Face In [on KS Friday]

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“…gentleness can be a greater force for transfiguration than any political, economic, or media power,…” ~ John O’Donohue

Here is my utopian fantasy: The protesters put down their signs, the police put down their shields, the militia drops their weapons, the citizens of all races, creeds, colors, political identities and economic stripes come out of their houses and hold hands facing into a circle of their creation. Nothing need be said. What are we protesting FOR if not this?

We are excellent at pushing against what we do not want. We are practiced at screaming in rabid reactivity. Finger pointing and blame is among our most popular Facebook pass times.  We like to make noise and bluster about the violation of our rights and ignite fearmongering fires warning of imagined assaults on our amendments. Propaganda and lie make for good reality television ratings. They provide permission to smash glass, loot, denigrate “others” and give cover to murder in all its forms, but are lousy foundations for a civil and civilized society.

Truth is intentional, not reactive. It steps toward an ideal. It provides a national focal point, a guide-star that will not cotton with lie and propaganda.

We seem utterly inept, absolutely incapable at walking toward what we profess. Our ideal is printed on our dollar bills and chiseled into the facades of our buildings: e pluribus unum: out of many, one.  Our division is chiseled into our history.

My utopian fantasy is not so hard to realize but notice it requires a common first step: a putting down of weapon and rhetoric and dedicated division. The  second step is also not difficult: reach out, take the hand that is closest. Circle up with those who you most disagree. The third step may be the hardest: say nothing. Defend and justify nothing. Prove or claim nothing. Face in, not face off.  The greatest intentions, like the most profound truths, are often silent. Step four: live the circle.

We can figure it out. It’s no greater matter than walking toward what we want, what we espouse, instead of forever pushing against what we do not want. Perhaps our first truth is to admit that there is a lie built into what we chisel in walls and what we actually live. We need to intend oneness if we are to realize our central ideal.

Doc Rivers, a black man and coach of the LA Clippers said this yesterday: “It’s amazing why we keep loving this country, and this country does not love us back.” Love. Love back. There is no better or simpler statement of intention. Walk toward it.

He also famously said, “Average players want to be left alone. Good players want to be coached. Great players want to be told the truth.” His dictum applies to nations as well as players: great nations want to be told the truth. Average nations want to be left alone.

 

FIGURE IT OUT on the album RIGHT NOW is available on iTunes

 

read Kerri’s blog post about FIGURE IT OUT

 

hands website box copy

 

figure it out/right now ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood

 

 

 

Bring It [on DR Thursday]

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This painting, or snippets of this painting, has found its way into more Melange posts than any other. An Instrument of Peace. It’s a big canvas. It’s an even bigger meditation.

The words are a mish-mash of the Prayer of St. Francis which was not at all written by St. Francis. Its author is anonymous. The Franciscan Order notes that the prayer is too “me” focused to be something that Francis would have written. Let me bring love. Let me bring pardon. Let me bring union, truth, faith, hope, light, joy. Let me be an instrument of your peace. Let me bring.

It’s a prayer of intention. Let me not be reactive.

It’s an appeal that speaks directly to our current climate. Let me respond to fiery times and dedicated division from my better nature. Where there is discord, let me bring union.

Ideals and idealists are often written off as being so much pie-in-the-sky. Idealists, like Gandhi or Martin Luther King, understood that union is not an elimination of differing points of view. It is not utopian or singular. It is wildly diverse and collaborative. Compromise is a meeting ground of unlike minds in service to a common cause.

More than once I have walked into a room populated with dedicated diametrically opposed points of view. Wood cutters and tree huggers.  There is always common ground to be found. Trees are a vulnerable livelihood. Trees as vulnerable heritage.  The conversation begins in vulnerability. More than once I left a room populated with people who found a place to begin, a shared middle ground. The most amazing moment happens when everyone in the room realizes that the middle ground was always present, it was there all along. It becomes crystal clear in shared vulnerability.

It’s possible, regardless of dedicated belief, to bring the middle ground. Yes, bring it. Too often we shout across it so it remains invisible. Too often we plant our flags and defend our territory and justify our position before we check a fact; we listen through a lens of righteousness. Bringing middle ground requires nothing more than a desire to leave behind our dedicated reactivity, our stalwart indignation, and enter the conversation with an intention. Let me bring union. Let me be an instrument of peace. Peace is, after all, nothing more or nothing less than an intention.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about PEACE

 

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instrument of peace ©️ 2015 david robinson

Learn to Look [on KS Friday]

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“At the heart of beauty must be a huge care and affection for creation, for nowhere is beauty an accidental presence.” John O’Dononue, Beauty, The Invisible Embrace

I read yesterday in my Brain Pickings that Georgia O’Keeffe believed her close-up paintings were “a magnifying lens for paying attention.” I read and appreciated this phrase: Painting these close-ups was a way of learning to look, a way of removing the blinders with which we gallop through the world, slowing down, shedding our notions and concepts of things, and taking things in as they really are.

