Hunt Wabbits! [on Merely A Thought Monday]

When the current occupant of the White House declared this “Character Counts Week” I, at first, fell on the floor laughing. How is it possible that someone so completely empty of ethic and absent a moral compass could ask the rest of us to focus on the virtues of character? We live in strange times.

My head must have hit the floor when I fell because I had an epiphany. This grotesque pretender wasn’t asking us to focus on positive social attributes, he was asking us to choose a character to perform! He wants us, like him, to take on an imaginary persona! While he plays the role of president, he wants us, the citizens of the nation, each to choose a character to play!

Choosing a character to play is serious business! My first thought was to have a go at the Road Runner (“BEEP! BEEP!”). Kerri is trying on Yosemite Sam (“Ya doggone idgit galoot!”). She made me laugh heartily with her bowlegged walk and Sam-ish-indignation so I’m leaping from my fowl first choice to a personal favorite, Elmer Fudd (“I’m hunting wabbits!”). Kerri wants me to stay with the Road Runner as a limited vocabulary will give her a break from my usual incessant running commentary.

This might be the best week we’ve had in four years! Laughter has been in short supply during this era of the bully, the celebration of the lie.

Of course, epiphanies come in bundles. Along with my insight into the real intention behind Character Counts Week came this: the moment I stepped into Elmer Fudd the world, as we currently experience it, made sense. We are living a comic book or, at the very least, a children’s version of The National Enquirer. All of the outrageous conspiracy theories (laughable were they not so dangerous), the stoking of the rage-machine, the-victim-persecutor-in-chief and his foxy-network-megaphone creating scary socialist monsters at every corner…MAD magazine has come to the nation’s capitol wearing orange face and a too-long-tie. The entire cohort is worthy of a Warner Bros. cartoon!

Perhaps history will laugh at this proclamation of character. Some smart professor in the year 2100 will offer a seminar called “2016-2020 – What were they thinking?” The students will slap their thighs and hoot at our ubiquitous-ridiculous. In the meantime, we have no better option than to jump into this week in full character.

(Me-to-Kerri: “Shhh! Be vewwy, vewwy quiet!” Kerri-to-me: “You ornery fur-bearin’ rebel! You’ll pay fer this!”).

read Kerri’s blog post on CHARACTER WEEK

[I told you that you’d miss our haiku-brevity. It’s good to be home…sort of.]

Study Opposites [on DR Thursday]

a haiku for today.

study opposites,

we reach forward, move backward.

life is a yoga!

read Kerri’s FORWARD BACK haiku

forward back ©️ 2012 david robinson

Define ALL [on Two Artists Tuesday]

Kerri named this photo “peace shadow.” It brought to my mind a project begun by a group of artists in 2009, The Peace Shadow Project. They make and collect shadows all over the world. When the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the force of light released by the bombs burned shadows of people into the walls. As a way to enter a conversation about nuclear weapons and advocate for a nuclear weapons free world, the artists “burned” shadows of survivors – with strong light on photo paper – and displayed them all over the cities. Then, they asked people all over the world to send their shadows.

It’s what I love about artists. They (we) believe that art can transform consciousness. And so, a shadow might make us think of what we do, why we do it, how we do it. Pipe-dreamers all!

It made me ponder what art project I might offer these once-united-states. What might make us think? What could transform our consciousness so that we might occupy a single story, join together in a bigger identity?

I believe that all the many forces at play that ail us can be boiled down into a single word. ALL. We wrote this word in our documents of inception. “All men are created equal.” We have, since the beginning, wrestled with this word, ALL. Who does it include? Who does it exclude? BLM is the latest challenge to the word ALL.

The men that wrote the word ALL into our documents of inception meant white-land-holding-males. They believed that they were chosen, that their destiny was manifest, granted by god. By definition, when you believe yourself to be chosen, the word ALL becomes complex at best. It only applies with caveats.

Does ALL apply equally to women? What about black Americans? LGBTQ people? What about new immigrants? What about people who worship Allah? Or Shiva?

My art project would be the ALL project. I’m not sure what shadow might be burned or face might be photographed – what might be the art of the ALL project. I know that it would be intended to transform consciousness – to confront the forces of ugly exclusion. It would be meant to open doors not only of acceptance, but of belonging.

read Kerri’s blog post about PEACE SHADOW

Listen To The Crows [on DR Thursday]

“Sculpture,” they said. “We think you need to do some sculpture.” They were pushing me to get out of my painter-comfort-zone. It was our agreement as an artist collective: help each other grow. Our group shows were driven by a clear intention. Challenge the art-wheels to exit the art-rut.

