Art Homicide: Is it Common?

We rolled it to the point where it was a 7 foot paper taco and carried it down the street home like that. It was too thick from collage to roll up completely. Once home we put it on top of the wood bed posts on the frame around the posts. Every time I lay on the bed I could see the underside of my masterpiece slowly crumbling from the weight in the middle that wasn’t supported.

Having it there along with another big round mandala piece was not a great idea psychologically. If we had stashed it somewhere it may never have met its gruesome end and the other piece wouldn’t have been collateral damage.

Most people don’t get angry at their apartments to the point of feeling like destroying stuff, but I never was” most people”. One day or week I got so frustrated with the chaotic state of my house, that the feeling kept building more like a fire when it catches on to something and the next minute the whole building burns down. As I couldn’t burn down the building, I decided it was time to destroy the mandala. I’d been eyeing it for weeks wondering how and if I wanted to fix it as it was getting damaged.

Suddenly it was clear how to solve the problem. This huge piece used to hang in my old studio on one wall and took up all the wall space. It was up there so many years I remember looking at it and thinking, “What will I do if someone buys it or if I have to move it? Maybe it will be here until I die.” It felt that permanent. Fast forward to me ripping the whole thing apart and destroying it. I don’t remember it well even though it was probably only 4 years ago. After that, I took on the piece that was my height in diameter, like a lion after a kill who finds an extra dead animal baby and eats it just because it’s there.

Do I regret doing it? Do I miss the piece that I still consider one of the best or at least most ambitious things I have ever made? I don’t know because I had forgotten about it until I recently destroyed something else that I liked. I guess if I could have it back I would and it might be in my studio now or  I would have sold it and been happy it had a place. It did serve a purpose in its short life of being on that studio wall because my clidnts faced that wall when they sat in the chair across from me. I remember one client seeing a person in a wheelchair in the middle of it. It was a completely abstract collage. I can probably find a photo of it to post with this. So when it was alive on the wall, it was serving a purpose and beign seen by lots of people. Back then the Tribeca Open Artist Studio Tour still existed, so for those few days in April annually, I had crowds of people come through my studio and see it as well as the smaller piece.

I know a lot of big deal artists have destroyed their work, but in a very calculated way, not in a sudden fit and not something they thought was one of their best work. Part of the delight I took in murdering my big mandala was that it was really one of my greatest achievements, so it was a really crazy meaningful kill.

I have destroyed many peices before and since which I will write about in another post…

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The first “Altered Book” art project I remember seeing was at the Outsider Art Fair around 20 years ago, when it was in the magnificent Puck Building on Houston Street. Back then, the artist was present and you could actually talk to them about their art and being an outsider artist. I remember asking the artist about her books, which had a lot of glue in them and all over them. I don’t remember much else about them.  I guess I first saw an altered book not at a museum but as an art work that got made organically, that had a life of its own the way altered book projects can have.

The Altered Book is not just a piece of art. It’s a living, breathing creature. You start out with a basic body, the book as it was published, that looks just like all the other ones of the same title and author, and the artist puts it through a “Kali” like birthing process that involves a lot of destruction in the service of creating this new living being. Kali is a Hindu Goddess, from the Sanskrit word “Kali”, translated as “time”. She is described as a destroyer of “unreality”, a liberator. I’m no expert on Hindu gods, but I do associate Kali with the process of altering books and how one has to destroy and use up in order to create anything. A pencil that never gets sharpened is not involved in any kind of creation. The book even has a skin, whether it’s the book jacket that covers a hard cover book, or just the outside of the covers and the actual covers, with the pages within as the innards. The process of altering books brings up all kinds of weird processes like alchemy, dissection, and autopsy, but that may just be the beginning stage, cutting open the body. With an altered book, you kidnd of do the opposite of an autopsy; you cut open and expose internal organs for the purpose of repurposing them and making something new, more like the way an organ gets donated and incorporated into the new person’s body. Now that kidney no longer belongs to the donor and the donor is erased, though an integral part of the process, just as the creator of the original book must be killed off for a new peice of art to emerge.

I love paper, making works on paper, drawing, and then even becoming very physically involved in the process with the materials. even just using pens and pencils on paper, I like to see the grooves a pen or pencil can make, how it changes the paper.

