Why Do They Do It?

An actor uses her own experiences to flesh out the character in a story written by another. I, on the other hand, chose some of my life images and create a story in one picture. A picture can tell a thousand words, if done well.

Why, for the duration of my life, had I never spoken about what went into the images I created? Instead I let each viewer get what they would from the image. Letting the picture tell the story.

Yet as I get older, I realize that I enjoy learning about other writers and artists- what went into the famous images or words..how did they get there, what inspired them? 

I used to think that portraying mystery to a client was better since so many people are in awe of art. “How did you do it?” are words I’ve heard all my life.

As people interested in our own species, how we think and act, are perhaps the most universally sought after puzzles that we, on a daily basis, are bombarded with. 

Why did he do it? We seek answers to this, perhaps more than all others.

If someone sacrifices their life to save another, we seem to not question this as much, but instead we respect the action as heroic. On the other hand, the question of why someone takes the life of another, this question we ask and ponder, spouting our theories online.

I show beauty, with color and shape, in my images, not violence. There is already enough of that in the world. 

I love to look at nature. I still cannot believe how many colors, patterns, shapes of plant, flower, insect, animals we are lucky enough to live among on this planet. It is quite astounding that we still don’t know them all. We feel heartache when a species is threatened, but perhaps because we have so many to choose from we cannot see the beauty of just one. This, I think, goes for humans too.

One great part about living in lockdown, is being made to stop and look around us in a way we never have. To have time to look more closely, seeing details, notice things like how clean the air is, the water is, now that we don’t drive, spending our hours jammed on a freeway. 

To notice the intricate features of our homes, our balcony gardens, our partners or children’s faces. What interests them, what they look at, talk about.

Sure, these habits were once enjoyed in the eras before TV, film, all the distractions. But now we actually see, in extremely slow motion, the difference of what it is to loose what we have.

It’s hard for me to know if this insight is occurring to other people besides me.

Yet I hear from others I know, younger people, they talk about this too. Amid the stress of no job and payments to be made, it is because of this pandemic, that we are forced to step back, stand apart, look into each other’s eyes, above the mask, not distracted by a pretty, or any face.

Perhaps this sort of intimacy is too naked for some people. Maybe it’s why some are freaking out, lashing out, striking out. Why do they do it?

The ticker tape roll call of reasons play out beneath an image: A shooting, the victims, the families, 

again we all are faced with this horror: That in one second, anywhere, life can be changed, be gone. Once again we are faced with what we all know: That our time on this earth is limited. That we have no control over this.

That ticker tape is a giant conversation- or should be: Not to see what we, ourselves think about – what our theory was as to why he did it, then post online, but should be used to see how others think and feel about it.

I read these posts, trying to learn how others see things, in this time especially. 

A time when most of us stay behind a screen and read and type about every single thing in the world

This is kind of amazing – still- if we use it to find out why we are who we are. 

Why we act out, stay silent, scream in BOLD font, or barely whisper a word. Internet giving us this warped freedom to say ugly things we would not normally say to another’s face. And words of support that can’t possibly say enough. 

Now that we are faced with instant gratification and fame but also instantaneous judgement and ridicule. 

And now, not only with words, but icons. What are they now called? Emolis?  The first one I ever saw was Thumbs up or down. 

LIKE. Or DON’T LIKE.

I assume this was taken from the Roman gladiator battles within the colosseums. Where the audience is finally given the rare opportunity to chose for anything in their life. Here, thumbs up or down: who will live or who will die. I find this concept quite terrifying.

So I sat down to write a blog about a painting and see I have so much more to say. I post it and people – if they see it- have the choice to read it or not. My challenge is to keep it interesting enough to keep them reading – to take them by the hand and lead them on a mini journey. This keeps me in practice of writing but also has me take part in my part of history. 

See, I did not think I would sit down to write about another shooting in America. But here I am.

I sit in my tower above the street but my compassion searches the world, via internet. I believe it is important to put in my 2 cents about the times I live in. I too, am asking, still, “Why do we do what we do?”

Like, why is your decision to not wear a mask a right, but for me to not breathe in your virus, not?

Like, I am amazed that I never heard about a pandemic that had infected 1/3 of the population, killed 50 million in the USA and over 100 million world wide, lasting 2 years. Yet even the black plague is world renowned while the pandemic of 1918 remains buried. 

That every single detail and in-fighting of the second world war, has been written of endlessly: I’ve read about, seen films on. 

Why has no one ever written about the pandemic that killed so many people worldwide?  Why has no mention of wearing a mask or no mask, never slipped into the literature of the day? Or had I just not read it? 

Perhaps it’s gone like the aluminum wrist bands I wore during the Vietnam War: the initials, ‘MIA’ stamped on each, to remember those missing in action.  What I wore for my friends’ brothers. These too are gone with the wind.

It’s this sort of detail I still look for, to put down, but now not only in one image. Yes, in a blog to post to the world, because it will mark me in my own time and speak for those who are here as well. 

The stories of how people are or are not, dealing with this pandemic are words I’d never read from the past. About WW2- there are books, films, theory’s, history about how people lived then: with no food, bombers overhead, threatened by dictators, concentration camp terrors, this we know about. 

But somehow, pandemics have been erased from our collective memory. 

People said only a few months ago: “Even if there was a vaccine, I wouldn’t take it. How can I trust a vaccine that was invented so soon?” 

So soon?,-“ I say, “It has been a year. And in this time, the whole world has been struggling to cope with the virus, to rely on science to find a solution.” 

“-With everyone in the world busy in a search,-“ I say, “Of course a vaccine has been found!” 

This is a great example of what can be solved when we all have one common goal. 

This is what can be done to cure climate change before its too late. If only we just shut up and work towards a common goal.

I no longer paint one image to tell my story. Because as I’ve gone along, I see, I watch with interest the interviews about films, directors, painters, writers and as they tell stories of where their inspirations came from, I am delighted to hear these stories. I respect their struggle to find the words, notes, brush strokes to talk about their slice of history.

Each becomes part of the global pie of creative art: One big river of inspiration that flows and each of us can add to it, dip from it, all this for the greater purpose of: teaching each other, learning from each other’s stories of life. It is not a private, exclusive river, like the snooty, in – the – know – people, want to make us believe. 

But a vast flow that we all add to and dip into. 

I no longer think my words of how I was inspired to create a certain image will somehow spoil the ‘Magic’ of the viewer’s experience of it. Instead, it may add to that creative flowing river with how I have inspired them. 

Like the ultimate relay race, handing the baton from one to the next: from one to another, our inspiration helps us to understand ourselves and each other. To share together and tell each other,  

Why we do what we do.

The Quiet Roar

Time

I was at Hortus Botanicus in Amsterdam, the botanical garden built in 1682. Plants from around the world had been brought here by ship, to study and be cultivated. It is here that plants from everywhere in the world can be seen.

I strolled along on this warm summer day, unhurried. Today Hortus was open past sunset and into the night, because today, it was the longest day of the year.

I’d chosen to be here on this day, to be alone and ponder the plants, my heart thrilling at every view of a succulent, a cactus, a palm tree: all plants I’d grown up with in Southern California.

