Specters and Fresh Starts

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Yesterday, I took down what remained of this summer’s art installation. It wasn’t much. The paintings had been sold during the few days of the inauguration, so they were gone. The sculptures had apparently started to wilt in the humidity of the Dordogne, so they were gone. I found them clustered together behind the structure like a group of bewildered veterans. Halfway through July, there was a course held that needed to use part of the space, so the fundraising team opened up the installation space by removing half of the paper enclosure. Suffice to say, that was gone.

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I apologize if I sound a bit hard. I don’t mind that art gets old and changes. Yes, there is something bewildering in the fact that a once-dynamic, giving creation can become a pile of rubble. But that’s impermanence for you. And the experiences that people had while the space was complete, and that which the paintings still bring to those who have them now…that goes on for a while.

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Art is about communication, about sharing and creating space for all types of experience and perception. One thing I have left from the exhibition is a beautiful, fat stack of wishes and positive aspirations written by strangers and friends who passed through and felt moved to share.

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I think what’s strange, what gives me pause, is looking at a work of art that, it seems to me, no longer functions. As I was popping the last, tangled paper boxes off their fishing wires, some one came by to ask what I thought of the space opened up. It’s still beautiful, he said. I suppose he’s right. But to me it looks like a ghost. I’d rather it be gone, than lingering half-made. Incomplete work bothers me. Maybe because it reminds of what I could and feel I should be completing. Expired art says, “And what now?”

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Maybe something like this now.

The Big Reveal

IMG_1460Well hello. This. This is that thing I’ve been talking about, dropping hints, promising explanations. This. Is an art installation. Numero tres. The biggest thing I have ever done, and I did not do it alone. This. Is. Abstractions of the Path of Understanding. Kind of looks like a circus tent crossed with your elementary school lunch sack from outside. But it’s kind of pretty anyway. And inside.

IMG_1461Inside are nearly a thousand paper boxes, with wings. In black: confused thoughts. They crash like waves over and through our minds.

IMG_1449But amidst the folly, there is clarity to be found. The seeds of wisdom: the Dharma and the Three Jewels. This shiny thing that is some version of a Bodhi tree seed and three spirals rising in the same way our spirit is elevated by observation and reflection.

graineFrom each seed grows understanding. A moment of realization, when those vague and sage things we have heard and read suddenly click into place with this moment right now. Ten seeds of wisdom and ten moments of understanding, as follows:

toomuchIt Is Always Too Much and Never Enough

Acrylic and Ink on Artisanal Watercolor Paper, 38 cm x 38 cm

allmydreamsIf All My Dreams Were Real, This Would Not Be Real Life

Ink, Watercolor, and Acrylic on Artisanal Watercolor Paper, 38 cm x 38 cm

sohardI Am Trying So Hard to Understand This

Ink and Acrylic on Artisanal Watercolor Paper, 38 cm x 38 cm

togetheralone

I Guess We Are Together, Even When We Are Alone

Ink and Acrylic on Artisanal Watercolor Paper, 38 cm x 38 cm

soalivetodie

Sometimes I Feel So Alive, I Forget I Am Going to Die

Ink, Chalk Pastel, and Acrylic on Artisanal Watercolor Paper, 38 cm x 38 cm

loseeverything

I Am Going to Lose Everything; I Am Going to Let Everything Go

Ink, Chalk Pastel, and Acrylic on Artisanal Watercolor Paper, 38 cm x 38 cm

getfree

I Will Get Free

Ink, Watercolor, Chalk Pastel, and Acrylic on Artisanal Watercolor Paper, 38 cm x 38 cm

madnessispretending

Madness Is Pretending Everything Is Okay

Ink, Watercolor, Chalk Pastel, and Acrylic on Artisanal Watercolor Paper, 38 cm x 38 cm

everymomentthestart

Every Moment is the Start

Chalk Pastel and Acrylic on Artisanal Watercolor Paper, 38 cm x 38 cm

peaceafterall 

Maybe There Is Peace After All

Watercolor and Acrylic on Artisanal Watercolor Paper, 38 cm x 38 cm

IMG_1455And then, in the center of all this, understanding takes root. The column of wishes, the natural generosity that arises as we widen our understanding, surrounded by enlightened thoughts–white boxes now–taking flight in our minds. The column was formed and the wishes written by several hundred visitors over the course of the event, from pictures drawn by small children to jokes to aspirations for all sentient beings.

insideinstallationThe artist, installed in the installation.

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A mommy and a baby enlightened thought. We used the form from the installation for donation boxes to create a link between knowledge and research (the Institute) the development of understanding (the Dharma, and the path as represented by the art piece) and offering (the generosity that arises with understanding). One aspect that was really important for me was the link between black and white thoughts. Not negative and positive, but confused and clarified. A box is defined not by its form but by its contents. LIkewise, each of us has the ability to transform ourselves, our lives, and our understanding.

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Me, grinning like an idiot because This. Is. Real. I–we–made a thing. We shared that thing. And people felt something. And that’s what it’s all about.

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Long-Term Magic and Apple Clafouti

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I am going to tell you a silly story, and then I am going to inundate you with pictures. Sound good? I hope so, because that’s what I’ve got to offer at the mo’.

Once upon a time, there was a cake maker who discovered a village in the woods. Though she quite liked making cakes, she had always wanted to be a magician. Turns out it was a village of magicians, and they offered to teach her magic, so she stayed. She got quite caught up in all the magic–about understanding and building community and creating projects to inspire. The thing about magic, though, is that it’s a long-term project, and, our little cake maker, in the midst of toiling away on things that will be done in a few months or a few years or a few lifetimes, found herself a little lost in the endlessness.

