Showing posts with label self reflection. Show all posts
Showing posts with label self reflection. Show all posts

March 2, 2020

In like a Lion.....I am my father's daughter

I need a project. Something to rally around. To focus my random thoughts and obsessions on. Do you know that feeling?


my daughter in front of his grave stone
Here is the beginning of a story I want to write about my father. At the moment it is merely a scattering of thoughts and notes. It could also just turn out to be another self-reflective blog post, but we'll see!


I think of my father as a pillar holding up the world.

My father was sick for six years.
March 24, 2011, he died in the morning sometime between 6:30 and 7:00am. I know because I was staying at the house and I got up twice to go to the bathroom. At the time, the unearthly sound of his breathing could be heard throughout the house. When I got up the second time, I noticed it was quiet, and I ran to my mother, sleeping on the couch, to say, I don't hear him anymore.

When people called on the telephone we used words like gone and passed. You didn't say he's dead, he died this morning. You said, he's gone, he's not with us anymore, it's over. When they took his body away, I have a clear memory of my mother crying, saying that the bed was still warm.

Every March I think about these things. Sometimes I forget it's March and can't figure out why I'm more depressed than usual.

My father was an amazing storyteller. Before he died, family members tried to record him telling his stories, but only a few got saved. He was fascinated by human behavior, and had experienced the world through many means. He was a NYC police detective for twenty five years. Born in Brooklyn, to parents whose parents were born in Sicily, and grew up in Little Italy. My grandmother worked at a candy factory in Brooklyn. We used to see the factory buildings from the Gowanus Expressway, and every time we crossed it my father would say, that's where grandma used to work. They lived in a two bedroom apartment where three brothers slept in the same bed.

In Like A Lion, 2011, oil on canvas, 50x72"
My father grew up playing stick ball in the street, at a time when everybody on the block knew everybody, and looked out for each other. Everyone was an immigrant then. He was not prejudiced in any way, and was equally friendly and unimpressed by people of all walks of life. He could strike up a conversation with anyone, rich or poor, bad guy, good guy, criminal, movie star, celebrity. He had street smarts that outtalked the highest paid lawyers in New York, and was still the most humble person I've ever met. He was a writer, a thinker, and a seeker of truth. I helped him with a book he started writing once. I typed out his handwritten pages. People he knew were all getting movies made about their stories, and he had been part of some of the biggest criminal cases in the world.

When he got drafted into the army during Vietnam, his war was not a bloody one, it was a cerebral one. He was an MP, and his job was to stand guard and protect the perimeter of the camp. Alone in a hand built wooden hut staring into the jungle for hours through the night, waiting for enemy soldiers to appear. He told the story of that palpable fear, of hallucinating and trying to stay awake, of burning the trees and brush. He told the story of meeting God in that jungle. He wanted me to paint a picture of it, but I never thought there were enough materials in the world that could depict that kind of profound experience.

his necklace that I inherited
Since he died I have made some terrible decisions in my life, and have been involved in a succession of terrible relationships, all starting that fall in 2011. Looking back, although these different relationships were with seemingly very different people, I can see now that they weren't that different at all. In fact the similarities are jarring. I've thought this whole time that each of them pulled the rug out from under me in one way or another, but the truth is, there was never a rug there to begin with.

I think I've been searching for the safety and security of that pillar holding up my world. Maybe now that I realize this, maybe now I can finally grieve this loss properly and be my own pillar. I am my father's daughter, and I am proud of that. He was a man among men. He walked in love because he really believed it, without ever seeking or needing a reward for it.

March is said to come in like a lion and go out like a lamb. For me it has stayed a roaring lion all this time. I'm ready for the lamb. In all the losses I grieve for, suddenly I find myself grieving for him as if he just died.

