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:

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

I suspect most people...

I suspect most people feel similarly to Victoria Coren Mitchell, read article here, upon considering the opportunity to visit an art gallery.  She speaks frankly about the drag of standing in a gallery and thinking, "now what do I do?" or "What am I supposed to think about?"  (I'd read the article now....  It's not long, and I had a good laugh, so there's a bonus!)

These are the questions, among other frustrated comments that I've heard spoken with close friends and coworkers upon viewing art or discussing the meaning and purpose of art.  Obviously there's this cultural importance of art for which there must be a venue.  (Must there be a venue?)  I think we can at least agree that art is critical for the creative and expressive nature of the human mind, specifically some human minds that really go there (know what I mean? out there).  Of course, the out there art, just letting it all hang out, makes us feel something - perhaps disgust, surprise, regret or perhaps delight, relief or compassion, etc. etc.  I imagine that for some, it is the sudden confrontation with inexplicable human emotion that makes us dread art viewing.  On top of that, the feeling of being stupid - that most westerners fear - because we have no idea what this artist (creatively out there) or artwork is conveying.

Totally ripped this image off the original article in the Guardian.
Well, here's what I'll say to that:  Go ahead and feel whatever sudden and strong feelings come up.  Never mind judging your self or anyone for having feelings.  Allow yourself to be curious about it like you would as you wake up from a vivid dream.  As for having no idea and fearing being the stupid one that has no intelligent remark upon viewing art - oh, get over it.  Allow yourself to learn something or just not know.  There's something totally human about not knowing and as buddhism points out, not knowing is sometimes the only way to know.  Revel in the freedom of having no pretense and no presupposition.

If you haven't any interest in attending art galleries, I don't blame you.  Unfortunately, there is an off-putting stodgy feeling in many art galleries and other art venues.   However, I do hope you know an artist or two, or spend a lot of time in nature, or are creative in some way yourself because it's the terrible/wonderful aspect of death/life and ugly/beauty that can tune us into the bitter/sweet reality of our unique human experience.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Thinking about thinking

Considering how regular my blog posts were in my 20s and the gradual decline from sometimes 4 posts per month to now 1 or 2 if I even remember that I keep a blog...  it occurs to me that perhaps I have less to say.  This second third of my life marks a shift in how I think and how much I need to express, I am sure of that.  Having pushed through to an era of introversion - making art, learning piano, and generally working from home because I no longer keep a job, I am unlikely to say anything to anyone for most of my day.  I wonder about this as my art-making is also speechless, and as process is so important, it is all about being and doing.  Contemplation feels more comfortable to me and the pressure to have answers and to fill silence with entertaining commentary hardly ever exists in my life anymore.

I may be in a period of my life when I am best as a sponge for knowledge and experience as I realize how much broader the possibilities of life expand.  In fact, I think that my past outspokenness may have been more a result of wanting to sound intelligent and take on importance so as not to somehow fall behind in the big American Way.  Now I see that the American Way is just one of so many ways and I am under no obligation to participate nor exaggerate myself in order to get ahead.  Get ahead of what?  Ah, see there it is.  The competitive edge is gone.

Competition.  Wanting to be better than others in as many ways.  If I fill space with my thoughts and expressions, then I am taking that space away from you.  I have it.  You don't.  Forgive me for being so elementary, but I do think that's how it started.  So in the last three years or so, I've focused acutely on the task of self awareness and self love (starting around chaos time, 2013, with the tragic loss of 2 family members).  I think I lacked self love mostly and my self awareness skills couldn't access why.  Many realizations have taken place in this time, and this one, competition, having a competitive compulsion, had mostly fallen to "me against me."  The "never enough" scenario simply does not recognize that one already possesses the abundance of life.

And so, here I am, the sponge.  I am spending more time than ever before as an observer, as a learner, as a practitioner, and as a creator.  My day begins with a walk or a run with my sweet dog, Siga.  I have breakfast and coffee.  A day may include such introspective and quiet activities such as working on my art, reading, working in my garden, practicing Spanish, practicing piano, baking bread, various small or big cooking projects, and yoga.  Sometimes I go hiking or to the art museum.  Then I usually end the day with my husband and my dog and a comfortable winding down to bed time.  As is evident, the need to push out into the world is no longer the driving force.  Now I soak up the substance of my dreams and become who I've always wanted to be.

