Saturday, January 2, 2016

a journey mindset

This is a blog, yes, and in that sense meant to be shared. But really it is a journal of a journey to a goal—a way to stay grounded and on track when man, fear could easily beat me. Through it I hold myself responsible, and appreciate the terrors as well as the brightnesses of the journey. And notice the very loud voices—Resistance, doubt, insecurity—so omnipresent that I often mistake them for truth.

A few weeks ago I mapped the project, laid out the distance from here to there. An exhibition at one of my favorite galleries in Salt Lake, a space I respect and have applied to multiple times without success. What was clear to me as I looked at the coming dozen weeks was that I had serious doubts about my abilities here. Doubts about whether I am of the right caliber to be showing in this space. It’s one thing if I apply and get rejected—yeah, of course: that fulfills my assumptions, that fits my story. But then they said, OK, great! Give us whatcha got! And then I’m like OH SHIT. What now?

What now is this blog. It is showing up daily. It is delving into a journey mindset.

John Baldessari, Rollercoaster, 1989-90. Photogravure with color aquatint.
Fortunately, simple curiosity leads to unexpected discoveries, and out of nowhere arrived John Baldessari, whom I was familiar with but hadn’t looked at closely. I saw pieces from the Overlap Series, where lines extend out of the usual length-by-width borders and images are strung together unexpectedly. And then I thought—oh! That’s like me! Maybe the work could be fluid and unpolished, like I am—or it could explore limits and boundaries and assumptions about what’s possible, like I am. And so once again I was on my way.

 John Baldessari, 2623 Third Street, Santa Monica, 2000. Suite of 4 color lithographs with screenprint.  
A blog releases, just a tiny but an important bit, the intense need to please, and shines light on the fears. 

So we’re back. Most times there will be a poem to help us along, but right now there’s work to do. Business for the coming week: show up, and act; not hover tentatively but pick up a piece and say, fuck it, you and I are going on a journey and we might well end up with a handful of failure, which freaks me out a little because I’m so aware that a deadline looms. But we’re not looking for perfection. We’re looking for reality, and maybe mistakes are not liabilities but guides, illuminating the path. And that’s enough for now.

Friday, May 1, 2015


Suzanne Caporael, 014 (LIKE THE WISDOM OF SMITH, 1), 2012-13, NYT newsprint collage
The urge to retreat is so strong, and sometimes it’s necessary, and called for — but now, digging into another creative project, I need a space for marking time, processing the challenge, keeping perspective. So I turn back to the blog, this universe of my own creation, in part to show The Voice and Resistance, in all their deceptive guises, the exit. On a regular basis.

So much rejection. And humiliation, lately. Compounded by a worn-out habit of knocking the wind out of my own self. 

Ironically, in this creative process, it seems essential to not care and care at the same time. To inhabit a slim space between pure exploration with no concern for the outcome and awareness that there is a finish line, there is meant to be an end product, at least some of this is intended to be shared.

Now, with an exhibition approaching, I have a seat in the arena, and I’m determined to occupy it, to not pass up this opportunity and heed the chorus of Voices — cultivated over a rich and fertile past of shame, inadequacy, fear, and overall who-do-you-think-you-are-ness.

A poem, a poem, seems always right at these moments.

I’d like to begin again. Not touch my
own face, not tremble in the dark before
an intruder who never arrives. Not
apologize. Not scurry, not pace. Not
refuse to keep notes of what meant the most.
Not skirt my father’s ghost. Not abandon
piano, or a book before the end.
Not count, count, count and wait, poised—the control,
the agony controlled—for the loss of
the one, having borne, I can’t be, won’t breathe
without: the foregone conclusion, the pain
not yet met, the preemptive mourning
without which
nothing left of me but smoke.
—Deborah Garrison 

Daily cultivation of free-form curiosity and wonder and help, making space for new delights that bubble up so unexpectedly.

The other day for example, Suzanne Caporael’s collages crossed my field of vision. How did I not know about these until now? Where has she been hiding all my life?

Suzanne Caporael, 023 (LIKE WEDNESDAY), 2012-13, NYT newsprint collage
I also discovered while flipping through the NYT, eyes on alert for images that spark, Frei Otto, the architect; William King, the sculptor; Mavis Gallant, such gorgeous short stories — all of whom passed recently, one 89, one 90, one 91. Prolific, engaged, and in the second case at least, funny. Aha! There’s that fire.


So off we go. Writing drunk, open to whatever comes and whoever I may be; revising sober and clear-eyed, hunting for the best form and the clearest path.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

turning the page: the adventure continues

Got the green light .  Got the green light to continue.

The show is up, the dust is settling, my breath is slowing and relaxing a little.  I’m reminded of that poem by Ryõkan:

The rain has stopped, the clouds have drifted away,
and the weather is clear again.
If your heart is pure, then all things in your world are pure.
Abandon this fleeting world, abandon yourself,
Then the moon and flowers will guide you along the Way.

Often, when one chapter’s closed and I don’t know What’s Next, I love to look around and notice what jumps, what naturally, effortlessly, sparks curiosity.  Especially after dealing with the logistics of framing and promoting and recording — maybe a week’s gone by without much creative work, maybe two — it gets hard again, to enter the studio, the mystery of it.  I feel a little out of practice. 

So for well over a decade I’ve kept an Adventure Book.  It’s a place to chronicle my wackiest creative ideas, annoying tasks, routine actions, moneymaking schemes.  A notion strikes — no matter how mundane, no matter how majestic — and in it goes.

I took this suggestion from Carol Lloyd in her book Creating a Life Worth Living, and I carry it most always.  There’s a beauty in writing all these ideas down:  I’m not committing to them.  I’ve more than enough ideas in the books to last me two years.  As she puts it, the Adventure Book “engenders proactive dreaming rather than passive peeving.”  It’s a record of my creative spurts and slumps, and serves as a catalyst … I can browse past ideas and discover which ideas still hold meaning years later, which I fulfilled easily, which fizzled maybe.  Artists to explore, music to revisit, pie-in-the-sky dreams, wines, gift ideas, questions.  I can see how I directed my energies, and have this enormous well of ideas I can draw on for inspiration, amusement, and action. 

So as I return to work, I browse their pages with wonder.  Noticing what continues to beckon. 
get a pair of scissors that cut metal (a la Sandy Calder)
would a quince tree grow here?  if so, plant one in backyard
do a little painting and give it to JT
I could listen to Bach minuets ALL DAY LONG
start a band with Mark
do a portrait of Martin Hayes
propose an exhibit at the downtown PL—small images inspired by the building—
expand my definition of myself.

This is also a moment for gratitude, to the Frenchman, to Linda, to the TurkeyLand Cove Foundation, to le petit garçon, to Andra and other partners in crime, to friends and family who’ve been guides and angels along the way.  Gosh what luck, what good fortune, what gifts.  

And so back to work, with wonder. 

Faith Ringgold:  American People Series #2: Woman Looking in a Mirror, 1966.  Oil on canvas.  Courtesy ACA Galleries