I think my father would be disappointed at my rotten decision making, but I know he would still love me, because his love was unconditional. There were no conditions, or limits. He would walk to the ends of the earth for you, and he'd let you know it. He'd whistle, and sing you a song about it all along the way too. He had a song for everyone, and he was always singing it. One of the many songs he sang to me was Peggy Sue, which he changed to Sammy Sue. If you want to know how I know the words to every 1950-1960's oldies tune, my father is the reason! There's a picture of me at my last exhibition opening where I think I look a lot like him. More than anything, it's the expression on my face. It's a proud look, and it's the same way he looked at me so often throughout my life.












February 11, 2020

finding meaning



Samantha Palmeri, Unravel, 2018, oil and charcoal on canvas, 60 x 60 inches

When I titled this piece, a little over a year ago, I pictured unraveling as a breaking apart of things, and it felt like a good metaphor for me. 

So much has changed since November 2018, and I can now appreciate that to unravel is also to untangle, and resolve

I've never shown the painting before, so I'm excited that the timing seems so perfect to have it included in a group exhibition coming up in March in Beacon, NY. 


Loss doesn't equal failure

This is hard to sink in because we are brainwashed to believe we need things that we don't really need, and that we are supposed to want things that we don't always want. We can make our own rules and find our own way of doing things. Things that make us feel most like ourselves. Even if, and especially when, it doesn't make any sense to anyone but us.


lovers
friends
husbands
children
houses
possessions
mothers
brothers
I lose them all
little by little
and then all at once
still
in this sea of loss
I find things
in packing your bags
my lost kimono
and in filling my voids
without warning
the answer
Here all along









February 1, 2020

fake it till you make it

detail of working painting, oil on canvas



This morning I made coffee, put on my favorite Chopin, peeled an orange, fried up two beautiful eggs with butter and crusty bread, which I slid onto my grandmother's perfectly sized Jadeite plate. I even lit a candle. 
A good friend recently said to me, I’ll know you’re in a real relationship Samantha when you gain those relationship 10 lbs. The other day I said to her, hey you’re right! I’m finally having a real relationship. With myself. Apparently it’s going really well I’ve already gained 5 lbs. Cue drum laughter..
Listen, I know how to wine and dine myself
The spirit of self-care has extended into my art studio as well. I am feeling a new sense of freedom and independence. I am no longer painting angsty continuations of what came before. I've decided to paint the joy I want to feel, and damn if it's not working. Is that the expression, fake it till you make it? I'm okay with that. My studio is a positive ray of light, and I've got the comments on instagram to prove it, Lol
I know the world is falling apart and all, and I'm here writing self-help messages to myself, but sometimes you just have to go in the studio and close the door. 


detail of working painting, oil on canvas


detail of working painting, oil on canvas

January 21, 2020

slow painting

fragment detail of working painting, oil on canvas
























slowly I am working on new paintings 
and even though there seems to be no logical space in my life at the moment for luxuries like painting in my studio
miraculously it happens anyway

I haven't slept very well in a while
my thoughts are sprawled out and jotted down on the backs of small pieces of imaginary papers

this morning I wrote the beginning of a poem I may or may not ever finish:

          my left eye is not twitching to the beat of my heart
          I can tell
          because out of the corner of my right eye
          knees up
          feet on the floor
          I can see the pulse in my wrist moving up and down




fragment detail of working painting, oil on canvas





November 11, 2019

how to stop overthinking

There are little orchid babies on all my orchid plants.

I'm mesmerized that they are thriving with no concern for my feelings at all!

Completely unperturbed by what's going on in the world. They could care less about the emotional roller coasters I'm on, whether it's a bad day or a good day. They don't care about my new socks or my chipped nail polish, or the teaching gig I may or may not have. They just do what they do no matter what. 

I've watched these things all year, slightly neglected I admit. Even with yellow leaves falling off, clumps of entangled roots with barely any soil or moss to grow in, they still flourish. Regardless of even some basic necessities, they still grow, because that's what they're made to do. So simple and easy.

