Sunday, September 27, 2009
“Oh God, break me into nothing so that I might be born again.” I silently spoke these words to the Creator, realizing that the hard places in me were like dead regions that could not be cultivated and needed something very powerful to break them so as to begin anew. Within two years I was in a doctor’s office with my daughter Naomi. When the physician entered the room where we waited and with a grim face announced she had cancer, and a huge tumor in her hip, my world collapsed and I was shaken to the core. All the hard places in me broke.
Naomi died ten years ago. She was an empath. We had always been so close as to be almost one soul in two bodies. Sometimes I have questioned, did she "hear" my prayer to be broken into nothing, and then offer her self as sacrifice to God to accomplish this impossible task? Also, an empath physically feels what others experience, and Naomi acutely felt her mother's mental illness. Or maybe, because I am also an empath, I anticipated future events, because I intuitively knew something was going wrong with my daughter. In fact, just before Naomi was diagnosed with her illness, I was not sleeping well. Vague feelings of calamity were plaguing me as I went to bed, and I felt them very close, but could not understand why.
When Naomi passed away, I had already died a thousand times over and was completely broken apart. The same day she died, as her body lay at rest in her bedroom, I felt her spirit arrive while I was resting in my room, and with an overarching and powerful grace, give me a message to love life unconditionally—and this was my new beginning.
Since then, I have barely ever been sick, and wonder if she took so much pain at the end of her short life that it was for the both of us, and that she swept illness from me for years to come.
For more about Naomi, death and dying, spirituality, go to: http://heartsand.com
Sunday, September 20, 2009
I love psychology, especially studying the mental and emotional factors governing a situation or activity. Over the years, I have done significant introspection and also been in psychoanalysis. I like myself and want to know who I am. As an artist, I must be open to new ideas and have the strength to express myself from the deepest places. Psychology can help. For instance, many people are in conflict with themselves and the outer world, so they cannot express creatively without fear and anger. Society itself contributes to neurosis, turning people against themselves and others.
When I was in my late teens, I became flooded with emotions and thoughts that at times left me fearful of being overwhelmed and insane. I made a choice to simply experience the powerful emotions openly and without judgment. But quickly I discovered anger, distrust, and disdain were mixed in the equation, along with other negativities, and guessed that I might be anti-social. I decided it was too much to continue without a buffer. So I adopted an ideal to strive toward, and did not accept the emotions and feelings that I had which were not “saintly.” Unfortunately, without wisdom, eventually, I came to despise myself and be very unhappy because I could never reach the goal of happy sainthood. My “wild” side stayed—however much I tried to marginalize it and shut it away from sight. All this led to a breakdown that took years to recover from.
Now, I embrace myself fully and relish knowing all that is inside—however it appears. No longer do I climb up a tall ladder of idealism from which to look down on myself. Rather I dwell in the matrix of life, where creation and death always are together. I do not judge, but experience life compassionately and lovingly. From here, I have deep well to draw my creativity.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
“Why would anyone want that?” "Don’t you want to sell your art?” My friend was trying to be helpful, because she knew my art sales have been meager during the economic downturn. She was looking at a big picture I had just printed . . . of the ruined inside of an abandoned house in Spain. A broken chair and empty suitcase sat forlornly amid the rubble that littered the room. A basket and empty liquor bottle rested on a windowsill where bright light poured through onto the glum interior. I was a bit startled by my friends query, because I had been in my creative process and working by my inspiration, and not thinking of the business angle. “Well,” I said, pointing to portraits on my studio wall, “there are these that people can buy.”
When my friend left, I continued working, and felt slightly crestfallen. What was I doing anyway? The finished work includes the disheveled interior on the right, and on the left in a separate scene, a beautiful, young Spanish woman standing inside a ruined home, holding flowers in her hand and looking up through a hole in the ceiling. The work evokes feelings of loneliness, abandonment, ruin, time, neglect, beauty and hope.
If artists only thought of making “pleasing” art that will quickly sell to a public eager for soothing objects that reinforce their feeling of well-being, then some of the most famous art would never have been made. Look in the art history books, or if you are near a big city, go to an art museum—you will see that some of the most famed art often is unsettling. As an example, take Edvard Munch’s (December 12, 1863 – January 23, 1944) iconic work, The Scream. Do we imagine that he was thinking to make a pleasing picture for someone’s wall and that he could quickly earn cash to buy groceries and more paintbrushes? No, this work came from his inner anxiety and wonderment about the human condition. And his expression touches a nerve in all of us. Similarly, Chaim Soutine (January 13, 1893 – August 9, 1943) was a Russian emigrant, laboring at his art in France and living in poverty, before being discovered by Dr. Albert Barnes (1872 – 1951) , an important American art collector. Soutine worked entirely from his emotions and his visual vocabulary is volcanic. He applied his paint as if in a tumult of recklessness, and with hardly any regard to constructing pleasing shapes or flattering portrayals. Instead, what we get are portraits that convey anxiety and the struggle to stand upright while all of life tries to pull us apart, or melt us in its heat. The paintings Soutine left behind after he died prematurely at the age of 40, hang now in major museums around the world, and continue to shock our sensibilities, but also make us question our perceptions of what is real and true.
Sunday, September 06, 2009
I am in the habit of giving thanks, and at bedtime, always speak out loud before sleeping so that I hear the words, “thank you.” I think of the day I have just experienced, and then say, “I have no complaints.” Of course, I am speaking to God. I have a dearly beloved friend who is atheist who told me “you are thanking yourself, because of what you give to yourself.” There is truth in what she says, because I choose how to think and therefore experience accordingly. But in giving thanks, I am acknowledging the great gift of life, and I know that I have not given life to myself. No, everything has been given to me—the world of nature which is safe within regulated laws, my body that exists in nature and time, and the doors of perception through which I understand . . . these have been given to me and I could not have invented this. I am an infinitesimal part of an infinite universe which is beyond the grasp of humankind. Maybe that is why some throw up their hands and say God does not exist. What they are saying is it is impossible to know, so why even try? But I surmise that this is lazy thinking and that a simple solution is to acknowledge that the cosmos we live in is a creation and a creation must have a creator; a priori.
In my studio I have been spending my hours working on printing some of my 30,000 photographs. I am choosing portraits of people from around the world and then printing them on canvas; larger than life size. They are then mounted on board and I have been using an old painting method to cover them with encaustic; a hot wax and resin combination that fuses colors as it hardens. It is experimental, and I have no income from this now, but this year, I hardly have income anyway. I do not complain, but give thanks for the excitement and adventure of having opportunities to explore each day, and especially consciousness.