Make Art So.

at one time even this was considered a new technology

at one time even this was considered new technology. numbers, too!

Chet said, “But where’s the human in all of it?” His question took me by surprise. It is a question that often puzzles me. I was telling him about my recent inner earthquake, the moment that the train of technology jumped the tracks and collided with my art engine. Both exploded.

For weeks I’d been looking forward to a full day of exploration at the Chicago Art Expo. Hundreds of contemporary galleries from around the world assembled in one place, each showing their premiere work. As an artist these events have always fed my soul. This time, with the exception of a few older masters (a Chagall, a Picasso), a Hockney that made me smile, and few pieces from The San Francisco Figurative painters, I was unmoved. Worse, I was uninterested. As I wandered through the exhibits I listened to curators over and over again working hard to give context to the art. The viewers had no immediate access to it. They (like me) needed an explanation to access its relevance. I felt as if I was watching art-priests interpreting god for parishioners who had no expectation of direct access to the divine. The art needed a middleman. It required an explanation.

Just before going to the Expo, Skip shared a link with me. It was a video of animator Glen Keane drawing in virtual space. He was literally drawing from within the image. It took my breath away. Glen Keane called the technology a new tool but, like many new tools – so many new technologies, this one has the capacity to change our relationship with life and, therefore, with art because it could change our relationship with time and space. At one point in time, electric light was a new technology. The automobile, the airplane, the telephone, the camera and the phonograph were once new technologies. Each changed our relationship with sound, light, distance, the planet…each other. They changed how we see and experience possibilities. And, at the time of their invention, the community, at first, did not understand the power being introduced into their lives. They, like we, were stepping into the future with their eyes in the rearview mirror. What we know as art changed with the introduction of each of these technologies.

I couldn’t help but see the work at the Expo through the lens of this most contemporary tool. My eyes, for a moment, were wrenched from the rearview mirror and forced to look straight ahead through the windshield. Relative to the tool, the work at the Expo seemed abstract to the point of inaccessibility. It felt academic and I felt distant from it (lots of head, little heart). The tool although incomprehensible, was exhilarating, approachable, and inspiring. It made me want to play. It made me want to create. With this tool, Jackson Pollock would have danced and splashed in 3-D space. Picasso would have explored Cubism from within the cube. And, with this tool, I could see them doing it; I could sit in the same space and get paint on my face. In the video, Glen Keane says, “When an artist makes a line, it is a seismograph to their soul.” This tool, this technology, is a 4 dimensional seismograph.

Eve Ensler wrote, “Art has the power to explode the heart and open up other energetic capacities to re-perceive it. It defies boundaries and leaps tall buildings. It transports, it translates, it transcends. Transcendence is so important right now because our lives are so mechanized, controlled, and commodified; art has the capacity to open our souls and could be our revolutionary, evolutionary salvation.”

Yes. And, yes again. I can draw in the dirt with a stick. I can draw in virtual space. The verb remains the same. The access to others – the reach of the art – changes.

To Chet I wanted to say that humans create technology. And, in turn, technology informs humans and, therefore, art. Our very short attention spans are the result of our relationship with technology –  800 word blog posts are now too long, and 140 character tweets are desirable. Much of the Expo was digital photography or digitally altered images. It was mental and cold and abstract – certainly expressions of our time – expediency allows for little depth of experience. The technology did not make it cold; the way it is wielded by human beings makes it so.

Focus On The Important Stuff

an offer from TwoArtistMakingStuffForHumans

an offer from TwoArtistMakingStuffForHumans

A note from the temporary site of TwoArtistsMakingStuffForHumans:

The waxing moon was muted with fog. It made the air shimmer. Avalon was near. Although it seemed too soon, there was a hint of autumn in the air. We sat next to a chiminea talking to friends. Monica told us of her daughter working in villages in South America. She told Monica that, by our standards, the people there have nothing. They are possession poor. But, they were happy, genuinely happy. They didn’t have much money or stuff but they had the essential thing that many of us lack: peace of mind. They focus on different, more important stuff.

It brought to mind my experiences in Bali. When I arrived all I could see was the poverty. By the time I left several weeks later, I’d have given everything I own or will ever own to have what they have: presence. Ease of mind. They weren’t looking for fulfillment, status, or living for retirement. They were living. Life was fulfillment. In a world where all things are sacred, status is gained by the quality of your giving and not by the size of your piece of the limited pie. It is a different focus.

There is a hidden cost to what dominates our focus, the things that take our attention…as opposed to the things we pay attention to.