Orchids are thought to be a difficult plant to keep, but that's a misconception. Maybe because they're so beautiful and delicate it's thought they need extra care, but really they need less. Less humanness, less fussing and overthinking. I wish I could be this way. I'm exhausted from all my overthinking and feeling, inside the art studio and out. If I could get to work without thinking about it so much I could get relief. The irony is that it takes so much work to get to that place of losing yourself in the work...






June 13, 2019

How to deal with negative feedback




Most days I welcome feedback of my work. I can take a subjective opinion or a well thought out critique, even if I disagree, even from people who don't know that much about it.

But some days are difficult. There are moments when I feel especially vulnerable, and am overly sensitive and susceptive to the smallest criticism or critique. 

Recently I heard just the tiniest negative comment about my paintings and it threw me. I went to the studio and mentally applied that one comment to everything I was working on. I was more annoyed at myself for letting it affect me than the comment itself which was inconsequential at best. 

Sometimes it's good to take a step back and remember who we are and why we're doing what we're doing. I keep a journal in my studio specifically to jot down thoughts that I'm having a hard time articulating. Here's what I wrote: 

Fuck it! No one's here but me- my spirit- my soul- my body- my mind- We're working today and fuck everything else



March 18, 2019

Shaolin*: the forgotten borough

Who we are has so much to do with where we are from.

Something's been on my mind about place and belonging. So many artists talk about where they're from and how much it's influenced their work and their lives. Whether they left a place by choice or not, whether they stayed, returned, or were never able to, whether they hated it or loved it, it has played an important role.


I was born and raised in Staten Island, New York, and lived there until I was 29.



Staten Island has a very ghetto mentality. By that I am being quite inclusive as far as race and discrimination. It's less about poverty, but definitely about fear, isolation, and cultural starvation.

Staten Island is divided by neighborhoods. There are 19 stops on the Staten Island Rapid Transit. Each one has its own personality. In my era, neighborhoods were divided into territorial gangs. My neighborhood gang was called the Albee boys because we lived on the cross street of Albee Avenue. The Albee boys were rivals of the New Springville boys. In 1991 Thomas Bickerton's big brother was beaten to death with a baseball bat by the New Springville boys and his name was spray painted under the overpass a block from my house. I remember this distinctly because Thomas Bickerton had jumped up to kiss me in the courtyard of PS 36 during our Kindergarten recess, and I had been friendly with him ever since. I graduated from a high school with a population of almost 4,000. There were exactly two African American students in my graduating class. In the last election almost 75% of the people from my old neighborhood voted Republican.

Staten Island is divided by the north shore and the south shore. My neighborhood on the south shore was made up mostly of people who had moved from Brooklyn to Staten Island, including my family. People who commuted to Manhattan to work every day but didn't spend much time there after working hours. My friends and I didn't hang out in the city, we hung out on the corner, in back of the high school parking lot, or literally at the giant rock in the woods by my house.

In 1986 I was accepted into NYC's High School of Performing Arts for ballet. I didn't go. I have no recollection of what that conversation was like, but for a sheltered 13 year old from Staten Island, the idea of riding the ferry to the subway by myself to Fiorello La Guardia every day wasn't even in my peripheral.

There are five boroughs of New York City: Manhattan, Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island. Staten Island is the only borough that doesn't physically connect to Manhattan. There is no bridge or train that goes directly to the city. Commuters take a train to a ferry, or a bridge to a tunnel, or some combination which often includes driving from New York to New Jersey to New York again. From Annadale it took me an hour and a half to get to midtown Manhattan. A half hour train ride, a 20 minute ferry ride, a ten minute subway, plus the walk to, and the wait for, each of these operations. There are three bridges that cross over to New Jersey and exactly one bridge that crosses to Brooklyn. This is not an accident. It symbolizes a great cultural divide. In 1993 65% of Staten Islanders voted to secede from NYC. With mostly no interest in taking advantage of/enjoying any of New York City's culture, art, spirit, energy, there was also no interest in paying its expenses/tax bill.