Unlike the experience of looking at a published book or even writing/making one, making an altered book happens in a chaotic disordered way. You don’t have to start with the cover and go in time order page by page. You can start anywhere and the pages in the middle of the book might get cut up and put in the front of the book or anywhere else. Each time you come back to work on the book, you are in a different state of mind, and, unlike with writing a book, you don’t have to get back into whatever you’re doing. It doesn’t have to make sense. It changes each time you interact with it. At the same time, it evokes soemthing different from making a painting with many layers. Books are loaded with meaning and the concept of time passing. You may go anywhere in the book to work, but you still end up with a product that looks like a book, unless you are altering the book to the point of making sculpture out of it, but to me, that gets out of the realm of the Altered Book. The Altered Book I think of and make and witness the makign of, is still a book at the end, finished or not. There are traces of what it was, like the original book is the parent and the art piece is the child. There may be resemblances and reminders of the parent, but the altered book has become a totally new being, one that has never existed before.

The idea of the altered book as being a reallly physical process is what I am interested in.  And the process. The process can feel like a fight; very violent and visceral; you get in there at the beginning and attack the book, to subjugate it and get it to really become yours to do what you want with. There has to be that initial struggle, very physical, involving cutting, ripping, tearing, sanding, poking, doing very active things to the very body of the book. Most of the time the spine is very affected by the making of an altered book. You have a choice of letting the book spill open, or cutting open the spine and adding more cardboard to extend it so it can be closed. To do that, you have to cut the book into at least two pieces and add to it. A lot of altered book making in terms of the body of the book and undoing it feels like surgery.

I am reminded of reading about Leonardo Da Vinci and his dream of doing a book of all of human anatomy. He made friends with doctors/medical professors and “borrowed” corpses from them . He would go at night and dissect this human body and scribble in his notebook as fast as he could, drawing what he saw and sometimes more what he felt because there was no formaldehyde to preserve the body, so it was a race against time and probably really smelly too. It was really messy, and not like messing around with paints. I was fascinated with his process, and his hyperfocus and obsession. He didn’t finish his book of anatomy, but you can see his drawings and writings about the internal organs.

I can’t imagine what it would be like sneaking into a place to cut open a dead body and draw the organs late at ngiht or at any time of day, but making an altered book has that kind of feel to it. Once you get into it, this “thing” you are interacting with can take over and there can be a really exciting obsessive quality to it.

 

 

 

 

The Mid Life Crisis, Continued. Movies

There have been great movies made about people having a mid life crisis. Too many are about men experiencing one: “American Beauty”, “Lost in Translation”, “Manhattan”, etc.

Are there any good movies about women or other gender identified people having a good old fashioned mid life crisis? Woody Allen made one, “Another Woman”, (1988). It’s a great def fpiction of a woman going through all the aspects of a mid life crisis. There’s the idea of having a sudden break of time, where you’re not doing everything as usual, in this case a sabbatical, then the way things can suddenly appear different and give you a different view of yourself, noticing other people’s perceptions of you not matching your own, the typical suddenly looking at a long marriage and seeing it and yourself and your partner differently. Noticing someone else and it having a big effect on your own self identity and concept of who you are. Big changes happening as a result, some that you don’t engage in as a choice. I found the movie very compelling even when I wasn’t viewing it as a mid life crisis movie.

I can’t really think of or find many movies about women having a mid life crisis. The Huffington Post dug up movies that will make you feel better about your mid life crisis, with women as the protagonist, “Enough Said”, “It’s Complicated”, “The Bridges of Madison County”, “Kramer vs. Kramer”. I draw the line at that one. Just because Meryl Streep is in the movie does not mean it’s a genuine mid life crisis movie. Yes, it has a lot of the ingredients, and she is the character that’s going through a crisis of identity, but she is just too young to make it convincing to me. It feels like she is questioning her life and choices, but it doesn’t have the elements of urgency having to do with a sense of the life span. It’s more like, she’s still young and wants to rewrite her story, but it isn’t that she wakes up and looks back on a long life with many choices and all the other complicated elements of a mid life crisis.

This is movie land, so all the movies you could dig up on this topic are full of the usual drama. There has to be a lot of extreme stuff going on on the outside to portray the big conflicts of mid life that go on inside the character.

In real life, it isn’t always about affairs, divorce, affairs, losing one’s mind, affairs, falling in love with someone really young to gain back one’s youth.

The title “In Search of Lost Time” sums it up well. I haven’t read the book, so it’s the title that appeals to me.

To be continued…

The New Mid Life Crisis

What is a mid life crisis? Everyone thinks of some middle aged guy with a receding hairline in a red Porsche having an affair with a 20 year old when they here the phrase.

