Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Life's a little crazy chez moi. Wretched deadlines have turned my loft into a sweat shop. If OSHA caught wind of how much I'm making myself work, they'd arrest me. The problem is that I promised I'd meet a client's deadline, and once I make a promise, I don't break it. Period. So I have to get an insane amount of work done, single-handedly, by next week. And I will. And then everyone can weep at my funeral.
What's saving me is the word of God and the gin & tonic. I'll get back to you as to which figures more prominently in my salvation. I get up early so I can squeeze in a few hours of studio time. I set up the IV pole and do a direct caffeine drip into my left arm (drinking it takes too much time), while the right arm slashes and burns at whichever sacred text I'm currently defacing. That comprises the first two hours of my day.
I then frame art like a trained chimp for 8-10 hours straight. Deodorant and food optional. I thought about ordering adult diapers (potty breaks take up precious time), but they wouldn't get here until next week. No fresh air for these lungs; the sun hasn't touched my pallid flesh in weeks. Then, when day is done, as the autumn sun melts into the western horizon and the harvest moon graces the night sky, I head down to Life Cafe and throw back a few with Horace, Boris, and Dolores.
It's not easy, right? We all have our "stuff". My dad's in the hospital. A friend has cancer. Someone's wife died prematurely, and the family grieves. And other personal stuff that's got my heart and hankies all knotted up. Life can be so difficult. And yet...in spite of the pain, it's all so sweet. Something about autumn renders everything devastatingly beautiful. The sunset tonight was pink, and the air heavy. I'm preparing for the long winter, with many texts to transcribe. Even bitter disappointment has a golden glow about it, making it a little easier to embrace. After all, in another 29 years I'll be 78, and won't give a rat's ass about love. And my dad wiggled his toes today, so my world is intact, my heart is full, and all is well in the hills and dells of Bushwick.
Above: Hindu Prayer (Om Shanti Shanti), with letters cut from the Koran. 8.75 x 5.5 in., 2010.
Saturday, September 18, 2010
My neighbor has decided that he's a rock star. His instrument of choice? The drums, of course. Lord. This is really harshing my mellow, people. I'm trying to be all peace and love. I'm trying to visualize butterflies and tulips bouncing off his drum set, but what keeps showing up in my mind's eye is a plethora of drumsticks protruding from each of his nine orifices. Fortunately for me, this guy's a partier extraordinaire, and wouldn't be caught dead at home on a Saturday night, so he should be leaving the building in...oh, about four hours. That's a LOT of butterflies. But heck - for all I know, the party's at his (read: our) place tonight. This could be bad. Really bad.
And he really is bad. I don't know much about this stuff, but I know bad drumming when I hear it. I suspect that he's practicing for his first drum solo, which, if it ever happens, will vacate any bar in a jiffy. What's a peaceful, silence-loving gal to do? What sharpened utensil shall I use to off the guy?
See, I have a personal policy about complaining to people with whom I'm in regular contact. I simply don't do it. Not because I'm a coward, and not because I don't want to harsh their mellow; indeed, there's nothing I'd like more. No, the reason I refrain from complaining is that it generally delivers the opposite effect of what I request. This is especially true here in Bushwick, where the average citizen has only recently escaped puberty. I've learned from experience that if I ask someone to turn down their music (hey, it was 4:00 in the morning, and the party had been going on since midnight!), they'll say sure! No problem, grandma. Then, as soon as I've waddled back into my cave and shut the door, the music is cranked a few decibels higher. And THEN you should see grandma stew. Hoo baby.
Never again. I'd rather blithely chew on nails and send out loving kindness missiles, than create a situation where I've rendered myself a moving target. As soon as you complain, it becomes personal. If you keep it to yourself, it's got nothing to do with you. Pound for pound, I'll choose the latter, every time. But BOY can I think of some things I'd like to do with those drumsticks.
On one late-night-early-morning, after I'd learned the above-mentioned lesson of not complaining, I was laying in bed, listening to my neighbors party down, pickling in my own juices. I was so filled with anger, resentment, and indignity that I thought I might blow a fuse. Every drunken twenty-something in Bushwick was laughing and screaming just outside my sacred door, and I was bitterly outraged at the violation. Since I had no better ideas, I began to breathe, slowly and deeply. I had no idea what I was doing, but it seemed the thing to do. I just kept at it, breathing from my navel, my anus, my knees, my big toes. No body part was left out; I breathed into every last one. And you know what happened?