All of my life I’ve had a special relationship with birds. Owls show up at auspicious moments. Hawks visit when I need to step back and take the long view. The surprise turkey on our roof, harbinger of good things to come. At the time of my sculpture challenge, I was, each and every day, assaulted by crows.

I read that crows have facial recognition so I told myself the daily assault was a case of mistaken identity. I’d never done harm to a crow. Yet, everyday during my walk, I was dive-bombed. Once, a crow was so relentless that I took refuge in a coffeehouse.

The worst was the day, lost in thought as I approached the door to my studio, at the last moment, I saw a baby crow perched on the door step. I heard them before I saw them. An entire murder of crows came to the baby’s defense. I leapt over the baby and into the studio. They pounded the door and pecked at the windows. They circled my studio for hours. Angry cawing. It was a scene straight out of Alfred Hitchcock.

Crows seemed like the obvious subject matter for my first stab at sculpture.

I decided to use found objects: wood, wire hangers, newspaper, string, a plastic clamp. India ink and glue.

Creating my sculptures became something of a meditation. As I bent the wire and glued the paper it occurred to me that perhaps the crows weren’t confusing me with someone else. Perhaps their attacks were meant for me. Perhaps I needed to listen. In some traditions, crows are the keeper of sacred law. They are heralds of consciousness change, shape-shifting. They thump you on the head when you need to wake up, when you are not living in alignment with your best interests. That was certainly true of me at the time. The crows were literally hitting me on the head.

I loved making my sculptures. I love what they brought me to understand. My artist-friends were more right than they knew; I needed to do some sculpture. I needed to exit my rut and step into a scary void and, in that way, invite new seeing, new forms, and finally, a new way of being.

read Kerri’s blog post about CROW

crow ©️ 2010 david robinson

Leave The Studio [on DR Thursday]

Kerri calls this snippet REACH

One day at the farmer’s market we saw a little girl chasing an enormous soap bubble. She was gleeful, squealing with delight. Looking at the faces of the adults watching the little girl, it was clear that they wished they were also racing across the grass, gleefully chasing bubbles. It was clear that they yearned to feel that carefree. In some distant place, they remembered.

These days I occasionally sit in my studio but I do not touch my brushes. There is a canvas on the easel. It’s good and worn and chunky just as I like them. It is waiting. I am waiting.

I believe, as Tom McK. taught me, that “a writer writes and a painter paints.” There is no magic to it. Well, that’s a lie. There’s plenty of magic when the painting begins, when the artist disappears. But first, the paint has to hit the canvas. Before disappearing the artist has to show up.

Yesterday, Skip sent me this lovely reminder. It’s from a tweet:

“I believe it was John Cage who once told me, ‘When you start working, everybody is in your studio – the past, your friends, your enemies, the art world, and above all, you own ideas – all are there. But as you continue painting, they start leaving, one-by-one, and you are left completely alone. Then, if you are lucky, even you leave.'”

That little girl chasing bubbles, her glee, is what happens when “even you leave.” All of the ideas of who you are or what you need to do or achieve, the expectations, the burdens and worries, the pandemic, the politics, the notions of success and failure, all leave the room. That’s when the bubble chasing begins. That’s when there is ample space for glee and delight.

Kerri chose this morsel for today and I’m so glad she did. “I want to do another version of this painting,” I said. That little girl, so long ago chasing an enormous soap bubble at a farmer’s market, is calling me back to my easel, she’s pointing to the studio door and asking me to leave.

Chasing Bubbles, mixed media, 33.25 x 48IN

read Kerri’s blog post about REACH

reach/chasing bubbles ©️ 2019 david robinson

Value The Cake [on Two Artists Tuesday]

available copy

When you choose an artist’s path the odds are you will always be looking for work. In the United States it is the rare artist that makes their living through their artistry. Staying afloat requires a layer-cake-strategy: the bottom layer is the job you take to make money (waiting tables). The second layer is the job you take that somehow relates or comes close to the artistry (teaching). The top layer, the holy grail layer, is the art itself. Few artists resent or resist this reality. They are called to it. It’s more a question of who they are than what they choose to do. It’s also true that few artists survive the hardship beyond the age of 30.