It would not be until later years , traveling the cities of Spain, that I would see this same terrain, foliage and desert mountains of my birth home. It was in that moment that I understood this about my own history: After years aboard ship, the crew of the Spanish sailing expedition of 1769 had seen the beautiful mountains, the succulents, and yes, the palm trees of California, and cried out: ” Por fin estamos en casa.-” “Finally we are home.”

My Spanish was minimal but as I looked at the familiar aloe plants, the deep green succulents, the vines of plum colored flowers and mountains, this cry came from my heart. And that day in Amsterdam, as I walked among the plants, felt the warm air on my skin, I was transported back to my birth home of Los Angeles and felt that longing again, that ping in my heart for my home country.

True, most years I can visit there. But not now, during lockdown. Dammit. I can visit but it’s not the same is it? To walk every day on the smooth hot pavement, feel the warm sun on my skin. To watch the bees hover over brightly flowered vines and perfectly shaped gardenias, the scent wrapping seductively around me.

These thoughts accompanied me on that longest day of the year.

My pathway led to a sort of wooden shack that seemed to be so out of place among these well tended gardens. Looking a bit tired and worn out, it reminded me of a visit to Mississippi.

There, I’d stayed in the home of a long time friend who I’d known as a child. An older widower, who’d never learnt to read or write. She kept her home tidy and well scrubbed. The floorboards were worn and creaked, the paint flaking. Newspaper pages were stuffed into the frames of the window to keep out the winter cold.

It was this wooden shack that had triggered those images. I said aloud a ‘thank you‘ for this memory I still have, this ability to grasp the exact details of a yesterday so long ago. To see the smile beam from her cocoa skin, my cherished friend. She had not been rich in money but her zest for life could be heard in her laughter, shown on her face and her smile .

Growing up, I thought that all grown ups smiled. Maybe that was a different time. But no, the marches for civil rights had been going on then, as well as protests against the Vietnam War. But somehow back then, people still treated each other with respect: nodding to each other, saying hello as they passed on the street, men even tipped their hats. Being raised in a suburb can feel like living inside a cloud or a bubble. But even then I’d seen glimmers of racism, the leers of chauvinism. And the poor, or at least the less well off, were also treated slightly different. Actions discreetly acted out in whispers. I’d watched and listened, too timid or intimidated to speak. I never forgot nor forgave myself.

At the Horica Botanicus, I walked toward the screen door of the shed and gently opened it. Inside it was shady and cool. A completely separate world from the bright sun outside. All around me, plants set on wooden tables, their seedlings barely sprouting. It was very quiet, like a church. The few people inside spoke in whispers. I saw no windows, only screens which were tinted but kept the air circulating. I felt I was standing inside an Egyptian tomb.

Yet as my eyes adjusted to the dim light, I caught glimpses of color flashes and the gentle flittering of shapes floating around me. Then I heard-could I have heard it? Because  Butterflies don’t sing . And yet, I heard the sound of a hundred butterflies. Surrounding me, each one a distinctive color or size, all exquisite. Like gentle angels, they fluttered to my shoulder, my forearms, around and on my face. The experience demanded from me absolute respect and stillness and yet, it was the gentlest touch I have ever felt.

The whole city was silent on this longest day of the year. Because that day in the city, every single person was crammed into a bar, a pub or the home of friends. Why? It was 1998, and the vital tie breaking match of the world soccer championship was happening at that very moment.

Yet I had not jumped into the hysterics of the crowd, with all its excitement and drinking and cheering. Instead, I chose to be alone, here at Hortus Botanicus, to feel the vibrations of my hometown, to wrap myself in the memories of my youth, surrounded by the shades of green that grew only here, in carefully tended gardens, or in Spain or on the streets of my hometown: Los Angeles with it’s silky mountains, the minty scent of Eucalyptus leaves in the warm desert air and of course, the palm trees.

Here, in absolute silence I remembered sitting high atop a red mountain of Sedona, Arizona, under a perfect blue sky. Complete stillness surrounded me with only the gentle flap of a chihuahuan raven’s wings and the almost indistinguishable, “Puff” of a hot air balloon, floating in the distance.

Because of this, as I stood in such silence, I became aware of a sound I’ll never forget. As if a symphony of humans tried to rise and fall. Tried to but couldn’t break into this silent moment of mine. I almost did not hear this sound rarely heard: That of humans calling out in unison but as if from a different outlaying village. Seemly more like a memory than a current event, I heard the far off, barely detectable hum of, ‘yeah!’ A goal had been scored. And throughout evening, all over the city, every now and then, I heard, this distant, almost imperceptible, quiet roar.

I’d thought of all this as I stood in front of a blank canvas, a book of pictures of butterflies open before me. I’ve forgotten if I actually read this somewhere: that after the long hibernation inside a cocoon, a butterfly emerges. But she only lives for one day. Whether it is true or not, that image stayed in my mind.

I thought about how heartless that would be, after all that effort to survive inside a cocoon, then be given only one day to live. Beautiful, vibrant and free to fly but with restrictions.

Of course, this is the knowledge that separates us from other animals and insects- even butterflies. Because we are given at birth the knowledge – or curse – of knowing that we will not live forever. So what will we make of our time here? How will we treat not only each other but the precious bounty of color and shape, scents and sights, wind and rain and sun that is the beautiful Mother Nature that surrounds us? What will we do to hear, and then calm, the Quiet Roar?

(A print, Time, of the image above is available through my website, https://artbychantz.com/oil/ ) To see this image on video .

Death of the Wanna Be

7 January 2021

This piece is a further reflection after my last piece, Ugly Beauty. If you have not yet read it, I’ll wait.

Just kidding. I’d like though to put here a few notes from my journal, as to the struggle of when and if to post Ugly Beauty. They went like this:

I’ve been trying to talk myself into or out of, what I wrote. Its called Ugly Beauty and that’s kinda what its about. Mixed with that desire (that most women were raised to have) to be good. 

So I tell myself: Be positive, don’t post such a downer so soon after the holidays or so close to our new beginning of 2021, a new president and historical vice president, a positive corona vaccine. 

It’s easier to wrap myself in a warm blanket and smile to the future.

But is this how I got here? How we all did? 

Without paying attention, or worse, letting ourselves be talked out of or into insanity, or just exhausted by the never ceasing twitter rant texts coming out of the White House for more than four years? Letting ourselves be almost beaten down, with so much trash from a president and his clan, we had no more- almost– strength to fight back.

But I was reminded by a friend that I had a lot of enthusiasm at the beginning of the year 2020. We both had. And the more I spoke to people, I heard them also optimistically say that positive things were coming, were here, I feel it in the air.

Well, we found out what actually was in the air.

Seriously?

I go on here because of a few things. One, its that I still feel odd to post The Ugly Beauty. It’s a downer I say to me. Then I read it again and think, its realistic. And perhaps, as I had, people will read it and acknowledge my words, somehow it could help better than if I just stay silent and put a bow on everything.

And with that I will now go even further to say this:

I am not known as a happy, positive person. My last blogs will prove that. 

But I gotta tell you, this year, starting yesterday, shows me the wave of positive unity has finally started, beginning with the death of the wanna be.

Yesterday, I watched, as all the world did, while what I consider the absolute worst of America, infested the capital.