Friday, August 12, 2016


Except for the mandatory ad at the beginning (skip it!), yes, it does feel good to watch this:

Must resist urge to dig out my calligraphy set from the 4th grade....

Watching ink on paper, watching a steady hand, watching color and line become a harmonious mark and composition... these things are so satisfying for me.  The same is true, for me, in watching someone run a race (I used to be a competitive runner and still run regularly) or just do something with elegant athleticism.  I also love to see the making of woven material and the construction of just about anything is a thrill.

Perhaps, at the very least, I should be making a stop action documentation of my cross stitch work.  I finished work on the left half with Christian's profile over this past week.  In beginning the profile of myself, I could document it each day and attempt to pull all the images together into a movie or slideshow.  Even if the documentation is only for myself, I will probably enjoy watching it more than I realize.
The stop action documentation of Progress Report, an artwork that I made in 2008 over 3 days' time, is still lovely to witness.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

progress report (haiku)

pixels to stitches
needle through and through again
spending time with him

custard buttercream 
layered upside down fruit cakes 
dessert-first party

Monday, June 20, 2016

out of the studio

Whenever I remember that I have a blog and I haven't written anything to contribute to it for a while...  I try to remember why I keep the blog.  The first thought that comes to mind is for the purpose of processing my art practice.  In keeping this blog, I've wanted to have a forum for thinking through the work of making art, sharing and exploring whatever inspires my art-making and showing work in progress.

Lately, my art practice has been only a few hours (if that) each day because it is late Spring and my garden's going nuts and there are berries on trees and bushes all over Denver that I need to pick for making tarts and jam, and the weather is perfect for bike rides....

Agnes Martin used to advise that young artists keep with the intuitive need to be out of the studio at times.  My friend Alvin Gregorio also keeps with the idea that studio practice is not always in the studio and the art practice sometimes needs development via other exposures and creative work. There are certainly creative practices that happen all throughout my life!  The garden is proof of that, and so is this Saskatoon berry tart:

Monday, May 9, 2016

the wisdom of Mary Oliver

I wanted to share this poem as an expression of gratitude for Mary Oliver, a sage poet, a woman who lives the life I imagine possible for any of us, but oft left unlived.  I am inspired by all of her poetry, the accuracy of experience and feeling and experience and feeling.  This poem in particular is about the inner experience, the willfulness we can muster to live...  really live the lives we imagine for ourselves.  Living out one's own essential life requires a struggle, even if just the effort to rise in the morning, against the mundanity and uniformity, which so often blocks our entry into the magical experience of being human.

The Journey - Mary Oliver (from Dreamwork)

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice – – –
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
‘Mend my life!’
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.

You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations – – –
though their melancholy
was terrible. It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.

But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice,
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do – – – determined to save
the only life you could save.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

the inner critic

Most people have voices in their head whether they are conscious of the voices or not.  Obviously, hearing voices can become extreme for some to the point of neurosis or worse, schizophrenia, but I am referring to a normal inner dialogue as it flows through our thoughts.  Sometimes we are not aware of the multiplicity within ourselves and we can be unknowingly influenced by thoughts (inner messages to ourself from ourself) such as judgements, biases, fears, obsessions.  This is putting it quite simple and the matter is truly more complex, but I mean to address the inner voice of the critic.

