Sunday, January 16, 2011

Shanty Paradise In Process

My friend Michelle Summers requested some detail shots of Shanty Paradise, the installation I made last summer at The Barn.
This is a shot from the super cool catwalk above my studio.

This is the very beginning of the piece, before I knew it would turn into a huge luminous spaceship. It was based on a wasp's nest I found in a double decker bus.
As it grew, I started to hang it in the middle of the studio and photograph it, experimenting with lighting and context.
Then I found light blue abandoned maple sap tubes in the woods.
Finally, it made sense to hang from the large light in the middle of the whole room.
The light became as much of an element of the assemblage as any other piece.
This is a shot from under and behind it while in progress. During the assemblage process, I considered it important to be able to view it from all sides with just as much intensity and intrigue. I also photographed the whole assemblage process (once it hung from the light) which I hope to turn into an animation someday. It is very lovely to watch it grow in animation form.

(I hope these are detailed enough for you Michelle! xoxo :-)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Accidental Inspiration

Protection and Non-Intentions

As my life rocks and rolls right now I remember another time that was this harshly awakening, testing and rewarding. I was 16 and had just moved to Iowa from my childhood home in Vermont. It was a mix of culture shock and teenage darkness that pretty much sent me into a pit of despair. For a while I was eating one egg, drinking one bottle of diet pepsi and eating one slice of pizza per day. I was also running anywhere from 3-10 miles per day. I was worried about myself. I was angry, confused, depressed and exhausted.

Then I found something that worked like magic for me: Julia Cameron's Artists Way. I believe that it saved me: from what? I'm not sure but I knew I needed saving. I also now see that it established some fundamental seeds in my experience that have been growing without my full awareness.

Now, about 11 years later, in the midst of huge life questions, disillusionment, and self growth I almost accidentally found her again. I signed up for a retreat with her called Creativity and Divinity at the New York Open Center in NYC this weekend on a hunch that I needed it. Then today, I came home from work and decided to read or listen to something about meditation/Buddhism and creativity and I found this:

Julia Cameron on the Path of Creativity

I think I'm on to something.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Words and fun

The Swamp of Re-delusionment is my newest sculpture which is currently in the exhibition called
Curious Environs at The Art Museum at the University of Memphis)

The things I find these days that motivate me to write here are not few and far between as much as they are things that I have not found words for. In fact, I have adopted a new conscious practice of finding words to describe the things about art, emotion, creativity, flow, inspiration, contemplation, etc, that I have been struggling to find.

I have been in numerous conversations (especially with a particular friend here in NYC who knows most of the ins and outs of my life at the moment) where it's like I'm thinking out loud. I start feeling very confident about what I'm about to say because I know it so well in my experience and then I find that I start talking and it all comes out "fluffy" and actually obscures what it's trying to express and even my own understanding of it. It's really like I'm thinking it through out loud as opposed to having my thoughts fully formulated in my brain first. I have talked to other friends about their own art writing and understood that they have had similar experiences: the struggles to describe the really deep and profound things they experience. Unfortunately, in our society and many cultures within it, the ability to express something in words is one of the only ways that our thoughts are made valid by others. In fact, I have (mostly unconsciously) based much of my self worth on what I am able to express, in order to seem smart or wise. Suddenly, I am in the midst of something I am not smart or wise about and find that my fear of seeming as such actually impedes my ability to learn from it and actually become smarter and wiser.

Beyond external validation (which isn't sustainable anyway) a truth about finding words for our abstract experiences is that it allows us to do many things: communicate and connect with other people about similar experiences, to teach about these experiences and skillful ways to act with them, to notice the places where we are stuck, etc. Being able to put things into words doesn't have to be an obligation fulfilled, it can actually be a way for us to expand our understanding and capacity to deepen our life experience. The only unfortunate thing about all this is that school often lays the obligation heap on thick and leaves off (what I think of) as the MOST important part of expression: the fun part that is rooted in profound, intimate experiences.

That said, here are the places I have been finding words for my experiences lately:

The truth about all of our thoughts is that they aren't our own. Everything we have ever said or thought about, we heard somewhere else. Therefore it seems skillful (and FUN!) to choose where my thoughts come from and also to try and figure out where the rest of them came from in the first place.

Anyway, FUN is the key word (have I said it enough yet? Maybe I need new words like absurdity, celebration, buffoonery...) Don't take my word for it. Remember the last time you dragged your butt to the computer to write a paper or artist statement or whatever so that you could finish a homework assignment or apply to a residency or school? Now imagine you are writing the same paper but that the subject is more deeply rooted in something you have actually experienced, not just read about. Do you think you would have more to say? More passion to find words for it? Have something that someone else could learn something about you from? Be inspired by your experiences of joy/sorrow/humanity? I think so.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Shows, Bugs and Relaxation

"Double Intention"

Happy Fall everyone. October always seems to bring big changes and strange events and this year has not failed to meet that expectation. Mainly there has been a lot of new realizations about my art and my life that are very significant. The most significant are these:

1) To be able to see what's really in front of me is scary but it also makes me feel more alive.
2) When I relax I have more to offer the universe/myself/my work/my practices than I do if I worry, plan and stress.
3) Meditation really works.
4) I can't teach anything or offer anything unless I already practice it or understand it through experience. On the flip side, I can teach anything that I practice and understand through experience. That's a lot!