I gazed upon those I saw to be the white male ancestors of slave owners, of church burners, of union bashers, of klan members, of cross burners, of brown shirt nazis, of gangs with a lynch mob mentality. These are who are in love with the president.

In absolute stark contrast to the clean, professional, business suited, well spoken politicians and senate aids, to the honorable and brave capitol police, who guarded the congress inside, (I will not go into conspiracy theories of who let them in, that is for traitors and the law to figure out.) to the quick thinking senate aids who grabbed and safe guard the electoral votes , and to the press who was there to report the truth,  I salute you, heroes all.

In stark contrast to them were what the president has to have now become terrified of:

That which he has unleashed out of the pandora’s box – NO – not a woman’s box god dammit, but a man’s weak, whiny, feel sorry for self white privileged asshole with a dream. Not, the “I have a dream,-” but the “I wanna be….king”. No pun intended at all.

This is a male dream. For a special sort of man. The worst kind of man. One who pretends to work, pretends to hunt, pretends to fight, pretends to be smart, pretends to serve, but who actually lives inside an insane dream world, without a speck of creativity, compassion, or empathy. Nor a drop of hard work, sensitivity, or love, not even for family. The sort that has absolutely no honesty, not even to himself. Who blames others, who avoids then denies, who makes up a whole new truth to fit his obscene set of insanity. It is not insanity, nor evil. It is just a man who is a total jerk loser.

And it is these men who hold up this sort of man as a god, who stormed in mass, killing one of the only women who joined them. 

And now the president, in his fear, is no longer texting out cryptic double messages, like, “I love you, (I love you?)…our journey is only just beginning…” But instead, “..you do not represent our country..” This must feel like a knife to their heart. He doesn’t care.

Instead he is showing his absolute repulsion at the images of his “Patriots”: Bull-horned, half naked dressed in animal skins with red, white and blue painted faces, stinky boots on polished desks, with his name on banners forever linked to the worst (not greatest) riots on the capital and the country in history. 

Watching the Republicans over the last years felt like a game of dominos- not the game, but what I used to play with the dominoes: Carefully lining them up in a line, standing about an inch apart, goose stepping, carefully, patiently, standing as soldiers, as rigid and stiff as tombstones. 

We waited and tried 4 years, to disrupt them, change the order, trying to knock them down, to topple the wanna be king. 

And NOW, in one day, the hero Stacy Abrams and all those who truly care about the country, who have fought the harder fight, and with it, gained democrat control of the Senate, securing the future of America. It is not over. The fact that the congress is now 50/50 does not escape me. We all have now a 50/50 chance for survival, in climate, in justice, in harmony of the country.

This could not have succeeded so well: not in any Hollywood script, nor biblical scripture, nor written in blood document, or even in a pandemic. 

This is the absolute best downfall of a wanna be king. 

He will not be re-elected, nor die as a martyr. But the coward he is. His worst case scenario: To be discarded and forgotten.

And with him, his fucking fan club. Why you ask? 

Because a love like this, when betrayed this badly, is final and permanent. 

Looking at his last loyal soldier- Pence- the face of a betrayed, discarded lover, when once his eyes glistened only for his hero president, now looks like a beaten wife, rejected and heartbroken. When up till now, his respect bordered on the fascinated, in love, blind. 

Love is blind. 

But Love from a swarm of desperate and lost wanna be knights of the roundtable or a besotted vice-president? And lets not forget the chameleon thief Mitch as his side kick.

Love this ridiculous and unhinged, can only end in betrayal. This must have been what the brown shirts and nazi’s felt when Hitler committed suicide. 

Betrayed. 

As far as I am concerned, this is the absolute BEST ending to a sick, greedy, controlling wanna be dictator. To see him whimper to his “followers” that they did too much, and for the clan trump to feel betrayed by their wanna be king.

The puss of this disease- that of hatred.  The hatred feeds off itself but must first must come to a head and pop before the healing begins.

Do I want only suits and clean polite words in the congress? NO. Do I want better than what I saw infest the capitol? YES. America is a glorious mix of church goers and ex-cons, homeless and business owners, educated and not, immigrants and born in the USA, and those on a journey like me. Traveling back to Europe so to feel what my ancestors felt: starvation, invasion, occupation, holocaust, hope.

Fuckig irony is that the puss heads wanted exactly the opposite of what the actual patriots wanted when they fought to start the country: 

A king to bow down to, to listen and do as told, to be brave for and try to impress, to lick the boots of, to “Die for” (so they said apparently)

The only defeat of a dictator that I have seen in my life time was of Saddam Hussein. Yesterday’s outcome has come crashing down as surely as Saddam Hussein statues were yanked to the ground. One by one in anger, revenge, white power entitled passion.

Be careful Donald, what you wish for.

They will be after you now. 

The Ugly Beauty

11.12.2020.

Pacific Moon

California… the song by Joni Mitchel, comes sadly into my head as it does every Christmas. My hometown. I pass the time instead thinking of the reasons I did love this city of Amsterdam…to walk everywhere…to a film, theater, an opera. Through this crooked city- not from corruption but literally because the buildings lean on each other like drunken sailors. 

Where I know I can walk from that sight, down tiny pathways, over bridges, next to the University, towards tables filled with used paperback novels. I search titles and authors I’d never studied but now I collect as an adult.  Especially the gay stories.

My eye catches the view from my window. Two men unloading from their white van. Delivery of two washing machines. And as I watch the men using the same tools of years, no centuries before, that of a handtruck- centuries ago called sacktruck- and their own bodies, I wonder, really, will robots ever take their jobs? Will a robot ever use the same mechanics to unload a van? Sliding the wash machine off the van’s bed, then grip it, so to help it off the van, undamaged, to the ground?

Now I glance at the window beside me, of the neighbor who lives there. I wonder why her Christmas lights are not turned on for the past two nights. Logic tells me she has gone for visits to family or friends. But as far as I’ve seen, she has none. And there are no visits now since the virus started and now is worse. I could count on her for sports I could view for free from her big screen TV, through her window to mine, all the way over here. But there are no sports now either. 

I worry she is not ok. But I am too polite to go check. And I think she would be offended to learn she is watched by me. 

The workers have disappeared. And I remember why I got out of bed so early to write. The post I had seen from a friend in Los Angeles yesterday, who wrote of a public performance of a ballet dancer inside a glass ball- the only way she can dance safely during a pandemic. 

I felt the writer’s sadness as she talked of the absence of ballet, theater, music performances. She said, “We will survive this.” 

And I think, ‘Yet how amazing it is- a dancer in a glass ball. What a great idea!’ One that would not have come if not being trapped inside, in lockdown. 

And I think, perhaps more people are now seeing art from inside, who would never be going into a museum or performance. Because they would be too busy working in an office or factory, or driving freeways in LA. Or perhaps had never seen or thought to go to an opera or ballet but now I hoped would, because of this introduction to it online. 

Is this what happens to prisoners? Trapped, locked inside, they are faced with only their own brain and heart, so replay all they’ve done to get in there? Or all they miss? Is this what I’m doing? 

Such an oppressive term: Lockdown. LA in lockdown. And as I read her words about missing art, in all its forms: image, dance, music and word, I know it is these last two she misses the most. 