For myself, the inner critic showed up very early in my life (perhaps around the age of 6?), and represented a compass for finding acceptance from the world outside myself.  I believe this is a common condition with children and young people wherein, we find that we can get through this world much easier if we can just find out what other people like, accept, enjoy, approve, and generally believe successful.  These external influences collect into what Freud called the SuperEgo - the moral regulator! - and it's up to us to find out how those internalized impressions and expectations either work for us or against us.  Each of us also has an unique internal orientation that works with or against the external orientation - altogether, our inner leanings and our outer parameters are the basis for our decisive powers.  External orientation may work well within our family, school, and workplace but can fail us as we expand our connections and communities and begin to feel pulled in different directions without knowing which is right or best for us.  Further, despite lack of practice with inner orientation, the inner knowing (call it "gut feelings," intuition, and at best, essential Self) is nevertheless there.  Without our consciousness for it or choosing to engage this inner orientation into the authorship of our own life, we can feel tension as the external orientation of our Superego can conflict with our unique inner knowing.

I am thinking of the ways in which, as an artist, I have resisted inclinations to make some kind of art because the inner critic (made up of external codes and voices from throughout my early life) hinted at some absurdity in my inclination.  I think of all the times I have attempted to reach something deeper in my creative work and the difficulty and the unfamiliarity of the creative terrain raised red flags with the SuperEgo.  I am halted in my exploration of my prima materia as the part of me that has to "fit into the world" demands that I "use my time wisely" and focus on more practical skills.   How does anyone actually engage in creative work, the response to exploring one's prima materia, if the conscious mind, oriented by conventional rules, does not permit opening the door to one's unconscious dwelling?

I've been reading a selection of Carl Jung's essays regarding creativity, imagination and, of course, the work of psychoanalysis, and he speaks of the inner critic as a "cramp" in consciousness.  Yes, I find that the inner critic (voicing, "Why am I doing this?" or "How is this weird work valuable in the 'real' world?" as I try to make my art) is most definitely a cramp!  As with a cramp during exercise, we must learn to take care of the cramp in order to continue with our work.  A cramp should not stop us from ever exercising again!  Likewise, a mental cramp can not keep us from engaging with our irrational mind and thereby engaging our creative work.  In discussing this matter with a musician the other day, he talked of practicing scales for as long as he needed in order to pass beyond the physical and practical work of it and begin to hear the potential for creating music.  Artists may have to engage with the base material of their work for totally irrational amounts of time in order to achieve the alchemical potential that exists between themselves and their media.  Meanwhile the Superego objects, "Spending 3 hours practicing music scales to then be able to compose?!  Do we really have 5 hours to spend on music today?"  The answer, for an artist of any kind is, irrationally, YES!
Cross-stitch for months... and months... and so much time that the artwork becomes the time spent.  My external rules of "using time wisely," the SuperEgo heckles me from my shoulder, "Why are you spending so much TIME on this project?!" and I have to think in response, because I am an artist, and this is my work.

Though seemingly an obvious idea, often a forgotten imperative of the artist is that doing creative work is of utmost importance to the artist.  We forget how imperative the work is as the rational (industrial, capitalist, media driven) world opposes the irregular, irrational and costly work of art-making.  How many conversations have I had with artists where they actually say, "I have to make my work.  Otherwise, how would I live?  I would die."  It's not a matter of fitting into a schematic of practical use and monetization.  It's a matter of realizing one's need to work with unconscious material (that which comes from within and does not follow the codes of the rational world) because otherwise, it would eventually mount up within us and consume us with it's energy.  Better to engage with it regularly and make it workable and useful within the context of our creative work.  The creative work then becomes the actualization of the whole person, the irrational material of the unconscious balanced by the systems and skill sets of the conscious ego.

Some may believe that creative work is not about the actualization of the whole person and can exist in the realm of practical work.  This is plausible, but I am not that artist.  There are enough aesthetically designed objects in this world without my making my artwork so practical and prolific and commonly available in the lives of many (this practicality is the kind of resistance my Superego puts upon me).  I find resonance in Jung's words, "Everything good is costly, and the development of personality [unique selfhood] is one of the most costly of all things.  It is a matter of saying yea to oneself, of taking oneself as the most serious of tasks, of being conscious of everything one does, and keeping it constantly before one's eyes in all its dubious aspects - truly a task that taxes us to the utmost."

The inner critic says, "The task is too much; we need not dive so deeply.  There is plenty of creative work to do without going so far."  But I willfully say, the work of the artist is to dive into the unconscious depths and trust that the inner critic can become instead the tether that keeps us connected with our conscious realm.

