Choose Your Ladder [on Two Artists Tuesday]

ladders copy

Climbing the ladder to success has never been a useful metaphor for me. When ladder climbing, the trajectory is up. What is up there that is not already right here? Climbing up in this dog-eat-dog paradigm implies climbing over others. It certainly implies that there is a top rung with room enough for one. Limited pie. Get yours. After all, being your brother’s/sister’s keeper is a nice sentiment on Sunday but not really useful in the real world of ladder climbing.

Top rung. Ultimate achievement. Arrival. These are words of stasis. I’ve never understood why the elimination of dynamic movement would be appealing. Vitality is movement, not the absence of movement. Life is made rich by experience, surprise, curiosity, exploration, steps into the unknown. To climb the rungs to controlled living seems antithetical to the point, at least to me. A body in stasis is in poor health, indeed. A life in stasis is in poor spirit, without exception.

It is often the role of the artist to challenge the norm and the challenge is generally nothing new, rather, it is a simple perspective spin. For instance, a ladder is good for fixing things, for reaching. It is good ladder behavior to have someone spotting the climber. If someone is stuck at the top it is good practice to help them down. Fire departments use ladders to save people. Ladders to help. Ladders to serve. Ladders as a tool to reach. Ladders can be used to bridge a crevasse, to get folks to the other side.

A more useful (and realistic) ladder metaphor: reach, serve, help, bridge, save. I suppose, more to the point, success is all about the ladder you choose. As for me, standing atop a ladder on a rung built for one seems like a lousy definition of success. I’d rather be on the ground with the people who care enough to spot me. I’d rather use my ladder to help my friends and community reach the unreachable. That seems like a more worthy definition of success.

read Kerri’s blog post about LADDERS

 

neighborhood cheers website box copy

 

 

Give Over [on DR Thursday]

#8 Held In Grace -Surrender Now copy 2

It’s called Surrender Now.

I chose it for this week’s Melange because, from this vantage point, surrender seems the only path forward. Giving over rather than giving in. Nonresistance to the forces fighting all around us.

Nonresistance is a scary word. In modern parlance is presupposes tyranny. Unjust authority run amok. It is a path of exposing suppression en route to peace. Ghandi and Martin Luther King.

The surrender in the painting, the surrender of which I write, is a much more personal variety. It is the surrender of aging. It is the surrender of pushing for outcomes and achievements, the release of long-held loss and disappointment. Giving up old stories. giving over to unknown paths and definitions.

Surrender the push-away of life as it comes. Rather, embrace the day with all its surprises. Held in grace. Surrender now.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about SURRENDER NOW

 

 

SurrenderNow framed copy

arches shadows k&d website box copy

 

held in grace: surrender now ©️ 2016 david robinson

See The Shore [on Two Artist Tuesday]

eagle copy.PNG

There is an eagle family in the neighborhood. The parents fly by daily. The young eagle, sporting its mottled feathers, visits less often.

DogDog and I went out to investigate the yard after the intense series of storms. We walked the perimeter, he sniffed the ground, I breathed in the fresh air. The storm altered the shape of our little mini beach. The carcass of an enormous fish rolled in the waves against the shore. DogDog, ever brave, was repeatedly startled by the breaking waves, jumping back, leaning forward, filling me with mirth.

Returning to the house, Kerri hush-shouted, “The Eagle!” It was the fledgling. It had found the fish. Quietly, Kerri slipped from the house with her camera and ninja-ed her way toward the shore. Just as she prepared to snap, the eagle flew.

Krishnamurti wrote that to be religious is to be sensitive to reality. DogDog and I sat at the window and watched Kerri watch the eagle as it soared against the angry sky. In that moment, there was nothing more real. DogDog, the turbulent water, the irate clouds, Kerri exhilarated, the fish rolling again and again against the shore.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THE EAGLE

 

shadow des plaines river trailwebsite box copy

Smell The Flowers [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

ferdinand copy

Ferdinand is the story of a bull who would rather smell flowers than fight. In a moment of bad timing, Ferdinand sits on a bee and is mistaken for the most ferocious bull in his cadre. He is hauled off to be the main event at the bull fights, a high honor for most bulls! Needless to say, he disappoints. Through a mighty wave of provocation, matadors taunting and goading crowds, Ferdinand refuses to fight. He sits center ring and smells the roses. His dedication to peace is a disappointment to all. He is hauled back to his pasture where he lives out his days enjoying the flowers.

The book became a best seller when it was first published in the mid 1930’s. The world was busy readying itself for yet another world war. In the second year of it’s publication, 1938, Ferdinand was the best selling book in the United States.

