Connect The Poles [on KS Friday]

Though it is not, this could be a close-up of an x-ray. Arteries carrying blood away from the heart, veins carrying blood back to the heart, and the capillaries that connect the them. Outgoing. Incoming. And the connection between the two. And, as is always true of language, in the naming and the action-describing, the whole system is obscured. This part does this. That part does that. Mechanical mind applied to a miracle of pulsating life.

In North Carolina I overheard an old guy grousing about climate change. He is a sceptic. “There’s record snow in California!” he decried, “And, we’re having record heat here! You can’t have it both ways!” His reluctant listener bobbed her head. “It’s either warming or it’s not!” he railed. “Explain that to me!” Mechanical mind. Parts-thinkers cannot see the whole system. The capillary-word that tumbled from his mouth but bypassed his mind was “record.” The poles are, after all, connected.

I am fascinated by my current work. I am witness to and a participant in the creation of software. The language is familiar though the meanings are new: epic and story. Bug. My mind, lately, has been awhirl. The developers necessarily talk of information as content-objects. Items. The language of “fixed” things. Yet, the problems in the world that they design and solve for are “fluid.” Information, in our day-and-age, never stops. It grows exponentially everyday. It is movement, constant motion. More/faster. Sometimes I get a glimpse behind the curtain and see the developer’s work of content-items-in-motion. You’ve never seen a faster moving current of symbols. Is it a particle or a wave? It depends.

The tree in our front yard reaches toward the house. Kerri tells me that our children climbed through the branches when they were young. When the crew had to clear some branches to trench the yard, Kerri winced each time a branch snapped and fell to the ground. “I can’t look,” she said, not taking her eyes off the tree. Holding vigil. Holding her heart.

It’s easy to forget that, in all cases, no matter the eyes though which we see, the movement is always back to center. To the heart-of-the-matter. The pieces are never isolated. This tree is not separate or distinct from the sky or Kerri’s heart. The poles are always connected, whether we recognize it, see it, acknowledge it, or not. Breathe in. Breathe out. Two actions or one?

read Kerri’s blog post about THE TREE AND SKY

Kerri’s albums are available on iTunes or streaming on Pandora

See The Life [on Two Artists Tuesday]

There was a transformation the moment we raised the branch and secured it in the pot. “It looks happy,” Kerri said. I was thinking the exact same thing. This broken branch, muddy and discarded and sad, we brought into the house, trimmed it, lifted it, and positioned it, was instantly revivified. The moment was palpable.

“Are we just making it up” she asked.

“No,” I responded, not certain what, exactly, I was seeing, but this branch was suddenly full of life. It was warm and energetic where, only a few moments before, it was downcast. “I think it likes being here.”

We stood and stared and tried to make sense of what we were seeing. “This would make a good children’s book,” we said at the same moment. Happy, happy, happy.

We added a few simple lights, a single ornament, but mostly we let it be. Its happiness is decoration enough.

We visit our tree during the day. Its exuberance is infectious. Before retiring each night, we turn off all the lights in the house except for the tree. We sit with it and drink in the warm feeling it radiates.

“That tree is like good sculpture,” 20 said, admiring it. “It reaches,” he added. Good energy.

We remain amazed. We’ve not yet grown used to the sudden metamorphosis. I hope we never do. It’s become more than a symbol for the season. It’s a possibility. A promise. A reminder.

read Kerri’s blog post about THE TREE

Catch The Glimmer [on KS Friday]

Barney, the piano that lives in our backyard, nearly had a chandelier suspended above his lid. We thought it would be funny to look out back at night and see Barney all-gussied-up.

We’re not really chandelier people but you’d be amazed at how many pieces of chandelier, separate crystal ornaments, live around our house. It’s as if a chandelier came to visit, had an unfortunate explosion, and the falling pieces conveniently landed near windows or light sources so they might catch and reflect the light. We like the glimmer yet are more subtle than a chandelier.

We finally decided on this year’s christmas tree. In our time together we’ve only had one traditional-looking-tree. Craig forced it on us. He was driving the day we went to the farm to cut a tree and threatened to leave us in the snow if we brought home our first choice. It was…unique. He had his heart set on a scotch pine so we brought it home and named it Satan. That tree had seriously sharp needles and a very bad attitude. On the 26th of December we lassoed Satan, drug him out of the house and down the street, through the snow, to the tree drop-off spot. For months afterward, his needles would jump out of hiding and stick our toes.

This year, our tree is large branch whacked from the aging maple tree by the heavy machinery that dug the moat in our front yard. Kerri saved it from the mulcher. I’m not sure how we got it in the house but we did. DogDog hid in the bedroom during the transition. His courage failed him, as it does when we vacuum or drop a cooking pot, when he saw the monster-branch entering through the front door.