All references to Jung's writing in this post are specific to an excerpt from Alchemical Studies (1929) (CW 13) pars. 17 - 45

Monday, March 28, 2016

emerging avant garde?

Having recently re-read my post stillness from January, it is truly wonderful to now read this commentary by Art Critic, Andrew Berardini.  Instinctually, I know that the Art-professionalism-trend is a horrific distraction from art making and living artfully.  Hence, struggling with pressure to become professional has always been...  a struggle. 
Perhaps there's more to think about regarding "professionalism" and taking oneself lightly? seriously? too seriously?
Once again, these rational terms compete with the abstract matter of art and with the often irrational nature of the working artist.  

Read on: 

By Andrew Berardini
March 23, 2016
No one likes being called an amateur, a dilettante, a dabbler.

“Unprofessional” is an easy insult.

The professional always makes the right moves, knows the right thing to say, the right name to check. Controlled and measured, the professional never fucks the wrong person or drinks too much at the party. They never weep at the opening, never lay in bed for days too depressed, sick, broken to move. They say about the professional, “so easy to work with” or “so exacting but brilliant.” The professional takes advantage from every encounter, employs every new acquaintance as a contact, always hits the deadline. When asked about their work, they know what to say, a few lines of explanation sprinkled with enough filigreed intrigue to allude to abysses of research, the mysteries of making. They answer emails in minutes. Their PowerPoints are super crisp. Look at their website, so clean, so modern, so very pro.

You don’t feel like any of these things.

You are hungry, tired, overworked. You drank too much at the party and then slept with the wrong person, and then the really wrong person. You missed the deadline, it just thrushed past with a whoosh. Hustlers around you disappear into wealth and fame. Your dealer tells you to make more with red, those red ones are really selling. Maybe, she says, you make only the red ones for a while? Your student skips class to go to an art fair. The most pressing collectors are the ones holding your student loans. They keep calling, you wish you could trade them a drawing. It can take days to answer the simplest email. Your website, if it exists, is in shambles.

You wander. You doubt. You change styles, media, cities. You experiment, you fail. Again. And again.

Unprofessional most literally means “below or contrary to the standards of a paid occupation.” Who makes the standards? Is everyone paid? Fairly? Is being an artist a job or something else? Who sets these standards? Do you wish to be standardized?

Art and success.

So easy to cocktail those two words together into “professionalism.” Pull up a famous artist’s CV and work from the beginning. Does success look like a sculpture plunked outside the Palace at Versaille? Is it a biennial, a prize, a blue-chip dealer? Is it the cover of a magazine, a thick, chunky retrospective catalogue? Even more evasive things just glanced, the luxury sedan like a bullet, shiny and hard, that the aging photographer bought after he dumped his smallish gallery and long-term partner, for a bigger dealer and a younger girlfriend, shiny and hard as his car; or perhaps, the off-hand mention of a domestic servant, a personal chef, the third nanny, the smallest chink in the opacity of wealth, so very far from the roaches scurrying in your kitchen sink and the fact that you’ve eaten nothing but mushed pumpkin and cigarettes for a month.

This did not feel professional, but it’s true. These things you experienced to be an artist.

Your body of work is a mark of your passages, the richest of your thoughts and the deepest of your emotions. Simply manifesting this into art is hard enough, but today you feel like you need to be professional. The pressure and penury makes you nervous and cautious. What can you make that will take the iron of poverty from your flesh, that will make this feel less like a terrible mistake?

Can’t you tell by my clothes I never made it
Can’t you hear that my songs just won’t sing
Can’t you see in my eyes that I hate it
Wasting twenty long years on a dream.

Lee Hazlewood, “The Performer” (1973)

Somehow making money makes us feel for real. Money we can trade for food and shelter, for time and space and materials to continue. These things are hard and pressing, but it’s not the money that makes us real. We are real already.

Everyone can be an artist, not because they have a degree or they sell, but because they live life artfully, with skill and imagination, freedom and awareness.

