Saturday, December 31, 2011
Trying to ride the wave, I am overwhelmed.
Overwhelmed with gratitude that -- in spite of everything, much has been spared; it could always be "worse." Whatever that means. It is a wary sort of thanks, a cautious one. I see in so many ways that there is good, that there is light, that there is so much light around me. The gratitude is also selfish, greedy. Justified. Perhaps dangerous in this sense, I don't know.
There is a burning lust for change. For perhaps to be is.
And there is an acute awareness -- a pain -- that I cannot suck the poison from another's arm, although I may see it plainly. I want it to be gone, better. Everything can always be better.
Perhaps more than ever I feel counterpoised to my self. A passive onlooker who would prefer to go unnoticed, letting it all just unfold clumsily away. I feel very small, estranged. And husk-like. And calm.
The next time I write it will be a new year. Again, whatever that means.
I'll leave you with someone else's words, as even the words that I am writing now do not feel as though they belong to me.
Monday, December 12, 2011
I recently had this conversation with a friend -- that I really feel like my "artistic parents," are Marina Abramovic and Richard Serra. This is not because I have chosen them, but, more like actual parents, my artistic parents are the ones I just somehow ended up with. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, and I feel compelled to react to them, live up to them, rebel against them, piss them off, let them drive me totally up the wall and, incomprehensibly, love them anyway.
My chosen artistic parents would be R. Crumb and Patti Smith. Hands down. But they're like the big kids at school, who are kind to me even though I'm considerably younger than much-much-much too shy to even make eye contact. They'll smile and do nice things for me. They'll help build my confidence. They'll look out for me in the halls. They'll show me a really cool new cassette tape or album, or book, and whatever it is, I'll have it memorized in a few hours. I'll unconditionally adore them. And even if we lose touch, I'll feel the loss of them very acutely, should it happen.
Then there's Bouguereau. My erudite uncle who died of old age when I was a high school sophomore. He taught me about the value of craft, finesse and beauty. Taught me that I wanted very badly to make beautiful things, but that the finesse part would have to come over time. Mary Engelbreit. My goofy, overweight aunt, who stuffed me silly with thumbprint cookies as a child, and taught me that you could be sweet and witty, and that Prismacolor pencils and markers were so absolutely the shit.
Modigliani: my first love. Clumsy, irrational, obsessive, my first real physical experience--tentative, overwhelming. Moments of tenderness that can't be repeated. Slight, unintentional manipulation. And although I've moved on, I'll always love him.
Kiki Smith, the cool girl in my freshman class in college that I half-hated, half-admired. Wishing I could be flaky and carefree and that I could let my hair grow long, and goof off and get all of the boys, but then remembering who my parents were ... and that part of me actually understood the value of a little structure.
Kevin Huizenga, whopping college crush. Probably a T.A. in a philosophy course, tragically engaged. Felix Gonzalez-Torres, indelibly cool college professor who could walk that high-line between paralyzing trendiness and limpid sincerity. I might house sit for him. Water his plants, talk to them, look through his sock drawers, sip his Yerba Mate. He'd always have candy, so I'd know he was a good egg.
Jean Toomer, the guy I met on a bus, with whom I had the most amazing conversation, and skipped my stop so I could hear him out. Marilynne Robinson, a neighbor who would occasionally accept me for tea on a Sunday afternoon. The lights would be off and we'd look out at her yard, and not say a word. I'd stir, and she'd reach for my hand.
Oh ... there are just so many ... how can I even begin to end? I don't have to. This is my history, my company. I walk with them, and they vibrate and flow around me, through me.
Friday, December 9, 2011
I work my way into the lives of others, sometimes briefly, sometimes not. And (and this is not meant to be self-effacing or anything, but I think it's true) and I do a lot for the others.
It's like -- at least this is how I've been imagining it lately -- the world is like this antique shop or a really old house with all of this crap in it, piled up to the ceiling. There's furniture, and lamps, and some things are bigger than others. And then there are people kind of vibrating in between these things, but they don't see that there are things around them -- preventing them from moving freely, or ready to topple over onto their heads. And I see! I see, oh, if I moved that vase, or that lamp, or that divan, or that chair, then it would be better, it would be easier for you. So then I do, and I'll move it, and then the people will just keep on vibrating and moving around, and they might move a little more easily and a little more freely, and this makes me happy.
I know that there are others like me. I am friends with some people like this. People who, when you're with them, it just feels natural, easy. It's because they put themselves in front of the lamp that's about to topple onto your head, while you're moving the ottoman that they're about to trip over.
And then there are the others, who go on vibrating and moving around, because that's what they know best to do. And, that's all good! I wish we could all be that way, just, blithely bopping around, free from worry that there are these things all around us that may slow us down. It's groovy.
I know that they can't always see all that I do. But, it's always kind of funny. I don't think of what I'm doing as being totally invisible.
So here's the thing. It's always like this: I'm moving and lifting, and delicately preventing things from tipping and toppling. And then I have to go away, or move on, or be absent for a little while. And -- somehow -- it's in my absence that people realize. They say, "You were actually really nice to me when I was living in Pittsburgh," or "You actually helped us a lot this Spring." Sometimes it's also personality stuff. "You're actually pretty funny!" and "I actually really enjoyed our morning conversations." Professors in college, "You don't say much, but when you do, it's actually well-considered and very much to the point." Then there's all of this stuff about my physical appearance: "You're actually quite pretty!" and even more shockingly "You're actually really tall!" How can my six feet go unremarked?