It is the astonishing miracle of a human being: we can choose to see or choose to not see. Also, we can choose what we see or we can choose to deny what is right in front of us. In any case, seeing is predicated on slowing down, on taking the time to “shed our notions and concepts of things.”

Seeing is an intentional act or perhaps it is a creation-in-the-moment – which implies it is an intentional relationship. In this way, as I understand it, seeing the beauty of this life is a decision, it is a lens. It is a dance.

I’ve never been in a hot-air balloon. Kerri had the experience once, it is the source of this composition. Hovering in a basket above the earth, moving with the wind, very few controls. It was, I imagine, an exercise of giving over, of letting go. I think seeing is like the experience she describes of hanging in the basket of a hot-air balloon. All concepts of hurry-up or getting-things-done drop away. Hard time dissolves. There is nowhere else to be. And, in that space, beauty makes known her presence. She opens your eyes.

 

PART OF THE WIND is on the album BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL

 

 

read Kerri’s blog post about PART OF THE WIND

 

 

HH coffee cups website box copy

 

 

part of the wind/blueprint for my soul ©️ 1996 kerri sherwood

  blanket of blue sky ©️ 2004 david robinson

Why Ask Why [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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A rare warm day, walking the Des Plains River trail. I should have been startled when Kerri suddenly jumped off the trail but I’ve grown accustomed to her spring-loaded-photo-impulsive-gambols. I actually love the passion of her image capturing so I’ve learned not to be surprised when she leaps and snaps. There is no danger. There is a photo opp.

“SEE!” she exclaimed, showing me the photo. “Even nature is asking ‘Why?'”

My first thought: Which “why” is nature asking? Why a pandemic?  Why so much division?

Simon Sinek has made a career of teaching people to ask “Why?” before asking “How?” It makes sense: you should probably know why you want to scale the mountain before asking, “How will I do it?” People need an answer to “why.” And, because we are human, the answer to “why” need not be reasonable or rational. “Because it is there,” is an acceptable answer to “why?” I want to. I need to know. I want to feel. I need to see what is there.

“How?” is a question that can only be answered after the fact. “How” is known through reflection. There is the plan. There is the reality that comes when the plan meets the unknown forces. The plan changes. The only honest answer to “how” is: do what makes sense and we’ll talk about it later.

Amidst a pandemic, it is only human to throw up our arms to the sky and demand an answer to our “Why?”  To borrow a lyric from Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds: “I don’t believe in an interventionist god. But I know, darling,  that you do.” In other words, viruses are intention-free. Sometimes, even though we want an explanation, there is no “why.”

There is, however, always a plan, there is a path to “How?”  How do we protect ourselves? How do we deal with it? In fact, there are layers to the question “how?” The first layer of ‘how’ is simple: social distance, wear a mask, wash your hands. Looking back from this vantage point, we know it is the best we can do short of a vaccine. Simple science.

The second layer of the how-cake is more complex and, like all ‘how’ questions, we will only be able to talk about at some point down the broken road. Maybe a vaccine. Maybe herd immunity. Maybe, maybe, maybe. Maybe we will be foolish, like the Philadelphia parade during the Spanish flu and escalate the death toll to the point that we wake up and listen to the first ‘how?’

The virus is a force like a tornado is a force. Why did it take my neighbor’s house and not mine? Why did the forest fire rage through this neighborhood and not that neighborhood?

Here’s the only “why” question we really need to consider: in the face of this virus-forest-fire, why did we rush out to light matches (pack into bars and onto beaches), parade around screaming about our individual rights instead of metaphorically rushing into the fire to save our neighbors in the only way we knew how (social distance, masks) –  as we would have done in an inferno?

I don’t believe in an interventionist god. But I do believe in intentional human beings (conscious and otherwise).

Nature need not ask “why?” We do. It’s a sure bet that our answer will make little or no sense at all.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about WHY

 

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Heed The Thwack [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

Have a Drink

It occurs to me now that Marilyn J. was thwacking me on the back of the head. In her comment about my post, AGREE TO DISAGREE, she mirrored back to me something I have taught: without an antagonist there is no story. Without an obstacle there is nothing to drive the story forward. Marilyn was reminding me of two things. First,  the antagonists in my story were giving me fuel for forward movement. Second, that in my post, I was pushing against what I don’t like. She was reminding me that productive movement is toward what I wish to create rather than resisting what I do not want.