But artists trade promissory notes and subsume authority into institutions for some outside validation. Proof to your beloveds they weren’t crazy in supporting you financially, emotionally, spiritually. Later, broke, you exchange dreams for money, or even, later yet, make other people’s dreams and trade those instead.

Collectors, they are really responding to the red ones.

The path is clear for the professional. BFA, MFA, Commercial Gallery, Museum. 5 Things Every Artist Has to Know About Getting a Gallery. 10 Easy Tips for Killing Your Studio Visit. 3 Totally Simple Steps to Art Stardom. Mix in a teaching appointment perhaps, a grant here, a residency there.

For the unprofessional, it isn’t so narrowly defined. As Charles Bukowski wrote, the shortest distance between two points is often intolerable.

It’s not that artists shouldn’t be paid for their labor, but we ought to refuse the assignation of value and worth purely based on salability or the validation of institutions. Systems will always seek to swallow us. We must resist the efficiency of its gears with the softness of our humanity. Unprofessionalism is asserting our right to be human against this machine.

Fragile, weak, doubtful, bumbling, to be “unprofessional” is to simply be human. This does not mean acting without ethics, honesty, or basic kindness. These finer qualities can easily exist independent from how we trade our time for money.

Professionalism makes a person into a brand. The cynical think this has already happened: our slightest movement tracked for personalized advertisements, our declarations and photographs that we share with others all branded and branding, self-awareness as commerce. And though others can attempt to professionalize you, reduce your spirit to a slogan, a product, a logo, you do not have to do this to yourself.

For the time being we live under capitalism, but we don’t have to be broken down into its systematic alienations, divisions, inequalities, of all value to market-value.

In some ways, I was piqued to write this by Daniel S. Palmer’s recent essay on hyper-professionalization just published in Artnews, which ends on an inspiring note: “In a moment of monotony and conformity, artists must reclaim their freedom.”

He opens his essay with a young artist pitching a practised spiel, surrounded and over-handled by art pros. This fails miserably to impress Daniel Palmer. Obviously, being a professional in this sense doesn’t always work. It might have currency with those who are also hyper-professionalized like this particular emerging artist, churning through a system crafted for exactly such purposes. But it didn’t work with Daniel Palmer, and it wouldn’t work for me.

Such clear professionalism is crass, careerist, empty. Repulsive even. “Ambitious young artist” always sounded like an insult to me.

I see making art as the necessary expression of the human spirit. We all need to live, but when the acquisition of wealth becomes the primary endeavor, you are no longer an artist but a financier.

More than a gallerist or a manager, a dealer or an advisor, a critic or a curator, more than an army of assistants and a clutter of collectors, an artist needs the courage to act alone and a community that makes such acts more bearable. One that allows us to be vulnerable, inappropriate, to go rogue, go wild, act weird, and fail.

To be amateurs, dabblers, dilettantes.

An amateur is filled with love beyond compensation, the dabblers fearlessly go places they don’t belong, the dilettantes happily lack the hidebound pretensions of experts. When we step out of the imposed confines of professionalism, we can be as open as students, able to flirt with other modes, to seek knowledge, experience, and value in our lives without limits.

Stripped away of institutional validation and the pressures of the market, we are free to be human, to be artists, to be unprofessional.

Copyright © Momus 2015

Saturday, March 19, 2016


Did I mention that I suffered a dog-bite on my hand a few days before Christmas?  The purpose of pointing that out is that my hand was far less "on the team" then usual, and it was my right hand, so I began reading like I haven't read in years.  When your creative productivity goes down, the need for another point of focus grows.  The great thing is getting through to the blocked self-permit needed to allow myself the "luxury" of just sitting and reading!  I love reading, and I'm glad to be back in the swing of it.
The books have been novels by Sara Gruen, Wally Lamb, and non-fiction by Marion Woodman, Judith Duerk, C. G. Jung and poetry by Mary Oliver.