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But you know what she did? She made a cake. Or maybe it was a custard. It was a clafouti. But either way, the important thing is that a clafouti is in the bowl and in the oven and in your tummy and long gone in just a few short hours. And it can be shared and it makes you smile and it reminds you that creating something from start to finish is possible, even if start to finish feels long sometimes. And then she also remembered that the finish line of her current project is just a short week away though it has been quite a while in the making, so she went back to paper mâché, pouring plaster, painting, and putting up an installation.

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Recipe after the jump… Continue reading

Do We Call This Art?

I spent most of this week thinking about voice. About how a huge part of being an artist is discovering what you have to say, honing in on your concerns and questions, and then developing the relationship between your message and your medium. I’ve been thinking about my own work – its steadily rising tide of abstraction and space-creation. I’ve scrapped and redesigned plans for new installation pieces, and I’m feeling good about what’s to come.

I recently got invited to take part in a show at The Hive Gallery, in LA, in which every piece somehow utilizes an old CD, kind of an upcycling thing. First I thought about just wrapping the thing in canvas and painting it. And then I started applying all my recent thinking about abstraction and installation to the project; I thought I might build a maquette for a piece I’ve been developing that’s circular-ish.

And then I had this idea. It literally popped into my head fully formed, title and all. And it was so funny to me, and filled me so suddenly and urgently with the need to acquire pom poms, which I probably last used circa 1995, that I drove out to Michael’s, stocked up, came home, and set to work with my hot glue gun.

Glory, Pom Poms, Hot Glue, Pipecleaner, Googly Eyes, Wire, Paper, An Old CD, 5″ x 6″ x 5″

This thing is not an installation and, though it definitely has roots in abstraction, it’s pretty directly figurative (googly eyes are a surprisingly effective way to personify any object). Also, it’s made almost entirely with kid craft materials, which I have history with because I used them when I was a kid, but which I’ve never related to or thought of in terms of art before. In the process of making this guy, I remembered a conversation I had with Johanna Reed, a writer and performance artist based out of LA, where I asked when she started making art. She said she started writing non-narrative plays and making book objects as a kid. I asked how she knew or decided that it was art, to which she replied, “What else would it be?”

Art is not necessarily something we decide or direct. Art surprises us. Frequently that’s the objective of the artist for the viewer, but it also occurs by the work for the artist. Even when you have a vision in mind, a specific question you are asking with your work, things arise of their own accord.  Art is what comes out of us, with its own intentions.

A Right Path

On Thursday night, my show opened. There are ten thousand more poetic and/or articulate things I could say, but mostly what I feel right now is “Hell yeah!”

This show is the first opportunity I have ever been given to take a space and make it mine. And I did. Although I am most frequently a painter, and occasionally a maker of three dimensional things, I am finding more and more that my (he)art lies in creating a space, in holding an experience in place for the viewer to inhabit in the time that they are present and take with them once they have gone.

To paint the walls, hang the paintings, and put the installation in place is one thing. To have people walk in, stop dead, then utter some form of “Wow,” is wholly another. People walking down the opposite side of the street told me that what they glimpsed for a mere moment diverted them from their intended course to come and see the work.

To Be Without Words (To Let Words Become Poems or Prayers, or Birds to Take Flight And Carry Our Wants and Fears Away From Us), 7’ x 6’ 4” x 8’, Wooden Dowels, Wire Mesh, String, Epoxy, Spray Paint, Fishing Line, Journal Entries 2011-2012

Yes. This is what I want. For my work to be an offering.  For it to give you something that matters to you.

It comes from me. My work is pictures of my own life: my uncertainty and doubt, aspiration and longing. After all, we each have but our own life to go on. But it is meant for anyone who wants it. The hope is that my stories, told abstractly, speak to others, that the sense of our own human life can be found in another’s.

23 Abstract Paintings

To have other humans living other lives affirm that this indeed occurs – for just a moment, I want for nothing. Gratitude completely subsumes all other emotions. Just this remains: Thanks Universe. Thanks fellow humans. This is a right path, and one I intend to follow.

To see more images of the work, including individual titled photos of the paintings, check out my website.

Things to Draw: Sculpture

My grandmother gave me this prompt, after some protest. She wanted more specific instructions than “anything.” When I unfolded the paper with the word sculpture written on it, I had no idea what to do. Of course…my grandmother–innocuous, old, affectionate–would saddle me with a conundrum: something simultaneously concrete and abstract, which manages to be both an idea and an object.

I often think of my grandmother as somewhat absent. She is losing her memory, and it is easier sometimes to relate to questions repeated to the point of absurdity as the whimsy of a “crazy old lady” than to admit that entropy is stealing from me some one I have known all my life. This prompt is a reminder that the quick and clever lady who used to tickle me when I wasn’t looking and tease me when I was grumpy (“Better be careful…if you make that face you’re gonna get stuck that way!”) is still my grandmother, even if these days she mostly asks where my cousins are or what day of the week it is.

In the end, I chose to draw a sculpture that belongs to Gemmy, that she bought with my grandfather when they were a young and glamorous couple in the world of design, running a successful architecture firm and filling their house with strange and beautiful art objects. I have no idea who made this sculpture. It is cast bronze, and for most of my life I thought it was abstract, but I discovered today when I was looking at it more closely that it is actually an open-mouthed face seen from above. Still, I chose to draw it how I remember looking at it when I was little, staying overnight for an adventure with my worldly and exciting grandparents. It was mysterious and slightly monstrous, but friendly, a part of my family, as art has a tendency to become.