Oro del Alma

“The purest gift is not of gold, but in art that awakens the soul.” –Jack Gladstone

I have been concentrated on consuming the art of others for many weeks now and it has been very exciting, delicious and inspiring. I’ve also been digging deeply into myself–into my heart, my darkness, the essential marrow of me. I found only a few flakes of gold so far but it is encouraging and I know I must continue seeking if I am ever to hit a major vein. I am presenting to you, dear readers, the imperfect products of my most recent artistic endeavors. Part of my healing process involves forcing myself to share my work; whether it embarrasses me or makes me proud is irrelevant because it is the act of exposing that is important. Although I am tender, I trust that I am strong enough to allow you to look. You are invited to bring your gentleness.

Espera; charcoal and watercolor

Espera; charcoal and watercolor

This is a portrait of Segundo, the special dog in my life. I love him. He is a precious old man and I admire him for his outstanding patience. It’s not entirely finished but this is how far I’ve gotten in the process; I am dissatisfied mainly with the background because it suffers from the same issues that my work usually does–I’m slowly learning about composition. It was also meant to be one section of a bigger piece and I’m trying to decide if I will continue on with it or let it be as it is. I wanted it to be surreal and dream-like because it is about the deep spiritual things that Segundo represents to me.

It takes me a lot of time to make art. I have to consistently remind myself about why art is important; I like to ask people this question frequently. I know that I like some of what I see so much that it causes me to be really happy, though I’m not certain if a consistent pattern exists that links whatever produces this feeling. I recognize when a piece moves me through its use of light, color and powerful or wonderful subject matter. I like it when art makes me challenge my preconceived notions, when it makes me a little uneasy or shakes me up a bit; when it has a statement to make and I get it. I like it most when art is imaginative and playful.

I’m more comfortable doing artistic studies of subjects that are there in front of me, at least in a photograph. I have not committed to memory the way things appear and am therefore often displeased by the free-styling of my imagination, at least when it comes to creating visual art.

Greg at Brooklyn Art Library

Greg at Brooklyn Art Library

At the same time, it’s very challenging to sketch things from life that are animated, such as people, animals, etcetera, because it takes me for damned ever to get it right. I know that my hand will become better trained and my eye more practiced at directing it so that each line, shade or highlight will be delivered to the paper with confidence and accuracy…but that’s not now. I’ve taken to sketching people as we are casually sitting together; I draw their various parts (ear, upper lip, etc.) however it is it looks at the moment I am focused on that section, regardless of it’s relationship to the other parts of their face or body in the drawing. Does that make sense? It’s amusing because it produces funhouse-looking faces that resemble the subject but as their doppelganger in a strange and stretchy, alternate reality. The above drawing is from my sketchbook and is a less dramatic example of that process.

I’m still learning the most basic of technical skills. Here is an ovoid, which was the first drawing I did in my art class with Andy Reiss. It’s on a huge sketchpad so it was difficult to scan. This drawing went pretty well overall and I found it an enjoyable process that boosted my confidence.

Ovoid; charcoal and pastel

Ovoid; charcoal and pastel

Cylinder; charcoal and pastel

Cylinder; charcoal and pastel

I dislike drawing cylinders very much. Or anyway, this drawing presented a number of challenges which ultimately improved my knowledge and skills but I didn’t enjoy doing it. It took me many weeks to complete. It was also on a huge sheet of paper and is therefore cut off, having been cropped by the scanner also.

One thing I’ve learned about myself is that I have a tendency to hold things too tightly. This applies to every aspect of my life, really. I’ve been aware of this since the second grade, when Mrs. Graves scolded me for the vice-grip I had on my pencil during handwriting exercises. My white knuckles betrayed me then and they still do. This translates into very intense, tightly controlled work, like super-tight knitting or, in the case of charcoal drawing, really dark lines. My art teacher had to call me out on it during the cylinder debacle because I put in the blocking lines (a beginning sketch) way too dark and wasn’t able to erase them as I needed to. They still show up on the final drawing.