We have a new phrase in our lexicon though it feels ancient: social distancing. In thinking about what Marilyn wrote to me I have decided the real social distancing that we are experiencing has less to do with stay at home orders or six feet of space or wearing masks; it is about the distance between the world inhabited by the red and the world inhabited by the blue. They are, I believe, no longer merely divided, they are distinctly separate realities. What makes sense in one reality looks like utter nonsense in the other.

I just took a dive into quotes by E.O. Wilson. He wrote something about brilliant enemies and I wanted to find it: “Without a trace of irony I can say that I have been blessed with brilliant enemies. I owe them a great debt, because they redoubled my energies and drove me in new directions.”

This is point of Marilyn’s head thwack. Redouble your energies. There is no denying that my daily disbelief at the malignant narcissist and his propaganda machine is driving me in new and as yet unknown directions. It has filled me with fear for my family and friends. It is also filling me with energy and it is up to me to live what I believe and use my redoubled energy to move toward what I desire to create rather than become “the thing hate:” an angry absolutist incapable of listening. A resister. An energy eddy.

Or, as Saul-the-Tai-Chi-Master so often reminded me, “Look beyond the obstacle to the field of possibilities.” That is where all of life is truly found.

[note: if you want to feel good about humanity or just need some perspective in the time of pandemic, Google quotes by E.O. Wilson. Or, better yet, since we are in this for a while read one of his books].

 

read Kerri’s blog post on this NOT SO FLAWED WEDNESDAY

 

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Sacred Looking In with color copy 2

Sit Together [on DR Thursday]

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Our cartoon, At The Door, lives in the category of ideas-that-we-knew-would-never-fly-but-wanted-to-do-anyway. In other words, we knew we’d make the submission and the syndicate would reward our good efforts with silence. And, they did just as we predicted!

If conflict is the epicenter/driver of story, then At The Door has a premise filled with great story potential. The dog wants to go out exploring the unknown. The cat wants to stay in his comfort zone. His bowl is the center of his cat-world and he is rarely found far from the bowl. The dog is an idealist, a dreamer. The cat is a realist. A conservative. He enjoys raining on the dog’s parade.

You’d be surprised how much material you can write with such a simple premise. We laughed heartily in the writing of it, especially because we drew our inspiration directly from our crazy Aussie and enormous cat. They share space. Together, they stare out of the door or window, their desires are wildly apparent. Each following their star. Each honest in their pursuit.

In versus Out. Cats-and-dogs-living-together. Oh, my!

Truth? I’d forgotten about At The Door. And, then, watching the news of the day combined with the wave of contention swirling around us, I remembered. I sought the cartoon file more for solace than anything.  I wanted to revisit my belief [my experience] that division need not be ugly. Division need not be disingenuous. Division provides the ripe necessity for collaboration. Two points are a mathematical requirement for the third point to become possible; it’s called ‘perspective.’ Creative tension can be a positive force for forward movement and new ideas if the division serves an honest intention.

If the division is the intention, sitting at the door together becomes, as we’ve seen, altogether impossible.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about AT THE DOOR

 

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dogdog babycat paws touchingwebsite box copy

Play On Empty [on DR Thursday]

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“The artist goes through states of fullness and emptiness, and that is all there is to the mystery of art.” ~ Picasso

Usually in my state of emptiness I stare at my paintings and they stare back at me. It’s like an old Viola Spolin exercise in which the the actors stare at the audience and the audience stares back at the actors. I look at you. You look at me. The question becomes who is audience and who is actor? Who is the painter and who is the painting?

It is difficult when empty to stay clear of self-criticism. It’s easy to look at the archives and think, “I suck. This work is awful!” I’ve learned that this impulse to deride my past work is actually a necessary refueling stage. It’s akin to how a teenager treats their parents when preparing to leave home. Snarky comments make separation easier. And necessary.

In my current state of emptiness Kerri suggested that I play with color and form. Nothing serious is allowed. Smear, pull, scratch,…follow. This is my first experiment while empty. It was fast, fun, and mostly thought-less.

I took a photograph so I could use it on the Melange. I called the photo “hotel art.”  Kerri said that title sounded derogatory. But, here’s the kicker: she asked me if I was going to keep the painting. If I was going to claim it as a ‘finished piece’ or would it live for a while as an experiment until I painted over it?

Smear, pull, scratch, spatter, flick, erase. Jackson Pollock called his splatter paintings a recording of the dance. A map of the movement of making a painting. I look at you, you look at me.

