New Year

Susan Finsen, Untitled 2

Susan Finsen, Untitled 2

I’m not a fan of resolutions – I find them flimsy and limiting. Trying to “solve” life or “re-solve” life is a perilous venture potholed with frustration.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t try to reflect over the year and evaluate (This year I liked. . . )

Find areas for improvement (I wish. . .)

Isolate the things that worked to redouble efforts for success next year (What if . . .)

Accurate feedback is helpful – possibly life changing. One small study found that people who write down their goals more often achieve them. http://www.dominican.edu/dominicannews/study-backs-up-strategies-for-achieving-goals

Yet -I’m making a case for following this year. Artists already know the power of following. Follow inspiration to see where it leads. Allow ideas to unfold and evolve. Watch your creativity and ask how you can help it. Rather than ironing intention into a sentence to stick on the mirror/fridge for future castigation. Balled up and crushed in the trash by March.

Resolutions are limited by self-judgement – powered by self-discipline. People who are good at judgement and self-discipline profit from the model. The rest of us must follow – our passions, our ideas, our “what if life was like. . . this?” I’m for drawing a picture in your head (or paper) of what you want, and following that.

If you have an ambition – what does it look like? If you have a joy, find its color and keep close. If you feel trapped, cut out a door. If you are aimless, craft an arrow.

To pictures of a new year and a long swig of champagne. Cheers friends!


Obstacles

Alexandra Eldridge, Spiritual Realities 24 x 18" |

Alexandra Eldridge, Spiritual Realities 24 x 18″ | 2012 courtesy of artist

Which came first -the elephant or the egg?

I like obstacles. They tell on me. Study your obstacles – what tale do they tell about your thinking? Elephantine obstacles require a great force of self to move, but many are completely mind made up.

In this totem, the elephant balances on a lavender egg. The elephant, remover of obstacles – is at once young and old – timeless leathered skin defined by burls in the underlying wood.

In motion. Maybe she was laid off – again. Maybe he holds divorce papers – again. Maybe she heads a faltering company or he’s losing a major client. These two-ton obstacles to happiness force us into motion. This elephant puts one uneasy foot in front of the other and though vulnerable, balances between hope and despair. She will make this egg take her where she wants to go. Perhaps finding (while plodding) a new direction. We don’t know how, but she will.

The bird, however, is stuck. Staring down a small black egg entirely avian made. Some dark ritualized judgement grounds her from flying free. A perceived tragic flaw, “I’m unlovable,” or “I’ll never reach my goals.” “I’ll always be _________. “I’m the worst  ________.”  Her wings pinned back.  Cawing complaint.

But I see potential in this obstacle egg. Potential to find the thinking flaw.  Black egg thoughts have a shady “all-or-nothing” ultimatum-ish type character  – a dead give away. Hold on! I’m not the *worst* parent in the world. I messed up this time, but next time I’ll handle it differently. (deep breath)

Now we flex our wings. Now a dark egg cracks. Opens up to new and brightly life.


Free as a bird

Ash Almonte, As Free as a bird, 2011, courtesy of Russell Collection, Austin, TX

Ash Almonte, As Free as a bird, 2011, courtesy of Russell Collection, Austin, TX

Free as a bird.

Yet a wing is subject to wind.

I like the color palette of this painting. I like vibrant but restrained – to watch what happens when choice is self-restricted. Maybe all workable freedom slipstreams on limitation.

Much maligned Boundary often brings with itself a double dose of the Creative. Because you can focus on the intricacies a particular problem (or medium) rather than the massive weight of what to choose. That limitation frees up lots of bandwidth. It’s an interesting conundrum of life, standing at the intersection of spontaneity and restriction.

Someone asked me the other day, “What would you do if money were no object.” And really I couldn’t even answer. I have no idea what I would do. Be immobilized by the vast space of potential. Wait for the wind to lift me, sightless and hurl me forward. Then maybe some necessary brilliance would unfurl. Because it seems my creativity only works against a foe -some absurd rule that deserves a good right-brained spanking.

Oh, there’s a chandelier underneath those washed and dripping strokes. A little structure under all that freedom, to hold it up – to give it a roosting place.


Or what?

Heimo Zobernig, now at Simon Lee

Heimo Zobernig, now at Simon Lee, London

Allow me a moment to comment on this confounding binarism I find sandwiched between my toes.

It’s often called “black and white” thinking – the penchant of some people (me) to frame solutions in “either/or” scenarios. Do you want the pink one or the blue? This is either good or it’s bad. It’s the best thing that ever happened, or the worst. Whitman or Dickinson? Male or Female?

I have a major problem with binarism – it’s FALSE. The word “or” should be the warning light – the wake-up-and-smell-the-coffee someone is boxing up the choices. I don’t want cream or sugar – I want both, or stevia, maybe tea. A nice cup of lapsang souchong, perhaps? If we can generate multiple choice in our drinks, what about for other life challenges.

OR limits creativity to generate multiple solutions. I regularly pick up an everyday object (a mug) and think, “what could this be other than mug?” (vase, penny jar, pencil stand, plant pot, light fixture, toad house, soup or cereal bowl, jewelry holder, baling bucket, soil scoop, bug catcher, metaphysical mood meter (is glass half empty/half full?), inspiration piece, homing beacon)

I can see dividing imagined best case/worst case scenarios into a tidy binarism. To envision yourself toward a goal (sometimes frustrating) or  to prepare yourself for the worst. Possibly helpful.

What about in-betweens? Hello! options not mentioned. Consider your job, done in a different way, in a different place. What’s the yellow solution, the blue idea, the green daydream? What if your choosing were colors, we wouldn’t settle for just black or white.

Yes there’s something called option anxiety  – so we distill choices down to two. To short cut an otherwise too lengthy decision making process. Point taken. But.

