2015 has included some incredible experiences: time with family, making new friends, connecting with old friends, more studio time, a lot of new artwork, stimulating work, travel and a lot of change. It has been an intense year on a global, local and personal note. It has also been a memorable one and I'm grateful to have these 365 days of art and words as my own record of it. I'll write more on this tomorrow but I'm off to have one more glass of champagne and ring in the new year.
May 2016 bring you the best kind of change!
A little something from Sam Cooke to kick it off...
“He allowed himself to be swayed by his conviction that human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but that life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.” ― Gabriel García Márquez
“All of us have failed to match our dream of perfection. I rate us on the basis of our splendid failure to do the impossible. If I could write all my work again, I'm convinced I could do it better. This is the healthiest condition for an artist. That's why he keeps working, trying again: he believes each time that this time he will do it, bring it off. Of course he won't.” ― William Faulkner
“I wish I could describe the feeling of being at sea, the anguish, frustration, and fear, the beauty that accompanies threatening spectacles, the spiritual communion with creatures in whose domain I sail. There is a magnificent intensity in life that comes when we are not in control but are only reacting, living, surviving. I am not a religious man per se. My own cosmology is convoluted and not in line with any particular church or philosphy. But for me, to go to sea is to glimpse the face of God. At sea i am reminded of my insignificance-- of all men's insignificance. It is a wonderful feeling to be so humbled.” ― Steve Callahan
"Be a good steward of your gifts. Protect your time. Feed your inner life. Avoid too much noise. Read good books, have good sentences in your ears. Be by yourself as often as you can. Walk. Take the phone off the hook. Work regular hours." - Jane Kenyon
“Recognize that the very molecules that make up your body, the atoms that construct the molecules, are traceable to the crucibles that were once the centers of high mass stars that exploded their chemically rich guts into the galaxy, enriching pristine gas clouds with the chemistry of life. So that we are all connected to each other biologically, to the earth chemically and to the rest of the universe atomically. That’s kinda cool! That makes me smile and I actually feel quite large at the end of that. It’s not that we are better than the universe, we are part of the universe. We are in the universe and the universe is in us.” ― Neil deGrasse Tyson
“The only thing that scares me more than space aliens is the idea that there aren't any space aliens. We can't be the best that creation has to offer. I pray we're not all there is. If so, we're in big trouble.”
"I'm not an abstractionist. I'm not interested in the relationship of color or form or anything else. I'm interested only in expressing basic human emotions: tragedy, ecstasy, doom, and so on.” ― Mark Rothko
“If you stand before a canvas, up close, almost to the point where your nose touches paint, you will see nothing but a blurred image; an image composed of thousands of tiny dots of paint. Stand back from the canvas and all those points of color merge to form an image of beauty recognizable to the human heart. Life is composed of thousands of tiny moments of time. Stand back and you will see a life of beauty, capable of touching the human heart.” ― Pen
"I really don't know why it is that all of us are so committed to the sea, except I think it's because in addition to the fact that the sea changes, and the light changes, and ships change, it's because we all came from the sea. And it is an interesting biological fact that all of us have in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea - whether it is to sail or to watch it - we are going back from whence we came.
[Remarks at the Dinner for the America's Cup Crews, September 14 1962]”
This time of year, it feels like a big achievement to stick to any routine, but those who weather the season's busy-ness well seem to slow down and find calm in the mayhem. The last few days have been kind of a doozy so I'm taking a cue from those who are sailing through December and doubling my posts in the name of "calm." May this remind you to slowly soak up the good things that surround you during this season and forgo a routine or two in the name of enjoying time with the people you love.
"When I paint an abstract picture (the problem is very much the same in other cases), I neither know in advance what it is meant to look like nor, during the painting process, what I am aiming at and what to do about getting there. Painting is consequently an almost blind, desperate effort, like that of a person abandoned, helpless, in totally incomprehensible surroundings – like that of a person who possesses a given set of tools, materials and abilities and has the urgent desire to build something useful which is not allowed to be a house or a chair or anything else that has a name; who therefore hacks away in the vague hope that by working in a proper, professional way he will ultimately turn out something proper and meaningful." Gerhard Richter
“Family isn't about blood relationships, it's about the meaning behind them. I rearlier now that sharing chromosomes is not the only way to having a family, it's about the friendship behind it.” ― Sarah Dessen
Allow myself ... to quote myself. Every now and then, I revisit my artist statement to see if it is still relevant to my work and process. While it does seem to mostly fit, I'm fairly certain that I'm the only one who reads it. And, I often wonder if the artist statement as "a thing artists must do" is no longer relevant to viewers and collectors, or maybe it never was.
