A Little More Abstract

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I’ve been so busy working on getting the studio initially funded and established that I haven’t painted very much this year, I'm sad to say. I've created a few commissions and have done some smaller studies here and there, but I haven't been operating at my usual output. Even though I'm still figuring out how I'll juggle the boys' school schedules and running the studio, I've devoting the second half of this year to just making work weekly, even if it's just one painting. 

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As I was explaining this and my desire to dive back into making raw, expressive work again vs. the figures that have preoccupied my brain in a group chat yesterday, my friend Sili gave me an assignment: "I want you to paint the word 'grace' on a canvas...and then do whatever brujeria it is you do when you paint. You need to give yourself grace-your arms haven't even been working well enough for you every day!" She's right...the nerve pain and weakness I've had in my hands and arms daily since March have also been a significant contributing factor to my slow output this year thus far. It's been frustrating to say the least, picking up a brush and feeling my arm go limp as I lose grip on it in my hand and it falls to the floor...not being able to squeeze paint out of bottles let alone feel it as I spread it across a surface. Even now as I'm typing this, pain radiates from my neck through my elbows, down the undersides of my forearms and my ring and pinky fingers on both hands are dead. There are several times throughout my day when I'm only able to use half of my hands, so yes. I do need grace to outpace my ambitions as I work and juggle and mom and wife and curate and manage this Fall & Winter. 

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I'm so driven by ambition though, especially when inspired and that is hard to reign in when my creative queue is backlogged with words, images and ideas like it has been the last few months. Even though I had told myself that August would be my month to dig back into my practice and get going on bringing all that's been stored up in my brain to life, I honestly wasn't sure where I'd even start. Thankfully, a conversation two weeks ago with my friend and fellow painter Calida Rawles has served as a compass. She was in town visiting from LA and wanted to finally meet in person, as we had been unable to do so while I lived in Cali. She came by the studio and after we chatted a bit about life, politics, motherhood, and ideas for new paintings, she turned to my work on the wall and started to give me some insightful, constructive feedback that felt like a charge of sorts to return to painting more raw, abstract work. 

I've been doing exactly that this week and as much as I have enjoyed the challenge of expressing impact and experience on the body with my figures, I've surprisingly found expressing impact and experience in the body through line, mark, burst and flow has been a relief I wasn't aware I've been yearning for. My friend Karen asked me on Tuesday what it feels like to be back at the canvas in this way and I told her "like taking a deep breath." 

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Future Exhibition Proposal

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I have a recurring dream where I walk into a large room with high, vaulted ceilings. Sometimes the walls are white, deep red or a baked clay/Indian yellow hue color. There’s a bench in the middle and the closer you get to it, the more expansive the room becomes. on each wall are these figures, most life size, with one stretching all the way up to and on the ceiling as if it’s towering over you. Each figure looks similar to this one pictured; some are on canvas with various materials or line markings adorning sections of their being, others are painted directly onto the wall. One even had an actual door you could open and then walk down a small hallway filled with pictures, writings, and small paintings, as if you you were walking through a history of all that body has carried & experienced. Another figure was mostly a head, and there were headphones next to it-you could grab them and listen to its thoughts. Sometimes in the dream I’m painting and installing the figures, and sometimes I’m sitting on the bench in the middle watching others experience the work, but they don’t know I’m there-they can’t see me. It’s wild. I either wake up right as someone leaves a work and starts walking toward the bench in the middle of the room, or I’ve finished the figure that stretches into the ceiling. Maybe one day I’ll find a place to take over where I can actually make it real. 

Solitude & Silence

I wrote this back on January 12, 2017 but never shared it publicly. I think ultimately, that decision to not share immediately proved best, as it allowed me the space and grace to begin finding my way in living it out in a tangible way. Much has transpired for me personally and professionally since I originally wrote this out-each event creating room for understanding and clarity of purpose along the way. In order to get back into writing and to begin sharing what life has been like these past 8 months, I felt like I needed to finally express this first before diving into the rest. Looking back, I see it had laid the foundation for where I am currently.

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January 12, 2017:

My words for the year ahead: silence and solitude. I admit that it seems odd and counter-intuitive considering the times we're living in, but it honestly doesn't feel that way when I really consider where I'm at personally and in my work. Instead, it feels like the next logical step in my evolution as an artist, creative process and day to day living.