I calmed my strangled heart. I peaced my muddled mind. Encouraged, I began to send peaceful, loving thoughts to the morons thumping against my door. I blessed them. I inhaled the chaos, and exhaled radiance. I did this for a long, long time. In my skylight I watched the morning break. It was utterly beautiful. I continued to breathe and send love. I finally slept, and when I awoke hours later, I prayed that each and every person to whom I had sent love would wake up with the worst hangover of their lives.
Hey, I know! I'll visualize my neighbor as a shaman, beating on his sacred drum. Oh, this is gonna be fun. Now I hope he decides to stay in tonight. I'm gonna bless the living crap out of the bastard.
Above: Hindu Morning Prayer, letters cut from the New Testament. 5.5" x 3.5", 2010.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Making art is for me an exercise in letting go of control. Always has been, no matter what the medium. It may seem odd when you look at my current work to think that it's about relinquishing control, since the work is so tight and contained. But I'm not talking about flailing about my studio in the heat of passion, throwing paint brushes at the canvas. Trust me, I've done that. That's not letting go of control; that's sheer madness. The only thing that came out of that was a bunch of broken brushes and some ripped canvases.
No, I'm talking about letting go of the inner control that we all hold onto in our lives. You know, ego. Thinking that we've got it all figured out, and proceeding as if our tidy little lives were in our command. It doesn't take much to rock the boat and remind us that we're but pieces of straw, floating in a beautiful, infinite sea. A lovely image, but terrifying as hell.
The more I let go and let the creative juices flow wherever they will, the more interesting the work is. Every now and again I get a clever idea for a text drawing, and I stubbornly execute it, letter by letter. The first clue that it's not going to be very interesting is that it doesn't flow. It feels constrained, and has a cookie cutter look to it. And when it's finished, it's brittle in look and feel; it has that 'clever' look that's so often associated with the ego.
It's all very subtle, and indeed maybe I'm the only one who would notice the difference. But all artists know what it's like to feel creative energy move through them. It's qualitatively different from the kind of creativity that's forced and manipulated. When you feel the flow of energy, and when you know it's not coming from you, the best thing you can do is step out of the way and let it move freely. The more I do this, the more it tends to flow. And the more it flows, the more my ego is leeched out of the process.
Where does it go, I wonder? During those extended moments of creativity, when it's not needed? Does my ego take a nappy? Does it go shopping? Is it up to some mischief that I'm not aware of (yet?) I don't even want to know. Have fun! Knock yourself out! And don't hurry home on my account.
Above: The Twenty-Third Psalm, from 'Yoga - The Way of Self-Fulfillment' by J. Vijayatunga. 5.5 x 3.5", 2010. I cut the letters from the book on Yoga to create the beloved 23rd Psalm from the Bible.
Friday, September 3, 2010
Just finished a new text: Hymn to Tara from the Methodist Hymnal. For those of you new to my blog, welcome, and an explanation: I cut up sacred texts letter by letter and recreate other sacred texts. In this case, I sliced and diced a Methodist Hymnal, and with the letters I recreated a beautiful hymn to the Hindu goddess Tara. The letters run around in concentric circles, and I piled them up as I went, so you won't be able to read it from start to finish. I could though, as I copied it, so you'll just have to take my word that it's a lovely piece of writing.
Tara is also a Buddhist goddess, and the traits are so similar to the Tara of Hinduism that they're widely assumed to be the same deity. She has many forms, including White Tara, Green Tara, Red Tara, and the little-known Beige Tara (just kidding). Each form has different aspects, such as compassion, liberation, prosperity, and power.
Her name in Sanskrit means 'star', thus the shape of the text. It also translates as 'to traverse', or cross over, thus Tara is the star that transports us from samsara, or delusion, to enlightenment and Self-knowledge. Indeed, Tara's personal attainment of enlightenment is one of the attributes that makes her so popular today among women. See, once upon a time, in a land far, far away, beyond the Jersey shores, the only beings who could attain enlightenment were men. This didn't sit well with Tara. She stubbornly kept being reborn as a woman, and finally some Hindu bloke told her, "Yo, Tara! You want full liberation? Ya gotta ask to be reborn as a man!" But she insisted that women were as capable of enlightenment as men, and for millennia she chose to be reborn as a woman, until she finally attained it. You go, girl! That's one righteous Goddess, my gal Tara.
In Hinduism as well as Buddhism, the mantra for Tara is:
om tare tuttare ture svaha
which translates as "O Divine Mother who liberates from suffering, eliminates fear, and grants success! May the blessings of this mantra take root in our hearts."
Lovely. I included this mantra in my text drawing; it's in the four little balls around the perimeter of the circles. The letters for those were cut from the Bible.
And that, my friends, is all I got. Happy weekend.