We love our tree. It is, like us, simple and proud in its history. It carries stories. Long ago our children sat on this branch. It shaded Kerri and me the weekend we met and laughed tossing a frisbee in the street. It waved the evening we danced in the front yard. Now, it stands in the house, near the window, wearing a strand of white lights and holding a single ornament. A tin star.

We think it looks happy to be here. We’re certainly happy that it’s here. A different kind of tree. A glimmer, reflecting the many, many years of memories, the symbol of our year of water, and destruction transformed into beauty. What, for us, in this year and this season, could be more appropriate?

read Kerri’s blog post about GLIMMER

kerri’s albums are available on iTunes or streaming on Pandora

the lights/the lights: a christmas album © 1996 kerri sherwood

Do The Double-Double [on DR Thursday]

Kerri moved through the gallery as if on a photo shoot. Capturing light, shapes in architecture, I loved that she turned the opening into something other than a stuffy social event. For her, the art-occasion was an opportunity to make art. Double-double.

Since moving to Wisconsin I’ve not shown my paintings – other than online. I had paintings splashed across Seattle every day for over a decade. Showing had lost its luster. Plus, my paintings tend to be large; they require a truck and some serious effort to move and hang and remove. Plus, my Seattle studio was on the 4th floor. Large paintings didn’t fit in the elevator.

Also, I couldn’t show. There’s a harsh financial cliff to monitor when your healthcare is through the ACA. Go a single dollar over the allotted amount and we’d have been taxed into oblivion. So, to show was to court bankruptcy. It was best – safer – to roll up the canvas and hide the paintings in the basement. When friends asked, “Why don’t you show your work?” my pat response was, “I live in the United States.” A conversation stopper every time.

It was a symbolic gesture that I needed to make when I was finally free from the ACA cliff. I entered a painting in a local show. We went to the opening to see one of my pieces, too long in the basement, hanging on a gallery wall. And, my favorite symbolic-detail? The painting I entered is titled Unfettered. Double-double.

unfettered © 2018 david robinson

Trust The Symbol [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

“Perseverance, secret of all triumphs.” ~ Victor Hugo

It is nearly November and the tomato plants are still producing. I’ve come to think of our tomato proliferation as a dance between Kerri and the plants. Each morning, all summer long, with the good advice of 20, she tended the tomatoes. And, the tomatoes tended her. They continue to inspire quiet in her. I’ve watch the gentle morning dance from the window, DogDog circling the yard, Kerri with the watering can, pinching leaves, securing supports, or simply admiring yet another green orb that appeared overnight.

There was also the basil, mint, and lavender. After the tomatoes were nurtured, they joined the dance. Presence.

You know things are not going well when your friends start comparing you to Job. I’m not a bible guy but even I was keen to the reference. We’ve had a few years of rolling bad luck and molehills turned into mountains. 20 is fond of saying, “Karma is a long game,” and there were days that I asked Kerri what she did in a past life to deserve the most recent disaster. After punching my arm, we’d chant in unison, ‘One day at a time.” Take this step. Enjoy this day. The circumstance doe not define us. And, mostly, we lived it, staying in the center of the hurricane.

And, then, about the middle of May, the winds changed. It was palpable. Somethings actually began to tip in our favor. And, for reasons I cannot explain, we needed to grow tomatoes. Kerri needed to grow tomatoes. Last summer we made an anemic attempt at growing lettuce. We ate a salad or two from our mini-farm, but it was more of an exercise, something to do, rather than a symbol of the arrival of better times. The tomatoes came as harbingers, heralds of a new era.

To say that they’ve been prolific is an understatement. All summer long, lines of tiny red miracles sat on our table, ripening. The plants have withstood pounding rain, excessive heat, and withering humidity. Not only have they withstood it, they’ve prospered in it. It’s a hopeful symbol. Somewhere deep down inside, we hope to follow their lead. After a few years of the-other-shoe-always-dropping, we’re slow to trust our symbol. But, like our symbol, we’re taking our time, not getting ahead of ourselves, and will harvest our good fruit when the time is right.

Until then, we persevere, one day at a time, grateful for the portent our good tomatoes bring.

read Kerri’s blog post about TOMATOES

Offer The Chair [on Flawed Wednesday]

“Indeed, the effect of the forum is all the more powerful if it is made clear to the audience that if they don’t change the world, no one will change it for them.” ~ Augusto Boal, Games For Actors And Non-Actors

Many of my pals in the theatre turned their noses up at me when I began doing work in corporations. They thought I was yet another theatre artist doing improvisation-games with the terminally neck-tied. I was not. My work was more in the tradition of Augusto Boal than Keith Johnstone. Some of the best plays I’ve ever facilitated, some of the most profound pieces of theatre I’ve directed and witnessed, happened in board rooms, classrooms or conference spaces. Here’s how I know: the actors and audience were one-and-the-same. Their play was personal. When they left “the theatre” they did not leave the nice story behind and end the evening with a cocktail. They were disrupted. They had seen something that could no longer be ignored or deflected. The hard work was about to begin.