In my life I have dug ditches, cleaned chicken coups, delivered bread, unloaded mattresses from semis, waited tables and been licensed as a massage therapist (to name only a few). I’ve been credentialed twice, been an adjunct professor a few times, founded an experiential learning program, been a general manager and managing director of theatre companies, and an artistic director twice. I’ve had a consulting practice, an international coaching practice, run around in the world of entrepreneurs, drawn cartoons and children’s books. I’ve painted all my life. I’ve directed plays and written plays. I have seven book outlines in my files, none of which will make it to a final form. I’ve performed with symphonies, written and told stories at conferences. At this point, I have a very hard time answering the dinner party question, “So, what do you do?”

What do I do? My friends in Seattle used to tell me that I was the most successful unsuccessful person that they knew. Yes. I am an artist.

If I answer the dinner-party-question with the truth, I am an artist, the inevitable follow-up question,”Do you make a living doing that?” used to make me cringe and feel as though I needed to hide or make excuses for my life. Or lie. “Well, I have this layer cake…” Last year my dear friend, Dwight, popped back into my life for an evening. He asked the question and I started the old tap-dance. I thought if I talked long enough I might find credibility in the eyes of my friend. And, then I remembered that the life lesson is not to find credibility in my friend’s eye, but in my own. I stopped the dance and said, “I don’t know what I’m doing.” We laughed.

I do know this: I am an artist. I chose this path and it chose me. Sometimes I make money through my work. Mostly I do not. I’ve tried putting that piece of myself on the shelf in the closet and I failed. I can’t do it. Artistry, for me, is about much more than making paintings or plays. It is not something I do. It is something I am. It’s a path, a way of fully living this life.

I am in the job hunt cycle again. Writing resumes feels akin to answering the dinner-party-question. How can I make you see that I have value when the only value you recognize is monetary? I can’t. How can I make potential employers see value in my rich diverse set of experiences and, therefore, skills, when the bot weeds me out because I am not singular? I can’t. What the HR-world sees as unfocused is, in actuality, a hyper focus. How can I make the HR-world see the rich value of an artist when they only understand the word as an ego-uplift-phrase for hard working sandwich makers? I can’t.

I just read this question: what are the limits you have set for your life? Many years ago I worked with a man. He owned a tent and party supply business. He worked very, very hard. He drank too much. He bought the business on the day he forever stopped playing his trumpet for a living. I asked if he ever missed playing. He looked away and said, “I can’t think about it.”

I think about it everyday. And, luckily for me, I know beyond doubt that my artistry is central, essential. It is who I am, not what I do. It is not a word I’d pair with “sandwich.” It is what calls me beyond limits. It serves as a constant threshold. It stirs me, challenges me, causes me to listen deeply and feel keenly. It requires me to take chances. It asks me to open my eyes and see beyond what I think. Is there value in that?

 

read Kerri’s blog post about ARTISTS (sandwich and otherwise)

 

donnieandmarie uke website box copy

 

 

 

Stack It High [on KS Friday]

a shred of hope copy

It’s day 4 of the salmonella blues. We think the offender was the green onion in the tabouli. We made a big batch on Sunday and it was delicious. And then it wasn’t. If it was possible for our world to get even smaller, more constrained, we found the way.

If we wanted to, we would stack the tales of woe one upon the other: pandemic, broken wrists, lost jobs, and today, the top of the woe-stack would be bad onions. We simply do not want to focus on that particular stack. So, instead, we stack our tales of gratitude: we are safe in our home, we have ridiculous amounts of love for our crazy dog and oversized cat, we are healthy (mostly), we have each other, we have incredible family and friends. We live our art. In fact, during the moments we feel sorry for ourselves, all we need do is slide the stacks together for side-by-side comparison. The gratitude stack is a mighty mountain next to the wimpy stack of woe.

This morning, when we felt that we could sit upright, we went into Kerri’s studio. She brought a word to mind and began playing, improvising. My job, as always, was to hit the record-button and stand still. What she played lifted me. I couldn’t help but look out the window, the sun sparkled in the leaves of the tree out front. I was overwhelmed by the feeling that everything was going to be alright. No matter what.

I told her about my feeling and she said, “Oh, that’s good! The word I chose to play was ‘hope.'”

What’s atop the gratitude-stack today? A little shred of hope.

