Day 86: Time Machines and Russian Brides

I watched 2 movies tonight. It’s 2am so it’s Saturday. Because I am inside all day and Friday I didn’t look out the window much less leave the house and spent most of the day in my tiny closet office, there is not much sense of time beyond the 50 minute hour, so I get insomnia and a perverse interest in staying up late.

I watched “See You Yesterday” about 2 smart black kids who make a time machine. They go to Bronx Science. It’s just able to go a day behind, but the girl gets caught up trying to save her brother who gets shot by a white cop. All the reviews on IMDB are harsh, but I saw it with my kid and thought it was cool. I love time machine movies, and if you don’t think Bill and Ted movies are so awesome, why would you say this is such a bad movie? They have a more pressing reason to go back and it’s not a comedy. It’s almost a Groundhog Day type movie that’s a tragedy.

I went through a Groundhog Day movie search with my kid a few years ago. We found all the ones like it and watched them. They were pretty bad especially two Christmas movies but the concept is so fun and Twilight Zone they can be really bad but good. The best was about a girl in high school who starts out an oblivious jerk popular girl, and in the end she’s hell bent on saving an “invisible” classmate nobody notices from killing herself. That one wasn’t Christmas but you had to go to a typical high school party several times.

Maybe my taste in movies has gotten a lot less snobby and “discerning” since having a kid. I still hate movies she likes so I haven’t lost my particular flavors. I tried to show her the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, a movie I can rewatch, a favorite, but she didn’t get into it. Being John Malkovich and Stranger than Fiction are also my types.

We both loved See You Yesterday and the ending is great too. Then she went to bed and I saw Birthday Girl, a Russian Bride Order heist gone bad movie with Clive Owens and Nicole Kidman from 2002. I thought that was fun too. I’m sure it got bad reviews too but it was cute.

I always enjoy movies that remind me of Bartley the Scrivener types, guys who have predictable lives and wake up one day and things go nuts and they get transformed and usually there’s a nutty woman involved. Like “Stranger than Fiction”.

A time machine that can only go a day back is interesting, and the concept of avoiding seeing yourself from the past is always played with in these movies. I guess the idea is pretty obvious. If you made a time machine to save George Floyd from dying, some other guy would die the same way. You can’t fix what’s broken unless you go so far back you’d have to mess with so much. Would it be Christopher Columbus or slave ships?

Was the guy an idiot to order a Russian bride? Like the guy in Stranger than Fiction who’s a tax auditor this one works in a bank.

Maybe quarantine has lowered my taste in films but they’re supposed to be fun and make you think. I’d like to mix it up and see some queer films as the heteronormative stuff gets stale just like the all white people movies do too. Yesterday we watched Flipped. It takes place in the 50s which I don’t love but it’s a cute love story.

I’m watching I Know This Much is True. I read the book a long time ago. Twins and schizophrenia of course make for interesting stuff and Mark Ruffolo is great playing both.

I’m trying to mix it up with important movies and more diverse casts as well as dumb stuff that’s fun. More documentaries and queer films on the horizon. Crip Camp, LA92. We just finished Kareem: Minority of One which was great.

Day 85: Friday, June 5

It’s been quite a week. I just got off Zoom with my last client of today. I had 6 people.

I am truly grateful for this job. It helps me stay halfway sane. I was going to write my answers for this project called The Unlonely Project, about art and quarantine, but most of the answers I’ve written about in here anyway. More on it another time.

I have family members who live in Minneapolis. They texted me two photos that I’m waiting for to post here as I of course asked permission and they’re going, well it seems I can go look at 5 photos and get them up here! My brother took them with a camera except the panorama with iPhone.

Day 83: Burial Mounds

So burial mounds have different names, like Tumulus, from Latin meaning bulge/swell, Barrow, Cairn, Kurgan, Rujm. Seems it goes back to around 1000BCE or earlier. Sometimes it seems, a mound was made for a king with a lot of stuff like treasure and artifacts and made with high quality stones. At times it was an easy way to bury a bunch of people, which to 21st century people may seem gruesome, but it’s not the same as digging a hole and throwing a bunch of bodies in it.

It’s sort of like a high rise for the dead, instead of a spread out cemetery. Maybe it would be nice for a whole family to be buried in a “green” way, wrapped in shrouds in a nice place near trees but in a mound instead of digging holes.

Anyway, my second reincarnated altered book seems to be going mostly with this theme of burial mounds. I found a website with the stats on NYC Covid 19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths and added them to the book on pages with burial mounds.

Pages from my altered book, turning Kurt Cobain’s Journals into Covid 19 Journal of sorts.

Then after I caught up through May and June 1, today I started the mound of names of black people murdered by police, basically a burial mound of modern lynchings by mostly the police.

I salute the protesters, many of whom were downtown near my neighborhood last night, but having a 12 year old and a high Covid risk partner, I did not participate. Luckily due to the internet and social media there are plenty of other ways to participate in protesting police brutality towards people of color and donate to various causes, either directly to Black Lives Matter or to the many other organizations effecting change.

I started writing in names for this Black Lives Matter Burial Mound that of course could be centuries long…

I had interesting sessions today with several people of color and one of my clients who is convinced that the system is broken and the only real change that can occur is a total overhaul, rather than simply protests and voting in progressive and socialist people. Basically revolution.

