What catches me isn’t a perfect photo or the curated “post”—the thing the captures my heart is your vulnerability. The courage and bravery to be your authentic self, when it is easier to hide behind pretense. Create an image. Be an influencer in your own storybook. Yet when you color outside the lines and speak your truth…when you own who you are and puff out your chest in all your beautiful imperfections…when you own that life is not perfect…that your life is not perfect…but you find beauty, nonetheless… it reflects in your eyes and your smile and the warmth in surrounding myself in you. Your tender vulnerability that you share with me…warms my soul. And that is everything.
Catch ME (JUMP)
I’ve worked this piece for the entire quarantine—at least 30 layers of paint, fabric and other up-cycled materials—no kidding.
It’s perfect that I finished it today—as I am trying to wrap my arms around this strange and truly traumatic covid journey.
Once I was fully vaccinated, I felt joyful—relieved.
Yet oddly, when quarantine restrictions began to lift, I felt a sense of imprisonment.
Anxiety. Shell shock. Like I got out of jail, but couldn’t walk through the gate. I found myself wanting to be at home. I felt empty.
In speaking about it, I realized for the past 14 months, I had numbed myself to the horror of the virus in order to keep any sense of hope. In the midst of great stress, you do what you need to do to get through.
But those tricks for getting through—numbing out-- weren’t working for this post quarantine period.
Talking and tears (and of course, painting) have been so helpful in the process of letting myself be more present –allowing myself to feel fully.
Today, my guy shared words from therapist Esther Perel that resonated & that felt so affirming—there is no right or wrong as we navigate our lives post quarantine—I respect that he and I are different (thankfully) and we are there with each other--
So, Ester Perel’s inspiration:
“I frequently drive myself nuts with this chicken or egg question of which comes first—risk or trust.
I think of the Catch-22 posed by trust researcher Rachel Botsman: “Can we take risks without trust? Or is it the act of risk-taking that allows us to develop trust?”
We all need both security and adventure, but some of us can tolerate the lack of security better..and others better tolerate the lack of freedom. Which one is true for you?
One of the important things I’ve learned in my life is that if I wanted to build trust in myself, my career, in the world, or in my partner, I had to take risks—and that didn’t mean being more in control. Rather, what it meant is that I had to be able to accept uncertainty and live with the unknown.
Taking risks is not the same as being reckless. Like I said before, we all need both security AND adventure in this life. It’s okay to stop at the edge of the dock and assess the dark waters below… but it’s just as important to take the leap of faith.”
So here is my painting, Catch ME (JUMP)…started without the awareness of how meaningful the title and sentiment would be. The desire to jump—the need to trust. And getting there with the guy who listens and offers to Catch ME. Taking Risks. Assessing the dark waters—one toe in at a time. But getting there.
We survived this awful year—may you find new joys and may you be patient with yourself and others as we navigate these new adventures. Namaste.
This is Billie Holiday, Eli Wiesel, Dalai Lama, Joan Baez—Me--and YOU--if you run to the mic to shine light on injustice.
I started this painting months ago simply to express my love for jazz. And it stagnated until I learned more about Billie Holiday & her bravery at age 23 to sing Strange Fruit for her mostly white audiences.
In clubs, where she had the lights turned off & only a spot on her, her last song of the night was Strange Fruit—at the end, the venue went dark and when the lights came up she was gone. Civil Rights activists applauded—others walked out in protest. The FBI hounded her relentlessly until she was jailed for 18 months and they continued to make her life miserable until her death at 44. But she never relented. She sang and sang and sang the painful truth of Strange Fruit.
Strange Fruit was written by Abel Meeropol, a Jewish civil rights activist, when he couldn’t get a lynching photo out of his mind—he had to write about it and Billie had to sing it. Time magazine named it the song of the last century.
Protest art moves people. Shakes them up. And as an artist, it allows a platform for speaking truth—it is a privilege.
In this work of art, I collaged the lyrics to Strange Fruit over the entire body of this strong lady. It is the fabric of who she is. It is defiance.
As I sat at my 1940’s typewriter, repeatedly typing the lyrics for Strange Fruit, I had a visceral reaction to the imagery. A sickening feeling of how lynchings continue in so many iterations. In 1939, people hung from trees. In 2020, there were knees to necks and joggers tracked by vigilantes. These crimes sicken me. The resulting pain it causes communities of color is unfathomable.
But we cannot feel shame and just move on. The overt micro and macro acts of aggression based on race, religion, culture, gender identity and sexual orientation are WRONG.
This week, Georgia passed legislation outlawing bringing water to those waiting in line to vote. We must be WATER CARRIERS.
In every new effort to put a stranglehold on voting, rights and people’s ability to be safe and be afforded equal opportunities, think of Billie and use your voice…again and again and again.