Staten Island, often referred to as the "forgotten borough", if you didn't already know, was also once home to the largest garbage dump in the world. T h e   w o r l d.  It was seen from outer space... for real. On a particularly stale day one could smell the dump from miles away.

It took me years to accept that the place I grew up in was, well, kind of embarrassing. A way more suburban than urban, left out, dumped on borough under a giant shadow of one of the greatest cities in the world. When I worked in the city I never volunteered that I was from Staten Island. People would make fun of the dump or the ferry or the fact that New Jersey was easier to get to.

I hated Staten Island when I was growing up. I was shy and artistic and I didn't get anyone's inside jokes about the Staten Island mall. I had no connection whatsoever to the place I was from. When I was a senior and about to graduate high school, my parents went to an open school night and incidentally met with my art teacher. Mrs. DiGuiseppe was shocked that I had absolutely no plans for any specific college or to pursue art in any way. She's the reason I became an art major. Not because she was particularly inspiring, but because she was the only one who'd suggested it.

I think I let the place I was from define me for a long time. I'm beginning to understand that the place itself is just part of a story I tell myself about who I am, and that's something I can change.




*Shaolin is what the Wu Tang Clan called Staten Island in the early 1990's.


February 6, 2019

#artistproblems

I've been able to get my painting schedule back and focus on full time work in the studio again. It's been a while. Here's how it's been going. Last week out of sheer frustration I threw my paint brush on the floor while exclaiming, I can't believe I forgot how to paint! A few days later I was feeling like a painter again and actually enjoying myself. Hashtag artist problems. This morning I added a new painting to my website www.samanthapalmeri.com. I'm excited that work for my upcoming show in September at the Catalyst Gallery is finally well on its way.

I've decided to leave the paintbrush on the floor just to remind myself, every day is a new day.


half blurry picture of paintbrush on the floor.
palette table with that little rubber hand I won at a Funky Spunky Literature Night
I'm kinda obsessed with it. 
unfinished newest painting. doesn't have a title yet. oil on canvas, 40 x 40 inches



June 8, 2017

The Secret to Getting Happy




Presently this doesn't have anything to do with my artwork, but I wanted to tell you about this article I posted on FB this morning. It was about the science behind getting happy. Apparently getting happy is an actual physical battle going on in our brains. Despite their differences, pride, shame and guilt all activate the brain's reward center, and worrying actually makes our brains feel better.

Ha ha on us because not only are we fighting with emotional things we can't see, we're actually fighting our physical selves. According to the website, GRATITUDE is the only way to fix this. Gratitude produces the same chemicals naturally that are found in antidepressants. It goes on to say that even if you can't think of anything to be grateful for it doesn't matter, it's the searching that counts. Just remembering to be grateful is a form of emotional intelligence, and with higher emotional intelligence, it will actually take less effort to be grateful.

I thought this was all fascinating.. I can't recount the entire article but I will tell you how it ended; of the four ways to make yourself happy, the last one was TOUCH. Apparently rejection activates the same 'circuitry' as physical pain. Touching someone you love actually reduces pain. A hug, especially a long one, releases hormones that make you happy!

In conclusion it said, "So spend time with other people and give some hugs. Sorry, texting is not enough. When you put people in a stressful situation and then let them visit loved ones or talk to them on the phone, they felt better. What about when they just texted? Their bodies responded the same as if they had no support at all."

très intéressant.. don't you think?
You can read the full article here: 

May 22, 2017

The Aftermath: New paintings

The month of May has been a crazy whirlwind!
There are so many details to tell you about, but I'll sum it up like this:
I now have a fourteen year old daughter!
I've successfully completed my first season as Director of Beacon Open Studios, which generously rewarded me with much appreciation and love from my little art community.
I've started a lovely vegetable garden for the first time in five years.
And I'm very happy to say I've finally gotten back into my painting studio!
The other day I caught myself in the garden out of nowhere with a big grin on my face. I realized that maybe the past few months have been nothing more than a simple case of lingering winter blues, and that all I really need in life is some sunshine and gratitude!