Well, we’ve come a long way baby, since those backwards days. Now your gender doesn’t matter, it’s age that does. It doesn’t have to be about feeling physically past your prime either.

Maybe being 40-45 used to be when people had this “syndrome”. Now it could happen to you in your late 30’s, early to late 40’s or 50’s. Whatever feels mid life to you.

You don’t have to leave your spouse or disappear or find a new identity. You don’t have to spend tons of money on something stupid that is supposed to represent your last threads of holding on to your youth.

What is a mid life crisis? My definition is, you reach an age in your life, where you start looking back on your life, and wondering, sometimes regretting, sometimes wishing, sometimes scared to death. Usually it sinks in that you have less days ahead of you than behind you (I just heard that one, and it shook me). Even if you think you may live to 100, you have an equal number of days ahead of you than behind you, or you feel the weight of whatever many years are behind you and the time ahead of you looms as time you don’t want to waste, time you want to do something that makes you feel alive.

If you’re even thinking in terms of days you’ve spent that are over and days you have got left, you’re probably in the land of the Mid Life Crisis.

So it starts or is defined by a sense of urgency, thinking about your life as limited, ta a thinking about your death and what you did, could have done, could be doing, could do, might miss forever if you don’t do it now.

The actions that go with this self conception, the “red Porsche”, can take many forms. It may seem mild to some, getting a tattoo, changing your hair, going on a trip, taking trapeze or tango lessons, sky diving or bigger things, moving, spending a lot of money on something, whether a house, a car, a swimming pool, a horse, or picking some collection of books to read you never were interested in before. Its could be crazier, starting a drug habit, doing stuff that you always thought were “against the rules”…

There are other types of actions that are not so “bucket list” like things. Changing careers, suddenly realizing you want to run a bed and breakfast instead of working in a big city. Taking up some creative activity nobody thought you were interested in.

What do you think of when you think of Mid Life Crisis? What have you done or seen others do? To be continued…

David Bowie, Thank You

“Gimme your hands cause you’re wonderful (wonderful)”:

This morning I woke up to the news of David Bowie’s death. A heavy loss for his family and for the world. For me personally, it is more than sad. I feel like a brilliant light has been blown out, too soon. I can’t describe everything I am grateful for that David Bowie inspired for me. I want to write and post this today to honor him, so I will try to keep it short and organized…

David Bowie was/is one of the most important creative Public Figures in my life and my life as an artist. Before I had an idea of becoming anything, much less a visual artist, I loved Bowie. I first discovered and embraced everything I found about him while in first years of high school. It would not be crazy to say that he and Katherine Hepburn, another big love of mine, also a gender non comforming rebel, helped me enormously on an emotional level to survive a turbulent, confusing, sometimes lonely, amazing and crazy time of life. During the adolescent years when we are going through crazy transformations and trying to figure out who  the hell we are, these two icons in similar and different ways spoke to me and inspired me, not to make art, but to dare, to stay on earth, to discover and adventure, to embrace my uniqueness and weirdness.

As there was no internet in the 80’s, I had these two shining examples of people who said yes to T. S. Eliot’s question: “DO I dare disturb the universe?” On my senior high school yearbook page, I had that quote and Bowie’s: “We can be heroes, just for one day.”

I could continue about how David Bowie got me through some rocky times of confusion and contortion, but I wanted to say more just through his words, as I loved his way with words, whether lyrics or just things he said that came from him, in interviews, casually. I’m assembling a few from today, in memories, and including some things I just found today that speak to me and my history:

“He took it all too far, but boy could he play guitar.” -from Ziggy Stardust

 “I GLIT from one thing to another a lot…It’s like “flit”, the 70’s version.” I found this gem from his  Dick Cavett interview that speaks to the parts of me that are interested in any random thing and quickly bored and moving to something else shiny and new.

“Being an artist of any kind …a social dysfunction… An extraordinary thing to want to do… “-said to Charlie Rose in answer to some kind of question about creativity and craziness

:He’ll think about paint and he’ll think about glue,
What a jolly boring thing to do.” (and the whole song, Andy Warhol) One of my favorite of his songs. This goes through my head all the time, and sums up a lot of my days spent enjoying things like new scissors, glue, a new kind of paint, brush pens, any discovery of a magic art supply.

This is just a taste of the biggest part of his message for me, about being true to who you are, and accepting yourself and really celebrating your uniqueness.

