Friday, November 26, 2010
I'm going to be showing my text work at Famous Accountants gallery in February. It will be my first solo show in New York, and my first installation ever. Instead of gluing the letters to paper like I usually do, I'll be gluing them directly onto the gallery walls. I'll have the month of January to install the show, and have lined up a few assistants to ensure that I get it done in time.
The show is called "Obsession: The Book of Revelation from the Koran". I'm cutting up the Koran, letter by letter, and reassembling it into the Book of Revelation. You could say that I'm de- and re-contextualizing these two monumental pieces of sacred writing. To make the installation go smoothly, I'm currently doing the cutting, chapter by chapter, an excruciatingly slow and thankless task. Generally I have the satisfaction of gluing the letters to paper and creating interesting shapes as I go, but all I'm doing now is cutting the letters from the Koran and sticking them onto a board. Not exactly Xbox, but it has its riveting moments. I actually enjoy the process, which is a good thing, as there are twenty-two chapters in Revelation for me to get my jollies.
The point of the piece is manyfold. I'm very familiar with Revelation, the last book of the Bible. My dad started talking to me about it when I was twelve, after he became a born-again Christian. It was and is his passion to study end times prophesy as outlined in the Bible. He told me what to expect in the years leading up to the Rapture, and what would happen if I was left behind. This scared the holy crap out of me, and I turned to Jesus in order to avoid the treacheries of the Antichrist. For the next twenty-odd years I was a born-again Christian; whether by faith or fear remains foggy. By the time I turned thirty, it no longer held me in its grasp, and I simply walked away. Well, not quite so simply, but I managed to do it nevertheless.
I'm no longer a Christian, but I'm all too familiar with the terrain. Most evangelicals believe that the end times of Revelation are upon us. They believe that we are currently witnessing the preliminary events to the final showdown between good and evil, and the second coming of Christ. And they believe, most of them, that Islam will be the vehicle used by Satan to facilitate his takeover of the world. Most evangelical Christians believe that the Antichrist will rise from the Muslim ranks, and that everyone will be given the choice between Islam or death.
Okay, let me just say something here. I'm not a Christian. I'm not a Muslim. My spiritual inclinations are irrelevant to the installation, and I don't intend to discuss them in this context. This installation has but one purpose: To bring together two conflicting world religions and examine where they clash, where they align, and where they overlap. I have deep respect for Christianity, the faith of my father, and I also respect Islam and its followers. Both traditions worship the same God, so there's your overlap. It's the Messiah and Prophet issue that creates the conflict, as we all know.
And what conflict! It's astonishing that so much fear has come out of it. Fear of what? Being wrong? Being right? Why do we clench so hard to our faith? Unresolved issues from childhood? Is psychosis the root of all evil? Is it possible that the underlying reason we're put through degrading body scans at the airport is that fundamentalist Christians and Muslims are insecure? If so, we might consider renaming them 'Insecurity Checkpoints'. Let's call it like it is, people!
I have a lot more to say about the installation, but that's all for now. I hope that those who see the show will stop and think about the nature of religious beliefs. I hope the veil is momentarily lifted, and they get a glimpse of That which lies behind. I hope they see that beliefs are nothing more than constructions of the mind. I hope that this resonates with someone, and sets up a vibration that will loosen the fear that's lodged in the hearts of men and women of all religious persuasions.
I hope I finish the dang thing in time.
Above: This is my palette! One of them, anyway. This is chapter 7 of the Book of Revelation, and the letters were individually cut from the Koran. I sprayed a board with low-tack adhesive, let it dry, then cut and stuck the letters to the board. So when I install the show in January, I'll just lift off each letter with my x-acto and place it on the wall. YES it's tedious, monotonous, and mind-numbing, but also meditative, therapeutic, and relaxing.
Please note: If anyone has a difficult time with my cutting up a holy book, please be aware that I cut up all holy books. I respect them all, I honor them, and I hope to encourage others to share my respect for another person's deeply held religious beliefs.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Like most artists, I have with issues with self-esteem. I'm terribly insecure. To make matters worse, I'm a perfectionist. And then to really top it off, I'm a workaholic and an artist. It's not easy being me, but I'm definitely the gal for the job. When all my neuroses are in sync and firing properly, I'm actually fairly efficient at what I do. Take away my flaws, and I'd be like a car with no tires or engine, propped up on concrete blocks in someone's back yard (or front yard, as the case may be).
Artists have a rough time. (Ya think?) There's not a lot of time to lounge around and do our nails. It's not like we go to a job, work all day, get paid for it, then go home and chill. No, when we get home, that's when we do our creative work. All the rest of it is peripheral to our life's purpose. Oh, to be paid for screwing around in the studio; for experimenting and playing and slopping some paint around...! I want that job! I'd take minimum wage!
But lack of funding is the least of the artist's problems. It's that dang self-esteem thing. It's that need to push oneself, to work when you're exhausted, to find that element to your creative work that's missing. It's honing your craft to a level that surpasses your current one; it's getting up early so you can work in your studio for an hour before you wake the kids; it's that constant tug that makes you resent having to go to a dinner party on Saturday night, when all you want to do is work in your studio.
Life is constantly getting in the way of creativity. There's nothing to be done about it. You have to sleep. You have to make a living. You have to shower once a week. So you squeeze your art in wherever you can, and extract as much satisfaction as possible from the time you spend in your studio. This weekend I had a lot of time to work, and I luxuriated in it. Barren by personal choice and divine intervention, I have more time than most artists to submerge myself in the studio, and I do. I don't need a lot of time to putter around and ease into it; I can work when my studio is a mess, so I go in and get right to work.
After I'd been at it for a few hours on Saturday, and was beginning to feel that familiar flow (and I know you know what I'm talking about), the thought came to me that it really doesn't get any better than this. The constant agitations of life and living, the excess baggage that we believe about ourselves, the ebb and flow of relationships and their cargo–all of that is what happens outside the studio. It may affect our lives, but we don't have to let it into the studio. That's the sacred place of the artist; the inner sanctum in which we create and connect with ourselves.
So as I worked yesterday, I thought, Jeez, ya know? Contrary to what I've thus far believed about myself, I'm perfect. Hot diggity, what a realization! I'm still reeling. Now, "I'm perfect" are not words that you'll often hear a neurotic, self-flagellating, ripping perfectionist speak. But I am perfect, and here's why:
Wrinkles and warts,
Failures and farts,
Imperfections and neuroses,
Indiscretions and psychoses,
Obsessions and histrionics,
Gins and tonics,
Bad hair and bunions,
Halitosis from onions,
Flem and snot,
Flawless I'm not,
But to do what I do
I'm perfect it's true.
Omg, I'm so sorry–how embarrassing–I got a little carried away and started channeling Dr. Seuss. But you get the point, right? In order for artists to do what they do, and stick with it year after year, obsessively, enthusiastically, and thanklessly, we simply have to be messed up. If we were normal, well-adjusted adults we'd have lost the need to make art long ago. But some demented inner drive keeps pushing us to stay with it and see what's there, what we can make, and what we can become as a result of all the intense discipline. Our flaws are our gifts, and our imperfections make us who we are. After all, somebody has to be you.
Above: Bhagavad Gita Chapter 15 from Psalm 22. Letters cut individually from the Bible, 2010. It's around, oh, I dunno, maybe 3" square. Too lazy to go measure it.