What do you think? If you connect with a work of art, does an accompanying artist statement deepen that connection? Or could you live without that part?
In case you are up for reading it, here's my full artist statement:
Words. From conversation, from something I’ve read, from a thought that I’m curious about translating visually, words drive my entire process. They inform the shapes, textures and colors on my canvas. What is it that transpires between the first layers of language and the edited message received by the listener? Words in themselves are an end, but their tone, inflection, delivery and context unfold into complex meanings. Human interaction, communication, is the impetus behind my work.
Words are not the only means by which we communicate. Images bombard our daily lives and are all meant to evoke some thought or feeling. Art communicates itself in layers just as the meaning of a conversation evolves as it occurs. It’s constantly evolving with its audience. I aim for my artistic process to continue beyond the completion of my painting. I hope my work functions as a tool for communication. My end goal is to mirror the complexity of what transpires in our everyday communications, and in turn, to inspire a dialog among and with the viewers.
“The first and most important thing an individual can do is to become an individual again, decontrol himself, train himself as to what is going on and win back as much independent ground for himself as possible” ― William S. Burroughs
“When you assess your own life, consider it with the eye of a gardener. Underneath the surface lies rich, fertile soil waiting to nurture the seeds you sow. Even more than you can imagine will grow there if given a chance.” ― Steve Goodier
“The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity... and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself.” ― William Blake
“The pessimist resembles a man who observes with fear and sadness that his wall calendar, from which he daily tears a sheet, grows thinner with each passing day. On the other hand, the person who attacks the problems of life actively is like a man who removes each successive leaf from his calendar and files it neatly and carefully away with its predecessors, after first having jotted down a few diary notes on the back. He can reflect with pride and joy on all the richness set down in these notes, on all the life he has already lived to the fullest. What will it matter to him if he notices that he is growing old? Has he any reason to envy the young people whom he sees, or wax nostalgic over his own lost youth? What reasons has he to envy a young person? For the possibilities that a young person has, the future which is in store for him? No, thank you,' he will think. 'Instead of possibilities, I have realities in my past, not only the reality of work done and of love loved, but of sufferings bravely suffered. These sufferings are even the things of which I am most proud, although these are things which cannot inspire envy.' " From "Logotherapy in a Nutshell", an essay” ― Viktor E. Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning
“It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tired into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one destiny, affects all indirectly.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.
“Mountains, according to the angle of view, the season, the time of day, the beholder's frame of mind, or any one thing, can effectively change their appearance. Thus, it is essential to recognize that we can never know more than one side, one small aspect of a mountain.” ― Haruki Murakam
“Halloween shadows played upon the walls of the houses. In the sky the Halloween moon raced in and out of the clouds. The Halloween wind was blowing, not a blasting of wind but a right-sized swelling, falling, and gushing of wind. It was a lovely and exciting night, exactly the kind of night Halloween should be.” ― Eleanor Estes
“Every time we look at the clock, we must learn to feel a sense of urgency. We must learn to realize that “now” is happening and will very soon be gone. We must look at the digits on the display and be overcome with an urge to do something before those digits change. Before “now” slips through our fingers. We must look at the ink on the calendar and see an immediate opportunity to do something wonderful, incredible, or beautiful. It’s that simple. We need to change our thinking from “when the number changes” to “before the number changes”.” ― Dan Pearce
“Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.” ― C.S. Lewis
"The table is a meeting place, a gathering ground, the source of sustenance and nourishment, festivity, safety, and satisfaction. A person cooking is a person giving: Even the simplest food is a gift." - Laurie Colwin
