Revolt Blue, A Charcoal

“There again,” said Syme irritably, “what is there poetical about being in revolt? You might as well say that it is poetical to be sea-sick. Being sick is a revolt. Both being sick and being rebellious may be the wholesome thing on certain desperate occasions; but I’m hanged if I can see why they are poetical. Revolt in the abstract is – revolting. It’s mere vomiting.”
– G.K. Chesterton

The last few days my body has been revolting against me. Sick, I’ve done little else but lay on my couch watching a constant stream of Masterpiece Theaters, Downton Abbey. In between episodes, and when my body revolts against the revolt I managed to work on some art and take my dog on a walk… although then the little army men inside of me stage an even stronger revolt.

I don’t find it very poetical at all…

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My Wide-Open World, Photographs

“We represent the true human condition, the one permanent victory over cruelty and chaos…Our true home is the imagination, and our kingdom is the wide-open world.” – Lemony Snicket

I’m currently reading the book, Essay on the Creative Imagination by Th. Ribot. A text translated from French by Albert H.N. Baron. I picked it up in the basement of an old antique place. Hidden amongst the walls of odd, old books I found the little gem, which dates 1906.

I have and always have had an active imagination (sometimes overly, i.e. daydreaming hours away) and rely heavily on my inner feelings to judge my surroundings. It’s simply how I’m wired. On the occasions that I’ve tried to change it, or “snap out of it” it doesn’t seem natural and so I return to the inner workings of my head and home. So when I read the paragraph describing the imaginative mind versus the intellectual mind I understood it perfectly and had what you can call an “ah-ha” moment. The book describes the differences as follows:  “The imagination is subjective, personal, anthropocentric; its movement is from within outwards toward an objectification.” and “The intellect in the restricted sense, has opposite characteristics – it is objective, impersonal, receives from outside.” And so, “for the creative imagination the inner world is the regulator; there is a preponderance of the inner over the outer. For the understanding, the outside world is the regulator; there is a preponderance of the outer over the inner.”

And so, from my own inner world in which I, like Mr. Lemony Snicket, have a kingdom that is wide-open, I’ll share a few photos of a recent hike in which I saw a mother and child, a funny troll with a prickly beard and bulbous fingers walking with a branch under his arm, a man in a green coat readying his arrow, and an old, old woman praying with her head on the forest floor. I’ll let you figure out which ones are which…

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Listen, A Photograph of Nature

“Though it’s fearful,
Though it’s deep, though it’s dark
And though you may lose the path,
Though you may encounter wolves,
You can’t just act,
You have to listen.
you can’t just act,
You have to think.
Though it’s dark,
There are always wolves,
There are always spells,
There are always beans,
Or a giant dwells there.
So into the woods you go again,
You have to every now and then.
Into the woods, no telling when,
Be ready for the journey.
Into the woods, but not too fast
or what you wish, you lose at last.
Into the woods, but mind the past.
Into the woods, but mind the future.
Into the woods, but not to stray,
Or tempt the wolf, or steal from the giant– 
……….”
– Stephen Sondheim

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Terribly Understood, A Charcoal

Because with alarming accuracy

she’d been identifying patterns
I was unaware of—this tic, that
tendency, like the way I’ve mastered
the language of intimacy
in order to conceal how I felt—

I knew I was in danger
of being terribly understood.”

– Stephen Dunn

Below is my representation of intimacy. I love charcoals and although I’ve been working more with acrylics and watercolors the last few years, charcoal is my very first love – it was the medium I found at age 12 or so and remains my favorite…like an old friend who understands me..

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A Path, A Photograph

“Perhaps her faults and follies, the unhappiness she had suffered, were not entirely vain if she could follow the path that now she dimly discerned before her, not the path that kind funny old Waddington had spoken of that led nowhither, but the path those dear nuns at the convent followed so humbly, the path that led to peace.”
W. Somerset Maugnham

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Sleep, A Photograph of Home

“He imagined that he was looking for her and couldn’t find her anywhere, that the two of them were lost on a vast ship, sleep is a skilled magician, it changes the proportions of things, the distances between them, it separates people and they’re lying next to each other, brings them together and they can barely see one another, the woman is sleeping only a few yards away from him and he cannot reach her, yet it’s so very easy to go from port to starboard.”
– José Saramago

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Something, A Photograph

“If you want to really hurt you parents, and you don’t have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts. I’m not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”
– Kurt Vonnegut

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Faith, A Watercolor with Leonard Cohen

On three different occasions this week, with three different people, conversations led to thoughts on love, belonging, our past and what we keep from it, as well as the rational and irrational mind (the heart and the head that is.) After considering all the conversations combined and all the different opinions of those I’m close to, I decided that for me personally, it comes down simply to faith.