Samantha Palmeri Contemporary Artist
Momento (ribbon), 2017, oil on paper, 33.5 x 38.5 inches


Samantha Palmeri Contemporary Artist
Momento (#2), 2017, oil on paper, 33.5 x 38 inches

Samantha Palmeri Contemporary Artist
Momento (#3), 2017, oil on paper, 37.5 x 33.5 inches

Samantha Palmeri Contemporary Artist
Momento (pink), 2017, oil on paper, 31.5 x 41 inches


Samantha Palmeri Contemporary Artist
Momento (#5), 2017, oil on paper, 33.5 x 37.5 inches

April 13, 2017

what does success mean to you?

I'm posting this on my birthday, in the hopes that this year will be more successful than the last....

IN THE COMPANY OF WOMEN: Inspiration and Advice from over 100 Makers, Artists, and Entrepreneurs is an interesting book. The founder of Design Sponge, Grace Bonney, asks this diverse group of inspiring women a series of questions describing their creative paths.

A book like this, with artists answering the same questions over and over, makes me imagine how I would answer the questions myself. It's only natural to make those comparisons. I won't bore you with the details, but the one question I did get stuck on was,
What does success mean to you?
This is, of course, a completely subjective thing, but I find the very notion of success a bit fleeting. It changes with the times, at least for me. When I was young I thought fame and fortune played a big part. Recognition, accolades, maybe raising a family, maybe being a good person. But any one of those things just by themselves has never really done it for me. I've thought about it a lot.

When I read Ping Zhu's reply, that "when things are harmonious, even for a moment, I try to savor it",  

Paul Klee, New Harmony, 1936
I realized that was it. That was the answer. Success is not a concrete thing after all, it's a moment when everything is working together in perfect harmony. And if that's true, then there's the possibility for moments of great success every single day in everything we do!

I recently watched an episode of Chef's Table on Netflix. I love this show! This one was about the Korean Buddhist nun Jeong Kwon.
Jeong Kwon used the word orchestra to illustrate the kind of unifying harmony where everything is working together. She was referring to nature and her place in it, but it's indicative of her all-inclusive philosophy about her food, her means of expressing her life, and her gratitude. Even more interesting was Ms. Kwon's notion that that very harmony was what she considered true freedom.

Hmmm.
I love this idea that maybe what success really means is true freedom. A freedom almost like a weightlessness, where all the elements are equally balanced, where nothing is too heavy or too light, nothing unnecessary or out of place, no interference, no mistakes. Even if it's just for a brief moment.

It's so simple isn't it? True freedom, true success, is the ability to not be burdened with expectations but to allow things to fall into place. I think the more we get away from the idea that we are the center of the universe, that life should wait for us, should adhere to our every want and whim, the closer we'll get to feeling at peace with ourselves and the things around us. Everything has a place and a purpose if we choose to see it that way. If we get out of our own way, perfect harmony can be happening all around us.

Henri Matisse, The Dessert: Harmony in Red, 1908









Success is harmony and harmony is freedom.

And there ends my sermon for the day! haha


February 21, 2017

How to Make the Most out of What You've Got

So yesterday was moving day.

Goodbye to my beloved studio.

Hello to working out of the house again.

There's something très depressing about the amount of back breaking work it takes to move two and a half year's worth of paintings, just to store them in obscurity.

Moving always makes me feel like this...

It makes me painfully aware of how attached I am to these canvases, while also realizing how fragile and meaningless these things really are. After all, a painting is nothing more than some paint on a piece of fabric, and a drawing sometimes is nothing more than a doodle. Someone says it's special, puts it on a pedestal, proclaims its genius and all of a sudden it becomes something else entirely. It's so bizarre when you stop to think about it.