Southern trees bear a strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black bodies swingin' in the Southern breeze
Strange fruit hangin' from the poplar trees
Pastoral scene of the gallant South
The bulgin' eyes and the twisted mouth
Scent of magnolias sweet and fresh
Then the sudden smell of burnin' flesh
Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck
For the rain to gather
For the wind to suck
For the sun to rot
For the tree to drop
Here is a strange and bitter crop
It’s been an entire year full of suffering. Painting this over the last weeks helped me through my despair.
In it, I typed out Maya Angelou’s poem, “Life Doesn’t Frighten Me.” Because I DID feel frightened and wanted to channel her. In my studio, her words became my flowers.
A 1929 farm woman’s journal became the foundation of my vessel.
I wondered how she would feel about her journaled words joining my painting. And I wondered if she lost her farm as the Great Depression struck just months after she wrote about hanging her laundry.
I felt kindred to her in being blindsided by a mega event that changed the world.
And then, unconsciously, I created a broken/repaired pot.
Having picked up a yellow wax pastel, I marked the vase with a pattern of breaks.
And then I saw it. KINTSUGI.
Kintsugi is the 400 year old Japanese tradition of repairing broken pottery using gold.
Once repaired, the piece is considered stronger and more beautiful—embraced for its imperfections. The idea that being broken makes something (or someone) even more interesting & precious.
In painting, I was guiding myself beyond the despair.
So here we are. With the roadmap of Kintsugi, Maya & an anonymous farm woman.
Sometimes we break. That is certain.
And yet, we heal.
And find beauty in unexpected places.
And then Rumi appears to confirm it all:
“The Wound is the Place Where the Light Enters You”
May your breaks bring enlightenment. May you discover a new found strength and your own growing beauty. Namaste.
In a year that felt like time stood still—so much changed.
Outwardly, so much. Inwardly, so much.
Masks. Gloves. Missing—of people & places. Fear. Hope. Strength.
I picked up a pencil and sketched for the first time in decades. Okay with the unknown journey this would present. I went for the ride.
The tiny ripples in me, moved me forward. I can’t actually say where it took me or where it’s going. But I trust it the way I trust everything right now. Doubt is not a choice.
So I painted my “Still Life.” From pencil on page…to mixed media on canvas. My first leg of this evolving artistic journey. It is peaceful. Joyful. Resilient. And a reminder: you never know what gifts are present if you don’t open them.
My Not So Still Life. To be continued.
Mary Oliver once shared, “Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.”
Today I am reminded. In all of the darkness of 2020, there are gifts. For me, it has been in the slowing down to the rhythms of nature. The healing of my garden. The nourishment of time with my loved ones—albeit it masked & socially distant.
And, 2020 has also brought me an appreciation: Of my resilience. My strong desire to bring light to others. My deep commitment to speak up against injustice & be an agent of change.
I am ready to leap into the hope of all the newness that 2021 brings while bringing these unexpected gifts with me. As we march forward with the experience of having survived challenges beyond imagination, I wish you good health, peace & the promise of change. Namaste.
I give you a simple, MAGNIFICENT, BADASS AMERICAN WOMAN…a MOSES of a woman. Unselfish. Steadfast.
Here she is: A general and spy for the Union army…the FIRST woman to lead American troops in battle, a nurse, a suffragette, a conductor that freed countless from bondage…quiet, yet loud. Small, but mighty.
Here she is: Holding a Dead Snake, Scarred, Surrounded by Juneteenth Stars, Guided by stars, and appreciated by Frederick Douglass’ inspiring thoughts.
SHE LED. SHE…an example for all of US. Her work may have started with her fight against slavery, but she carried her work beyond. She was ONE single person. And so are U. It starts with your vote.
And from there, we continue her work—no matter what the terrain. No matter how dark. WE move forward.
The creating of this piece lit me up…I am with gratitude. May you be inspired~*
Note: The text framing Harriet is my paraphrasing from letter written by Frederick Douglass to her, as he remarked that while his work on emancipation was on public display, amid cheers…she toiled in the darkness: my interpretation “Under the midnight sky and silent stars—witnessed by a few trembling, scarred and foot-sore bondmen and women, whom u led out of the house of bondage, and whose heartfelt, ‘God Bless U’ has been ur only reward.’”
Being able to slow my art process during Covid has been a gift. I find myself being more curious and totally unconcerned about shows and sales –instead, focused on creating for myself, playing and pushing beyond.
I have gone bolder with colors and experimenting with materials. Revisiting works I had thought completed… daring to bring them back in the studio. I finished this piece today and its new, fresh palette required a renaming and a rethinking.
Enter “Learning To Be Astonished.”