My own idea of faith doesn’t encompass religion either, and in fact I don’t believe in religion or the church and mostly organizations of any kind worry me. I do however, have a strong faith in humanity, in something greater than myself, in love and even in the irrational mind.

I had had the idea that I would write about the subject, but instead I sat and painted my depiction of faith, both in something greater, and something deeper than the rational mind might allow. The drawers of the chest represent all the little places and files we keep within our minds. Those places that challenge our faith.

And who better to speak of faith, but the great Leonard Cohen, with one of my favorite songs ever, Hallelujah..

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I’ve heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do you?
It goes like this
The fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty in the moonlight overthrew you
She tied you to a kitchen chair
She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Baby I have been here before
I know this room, I’ve walked this floor
I used to live alone before I knew you.
I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch
Love is not a victory march
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

There was a time when you let me know
What’s really going on below
But now you never show it to me, do you?
And remember when I moved in you
The holy dove was moving too
And every breath we drew was Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Maybe there’s a God above
But all I’ve ever learned from love
Was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you
It’s not a cry you can hear at night
It’s not somebody who has seen the light
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

You say I took the name in vain
I don’t even know the name
But if I did, well, really, what’s it to you?
There’s a blaze of light in every word
It doesn’t matter which you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though it all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah

Modern Love

I’ve loved design and architecture for the whole of my adult life. While a Fine Art major in college years ago, I had considered studying design instead of scientific illustration (I ended up with a degree in Literature and Writing in the end…go figure..)

There are many different types of architectural design I like, but none so dear to my heart as Midcentury Modern – Desert Modernism to be specific. Brought on by a mixture of both the International style and Bauhaus Movement, each building has function, style and a grace that makes my heart go pitter patter.

There is nowhere else in the world you can find more mid-century marvels than in Palm Springs, California. Recently the Art Museum of Palm Springs (a fantastic place to visit if given the opportunity) opened the Architecture and Design Center in the historic Santa Fe Federal Savings & Loan building designed by renowned modern architect E. Stewart Williams.

Palm Springs itself (one of my favorite places to visit in the United States) has managed to keep its Hollywood flare. It wasn’t a place stars like Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra and the likes went to bask on the beaches. It’s where they went to have dinner parties, lounge by private swimming pools like desert lizards. It’s where the cocktail hour was serious business…and still is.

I’ll not forget the residents of today though. They are as contemporary and modern as the architecture itself and I adore their flamboyancy. I’ll write about them in another post though. This post is strictly architecture and design.

I was salivating at the idea of the new museum so naturally this week I headed to Palm Springs.

Being a small city, I was able to walk to most places although I did rent a bike (a lovely city cruiser with a basket and bell) for three house early in the morning. This helped me cover more ground on my tour of homes. It was a sunny 75 degree and not a cloud in the sky. I had headed into the neighborhoods and downtown. I had wanted to view my favorite house – The Kaufmann Desert House. The Frey House II (designed by Albert Frey, another favorite of mine) sits on a hillside and is private so I was unable to see one of my other great loves..but oh well.

After my long ride, I showered, changed and set out on foot to the museum. First I stopped by the Art Museum to do some Christmas Shopping and see the exhibits. I then headed to The Architecture and Design Museum – saving the best for last.

Deep sigh….

It was quiet inside as it was mid-day and everyone else was having lunch or just waking from the last nights partying (they party a lot there.)

I was in heaven. The current exhibit, An Eloquent Modernist: E. Stewart Williams, Architect, showcases Williams’, as well as his sons, dedication to both good city planning and even better modern architecture.