My teacher gave me an exercise to do wherein I had to practice making value scales to get the feeling of drawing very dark and heavily, progressing into the lightest shade I could muster. He also gave me many other shapes and lines to draw that would allow me to practice lightly pressing while engaging these different movements in a rhythmic way. He told me that I needed to feel every bump in the grain of my paper through the tip of my pencil, as if it were a sensitive extension of my body. It totally worked but I still have to practice these before drawing almost every time, or else I do it when I notice myself reverting into psycho-hand.

This is a page from my sketchbook. It’s a simple image that I began as a study of my left hand, but then got inspired to imbue with symbolism, belying certain truths and other fears associated with this appendage.

My Hand; graphite and lipstick.

My Hand; graphite and lipstick.

I have also been working on poetry lately. I’ve been writing for almost all of my life but now I am translating it into Spanish, as well as writing new poems in Spanish. I am currently learning the language as an “advanced beginner” so I’m not sure that my word choices and phrasing are appropriate, effective, or correct, even. It’s quite challenging but I like translating poetry. It’s like working with three languages all at once. The doing has expanded my vocabulary and use of the language in general, if nothing else. Here is some of my work in progress, beginning with poesías nuevas and travelling deeper into las viejas.

Sujetando Dulce

En mis brazos tengo abrigo

estoy un hamaca

para los perros

de todos

para sus hijos

que quien sera tranquilo

porque tengo brazos vacios,

puedo

rebotar ellos

envolver con amor puro

mejor que la mejor tía

¿necesitas los brazos libres?

tengo dos

listo

Mi Segundito

Fantasma lustre de glaucoma

balizas palidas

lanzan la luz anhelo

sobre la cara de medianoche;

sobre los dedos con tocino engrasado;

tocante la puerta

y caminar wobb-wibble

a lo largo de los calles

adornado con basura

suspiro doble hondo;

ternura

ganada duro

Ceremonia Iniciación

velo se levanta;

bombos estruendosos

y pies patean

 polvo levantarse

…creciente…

arco palpable del intercambio

apertura a apertura

recepción

un frotis de pasta resinosa

-de sangre, flores y cáscaras-

mejillas sonrojadas anuncian

golpeteo, orejas golpeteo, pecho

las perlas de

miel

goteante

hedor sutil sobre

las puntas de plumas

rebotando

 impregna, delata

llamando, cuervo llamando, grito

y la fuerza polar

emite una demanda:

rendirse.

así lo sea.

Agazapado Sobre Calle Diagonal

Ocaso

preguntó

me que acallar

mi mismo

y observes sólo.

Ella preguntó para

nada

y yo tuve que

venir arrastrándose

cada momento

para tratar de cesar

las posturas interminable,

el contorsión de mi cara.

Rosada desteñido

dentro de naranja

en azul

y fui testigo

a una salida grácil

(el tipo que hace

su corazon menos consciente

de lo que esta rompiendo

mientras que ella se escapa

con calidez,

luz, vibrance).

Mis huesos

traqueteo

y golpear

y saber

ahora es el tiempo

abrirme a luna.

Yo se aflojan;

ciertos musculos mantienen

una medida de nervioso y tenso

contra sus dedos

inquisitivos y frios.

Ella ha lo encontrada

para lo que buscaba

y la quemadura de humilliación

se expande

dentro de mi cara

y ahora, contracción.

Me hundo.

Estoy callada.

Encaje

Encaje es

quebradizo-espina-flaco

las mejillas son hundido

cetrino

ella no viven en eso mundo

nunca mas

ella parlotea

sobre los quimicos

y la falta de valor

en la vida humano

“preferiría salvar una animal…

lo no es comicó

tampoco”

ella dice a mi sonrisa

a mi espalda

estoy curiosa sobre los sueños de ella.

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genuine unoriginal

Dadadreams; etsy.com

Dadadreams; etsy.com

I am a collage. Genetically, I’m a blend of peoples from many places in the world, according to oral accounts of my lineage. Some day soon, I will research my ancestral heritage through a sampling of my DNA because I want to know for certain where my progenitors are from and who they might have been; I know how these things have a tendency to morph during emigration and over decades of transmission and potential white-washing. I’m curious especially about the food traditions, artisanal crafts and ceremonial practices of the cultures I come from.