Who knows? The protests have caused some slow change but justice delayed is often justice denied, and at some point there may be a tipping point. I just hope the protesters arent’ the ones who get sick in two weeks…

Story Number 2: Tanisha Anderson

The idea is that when you and I see and say her name, you will know her story and can find out more about her story and who she was, as there is more to the story than how police brutality killed a young mentally ill black mother: Tanisha Anderson

“On Nov. 12, 2014, Tanisha Anderson died while suffering a mental break while in police custody. The two officers who responded that night reportedly took down Anderson in front of her east Cleveland home and restrained her face down. Anderson appeared to stop breathing. Emergency Medical Services didn’t arrive until 45 minutes later.”

Her mom: “Speak out. Make some changes,” Johnson said. “And maybe we can change some laws for the mentally ill. Because Tanisha’s never coming back.”

Day 2: Saturday, March 14, 13 Minutes

Happy Pi day! I have a great Pi t-shirt I got at a science museum in Myrtle Beach on summer vacation. It’s 3/14!

Daily photo, another great t-shirt:

I am sometimes sad that in high school I was so good at math and did BC Calculus and took the exam. Now I barely know what Calculus is. I have a terrible memory for exact experiences that are recent and my memory of the far-gone past is terrible. I can’t remember how to play the piano or read notes. In high school I was playing Chopin Nocturnes.

Anyway, the silver lining in my terrible ADHD memory where everything is like trying to hold sand, is that I remember odd irrelevant things, and they can be fun to write about.

Today I had a WhatsApp video call with one of my best friends who live in Milan with her 13 year old. They are very inspiring, as they obviously are in the later stages of the Coronavirus, but still have hope and a sense of humor, despite there now being strict rules about leaving your house: only to walk dogs, go food shopping or to the pharmacy, so not even a curfew, a total stay home order.

I have a nail polish bottle in my studio where I keep my nail polish collection. You can use nail polish for art, like decorating your pillbox or the front and back of a journal.

This nail polish bottle is special. I actually bought it with my Italian friend soon after 9/11 or maybe before, in downtown Brooklyn where we worked. We both lived right near Ground Zero. Anyway we went to a department store near work. I can’t remember if it was a Macy’s or another one. We both bought the same color of Lancome nail polish, a kind of iridescent peach color.

Not only do I still have that nail polish, it still works, meaning it hasn’t thickened and gotten clumpy like many other nail polishes do in even 2 years. You open this bottle and it’s like your bought it yesterday. I wish I had a photo of it.

Some stores that have closed long ago, like Pearl Paint, I remember the exact layout and where they put the Sakura gelly pens and the frames. I remember the fancy pen case and the floor with sculpture tools, all the floors. I remember waiting on line on the paints floor in the palette aisle and seeing Bob Ross brand of things and the paint knives on the left side. Pearl Paint had a few specialty stores on Lispenard Street across from the main building, which was red and white brick. There was a store for home depot kind of stuff, wallpaper and paint and home decorating stuff. There was a store just for art furniture towards Church Street. There was an awesome craft supply store, with 2 stories and you went up the stairs for stuff and could see the bottom floor.

The main building had an old creaky elevator with a cramped waiting space and a bulletin board of flyers and announcements for art lessons and other things. The stairs in the main store were worn dark wood that wasn’t flat anymore. I remember where the turpentine was and the orange scented one that I discovered and bought, on one of the lowest shelves to the left of the entrance to the paint floor. You had to purchase whatever you got on that floor. There was a little room for specialty paper with someone behind a counter who would get certain papers that weren’t out on the racks. They wrapped your big paper carefully in brown paper. One of my clients even reminisced about going there after therapy with me and picking up art supplies. I even remember the customer service nook. All the cashiers and stock people were artists. It was the most magnificent art supply store I ever went to. It was an experience. I remember seeing people with their typed out lists of supplies from their painting classes searching for maybe their first tube of oil paint in September.

Thinking of Pearl Paint always makes me happy because it was so connected to me of my first ten years or so of being an artist. Going in there was magical.

 

Day 1 Yesterday’s 13 Minutes

Friday, March 13: I decided to use my 13 minute daily writings to be a kind of diary of living with new restrictions and a state of emergency during the Coronavirus Pandemic. Remember, life is all around you and there is still nature to appreciate even in NYC: trees, birds, the sky…

I live in NYC a few blocks below World Trade Center. I’ve lived in this apartment since 1998, except for a few years post 9/11.

Anyway, my plan is to focus on positive things in here. Anyone reading this knows you can easily access what’s going on and the news, and I believe focusing on good things that are facts happening alongside bad stuff is a way to keep one’s humanity intact. I saw a Hawking video I posted on Facebook 2 years ago today when he died. It is especially a great message for right now. I think I can find the link from Facebook.

Stephen Hawking Video

Technically it’s Saturday, but I’m writing my 13 minutes for yesterday, Friday the 13th. I will also post art I make daily; I hope to inspire people to use art making as a coping tool and if you’re doing it even 15 minutes, it is your life, not just a distraction tool. I strongly believe in DBT’s Distress Tolerance skills, but I also think that even if you’re doing something to calm yourself and avoid something for a while and then get back to it, that while you’re doing your art or music or crossword puzzle, you aren’t avoiding your life; that’s is you living it.

I was inspired yesterday to get back to my Daily Comic, “The Daily Grind”, which I’ve been only doing sporadically. I want to commit to some daily “self-care” minutes of my life spent doing things I already do but will be more mindful to keep up now.

Daily photo: I just got this t shirt and wore it to work yesterday. Some of my clients quite enjoyed it, even by video session!

 

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…

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…