So, yeah, I had my little cry moment. It'll take some getting used to, but I'm already starting to feel better about it. Who knows, this could be the greatest thing ever. Last night some new friends came to visit me. What a lovely sight to see outside my window four deer quietly walking in the snow. It made me think how nice it will be to look out into the woods and the mountain from now on.

So I guess change will be good after all. Who knows what great artwork is about to get made.

Deer, the woods, the mountain... I'd say a much better view than that way-too-blue house and ugly duplex!


By the way, my white couch is still white! So much for everyone who thought moving it to the studio would be a disaster, including me. I just washed that slipcover again and I must say, this 16 year old IKEA beauty may just be the best $500 I've ever spent. Totally indestructible!




the last paintings I was working on. soon to be worked on some more
yup, the last things to get packed. the essentials: music, toilet paper and my flask of vodka

that sign didn't really work but I'm leaving it for the next tenant anyway
See ya



January 26, 2017

Hot Selling Copy

This January it feels more like a brand new year than almost any other year I can remember.

Major shifts in thinking are taking place at every level; individually, nationally, globally.  
Change isn't coming, it's here. And for anyone who's ever wished or rallied for change, be prepared, because it's never easy or quick or painless. My father used to say "struggle is good" with the conviction that nothing earned easily was worth earning, and that without the struggle, it could never be truly cherished or appreciated (whatever the it in your life might be). With that thought in mind I feel somewhat optimistic, in spite of the challenges that artists, women and the general American population are about to face.

This has been a January of change for me as well. A newer new year than usual!

I was pleased to participate in a Small Works show at the Catalyst Gallery here in Beacon, and even more pleased to have sold several drawings and a watercolor.

Samantha Palmeri Contemporary Artist
sold pastel drawing, 11 x 14 inches

This Saturday I'll be participating in another group show in Newburgh, and there is a possibility for a solo show of my paintings coming up this June, which I'll keep you posted on.

soon to be my new art studio

I've made the tough decision to move my art studio out of the studio building I've been in for the past two and a half years back to my home. I've gone back and forth about it for a while, but finally bit the bullet as they say. Change is good, right??   . . .  C h a n g e   i s   g o o d . . .   C h a n g e   i s   g o o d . . .   S t r u g g l e   i s   g o o d . . .   S t r u g g l e   i s   g o o d . . .




Last but not least, I'm super excited to have just become the new Director of Beacon Open Studios, a yearly event where Beacon artists open up their studios to the public. It's a huge weekend long, city-wide celebration sponsored by the artists and community members of Beacon, and enjoyed by thousands of visitors from all over. I'm thrilled to have volunteered, but it really is a huge job organizing it all. The irony is that I'm giving up my studio right before this event and will have to look for a temporary space to show my work!

Did I mention struggle is good!

My hope (and I am hopeful), is that you all are able to not just endure the new changes in your own lives, but relish them, because the reward for your perseverance is great!

My Facebook post this morning was this:

Think Big! because from one fallen dying leaf a whole brand new plant can grow



Happy 2017!



February 12, 2016

Artist's Daily Rituals

Here's a great book for artists I recently read that I must share with you,
Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, edited and with text by Mason Currey.

Daily Rituals by Mason Currey
It presents detailed descriptions of the daily routines of 161 artists, mostly in their own words. It includes artists of every genre throughout history including writers, composers, painters, choreographers, playwrights, poets, philosophers, sculptors, filmmakers, and scientists.