Terry Lee WHETSTONe; terrywhetstone.com

Terry Lee WHETSTONe; terrywhetstone.com

pinterest.com

pinterest.com

Culturally, I am a collection of attributes that the multifarious influences in my life have led me to–I choose to hold and perpetuate those which are consistent with my beliefs. Sometimes I quarrel with myself over the vague but heavily-charged boundaries of cultural appropriation, even as I believe that if a particular practice serves an individual and they are reverent and respectful of its origins, then its use serves to honor the whole (to put it simply). I try to invent my own rites and rituals based on what I’ve found to be powerful in my quest for spiritual anchor, along with the general concepts and elements that are inherently sacred to me. It is a micro-culture that remains private, for the most part.

I recently had an epiphany about collages: #1, they are valid works of art and #2, that I had been secretly telling myself they weren’t for most of my life. I had some strange insecurity about the fact that they employed found images or objects that I hadn’t created with my own hands, from my own imagination. This is ridiculous when I consider the possibility that everything an artist produces is borrowed from the world around them. Even their interior world is informed by what they’ve seen and experienced in the physical world–the one that they share with the rest of us. The materials they use might be in a simple, raw and basic form (charcoal, for instance) but they are only materials…it’s the life that the artist breathes into them which makes them art–the meaning they become infused with. I wonder this: is collage a form of collaborative art when the materials are sourced from another creator? Must co-creation be consensual?

artist unknown; fffound

artist unknown; ffffound.com

Perils of the Easier Path by Mark Lazenby

Perils of the Easier Path by Mark Lazenby; mark

Tyler Varsell’s sketchbook; cargocollective.com

As a teenager, I found collage to be the medium in which I could most easily create a sense of what I wanted to impart. Instead of having to deal with all of the time-consuming, sometimes frustrating technical parts of drawing and painting, I was able to effectively express through the amusing act of sourcing and repurposing objects and imagery and combining them in my own context. My process involved selecting and extracting the materials to arrange and rearrange, watching the relationships between each element shift and waiting for a potent and powerful combination to emerge, which I would then affix to a surface. Sometimes the process itself  inspired new directions and revealed new meanings.

I started suspecting that collage might be totally legit when my excellent friend Ivan showed me this book:

Masters: Collage: Major Works by Leading Artists; amazon.com

The paintings beyond the link below look like collages but they’re NOT! Tricky!

Corporeal Clusters

These days I’ve been focusing on two dimensional visual art, mainly because I needed to narrow my field of focus a bit  and I wanted to gain the skills I require to complete illustration projects. However, I generally feel more compelled toward the consumption and creation of  things that provide a multi-sensory experience. I love installations, film, music and other mixtures of media for this reason.

The following is a really wonderful New Orleans project featuring lots of super great artists and makers of things. Check out the website AND the video!

Dithyrambalina

At the Frye Museum, I witnessed an awesomely artful video installation called An Ode to Octavia, a Sonic and Kinetic Ritual by The Black Constellation, though unfortunately I can’t find any images from it or the video itself. I wish you could see it. If you’re in Seattle, go check it out because it’s beautiful.

What is your perception of collage as a medium? Do you know of any outstanding artists who make collages, be they flat, three-dimensional or interactive?

good yes please

Ah, yes yes: I have realized that I am quite blessed to have at my disposal a portal to all of the art my big, fat, indulgent heart can stand (the internet) *and* access to a whole city brimming and buzzing with museums, galleries, public/street art and much more to please my aesthetic tastes in general. WE are. We live in a time conducive to convenient consumption and one in which art is rather accessible, for which I am exuberantly grateful. I’ve come to learn that I actually need this imagination fodder and that I do well to satiate my craving for such stimulation. I’m just getting started!

Brooklyn Art Library; atlasobscura.com

One of my favorite things about living in Brooklyn is that it is the home of the Brooklyn Art Library. Here, I can sit for as long as I want, as frequently as I want (during their hours of operation) and the peachy-sweet, very hospitable employees encourage my presence without needing me to buy anything–it’s also a store hawking items like vintage postcards, notebooks, minimal art supplies, books and other odds-and-ends. Library cards are free there, just like the Public Library. It also doesn’t hurt that Mast Brothers Chocolate factory is only a few doors down.