My favorite Bowie song in high school was “Rock and Roll Suicide”, the last of the Ziggy Stardust album/concert footage. It’s not about suicide really; what spoke to me was the verses about not being alone. Growing up is often a lonely scary process for many of us…

Oh no love! you’re not alone
You’re watching yourself but you’re too unfair
You got your head all tangled up but if i could only
Make you care
Oh no love! you’re not alone
No matter what or who you’ve been
No matter when or where you’ve seen
All the knives seem to lacerate your brain
I’ve had my share, I’ll help you with the pain
You’re not alone

The last verse of that song is what I will end with. I have in my mind the image of Bowie as Ziggy Stardust leaning down and holding the hands of the outstretched audience. A beautiful image of connection. Ziggy Stardust at least for me was a complex person/persona and felt like a friend, not an aloof outer space creature actually:

Just turn on with me and you’re not alone
Let’s turn on with me and you’re not alone (wonderful)
Let’s turn on and be not alone (wonderful)
Gimme your hands cause you’re wonderful (wonderful)
Gimme your hands cause you’re wonderful (wonderful)
Oh gimme your hands.

Thank you, David Bowie, for all your gifts to us, from the bottom of my heart…

Writing 101 Assignments: Serially Lost, Serially Found: Lost and Found in Neverland

I physically lost a blog post a week ago because it was in my journal! It was already a post about losing and finding, so I will start with typing out that post. This is part of the second “series” of posts. The first series for the class that inspired me was the series for Loss. This is a series about the “lost and found” we all have in our hearts, as well as losing important items in the physical world…

Lost and Found in Neverland

I lost my Hello Kitty hat
on a cold day in October 2013.
That hat was a happy pill.
A gift to everyone on the streets or subway
Who saw it and smiled.
The white knit hat with cat ears
and pearlescent sequined glasses
(did you know Hello Kitty is nearsighted.)
Even the neon orange whiskers
were on that hat.
And an orange bow.

I must have left it on a crosstown bus.
Hello Kitty is good for crossing over,
transitions, goodbyes.
I didn’t want to say goodbye to that happy hat.
I felt like a Mad Hatter in it.
The night sky was on
when I realized i lost the hat.
I was so torn apart
and frustrated with myself
I may have even cried.

I felt like a happy child with it on my head.
For under 20$ I got a hat with magic powers,
transformer powers.
I felt great waves of longing for it to come
back to me.

Suddenly a lightbulb split my hatless unhappy head open wide.
Yes I missed that hat, but I knew I could hunt it down on Ebay
If I wanted to replace it with another one.
But my friend who died the month before was gone
forever.
And not coming back.
There is no Ebay for lost beloved friends.
She is somewhere in a Neverland, stuck in the Lost and Found box.
Not the Neverland of Peter Pan.
The Neverland of dead people
who left too soon
and did what we never wanted them to do
to get there.

I got that Happy Hat back, or at least
one that looked exactly the same
and it still had the magic powers
to stop people on the street
and bring a smile to a grey day.

My friend is gone in that Neverland.
I wanted her to never go there,
But she did anyway.
we all have that choice.

That lost and found bin is in your heart,
the permanent place the love for K.
will always be found.

Writing 101: Day Four: Serially Lost, My Twist: Combine With National Poetry Month

Today’s Prompt: Write about a loss: something (or someone) that was part of your life, and isn’t any more.

What’s important is reflecting on this experience and what it meant for you — how it felt, why it happened, and what changed because of it.

Today’s twist: Make today’s post the first in a three-post series.

Since it is National Poetry Month, I will focus on poems about loss, and quote poems I have found helpful for me that ring true, as well as one or two I’ve written myself.

Between the fall of 2013 and last June 2014, I had some pretty awful losses, and wrote poems about them. I will feature them in this post and then some of the poems by famous poets that I find help the mourning. The other two posts in the series can focus on something more uplifting, maybe still on the subject of loss, but not death…

Kasa where are you
You’re gone
Nowhere.
You ain’t in your grave.
You’re not part of the sun.
I got no religion,
No heaven.
I got nothing.
Not even your voice on a phone…
One year almost:
You don’t even show up in my dreams
My soul is burning, kicked, beat up
Forever
From missing you
And crying
Tears that get no bandaid.

Sort of a poem:
Things were beautiful every day;
we were happy, we played.
No one knew of the sorrow to come.
We were on the monkey bars in rain or sun.
We painted lily pads together.
You shared your love of soft furry animals.