The strength and common thread through all of their writings has been the search for self and the attention to symbols for self knowing.  Little by little, I turn further toward the importance of symbols in dreams, journaling and relationships, and my art becomes a more overt conduit for depicting and understanding those symbols.  The critical thinking that takes shape through meditation (through art making) on a symbol or symbolic image is, what I'll now call (thanks Jung), alchemical.  As in meditation, this thinking is non linear, abstract and holistic, but instead of using the process to check out, it seems there is an opportunity to check in.  Over the years, my inability to intelligently express abstract ideas through verbal language played into a weakness of mine - fear of fraudulence and stupidity.  In lieu of depicting what is bizarre, raw, abstract or confusing from my creative mind, I have protected myself (checked out) through organizing my art within public comfort zones, thus avoiding putting tender vulnerability on the "chopping block."  To be honest, I think higher Ed for artists should specifically address and engage (check in) with this vulnerability, abstraction and confusion as much or MORE than it stresses professionalism and competitive, art-market stuff.

So, being that I don't currently participate in the art market, who's doing the "chopping?"  Inevitably, myself.  And I'll say, I don't believe that my work up until the recent past was shallow or less important.  There were courageous and bold efforts, personal expression and worthwhile risks to be applauded.  I am especially glad to have made artwork with and for a dance company, made large, site specific installations, and to have learned to take A LOT of time on projects instead of pressuring myself to be prolifically productive.  The difference then was that, even though the natural symbols and effects of myself came through in my projects, I wanted to express ideas that were related to life outside of me.  Perhaps that was the framework for my art that seemed necessary in order to talk about it and share it with people, relating to what is more conventionally understood.  I believe many of those works started as the more cryptic and personal visual language of my own ways and being.  Then, much of the project was steered by my impressions of public perception and acceptance, leaving the initial abstract vision to be reformed and polished (Errr...  chopped).

Depicting abstract symbols of my psyche felt awkward and exposed.   Does this relate to a college art critique wherein a peer student mocked my symbolic artwork (or so I thought he mocked my work)?  I think that moment indicated to me that not only was I "weird" outside of the art world, but even amongst peers I was weird, and that felt like a chopping block.  That moment did not end badly, my other peers and my professors weren't addressing my work that way, but, it did provoke a paranoia in me.  I have always picked up on the comments and critiques of "art professionals" and I have been hung in the balance of "is it too weird?"  "Is it weird enough?" and "Will they like it?"

In contrast, Nikki Giovanni teaches her students to ask a question more like, "Do I like it and is it good enough for me?"

The superego-boombox that I have long shouldered adopted that self-conscious and insecure perspective that tells you that others' impressions of your work come first and your personal journey is submissive to it.  If others saw my work as weird or confusing, then I had to make my work more understandable or just minimal in aesthetic so that there were few overt symbolic messages.  (I do love minimalism and my most minimal art has been a great relief and comfort to me.)  If someone whom I respected as an artist/art professional made a dismissive remark regarding some symbol or symbolic imagery that feels important to me, I would adopt that dismissive thinking and the superego would remark, "yes, now you know where to draw the line with your vulnerability."

An artist peer of mine once groaned, "Ugh!  Self portraits!" with a grossed out expression.  I have no idea why she would be dismissive and repulsed by self portraiture - perhaps it is too often a mode of self expression which is difficult to face?  At that time, I was courageously making more self portraits, including much symbolism otherwise, and I immediately felt I had to keep my current work "mum."  Thankfully, I did not keep mum beyond our conversation, but her words and expression goaded me, confirming my Superego's fearful message, "yes, keep it to yourself."
This was my first artwork after chaos time (see below), also a first effort at grandly portraying personal symbolism.  

Keeping it to oneself - a harsh contrast to the creative self, the artist.  So here's the thing that springs up in me as my new tour de force in life:  It's YOU, it's YOURs, it's BEING and it's HUMAN.  The social structure that was set up for you was not what you needed in order to make YOUR ART.

Chaotic events occurred in my life (yes, chaos, like murder and death), which brought me to the bottom and to the darkest place.  In that depth I realized, there's no time to lose, there's no other life to live, there's no need to succumb to any program for life other than my own intuitive and real desires. Making my artwork can and does reflect all of this.