“Emotions, in my experience, aren't covered by single words. I don't believe in "sadness," "joy," or "regret." Maybe the best proof that the language is patriarchal is that it oversimplifies feeling. I'd like to have at my disposal complicated hybrid emotions, Germanic train-car constructions like, say, "the happiness that attends disaster." Or: "the disappointment of sleeping with one's fantasy." I'd like to show how "intimations of mortality brought on by aging family members" connects with "the hatred of mirrors that begins in middle age." I'd like to have a word for "the sadness inspired by failing restaurants" as well as for "the excitement of getting a room with a minibar." I've never had the right words to describe my life, and now that I've entered my story, I need them more than ever. ” ― Jeffrey Eugenides
“A complete stranger has the capacity to alter the life of another irrevocably. This domino effect has the capacity to change the course of an entire world. That is what life is; a chain reaction of individuals colliding with others and influencing their lives without realizing it. A decision that seems miniscule to you, may be monumental to the fate of the world.” ― J.D. Stroube
“Sometimes I feel like if you just watch things, just sit still and let the world exist in front of you - sometimes I swear that just for a second time freezes and the world pauses in its tilt. Just for a second. And if you somehow found a way to live in that second, then you would live forever.” ― Lauren Oliver
“Thoughts are slippery fish in a cold shallow stream. If you are intent on capturing a worthwhile one, you need to stand very still, focus very hard on somewhere outside yourself, and then simply ignore it until it gets so close that it tickles your ankles. Then, pounce.” ― Vera Nazarian
“I only share when I have no unmet needs that I'm trying to fill. I firmly believe that being vulnerable with a larger audience is only a good idea if the healing is tied to the sharing, not to the expectations I might have for the response I get.” ― Brené Brown
"You might be tempted to avoid the messiness of daily living for the tranquility of stillness and peacefulness. This of course would be an attachment to stillness, and like any strong attachment, it leads to delusion. It arrests development and short-circuits the cultivation of wisdom.” ― Jon Kabat-Zinn
“Coming back is the thing that enables you to see how all the dots in your life are connected, how one decision leads you another, how one twist of fate, good or bad, brings you to a door that later takes you to another door, which aided by several detours--long hallways and unforeseen stairwells--eventually puts you in the place you are now.” ― Ann Patchett
"If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them something more than the miracles of technology. We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it."
“We must not only protect the country side and save it from destruction, we must restore what has been destroyed and salvage the beauty and charm of our cities … Once our natural splendor is destroyed, it can never be recaptured. And once man can no longer walk with beauty or wonder at nature, his spirit will wither and his sustenance be wasted.”
- Lyndon B. Johnson President of the United States
“I think that we are like stars. Something happens to burst us open; but when we burst open and think we are dying; we’re actually turning into a supernova. And then when we look at ourselves again, we see that we’re suddenly more beautiful than we ever were before!” ― C. JoyBell C.
“The river reflected whatever it chose of sky and bridge and burning tree, and when the undergraduate had oared his boat through the reflections they closed again, completely, as if they had never been. There one might have sat the clock round lost in thought. Thought --to call it by a prouder name than it deserved-- had let its line down into the stream. It swayed, minute after minute, hither and thither among the reflections and the weeds, letting the water lift it and sink it until --you know the little tug -- the sudden conglomeration of an idea at the end of one's line: and then the cautious hauling of it in, and the careful laying of it out? Alas, laid on the grass how small, how insignificant this thought of mine looked; the sort of fish that a good fisherman puts back into the water so that it may grow fatter and be one day worth cooking and eating.” ― Virginia Woolf
“Do stuff. be clenched, curious. Not waiting for inspiration's shove or society's kiss on your forehead. Pay attention. It's all about paying attention. attention is vitality. It connects you with others. It makes you eager. stay eager.” ― Susan Sontag
"Abstract literally means to draw from or separate. In this sense every artist is abstract... a realistic or non-objective approach makes no difference. The result is what counts." (Richard Diebenkorn)
I've shared it before and I can't help but share it again, it's too good not to. If you haven't heard it, this quote is a small excerpt from an interview with Ira Glass. Watch this clip (and the lovely way it was visualized), watch the full video (accessible via this clip in 4 parts). Even if you've seen them all before, watch them again. It's a great reminder for any type of creative work.