I am so fascinated by books like this. I love to hear how other artists spend their days in and out of the studio. With all the vagaries of artist temperaments, and all the disparate ways of getting things done, what amazes me is that in the end I think we are all exactly the same, all fighting with ourselves over one thing or another, and for the same end purpose: creating. So many quirks and peculiar habits: charts and time clocks to track the time, pots of coffee and chocolate and opium and whiskey to keep us up when we should be down and down when we should be up. Rising at 3am or at noon or not sleeping at all, working in pajamas or while lying in bed or at the kitchen table. All leading up to the most important aspect of our lives, the work. I think most artists agree that inspiration is either non-existent or so constant we don't think of it as inspiration at all. The key is getting to work, whether we feel inclined at the moment or not. I love reading about an artist who lived two hundred years ago who went about his day similarly to the way I go about my day. Not to get too overly sentimental (if it's not too late), but I think it's important for artists to feel this connection, like we're continuing something important, something we can't help to begin with.

Willem de Kooning
photo of Willem de Kooning
I was thinking the other day that I can't remember an article I've read about contemporary painting in maybe the last five years that did not mention de Kooning at least 4 times. I wonder how he would feel about that. I used to imagine de Kooning's work ethic the epitome of what an artist's life should look like. Like being in your art studio 12 hours a day seven days a week was the only way to be a real artist. The man never stopped working. After years of struggling with that notion I've finally accepted my own way of doing things, which needless to say is a far cry from someone like Willem de Kooning.


Willem de Kooning
Woman Landscape XII, Willem de Kooning

Everyone needs to find their own way, so if four hours in the studio gets me to the best work I can make, so be it. 

Books like Daily Rituals confirm all my ideas about being an artist. It's wonderfully encouraging to see how other artists have been dealing with all the same issues but in so many different ways for so long...

for like ever.



June 10, 2015

"You see, I want a lot"

One of my favorite books of poetry is
Rilke's Book of Hours/ Love Poems to God
by Rainer Maria Rilke

detail of current painting in progress titled Save me from my Desires

I've read it through so many times yet I always find something inspiring.
Written in German and translated, here are two worth rereading:
 

Ich glaube an Alles noch nie Gesagte

I believe in all that has never yet been spoken.
I want to free what waits within me
so that what no one has dared to wish for

may for once spring clear
without my contriving.

If this is arrogant, God, forgive me,
but this is what I need to say.
May what I do flow from me like a river,
no forcing and no holding back,
the way it is with children.

Then in these swelling and ebbing currents,
these deepening tides moving out, returning,
I will sing you as no one ever has,

streaming through widening channels
into the open sea.


Du siehst, ich will viel

You see, I want a lot.
Maybe I want it all:
the darkness of each endless fall,
the shimmering light of each ascent.

So many are alive who don't seem to care.
Casual, easy, they move in the world
as though untouched.

But you take pleasure in the faces
of those who know they thirst.
You cherish those
who grip you for survival.

You are not dead yet, it's not too late
to open your depths by plunging into them
and drink in the life
that reveals itself quietly there.








May 15, 2014

HOW TO BE IDLE

Here's a question for you:
Is there a way to have your work, your career, to climb that ladder of success, AND to enjoy your free time, your moments of solitude, family, and nature simultaneously?
Can you have your cake and eat it too?

I can hear my mother saying "all things in moderation", 
but that idea doesn't seem to go over too well in the 21st century. We are way too busy working way too hard in an effort to obtain every single thing under the sun. Every single thing, that is, except the time to actually enjoy any of it. 

As an artist who has owned several businesses throughout the years, along with trying to run my household, take care of my daughter and focus on my artwork at the same time, I have seriously pondered this one.
The answer seems to me a resounding NO. You cannot live two or more lives at once and actually have time to enjoy them all. One or more items will have to be shelved, forfeited, neglected. There are just not enough hours in the day. Here's the part I think about a lot: which parts am I willing to neglect? and more importantly whose rule book is telling me I need to even want all these things simultaneously?

illustration from The Idler 
Now let me refer you to the amazing work of Tom Hodgkinson, his Idler Magazine, and specifically his book from 2005, How To Be Idle: A Loafer's Manifesto. I cannot say enough about this book. They should be teaching it in every poetry class in the country along with every business, liberal arts and fine arts program as well. It's such a simple message that it flies right over most heads with hardly a thought, and it is this:

Take the time to actually Enjoy Living... and stop feeling guilty about it. 