I could go on and on here and I can’t recommend the exhibit enough. So for anyone interested, you can find more information at http://www.psmuseum.org/architecture-design-center/

With regards to my favorite Kaufmann Desert House, I was hoping the house, designed by Richard Neutra (http://www.ncmodernist.org/neutra.htm) would be open to the public in February during Modernism Week (February 12-22nd) but I believe it wont be (insert sad face here.) I will, however, be viewing the Frey House II (insert happy face here.)

Below are a few photos I took while on my cruiser. I’ve chosen not to convert them to black and white as I believe the desert colors are quite lovely. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.

Every great architect is – necessarily – a great poet. He must be a great original interpreter of his time, his day, his age.
-Frank Lloyd Wright

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Process Evolution

“There’s kind of a process of evolution that goes on where the creative part of you adapts to whatever circumstances are available to you.”
-David Byrne

I spent a great deal of my adult life volunteering. Though the last few years I’ve been less selfless with my time and every once in awhile I’m reminded of it.

For many years I owned and operated a yoga studio. I wasn’t a very good businesswoman however. I paid my teachers well, although never myself. I didn’t charge my students if they were down on their luck and would give free sutra study sessions, free community yoga periodically and let fine art groups use my space for figure drawing classes multiple times a week for next to nothing. Again, a business woman I am not. But I liked what I did. Until I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t pay my bills on karma alone.

During those years, I volunteered extensively. For many months I would visit the woman’s prison each week, go through my pat down and metal detectors, and teach a small group of inmates the benefits of yoga and meditation. Eventually they needed the time slot for a new craft class and so I said goodbye to my students behind bars. I felt horrible. One woman in particular even sent me a gift via mail. It was a pottery bowl and quilt she had made. As it turns out, Jeanette was quite an artisan.

As life got in the way and changed so did my volunteering time. I then went five years (until now) being stingy with my once generous time. Sure I’d give whatever money I could to charities, but it never amounted to anything much. It was just all I could give, as my time wasn’t up for giveaway any longer.

Then, a few days after Thanksgiving I was cleaning my bookshelf and picked up one of my old yoga books and found a note inside.

“Dear Jennifer,
I wanted to thank you for coming out to the prison for the yoga lessons! I so appreciated your coming and the guidance you offered. You made me feel like I was a free person in a real yoga class!!!
I know I told you that I have a hard time shutting down my mind – my gifts to you are part of my mind never shutting down. There is always a new ceramic piece or quilt to do.
Namaste,
Jeanette”

“A free person.” Those words stuck with me and I felt a tinge of guilt. Not for not being at the prison any longer, but for not giving to my community or humanity for five long years. I sat on my couch and considered what I should do. Even though I practice yoga and will until I pass away, I didn’t feel I wanted to go back to that again. Although I’ve sat on a few historical preservation boards in the past I didn’t want to go there again either as it can be quite elitist.

But what about art? What about art and those less fortunate? I know they teach crafting classes all over, however I want to share my love for fine art and self expression. There was only one place to go for now….

Although this month with the Christmas holiday, I’ll be spending time volunteering serving meals at the local homeless shelter, next month I’ll be teaching still-life charcoal drawing classes for the same people in need.

As with any form of art, I see it as therapy. I know that the high-end art industry is alive and thriving but what about the artists not given a chance due to their circumstances? Like Jeanette and her being able to feel free for a few minutes a week even though she was behind bars. Yoga and art gave her new ways to express herself. It is my hope that those without a home to call their own can find the same way to express themselves as well, and I’d sure like to help in any way I can.

As David Byrne, an artist, writer and musician (Talking Heads anyone?) I respect greatly, recently wrote, in an interview with Salon.com, when asked about inspiration, “There’s kind of a process of evolution that goes on where the creative part of you adapts to whatever circumstances are available to you.”

So….what about the inspiration that those less fortunate than me have. Along with their personal artistic evolutions and stories that can potentially be transmitted via fine art. Why not..

I don’t have many material goods, but I do have a house, food, a loving family and friends, a camera to photograph my adventures, a computer with which to write my book and paints with which to paint.

Maybe I’m being selfish with my selflessness, as I get something from the joy of giving back to humanity. But okay, selfish I’ll be.

Autumn Snakes, A Photograph and Musing

“I like to hear a storm at night. It is so cosy to snuggle down among the blankets and feel that it can’t get at you.” 