Carl Jung points out that when we shine a light onto our shadow, we find darkness, and that is rightfully so.

Ever since (what I've usually called) the chaos time, there has been a slow, subversive energy and thought process that has recently become more the leader as I engage life and art.  I've learned to temper the superego with intuition and allow abstract thinking/feeling it's rightful role in my art making.  Symbolism, which has always been apparent to me, even when suppressed or confusing, now regains it's rightful role in my art-making and in my self-making.
A very recent watercolor/drawing, an effort to play into the stream of consciousness and allow whatever comes up.  Much like dream analysis, I can look at the image after the fact and see or follow clues from the subconscious mind.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Poem for ordinary time

Looking out over the sky, you are.
Looking down into my lap, through my hair
shining in the sunlight, too bright to see
heating my back through black shirt.
Keeping our faces shaded
squinting briefly toward the sky.

Listening to the motors
cars or motorcycles or whatever
the passing of tires on the road
the dog's lips smack
a single bird's...         not a song, not a noise
the sound a bird makes.

      and looking out.
      and looking in.

un moving through the moments
no ticking of any clock

marred by progress
anxiety of all the All

Looking back into the sunshine in my hair
the dog's curious nose at my back
glowing, streaking threads
listen, sniffing curiosity

As the jet flies over,
the dog growls.
He knows something's no good.
Don't we all?
We don't.

He patters away to look after you.

Thursday, February 25, 2016


spending time
with thread and needle
with my face
and yours
spending time
and again

resisting the restlessness
exploring ordinary
with my self
and you
and the thread
and the needle
and the tiny
and the meditation on
each pixel
a stitch
another stitch

and mine

and everything in between
the fabric

Friday, February 12, 2016


I just got off the phone with a podcast, On Being with Krista Tippett interviewing Pico Iyer.  I had never heard of this man, but apparently, he's friends with some of my favorite knowns such as the Dalai Lama and Leonard Cohen.  He also lives in a very remote, mostly off the grid home in Kyoto and has a place in the US as well where he works in almost solitude on writing and thinking.  In this interview, he spoke of how in his twenties he became very successful - in the American fashion - as a journalist in NYC.  By "American fashion," I mean the fast paced, forward moving, self aggrandizing, never enough conventions that I know I, myself, grew up believing was my ticket to... Gosh, I'm not sure what I thought the ticket was for!  So then, at 29 he hit a wall, knew he needed something less like "distraction" and more like "attention," and embarked on a career of solitude, stillness and the resulting writings about his evolving philosophies on those human rights.

Wow Wow Wow.

I am so relieved as I contemplate what I just listened to. (....and of course there was more to it than stillness and solitude, so really, have a listen.)  The reason I feel relieved is that recently, I've uncovered in myself that convention of "fast-paced-forward-moving-self-aggrandizing-never-enough" and found it to be terribly uncomfortable and something from which I'd like to be free.  Having been convinced throughout my adolescence and young adulthood (via parent, church, school, and community norms and direction) that this American "way" is The Way, it's been a struggle with my SuperEgo to realize that it's not the only director in my psyche, but there are other players who not only have a critical voice, but have to be acknowledged and tended to.  Those other players have abstract names that are only relevant to me (the voices in my head - as they say), but for this format, I'll call them, Intuition, Wisdom, Feeling, and Myth.  (Some other time, perhaps I'll explain more about why I label them this way.  I'll say though that Myth, to me, is not "a lie" but instead, the story of Human kind, overarching humanness.)  Iyer talks about the knowing of one's self, the inner life as a human need and of course, despite the prevailing conventions, doing this inner work of self discovery is the foundational work to support all of our outer work and relationships.