 

Kerri’s albums are available on iTunes

 

read Kerri’s blog post about A SHRED OF HOPE

Kerri lingers in Facebook limbo. Everyday I ask with increasing mock-suspicion, “What exactly did you do?” Her indignation resurrects her almost-lost Long Island accent, “Idintdoanything!” she huffs. So, if you desire that I might live another day, consider subscribing to her blog. It will keep me out of trouble and for that I will chuck you on top of the stack of gratitude. The view is excellent up there so give it some thought.

 

 

close-up Arches with website box copy

 

 

a shred of hope ©️ 2020 kerri sherwood

a day at the beach ©️ 2017 david robinson

 

 

 

Touch The Invisible [on DR Thursday]

KDOT sketch copy

a close up of One Chord Ahead (a work in progress)

I started my artist life by drawing people. I was never really interested in landscapes or still life drawing. I was interested in the eyes. As a boy I copied photographs from National Geographic magazine and repeatedly sketched The Colonel from the side of the bucket of chicken.

I understood early on that the surface image was not what I was after, I was on the hunt for what was “beneath.” My dedication to the invisible made me a not-very-good portrait painter though I managed to do more than my share. They were technical exercises and for a while served a purpose.

It’s been over a century since the development of the photograph relieved artists from the necessity of capturing the visible. Optics to Impressionism to Expressionism to all the Neo-phases to pulling it into Cubes and Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism to just plain abstraction and conceptual-what-the-heck-does-it-mean-ism?

It’s an odd admission for a visual artist to declare a dedication to the invisible. Ellsworth Kelly caught the invisible in his Austin. John Singer Sargent captured it in his Lady Agnew. You know when an artist reaches the invisible when the painting/architecture stops you in your tracks. They make you catch your breath. More than once in my life I’ve stood in front of paintings and cried. The artist reached through the veil and touched the “beneath.” Picasso regularly kills me. I’ve spent hours staring at Richard Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park series.

At this late date I know that I will not shake the halls of history with my paintings, I am innovating nothing and now working for no other reason than I have to. I need to. There is no other reason. There is no better reason.

A few weeks ago Kerri was leading a rehearsal through Zoom. I caught my breath watching her and thought it might be time to attempt another portrait. Fun. Nothing formal.

Sometimes the circle comes around to shake a complacency or reconnect to the root. I feel as if I’m waking up some long-still muscle memory. I had to do a few drafts to remember how not-to-control. I’m learning in this latest iteration of One Chord Ahead that I’m more and more interested in reducing all things to a simplicity, to use the fewest lines to say the most. It’s the imperative of the pursuit of what’s beneath. A lesson, I recognize, that I learn again and again and again…

 

read Kerri’s blog post about ONE CHORD AHEAD

Kerri remains in Facebook lock up. When you click over to read her post please consider subscribing to her blog.

 

their palettes website box copy

 

columbus

columbus (my dad), circa 1995 or 1996

www.davidrobinsoncreative.com

one chord ahead (work in progress) ©️ 2020 david robinson

Close The Distance [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

you hate me framed copy

“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” ~ Rumi

John O’Donohue wrote that spirituality has to do with the transfiguration of distance. “At the heart of spirituality is the awakening of real presence.”  Here. Now. His message is about our busy minds that incessantly create separation. Busy minds create obstacles and keep us seeking. If we are lucky, as the old cliche’s goes, after the long search we learn that we had “it” all along.  Separation is the creation of distance. Presence is the elimination of distance. Love is the absence of distance.

The transfiguration of distance is the power and purpose of art.

On our walk through downtown we saw this message stenciled on a wall: You hate me. There is no greater distance-creating word than “hate.”  You. Me. Hate is the creation of distance between us.

One of the Hermitic Laws is the Principle of Correspondence: As above, so below; as below, so above. As within, so without; as without, so within. Applying the principle, if hate is the word you place between you and me then it is likely that hate is the word you place between you and you. It is nigh-on impossible to hate me without first hating yourself.

Doug used to tell me that health was determined by the distance between who say you are and how you actually live; the shorter the distance the healthier the person.  As without, so within. Applying Doug’s rule, our nation has been distinctly unhealthy for a very long time. We are currently witness to the illness (once again) breaking through the skin. Any physician worth their salt would tell us we have an acute distance problem and health will come when, as a nation, we close the gap and live what we espouse.

I am reminded of an exercise I used to facilitate. Step one: Walk about the space and point at the others in the group and say, “NOT LIKE ME.” Step two: Walk about the space and point at others in the group and say, “LIKE ME.” Step three: Walk about the space and point at others in the group and say, “ME.” Step one is a rejection. Step two becomes an appeal. Step three is a recognition. Step three always brought whispers and a profound shedding of distance.