The library hosts the permanent collection of a wonderful thing called the Sketchbook Project, the fruits of which line the walls of the space. The sketchbooks of artists from all over the world are just waiting there to satisfy your snoopiest curiosity. I insist that you to go there if ever in the vicinity. Upon receiving a library card, a set of sleek computers assist in the selection of art-filled loot by any of a variety of mechanisms, though I always choose mine by themes bearing enigmatic phrases. A friendly employee will retrieve several for you to pore over; simply return when finished for re-shelving and start the process of selection again. Repeat ad infinitum. It’s fun!

In case you’re more of a visual/audio person, here is a stop-motion video about the Sketchbook Project:

One of my favorite sketchbooks I’ve seen so far is Ileana Surducan’s The Greatest Story Ever Told, which you can see the entirety of by clicking the title. It is appealing for its wild-eyed sense of wonder and supported by her fantastic illustration skills. She’s from Romania and I like that.

This year’s collection of sketchbooks has just begun their tour and is perhaps in a city near you. You yourself can also contribute to this project; with a $25 fee, you receive a notebook and space in the library for your finished volume of sketches–and–for another $45, you can have it imaged and uploaded to the web archive for world-wide perusal along with a couple of other perks. I’m tickled half to death by this project.

To waltz along another avenue of my daily art immersion, here are a just a couple of gems I’ve found on the art blogs I pillage for sustenance–a habit I’ve recently acquired and one that I hope to continue for years to come. I strongly suggest that you get your daily dose of beauty and inspiration so you can grow up to be dreamy and giddy, just like me!

Follow the image links to view more fabulous work–these are only a sample.

Gala Bent; hifructose.com

Miss Van; hifructose.com

Vision by Katie Scott; katie-scott.com

Speaking of artists I admire, I’ve spent about six hours total at the Brothers Quay exhibit at MoMA. They’re brilliant genius twin brothers who’ve been making art for many decades. Perhaps you will enjoy reading this New York Times review of their retrospective.

Personally, I like their often repulsive, creepy aesthetic which tends to drum up the feeling of an era outside our own, of a grimy, interminable depression animated by repurposed cast-offs that speak not only to the intensity of the human condition but also of a whimsical imagination and a subtle sense of humor. It’s rich in detail, disturbing and simply phenomenal.

brothers Quay; morbidanatomy.blogspot.com

Brothers Quay; thelmagazine.com

I was introduced to the work of Heinrich Kley by my art teacher, Andy Reiss. The free and sketchy quality of Kley’s art produces such excellent style and flow of movement, plus his imagination is pretty fascinating. The illustrators for Fantasia were inspired by his art.

Heinrich Kley; fineart.ha.com

Heinrich Kley; 4ojos.com

After admiring her work online for the past numerous weeks, I saw Tiffany Bozic‘s exhibit at Joshua Liner Gallery in Chelsea. Her medium is watercolor and also washes of acrylic on maple wood panels, sometimes incorporating the pattern of the woodgrain to a lovely effect. Her subjects are primarily organisms of the natural world, often presented in unnatural combinations and positions with somewhat surreal elements, sometimes abstracted entirely for the sake of design. Her creative vision sets her apart from Audubon’s naturalist artwork that was more geared toward accurately representing nature for education as much as the appreciation of the forms–organisms in their natural environment.  I could easily see the influence of Ernst Haeckel in her finely rendered organisms, their patterns and compositions–even her color choices on some pieces. There is a dark, unsettling quality to many of her pieces that I find outstanding.

Tiffany Bozic; artistaday.com

The Golden Gate by Tiffany Bozic; joshualinergallery.com

Flesh and Blood by Tiffany Bozic; joshualinergallery.com

Shift

Piero Fornasetti; farfetch.com

After an arduous and bizarre Summer, my “real life” hiatus has finally concluded, just in time for Autumn’s arrival. I return to the Carousel upon a gust of changed wind;  you see, I have chosen to >>SHIFT<<.

Perhaps keen readers may have noticed (from previous posts) that I am a student of science. I love plants and lichens especially but I’m bowled-over by most of the disciplines within the broad spectrum of my field. To furnish a label, I say that I study Natural History, for I can learn about much of the world and it’s processes within this umbellate structure. Also, Natural History museums are one of my favorite places to be because they present concepts and objects that I love, often in an aesthetically pleasing way and sometimes through multi-sensory, interactive media. Although my passion for science has always been married to my necessity and fondness for aesthetics, science and nature have enabled my return to art. Now I have begun to lean toward art for art’s sake.

