The Creative Epiphany – Rituals

I am fascinated by the rituals of our daily lives – tasks of loving maintenance that we repeatedly perform, knowing there is no end to them because they will have to be done again and again. And so in the performance of them they become a meditation, a devotion, an affirmation of thankfulness. They might seem mundane and at times we might tire of the “doing” but the larger tapestry they weave is one of productivity and dedication. Baking the bread, preparing the food, stringing beads, sweeping the porch, rocking the baby, doing the dishes – those repetitive chores common to all people. I would also broaden the definition of Rituals to include the telling of memorable family stories to our children and the keeping of deep friendships, year after year. Carrying the family torch, so to speak, passing Life Wisdom from generation to generation; a mantra for humanity. It is all ritual to me, lovingly offered up to those we care about most, century after century.

My Ritual paper assemblages begin with handmade scrolls of various exotic papers placed in a design and then heavily embellished with meaningful items that indicate ethnicities, tribes and families – after all, we all belong to a tribe of one kind or another. Even you and me. In these art pieces you will often find small colorful beads constructed by the women of Uganda using recycled paper, carefully cut into elongated triangles, then rolled, glued, lacquered and dried in the sun. (Go to www.BeadforLife.org for more information.) The distinctive chunky black beads with white dots & designs are made by the women of Kenya from sections of found Water Buffalo bone and horn, an animal that is not endangered in Africa. Feathers, shells, ribbons, tassels, leather and dried pine needles and other found objects are often used.

The final product is not intended to be religous but rather a spiritual creation that speaks to people everywhere of our collective calling to perform life’s Rituals.

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The Creative Epiphany – Thanksgiving

Fall has been glorious here in Northern California this year, but with tonight’s wind and rain I expect the leaves will finally be blown from the trees and Fall 2012 will reluctantly give up to the arrival of the winter season.

But it is a perfectly lovely scene in these rolling hills right at this moment, leading into Thanksgiving Day….while out on my walk I was inspired to include a few special images. Rarely have I seen such vivid colors!

Enjoy the season and the reason. I am counting my blessings and sending my wishes along to all of you for a particularly meaningful day with your family and friends. How fortunate we are.

 

 

The Creative Epiphany – Doubting It

“The greater the artist, the greater the doubt; perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize,” said Robert Hughes.

This quote is a favorite of mine; I believe it is applicable to any creative endeavor and any person who doubts the outcome of a creative effort. Some people, some very prominent and historically important people unfortunately spent their entire lives in doubt that anything they accomplished creatively would ever make a difference or that it would be seen by others as worthy of a second glance. Van Gogh, for instance, never sold a painting in his life. But he continued to paint his heart out. He had to – there could be no other release for his passion and his gift.

We who feel passionate about creating continue to create, chugging along, moving forward sometimes in spite of fumes of continuing doubt about the worthiness of our creations, while others who might be far less talented manage to achieve notoriety and recognition by sheer force of aggressive confidence, perseverance and a full tank of confidence based upon ego. They feel entitled and they are pushy. They know people and they have connections and they get things done. We have all known musicians or artists, writers or actors or businessmen and others who seem to have far more success than their lukewarm talent warrants. Actors write their biographies (some while still in their twenties!) and appear on dozens of talk shows plugging their books, riding along on a wave of false fame born not really of Oscar winning performances but of controversy, bad behavior or who their parents happened to be.

Thus are the ways of the world. For every successful person there are dozens of other folks with equal or greater talent who did not know quite how to make the success happen; they doubted themselves too much or found it too difficult to market  themselves to the right people, and the circumstances, timing and pure luck were never in place for the “miracle” of being discovered to take place. Certainly not every gallery artist is an extraordinary talent – but that lesser talent knew how to make things happen. The attitude and confidence of a “knower” can trump doubt and insecurity in a “doubter” even when the doubter has the greater gift.

PS – Oh yes – one more thing – once in a while a person of spectacular talent, who is both confident and in possession of a healthy ego while still managing to remain humble, realizes that he has been blessed to have been given a rare and priceless creative gift, and then the sky is the limit. The world will notice.