And perhaps, when lockdown also kept her from walking the beaches, her longing was just as forlorn as the words of the surfer I’d read. He had written  to the Los Angeles times at the beginning of the pandemic, (and somehow was picked up my the AP, so I could read it in the NY Times, all the way over here) 

When the beaches had been closed, he’d written, “Why am I being denied what I love? That which keeps me sane not insane?” He then went on to describe the pulse and rhythm of the waves, I could feel the spray and the pace and I was again there. And how damn grateful I was for the words of passion he felt. Because, in place of he alone on the Pacific Ocean, or a photograph of himself on a wave, his words were describing to me the pain he felt in his missing that vast body of water, the pulse and temperature of her.

Perhaps this disease has come, for the sole purpose of making us see and feel that which we would lose- are in danger of losing: The sea, the streets, the art that humans make to show each other the beauty  we are blessed to be living in. And the danger of it’s loss.

Artists like Kathe Kollwitz, who in the years leading up to WW1,  drew pictures of her fellow humans, portrayed starvation in the bleak winter and emotions of grief and inner conflict. She captured for all humanity the realism of those times, depicting human suffering with brutal honesty. Or perhaps she drew them so as to somehow believe what she was seeing.

I think of those now in the front lines in hospitals. Who tell their stories of what they are seeing. Is it now only with film crews that we can believe these images they tell us of? Is there no other truth except image- and even then, one part of society disbelieves it?

Was it only lack of photographs that kept the horrors of the concentration camps from a disbelieving public? Or was it that other thing- that part of humanity that just cannot believe that one person or group can inflict such horrors on another?

Is it easier to disbelieve when there are no images to prove it? That’s why secrets are the stuff of blackmail. And one part of society causing the other to feel shame of love for another’s skin color or same sex- the shame that many use a bible or blog to inflict pain with. And yet, even with an image like Floyd, we see but cannot believe. Like what the image of the twin towers did to me- to many. Airlines smashing into towers, or before that, World War 2 airplanes flying over Pearl Harbor, bombs raining down upon paradise- all captured by photographs, black and white and a body count. 

What good does a body count do now? The bodies- other humans who we read about to see who they were and we feel sick or relief because they had not voted against ‘Us’, whoever ‘Us’ is. The ones who laugh at ‘Us’. 

I’ve re-read these pages and think again of my neighbor. In this city, back in 1940 people disappeared. Perhaps folks like me- too shy or lacking language skills or not aggressive enough- did not go check on their neighbors. So the secret parts -the ghettoes of the city, then the camps remained either unknown or disbelieved. Because who could believe such things were happening behind brick walls? What we were hearing.

I’ve seen the reenactments. Life size photographs of a woman throwing a child over a brick wall towards safety. I’ll never forget that image. And its here because someone had actually stood there and watched  it happen. 

Remember the scene in Gone with the Wind? When Scarlett went to search among the wounded? A never ending sea of screaming, writhing bodies. And even that scene, that image, was too clean. There would have been blood. Red rivers everywhere. And when seen from above, that gives the powerful scope of it all. Not that they were killed brother against brother: that human link that all humans can connect to, but the number of those killed. Can only be believed when seeing it in a wave of bodies, too far to see an end to.

This is what, if lain side by side, we would see from this pandemic. 

And each cadaver, just hours, no minutes before, a live breathing being, upon whom others were frantically trying their best, in absolute exhaustion and overwork and with out proper protection, to keep alive.

These are the images we are not yet shown. One day the photos will surface, taken from a phone, of bodies in hallways, nurses resting exhausted on gurneys or under tables. 

The faces of exhaustion will be shown one day, like the black and white photographs of those snapped during the depression. The Dust Bowl families with no hope, surrounded by hungry children. These images slice our heart, enrage us, have us reach towards each other in humanity not anger. 

I’m reminded that it was not the live images of 1960 riots that had me take up a brush to paint,  Those who ignore History . It was the Los Angeles riots of 1992, that raged near my neighborhood. That had me searching through books for photographs to round out the image I had in my head: I’d combined the civil rights march with the holocaust, and all the racist worms slid out from beneath their hiding places. 

Was I surprised they were there? Not really. West Hollywood had just swam out of the gutter of Reagan: the president who had not even looked at, much less acknowledged a whole generation lost to AIDS. Even for his actor buddies, and by then, it was way too late. 

He instead had sided with conservative racism under the cloak of, “Good for America.” 

I picture that cloak as the image in Picture of Dorian Grey– who’s corruption festered within. I wonder now, if the story, The Emperor’s New Clothes was about this. For only a child would have had the guts to say aloud what the public felt inside. Like the child Greta does now. 

I suppose corruption- when covered in jewels is a mystifying, mystified illusion of beauty. Too stunning to look away from. 

I’d been captured – for a minute- when viewing the crown jewels in London. I’d understood why they were sought to steal. Was it that they were held behind bars? So, like a thick walled safe, assumed to be of value? 

Yes, they were stunning in sight, but beautiful? Every beauty queen or starlet must eventually see the tattered veil of that role. 

But ironically, the audience never does. They judge, snipe and snark about HER- the fat, the age, the attitude of her, and yet we all bow to the queen of captivating beauty. 

Did I? Do I? Of course. Yet I balance my meal of sweets with solid, sometimes hard to swallow facts:

That humans can be, are, ugly. 

And the presidents are people, not kings. Hell, even kings are human. And no matter what they are cloaked in, disease festers with in them as well. When they are supported and allowed to run crazy, dictators are born.

I glance out of the window and see the Christmas lights of my neighbor are switched on. Will I ever go knock on her door or have a conversation? 

For being in lockdown, I have quite a view. The world walks beneath and far off. I could be a king in this ivory tower. But kings never did look out of their windows. Perhaps only, as Hitler had, to view the next territory he would take over and occupy. 

I’m turning towards a horror image I would rather not see. To an image of color and beauty. Perhaps my mother finally got her wish when she’d said to me in high school, “Can’t you paint pretty pictures?” Well, bless her, she could, out of necessity, but I can’t. Not really. Life is a mix. As a child I’d been inspired from Martin Luther King and the Kennedys. They were assassinated. 

I look out my window for escape. Water speckles my pane. The sky turns from pale grey toward dark. No color at all, but upon one neighbor’s balcony, a string of colored lights. And I wonder of my home town who gleefully strung Christmas lights but not gay rainbows, and turn toward my big screen neighbor. She must be sad there are not sports on- what she lived for. This countries’ soccer team battling a rival country. At least its on a green field not in the streets. 

She probably never thinks of what I write here. Yes, her grandparents or parents probably lived through the occupation, but that’s been forgotten in every day life. 

No one talks of such things anymore, except perhaps in the museums devoted to the memory of those lost during the holocaust.

Well, I’m glad for those museums.

Because even Mother Nature does not completely wipe all truth away. Try as she may for the bleak winter before the rebirth of spring, it is only humans who try not to see, who disbelieve, who have the luxury to turn away and hide. 

It is the animals, the homeless, the refugees, the ill and the children who truly see, 

that life is both beautiful and ugly, 

sometimes in the same moment. 

To see this painting on video…. or to purchase a museum quality print of the image above, Pacific Moon

Amsterdam, Tuesday 15 December ~ 6 Week Lockdown

I’d heard this would happen. As I’d been planning to meet with a friend from out of town. I’d suggested we go to our favorite Portuguese restaurant near Central Station- If it was open. He replied, 

“Everything is closed.”