According to the Idler Magazine web site, also known as

Literature for Loafers:



The Idler magazine was founded in 1993 by Tom Hodgkinson and Gavin Pretor-Pinney in order to explore alternatives to the work ethic and promote freedom and the fine art of doing nothing. In that time it has passed through many incarnations, and inspired thousands of people to cast off the shackles of corporate or bureaucratic life, and find freedom. It now exists as an annual collection of essays, published in hardback book form. The current issue is a compilation of twenty years of interviews from the Idler, and includes David Hockney, Damien Hirst, Terence McKenna, Jeffrey Bernard and many more.
It is astonishing how relevant this book is right now, and I bring it to your attention because there are a few items I've touched on here at the Art Wrestler that you might recall. It was just about a year ago that I wrote about my affair with a lounge chair and learning to relax without the guilt. There was also my post on solitude and needing time to think for yourself, being in the moment with my artwork, and most recently enjoying the pleasures of good food and drink. Although I can't agree with ALL of Tom's thoughts on rioting and debauchery, mixed messages about the bible, etc., I can concur with 99% of it.

Let's put it this way, there's a whole chapter on how to enjoy a good hangover. The man is a genius! 


Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh

Artists are usually the dreamers, idlers, and starers into space of society, and there is a lot of animosity that goes along with that. More to the point there are things about being an artist that society is constantly trying to make us feel guilty about. Things that I have learned to accept about myself- like not having a job because I would rather stay home and paint and take care of my family. Things like spending more time reading and writing in my journal than cleaning my house, going for long walks to think about the day, not for the exercise, a glass of wine before 5pm, and spending whole days in the middle of the week lying on the beach. 
I do not frequently drink my coffee "to go" as I enjoy it in a real cup with a real saucer. I do not wear a watch because no one is waiting for me. I get most of my best work done alone, in complete silence and often seemingly staring into space, and I do not use a cell phone because I don't want my silence or staring to be interrupted. Yes, I do not use a cell phone. I admit I have one, but it stays in my bag for emergencies only. Does that count?

Anyway, How To Be Idle has a whole chapter dedicated to almost every one of these things. It is laugh out loud funny and has wonderful references to almost every historical genius from ancient to modern times. It has taught me a lot about history's warped ideas of progress, and where my own thoughts of progress and success fit in. Art is often considered a leisurely activity, a hobby, an unnecessary luxury. I of course consider it a necessity. I would much rather luxuriate in my own space with my own creativity on my own time than lend myself out to a boss who could never give me enough time or money.
photo by Stacey Kath


As I mentioned my mother, it turns out there's a few things the mothers were right about after all. Mostly all the things that required us to be patient and wait our turn, like being sent to our rooms to "calm down", like not running or talking with your mouth full, or sitting down to eat and not getting up until everyone at the table was finished. I've also heard the phrase "sit there and think about what you just did!" My mother would make us sit next to her and not move until we behaved. These days they call that a time-out. How To Be Idle is all about giving our adult selves a whole lot of time-outs,

and who couldn't use a moment to sit completely still in the midst of the turbulent tantrums of life?

I think time only goes as fast as we allow it. There are moments that desperately need to be "savoured not endured", as Mr. Hodgkinson puts it, and look at it this way, your boss is not willing to give them to you, neither is your babysitter or the daycare center. You're certainly not going to get back the time you've wasted on your cell phone, computer or TV set either.

There is no going back- so enjoy the moment right now!







February 13, 2014

Master Dabblers

Thank you to the ladies at MasterDabblers.com for publishing an article I just wrote on their blog titled The Clothes We Wear. Check it out! 
Their site is very cool with provocative kits to purchase like "Legit Kits", interviews with contemporary artists, and regular events like field trips to meet artist Polly Apfelbaum in her New York studio.