Am I just so enmeshed with the background, so still that their vibrating selves can't see me until I'm gone? It's just funny. I am pretty aware of my presence, and I feel like for those who know me, my presence, or non-presence is pretty palpable. But it seems like for the gross majority of people, they brush me off, and make some automatic assumptions about me, which then, only when I am absent, are disproved. Actually embodies this notion that there was a sort of revelation involved -- that they had not thought something to be the case, where actually it was. I am thinking of this because I am tired of being an actually girl. I want people to look at me and know that I am (not actually) am a great person. And not have to wait until I'm gone to call me up and inform me that they actually hadn't even noticed me before. Informing me seems like a form of rude altruism, as though they wondered if I actually knew who I was, or what I was doing in the first place. Gee, thanks. I had no idea that I was smart, tall, and kind to others. I was just kind of mindlessly bopping around, when there you were to stage this grand awakening.
For the record: I am very aware, and waiting for the rest of the world to wake up. And I'm not actually, I am.
But wouldn't it be nice if I didn't have to? I understand that it's just how things are right now. So rather than thinking of how it could be were circumstances different, I'll just wait.
I'm happy to, just, see where the wind takes me. See how things unfold.
And it's exciting being here, even though there is always a possibility. A sky-blue cat perched on my shoulder.
Monday, December 5, 2011
Last August I took a trip to Bangor, Maine to do something that nobody in my family had done before: visit my father's father. I called a couple weeks in advance, having not spoken in years, and asked whether it would be alright. I was interested in learning more about his faith, I told him, which was true.
The drive up was pretty epic. I listened to a Roches compilation CD about forty times in a row, listened to about a million Radio Lab episodes. It was the longest drive I'd ever taken anywhere, alone or with somebody. In brief: I had a lot of time to think.
About thirty years before, my grandfather had made the same drive (shorter, actually; he didn't have to come from Southwest Pennsylvania!). But he was running. Running from a family and a life that he had built, that he had destroyed. Father to seven children and one foster child in suburban New Jersey, he was also a successful OB/GYN with a private practice, ready to retire at forty-five years old. Although stories differ on timing, one thing led to another and he started sleeping with a local woman, who he described to me as a "grown-up child" when they'd met.
According to him, it was through her that he found faith. Started witnessing miracles. Again, timing differs depending on who I talk to, but the miracles started appearing around the same time that he was being dragged through some serious legal mud by my grandmother. The collapse of their marriage was then and would remain the major event of her life, and she would not be had. They took their divorce trial to the supreme court of New Jersey, ultimately changing state custody laws (I checked and it's still on the state's Divorce Law website). This, of course, cost them what would today be millions of dollars in legal expenses, and it nearly ruined them both. It certainly prevented them from becoming very rich.
He ultimately moved when his house, one night, burned to the ground. According to him, he called upon God for a sign. He was depressed, financially wounded. His family had largely turned away from him. So he prayed. That night, an electric surge ran through the house--over 200,000 volts of electricity--and every light bulb in every socket burst, and every electrical outlet in the house started streaming sparks. He and his new wife Diane fled from the house, and across a dewy lawn strewn with live electrical wires that had fallen.
He had witnessed the miracle of his life, and took it as a sign. Diane and he had been discussing the possibility of their moving to their summer home on a lake in Maine. In no time, they were headed up there with Diane's two kids, and they never came back.
The years that followed were full of pain and confusion for the whole family. He and Diane squandered his remaining money, and according to him, his accountant made away with the rest in a scheme of some sort. Some of my father's brothers were very young, as young as five years old, and it was confusing for them. My grandmother established her own practice and started working again. He refused to attend my father and mother's wedding on account of the fact that they failed to invite Diane's children (a major event in my parent's relationship with him). The rest of the details aren't particularly clear -- I'm assuming it's because everybody is telling self-truths. Eventually he started treating, they became missionaries and traveled the world preaching to poor people in faraway places.
And then, God again spoke to him. And -- he learned that he had the potential to heal with his hands, with his mind. There is a passage in the Bible about this -- about how it is possible. And he became a Prophet of God.
This, it seems, is his truth, and I'm really ok with that. As I drove up, I was not thinking, like I had about my other grandfather -- the alcoholic, philandering, truck-company owner -- that I had to be prepared to not like him. A big part of me felt some sort of affinity to his calling. I feel like my creative calling is somewhat supernatural. I'm not sure where it comes from, but it's like -- this energy that I can access if I give it the space to just flow through me. I assumed that he, like me, used his reputedly awesome intellectual capacity (after all, he was a doctor, had attended Georgetown, had made numerous contributions to his field prior to his shift) to harbor something unexplainable. That I could relate to -- actually wanted to relate to. And also, I have a propensity to be skeptical of my parents and I was rightly convinced that what they had to say about him was sullied by their hurt. And for that I could not blame them. He missed most of the lives of all of his children, the births and subsequent nascent existences of over twenty-five grand children. But then, he had done nothing to me, so I could enter into the picture a cool observer. Old enough to sort of decide for myself. But still young enough that I allowed myself to really hope that I might find something truly extraordinary in Bangor, Maine.
What neither he nor I could have sort of predicted was this. In his life as healer and prophet, he missed most of the lives of all of his children, the births and existences of over twenty-five grand children. For this Purpose. I was the second oldest, a sort-of-woman, articulate, intelligent. The first, though, of anyone to visit. And I didn't mean to become part of his Hurt, but I did. And though I entered his life clean of hurt, with open and flexible intentions, without a need to forgive, I think he started to be assumed into my Sadness.
And so. That's an introduction ... More to come.
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Sunday, November 27, 2011
I am really conflicted
about how my appearance affects other people's perceptions of me. It is so exhausting to have to constantly decide whether people are really absorbed in what I'm saying because I have a pleasing sort of look to me. I'm not gorgeous. But -- hell -- I'm 25, my tits are perky, and I don't have a third eye and a hunch back. I can clean up, and this is highly pleasing to me. But, I have to say that it spoils everything when, for instance, you want a newspaper article to be about your art ... and you're in more than one picture. Or when you really just want to talk about your art with another artist over coffee ... and they reach across the table and tell you how they regret getting married so young.