A mixed metaphor. A big bull with a gentle heart. The greatest power in the arena impervious to the ugly taunts and goading. Ferdinand, you might say, didn’t take it personally.

As luck would have it this week, we enjoyed a children’s concert telling of Ferdinand and a few days later we saw a one-man show, a Winston Churchill impersonator. We left both events with the same impression: if history repeats itself then we are certainly cycling through the late 1930’s. The world seems dedicated to tweeting itself into greater and greater conflict. The arena is alive with screaming and taunting, accusations and blame. Wouldn’t it be refreshing if, into this blood-lust, a bull would enter, sit center stage, and smell the roses?

 

read Kerri’s blog post about FERDINAND

 

doggadeck website box copy

Turn It Around [on Merely A Thought Monday]

narcissistic world copy

There are moments in your life when you suddenly realize that the world has changed. One of those moments for me happened many years ago in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC. My introduction to selfies. I watched with confusion as people waited in line to take a selfie with Van Gogh’s painting, Starry Night. Most of the selfie-takers didn’t actually look at the painting. The painting was secondary to the desire to be photographed with a famous thing. At first – this is a true story that seems ridiculous from a 2019 vantage point – I thought I was watching a piece of performance art, a brilliant statement of personal inflation and value reduction. Instead, my head spun as I realized I was, in fact, witnessing a museum full of people fundamentally missing the art in pursuit of a look-at-me-moment. It was my very own personal harbinger of the coming narcissistic tsunami.

Kerri showed me an article in the news. People wading into the waters of a toxic lake to take selfies. The water is aqua blue, made so by the industrial chemicals poured into the lake. Even though the lake water can burn skin, getting the selfie is more important. What impressed me most about the article was how dulled I was to it, how completely ordinary it seemed.

Culture is blind to itself. We live in the age of the Tide pod challenge, Facebook and Instagram streams, media echo chambers. Narcissism normalized and celebrated. Consumed by self. Image.

‘It is a strangely narcissistic world,” Kerri said, closing her news app. Yes. It is. Strange. And, it turns out that I was right all those years ago. It is a performance art piece with everyone producing and broadcasting their own image.  Image inflation. Value(s) reduction. Made up importance. And the art? Andy Warhol had it almost right. Everyone will be world-famous for fifteen minutes, one post at a time, but the world in which they celebrate their fame will be of their own creation.

 

 

read Kerri’s blog post about A NARCISSISTIC WORLD

 

hanginglake website box copy

guilty as charged! we, too, are expressions of our culture.

 

Hang It Up [on Two Artists Tuesday]

the clothesline copy

On island, we often hear phrases like, “throwback community” or “another, simpler time.” It’s a place with no stoplights. People leave their keys in their cars. Locked doors are a rarity. People wave when passing on the road.

It is not without its feuds and divisions. The conservative impulse meets the wheels of progress with creative tension, just like everywhere else in the world. Things change through a tug-of-war, albeit slower, perhaps at a more human pace.

We moved into our summer home and found that Deb told us the truth: the dryer doesn’t work well so it’d be better to put up a clothesline. We did.

I am no stranger to mindfulness meditations, I’ve read more books than I should have on presence, attention, and awareness. None of them are as useful or transformative as carrying a basket of freshly washed laundry out to the clothesline and pinning the clothes up. It cannot be done quickly. It must be done with care. The sun warms your back. The clothes smell fresh and the breeze is heavy with lavender and lilac.  The grass swooshes beneath your feet.

Efficiency and convenience can sometimes be great robbers of the moment, and too easily reinforce a life of getting-through-it or, at best, getting-on-to-the-next-thing.

After everything is hung up on the line it is nearly impossible not to turn around, breathe deeply, and take in the day.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THE CLOTHESLINE

 

schoolhouse beach website box copy

Feel The Joy [on DR Thursday]

Joy copy 2

joy, mixed media, 50 x 56IN

The 4th of July is DogDog’s birthday. Today he is six years old. He is generally nonchalant about his big day. No fireworks needed. No parade necessary. He was appreciative of the special rawhide bone. I suspect he’ll receive more than the usual amount of belly-bellies and a long walk is in order (his favorite thing in all the world). Mostly, he will hang out and love the world just as it is, just like any other day. He’s a happy spirit, a contented soul.

Six. That means he was two years old when I painted JOY. It’s a big painting. It is, in fact, the first painting Kerri named. It was a spontaneous naming, her initial response in seeing the finished painting. I was, at first puzzled by the name she chose. And then, I caught sight of two-year-old DogDog, relaxed in his pose. Quiet and fulfilled in his posture. Joy.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about JOY

shadow des plaines river trailwebsite box copy

joy ©️ 2014/15 david robinson