As artists, both Kerri and I believe the work of our lives has been, one way or another, to help people focus on the important stuff, to see the extraordinary in the ordinary moment, to find inside what people seek outside. We’ve both worked across the boundaries of business, art, and the fine art of living everyday, there is no lack of necessity to refocus the eye, mind, and heart.

In a few weeks we will be launching our business (details to follow). All the many aspects of our work – if you can call art a product and performing a service – are intended to support, exercise and pay forward a focus on the important stuff, the important moments…sometimes the teeniest things that in the chaos pass unnoticed.

We want to do for others what we do for each other. Check out our pre-launch coaching offer. Take us up on it! Or, if you know someone who might benefit from working with us, pass it on, pay it forward.

There Is Wisdom In Dancing

TODAY’S FEATURED THOUGHT FOR HUMANS

There is wisdom in dancing

To restate an old notion: knowledge is not wisdom. And, often times, our reliance on knowledge blinds us to wisdom (for instance, passing a test has little or nothing to do with learning). My mentors taught me that the toughest thing in life to master is relationship. The reason: relationship is at the heart of everything we do whether we acknowledge it or not. Life IS a relationship. Education, business, art, spirituality, leadership, management, self love, economics, agriculture, kindness, gratitude… are all relationship skills. Wisdom is found in the fields beyond your thinking. Get onto the floor of life and dance.

TO GET TODAY’S FEATURED THOUGHT FOR HUMANS, GO HERE.

Open Your Eyes

a detail from the painting on the chopping block. It's called "The Stillness Must Be Immense."

a detail from the painting on the chopping block. It’s called “The Stillness Must Be Immense.”

There is a debate raging in my house. Yesterday I was about to wipe a painting off my canvas and begin anew when Kerri intervened. “I love it!” she declared. “I hate it,” I replied. “Truly,” she said, “I love it.” When I wrinkled my brow she restated, “I love it.”

Many years ago I was stepping toward a canvas to wipe it clean. The painting wasn’t working for me and I’d given up. I wanted to start anew. My landlady, Kathleen, came into the studio at just that moment and hurled herself in front of the canvas. “You can’t erase it!” she declared! “This is one of my favorites!” She had the look of a desperate woman begging for the life of her child. I relented. I couldn’t wipe it clean. She confessed to coming into the studio the previous evening and admiring the painting. “I spent a long time with it!” I made a deal with her. I promised to show the painting – to include it in one show – and let the public decide. If it was roundly reviled, as I KNEW it would be (as I was actively roundly reviling it), I’d paint over it without drama or interference. If it was appreciated by anyone, by a single person, Kathleen could say, “I told you so,” and I’d never paint over it.

the painting Kathleen saved

the painting Kathleen saved.

A few months later I hung the painting in my solo show at Rock/Dement studio gallery in

Seattle. At the opening a woman came into the gallery, stood before the painting, and burst into tears. She looked at me with tears rolling down her face and said, “I love it.” Kathleen waited a few days before allowing words to break through her smug smile, “Well,” she sighed, “I told you so.”

That painting is the reason I made the same deal with Kerri yesterday. I will let it remain long enough to show one time. If it is roundly reviled and ignored, then I will paint over the canvas without protest. If a single person likes it or expresses appreciation for it, she can bury me in a mountain of, “I told you so,” and the painting will live on long after I’m gone.

The Stillness Must Be Immense.

The Stillness Must Be Immense.

This morning I posted an image, a print that reads, “CROSS THE BOUNDARY OF ELEMENTS.” In the short blurb associated with the image I wrote that sometimes we have to stand in other people’s shoes. We have to see what they see. I am an artist and am convinced that artistry is all about opening new visions for others. It is about helping people see what is there, not what they think is there – and I’m certain that I fall into a thought eddy while painting. It is, perhaps impossible for me to see what others see in my paintings. What I judge to be worthless has often proven to be magnetic to others. And so, I am willing to make this bet, I delight in the moments when my understanding of life turns back on me, flings itself in front of me and screams, “Open your eyes!”

another detail of the painting.

another detail of the painting.

Step Into The Unknown

Step Into Unknown with Sig

FOR TODAY’S FEATURED PRINT FOR HUMANS, GO HERE…

Open The Box

JIm Marsh of the band, Mom's Chili Boys, tuning up for rehearsal.

JIm Marsh of the band, Mom’s Chili Boys, tuning up for rehearsal.

It is often the simplest of actions that rock the world. I had one of those moments yesterday. It was a threshold moment. Its power took me by surprise. It changed me and all I did was open a box.

