems like a joke anyway).  As it turns out, their motives were Trojan.  Here's the original Opinion article by William Powhida in Hyperallergic:
This is not parody.  Fuck Trump.
The article is worth a read, so I hope you'll read it.  This is my favorite paragraph:
So, can parody be used effectively to shame, ridicule, and mock the status quo, the power elite, the crypto-fascists, and the oligarchs who are likely thrilled to watch the art world react in horror to the parasitic infiltration of Winrich? As Hito Steyrel observed in her essay “International Disco Latin,” “But satire as one of the traditional tools of enlightenment is not only defined by making fun. It gains its punch from who is being made fun of.” In this formulation, Winrich is not lampooning conservative collectors or Trump supporters, he’s mocking the shared progressive beliefs of the art community that embraced difference at a cultural level long ago, even if it’s economics and demographics have yet to catch up at the level of representation in galleries and exhibitions. On the other hand, perhaps Winrich has succeeded at parody. I think he has done a fine job of illuminating the mythology of Vice Magazine’s culture of white boy party privilege in a far more accurate way than I ever succeeded with a performance I did at Marlborough Gallery in 2011 titled, “POWHIDA.” Sometimes, the only thing you need for effective satire is to get out of the way and let people be themselves. In this, Wintrich’s performance has been entirely revealing, bravo <insert preferred epithet>!

William Powhida, “Fuck Trump” (2016) (image courtesy the artist)
**I swiped this image off the Hyperallergic site.  Hoping they won't care because I side with Mr. Powhida.**

Wednesday, September 21, 2016


Fountain, Duchamp, 1917
Tate Modern's collection & image
It turns out that our intentions, whether making or viewing art, are what make the art.  Two hundred years ago (!) Immanuel Kant philosophized that in order to appreciate art, we have to detach our emotions from the viewing of the work and think and look critically at the formal elements of the art.  If we know that what we're looking at is art (and this is not always obvious these days), then our approach and our response to viewing the work is different than if we assume it's an everyday object.  Perhaps we thought the Duchamp urinal, titled "Fountain," was just left out temporarily while the plumber installs a new one and plans to haul away that dirty old fixture?  No, we saw it in an art gallery or a museum or in an art history text, so we knew that despite Duchamp's cutting edge use of the ready-made so easily confused with banal real life, it is art.  We thought philosophically (or were asked to) about the difference between art and the everyday object and the impactful idea of synthesizing the two.  Even "Duchamp described his intent with the piece was to shift the focus of art from physical craft to intellectual interpretation." (quoted from Wikipedia)

A new study by Dutch scientists explores this emotional connection to viewing art versus everyday life, and the finding correlates with Kant's theory.  Quoted from the lead researcher Noah van Dongen (Erasmus University, Rotterdam):
“This work suggests that when we expect to be dealing with an artwork, our brain responds differently than when we expect to be dealing with reality.  When we think we are not dealing with reality, our emotional response appears to be subdued on a neural level. This may be because of a tendency to ‘distance’ ourselves from the image, to be able to appreciate or scrutinize its shapes, colours, and composition instead of just its content. We know that our brains may have evolved with ‘hard-wired’ mechanisms that allow us to adjust our response to objects depending on the situation. What this work indicates, is that Kant’s two century old theory of aesthetics*, where he proposed that we need to emotionally distance ourselves from the artwork in order to be able to properly appreciate it, might have a neurological basis and that art could [be] useful in our quest to understand our brain, emotions, and maybe our cognition.”
Yay, art could be useful!
(laughing out loud to myself)

Here's the link to the article I read on Science Daily's site: