creativity · fantasy · love · painting · reality · relationships

“If I were a painter…” ~ Norah Jones

The earliest I can remember is drawing with sidewalk chalk
on the dresser in my childhood bedroom. I was probably 14 or 15, beginning
to assert a level of artistry and self-expression, and I decided to draw a
chalk moon on one of the hutch doors above the dresser, and a sun on the other.
Senior year of college, much to my housemates’ chagrin, I
began drawing on the walls. In my rented room, there was a walled up doorframe,
which we’d left white when me, The Cousin, my best friend and her guy, A.,
painted two walls lavender and the opposite two a mint
green.
This white moulding begged to become a frame, and when I
was envisioning getting my first tattoo, I thought it reasonable to draw the
image on my wall, so that I could live with it for a few months on my wall
before permanently living with it on my body.
It was a sun again. Four feet of elaborate, vaporous rays that twisted,
and in the center of the sun, I drew the infinity symbol, but shaded it to be
three-dimensional, like a Mobius strip, looping infinitely. Eventually, I
decided that the black & white kohl drawing was not enough, and spent a
good deal of inebriated time coloring in the drawing with various nail
polishes.
Unfortunately, the place I decided to get this tattooed was
the inside of my left wrist, which is not a large canvas, and thus it lives, much
simplified, on my skin. I was otherwise engaged at the time of “move-out” from
that house, and so my father and brother had to clear out my room, and paint it
all back to white, and over this artwork. My father asked incredulously what I
must have drawn it with, since it took three coats to cover.
Living, later, in South Korea, in a rented studio apartment,
I got the itch again. In those studios (which we would call junior studios),
the refrigerator lives in the same room as your very small dining table and
your bed, and so from the vantage point of my bed, I stared at this beige-ing
plastic door, and decided it needed embellishment.
I used my acrylic paints to create huge designs, one in
color on the top freezer half, one in black on the bottom. It was just abstract
design, but it was playful, and certainly more interesting.
Eventually, my lover the painter came over one night, and
together, naked, we painted the stainless steel panel that housed the water
heater in my bathroom, which we could also see from the bed. Naked, inebriated,
painted.
To complete the effect of living in a colored, effusive,
manic wonderland, I painted the cabinets over my sink and small range stove.
Purple and green again, like in college.
I’m sure to their dismay, shock, and irritation, my landlord
discovered all this “improvement” to their apartment after I’d left the country
when my contract ended.
And finally, when I was living in San Francisco in Cole
Valley, the enormous expanse of my white kitchen cabinets called to my paint
brush again, and I embellished them with a few outsized spheres and swirls, using the same colors that adorned that refrigerator in Seoul.
When A., my college room painter, was passing through San Francisco and came to visit, he noted upon seeing the cabinets, “Now, this looks
like you.”
And yes, I owed a penny or two from my security deposit when
I left that apartment, having every intention of painting the cabinets back to
white, but just never getting around to it.
This morning, as I heated up my coffee and glanced around my
kitchen, my vase of paint brushes caught my eye. Specifically a set that I keep in its original plastic case: these are good
brushes, those. They were a gift from my Korean-years’ roommates during my
first contract year there. I wondered to myself this morning when I’d last used
them. Remarked that it’s been too long, much too long. Each of them, like pens,
or a piano, or a piece you want to choreograph to, is potential. Each of them
vibrates with the eventuality of what you can do with them, create with them,
manipulate from them into being. They are possibility incarnate.
There was a time when I was still in conversation with The
Cousin (not my cousin, fyi) when I remarked
to him that it would be so easy for me to fall into the painting of our life together.
Just fall into the frame, like something out of
Mary Poppins, just tip over the
gilding and onto the lawn with the white picket fence, the blue, cloud-flecked
sky, and the ivy growing up the side of the house we live in together.
How easy it is to imagine that things are and were as easy
as just stepping into an alternate reality, the one we’ve created for ourselves
in our minds and mutual enchantment. A “reality” without mortgage payments or
property tax on that ivy-laced house; without paychecks to support it; without
the stymieing banality of pulling the garbage can to and from that picket fence.
Painting something doesn’t make it true. Imagining doesn’t
make it easy. And desire doesn’t make it destiny.
It’s been a while since I’ve painted on my walls, but
right now, the ones in my mind are devoutly Technicolor. 

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addiction · love · pain · painting · sex · travel

Him, or His Tragedy?

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Two of my formative love experiences centered around the
tragic hero.
The first suffered unintentional tragedy by external forces;
the second, those forces were internal.
I was 19 when I met Joe in the basement dwelling of a mutual
friend, basements being common gathering spaces for teens in suburbia. Scotty
J. even had a puke hole in the back behind the water heater should the need arise, and it often did.
In the morning, Joe didn’t remember driving his Camaro over
to my house the night before, and thanked me for getting his car there safely.
… I don’t drive stick; it really wasn’t me.
It was red. Muscley. His pride, his baby, his staff and his
project. Both he and Scott would spend hours in the driveway with the hood up,
tinkering, fixing, unearthing, lubing, loving, and suping their cars. Scott was
working on a Firebird, the shell of the Trans-Am on blocks in the garage having
donated its engine to the Firebird.
I loved this. I loved watching how attentive they were to
their cars, how dirty their hands were, how much they knew. How sweaty and
excited and jargon-speaking they became when bent over the greasy machine. I
loved how the cars sounded when they started up. I loved the primal growl, the
testosterone surge. I loved that the cars and their owners turned me on.
Maybe a month, maybe less into this Summer of Love, Joe’s
Camaro was t-boned by a woman blowing a stop sign through an intersection.
Suddenly, the man-boy I had “fallen in love with” deflated. Defeated, broken,
grieving for his totaled “baby,” Joe crawled inside a bottle of Johnnie Walker
Red.
I couldn’t follow him there, into his mourning. Nor could I
really understand or have the perhaps appropriate amount of compassion for his
loss, feeling like he was turning his back on what he did have: me.
After my own very misguided attempts to grab his attention
back from the stoned, middle-distance stare he’d acquired, he finally did see
me; but this time in outrage and betrayal, and our relationship ended in
high-octane tears, screams, and pleading.
Tragic.
The second figure I loved so much I fell into that burning
ring of fire, was an artist.
Oh, this one. Andy. A Canadian I met in South Korea at age 23, another
teacher in the pre-school where we taught English. From moment one, I could smell
the pheromones of a tortured soul, and it rang straight into my bones.
There is something very particular about a tortured artist
soul. It reads like a familiar, I acknowledge you as one of my own; I see where
it is black inside you, where it is a vitriolic, white-hot, tumulting blackness, a yawning
cavern of desperate need and distopian pain. God, it’s electric.
The gaping hole, the violent, untenable ache for
validation and self-flagellation… god, you just want to walk into the center
of it, and be fueled by it. Let me stand in the eye of your self-destruction, in
the blaze of your unrest, and be transformed, be elevated by it.
It’s sick. I know. And because you know it’s sick, you
delight in it all the more. The delicious evil of it. The knowledge that you
are, together, charring a path through hell, is invigorating.
Andy was, and probably is, a painter. There was a crooked,
dotted path of yellow paint down the back alley toward his building where one
of his cans had leaked through the bag, and bread-crumbed his trail home.
His fingers were often covered in paint (like Joe’s in
grease), and his apartment had more than twenty completed canvases leaning on
the floor, against the wall. The typified artist whose greatest work lies stale
and unrealized behind walls, in drawers, in storage.
I loved the
unrealized potential of him. How he slammed his head against his self-made
cage. I hated how he “did nothing with it,” and as if I had the power to free
him from that bondage, I would look up galleries and places he could show his work. I
would read the poems he wrote to accompany his pieces, and create books in my
head for this next great artist.
The fantasy of his life, what it could have been, drew me
like a moth. A sick, misguided, gaping hole of my own, moth.
Andy had a girlfriend. He had another tragic girl he was
sleeping with. I would sit on the heated Korean floor with him and drink and
play cards and fuck and drink and intone and fuck some more.
He was never in love with me. This I knew, but tried not to
know. I wondered if I could crawl inside him and patch his broken places if he
would love me then. But he was also in love with his tragedy, and you can’t
take a toy from a child.
The men I’ve loved past these two have been thousands of
shades lighter in tragedy. And I have learned enough that you cannot date
potential, or rent love from infatuation, or demand love from one who doesn’t
love themselves. I have also learned enough that I don’t really want to be
ignited by tragedy anymore, but rather by joy, and I pass up the visibly broken
ones for hope of something different.
But in the sense-memory playground of my love life, I do
know that my heartpace quickens recalling tragedy’s twisted pleasures. 

art · change · painting · sexuality · trying

The Art of Progress.

In considering ways to accrue and earn funds, I read that I
should make a list of things that I could sell, but not anything associated
with hobbies. It’s a good thing that was written there, because at first, I
immediately go, well, I guess I can sell my bass amp. Which I’ve been lugging
around for 5 years, and the bass guitar for … gosh, since college, almost 10 years. The bass which I do
not know how to play – not really. I fuck around with it, sometimes even plug
it in (which make my insides all joyfully trembly), and I have this bass riff that I enjoy to play that I made up. But, I
don’t know any songs or the scales (yet).
So, luckily it was written not to sell hobby things, because
I have a lot of such hobby items I’d start to list, like putting my disowned
children on the chopping block.
Then, in another book, the author told the story of a man,
an artist, who had several paintings around his home with a woman turned away
from the viewer. The person visiting his home said, I think you may have
trouble in your love life. The artist was shocked – yes, he did indeed. And she
pointed out that all these paintings, which he had made, were of women turning
away from him. And through her suggestions, he painted different, new paintings
– at first with multiple women in them together with a man(!), and later, of
just one man and one woman. Guess what happened.
So, I look at the art piece I have above my bed – 7
paintings of women, the central one of a man kissing a woman, and she’s looking
out at the viewer. The others are all obscured, obstructed, partial views of
women. As if you can never see, or have, all of her. Just these parts you have
to put together yourself in your mind. Sexy though they may be to me, I’m very
reminded of the above story of the artist.
This art piece reflects detachment, a “you can’t have all of
me” just the parts I choose to show you. I think it’s interesting to think on
it this way. As that’s certainly my M.O. in love and relationships.
Particularly around sex – I’ll give you my body, but like the woman looking
away from her lover and toward the camera, I won’t give you my self, my
attention, my all.
Therefore, it occurs to me, that perhaps it is time to let
this piece go. It represents a way of being that I want to move away from, and
perhaps… though I am terrified to begin the process – perhaps someone else
might want it – Might want to buy it.
Now, I realize this moment, that I ought not sell it to
someone who’s read this blog! G-d forbid I hand another person a scene of
loneliness! – but that’s my association. Other people have said, sensual and really
good and creative.
I’d written previously about my reluctance to sell my art,
art that means something to me – particularly one piece I sold very quickly without much thought to its importance to me, or to a price that would honor that
importance. But, this feels like I’m doing the work to let this one go. That I
am prepared and preparing to allow this piece of me to go out into the world.
There’s a café around the corner from me with a sign by the cash register: “Are you an artist? Then you should show here!” or something like
that. I think I’ll ask them what they think. 
“Find Me – Take Me”. Watercolor&mixed media. Nov ’12.
Asking Price $1500.00

community · growth · painting · school · spirituality

Spirit Animals & Oil Paint

So, this may be a mini-blog, as I’ve got to run to get ready
for the annual new year’s retreat I’m going to today through tomorrow up in the Napa Hills. I’m excited. I never know
what will come of these, but there’s always something.
I was reminded yesterday of accepting things as they are, not
as I want them to be. And of the phrase, We ask G-d for what we want, he gives
us what we need, and in the end, it’s what we wanted anyway.
I got a text from the Catholic saying he was bummed; and I
admit that I am too. But I let it lie, because there’s nothing really else to
say. It’s a decision I’ve finally made, and maybe it’ll change, but for now,
this is an option I’ve never let myself explore, and if that’s not being open
to change, I don’t know what is.
Another thing on my mind have been creeping thoughts of
“not good enough” as I begin to prepare for my singing and acting auditions
next weekend and the following. But, luckily, I heard myself telling my friend
yesterday that, to quote Julia Cameron’s Artist’s Way, we’re in charge of the quantity, G-d’s in charge of
the quality.
That, and maybe I really do need lessons of some sort. Maybe
I don’t have to do it on my own. And maybe, as this is the consistent nudge
I’ve been getting toward performance, maybe a miracle of funds to afford
said lessons will “appear” or make themselves available, or maybe my ideas of
my priorities will change and the money is actually already there.
I have, however, been thinking “car.” One of next week’s
auditions is for the live modeling guild. It’s reputable and on the up and up,
and you need reliable motorized transportation in order to be a member. So,
that, and the desperate desire for the freedom my own car would provide… I get
my student loan money soon, and will be filing my taxes early online as usual,
and although I didn’t work as much as I’d anticipated this week due to being
sick, I will have some money from this temp gig to throw in as well, with my
January costs all still being covered from the work I was able to do in
December.
I think part of my self-doubt around performance too is that
I have been sick and sort of isolated this week, which contributes to too much
time in my brain – and feeling lethargic is not a good motivator. But, I’m on
the mend – this retreat will help recenter me, I hope, as will getting back to
work, and getting back to school … which begins the week after next.
You know what I’m taking? Painting. Advanced Oil Painting to
be exact. What else? My thesis credit, and that’s f’ing it 😉 I’m so excited to
get back into the painting studio. I’ve tried to use my kitchen as a studio,
and even have a small easel that I got off craigslist, but it’s not the same.
The light, the space, the feeling of being in an artistic venue. I’m so excited
🙂
I will also be taking the other half-credit of my Community
Teaching Project class, which will be the execution and implementation of the
Spirituality & Creativity workshop I created. And to be honest, going to these
retreats & workshops with this woman over the last 4 years has absolutely influenced the
way I see my workshop, and I model a good deal after what she and Julia Cameron
have to offer. I have some great teachers.
Maybe I’ll let myself have some teachers in performance too.
I ran into a friend at the modeling gig I did about a month ago. He was one of
the musicians in the band I sang with about 4 years ago – it was one song, to
be performed in the one performance of one local community play, but I
rehearsed with the band, I practiced my song, and what did my friend have to
say to me last month? That when I finally let myself really let go, I was
great. And, I believe him. It’s letting myself get there that’s the frightening
part.
To shedding that which no longer serves us, See you on
Monday! xo,m. 

generosity · healing · letting go · painting · recovery · relationships

The language of letting go.