We flew to California to work on a play. I’ve worked on dozens of plays and performance pieces in my life but this one is special because it’s not an abstraction. It’s not a made-up story. I’ve lived it and lived with it for nearly a decade. The event, the catalyst of the play was the discovery of a box, a time capsule plastered into the walls of a ranch house over 130 years ago. Tom found the box. It held the possessions of an ancestor, a small boy who died in 1885. The boy’s mother, Isabelle, put his clothes and toys in a small trunk, wrote notes, some brief anecdotes about the boy, and then hid the box in the walls of the house.

Nearly ten years ago, we began creating the play when, late one night during a visit to the ranch, Tom asked me to help him. He asked, “What am I supposed to do with this box?” At first, much of the body of the play amounted to organized transcription. During each visit I recorded hours of conversation with Tom, hours of late night storytelling, and then flew home and transcribed the recordings. I wanted to catch the cadence of Tom’s vocal patterns. I wanted to catch the rhythms of his extraordinary voice and gift of storytelling. The play was his to perform; my work was simply to craft it, to draw a clear story-path for him to follow. The play, a one-man show, was ready for production when Tom’s health failed. He died a year ago.

During Tom’s decline I rewrote the play so that I might narrate the story and added another character to the piece. The Chili Boys had a battery of new music for the play so we gathered in Stockton to integrate the new music with the new text.

When we arrived in California, we visited Tom’s widow, Marcia. She gave us the trunk so we might photograph the clothes, toys, and notes. I’d seen the artifacts many, many times. Tom and I wiled away many nights unpacking the box and reading the notes, talking about his family stories. When our rehearsals were finished, sitting with Kerri and Jim moments before driving back to the airport for our return flight, we decided to open the trunk. Kerri had never seen the artifacts. As I lifted the lid, as I opened the trunk, I realized it was the first time; Tom had always opened the box. Tom had always reached inside, removed the shoes, the tattered coat, the hobby horse, the diary that contained the tracking notes of a fever that killed the boy. This boy was not fiction. Tom would say, “Look at this. Look at what she wrote on this.”

I opened the lid, for the first time, reaching inside, pulling out the shoes, the jumping jack, saying, “Do you see this? Someone must have made it for Johnny. And here, this is the notebook that Isabelle kept of Johnny’s fever. Look at what she wrote.”

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Surprise A Frog

Trust me when I tell you that there is no way for a fully mature frog to take up residence so soon in the pond. We dug the pond at the end of June. While we were away in August a merry prankster poured soap into the pond. Suds clogged the bubbler and mucked the filter so the water was rancid by the time we returned. The soap killed everything. A week ago we drained the pond, scrubbed the liner, removed and tossed in the garbage all of the plants, and cleansed the rocks that define the border. And then we refilled it with fresh water.

Two days ago while I was scooping the leaves from the water, a frog darted across the pond, stepped on to the rocks on the far side and stared at me. I stared back. I’m sure the frog was asking the same question that I was asking, “Where did you come from?” After a lengthy stare down the frog decided that I was benign and slipped back into the water. It had an easier job solving the mystery of my sudden appearance than I had solving the mystery of its arrival. I continued scooping leaves and puzzled the mystery.

I imagined that this was the luckiest frog on the planet. Perhaps it was plucked from another pond by a very hungry hawk and, being slippery, dropped from the sky and fell into our pond. Of course, we live 3 blocks from Lake Michigan (quite a large pond) and it may have hopped the distance, evaded cars, cats, neighborhood children, and just happened upon our backyard body of water. Though, I doubt it. I suppose the merry prankster that dumped the soap might have slipped in the backyard late one night and deposited the frog. I doubt that, too.

A few weeks ago we had a surprise visit by a bat. Bats symbolize rebirth, emergence from the dark into a new way of being. My reading tells me that Frog teaches how to jump with courage into a new endeavor and fully accept the new way of life that comes with it. It is a shamanic symbol, jumping from one level of being to another. In addition, replenishment, nurturing of self, and cleansing of old ways are associated with frog. I couldn’t have a more timely frog visitor!

The two symbols together, bat and frog, are potent affirmations of the path just behind me and powerful harbingers of all the good things to come. Maybe I do not need to solve the mystery of the frog and simply accept the message and the messenger. Maybe I simply need to listen. When confronted with a mystery the Balinese never ask, “Why?” or “How?” – they simply accept that this universe is filled with great magic and mystery and are grateful to participate in the conversation.

[911. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.]

For a humorous look at the wonderful world of innovation and new ventures, check out my new comic strip Fl!p and the gang at Fl!p Comics.