"Double Decker: Fueled By Stuff"

All of the paintings I am posting today were made in Vermont this summer and are also on display at Better Than Jam until November 1st. This one I started when I was outside looking at a double decker bus. I then brought it inside and finished it in my studio, allowing the initial marks to tell me what to do.

"Held Together by The Trees, The Dead, The Gun"

"A Meeting of The Dead in Bear Forest"

Death has been a theme in my work lately. It seems to be an embracing of death as a way to be more fully alive. There is a Buddhist practice like this where monks sit with corpses. I have only been sitting with bug corpses, not human ones. The dead that meet in Bear Forest above were a collection of dead bugs on top of a sculpture that the painting was painted from. The painting above that started from an old cowboy photo with a dead beast of some sort.
I have more thinking to do about this death stuff...

Some Business:

*As I mentioned, my work and jewelry are now at Better Than Jam.

*I teaching some sweet workshops at Spoke The Hub Sunday afternoons from now until Christmas from 2-5:00 (check out the link for more details!) I'm teaching candle making, found object jewelry and greeting cards (which will include pop-up card basics!) If you know anyone in the area that might be interested, pass it along!

*Mikel has an upcoming show/performance at SOHO 20 Gallery on November 6th at 7pm.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Impotent Bears and New Wallets

I'm even slower at blogging now that I'm out bringin' in the bacon (the the vegetarian kind of course!) so when I do blog I will try to make them juicy and fulfilling! Here are some images from my summer residency. Above is a shot of my studio from above. I don't know what to say about it except I miss having that much space and I'm very excited to share my large paintings I made with you all once I document them. (You can see one of them hanging up in the studio image.)
I made this assemblage while at The Barn. It includes a wasp nest I found in a double decker bus, tubing from maple syrup collection, pink foam, sticks, mini moss trees, etc. I went on many walks to look for "treasures" and then used them to make sculpture. I'm very excited to continue working in this larger scale, transforming the materials and the space I work in.
This is a diptych-in-progress I made. Each painting is 12"x 12". I started them by looking at images of dead men. I was thinking about the Buddhist practice of sitting with corpses in order to fully face the impermanence of life and in turn be able to live life more fully. They look and feel much different than most of my work previous. In fact my work made a huge shift in Vermont.

During my residency I was able to spend a lot of time asking myself questions like: what is meaningful to me? How am I making meaning with my work? What is my work telling me already? I learned a lot about myself and my process. In a bigger sense here is a very important thing I learned through a studio visit I had at The Barn:

We were looking at my many paintings I made with bear heads in them (one of which is the large painting I mentioned above in my studio shot). I was also working on a collaborative sculpture with a bear head in it that Mikel made (part of which is also in the image above). The visitor asked me how my work with bears fits in with all the other bear/animal art that is being made right now (apparently there is a current of nature nostalgia going on in the art world). At first I really tried to answer that questions for myself but then I realized that the question is moot. For me, my art is more like looking at dreams. The more appropriate questions becomes: What do bears mean to me? and What kind of bears am I painting?

Here are some of my discoveries: I've been painting impotent bears. Bears are naturally strong, powerful, and full of productive rage. My bears are the opposite: wimpy, powerless. The important questions for me are: what part of me is an impotent bear? Who are the impotent bears in my life? And the meaning-making goes on...

This piece has a super duper awesome title but I wrote it down in my other sketchbook that is now at my house and not here at Orwell Cafe with me. It is the sculpture that will be part of Firehouse Gallery's traveling Human=Landscape exhibition. I finished it while in VT. I imagine that if Florida and Vermont had a love affair, this is what their child might look like. As the climate warms, Vermont may have to have it's own tropical arranged marriage, if not love affair.

Finally, some business:

My etsy shops are back in action!

My jewelry has been included in two etsy treasuries! Fire and Cold Water. Interesting combo!

Also, I have an art opening on October 1, 7:00-10:00 at Better Than Jam in Bushwick. Better Than Jam is an awesome shop and art venue. I will be October's artist of the month and today I will be hopefully purchasing a wallet there due to mine being stolen yesterday. Bummer in some ways but also awesome because I needed a new wallet anyway! I also got a much cooler phone out of the deal. Thanks thief! :-)

Have a great weekend everyone!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Interview With Juan Hinojosa

Juan Hinojosa in front of his installation "Vomit" at Vermont Studio Center, 2009.

This is Juan Hinojosa who I met at Vermont Studio Center last fall. He currently lives and works in Queens, NYC. He makes collages and installations using found and mundane materials that range from fashion logos to metro cards to pornographic imagery that he picks up around the city. In continuation of my artist interview series, here is my conversation with Juan:

Megan: What are your biggest struggles and fears in art making?

Juan: Finishing a piece seems to be hard these days. I start a piece, have an idea then start a new piece. That repeats over and over. I have to stop and force myself to finish something. I find myself very annoying. I struggle with self-control all the time.