I don't want to have saggy tits or a hunch back ... even though it will eventually be the case. But I just ... really wish sometimes that I didn't have to deal with all of this shit. With help from my Other Dad, I'm learning to assert my boundaries much more carefully, "exuding" unavailability and slithering in a handshake where an inappropriate hug may have been attempted, not drinking at art-related functions, which are work functions, at least for me.
But this, my friends, is a double-edged sword.
I'm tall and smart and pretty and confident and ... so obviously I can't get a date. Not even a nip from some guppies here or there, let alone an actual fish. I'm not one to complain about these things. I go to bed and wake up happy every day. Seriously. But heck, how can I go from one extreme to another -- being objectified every time I walk out of the house to not being able to easily, sort of, date around, or whatever people do.
Ugh. I (,) object.
Sunday, November 20, 2011
Regretted the fact that I'm a girl.
Finished cleaning and re-shelving my collection of 18 used coffee mugs which I'd arranged in my room in a beautiful, multi-colori semi-circle.
Listened to Christmas songs on the radio, sang to John & Yoko as poorly as I could, danced to jingle bell rock.
Listened to a radio show about Soviet Socialist Realism, remembering that I'd once intended to be the authority on Socialist Realist art, with noble plans for a dissertation and a life's work focusing on Aleksandr Deineka.
Pinned my hair using three bobby pins.
Felt really proud for having such nice hair today.
Called my dad to tell him that my car man was ripping us off, after some late-night peripheral research. Was thrilled when he told me that I did good work.
Felt annoyed at being thrilled, still felt proud.
Took an iron supplement and two ibuprofen.
Told my roomate that there would be scones of the blueberry variety, as he made faces at me while brushing his teeth.
Got some more coffee cups out of my room.
Turned on my computer.
Talked to my roomie about my method of not losing eyeglasses (buy new eyeglasses and put them in all of the places where I might need eyeglasses and not have them - purse, computer, bedside)
Did not turn off the radio when Wait, wait! Don't tell me! came on
Butchered some blueberry scones because I'm out of the habit of making them.
Ate two butchered scones.
Set out cans of pumpkin and sweetened condensed milk, brushed the flour on the counter on to the floor which I cleaned yesterday.
Learned some new words.
Turned off the radio which was talking about protests in Egypt and at UC Davis because it made me cry.
Reheated a second cup of coffee, added honey and more cream.
Debated whether I should put my slippers back on.
Checked my email.
Checked my facebook.
Debated whether I should post a picture of pizza and write, "Ceci n'est pas un vegetable, folks," but decided against it when there were no good pictures of pizza and the url's were too long.
Checked out this girl I made out with once on the Facebook, realizing that I would be happy to be a lesbian if it didn't mean that I had to be in a relationship with a girl. Also wondered to myself why so many girls in Pittsburgh like knitting and cats.
Decided that I had no desire to participate this morning, and wondered if what I was feeling was loneliness, despite the fact that I don't feel unpleasant or that I need anything at all, aside from my coffee and cream. And then wondered whether if I wasn't lonely, whether or not I'd grow to be so, and if I am lonely, whether it would eventually become unpleasant and whether I was capable of growing to be bitter in my diagnosed or undiagnosed loneliness as I suspect people do. I have two grandmothers who have lived alone for a quarter century, have only had sex with one other human being ever, and both of them seem to be very well-occupied and generally healthy in the head.
I don't think I'm lonely. I'm certainly never bored. The world is such a mess. I'll have to get cranberries and do more scones soon. My coffee is lukewarm.
Thursday, November 17, 2011
I also recently got a bit of a crush on this guy. But I really only like that one piece, and the title, and everything about it. His other pieces I am not wild over. Love him, but he's nothing new. I've just been stalking him a bit on the internet as I do. Hm...wondering if I can find an art crush who I like EVERYTHING about...oh, yeah!!! My art husband, sigh. Of course there are others, but my husband allows it, and that's why we have such a great relationship...
I've been poring over pages of art on the internet -- on this site VVORK -- which is so awesome, if only because it has helped me understand that there is a big world out there, that just wants more art, more art, more, more, more. MORE. MORE! No limits. Wonderful.
Sometimes in Pittsburgh I forget that and then I remember about the internet. I've been trying to be diligent about it...every day...seeing new art...on the internet. It's great. Thank you, internet. The internet is like my guilty pleasure the hot guy at the grocery store checkout...The one I don't want to check out, but sometimes you just can't help it!
Anyway...those are art crushes (well except for the internet). Purely intellectual/aesthetic.
I also have a real crush. On a real boy, which never happens for me. (Like, I could count on one hand the number of real crushes I've had my whole life). And nothing happened between us or will in any kind of foreseeable future. But the feeling was enough to kind of cup in my hands before I let it go again. Oop.
It was a reminder that such a thing could be had, cupped, had.
I've been doing a bit of unraveling lately, and it feels good. The good kind of unraveling, you know? It's hard for me. Working on it some more.
Sunday, November 13, 2011
I tend to also feel very stupid in political conversations. I never quite know "the issues," but rather rely on pretty intense feelings one way or the other, regardless of how much or how little I actually know. Perhaps I am lazy. Perhaps I just don't prefer the media in which various issues are housed. Perhaps I just get absorbed in the details of everyday life; the little trials and triumphs of miniature interactions, and that experience is what helps me feel as though I already understand everything else that is going on -- enough, enough. There is just a lot of pain. That a very dear person to me had for weeks been fighting for his life in the hospital blighted out much else of my needs and interests, or the worlds' needs and interests...But that was because I think we all have a threshold for what we can endure either intellectually or emotionally at any given time...