Those 3 words don’t really describe what that means though. We planned to meet Friday. 

And just as it had been for my birthday in October, tomorrow, everything would be closed. Then, I’d opted not to meet a friend on my birthday night. The last night of bars and restaurants to be open?

They’ll be packed. Not worth it. 

Again 3 words that don’t really describe. 

I went for a walk with a mission today. Not for health, or food, as I’d been doing every couple of weeks. I’d  bought more. 

Just in case. 

The 3 words my brother, who lives in Los Angeles, had said at the beginning of this pandemic. 

As we chatted on the phone, he was interrupted by his wife who texted, “San Francisco goes into lockdown today. They say LA will be next.”

That day, I’d done as he suggested: bought more food than was necessary. Just in case. In the shops here there’d been no raids on the shelves, no masks worn. I was the only one wearing one and it had taken me 5 shops to find one to buy. Hospitals had priority. I hadn’t known then, that supplies were low. None of us had. 

Seems so long ago now- back then, before the summer. Seems years.

Today I was awoken from sleep by an argument from two men on the street. Loud voices, impatient, sounding more tired than angry. But I awoke from a not real sleep by them, then by a truck. 

Fuck it. I’ll make coffee. I had to mail holiday cards before it became New Years. So I did this: shower, a bit of make up, nice clothes to walk to the post office a few blocks away. 

Upon arrival, I stood staring at the door. The sign on it said, “Post only.” Of course it’s post, that’s why I’m here. 

What did it mean? I was about to find out.

Walking there, I passed shops that were shut tight. A lot of them. Three barbershops in one block. I’d peaked in the window. Between each barberchair, the owner had hung hard plastic for protection. Now the place was empty. All for nothing. 3 words.

I was reminded of Los Angeles, back when the city council had ordered restrictions be put into bars and restaurants for smoking sections. So every owner had paid money for huge fans to suck out the smoke, put up dividers and partitions. A lot of money.  I’d been a waitress then. I worked at a very popular dime-store coffee shop/restaurant in West Hollywood. It also had a bar and a patio.  A place for all sorts of people: Gays on weekends, to Bloody Mary their hangovers. Old folks at 5 pm to receive their pensioner discounts. The tables packed with every working or non working character actor from the last 30 years of film and television. There were waiting lines on weekends for the patio and bar area- where one could smoke.  But soon the city council decided the protection was not enough. Without public vote, the ex-smoker, ex-drinker mayor proclaimed Los Angeles a non-smoking city. I’d gone to the public meetings. Filled with waiters telling of the drop in crowds, in business. Yes, I’d been a smoker then. Yes it pissed me off. But even the non smoking waiters argued against the regulations. Because they were loosing tips so loosing money. There were only so many patio seats if you even had a patio and a lot of tips to be gotten. And of course, the owners had spent money. For a promise. All for nothing. 

So walking here to the post office reminded me of this and also the Northridge/Los Angeles earthquake of 1994, the last one I’d felt before moving from there. It had been a SLAM. Loud, violent, sudden. The sort of disasters I grew up with along with the brush fires and mud slides. None of that went on over here. Hell, my first weeks here, I’d panicked from a large truck rumbling by. All of me thought it had been another earthquake or tremor.

By then, I’d become a bit fed up with the city I’d been born in. Thirty years living in a town of tinsel. Everyday sun, heat, sweating. Hookers in cars beneath my window, helicopters at night overhead announcing their search for an armed man. “Stay inside,-“ the voice shouted down on us. I was sick of it. My apartment was cracked from the earthquake, my car unsafe in the carport below my window.  I’d found a homeless man sleeping and smoking inside it when I went to go to work. I’d asked him to leave. He’d said, “Oh! I thought this was abandoned!” Yeah, everyone’s a critic.

I looked around the city I loved. She looked so tired. Ragged. Old, without charm or character. She’d been beaten up, slapped, neglected and abandoned. No longer the starlet but now the worn out hag. She’d lost her sparkle. She no longer captivated me. Right now as I write this, I feel ugly- like a male CEO studio executive dismissing a hopeful starlet, or trying to fuck one.  It was time for me to swim out of the pond, into waters far across the sea. I feel sad thinking of her this way. I’ve been back and seen her now with her proper facelift, her youth restored. I smile at her as the taxi drives from LAX. She was back. But I wasn’t.

So walking this small city, I step toward the post office door, where hangs a sign stating, “Post only.”  I didn’t quite understand its meaning. I step inside to see I am the only customer. Surrounded by racks of holiday cards and tables of gift calendars. Ten days before Christmas. The place felt almost abandoned as I listened to the woman who ran the shop read from a letter she had just received from the city council.  She said, “…must be used only for post. No newspapers, no magazines, no office supplies, no cigarettes,-” which had been walled off and locked up.  I stepped toward her and asked if I could buy ink for my printer. She replied, “I don’t know! I don’t know if I can! This says no.” She was Dutch. It was not the language she didn’t understand but it’s meaning. 

I look out my window as I hear an incredible sound for this time of year. The squawk of a parrot. No, not on  some tropical island like where I’d like to be, but here. Yep, there it is- green- parrot green against the dull grey sky. Reminding me of the summer and the last time I’d heard people snapping at each other. During a heatwave that lasted this year for months, not the usual days or weeks. Unheard of here. People are not used to it. Makes them out of sorts. Like Los Angeles when it rains- when it used to rain. 

And here, in the summer, there were still tables outside. No festivals. It was too hot to be inside, even for me who grew up in a desert city. 

The only activity I see now from my window are the yellow vested delivery men (not women-still) The postmen on their orange saddle bagged bicycles. The only way people are getting their gifts for the holidays they won’t have. 

At the post office, and later in the market, I’d seen the front pages of every Dutch Newspaper. On them, Rutte, the Dutch prime minister with his mask on, looking towards the camera snapping flashbulbs. Well, he will not suffer from the headlines. Because now there is nowhere to buy the papers. The newspaper headlines translate to: ‘We Must.’ And another, a photograph of groups of shoppers, half with masks, congested in front of Christmas lighted shut shop windows, ‘Wij moeten dit doen’, ‘We must do this.’ 

It’s a sad day. A few days ago I read a post from a friend in LA. She told of a ballet dancer in a glass bubble: the only safe way she could dance in public. When I read that, I still had not been out in the city, not for weeks.  So it hit me today. It’s just that the city feels, looks so tired, abandoned. Like everyone has gone on vacation.  But I know they are here, inside, maybe lonely. Alone. Three words.  Pray its over.  Pray for vaccine. Squawk of parrots, Climate change Christmas.  It’s not over.  I have hope.  

Butterfly Reflections

Ahh, where to start?

I have my father’s fountain pen in hand. Now I see why he rarely used it. Messy, but the fat barrel feels good in my fingers again. It’s been awhile since I’ve held it and set it to flow.  I like the scratch of it on the paper. Reminding me of the sound of brush on canvas.  Funny how exquisite these tools used to feel, their grasp the start of my day of work. A pen on paper, once a brush on canvas, or a chisel to stone. Long hours, if the day’s flow went well. Stroke, pause, squint, smoke, try another color, again brush to canvas or chisel to stone. 