Two things occur to me about
this at the moment, situations that have come up. The first is that I’m
creating holiday cards to send out to friends and family. The second is that my
best friend from the east coast texted me last night to say that her childhood
home had been bulldozed.
To the first, I’ve stalled a little on the cards, partly
because of the insanity of my self-imposed schedule (even with the simplified
design of the card I’ve chosen to do for everyone, it’ll take 30 minutes, times
like 20 cards… = ten hours; and my list has more like 40 people on it!). And
partly stalled out because of the process around sending them, these handmade
items, out into the world. Some people may have no problem with this, and
consider it all a labor of love, but it’s nudged into a larger thing for me.
The cards will be okay, mainly because they’re all the same,
because they’re being made with the intention of being sent out. But earlier
this year, I hosted an art show with a group of my friends, and I sold a
painting. I didn’t actually think anything would sell and was delighted when
someone inquired, but also felt a sharp pang of “oh fuck”. The painting that
sold was sort of a companion piece, one was called “The Rebound”, the other, created
months later, was called “Safety or Before the Fall”. The first showed an empty
mussed up bed by candlelight, with a naked girl tucked into a corner on a chair
facing the bed, all you see are her legs wrapped up around her.
The second painting was of a woman’s hand resting on a man’s bare chest in sort of sepia-like colors, intended to connote a memory. The view most women will know instantly,
it’s the view of cuddling, the view of sleeping next to someone, to me, it was the
view of safety. That time in your day, whatever time of day it is you are
horizontal with your lover, and for those moments, nothing is wrong. You watch
your hand rise and fall with his breathing, you play with whatever strands of
chest hair, or trace lightly on the skin. It’s a moment of zen for me. Of “all
is right with the world.”
Now, of course, the second part of the title “Before the
Fall” speaks to the impermanence of that moment. Which led to “The Rebound.”
Obviously, these paintings are intensely personal and moments of my own life
which I created with my greatest ability to offer the honesty and vulnerability
of each of these moments. They were a part of me; a part of my past; and a part
of what will always hold a place in my memory and my heart.
So a woman wanted to buy “Safety.” And because it was my first
art show, and I was so excited to have an offer at all, and I didn’t know what
an appropriate amount was for it, I sold it. (The Rebound I marked as “not for
sale,” as that one, at least I knew was much too close a moment to let go of.)
Months later, I’m at an art show of a friend of mine who
makes very spiritual paintings, each radiating a kind of passion, divinity, and
connection. They are little portraits of love, and sometimes pain. And perhaps,
often both. I asked her how she feels able to let go of her paintings when
they’re obviously crafted with so much love and care. She said, firstly she
prices them in a way in which she doesn’t feel “sold short”, in a way which she
feels she wouldn’t “miss” them. (Not greedy, but not lamenting, like I am/was.)
Secondly, she said with a specific set of her work, she did a process around
letting go of each of them, in order to send them out into the Universe.
I didn’t do either of these with “Safety,” and I regret it.
Were it a higher price, I still don’t know if I would have liked to have sold
it yet. As such a fledgling artist, there’s still also a place in me in which
every piece I make is SO precious because I don’t know if I’ll have it in me to
do it again, and also, I am still sometimes astounded and proud of the work and
don’t want to let it go.
Earlier this year, I made a portrait of a friend of mine
that was very specifically for him, of him, of a San Francisco moment, and I
had no trouble giving that away to him. It was a gift for a major milestone for
him, and I wanted to honor that. And again, with the cards, knowing their
intention is to go out into the Universe to people whom I love, that is easier.
It’s these more amorphous recipients who I have trouble with.
Granted, I’m not in any art shows right now, “The Rebound”
sits in my closet, but I’ll be taking an advanced oil painting class in the
spring and imagine some more work will come out of that/be inspired by that
class.
I don’t know what all of this means in my scheme of things,
the ability to let go of my creations, but paintings have been different than
poems, or even performances. A poem, I own, I wrote, I know that moment, and I
have a document. Go ahead, read it, hear it, buy my chapbook 😉 Performances?
They only work because of you. A
performance, to me, is absolutely the love child of performer and audience, be
that performing theater or music. That’s part of the thrill of it to me, that
each night, each performance is different. It’s a thrilling moment of
co-creation.
I would like to learn how to set my paintings in a way where
they can go off to others with a sense of completion and satisfaction, even
joy, not with a sense of loss.
Lastly, I think having better documentation of my work than
my cell phone photos could help me as well 😉
To the second item of letting go, my friend’s house – I’m
out of time and room in this blog, but for now, a moment of honoring for that
house, the haven it was for me, the home it was for her, and the memories we
still get to share, 30 years later. Amen. 

 Safety or Before the Fall (June 2011)

The Rebound (March 2011)
action · growth · joy · painting · persistence · recovery

I love Mondays. & A Return to Art.

It’s my least busy day of the week, and I get to see some of
my favorite people. My friend came by this morning and saw my holiday cards
pinned up on a string of ribbon and said, you painted those? or maybe it was you painted those? 😉 in any case, yes. it’s strange, i
still get pretty thrilled when my paintings turn out well – it’s something I’ve
had to cozy up to, work at, come back to.