Where is the line between ‘serious art’ and personal experiment, especially in the world of anything-goes-contemporary-art?  The banana is taped to the wall. Banksy dropped his painting through a shredder at the moment it was purchased at the auction house.

Experiment. Play. Intentional. Improvisational. Keeper. Throwaway. I look at you. You look at me.

All I really know is that I am empty and emptiness does not come with silence. It is a fertile ground for noisy, mostly useless, questions.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THIS PAINTING

 

 

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hotel art ©️ 2019 david robinson [if it is taken seriously or perhaps this copyright should apply equally to messes, play, and fun]

Plan To Try Again [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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20 and I sat in the Adirondack chairs in the sun, eating chips and drinking wine, and watched Trevor and his crew put the finishing touches on the dock refurbishment.They’d been at it for days, leveling and reinforcing the existing structure, cutting pieces and installing a new surface. The final step was the installation of a bench on the far end, a place to sit over the water and enjoy the moon rise. They screwed the bench in place and loaded up their tools. We praised their good work. It was solid. Trevor said he’d be back in a week or so to check on things.

Within a week, the dock became a metaphor.

The storms that rolled through a few days after Trevor screwed the bench into place were intense. The lake looked and acted like the Atlantic Ocean when it is angry. The waves smashed the shoreline and ate great chunks of the yard. The bench that Trevor secured to the dock broke off within the first hour. The waves smashed it to bits.

All of Trevor’s hard work leveling the dock and stabilizing the structure was for naught. After the bench was swallowed, the legs buckled and twisted. The dock surrendered and knelt but the opposing team seemed not to care. The surrender did not stop the pounding. Another storm came. And then another. And then another. The dock is now face down, belly to the sand.

Trevor hasn’t been back yet to check on things. I suspect he already knows that his good work was no match for Mother Nature. The best laid plans…and all of that. He’ll shrug and pull the pieces from the water. He’ll even rebuild it if Deb wants him to give it another try. Trevor is a practical guy.

Gang aft agley!

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THE DOCK

 

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Care To See [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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Georgia O’Keeffe was a master of the close-up. I imagine she would have loved this digital age, this era of easy photography. Walking the arroyos of New Mexico with her cell phone, snapping hundreds of photographs of the minutiae. Capturing the tiny beauty that we fast movers are too busy to see. I love that, before cameras were ubiquitous, Georgia was in the habit of walking slow. Looking closely. Seeing.

One evening in London my pal Robert took me to meet Jonathan Miller. We wiled away a long evening talking about art and theatre. Jonathan invited me upstairs to see his studio. He was preparing a series of his photographs for an exhibit and book.  They were an amazing collection of close-ups, textures of peeling paint, gritty brick, rotting fabric draped on walls. None of it was staged. Away on a directing assignment, he would walk the streets with his camera, looking for beauty in the overlooked everyday things. “It’s all around us,” he said, “we just don’t see it.”

It’s true. It takes a wee-bit of intention to be in this life and not run through it. Looking for beauty. It’s all around if we care to see it. Jonathan Miller’s advice: stand still. It is not necessary to seek it; it’s right here if you care to see it.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about the FERRY IMAGE

 

PAX morsel copy

a close up of ‘pax.’ looking closely. make an offer. pax needs a home

 

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pax ©️ 2015 david robinson

Mix It [on DR Thursday]

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True confessions: I never clean my palette. I like the messy build up of color. I like the chunky texture. It serves as a gunky history of my work, a genealogy of paintings past. And then, over time, it becomes a tactile work of art in its own right. Unfettered by any of the mental gymnastics or over-ponderous considerations that plague my “real” work, it is the closest to child-mind that I will achieve. It is accidental. It is free.

This might be a stretch but it is, for me, nevertheless true. I love my palette because it is the place of alchemy in my artist process. It is the true liminal space. I begin with pure color. I smashed the pure color together with another color and transform it into a third color, the hue I intend. On a palette, color becomes intention. And then, once transformed, with a brush or knife I lift the color-intention from my palette and in an action that is often more responsive than creative, I place it onto a canvas. It transforms yet again relative to all the color it touches. An image emerges. More color is called for.

And, somewhere in this call and response of color, I become like the palette. The pass-through of alchemy, the door that color passes through en route to something beautiful. And, in the process, perhaps I, too, in my messy build up of life/color, grow closer to that child mind. Unfettered. Accidentally interesting. Free.

“You never know what is enough until you know what is more than enough” ~ William Blake

 

read Kerri’s blog post about my PALETTE

 

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untitled, mixed media 48 x 48IN