For over 40 years, these were the tools of my trade. And now, as ink from a leaking pen stains my fingers, I’m reminded of that 20 year old cigarette puffing, paint splattered tight jean wearing art student I once was. Filled with my father’s pride, and a teacher’s knowledge. 

Barefoot from the heat of Los Angeles, I’d walk or stand on the dust covered cement floor of the grubby studio I was so ecstatic to have a place in. Where my teacher, Martin, taught and inspired his students. He would gaze at my painting, then stroke one color onto it. Which would break my ego of gloating, youthful pride, but push me further into the space of possibilities, shattering my comfort zone. Which is what a great teacher is supposed to do. 

Ah, to swim in those dreams again. Before life slaps me into reality of hard learned lessons- the land of make or break me. The sea of swim or sink.

I survived because I swam a pond of sweet dreams to challenge me. Encouraged by loving parents and brother.  I’d go on in life, collecting wonderful people who had not had the joy in their lives that I had. The chilling stories I’d been told over a drink or three. Martini or Scotch. Or on silent mornings whispered from the lover’s pillow. My own parts of life that had kicked me in the teeth had not necessarily been brought on by myself. Yeah, life is a roller coaster of surprises, and as I watch the sun rise through the dark clouds- literally – I see what I’d not see for years: the sky break at dawn. Not since the first days I’d biked home from an all night dance club. Back then, this city was mine. When I’d driven home through this silent city of dawn’s early light, still buzzed from cocktails with a smile on my face. Thats when I embraced this crazy- anything goes- “Only in Amsterdam” town. As I see before me silhouettes of leafless trees. Behind them a strip of the palest custard yellow topped with pale blue. Floating above me are darkening clouds slashing the grey. Bird silhouettes, now awoken, float, looking for food I guess or just enjoy the morning. 

Enjoy the morning is what I want now before I am too old. Far to the left I see orange sherbet splash into an otherwise charchol sky.  The pop of orange lamp switches on from the yellow and red brick houses. Above their chimneys, a towering tree or three. 

I sigh, reflecting,  Its all about the tools and how they feel in the hand, between the fingers. I’ll never be one to tap a keyboard. (Yet here I am). 

My whole grasp is to be involved.  So how does one use words to say what once she spoke of only through image? As I watch my window streak in water lines, I think of what I’d asked myself about writing: Do I really want to spend the next 40 years trying to capture life’s images – do what I’ve always done – that which would be chiseled on my gravestone if I were not being cremated :

“She saw every detail but missed the big picture.” 

I answered myself, ‘No’. I want to be out and live. Meet people. See places. Not to be forever inside, carving stone or brushing oil paint on canvas. I look up and see the flying ‘V’ shape of birds across the sky towards who knows where? I think,  What is the name for the flying ‘V’ pattern of birds, anyway? I never bothered to learn this and so many other things in this life. My whole world was about art. Seeing it, being inspired from, creating it- now I see in all forms- even word. So yeah, here I am a long way off from the start of these pages. But that’s what art does- carry me off into all places I’d forgotten, or blocked, or not before thought of. 

And now, turning the page, I go back to what I’d awoken from sleep – too early- to grasp before it was gone:

That yes, I’ve created beautiful art, lousy art, indifferent art, fantastic- really?-art. I’ve cut, carved, carried, penciled, color mixed, stretched canvas for, breathed in the paint and the turpentine, smoked the cigarettes, sipped the alcohol, delivered by bike, car, van, ferry, train, metro and bus my art to sidewalk shows, expositions, venues, galleries, podiums, openings and unveilings, always on time, meeting deadlines I’d set for myself.

As I look at the sherbet streaked sky, I remember that I’d intended to sit down here and thank every single person who I’d met along this path of my journey. Those who leaned in, not run away. 

Those who’d sat for portraits as a teen (Mary). Who helped carry bathtubs (Karen) in the east end of London. Who carried stone torsos (Zlatka and the east end boys)  Those who helped me to find the perfect solution to whatever my current art dilemma in Amsterdam was (The Ijzerwaren guys). Those who gave me expositions (Donna and all the creative ABC Treehouse gang of creatives, actors, photographers, and artists). In London, the gallery and it’s group of warm, efficient, smiling art lovers who broke their asses to sell my sculptures. Along the way – one of many side paths I’d taken – when curiosity got the best of me: the school I’d found in Stratford, where I’d befriended 2 of the teachers and one of the students, one who I still call my friend. I’d wandered into that school of art and learned new tips on cutting stone. Tips I’d first learnt at UCLA alternative course in Los Angeles, high the atop a mountain in the glaring sun burning down on me, hacking the stone. Tap, tap, tap.  I had no idea then that this sort of art would bring me so damn far from my home.

But now I think of Laetita who was the one who reminded me the importance of who we meet along the way- and what we learn if we are open to it, from each other.

After a day of shooting a video and all the prep work that had been done before, we were both tired, bordering on exhaustion. It was she – Laetitia – who had, while she’d browsed my website, said to me, “Why not make a video to promote your site and shop?” “I don’t know how,-” I’d replied. “I do,-” she’d said.  Ping! Light shines on me. On her. On artists at work. 

Its what I love the absolute most about being alive- after that first breath,- talking and sharing with people. And for me, with another artist (but need not be) that idea which sparks the flame. These inspirations are like a gentle fragrance that come towards us but like smoke are hard to grasp. So came this idea.

It was all this that led to yesterday’s video shoot. 

And to help – if for no other reason than they wanted to help, to participate and give their best to this moment – two actresses I’d met years ago. At the job I’d taken when I’d walked – no – limped away, wounded and heart broken,  from London, a gallery, a relationship, and art.  When the bank crash, my 8 year relationship, and complete burnout had ganged up on me, having me walk away from all things art. I’d not slammed the door, not locked it, but I’d felt I was finished with art. And I stayed that way for more than 6 years. The place I’d never, ever thought I’d be. Not ever. Because I’d had it in me to be an artist from birth. Or at least from the age I could clench a crayon or mix a color.

As I’d been saying, Laetitia and I were tired and a bit irritated from too little sleep and no food. I’d seen early on that there should be only one director. I’d handed the director’s cap, or crop- whatever- over to her. Later, after all was filmed, she’d said to me, “I see now that I must learn how to stop and let other’s give their opinion.” Then went on to say, “It’s your shop, it’s your promo film not mine.” I had only been trying to tell her to say, “Action!” when she wanted me to walk onto the stage.

I don’t know if its because she is Dutch so the whole bark of “Action!,-”  was too Hollywood for her… (where I was born ) or perhaps she was too much in her head. As she’d said to me later, “I’m used to working alone, in my own way. To grab an inspiration, (before it leaves?) and go with it.” Myself, I am a bit more methodical but am also used to working alone. I often don’t enjoy the fun.

So it was that yesterday, I’d handed the reins over to her, to make a video in her vision and above all to do as she’d said to me weeks ago.. “I want to enjoy, have fun with what I do, not just produce.”  That hit home for me. Because when was the last time – or ever –  I’d enjoyed- had fun creating art in place of producing it? (Sounds funny, right? All artists are only having fun, right? No, they should be but no.) 