The Creative Epiphany – trekking

I do not trek. I just walk. I have been told that I maintain an excellent pace when I walk,  but still that is certainly not trekking. Trekking implies a laborious journey made on foot, a migration, a long hard walk. Nor have I traveled to super dangerous places. But one year, the two people I love most were gone at the very same time to politically unsettled, exotic places at opposite ends of the earth, totally out of my touch for weeks and weeks. One was trekking and one was working in a highly charged zone packing a gun for protection. I was more than bereft ,I was beside myself. I was left to my own devices for inventing coping rituals and this is one of the paintings that happened to me….because paintings happen to me. I don’t think I actually have much to say about when and where they will happen, or what they will say, since I am simply a vehicle.  Long ago I offered up my heart, mind, soul and my arms to the painting gods. I’m a dedicated volunteer.

This painting is primitive. It is bold and confident; more bold and confident than I thought I was at the time. I would not call it a happy little painting nor would I call it unhappy. It is just what it is – it speaks with the force and fierce protection of a mother bear. It resembles a flag – perhaps I meant it to be a flag of bravery (not my own) – and I hid the words YEMEN and NEPAL in the composition, a secret known only to me until just now as I announce it to the world.

The Creative Epiphany – possessed

I managed to make it well into my sixth decade without ever having a bug in my ear until last summer. I am not referring to that cute phrase people use when they want to give you a hint about something by whispering in your ear – I am telling you it was a real bug. Inside the personal space of my actual ear.

This never once happened to me in the most logical of environs, like when I was a kid, raised on 8 country acres at the top of Munger Road hill in southern Ohio amid horses and horse flies, ducks, gnats, chickens, lice, rabbits, cats and dogs with tics and one goat, fireflies and mosquitoes and ordinary house flies and the neighbor’s cows which were walking bug habitats. This bug woke me from a deep sleep in the safety and comfort of my own bed. There was absolutely no warning…..suddenly I was possessed.

I thought at first that a B52 was landing in my backyard. Then I realized it was an internal thing and what ensued was mayhem. If it had been filmed it would have been mistaken for an exorcism at the very least. Paranormal behavior to be sure. Wild, eye-popping panic and a snarl, mine, accompanied by distorted grimacing, jumping up and down on the bed as if I was plugged into jumper cables, trying to expel the satanic demon. The 10 decibel BBBUUUZZIIINNGG  and then the thousand-a-second-vibrations of wings that seemed like a hummingbird smacking against the insides of my ear canal. I jumped to a standing position, began hopping around the room shaking my head from side to side, then up and down, and in a nano-second I considered:

a Q-tip – no! – I might push it in deeper – OMG – to my brain!

water – no! – I might float it in deeper – OH NO! to my brain!

suction of some kind – the dustbuster –  no no no! – I might break my eardrum! Or suck out my brain!

All the while I am spinning and twisting my head to such an extent that it must have spun almost a full 360. I hoped I could potentially force the monster out by sheer vibration and centrifugal force because the SOUND was unbearable. The flapping was horrendous but the NOISE! I pictured the thing, his feet glued by earwax to the floor of my ear canal, beating his wings in frustrated fury. Every once in a while the bug would stop. And I would stop. Then it would start flapping and buzzing again, even more violently than before. I was screeching – I was yelling! Surely he would soon wear himself out and die. Or would I? Should I jump in the car and dash to the emergency room? Could I drive? Could I keep still enough in the driver’s seat to control the car? Should I just call 911? Hello? YES!! HELP! I have a bug in my ear! Bring equipment!

And then it stopped. I could not believe it – I didn’t trust the silence. I braced myself for another round. But all was quiet and still. I rushed sweaty and panting to the bathroom and got the magnifying mirror, trying to look in my ear, or in my hair, for the monster that had invaded my body space. There was nothing to be found.

Did it really happen? Was I dreaming? Is the devil gone?

Send me some butterflies.