Since 2010 I've done a lot of talking & writing (online, specifically) about faith, mental illness, motherhood, and race.While doing so has brought wonderful opportunities and community into my life, it's also taught me some things about people & how they respond to different mediums/forms of expression. Things that have left me questioning how effective any of my writing and vocalizing has REALLY been. I've learned how far people will go to invalidate what you vocalize or type out on a screen. For most, it's purely reflexive-they can't help themselves, and their defensiveness renders them incapable of doing anything else. When painting or constructing a visual around these subjects, however, the impact (and reaction) has been, in my experience, the opposite. There's something about an image that pierces a defensive heart in a way that words simply cannot. There's something about SEEING something in front of us that gets into our core, roots into the subconscious and doesn't leave. That's the power of visual art. What we see penetrates and takes root before we're even aware it has done so. Images (and music and performance) engrave themselves upon our consciousness and solidify within us in a way that words fail to do at times. It is far more difficult to deny what you've seen vs. what you've heard or read. (This is hard for me to articulate, but I'll try to get better as I continue to process this, I promise.)

I've learned that I can write about my lived experiences with race, motherhood, faith, and mental illness and people will go out of their way to invalidate them. I've had plenty of folks do it in my inboxes or to my face or behind my back the last 6 years. (OMG it's ONLY been 6 years.) If I go back to my preteen/teen years, I remember being hit for speaking up and punished for writing my truths, my thoughts, my dreams, my struggles...Come to think of it, I've only been writing online for 6 years, but my history with having my words and vocalizations invalidated goes back to my formative years as a child.   I guess what I'm saying is:  I've fought hard to find and use my voice after decades of abuse and in doing so I've learned that some things about people just don't change when they're confronted with a truth that's different than their own.

So what does this mean for me, a person and artist who has spent a good chunk of time compelling herself and others to speak up? I know what it means but honestly?  I also don't. Here's what I know: it doesn't-and won't ever-mean inaction. I know it doesn't mean completely disappearing and going off the grid-although I've given it serious consideration. I know it means putting systems and practices in place that preserve my sanity and emotional health. I know that I desire community, engagement, and collaboration with other artists to push for change. I know it means I'm ready to stop typing Facebook statuses and tweets and blog posts around these issues and instead have difficult conversations about them through paintings & images. I know I'm committed to ensuring my work is of service to more than just my own personal advancement. It means I will continue to donate proceeds of my work to help fund the various forms of important work so many of you and others are already doing. It means I'm stepping back in some areas and from many people so that I can step fully into being 100% committed to my creative practice and focused on painting. I want to spend the rest of my life painting and creating work that says something, that inspires not just social change but personal. I want to create pieces that give people the courage to face the shit inside of themselves they've been too afraid to, or discover something about themselves they weren't aware of. I desire to create work that contributes to conversations around difficult topics instead of just adding noise. I'm so fucking tired of noise, y'all. My brain just can't take it anymore, and I don't want to be a conductor of it. I'm done screaming into the ether. Over the last 12 months especially it feels as though I've been saying the same things in every way possible without being able to truly measure how effective anything I've said is. I'd rather just let what I create speak for me.

So...I don't know exactly how incorporating silence and solitude into my life and art practice are going to look, esp when it comes to using social media, but using them to give my all to my work and speak predominantly through creating images is my focus going forward. I've struggled since 2015 to find where I "fit" and what I'm supposed to be doing with my life at this point, and the results of the election have made it far more plain for me than any other message I received in 2016. I'm clear now. I know what my role is in this fight and I'll still be engaged in it in numerous ways offline. I will also continue to use whatever influence and ability I have to compel others to take action in their daily lives to help others. It's just not going to look  the same as it has the last 6 years. It's not going to be what you've come to expect from me anymore because I'm expanding outside of those expectations.

 

My hope is that by pivoting in this direction, and shifting how I engage the world and the people I interact with, I'm able to create work that's far more disruptive, substantial and more effective than my words and vocalizations have ever been.

Here's to trusting intuition and the places it leads us to.