I'm getting away from myself.
In any case, I always have opinions, and when I feel as though I am in a situation where they will be nurtured, further informed or respected, I share them. I guess that's why this blog exists, and why it's still semi-secret to most of the world.
I think this post may be counted as some kind of addendum to the one about the Occupy movement, of which I was relatively critical....maybe it's a separate idea. In any case...I clearly haven't fully formulated my opinions and am blabbering on and on attempting to forgive myself in advance for saying something that may sound awfully naive or dull... So -- forgive the recitative, I'll get to it.
I just watched a commercial for Chase Bank, which has recently launched what they're calling a 100,000 jobs mission, to employ veterans of our epic wars. Wars that they probably helped fund in many different ways. Wars that we have been fighting for close to half of my worldly existence. Oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why.
It just felt so utterly insulting -- that a WAR whose real costs we cannot even begin to imagine might be reduced to some marketing ploy for a big bank. The veteran in the commercial ties his shiny black shoes. He smiles. His teeth are white. His shirt is blue. We'll all eventually do the same, clean up, move on. Erect some structure in ten years that will help us all to Never Forget. That's the benefit of having our wars overseas. They can be profitable and compelling, but remain relatively unobtrusive. We can call ourselves civilized, and pity the others.
We have food in our supermarkets. We have our little homes to go to at night.
I was mostly shocked and ashamed that I am a product of this massive dupe. I may call myself liberal or educated or informed. And, yeah, power to the people, sure. But I have allowed myself to think of this whole conflict as headlines to avoid or not avoid. I am completely unable to engage with the reality of this situation and I am so, so ashamed.
On our way to the hospital, I was talking to my Other Dad about war -- how -- for all of our lives pretty much, our country has been in a perpetual state of war. How -- when my roommates play their war video games it takes thirty seconds to "respawn" as a penalty for being "killed." Meanwhile in real wars, real people are dying, and millions are being displaced. MILLIONS.
I talked about this video game habit as though it was distant from my own behavior, distasteful, reprehensible. But I doubt that what I have been doing is any better. Am I to blame, or am I just being massaged into complacency like everybody else...
It's just that this is so big, beyond our country, beyond politics, beyond oil. For me, it seems like this is what humans feel compelled to do. Is war a human need? Where does it come from? How does it get to be like this?
It's something that I've been thinking about -- will continue to think about. Don't know what I think about -- much.
What I do know is this: my heart aches. It aches for this country, it aches for the world and all of the little animals called humans that are clawing their way through it. I guess that aching sensation is all that I'm capable of, at least for now.
I'm critical of these movements, but most of all I'm just critical of the massive abstraction that we're all sort of invested in ... abstractions called freedom and country and will and ... They strike me as little stories that we tell ourselves to make the day day and the night night.
Ugh. I don't know. I just wanted to say that my heart just aches sometimes. As I sort of breathe in, and hold my breath, suddenly overwhelmed by all of it. It'll go away tomorrow. I'll want coffee, I'll have to edit my CV, there will be an email.
Monday, October 10, 2011
Tonight is my first night back at my house in a little while, and everybody on the internet is in a tizzy about this Occupy Wall Street thing. After following a few links, I was led to a page that read "Join Us to Protest Corporate Greed." Big effing whoop.
It's hard when you've been dealing with cold, hard life-and-death realities to give a shit about this abstract stuff. What is meant by protesting Greed with a capital G?
I get it. We're rubbing up against the 10th anniversary of our Great war on Terrorism. We fight Terrorism because we believe in Freedom. And Democracy. And yet, we are still able to audaciously Hope for something better. Because, Yes We Can. So now we protest Greed.
The nebulousness of that all-encompassing term has a frighteningly familiar ring to it. That die-hard self-righteousness. It's that nasty taste in my mouth that's been around for the past 1o years or so...longer.
This self-congratulatory attitude also worries me. Pisses me off, actually. When will people wake up? That even in our protesting habits, we're trapped in this bought-and-sold mentality. We keep gravitating towards these big ideals, that are suffocatingly monolithic, -- but both sides are using them, and soon enough Target will be marketing the Arab Spring Collection and McDonalds the OccuPie.
I really think that one of the most remarkable things about the Egyptian revolution in particular was the notable absence of much of that language. It was green. Yes. From that time (which now feels like ages ago, but we're just talking months here), I mostly remember that wash of green, everybody was wearing green, green scarves, dresses, pins. There was a refreshing lack of ideological impositions. Sure there were the "We Want Democracy!" signs -- oh, but wait, might we go as far to ask ourselves why were they written in English?
Slavoj Zizek gave a speech at Occupy Wall Street today, which is mostly transcribed here. It should be said that I'm a huge fan of Zizek. I like that he's funny, smart as hell, and I really think that he believes that he can make the world a better place with his writing. What more can you ask for from a philosopher? Seeing him talk on the video was great - and his speech was very good. I had been getting more and more fired up about this thing, and his words kind of struck a chord with me, and I realized that my issue wasn't so much with the problem, which is obviously really fucked up, but the packaging, which is, in my opinion, so much more a symptom of the problem as it manifests itself in our day to day lives. Poor Zizek, though. He wants this so bad, if you watch the video, his body moves erratically -- it looks like he's about to take off, or vomit, or collapse, or explode at any minute. He is really f what I'm relatively sure the audience that films him, repeats his every word, cannot feel. He also strikes me as visibly exhausted. I would be too if I were Slavoj Zizek in this world. Perhaps this is why he is also wary -- he cautions against the kind of insidious self-gratification that can come with being Part of Something. He says, "The only thing I’m afraid of is that we will someday just go home and then we will meet once a year, drinking beer, and nostalgically remembering what a nice time we had here. Promise ourselves that this will not be the case."