Do you want limits or unlimited ? I’m kicking OR to the curb.


Richter’s Squeegee

I love this old German. The ballsy dedication of one’s life to the Great Squeegee. He creates world renown kick-ass art with it. And he’s 80. Currently he’s the top grossing artist in the world.

The dragging, adding, the taking away again. The adding, the taking away.

Smear on. Redact. Smear on. Redact.

And I find myself mesmerized. Its existential process draws me in. The way this paint pulls me apart and puts me back together. A surreal humptydumpty life.

what’s surface? what lies beneath? occupies the same plane.

What you are when your “title” is taken away. Who you are on your new business card. You, in juicy given youth, who you are as gainsaid,  it peels away. (A forty-year-old anachronism) The email in your inbox – gives you hope, a slightsound of paper handed – takes it away.

Can the senselessness of the giving and taking away – can it be lovely? Can I, by some craft of hand or soul make it so?

Gerhard Richter Painting

Click above link to watch him in action.


Seeing is believing

Edgar Fernhout (1912-1974), Stilleven

Edgar Fernhout (1912-1974), Stilleven

Move along people, nothin’ to see here. Another Dutch painting sans still life.

Wait, the Dutch and Flemish – weren’t they the painters that elevated still life to legendary status. Now MIA. Missing flowers, missing fruit, no pitcher, no half-eaten meat. All in absentia.

Which begs the question, why missing? What am I not seeing, my blind spots? In art, in life.

The answer – plenty.

Richard Wiseman at the University of Herfordshire shows us in his study of self-proclaimed “lucky” and “unlucky” people. He told them all to look through the newspaper (specially designed) and count the number of photos. The “lucky” people found the number almost immediately. The “unlucky” people took quite a long time and came up with wrong answers. Why? What did the self-proclaimed “unlucky” people not see? The answer – written bold, in two inches high letters, inside the front page.

Half-way through the special newspaper, the message “STOP COUNTING, TELL THE EXPERIMENTER YOU HAVE SEEN THIS AND WIN £250” also in two inch high letters. How many “unlucky” persons got the cash? Not one.


Vrrooom

Tamara deLempicka, Self Portrait in the Green Bugatti, 1925 Private Collection

Tamara deLempicka, Self Portrait in the Green Bugatti, 1925 Private Collection

You know she’s gonna run you over.

Drive you to the edge.

You know she will cost you.

Her eyes.

And you bite your lip for that green Bugatti.


Punctuate this!

Jessica Snow, Dialogue #6

Jessica Snow, Dialogue #6

I have a few choice things to say about punctuation. One would sound like this, “#*!&!!”

And the other would go like, “Ohhh, you darling ellipsis, how I adore you . . .”

It’s interesting how emoticons 🙂 have subsumed the life of punctuation. Emotional shorthand that in the “olden days” would have taken couple of sentences to explain, nicely delineated by commas and quotes – reduced now to smiling faces and stuttering exclamation marks!!!

I like Jessica Snow’s painting because it transforms the symbols of dialogue and makes these marks we call punctuation into gibberish. The addition of color further alienates them from their rhetorical duty. They are happy and carefree, released  from bonds of wordiness. They meander and flock like lime-green geese in formation. Emoticon-y, “cartoony,” vaguely bubblesque.

The modified punctuation itself is doing the talking here. Signs that used to tell us when someone speaks, now all jibber-jabber away, Can’t shut ’em up. So the question is, what are they giggling about? These buoyant half/symboled shapes?

Ninety percent (90%) of meaning is not corralled in words, letters or punctuation. That facial twitch or icy edge to my voice is lost on my social media friends. Are we losing some bright depth of interaction in our new tweet-driven styles? How do you tweet a pregnant pause?

I rarely punctuate in texts anymore. Who needs to tap the period key anymore? The phone does it for you. The loss of punctuation is bleeding over into my email life too  – since Microsoft doesn’t know to add periods like Apple does. So its Fare-thee-well my punctuated friends. 😦 But I’m hanging on to my question marks


Double Moon

Robert Motherwell, Blue Elegy, 1987, National Gallery of Austrailia

Robert Motherwell, Blue Elegy, 1987, National Gallery of Australia

Blue Moon Friday. That’s right, a second chance this month to see that spacious pearl rise and reflect more glowing light to love by. Due to the calendar we’ve concocted and the actual lunar cycle, we get a bonus full moon today –  happens every 2.7 years. Ok, so that’s mildly interesting. A good time to concoct a love potion perhaps.

This month’s two-moon tango reminds me of Blue Elegy by Robert Motherwell. I did a double take on this one. Only a pair of marks here, not an eye pleasing threesome. It’s repeated but not repetition. Just tandem. Why?

Powerful strokes that were originally the work of chance and subconscious, are now Motherwell’s signature mark. The strong downward stroke with the affixed oval shape (art critics say rectilinear and ovoid, ugh). He did about two hundred paintings in his Elegies series, mainly this same repeating mark in graphic black. A protest against the atrocities of the Spanish Civil war, as Picasso did in Guernica. See one here. http://www.guggenheim.org/new-york/collections/collection-online/show-full/piece/?object=84.3223&search=&page=&f=Title

But this Elegy’s in blue. Takes on celestial feel instead of the dark, stagnated fury of the black ones. The stroke now softened by sky blue and gilded by a gold top line. This mark usually told of senseless death and war’s vengeful repeating.  Now, it speaks of something more heavenly and I think more hopeful. The gift of second chance.

You struggle to say something important but you can’t quite get it out. You try again. You do something brilliant and then try it again –  fear of failure be damned. You attempted life, but it didn’t quite work out. You look up to see that second beautiful chance you thought you’d never get.

Blue moon shining.