Sunken Places

If you've see the movie Get Out, then you know about the "sunken place". The more I've thought and read analysis of what that place represents in the movie, the more I've been thinking about and questioning my own sunken places. I'm of course curious to know what they look like and what ecosystems exist within each one. What enables and sustains their survival? How do they co-exist with our whole, embodied parts of self? Can you live with more than one exist within us simultaneously or is it just one centralized place in our being you are plunged into repeatedly, at various points in our lives? How is it created? Does it form and evolve over time or does instantaneously come into being, fully developed to hold us hostage? Where does it go when we heal/recover/outgrow/are freed from it? 

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 If you think about it, every trauma we experience in this life, has its own sunken place it transports us to upon impact...I even think that perhaps the sunken places that exist inside of us are simply the places that become houses for our former selves, the iterations of self we're forced to leave behind for whatever reason...they could also be where inherited family trauma dwells, couldn't they? 

I have so many questions but am hoping painting through them leads to at least a few answers or starting points. 

Art as Protest: Women's March on Washington

1/21/2017: a beginning and the continuation of making our way down a path already laid out for us in eras past. 

I didn't have it in me to march, but I did have a desire to contribute my work in some way. Thankfully when I offered up "Social Construct", women from around the country responded, and carried it with them as they took to the streets. Some friends even wore the Her Power tee. As I looked at the pictures some posted and sent to me, I felt a sense of relief, humility, and gratitude. It affirmed what I know in my gut to be true: this is how I can effectively resist. This is my role. There will be other ways to be civically engaged, yes, but creating work that forces people to confront themselves and what exists in our society will be my main contribution. More on this later, but for now, some photos, which had me fighting tears as I looked at them all. 

May 1/21/2017 be the beginning of a new wave of resistance. Resist, resist, resist. 

 Vermont  

Vermont  

 Chicago

Chicago

 San Jose

San Jose

 D.C. 

D.C. 

 D.C.  

D.C.  

 D.C.  

D.C.  

For photos from today of marches that took places in cities across the country and around the world, the New York Times has a gallery here

Resistance Soundtrack: Prince's Positivity (Yes)

Since the election I've been having dreams that reflect my angst, fear, anxieties, and frustration over the normalization of hate and brand of populism that's taking over. The dreams are usually centered around my resistance to it, and my desire to find ways to engage in and support resistance efforts to this kind of power. In some of them I am crying, despairing, consumed with a sense of loss, but in most, I am fighting back in some way, even if it's just against my own fears that tell me all is lost. Last night's dream was about exactly that-not giving in to the desire to give up, and holding on.

I woke up from it with the lyrics to Prince's "Positivity" playing in my head.

  "Hold on...to your soul...we gotta long way, to go!"

 "Give up if you want to, and all is lost-Spooky Electric will be your boss..." 

It's been at least a year since I've listened to this track, so I'm sitting here in bed, right now, listening to it and marveling at how Prince's music (a song from the late 80's/early 90's that for me, always helped me in my spiritual life) continues to be relevant to our political and cultural climate.  

Lyrics from the portion that was playing in my dream/head when I woke up...

  "In every man's life there will be a hang-up

A whirlwind designed 2 slow U down

It cuts like a knife and tries 2 get in U

This Spooky Electric sound

Give up if U want 2 and all is lost

Spooky Electric will be your boss"

Call People magazine, Rolling Stone

Call your next of kin, cuz your ass is gone

He's got a 57 mag with the price tag still on the side

Cuzzin' when Spooky say dead, U better say died

Or U can fly high right by Spooky and all that he crawls 4

Spooky and all that he crawls 4

Don't kiss the beast

We need love & honesty, peace & harmony

Positivity

Love & honesty, peace & harmony

I said, hold on 2 your soul, U got a long way 2 go

Sho' nuff, sho' nuff, sho' nuff

Don't kiss the beast

Be superior at least

Hold on 2 your soul, y'all, court, sing

Hold on 2 your soul, we got a long way 2 go

Hold on 2 your soul..."

 

Holding on. 

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#FuckThisShit (Advent Devotional Day 25): Jesus Mary and Joseph

Then: Generations waited for the birth of deliverance.

You were slaughtered by the state.

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Now: Generations are waiting for the birth of deliverance while being slaughtered by the state.  

During this advent season, I've been creating visual responses to the prompts in a devotional called #FuckThisShit, created by pastors Tuhina Rasche and Jason Chesnut.  You can see my responses as well as visuals and writings from other artists, pastors, activists, and believers over on Medium here

Face First

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Step One/The Beginning: Cut down what remains. 