M: Yes, I think finishing work is sometimes the hardest part. I actually say this probably way too often, but my professor in college once said about painting something like: being faced with finishing a piece and really solving the problems is when real painting begins. So in a way, the finishing of your art is actually art making. Are there ways that you have found useful in “forcing yourself to finish something”?

J: That's a great way to look at it. I usually have to talk myself into turning my iTunes really low, turning HULU off, and ignore my phone. I sit in my kitchen and I don't get up till it's done.

M: Discipline and it sounds like you have a good idea about the things that distract you from your work. In what ways is your creative process related to supported by or connected to the rest of your life?

J: Because I reference pop culture, I get to spend a lot of time “researching” by buying comic books, surfing the interweb, and watching a lot of YouTube and HULU. Though it may seem that I am spending hours in front of the computer on a bright sunny day I am clearly “researching” ideas of what to do next. The Internet has altered the way pop stars and the news is released to the public. As an artist / consumer I have to keep up with what’s going on.

"022, 2009"

M: You seem to have a bit of a mocking tone about your process, almost like you aren’t totally taking yourself seriously but when I look at your work you seem to tackle very authentic, serious and specific topics. For example: homosexuality, super heroes, debris of consumerism in the form of colorful litter. Why are these topics important to you? Do you feel like you take yourself seriously? Also, if you feel that you must “keep up on what’s going on” what do you think would happen if you didn’t?

J: I really don’t see it as mocking. It’s just the way I talk about things. In all honestly I mock everything and everyone. Nothing is off limits. That’s just my personality. I do take my artistic career and myself very seriously. The topics I decide to focus on are my way to a future understanding of them and to play with their meaning.

As for “keeping up with what’s going on”… it’s fun. Pure and simple. If I didn’t keep up I think I would be very bored.

(Photo by Howard Romero)

M: How would you describe inspiration?

J: One word. POPCULTURE. It's one of the few things that everyone can relate to in some way, shape, or form … especially on a global level thanks to the all mighty Internet.

M: What is it about pop culture that is so inspiring for you? I understand that you see it as something everyone can relate to. This seems more like an excuse or a reason to use it as a muse. What I want to know is what makes it your muse? The colors? The glamour? The speed? What about it are you drawn to? We also already talked about specific elements of popculture that you sample from (gay porn, found candy wrappers, superheroes) what else would you add to that list? Can you talk about why you might specifically choose those elements and how they relate to the rest of your life?

J: I would have to say it’s the Glamour. Pop culture in many ways is like visual candy and like candy itself, it is something I crave. It also has to do with the unattainable. Because of my ethnicity and economic background I was not suppose to have certain things or to achieve certain goals. So I make conscience efforts to obtain certain things I, and others like me, shouldn't have. So I am playing with pop culture in order to understand it and in some way control its effect on me.

M: Why do you make art?

J: Out of spite.

M: Out of spite for what?

J: Off the top of my head… my parents, other family members, my college professors and my own self doubt.

M: Do you think about a spiritual connection with your work?

J: Nope.

M: Why do you think art is important?

J: I think art is very important. As a kid, I would go to museums and I would fall into each and every piece of work and dream about making art as embracing as the ones I was staring into. I can only hope my works can have the same effect on some kid at a museum on a Saturday afternoon with his mother.

M: I like the image if you falling into each piece of art as if they are embracing you. Although you do not see this as spiritual, that sort of loving image seems very spiritual or at least connecting to me. I wonder what spite has to do with this embrace you are seeking to create with your work? As you said, this is your way "to a future understanding... and to play with... meaning". Thank you for sharing your art making thoughts with me and my readers. Talk to you soon!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I'm home

Hello "real life"
I'm home after being in Vermont for 7 weeks, 6 weeks of which was spent at The Barn making lots of art. Here is a photo of a studio visit I had with Gregory Volk. I know it's strange but the painting of the face in the background is mine. I had some major breakthroughs while in Vermont! Also hanging out in this photo is David Grainger (right), one of the three people I lived with this summer. The other two were Agnes Barley and Elliot Katz.
Gregory and I were talking about narrative and my new desire to include more of it in my work. His response to this was, "what do you mean by narrative?" Good question. What I think I mean is more of a driven subject from the beginning of making-- choosing my subjects more specifically. Out of this hunch, I painted many things this month: impotent bears, dead guys, landscape, etc.
I also made sculpture. This is made of found treasures (aka garbage) like pink foam, moss, maple sap lines and bits and pieces of a double decker bus.

This is one of my larger paintings made on Yupo, my new favorite material. It's about 5 feet by 6 feet (roughly) and hanging here on the outside of my studio because I ran out of space inside.

Now that I am home I am hitting the ground running with three jobs:
Spoke The Hub (teaching painting and drawing on Monday nights and various workshops)
Iwona Yoga (teaching Intensive Kripalu Flow Thursdays from 8-9:15)
Studio Creative Play (teaching, playing and creating at a preschool alternative)

I will hopefully have my etsy shops up and running soon as well as more images of my new work. For now here's a big "hello" to you all. I hope you had a great summer!