 

The Creative Epiphany – 24

Art class – University of Colorado – the sixties

The university fine art professor who first opened my eyes to the possibilities of collage art was an eccentric and gifted man, and mixed media collage was a relatively new concept in the sixties. I had signed up for his watercolor class, so imagine my surprise when he strode in one day carrying a pile of rubbish and flopped it down on the table. He announced that we would be learning the art of mixed media collage. We had no exotic papers imported from around the world available to us – we had no precedent to follow except his wild and confident direction. He had stopped in the restroom and grabbed some paper towels, he had crumpled newspapers, brown paper bags, candy wrappers, string and other trash. Our instructions were to begin layering paper with paint in a highly abstract sort of way. Watercolor was not well suited to this process at all, and we used the same kind of paste that kindergartners used. There were no other choices available to us at the time. Now there are industries built around supplies for mixed media artists – the alchemy has caught on and we MMC artists are on the map.

This charismatic and visionary professor taught us the value of texture, layering paint with paper and placing pattern on top of pattern. We learned that painting can become sculptural and sensual and tactile. We learned that exposed rough edges are good, wrinkles in the paper are just great, and paint applied the thickness of cupcake icing is fantastic. It was the beginning of my love affair with abstract mixed media collage. And look how far art has come! Look how free we are in our expression now!

If you are familiar with the art of Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008), Picasso,  Robert Motherwell, Helen Frankenthaler and others then you know that these prominent artists and a long list of other innovators experimented with mixed media collage. The technique of adding paper, odd items and urban debris into painted art or constructed assemblages actually goes way back. I mean really, if you want to venture even farther back it is quite apparent in some pre-historic cave art where the person sketching with charcoal made the decision to stick on the cave wall with wet mud some grasses and weeds underneath the drawings of the animals. How cool is that?  He/she must have been so proud of that creative addition. I read recently that children are probably responsible for much of the cave art since it was a way to pass the time while staying safe and dry as mom tended to other things. Some things don’t change.

This composition  titled “24 HOURS” takes me right back to that precious time of art experimentation in my life  when everything was fresh, improvisational and serendipitous – and it  also signifies for me all that is basic, primitive, simple, raw and beautiful about merely existing on Planet Earth. The sun comes up and the sun goes down, the moon shines in between. People around the world do their thing, every 24 hours.  And then they wake up to do it again, but knowing that if they are lucky something wondrous might happen.

 

The Creative Epiphany – and speaking of stones

 4000 BC – 1800 AD approx.

Here in the northern California foothills,  way back – way way back in the Jurassic period, long before the city of Lincoln was Lincoln, there was a mountain range here the size of the Andes. If you garden much you are already aware that just a couple feet under the surface of your grass is a layer of boulders and cobblestones – remnants of a time when this mountain range existed. Walk the trails and you’ll see rock formations the size of houses and cars all along the valley, and of course the smaller cobblestones. Ancient molten rock cooled and formed the granite basis for this mountain range. Millions of years of erosion and lifting, cracking and “rounding” the jagged corners of enormous hunks of granite resulted in the outcroppings of these fantastic boulders. Lincoln also has abundant clay as evidenced in the still thriving business downtown at Gladding McBean,  and the hills still have gold. They really do. We also have a salt marsh, born from ancient seas that covered the area. Our Kilaga Springs Lodge is located in the area of that salt marsh.

The idea of Lincoln was actually a result of plans in 1854 to lay railroad tracks from Sacramento to Folsom. Charles Wilson and W.T. Sherman – actually General Sherman of the Civil War – along with engineer Theodore Judah were on the team to make that happen. But the railroad plan was not successful in reaching its goal and so Charles Lincoln bought the land upon which Lincoln now stands for a paltry $600 and a town plan was laid out in 1859. The railroad arrived in 1861 with a post office to follow making Lincoln official. The climate, the scenery, the resources and the people all made Lincoln a desirable place to live, continuing to this very day. Lincoln is one of the fastest growing cities in America now, and our quality of life is spectacular, thank you very much.

I do not know who said it but it is worth repeating – “Bloom Where You Are Planted!” and then after you have bloomed, continue to thrive and become a perennial.