Too late, my friend, can't you see? We've been bought and sold. He closes by saying, "We know that people often desire something but do not really want it. Don’t be afraid to really want what you desire." We don't know how to do that, that is, until it's branded and stamped onto something with a catchy, bold type face. Or given a sexy name. Yeah we all want something: to want something. It is all we know how to do. Want, buy. We are nowhere close to really understanding what want is, at least not this American Fall.
Sure we may be using the same social networking tools as the Arab Spring, but we've failed to secure a major piece of the puzzle. The really wanting it part. That je-ne-sais-quoi that really puts the animal fire into our Puritan Notions. Mute Zizek's speech, and you'll see what I'm talking about. That's it. We can tweet the bejeezis of a problem -- hell, we invented both Freedom and Twitter, let's use 'em! -- but we forget that the medium is not always the message. Sometimes the message is the message, and the medium is an occasional side effect, borne out of necessity rather than aesthetic preference. What made the Arab Spring special was its umami-ness. The world is starving for the unmistakable, meaty thirst for real justice.
And until we want it [whatever It is], real, ugly animal want, there is no revolution, at least so far as I'm concerned. Revolutions happen all the time, when two people love each other, or when somebody plants a garden on a rooftop, or when somebody feeds another person who is hungry. If we're relying on trends to carry our revolution, where will we be when the trend dies? Gosh. And where the hell would we be if we were in actual crisis as a country. Our lives are pretty good here. We don't have dictators murdering our people, we are not starving to death. We object on Principle, because we are not trained to understand anything else.
We have to want this as if there is no tomorrow, but keep wanting it and wanting it for a hundred thousand tomorrows. It's gotta hurt, because anything that actually comes from the heart tugs, hurts, at least a little bit. It can't be pleasant. Or clever! We have to want it, and not think of the domain name, and not think of the Potential. Dolling it up with our Adobe software and calling it movement. Right now, ugh, this all feels static as hell.
So, do us all a favor, and prove me wrong.
Then again, there are plenty of sins to be committed midday, afternoon, evening and night. There are my roommate's cookies sitting innocently on the counter. Phone calls to ignore. Splats of tomato sauce on the floor not to wipe up. Shoes to purchase on the internet. But I know that the night will give way to dawn, and I'll have a brand new day.
Monday, September 19, 2011
I guess it's good in a way. Because going through It is just one of many steps required to get through It.
It is ok. It is getting better. I have a doctor for a bit of whatever It is now. But sometimes I feel like this. Jagged, and slightly more off than usual.
Thursday, August 25, 2011
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Ok, I admit it, I'm in a real funk. Not the good kind, the shake-your-bootie kind.
The bad kind. Like what happens underneath your toenails. Except this one is in my head.
I don't think I've felt this low since sophomore year of college.* While I understand the contributing factors to this funk, and can rationalize my situation, I'm still unable to escape this kind of all-encompassing feeling of heaviness that has descended.
In fact, I expected it. What I'm realizing, however, is that there is really nothing quite as stealthy as fulfilled expectations. People asked me after my show had ended whether I felt a kind of "let down." And I didn't really -- it was something more like relief. But the relief came after months of really extreme stress, and though marked by an above-normal functionality on my part, I hadn't the strength to allow myself to be vulnerable. Well, my body went on strike, and plunged me headlong into uber-vulnerability. I literally did not have the strength to think for eight straight weeks. I was really too tired to eat or do much of anything. And still, somehow, I pushed through three art shows, two web design projects, a major illustration project, and a trip to India.
At a certain point everything just came to a grinding halt. If my roommates hadn't bought and cooked food for me, I wouldn't have eaten. I drove to work, drove home, slept. I lost about 25 pounds. Everything stopped.
My body has now allowed me what seems to be a trial probation. I'm trying my best to be respectful, but it's been really frustrating. And while I am starting to feel much better, the events of the past year have really taken a toll on me psychologically. I feel closer to normal than I have in the past few months, and I've lowered the armor of my hyper-functionality.
And now there is a funk.
I understand that my mind is sort of functioning the same way as my body did. My weakened immune system ushered in a painful, though probably necessary halt in activity. My defenses down, I had to re-learn how to kind of take care of myself properly. This required a psychological adjustment, which meant that I had to start feeling things again. My guard down, the good and the bad flooded in. Small feelings of uneasiness quickly deepened to dissatisfaction, anger, disappointment, fear, and worst of all, cynicism. Take that, Yoda.
Going through the motions of taking care of myself physically was way easier than coming to terms with the psychological reverb. If I would push a little harder one day, just to test the waters, my body would shut down for two. Understanding to some degree physical impotence weighed heavily on me psychologically. Some say that strength comes from within, but what I've found is that I tend to seek strength through doing. When I think about it, the world feels chaotic to me. I am not very diligent about keeping up with news or trends aside from what I hear from other people. Working on things that I care about, really working my ass off, has proven itself as a method to feel grounded. So when even that is gone, chaos descends, and rather than standing up to it somehow, I stumble into a funk.
It started slowly. Initially, I just felt overwhelmed ("Stop!!!"). But then I started to feel disinterested ("I just don't feel like it."). And then sad. Just -- really -- kind of sad ("I don't want to."). And then I realize that things that had at one point made me feel good don't anymore, or only seem to be distractions from a hulking mass which I can't describe short of how it makes me feel, which is...kind of suffocated. I'm afraid of this Hulk.
And then there are these questions which kind of glug up to the surface, in between bouts of functionality, but never around the Hulk.
I wonder whether I'm a good artist, what that means, if it matters. I wonder if I'll always be defined by my environment, or whether I can create my own context, or whether that's just an escapist mentality. I wonder whether I am best suited to make art if nobody likes it or gets it, or gets me. How can I put so much energy into shit that people chew up and spit out... I wonder if anybody ever will actually be able to see me for what I am -- flawed, but with generally good intentions -- and be ok with that.