Rejection. Appeal. Recognition. What is the distance between you and you? What is the distance between you and me?

“From a distance you only see my light; as I get closer and you see that I am you.” ~ Rumi

 

read Kerri’s blog post about YOU HATE ME.

 

 

luminaria website box copy

 

 

 

prayer of opposites ©️ 2003 david robinson

 

 

Divine It [on Two Artists Tuesday]

loves me loves me not copy

[warning: Kerri just said this post is ‘heavy’ so enter at your own risk]

And, who hasn’t pulled the petals off a daisy in an attempt to divine the love of another? Loves me, loves me not, loves me… Perhaps a silly childhood practice but, truth be told, I’ve yet to meet a person who doesn’t secretly, unconsciously, or otherwise, put their right shoe on first for good luck, throw the I Ching, look to the stars, whisper a prayer for guidance, follow their intuition, avoid stepping on the crack, read the Tarot, plumb the sacred numbers, sit in the forest and listen for the ancestor to whisper.

I read an article yesterday that frightened me. Sometimes the statement of the obvious is more frightening than the monster peering from within the closet. The use of the behavioral sciences “to determine the news we read, the products we buy, the cultural and intellectual spheres we inhabit, and the human networks, online and in real life, of which we are a part.” Invisible Manipulators Of Your Mind. Techniques that appeal to “… our non-rational motivations, our emotional triggers, and unconscious biases.”

Techniques. A cold word. Manipulation. Perhaps manipulation is the central action and natural endpoint of capitalism. The reduction of the meaning-of-life to something that can be bought and sold. The church we construct and inhabit is built upon a hard sale and requires a made-up-reality to realize its fulfillment. The ritual of the market, the ringing of the bell, calls the worshipers to trade. We watch the numbers in an attempt to divine a fast moving future.

There is a tug-of-war happening now as the information age eats itself. “The pressures to exploit irrationalities rather than eliminate them are great and the chaos caused by the competition to exploit them is perhaps already too intractable for us to rein them in.”

Can you feel the chaos? Are your relationships fracturing along lines defined by red and  blue? What forces are determining your belief about the pandemic? The science is simple enough for a child to understand; the seeds of doubt, the ubiquitous exploitation of emotional triggers and unconscious bias makes us a behavioral sciences petri dish. It seems our division is not accidental, our tribes are rigged, our information is bubble-wrapped and packaged. Our division is also, we are told, increasingly irreparable.

Exploit irrationalities? Scary! Eliminate them? Scary, too! Why must we either exploit or eliminate our irrationalities? Think about it. The war on our irrationality might be a sign of our real root rot, our actual dis-ease.

The pursuit of pure reason. Cut yourself in half and toss the dream-side in the bin? Creatures who fight multiple world wars, build economies on weapons sales, send their kids to school during a raging pandemic, soil their nests with plastic, cut down their rain forests (lungs of the earth) for more grazing land, exploit each other…are not following the signs on the path to pure reason. Exploitation of others is not a characteristic of reason, pure or otherwise.

Creatures that make art and prize beauty are not purely reasonable.

Rationality is not the goal. It’s a sick tease to promise the elimination of fear and mystery. It’s hubris to desire to transcend nature, to promise dominance over creation. No one really wants to be Mr. Spock. Staring into the Milky Way with wonderment, standing with your back to a warm brick wall while facing the sun on a cold winter day is gloriously human. Sensual. Not rational. Mystical and mysterious. The dark side of the moon is as necessary as the light.

Sensuality is as necessary as rationality. Why strive to build a gate with a single post?Why close the gate on the middle way? Maybe the word we need to strive to achieve is “sense.” Common sense. Shared sense. It may lead to common good, shared responsibility and other wild ideals built on bedrocks of trust rather than sandy deceit.

There’s nothing rational about generosity or kindness. They are, however, specifically human and vitally irrational, made even more plentiful when not exploited for small change.

Loves me. Loves me not.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about LOVES ME

Kerri remains in the FACEBOOK penalty box for unspecified crimes against e-humanity. If you enjoy reading her musings, please consider subscribing to her blog. It will keep you (and her) out of the daily trawl of horrors.

 

 

handshadowstones website box copy

 

 

 

icarus ©️ 2004 david robinson