Step Two/The Middle: Clean it up w/a taper & fade + draw a line or two. Take the advice of a friend before moving ahead to Step Three: "Take your time here before you do anything else-settle into this face first." Yea. Ima do that because there are some things about this face and past trauma I've been avoiding dealing with. But Year 34 is dedicated to Dealing With because the stories are ready to be told + healing has said it's time to go another round. So I chopped 3-4 inches off the top last night to show I'm committed to the process and stepping into it *face* first-no more hair to hide behind.

A Rerouted Personal History

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 "A well-documented feature of trauma, one familiar to many, is our inability to articulate what happens to us. Not only do we lose our words, but something happens with our memory as well. During a traumatic incident, our thought processes become scattered and disorganized in such a way that we no longer recognize the memories as belonging to the original event. Instead, fragments of memory, dispersed as images, body sensations, and words, are stored in our unconscious and can become activated later by anything even remotely reminiscent of the original experience. Once they are triggered, it is as if an invisible rewind button has been pressed, causing us to reenact aspects of the original trauma in our day to day lives.

...still, all is not silent: words, images, and impulses that fragment following a traumatic event reemerge to form a secret language of our suffering we carry with us. Nothing is lost. The pieces have just been rerouted." (It Didn't Start With You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End  The Cycle  by Mark Wolynn) 

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Toni Morrison on Trump's America

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"So scary are the consequences of a collapse of white privilege that many Americans have flocked to a political platform that supports and translates violence against the defenseless as strength. These people are not so much angry as terrified, with the kind of terror that makes knees tremble.

On Election Day, how eagerly so many white voters—both the poorly educated and the well educated—embraced the shame and fear sowed by Donald Trump. The candidate whose company has been sued by the Justice Department for not renting apartments to black people. The candidate who questioned whether Barack Obama was born in the United States, and who seemed to condone the beating of a Black Lives Matter protester at a campaign rally. The candidate who kept black workers off the floors of his casinos. The candidate who is beloved by David Duke and endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan.

William Faulkner understood this better than almost any other American writer. In “Absalom, Absalom,” incest is less of a taboo for an upper-class Southern family than acknowledging the one drop of black blood that would clearly soil the family line. Rather than lose its “whiteness” (once again), the family chooses murder." 

Toni Morrison joins 15 other writers (including Junot Diaz) in today's The New Yorker, "Aftermath: 16 New Yorker Writers on Trump's America" 

Core Feelings and Values

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As a Black, cis, Christian, able bodied woman w/a mental illness and neurodivergent Black and Brown children, let me tell you who and what I am for.

Black Lives

Brown Lives

Women & girls

Autistic Lives

Disabled Lives

Muslim Lives

LBGTQ Lives

I will not normalize hate. I will not accept hate. I will not rationalize hate. I will not explain hate away. I will only work to understand it so that I can confront, uproot, and challenge it. I will not call hate or bigotry by another name so that you can feel absolved of your culpability in your complicit support of it. I will not look past your complicit approval of it until you own it for what it is and acknowledge it as such.

I will not normalize racism, xenophobia, homophobia, ableism, or supremacist beliefs. Through my daily interactions, written and visual work, and in raising my children, I will hold the line and express my opposition to all forms of hate that impact the marginalized. My work will continue to be in the service of others, amplifying and centering our experiences, and financially supporting the work being done to combat hate and hold it accountable.

In word and deed, I will deliberately, purposefully, and unapologetically normalize the Other. Fight for the Other. Walk with the Other. Love the Other.

I don't know who you are, where you're from, or what you do or do not believe in. I don't know who you align yourself with politically. I don't know your race. I don't know your gender or orientation. I don't know how you live your life or what work you do. I don't know why you follow me or my work here, but my hope is that we share at least this core value. If you do not, I'm not sorry to say that my work and how I live my life will be uncomfortable for you to encounter. It will not always be easy to digest and it will prick your conscience, and feel abrasive as it rubs up against your worldview and values. My hope is that we can continue to connect and learn from one another, but if you are complicit in supporting and enabling hate, this will not be possible until there is an unlearning, a reckoning, a disengagement or divestment from, an accountability that must take place first before we can move forward together toward reconciliation, healing, respect, and love. If you are not open to that, you are more than free to do as you please and unfollow.

I'll be more than willing to welcome you back if and when you're ready to hold the line with me.