I've tried to free myself from the need for external validation. I doubt I'm close. However I realize that while I care about what people think of me, it is only to a certain extent. A search for achievement and praise doesn't rule me the way I see it rule some other people I know. But I seem to have created my own more insidious form of external validation, which is doing things that are productive.
I went to a shrink for a couple sessions recently, and she called me a perfectionist. I knew she was wrong right away. Then after some thought I came to a scary realization. I am a productivist, not a perfectionist. I make the mirror, rather than rely on the image it produces.
So, obviously, I'm focusing again on a few projects. Forcing myself to do things again. Working on applications to graduate school. Like WWII, work and focus seem to pull me out of a depression. What scares me is that work kind of put me into this in the first place. So I wonder. Am I capable of not doing anything [productive] and not feel sad? Or is my life, and my work actually an active avoidance of an inevitable state of mind? A scary thought ...
* Of my lifelong galumphing through periods of depression we have the following all-time-lowest-of-the-lows from least most severe: Third Grade, Sophomore Year of College, First year-post-college, Post-break-up last year, Junior Year of High School. Primary symptoms include: not seeing a point, just not seeing a point.
Monday, June 13, 2011
I haven't posted because I've been busy. Like REALLY busy. And I got mono. Because I was really busy. like REALLY busy. and stressed REALLY stressed. In seven months I:
- Moved to a new house
- Traveled to San Francisco!
- C0-curated a show of Haitian artwork at the Warhol Museum
- Completed a body of work to fill a 2,500 foot space
- Cleaned, prepared, curated, installed and promoted that show
- Raised over $6,000 to pay for that show, including two grant awards
- Applied for one fellowship, one residency, one award, and three grants (and was only declined from exactly 50% of these, which was great!)
- Built a website for myself, and three other businesses
- Established myself as a business!
- Applied for, was a finalist for, and did not win a Data & Technology Award -- but still had to provide an installation of my work (10 TVs, baby!) for the awards ceremony....and take it down in one day (all while wearing an unspeakably adorable strapless dress -- $9.99 c/o Gabriel Bros and totally strange but oh-so-cool black plastic four-inch heels that I also managed to get the same day and ON SALE for $20!!!!!!) (Have you ever over the course of six hours installed and de-installed 10 monitors in godlessly inexpensive and friggen' adorable and utterly impractical clothing? Dare I say, I think not!?!!)
[I digress for the shameless love of the deal and cute clothing! I also:]
- Moved my parents out of their house, and re-appropriated a house full of unwanted furniture to four different homes, one storage unit, and two Goodwill venues...
- Got laid?
- Created and personally installed a new, 9' x 14' installation at a major art fair in New York
- Carted over 40 prints to that same fair.
- Installed another group show in New York, providing technical assistance for other artists
- Came down with an evil virus that has literally been plaguing my life for two of those seven months...
- Turned 25!
- Created over 50 individual digital illustrations for a medical instruction booklet for non-reading parents of children with congenital heart disease. Then laid out that booklet --
All while maintaining a part-to-full time job.
Yep. I feel good about these things. I'm proud of my work, I worked really hard.
Granted. While I've done these things, it hasn't been without some cost to my health and sanity. I did freak out at my new housemates and throw some hand towels on the floor in a writhing fit of put-outed-ness. I haven't been spending as much time with my friends. I also got mono (part deux!) which has profoundly sucked. Nor did I do it all alone (more on that later).
On the phone with a dear friend the other day, she mentioned something that I'd also kind of noticed, but never dared to really think or express. Which was, really, since I graduated college and broke up with my boyfriend of three years, shit's been raining down on me almost non-stop and hasn't seemed to quiet down.
If it wasn't the job, it was the home situation, if it wasn't the home situation, it was the relationship...some minor health crisis....money...then the housing situation...then work....then...then...
The thing is, I haven't really ever looked at it like a long trajectory of what-the-fuck-now-ness. It's just kind of been like, "Oh, my foot's broken." and then "I need a crown." And then, "I can't afford groceries." And then, "My male alcoholic boss scares me." And then, "My alcoholic housemate tried to break into my room." And then... etc. Which, I think is the best way to experience these things. In the moment. Because, really, the notion that the world works in patterns or even that things happen "for a reason," both represent manners of thinking that strike me as awfully trite.
Yet, I haven't felt like things were generally going badly. There was a whole lot of good stuff peppered in, and as a whole, I've been able to kind of do my own thing which has been really amazing. When I look back on it, I see these couple of years as generally great.
I've determined, for one, that this is because I have amazing friends. Who, for instance, drop off Christmas wreaths on my front door in the dead of night when I couldn't afford a tree. Or, say, call me from Greece once a week. Or, say, work for weeks wiring countless touch lights for some idiotic art project I've conjured up. How am I so lucky that people will, like, I dunno -- really help me out, a LOT!
And I think this is also because I've felt like I've really gained some traction with my work. I've been working steadily, but it has at times felt like I was on a stationary bicycle. I just finished my first major body of work (and it was a LOT of work). And it feels fucking amazing. I know more about who I am as a person, as an artist -- and although I did have to trudge through a lot of shit to get here and don't have a lot of external validations to show for it (-- "So, did you sell anything?" -- "Nope!"), what I gained was way more valuable than a few bucks.
I feel so lucky, beyond lucky to have the privilege to be able to work on what makes my heart sing. I feel super-double-lucky to have other people give that stuff the time of day. I feel ooper-triple-duper-lucky to have friends who are willing and able to carry my sorry ass through the mire, and stand with me when I can manage to stand on my own.