In the years from 2001 to 2010, I’d become a torso making factory. That’s how I’d functioned until the bank crash: Make another torso, carve the same figure, maybe use a different color stone. Six to ten life size torsos per year, carved in Amsterdam, brought by van to sell in London. And God knows, it had taken me 30 years to find a gallery who were willing to work as hard as I’d been doing all those years. I’d felt their (extremely high) percentage was worth every penny because finally I found a gallery who worked as hard as I did. They sold my work, consistently and in good cheer.  I’ll admit it was, in the end, a bit of a love/hate, well irritation with, relationship. Probably It was my burnout and the looming financial crisis. 

Fact is, when the London banks went broke, so did all the bonuses. They’d happily spend their pounds less on bling and expensive cars (like in Los Angeles) and more on art. Maybe only as investment- but who cares?- not me. I was selling steadily for the first time in my life. I’d finally found a reputable gallery minus the pretentious attitude.

My gut feeling, that which kept me going all those years was this:                                     A piece of art does not live unless people see it. And as I watched that video being filmed, my paintings were revealed to me in the most creative way I’d ever seen or thought of: Suddenly the art was more alive, lived more completely because it was part of something, shall I dare to say, more important than I? To be more accurate, important than my work.

With these 3 women, one a new director who’d I’d befriended long ago in a studio upon my return from London. An Amsterdam studio that is now is more hotel than art spaces . The woman with whom I’d smoked cigarettes and planned expositions. Who now, 10 years later, I was, we are, curving along yet another path, separate but together. Not as lovers or partners, or colleagues, but as friends. The sort of friendship – dare I say- only women can have with each other.  The relationships I’ve had with women, for years and years. More years than I would like to admit. Oh hell, who cares? 61 years.

And the actors? I’d met during those 6 years away from art, years I’d not glanced inside a gallery window or peaked into a museum. Hell, the whole reason I’d moved to Europe in the first place- 20 years ago! Not even an opera or theater could budge me from my new life: That of a grunge job, working for minimum wage, 40+ hours a week,  lifting, packing, loading, ironing, steaming, counting and shipping, the best selling clothing brands, created in New York, stitched in Indonesia, packaged in Amsterdam. 

It had been there I had met one of the actors, Hanna, on my first day. Her shy smile held in reserve  until she’d gotten to know me through her inquisitions of questions, not for gossip topics but because she wanted to know me. And Agata, whom I’d known for fewer years, but yesterday I’d seen more clearly than in the past. Because there, in front of the camera, I’d taken time to see the color of her eyes and her perfect smile. And perhaps most importantly, when I’d asked how she’d been all these years, in place of talk of jobs come and gone or relationships the same, she’d done as only women do when they feel a bond with another woman: Confess. Or to be more accurate, she spoke about having taken the time to reflect and ponder until a new path was shown on which to again try her boots on, to open her smile to those shining upon hers. 

That, among other fun things is what happened yesterday.

And what better homage to pay to this body of paintings, The Woman’s Series – The series started from my self searching for the woman’s power so many of us are blind to see. That which is in us and yet,  we still put aside what we love to do and instead do for others. Un-like men, who don’t. 

It’s not even that but the strength of our fight to show to the world (to men) how amazing our gifts of creativity, healing, empathy, commaradery,  intuition, and the gift of love we have inside our souls. 

That is what this series of paintings were , are about. And for me, at that time, so long ago to the time when I first arrived here, to re-discover my power and walk away from one who was no longer good for me towards another one who was. Life is all about choices. We forget the power we have to chose.

But…

Butterflies don’t sing. 

When some unknown critical self asked me, ‘Why do we hear birdsong from butterflies? How is that possible? I’d answered aloud and without hesitation:  ‘Butterflies don’t sing.’

And so with this title,  I circle back to the joining together of four women, each of us finding within our own strength. To my falling back in love with art, and my pride, no my duty to art: to have it seen in the world.  Circle back to what I love life for: that journey of moving forward, effort and experimentation, hard physical work and self reflection,  respect for self and dignity and, to: What we learn, who we touch and what we give back.

(To view and purchase images shown in this video click Oils )

Before September ends…

After 9/11, American citizens were forced to take off shoes, be searched, questioned and wait in lines for hours just to fly in a plane. We were asked to report abandoned bags and suitcases to police. We had to get used to bulletproof and locked cockpit doors, which became standard on commercial passenger aircraft.

We listened and did what we were asked to do because we believed we were being told the best way to protect ourselves from deadly harm or death.

Today we are told by professionals all the best ways  to keep us safe from deadly harm or death.

These are:

Wear a mask. And attempt to keep your distance from others.

Not much to it. Not a lot of trouble or cost.

We listened and did what we were asked to do because we believed we were being told the best way to protect ourselves from deadly harm or death.

And yet, because this president is not behind this plan – and actually has no plan – and there is no one else (realistically) to blame, (except whomever the president is currently blaming), people will dismiss every helpful tool to keep themselves and those around them safe and healthy.

What was, 19 years ago, a patriotic inconvenience for the good of every passenger, every citizen, is now considered a blazing fire of demonic democratic and government conspiracy, in which the president points to anyone but himself – a trait that any parent would quickly slap their kid for, for lying. He is now hailed as a savior.

And these citizens are not even kids who were born after 9/11, but before: 

The ones who had lived through that time of 9/11 and before. Who felt honored to help their fellow citizens. When the fire and health care workers and yes police were heroes.

Somehow, 19 years have destroyed all compassion and empathy and camaraderie and yes, humanity, for our fellow citizens.

I remember my father, who still lived then, – an ex-marine from WW2,- glowing with pride at how the country was pulling together, “Exactly like during the war,-” he’d said. A war in which he had fought against a dictator, like his father had fought in WW1,- thankful for the gas mask he was given to protect against the mustard gas in the trenches of France.

He’d once told me, ‘Like it or not, you come from a military family.’

And of course, he was right. In my teen arrogance of ‘I know it all’ attitude of 1977, I was faced with the reality of one grandfather, a father, two uncles, and numerous cousins and 2nd cousins who all served in the military, effecting their wives and kids, through two world wars; Korean war, Vietnam and several wars thereafter. Who all, thankfully had lived and had not been affected by medical and phycological demons thereafter. 

I’d spoken to Dad, when he began to be fed up with his political party. He’d voted republican all of his life. But when the party had gone after Bill Clinton, he’d gotten fed up with their tactics. Surprisingly, he’d gone on to vote for Obama. I’d asked him about the VP- Biden. He’d said, “A great guy. Ethical, compassionate, trustworthy.”

Dad’s pride and Gramps’ matter of fact patriotism, and their families, taught me who Americans are. Taught me who we still can be, again.

Not only out of duty, but out of responsible love for our country and for the defense of each other in a country that has always been known to pull together in times of need, beside a president who stood up for, not against, it’s citizens.

Remember that history repeats itself, when we close our eyes and look away. When we blame others for un-forseen enemies- things that are not physically visible but kill all the same. 

History is repeating. A dangerous disease- as well as the one that destroys a democracy for the people -is raging against us all.

Vote like your life depends on it. Because it does.