So, this describes, for me, what the previous year was unfolding for me - a gradual shift into becoming a person who spends the majority of my time doing inner work.  Throughout the year, I felt great resistance from Superego when Intuition and Feeling were my primary focus.  Superego tried to distract me with chores and false obligations, but little by little, I noticed my own Wisdom, and she reminded me, in my own way, that Intuition and Feeling are really the Me that deserves to live as part of the great Myth.  Superego still pipes up with a shaming sensation as I lose track of time, allow myself to be completely absorbed in my art or music, or simply do not apply my creative skill sets toward a recognizable "career."  How sad, the shame that I (via Superego) feel or didn't want to feel was the unconscious motivator for my "success" and propulsion through professional realms.
Remembering Art made almost a decade ago when, however unconsciously, I decided my art-making is a vehicle for my stillness.  This painting, Breathing Room, was a real-time transcription of my breathing on a giant canvas.  I gave myself permission to do this work in stillness and solitude, and now too, I give myself permission - but consciously.
Without continuing down the long road of discussing SuperEgo, I'll bring this back to Pico Iyer's talk about the necessity of solitude and stillness as means toward attention (AKA awareness), and point out the big affirmation that I felt while listening:  I have permission - Intuition granted, Wisdom granted and Myth granted permission to be still as long as you need.  Up until 2015, I naturally possessed the Intuition, Feeling, Wisdom and Myth that I am now choosing to acknowledge and embody, but the hard-lined conventions of Superego steered against my right to know, legitimize and activate these players.  2015 was just the beginning of realizing true inner needs and the metamorphosis into a life of stillness that more thoroughly honors, reveals and empowers my essential being.  My creative survival and my art depend on this kind of stillness.

Monday, January 18, 2016

print making

Making prints, as in, print-making was one mode of art-making that hooked me when in college.  Maybe it was my personable, inspiring and empowering professor, Jack.  Perhaps it was the satisfying repeatability of the images - if anyone takes a look at my website or elsewhere in this blog, it is obvious that I will repeat an action, a process, or an image/symbol for a very long time (I am also a long distance runner and can make gnocchi or tamales for hours).  While printing with Mark Lunning at the Art Students League of Denver for the past few months, it has also become apparent to me that this art media is offering me an immediacy that is helpful in keeping up momentum with my art working.

Let me elaborate on this issue of momentum.  For about 3 - 5 years, I've been making epic projects.  I will diligently work on the same project for 5 - 12 months.  The vision, drawings, technical planning, acquisition of materials and summoning courage to really begin may take 2 - 3 months.  Then the various phases of repetition (mind you, this isn't tedium to me and I'm not bored) - whether it be dying fabric, sometimes dying it again, and again, measuring and cutting fabric and measuring, sewing, measuring, sewing, sewing, measuring, seam ripping, sewing, seam ripping, measuring, cutting, sewing, measuring, and so on and so on (oh I forgot all the pressing and the organizing and referring back to the drawing from months ago).  There's even more to this and then more steps for finishing.  I am more or less describing the piecework that I do (I don't actually quilt - see definition), but the epic process is very similar for my cross-stitch projects and other media that I've worked with over time.  And here's what I'll say about momentum:  At about 2/3 of the way into the process, I usually come up against this big feeling of non-productivity because I don't yet have the product of so much labor.  I think this is an American psychological hang-up - being productive means rolling out and showing off a lot of products, and having news about what you're doing because there's "always something new!"  About 3 years ago I got really clear with myself and decided to turn against the contemporary American way with my art-making.  I don't actually care to be prolifically productive with my artwork (what will I DO with all of that work anyway? I also get grossed out by the art-market and choose not to participate, so I really don't need a lot of "inventory").  I prefer an art making experience that is more like the culinary movement, slow-food.  ...but even slow food has an amuse bouche carefully added in along the way to refresh the palette and liven up the pace.

Lesson learned:  Commit to the long haul, and find ways to keep up the creative motivation along the way.

Friday, January 15, 2016

haiku excuse

...and less piano keyboard time.
infected dog bite
right middle finger "sore thumb"
less typing these days

Monday, January 4, 2016


Thank you for building this bridge with me.
2016 will be building the next bridge with me.
I have much gratitude for everything that we learned together.
I will carry the lessons in my heart.
Thank you for generously giving me every minute of your time.
I will carry that generosity with my gratitude.