People yearn. People entrench. People plant their flags and claim the most ridiculous territory. I’ve seen teachers come to blows over an overhead projector. I’ve seen lawyers undermine colleagues to gain dominion over a swiveling chair. And, the chair or the projector are never really the issue. The issue is usually an abstraction. Pecking order. Boundaries. Alliances. People have killed each other over a pair of shoes. It’s not the shoes but the status the shoes represent. Abstraction and illusion.

People are generally unconscious about the reasons beneath their passions. I’ve met a score of dedicated meditation practitioners who meditate to control their thoughts rather than realize them. Once I led a group of teachers through the ritual they enact each morning before the arrival of their students. The question was, “What are you preparing to do in your day?” Their answer was unnerving and revolutionary: they were preparing to control the kids. Teaching and learning were secondary.

We are witness to a country-wide communal piece of theatre, an unconscious play. The issue is not the mask. The issue has never been the mask. The issue is, I suppose, people feeling out of control, imposed upon. Fearful. They are, with their bare faces, making a stand. Drawing a line in the sand. That “no one can tell me what to do” might as well be “I am losing control over my life.”

And, as is always the case, as with the office chair and the overhead projector, refusing to don the mask does not really address the real issue, it merely deflects it. The energy and action is focused on non-sense. And when non-sense rules the day, the action taken actually brings about the thing-most-feared. Loss of control. The pandemic continues, the children are being taken, the economy suffers, the community fractures. It’s a lengthy list.

The lesson in the office chair wars and the overhead projector games is always the same. No one wins. Everyone loses in a toxic tug-of-war. The chair might be yours today but it will be theirs tomorrow. The game only ends when one of the players offers the chair to the other or the projector becomes a reason to share. The same will be true of the mask wars. People will die, the pandemic will continue until the mask becomes a generosity. Then, low-and-behold, the virus will abate and real control over our destiny will be within our grasp.

I hope that, like the lawyers or teachers who were brave enough to walk into the real story, to stand face-to-face with a dysfunction, that we meet our story and ask, “Why would so many sacrifice so much over a little piece of cloth?” An overhead projector. A pair of shoes. A chair that swivels…

read Kerri’s blog post about MASKS

Decide To See [on Merely A Thought Monday]

My thoughts while watching the wedding:

Oprah asked Gary Zukav this question: Where is soul? His response: Where is it not?

Exchange the word ‘love’ for the word ‘soul.’ Where is love? Where is it not?

In the English language, words like ‘love’ and ‘soul’ are nouns. Things. And, things must have limits. It is a remarkable misunderstanding, a miracle of minimization. Love, the single hardest ‘thing’ to define, in fact, impossible to define, is undefinable because it is without limit. The best we can do is point toward love-made-visible. A newborn in the arms of its mother. The moment the couple, standing before their community, stares into each other’s eyes and promises, “I do.” Watching a sunrise on an anniversary. A mother dancing with her son, the groom.

Love is. Where is it not? That means, of course, that it is “in” everything, everywhere. The air we breathe. The thoughts we think. The actions we take, big and small. It is in how we treat our neighbors. In how we see ourselves. In how we report our news. In how we tell our lies and our truths. Love is.

It is the province of no-single-religion. In fact, it is where every religion on earth goes off the rails. To claim to be “the way” or “the one true…” is to attempt dominion over love. To place rules and boundaries on the boundless.

The question Oprah didn’t ask: if it is everywhere, in everything, in war and in peace, hate and acceptance, does it have any meaning at all? If it is ubiquitous, unchangeable and indescribable, why bother? Gary’s answer, I imagine, would be something like this: we choose the form we give to our love, do we not? We can choose to put the accent on unity. We can choose to put the accent on separation. Love is. We can choose to put the accent on division or we can choose to offer our support.

There is never more or less love. Isn’t that the point? Love is beyond definition. What changes is not the love or the amount of love. What changes is what we decide to see. What changes is how we decide to see, especially how we decide to see ourselves in this world with so many “others.”

read Kerri’s blog post about JUST LOVE

Look Again [on DR Thursday]

I’m not sure when I started using floral shapes and imagery in my paintings. There was Sam The Poet and Eve, trees as symbol.

Sam The Poet, acrylic, 48 x 48IN
Eve, acrylic on hardboard, 48 x 48IN

I know my sketchbooks began filling up with flower shapes and symbolic landscapes. Petals appeared throughout my Yoga Series. Leaf and flower shapes found their way into the bodies as well as the surrounding spaces.