“Those who ignore History”
(This painting will soon to be available as a museum quality print on  my store)

People Cannot Live on Bling Alone

Why I make art: (re-blogged on September 12, 2020, from previous April 27, 2010 post)

Why do people create art, view art and buy art ? Because it reminds us who we are and that we are not here for mere existence.  The world was created by whomever, with an incredible range of color and variety. This is seen, felt, and re-created by the artist.

Art reminds us of our inner most passions and vulnerabilities. It helps us to remember that in which we have in common with each other, shows us our differences and speaks to us in a language we all understand. For much the same reason we travel, art is sought out; to see differently, to learn from, to experience that which we’d not before experienced, and to inspire. We inspire each other through our art. Man uses words; artists use sight, and reaching beyond, taps into our soul.

An artist takes an emotion, from that creates a picture (first in the head), forms it, works it, re-works into being, until it comes as close as is possible to the vision that was the first inspiration. The artist then risks to put it out to the masses. This is where the artist will get all reactions that humans are capable of feeling; love, anger, awe, spite, jealousy, indifference (perhaps the worst reaction in my opinion), bitterness, speechlessness (sometimes the highest of compliments). Yet hopefully the art will cause people to talk, and if they’ve really felt something from the art, something that moves them, they will talk. Like a bartender to an alcoholic , we as artists listen, and try to learn what it is that they are seeing and feeling from our art.  Because what’s funny about art is that we all see and experience it differently.

If you eavesdrop (as I often do) at a gallery or museum show,  you hear people discussing what it is that they see in the painting (or sculpture or photo)  In Los Angeles, at an exposition of the American painter, Edward Hopper, I listened while two older women engaged in a lively debate of what they were looking at. It was a painting in which was depicted a young woman in her best Sunday dress, on a porch, on a summer’s day.  “She’s going to church” one womans says. “No, she’s waiting on her sweetheart”, the other chimes in. And so the cliché, “A picture is worth a thousand words”.

Art can be a little of heaven; the most gorgeous sunset, the quietest 2 a.m. snowfall, the eerie fog in the forest, the grand canyon of possibility, the heights of the imagination. Or can be a little of hell; the moment of death or a lover’s bitterness. It’s all captured for that one moment, for you, the viewer.

It’s hard these days, in these times, to hear the single laugh, to see the one flower, or bird or cloud formation or ladybug. There is so much distraction. Yet on this planet, we are absolutely bombarded by color and variety. Not one color, one flower, one fruit, one shape, but hundreds, thousands. This is truly heaven on earth, here, now, this moment.

Slow down. Art makes you slow down. It says wait. Look here. Sit. Relax. Have a coffee. Don’t speak. Take off your headphones. Turn off your phone. Come in here. Where I am. Let me show you where I’ve been. Where I am now. Where I can take you. To another place you’ve never seen. It’s my gift to you. Here, we go together. I take your hand. It will be ok. I promise. Now relax, breathe, and remember how to feel. It’s safe here to feel. No one will see but us. Remember when? When you fell off your bike and screamed? When you lost the match, how defeated you felt? When your first kiss was lousy? When you’re first fuck was great? Or the second? Or the third? When you fell in love? When your child was born? When you first saw the light in your lover’s eyes? And the pain when it ended? Or the hollowness of grief when your mother died? That horrid feeling of emptiness? The sorrow? How you felt? But wait, look here. That’s your fathers laugh you hear. That night you sat round the table laughing till your sides ached. Tears streaming down your face. Remember? Remember turning to your lover and seeing your passion mirrored in her eyes? Reflected in your own? You’re feeling it now, aren’t you? The electricity, the awakening of all your senses at once, the eroticism of the heat of your belly, the sweat on your palms. Your heart loudly beating. Faster now. All of you and all of her, mixed together in limbs and lips and skin. Rising fast, speeding through time, coming, coming.. to…to…

You.  You are alone. In front of the painting. All this has happened in your head, with people passing you by. You’ve traveled outside yourself and back into yourself. And here you are. In that moment, at the very least, you’ve traveled somewhere you’ve not been before. At best, you are now awakened, inspired, and reborn. Even if you’ve not been open for it, it may sneak in any how. All that-from a piece of art.

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Friday August 28, 2020. In the middle of a pandemic.

It has been 57 years since American civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. Delivered on August 28, 1963, during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, he called for civil and economic rights and an end to racism in the United States.

“Those who Ignore History are destined to repeat it” -– George Santayana

And so it was these words that inspired me to paint this image soon after the Los Angeles riots of April 29, 1992.

The violence I’d witnessed in 1992 were identical to protests of 1960’s, with the villains similar to those we had fought against in WW2.  I borrowed the Egyptian theme of hierarchy, (Which showed Pharaohs as larger figures while their servants appeared smaller), I then flipped this idea to show those who I felt to be heroes of human rights, marching together in victory, as the larger figures, while horrific images from American history and World Wars, mirrored each other on either side, as the protestors were violently pursued by the worst thugs of society.  

I purposely chose to not include any celebrities , religious or overly political figures. Instead I primarily focused on regular folks doing amazing things. Sadly , many gave their lives in the fight for truth, human dignity, equality and justice.

 It was the non-violent vs the extremely violent that I was attempting to show.

Not all the figures in this painting are famous or known by sight. Here I state their names and place in history:    (HEROES)  Left to right:  American Indian couple / Harvey Milk, gay rights activist, murdered / Sitting Bull, American Indian hero / Southerner Truth, black emancipation and woman’s suffrage hero / Mamie Till Bradly (Mother of Emmett) & Emmett Till, (age 14) He was tortured and murdered by racists for speaking to a white woman. These racists were acquitted by an all white jury / Viola Liuzzo, housewife, civil rights fighter,  murdered by the klan / Coretta Scott King & Martin Luther King, civil right leaders / Rosa Parks, refused to sit at the back of the bus / Susan B. Anthony & Elizabeth Cady Stanton, fought for woman right to vote / Harriet Tubman, established the Underground Railroad that brought slaves to freedom / Elizabeth Eckford, first child of color to enroll in all white high school / Ceasar Chavez, farmworker’s rights hero / Susan B. Anthony, fought for women’s right to vote & Margaret Sanger, fought for women’s right to birth control. 

(VILLAINS):    Left to Right:   Adolf Hitler, dictator, tortured and murdered over fourteen million people including Jews, journalists, gays / Heinrich Himmler, leading member of the Nazi party, instigator of concentration camps, exterminated more than 6 million Jews in the Holocaust / Cecil Price, former deputy sheriff in Neshoba County, Miss., who was convicted of conspiracy in the 1964 murders of three civil rights workers / Mrs Roy Bryant, JW Milan & Roy Bryant, racists who murdered Emmett Till for talking to Mrs Bryant, acquitted by an all white jury / Robert Shelton,  Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan / David Duke, KKK, presidential candidate / Two Klansmen / Murderer of Viola Liusso.

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It had been entry into to a billboard competition after the riots that had me take up my brush and got my inspiration flowing for many months. As it turned out, I’d been so engrossed researching the theme,  I missed the deadline for the competition completely. The education I received was well worth my time. As it turned out, the painting was later included in a group show, Bury Racism, on view in West Hollywood in 1993. I was proud to exhibit with other artists that had also expressed their emotions about that difficult period of L.A. history.

The above color image will soon be available as a museum quality print via my store.