A nod to The Messenger, a beautiful poem by Mary Oliver. And the gist of what other gifts Covid has bestowed. The connection to the beauty of nature. Gratitude for life and presence.
I share The Messenger, may it light your day:
My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird--
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.
Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning to be
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,
which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.
In March I had 10 koi in my pond—and now there are more than 20. Every day, I find myself lost in watching the new babies find each other, find food and find family with the big fish. In this covid mess of a year, nature has saved me. It’s soothed, amazed & made me feel somewhat grounded.
I haven’t been a carefree quarantine-er. I’ve been exceptionally careful & pretty much sequestered—this week I kayaked for the first time this season and it was a wonderful. I don’t feel so awful about slowing down—I feel curious.
The cancelled art shows and a few weeks of artistic numbness were ultimately a catalyst for exploration. Without the pressure of painting something that might appeal to others, I set out these last weeks to paint something just for me. And I wanted it large. I wanted to go to my next level of creation—unsure of what that meant.
My mantra: “but, do YOU like it…are you going far enough…PUSH HARDER.
Giving myself permission has been a gift. Many days I left my studio, anxious—unsettled and unsatisfied with where I was—my usual process. But I kept showing up with the thought my work was going to get to new places, if I allowed it to.
So here is Open Up UR Eyes (48x72in diptych). Putting it all out there. Exploring what life is offering me now. Not sure where the journey takes me—but doing my damnest to find the treasures along the way.
As usual, I found the lyrics from Imagine Dragons (once again) inspiring: “I had to lose my way to know which road to pave.”
Of course, this journey is in the backdrop of our clusterf*ck of tremendous turmoil. Outrageous callousness…suffering and death.
But in it, I am acknowledging the hope that has also risen to the forefront: Commitment to push forward for human/civil rights. For reforms. A push for integrity in a sea of dishonesty and fraud. Reforming who we are as Americans.
I don’t know what lies ahead—because who knew this year would bring so much uncertainty. But I do know that sometimes you must hit rock bottom to rise back up.
Today, I choose to see the beauty. Or at least create some beauty—as I process the chaos and my own anxiety. And in my art and with my voice, put it out for continuing sharing as an act of healing & camaraderie.
And wishes for finding your own beauty today. Noticing. Sharing it. Creating it. Namaste.
DETAIL SHOTS BELOW:
The most recent murders of unarmed Black people have gutted me..
And have spurred me to be a better white ally…
…Because it isn’t the Black community that created a society of white supremacy and we can’t expect them to fix it. It will require all of us.
So I have been listening to my Black friends--their exhaustion, and sense of alienation are enormous and have been across generations—Their chronic stress is overwhelming. And their losses from Covid-19 accentuate the pains.
And I have been learning about how we have structured our society to reinforce the racial inequality.
I also got in conversation with one of my favorite yoga teachers who shared with me in a vulnerable and impassioned way. While we have exchanged a lot over the weeks, the first thing she shared stuck with me.
When she opens the studio in darkness at 5 am. And while her students are checking their emails and filling their water bottles safely at home, she is desperately trying to unlock the studio door-- quickly, lest she be mistaken for someone breaking in.
She literally fears every day she may be shot and even killed…this is teaching yoga while being Black:
She, in heightened stress, while lovingly offering stress relief and healing to her students. And those of us in full white privilege have been in total ignorance of her experience.
She has many stories--too many—no one should have these stories, but every single Black person has books of them.
And this shouldn’t be anyone’s life.
She shouldn’t have seven cops surround her with guns drawn when pulled over for a routine traffic violation. NOBODY SHOULD.
And George Floyd shouldn’t have a knee on his neck for a $20 bill. Amaud Arbery shouldn’t take his last breath at the hands of racist vigilantes.
No one should have to warn their six year old that some people will hate them for the color of their skin. But Black mamas and papas have that talk—repeatedly—to do whatever possible to keep their babies safe.
No one should have their first experience with the police be an arrest at age eight.
No one should believe that taking a knee in peaceful protest will end their careers…or their lives.
No one should believe six Black men committed suicide by hanging themselves from trees.
We are in a moment. Passion for change is tremendous.
We cannot squander this opportunity.
It will take us all. Speaking out. Voting. Not settling for anything less than sweeping changes that offer equal opportunities-- a better country for all of us. Because when we dehumanize any group of people, we all become inhuman.
So I headed to my studio this week with all passion and painted:
Bare-ing Witness: The Fierce Urgency of Now.
Inspired by the raw sharing of my yoga friend and all those who speak their truth, the white allys who will join this movement and the inspiring words of Dr. King that we need to carry with us as we join to bring light and hope to all our lives.
Welcome to my journey, in art & life...