Then one day from nowhere,
we found out you were gone.
You became a brief moment of sunshine,
a physical girl so real, who jumped and played,
a piece of rainbows
such as every 6 year old is mostly made of,
a tall girl in a cupcake shirt
with a big smile and particular eyes
with flecks of this color and that,
eyes that refused to be checked off
in a box marked “blue” or “green” or “hazel”
because they were all of these and none.

How could you be so much here among us,
shining and bright,
a smile to melt the coldest heart,
and suddenly cold yourself,
no longer alive.

Your beautiful soul is gone.
They say you are a star in the sky.
But that won’t do.
We can’t play with you
when you are so far away.
Really you are gone forever,
maybe in the place
where the ones who haven’t even existed yet are,
maybe in another place,
the ground, the earth, gone forever.
What good is it for you to be in our hearts
when we want you back?
what good is it?
It is not good. It will never be so.

A short one:
You left me alone
When you were supposed to stay
I will scream and cry about you anyway.

This one was written about someone else:

The needle beckons.
Once you’ve succumbed,
Are you immortal
Or part of the walking dead?
The sad crowd of beautiful minds
Lost and wandering the earth.
Nothing can pin you down
Sleeping through your own glory
Will the needle take you away forever?
Will you wake up a final time
And join us out of your stupor?
We are lost without you
And losing you to your pain killer.
The sleeping beauties down here
Don’t always wake up.

Last one I wrote a while back:
I can’t comprehend
You are gone.
That you existed so much,
An abundance of existence
The lions and tigers, the giraffes
Most of all the cats
Were all your animals
You
Disappeared
on a Wednesday.

There is no forever in life
But infinitely forever you
Chose to disappear.

You are nowhere anymore
But I look for you everywhere.
Sand falls through my hands
Like memories of you that
Exist no more except in my head.
One day I will be dead too.
But I will never ever see you again.
As much as you were here,
You are completely gone
And I will never know
Why.
My hands sift the sand.

Here are a few written by poets I admire.
There is the famous one called Funeral Blues, that I’ve quoted on other posts, so I won’t quote the whole thing. It starts with “Stop all the clocks” and ends with “For nothing now can come to any good.” I first heard it in the movie, Four Weddings and Funeral.
http://allpoetry.com/Funeral-Blues

Here is a more uplifting one by Mary Oliver:

When Death Comes

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world

Ending with Rumi:

At the twilight, a moon appeared in the sky;
Then it landed on earth to look at me.
Like a hawk stealing a bird at the time of prey;
That moon stole me and rushed back into the sky.
I looked at myself, I did not see me anymore;
For in that moon, my body turned as fine as soul.
The nine spheres disappeared in that moon;
The ship of my existence drowned in that sea

Poetry Assignment: Fog, Elegy, Metaphor

Untitled

“The fog comes on little cat feet”
is one of my favorite lines.

For you, the fog was a tiger.

You left on Sept. 18, 2013
It’s a foggy death you chose.
You knew you wanted to die.

I have a fantasy of fog:
That I am walking towards the water
in a thick fog
and you emerge.

You say words, explain, convince…
Death was not a fog for you
and all the others who chose it.
It was a sharp knife to cut the pain.

I see you all together.
The suicides under the sea
that we cannot see.

I beat my head on the fog
No comfort.
You can’t hit fog, you can’t swallow fog.
Death swallowed you up that day.
I wait for it to spit you out
So I can see you again as you once were.

Great article on why to not fear death

It’s a long article, and I mostly read the last part but very worth reading. I especially enjoyed those moments when she thought she was dying and did not do the cliche (there are no atheists in the trenches idea that facing sudden death caused atheists to start praying)… Lots of food for thought; many of these concepts are fleshed out in the book “Staring at the Sun” by Yalom all about death and death anxiety which I also highly recommend!
http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/sep/23/-sp-diana-athill-its-silly-frightened-being-dead

Re Blogging for World Suicide Prevention Day 2014

I am reblogging this great post for Suicide Prevention and Awareness Week and World Suicide Prevention Day by Pride In Madness. The post is both personal and more broadly takes on the topic of how to talk frankly about suicidal ideation and plans. Silence is not an option; people need to have language for talking about this serious and grave topic. Many mental illnesses/substance abuse issues and combinations of these biological diseases are deadly. The most common cause of suicide is some kind of mental illness combined with substance dependence issues that are not being addressed and treated…