a few years ago, I’d stopped drawing completely. i had too
long associated doing art with drinking a 40oz – well, whatever the Korean measuring equivalent was (they had 3 types of beer: piss, pisser, and pissest, but, they
worked). It’s funny cuz art was really the one thing my roommates there knew
about me, about my hobbies – besides the drinking – and so each gave me some
kind of drawing or painting set for Christmas.
I lived with two guys, one a Canadian, one a Texan, that
first contract year. Their contracts run February to February because of the
whole Chinese New Year thing; it was October when I got there in 04, and
February of 06 when I left. But that first 4 months, I spent in this smaller
more agricultural town – there was a pig slaughterhouse not far, and the lunch
lady at the school would go into the hills/mountains to get some sprouts and
things for the lunch … the always popular hot dog soup.
My Canadian roommate was the adventurous type, he found the
well of fresh mountain water where you could stand with your jug and some
ancient Korean woman. He also once reported a troop of Korean soldiers passing
by him in the pitch dark one night when he was up the mountains alone.
In any case, when I stopped drinking, I stopped drawing. I
used to sit with my 40 and draw or paint (infrequently) until I couldn’t really
see the lines so clearly anymore, then stop – drawing that is. So I didn’t
know, for a while, how to draw sober.
When I finally did take my things out (the end of my sketch
book is pretty hilarious, lots of fucked up looking women – i’ve always drawn
women, bodies, faces, i don’t know why – maybe cuz it’s what I see most often,
or because there were fashion magazines around when I was little –
but also, women are beautiful. just beautiful, i love drawing them, still). So,
i took my things out about a year and a half after I’d gotten sober and tried to
sketch one of these magazine women. – Utter Fail.
Well, at least, I thought it was at the time. I spent the
longest time trying to get the lines just right, and got so frustrated over and over till i just quit the whole thing
and shoved the sketch pad and pencils back into some drawer. Done.
Then, I started to host parties.
Somehow hosting became the thing that brought out my
creativity again. The first party was a holiday one (Star of David Christmas
Cookie party), and I didn’t do any “actual” art, but I rearranged everything
(moved my bed onto it’s end up against the wall!) and I went to the party
supply store and got some fancy looking sheets of scrap-booking paper and
arranged them on my bedroom wall in a diamond like pattern, and I took all my variously
received holiday cards and taped them in a pattern on the living room wall.
Come to think of it – when I moved into that one bedroom
apartment from the room I was renting in some (very nice) lady’s house in the
outer Sunset is when it all started again. I had all sorts of creative ideas
for the apartment – i got to choose the paint colors, the flooring, and I had a
semi-disaster when I decided to paint half my bedroom a crimson, bordello red,
and left the other half white, as I intended to do a stencil of a damask
pattern in black and white all over the other side … this never came to
fruition, and finally my house painter friend came and painted the rest of the
room red!
The next party was a “Pre-Val Hearts&Stars” and I
created a whole tableau of mushy words in a crossword pattern and cut out each
letter and pasted them on my wall (among sex, lust, and other words, “conceive”
got a few eye-brow raises) ;P But still no painting.
HollerWeen! 2009, I painted. Well, I started with oil
pastels. I did a version of Munch’s Scream
with a jack-o-lantern head instead, and I was thrilled with it. I loved to get
my fingers dirty again, smushing the colors around, messing up, going over, and
just
getting in there. It was
wonderful. I did a few other riffs on some famous paintings (“Cece n’est pas
une pumpkin”, and Warhol’s Marilyn with jack-o faces instead. And one in the
kitchen I wasn’t sure was “okay” of Jesus on the cross with a jack-o head…!)
I loved it – and so I intended to do Valentine’s again the following
Spring and I wanted to do something big – really big. I began these enormous
sexy lips with a white flower in between them in oil pastels and colored
pencil. It was daunting, I was frustrated, but I had a party to finish it for.
This was why I had been doing all this
art – I had a party to throw – my party was my muse. And it worked. I didn’t
feel satisfied with that one for some time, it didn’t feel “done” till I got
some good suggestions on it (drawing a flower on a 5 foot piece of paper is
really hard!). But finally, I signed my name on that paper, and it was done
too.
So, then, here I am now (this blog is getting long, and
maybe you don’t care), but it’s wonderful for me to remember how tentative I
was, how frustrated and upset and worried that I’d never be able to draw again.
And now? Over my bed hang 7 sexy paintings of people, body parts, attached to a
garden trellis like a headboard – and like I said, it’s not perfect, there are
things I see that I know others don’t. But I love it. It makes me happy, and
it’s hot.
And now here are my holiday cards, beginning to line my
wall, and they’re silly and fun, and somewhat impressive even to me.
That’s what I love about this work – I continue to amaze
myself especially when I come with a spirit of fun. Creating paintings for a
purpose (a head board, a holiday card, a party) gives me the juice, the north
on my creative compass – and even though, sure, I’m in school for writing, and
I’ve been trying to get in to acting, watching one branch of my creative tree flower
is actually pretty encouraging.
Though, now I drink tea, not Hite.

oil pastel on posterboard 2009