I feel like I've learned more in the past couple of years than I learned during four years of college. Without a doubt. I feel more capable than ever after the recent onslaught of shit. ("Well, now that I'm off of narcotics for severe abdominal pain and the two-week-long bout of fevers and sore throats have subsided, all I have to deal with is perpetual fatigue!")
I really couldn't have done any of it without the solid support of my friends and family. Nor could I manage to maintain this outlook. Ok. Well...more blog posts to come!
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Friday, April 22, 2011
I've been working really hard lately, and I've been under a lot of stress. I miss the other me, the one who could think clearly and was able to take more time.
And I'm just having a really bad day, lately.
Friday, April 15, 2011
That's just the preface, today's issue is about sandcastles.
You know, I complain about my folks all the time, and to pretty much everybody. They totally drive me crazy, in a way that nobody else ever can or will. It's really a special thing. And, I really love them.
A lot of people have some difficulty understanding how the previous sentence might begin with an "And" rather than a "But." But it is And, because that is how it is.
For some things, I do think a little like my grandmother. Black and white. That part of me tends to be the part belonging to proper noun concepts like Duty and It's Lunchtime. Though, whether or not I always act on my "black and white" instincts in certain regards is a whole 'nother can of worms. Ok, well: relationships, the words and actions of others...never black and white. And that goes just as much for my relationship with my parents. I love them and they drive me teeth-gnashingly crazy; they drive me teeth-gnashingly crazy and I love them. Nobody has to get it, or understand (myself included). It just is what it is.
The weekend of my opening I was definitely feeling both, which is pretty consistently how it happens when I engage with my parents. They've been really supportive of my solo show, even though they, self-admittedly, "don't understand any of it." But because they sensed that it was important to me, it became important to them. This doesn't always happen, mind you. I find plenty of things important that they've disagreed with or pontificated against, causing much ado and gnashing of teeth on both ends. Case-in-point: turning down multiple "good" jobs to "work on art" that "nobody's gonna buy." But, when I ignored them took the plunge anyway, they 1) recognized it and 2) supported me anyway. I can only hope to do the same in like situations.
Again, I digress. So they were supportive, and came down for the weekend, and it was really nice for them to see it, for everybody to see it, who could. Well then, being the super-annoying ultra-duper efficient human specimens they tend to be, they ALSO decided to have a going away party for themselves at their house (which they've sold) the night after my opening, followed shortly thereafter by cleaning and packing the ENTIRE house and moving out the day after THAT. Obviously. They were there anyway. It was "just easier." Oy ... let us say, there was much epic gnashing of teeth, literally and figuratively. I ground right through my night guard ...
Well. After hours of packing and my dad weeping every other minute ( El Padre Doloroso Muy Largo y Obnoxioso ), we kind of took a break and he stopped running around in a tizzy and the two of us watched the end of Shawshank Redemption on TV. My dad and I watched Tim Robbins crawl through miles of shit and were just quiet and still.
Again, not the point. The point was that it [all] got me thinking about this strange and messy and complicated and maddening and wonderful and very rarely quiet relationship I have with my parents.
It is what it is.
What about the sandcastles, you ask?
I determined it'd be best in a separate entry. Aren't I funny? Trust me, it'll be better that way. Stay tuned.
Friday, March 4, 2011
Friday, February 25, 2011
Well. As I sit here at work, I started thinking about Eugene Von Bruenchenhein, an artist whose work I saw at the Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore several moths ago.
So, this guy, Eugene. Too short to join the ranks of the army in World War II. Instead, he helped out at home, he instead took a vested interest in botany. He was just a guy living in the midwest: card-holding member of the Milwaukee Cactus Club, self-professed horticuluralist, baker by trade. When he was 29 he met and married a 19 year old girl named Marie, who would be the great love of his life. Towards the end of his life, he and Marie were living off of his $220 monthly social security checks. He died in 1983 at the age of 72, broke.
What most people didn't know about Eugene until after he died (like many visionary artists) was that he had spent much of his life painting thousands, literally, thousands of dreamscapes--rhythmic, fantastical musings. His house was filled to the brim with artwork -- paintings and photographs. Now he's super-famous.
The first time I saw his work, I pretty much thought that it was crap. It struck me as the kind of artwork that you can purchase from an art school in China on a TV infomercial or a glossy paper brochure you get in the mail advertising "real art by real artists!" -- or something. However, the sheer quantity (there were scores of these paintings in a room in the museum) was so striking, that it led me to read the blurb about his life. Which was when I saw his photographs. His photographs were nothing like his paintings, but they clearly had the same soul -- or perhaps a deeper, truer soul. Von Bruenchenhein took hundreds of pictures of his wife, nude, or wearing exotic costumes, which he'd fashion for her out of junk. My favorite by far was one which shows her wearing a fantastic crown, which he'd fashioned for her out of an old coffee tin. This is the one.
The photo literally took my breath away, still does, even as I try to find a digital version for this post. His love for her, really his adoration of her is so palpable, and you can almost taste hers for him. Really, the vivid, yet whimsical images reveal the staggering beauty his dream world, their dream life. Looking at her, you can see how immersed, complicit she is in his vision; or really how his dream had so become their dream. She sees the magic too, he makes it real for her, she makes it real for him.
A crown out of a coffee tin -- it just takes my breath away.
I can just see them sitting at the kitchen table. "We're out of coffee, how did it go so fast?" she might say. He'd take it and rinse it out, and sit back down with some scissors and perhaps a pair of pliers. She'd cross her arms and rest her heads on them, pushing out her chair and cocking her heels. He'd squint and hold it up to her head, tink a bit, hold it up again, the mid-morning-turned afternoon sun catching the dust in the air.
ok -- I confess I thought the one above was the best fit for this post, and you know I have minimalist inclinations, despite myself. But this is absolutely my favorite image of her by far -- and I couldn't resist putting it...what the heck! what is a blog for anyway but a mechanism for methodical oversharing, anyway? Here it is, it honestly just slays me::::
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
When people talk about "boundaries," or, worse yet, "boundary issues," it all just seems weirdly abstract, almost as though they're talking about something that was really ordinary to a lot of people, but that happened so far in the past that you can't even imagine it, like—churning butter, or having smallpox.