“The lessons you are meant to learn are in your work. To see them, you need only look at the work clearly — without judgment, without need or fear, without wishes or hopes. Without emotional expectations. Ask your work what it needs, not what you need. Then set aside your fears and listen, the way a good parent listens to a child” ~David Bayles
“What we have forgotten is that thoughts and words are conventions, and that it is fatal to take conventions too seriously. A convention is a social convenience, as, for example, money ... but it is absurd to take money too seriously, to confuse it with real wealth ... In somewhat the same way, thoughts, ideas and words are "coins" for real things.”
Reposting words for today's #365art from @lisapaulickmiller (via Instagram) because they (alongside her photo of her lovely studio) inspired me today:
"I read an article in the @latimes today about the National Medal of Arts being awarded to Alice Waters and other creative public figures, and Pres. Obama was quoted "They do what they do because of some urgent, inner force." Love that. Live that. So true. 👏"
“No man has the right to dictate what other men should perceive, create or produce, but all should be encouraged to reveal themselves, their perceptions and emotions, and to build confidence in the creative spirit.” ― Ansel Adams
"It's difficult to enter into this work because of how the internal dynamic of the purity of line contextualize the inherent overspecificity."
Thank you, Pixmaven, for generating some savvy art critique insights that I couldn't have conjured myself. Hehe. Check out their site to generate your own fancy art critique, bonus points if you also use your phrase in a meeting tomorrow.
“Art is unquestionably one of the purest and highest elements in human happiness. It trains the mind through the eye, and the eye through the mind. As the sun colors flowers, so does art color life.” ― John Lubbock
“Being an artist is not just about what happens when you are in the studio... The way you live, the people you choose to love and the way you love them, the way you vote, the words that come out of your mouth … will also become the raw material for the art you make.” - Teresita Fernández
“I think life is always dangerous. Some people get afraid of it. Some people don’t go forward. But some people, if they want to achieve their goal, they have to go. They have to move …” -- Malala Yousafzai
"I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, it’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope. Which is what I do, and that enables you to laugh at life’s realities." - Dr. Seuss
“This was my first real lesson in politics… If you are cast on a desert island with only a screwdriver, hatchet, and the chisel to make a boat with, why, go and make the best one you can. It would be better if you had a saw, but you haven't, so with men.” ― Theodore Roosevelt
"There is a tide in the affairs of men, Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures." - William Shakespeare
We bounce between looking and talking... words are autopsies of seeing... In the best cases, these perceptual post-mortems can sharpen our understanding of what must have occurred in the moments of seeing, including clues about how and why seeing stopped... and, when they reach their limit, they provoke the viewer into more looking. - Michael Barnes
“The city had seemed like a great place to discover who you are. It just seemed that there was a lot to experience here, as if all you had to do was show up and the city would take care of the rest, making sure you got the education, the maturing, the wising-up you needed. Its crowds, the noise, the endlessness of it all, the perpetual motion, felt exciting then—revealing—just the deep end I needed to jump into. There is something unique about New York, some quality, some matchless, pertinent combination of promise and despair, wizardry and counterfeit, abundance and depletion, that stimulates and allows for a reckoning to occur—maybe even forces it. The city pulls back the curtain on who you are; it tests you and shows you what you are made of in a way that has become iconic in our popular culture, and with good reason.” ― Sari Botton
“Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do.
Remember our rule of thumb: The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.
Resistance is experienced as fear; the degree of fear equates to the strength of Resistance. Therefore the more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that that enterprise is important to us and to the growth of our soul. That's why we feel so much Resistance. If it meant nothing to us, there'd be no Resistance.”
“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
"People don't buy what you do; people buy why you do it." - Simon Sinek
What do you think? Is this statement true for you? How about when it comes to art? Should art be immediately visually striking, profoundly felt and understood? Or, can its "why" or the story that led to its creation alone make it beautiful? Or, should it be all of those things and more? I recently saw the film MARINA ABRAMOVIĆ: The Artist Is Present which made me think about my own conflicting opinions on this subject of "why" and art.
The film, a documentary, follows performance artist Marina Abramović as she prepares for her retrospective at New York's MoMA in 2010. I remember hearing about the show when I was living in Brooklyn. I was somewhat curious but never made it to the museum to check it out. Aside from the fact that performance art had never completely grabbed me, fighting the especially large weekend museum crowds (because of all of the show's hype/cachet) seemed daunting. After seeing this film, I regret not going while I had the chance.