Joy, mixed media, 50 x 56IN

I played with tissue paper over color as a ground for the images. When Tony recently visited my studio, he said my paintings were sculptural, visually commanding. I wrote his words on a scrap of paper since artists are mostly terrible at describing their work. He is an artist so he knows that the proper answer to the question, “Tell me about your work?” is “Go look at it and then you tell me about my work.” He didn’t ask the question; he went straight to the looking.

Tango With Me, mixed media, 39 x 52IN

We walked down a path at sunset. Kerri saw the sunflowers and I knew a photo op had arrived. “You should use this as your Thursday post,” she said, showing me her photo, “because your paintings always have flowers in them.”

Well, good enough, then. Sunflowers, shape and symbol, will find their way into the next painting, I’m sure of it.

read Kerri’s blog post about SUNFLOWERS

copyrights for all paintings in this post, 2010 – 2021, david robinson

Do What They Do [on DR Thursday]

I’ve posted this painting more than any other in my stacks.

Some paintings serve as markers for new directions. This painting is one of those. What came before this painting was suddenly old. What came after was an exciting unknown path. Exploration and play. Big mistakes and messes followed by understanding. Materials can only be pushed so far. Bodies and shapes reveling in negative and positive space.

When I met Kerri, this painting did not have a name. I called it #7 in my yoga series. She called it “Iconic” and the name stuck. I liked the name. It seemed appropriate. An icon is a symbol. Something worthy of veneration.

Now, over ten years later, this icon, once the harbinger of the new, serves as the hallmark of what was.

I delight in this painting, Iconic. It is one of the few. And, although I am grateful for where it led me, I’ve come to realize that it no longer serves to locate me, except in a past chapter, like a yearbook photo.

Letting go. It is why I stand in my studio – I can’t even sit there of late – and look at the mess on canvas that sits untouched on my easel these many months. Somewhere, after this mishmash phase, somewhere, beyond the chaos and disorder and wiping away, there will emerge another marker. An icon. A compass.

Although I’ve written it many times in these past few months, it’s way past time that I admit – to myself – that I am, once again, in the wilderness. Someone once told me that we go to the wilderness to face our demons and find our gods. That seems a bit dramatic. Demons and gods are one and the same, like positive and negative space or comedy and tragedy. The lesson is always the same: stop taking yourself so seriously and the oppositions, the demons and gods, will stop pulling you apart.

Find a child and watch them play with paint. Do that. Do what they do. The wilderness is rich in sustenance if you know where to look.

Someday, in the midst of being lost, I’ll make an accidental mark that jolts me. I’ll turn it around, asking, “What’s this?” A new direction will emerge.

Read Kerri’s blog post about ICONIC

iconic ©️ 2010 david robinson

Come Look! [on Two Artists Tuesday]

“The artist finds, rather than creates and controls.” ~ Declan Donnellan

I’m not sure when I began including floral shapes in my paintings. I’ve always appreciated the shape of symbols and shapes as symbols. One day in my Seattle studio, I lined the walls with my most recent paintings and was surprised to discover leaves and plants and stems etched into figures and the spaces. My charcoal and paint flora was generic; they were not studies of plants nor in any way representational. They were shapes. They were accidental.

Even when my plant-shapes became intentional they remained generic, improvisational. I didn’t go outside and study the shapes of leaves. It never occurred to me to step into the field next to my studio and look at the plant life. I’m slow that way.

And then I met Kerri. We walk almost every day. While my mind wanders into the ethers and gets lost in the sky, she is busy looking at life’s minutiae. She stops often and takes photographs, usually of a tiny treasure. A forest flower. The bud about to burst on a limb. A butterfly nestled into the leaves. “Look!” she exclaims and kneels on the path, camera in hand. She navigates thorns, wades into tall grasses, climbs over rocks, all to get close enough to see, really see the miniature miracle.

Because she sees, I see. She is single-handedly responsible for my ongoing Georgia O’Keeffe revival. And what I’ve re-learned as Kerri beckons me to, “Come Look!” is that my vast imagination is not capable of creating the amazing shapes and colors and delights that surround me. I’ve been walking through this intense world of marvels my whole life and noticed only the smallest slice. The best I can do is pay attention and dance with what I find.

It’s humbling – as it should be. I’ll never be a better creator than nature because I am a creation of nature. In fact, I realize again and again that my job as an artist is not to create, it is to discover what is already right in front of my face. To open eyes – my eyes and others’ eyes – to the enormity of what already exists. The wild shapes, the dancing colors, the glow of life that I’ll never be able to capture, no matter how great my technique or pure my intention. The best I can do is point to the mystery, with symbol, shape and color, and say, as Kerri does for me each and every day, “Look! Come Look!”

read Kerri’s blog post about SUCCULENTS