Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Where is your heart, America?

More innocent lives lost. I didn't want to face it, think about it, much less write about it. How in our country with all its beauty and freedoms could there be another devastating school shooting? How can we as a country let this keep happening? Because we all know, it's not just about guns and gun control. 

It's about fear and anger. It's about a total lack of leadership in all our branches of government. The legislative branch is too busy filling their own pockets with corporate bribes to do what they are voted into office to do: help everyone get health care, education and jobs. The judicial branch is too busy ruling in favor of gerrymandering and campaign contributions. The executive branch is in chaos because the wrong person is in the 'big house' due to a foreign interference.

Where, oh where is the true America?  I don't know. 

No one seems to know. And that, is the truly scary part. Because of that fear, I see people acting out in vicious ways. Threatening tweets coming from the top only lead to more viciousness and bullying all the way down to dear, sweet children dying.  

We're losing our way in this labyrinth of muck all around us. When even the Olympics is tainted by mean girl and guy commentators who care more about their outfits than the courage and strength and talent of the athletes, we've got a real problem.

Where is your heart America?

Our forefathers came here from a land where people were starving, beaten and jailed by the powerful English. They wanted freedom to speak, pray, live and love. They wrote our constitution to give us ALL the right to pursue happiness. 

Lately, I've been struggling to find it. I don't want to get mired down by the muck slung around by others. I don't want to shut down either. I've been avoiding my feelings because I don't want to take away from someone else's deep, deep loss by writing about how I feel about it. But I need to feel the deep sadness for those mothers and fathers and children who lost so much in Florida. We all do.

This loss hurts my heart. And my neighbors. And yours, too. 

And that's how I know our hearts aren't lost. I see it in the sweet face of my grandchild learning to count, my neighbors children walking their dogs and learning to drive, people stopping to talk on the corner and help others on an icy sidewalk.  

When I see those smiles, helping hands and friendly faces, I feel the strength and truth and roots of our hearts. It's my way, my small way to navigate through the muck and find my way back to love.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Creating Acceptance.

Ask someone to tell how they got started as an artist or writer or creative person and they'll tell you about their childhood. Some of the stories are beautiful childhood memories of a great auntie or teacher who saw their talent and helped them along. But most of the stories are memories of being different, feeling like an outsider looking in or failing. Good or bad, these stories aren't really about talent vs inability. They're about acceptance. 

Being seen. 

I love this quote from Art & Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland:

“Becoming an artist consists of learning to accept yourself, which makes your work personal, and in following your own voice, which makes your work distinctive. Even talent is rarely distinguishable, over the long run, from perseverance and lots of hard work.”

I've spent my life in various stages of duck and cover. There are a lot of reasons for this which I won't go into here, but let's just say one big reason was that if I made myself invisible, I'd be more accepted.

But I was seen anyway. And it always took me by surprise when it happened. There was a little part of me that longed to be seen and a bigger part that wished to be left alone. I liked the quiet and calm and space. I still do. I believe that's what really drew me to writing and art making. 

It is a solitary sport where I get to determine the game plan. It's a safe place where I can accept myself, as I am today, where my voice whispers through the clay.
Being heard. 

Another quote I love from Ursula Le Guin:

"One of the functions of art is to give people the words to know their own experience. There are always areas of vast silence in any culture, and part of an artist’s job is to go into those areas and come back from the silence with something to say. It’s one reason why we read poetry, because poets can give us the words we need. When we read good poetry, we often say, ‘Yeah, that’s it. That’s how I feel.'

Sometimes, I forget how important it is for everyone to speak up. Lately in our country, we've been bombarded by voices. Anger. Pain. Threats. Fear. And especially, one loud voice crazy with denial, lies and madness. I get to a point when I just can't listen to any more. Then I realize the louder the voices, the bigger their need to be heard. 

Being accepted. 

As a writer and artist, I love my solitary, calm, studio work. I love to read and listen to music and stare out the window. But I also want my art and words to be seen and heard and accepted. In order to do that, I know I have to open my eyes, ears and heart not just to creation but to all that is created around me. Creating acceptance to the good, the bad, the ugly that I make and you make and all of us makes. 

I figure if I can accept the messes I create. (And I hate messes). I'll be better off and hopefully so will you.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Love, Art and Learning.

As I throw or wedge or paint in my studio, sometimes I forget how much I love what I do. It becomes work with all the pressures of deadlines, deliveries and performance. I forget or, perhaps, neglect to embrace the love, play and tactile enjoyment of my chosen field of art. Luckily, this weekend helped remind me.

Love comes in many forms. 

I took a chance a few months back and entered an entirely different kind of show. I've had gallery shows, craft shows, studio shows most of which require complicated steps to even enter the shows, much less get accepted and be able to show. 

For those of you who are not artists, I'll run through the usual gauntlet: do the work, get professional pictures of the work, put together a resume or artist statement, find a show/gallery that fits your work, fill out the entry forms(which can be complicated and digital), attach the specified size jpgs with specified labels, pay the 'jury' fee, send all the elements in by the specified deadline. Wait. Months later, you'll get an email with either an acceptance or rejection. You don't get the jury fee back, even if you're rejected. 

The Love Show 2018 was a breath of fresh air from the very beginning. 

All I had to do was be one of the first 200 to email them. I got an email back the same day with acceptance into the show. Months later, I was sent an email with basic show info, a consignment agreement, link to their label form. If I chose, I could send them a jpg of my work, donate $10 to help pay for the show, spread the word on social media and bring food to the opening. 
The opening was full of people. The food was a varied and fun potluck. But best of all the art was an amazing eclectic collection ranging from funny to inspiring. I love the Love Show!  

Will they sell my piece? I don't know. Right now, I'm just proud to be a part of it and to have let myself take the risk of doing something so different and yet, such a perfect portrayal of the true heart of making art. 

Art and learning don't always go together. 

I've taken many, many art classes in my life. Structure, assignments, competitions all take the heart out of art fast. That's why going to a workshop, even a free one with people that I know, can be stressful. 

This one was so much fun!
Oregon Potter's Association is making peace poles, like totems, for our Showcase fundraiser. In addition to working with schoolchildren, OPA offered this opportunity to their members, free! I've been part of many art organizations over the years, and this is the only group to offer a free workshop to its members. 

Over the years in these workshops, I've taught mask making and learned to make plates, tiles, and now a 3 dimensional totem sculpture. But the best thing of all is the camaraderie. Tools are shared. Stories are told. Laughter and encouragement are all around. Got a question? Just ask and you have 10 other people to help out. Whether it's about clay, dogs, kids, there's someone in the room with something helpful to share.     

Sharing. Love. Learning. Three words that I don't usually link to art. But they are the heart of true art.
(A special Thank you to Veronica and Carolyn for the workshop photos)