In the film you learn about her life, her childhood, her art career and her mission. You also learn how they all very much relate. Her main "piece" at her MoMA retrospective is the culmination of it all; she sits in a chair (every day for three months, open to close) across from museum goers who competitively line up ahead of the museum's opening to capture her gaze one at a time. If you're not familiar with her or her work, I'm sure this sounds like the world's longest staring contest and you're wondering, "yes, but why is it art?" But when you see it... Some people hold her gaze and smile, others look disapprovingly at her, and a lot of people just start sobbing. It's moving, as well-executed art usually is. It turns out, staring into Marina's eyes (and anyone's, really - try it) for an extended period of time in silence is intimate, intense and revealing.
Getting a glimpse of her creative process and her drive to elevate performance art from its "alternative" status in the film, has made the art form and her work much more intriguing for me. In one part of the film, she reads her "Artist's Life Manifesto." If the film isn't a wonderful illustration of her "why," her manifesto is (especially as she reads it in this video). I might have to take a cue from her and write my own.
So back to that question... Is it true for you? Are you more likely to be wooed by the artistic process than its result? Or do you need both to appreciate a work of art? What's your manifesto?
"The aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life, by artificial means and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later, when a stranger looks at it, it moves again since it is life." -William Faulkner
Today's 365 is a collaboration with my niece. She loves art and reminds me to get lost in the details (like strawberry seeds, for instance) whenever we get the chance to paint together.
“That’s the paradox: the only time most people feel alive is when they’re suffering, when something overwhelms their ordinary, careful armour, and the naked child is flung out onto the world. That’s why the things that are worst to undergo are best to remember. But when that child gets buried away under their adaptive and protective shells—he becomes one of the walking dead, a monster. So when you realise you’ve gone a few weeks and haven’t felt that awful struggle of your childish self — struggling to lift itself out of its inadequacy and incompetence — you’ll know you’ve gone some weeks without meeting new challenge, and without growing, and that you’ve gone some weeks towards losing touch with yourself. The only calibration that counts is how much heart people invest, how much they ignore their fears of being hurt or caught out or humiliated. And the only thing people regret is that they didn’t live boldly enough, that they didn’t invest enough heart, didn’t love enough. Nothing else really counts at all.” ― Ted Hughes
It's not the medium or the oil or the price or whether it hangs on a wall or you eat it. What matters, what makes it art, is that the person who made it overcame the resistance, ignored the voice of doubt and made something worth making. Something risky. Something human.
Art is not in the ...eye of the beholder. It's in the soul of the artist.” ― Seth Godin
“I do believe in an everyday sort of magic -- the inexplicable connectedness we sometimes experience with places, people, works of art and the like; the eerie appropriateness of moments of synchronicity; the whispered voice, the hidden presence, when we think we're alone.” ― Charles de Lint
“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature -- the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” ― Rachel Carson
"You should keep on painting no matter how difficult it is, because this is all part of experience, and the more experience you have, the better it is.. unless it kills you, and then you know you have gone too far." - Alice Neel
A while ago, I asked a close family friend what phrase or quote is most meaningful to him and he said, "pax dei." I wasn't familiar with the phrase, only the latin word pax (peace). According to Wikipedia, it "was a movement in the Middle Ages by the Catholic Church that applied spiritual sanctions to limit the violence of feuding." (also known as the Peace and Truce of God).
When I asked recently what those words mean to him he said, "Back in a time when the worst we could do to each other was with a bow and arrow, a sword or some hot oil, people realized there needed to be limits. Today we have no limits in the destruction of others. We need to be reminded."
To me, he embodies those words. He teaches with his actions just how valuable peace and compassion really are. People are drawn to him. The words don't make him who he is of course but they serve as a reminder to focus on what is important to him.
There's something powerful about the words to which we attach our thoughts and beliefs. If you focus on a specific set of words long enough, you can embody their meaning... or come back to what's meaningful to you. What word, quote, phrase or mantra is most meaningful to you?
"The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter--it's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.- Mark Twain (Letter to George Bainton, 10/15/1888)” ― Mark Twain