Let me back this train up (dreamy, blurred transition sequence with harp scales denoting flashback):

pinterest.com

When I was a wee lass of 16, thrashing about in the throes of hormones and mental illness, my primary love in life was painting; it was my one and only reason to get out of bed in the morning and for attending school daily. Painting made life more tolerable because I could concentrate my turbulence into expression and also focus on the perception of  the physical world outside of me. I saw layers of paint slathered everywhere I looked, instructing me in the ways of light, shadow and color, allowing me to see what was actually in front of me instead of the meagre projection of what I expected. It was a form of escape and it was to be my Escape Plan.

However, a near constant succession of emotional storms culminated in something akin to a meteorite collision, which struck me down into a pile of crumbs. After that, I was unable to paint because I had nothing inside me to express. I sat staring at empty canvases, mouth agape as if paralyzed at the beginning of a scream, which ran out of steam and rusted in place. The main problem was that I was rendered unfeeling and impotent by the too-strong anti-psychotic medication prescribed to me by a diagnosis-happy charlatan who bragged about being an allopathic physician and shamed me for being queer. Bless his coronary. True, I was no longer crazy enough to be dangerous to myself or anyone else because all I could think about was eating and sleeping…but all I could do was eat and sleep and as such, I lost my true love to the Nothing. Is that any kind of life?

Selasphorus rufus and Xylocopa californica arizonensis

After years of quivering in the shadows of traumatic aftershock and in fear of criticism for my lack of skills and a suspicion about my level of talent, I forced myself to pick a new medium; a new muse naturally installed itself thereafter. Watercolor paintings and drawings of non-human entities delivered me into new territory, only marginally associated with the battleground.

Biological illustration is one of my favorite types of art and I have been practicing little by little, though it has been exquisitely painful, for there is sensitive scar tissue around the phantom wounds. Above, you see two products of this effort–I watercolor painted these animal friends, which were extracted from a large interpretive poster I made about ocotillo’s (Fouquieria splendens) pollinating partners.

After struggling through many a misstep and accepting that I am merely an imperfect beginner, I decided to finally-at-last heal the heartbreak and gift myself that which I lack–a solid foundation in technical artistic training. Through a serendipitous meeting of a professional illustrator named Zelda Devon, I now have a weekly art class with an outstanding and encouraging teacher to help me mend and make new my identity as an artist. Yeah, because I said it: I’m an artist and nobody can change that (not even me). So there.

Here are a few pieces of art that I’ve foraged from the internet–I find them lovely and exciting:

Langdon Graves; booooooom.com

This piece by Langdon Graves pleases me immensely with the muted palette I so often gravitate towards, treated with a flash of hot color that draws the eye. The subject’s dismemberment is made only slightly disturbing with her bunny hands, though I find it more sweet and imaginative than morbid.

Carne Griffiths’ work is nudging me toward a return to human portraiture with his ethereal, fractured work. I also love it when people incorporate materials other than the precious, highfalutin stuff one acquires at the art store, such as Griffiths’ tea and booze.

Fragment Postcard Pack by Carne Griffiths; behance.net

Here are some pretty graphic design things by Tatiana Plakhova–check out the website because there you will find a whole universe of gorgeous, sort of mind-blowing images.

The End of Geography by Tatiana Plakhova; complexitygraphics.com

From ‘The End of Geography’ by Tatiana Plakhova; complexitygraphics.com

Art Forms in Nature by Ernst Haeckel was given to me for my birthday by my darling friend Danielle. Haeckel is so absolutely outstanding! I want to be like him when I grow up.

amazon.com

Tiffany Bozic’s new book Drawn by Instinct features the very kind of artistic expression I hope to one day be capable of; she melds the meticulous detail of a scientist with realistic portrayals of creatures–some are posed within strange, compelling compositions–and gives them the breath of emotional movement. Essentially: I want this book. I would accept it as a gift, should anyone be so inclined to offer!

From Tiffany Bozic’s book ‘Drawn by Instinct’; hifructose.com

From Tiffany Bozic’s book ‘Drawn by Instinct’; hifructose.com