A hypothetical conversation about boundaries might go as follows:
"You've crossed some boundaries." They say.
"Hm?" I ask earnestly, squinting my eyes to help me recall, "Boundaries, yes I'm familiar with the concept, but the logistical reality isn't wholly evident. Could you clarify?"
“Look," they say, "Do see where the sea meets the beach sand? It's right there, that line. That’s the boundary.”
But, I think to myself, feeling slightly embarrassed, because no, I don’t see the line, What about the tide?
Recently a friend of mine took her daughter to see Niagara Falls, and they walked on the "Peace Bridge,” which spans the stretch of air over the water between the US and Canada. They approached the Canadian border, and crossed over, sans passport, only to be met by a border guard who told them that they had most certainly almost just caused an international “incident.” And, just as the sky was about to turn black in preparation for an inevitable apocalypse, my friend looked at the guard with her big, sad, confused mommy eyes, and said, “Oh we had no idea, officer! We didn’t mean to cause any trouble.” And he furrowed his brows and responded with something like, "Well, just be more careful next time, ma'am." So, just like that they were shoo-shooed away, international incident averted!
For me, incidents, international or otherwise, occur quite regularly, I’m sure. Intentional and inadvertent transgressions against arbitrary, unwritten and unspoken rules. “Is there a problem here, Mr. Officer?” Unfortunately for me, there’s not always a Canadian man there to tell me I've done something wrong.
And while I admit that I do have some boundaries of my own, they are often as unclear to me as those of others. They too change like the tides, depending on the person, the moment, the mood, the time, how I feel.
What did we do before we had our accurate maps? There were other maps, that weren’t as accurate, but just as true. The world was flat; our here was not even there. And now we laugh, Ha Ha!, saying how on earth could that have ever been true!?
I like to think of what people thought when they found out something like, America went on and on past Virginia, or the Mississippi River. Like, in their minds, did the land just bubble up and invent itself into being? Was it like a tumor, unwanted, rapidly and erratically billowing forth into the realm of the no longer deniable?
Or were there, perhaps, others like me who hadn’t much thought of things like that in the first place? You know, the ones who picked up newspapers with the headlines, “NEW WORLD DISCOVERED!” and nonchalantly flipped to the movie showtimes.
Sunday, February 20, 2011
Friday, February 18, 2011
I know this is a really hard time for you for a number of reasons, but do take heart. You've just tried eighteen different color and contrast adjustments on a print on some fancy paper you can't even afford and they have all failed. It's 8:00 on a Friday night, you're 24 years old, confused and confused, and sitting alone in a dark room printing while all of the other kids are out having a fun time and making out with one another. How is it that the world in your head, and on the computer screen, have such a difficult time manifesting themselves in the world that belongs to the Others?
Well, dear Lizzy, that's just the way it is. What can I say? You have beautiful visions, and even more beautifully you want to share them, come hell or high water, with the rest of the world. They may be stupid. They may be shallow. They may be ugly. They may be derivative. They may be uninformed. They may be cheap. They may be easy. But They are Yours, and You are here to make them Be.
That is your job right now, so why don't you take another swig of beer, and keep on trying.
I love you very much, and I believe in you,
Friday, February 11, 2011
So, that said:
I've been thinking about labels. Noticing how others use them. How they can impede us in our goals. Talking to people about it.
Arguments, non-arguments...but mostly thoughts.
This isn't anything new for me. I've always been sensitive to the idea of labels. I'd say I almost militantly resisted them. Sometime in high school, I resisted considering myself as a feminist. That label--particularly at an all-girls school where we constantly walked the line between sleepover party intimacy and prom-court-style hostility--was a no-no, and if adopted, would have surely meant I'd never have a boyfriend. When I first stopped eating meat five years ago, I refused to call myself a vegetarian. I just was a person who chose not to eat meat. I hated the stigmas that, before anybody even knew my choice, were already descending upon me.
Likewise, when I was being interviewed by a newspaper reporter about my artwork, I made the mistake of saying that I didn't want to be called an artist. At this point, and because newspaper interviews can be skewed, I totally forget the context, but when drawn out in the final piece, it made me look pretty bad, as though I didn't know what I wanted to do. But in my mind that had been clear all along; I wanted to make art, but art has many forms.
More and more, I'm finding that my world view is full of vast spectrums of being. (I do think I have a slight twinge of synesthesia to which we might attribute the nuanced worldview. Certain spoons have subtly different personalities than others, 4 is a different person than 9. So when it comes to actual people, to myself, shit can be pretty confusing!). There are so many spaces in between being a man, being a woman, gay, straight, rich, poor, black, white, artist, banker. Why massacre the rainbow with a word? It just seems a bit brutal, honestly. And maybe I like using lots of words to describe things a little too much...maybe that's my problem. Or maybe it's just how I understand. Things.
Eventually, I figured out that labels, when used appropriately can be very powerful in terms of communicating a point to the rest of the world. So, if people ask, I am a vegetarian, feminist, artist. Primarily because all three are causes I'm invested in from a marketing, soap-box standpoint. And to get a message across at times you need to simplify your argument to a stance, which though complex and nuanced is still a stance that is slightly more powerful because it is shared by others. In reality, I'm not 100% anything. And, when it comes to issues of politics, religion, sexuality and gender, shit gets a little muddled, and I have a way harder time answering.