– L.M. Montgomery

I woke this morning to the rain and wind beating on my windows and walls – as if the broken branches and leafs were begging to come inside where it’s warm. It was dark outside and I tried in earnest to go back to sleep, not wanting to rise. I buried myself deeper underneath the feather duvet.

It’s the reason I love Autumn so much. It’s a temperamental season – storms one day, sunshine and blue skies the next, and yet the next, possibly snow. Autumn and I have a kinship. I’ve been called temperamental more than once in my life.

Finally, sleep evading me, I rose and turned on my lamp. Maybe I’d write. Maybe not though. Even my dog looked annoyed at the early wake-up and from her resting place near my bed only gave a yawn and fell back asleep, deciding even her morning pee could wait until a more suitable hour. I apologized to her and went about my business.

Stumbling out of bed, coffee in mind, I felt my stiff, angry back protest with a shot of pain. Too many backbends during my practice this week left me feeling a tad old and more than a tad weary. I decided that today would be an “inside” day. I’d hunker down, protected by the wind and dark rain and finally finish “moving in” my new place. It’s been over four months and still I hadn’t hung curtains, the last item of my moving “to do list.”

Two hours later my back was still upset with me, so I grabbed my keys, warm goose-down coat, and headed to the International District for a walk-in reflexology and massage at a cheap little place owned by a Chinese man. I’ve been there a number of times and although only a quarter of the price of a spa massage, I’m consistently impressed with the service.

Of course I don’t get the entire spa treatment of soothing candles and mood lighting (I can do that at home anyway) but my limited budget doesn’t suffer either. Instead I hear a mixture of classical music and Chinese news programs in the background. There are no candles, but a small Buddha shrine. The spa talk of “what is ailing you today and how can I help you?” is replaced by the “therapists” chatter in Mandarin to each other. I am essentially filleted as a fish would be next door at the Asian Market. And I was in need of the filleting today.

Afterward, I slithered like a snake, relaxed and almost spineless, to the market for green tea, dried seaweed and a treat of kimchee-style fresh cucumbers. The sky, just as fickle as me, opened up, and the blueness overwhelmed my sensitive eyes.

At home I drew a hot bath, mixed a wonderful cocktail and soaked until slightly resembling a prune.

The sun is now setting, the wind picking up again, and the temperamental Autumn reigns.

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I smell…

“Ooh, but I still smell her.”
Giovanni Arpino, The Scent of a Woman

I smell…

Like a woman.

Although sometimes, when leaving my house, I’ll add one spritz of CoCo Chanel Mademoiselle or Dolce and Gabbana’s Light Blue (depending on the occasion) to my décolletage. But generally I wear Jennifer.

I like the smell of a man too. The natural scent of skin and sweat and all the good things that come with it and it’s something I miss about not having a partner near. Sure I have my favorite male cologne that I enjoy once in a while, but like my Jennifer scent, I prefer the natural scent of whomever I’m with.

As you can imagine, I was in shock when I read a NY magazine article about a new Silicon Valley start-up company who’ve created a pro-biotic strong enough to make a woman’s vagina smell like peaches. And I mean an actual peach.

I understand there may be women (and men for that matter) that have a strong odor and to that I cannot speak as I’ve not experienced it. So admittedly I’m generalizing here – using the average woman and her average smells.

But what about the scent of a woman? The average woman. And men…the average man.

Without a doubt, men have their own pressures. Soon they’ll be a pill that will change the smell of semen to something fruity. However, it seems as though society has gone a bit overboard on our gender pressures, both socially and physiologically.

When did smelling like a human become so utterly unbecoming?

When did smelling like a woman become passé?

For that matter, when did looking like a woman become passé?

Is it just me, or is all the customizing of us humans considerably dehumanizing?

I’ve not had my personal Jennifer scent critiqued, but I’ve had my body on the chopping block a few times. One partner thought that I was too fat, another I was too thin, and yet to another, I was just right; womanly. Yes, like Goldie Locks and the Three Bears. Interestingly enough, my “too fat” and “too skinny” were within only 6 lbs of each other. I realized later in life that if I tried to please everyone with a measly 6lbs of flesh, I’d confuse the hell out of myself. Therefore, I simply accepted my small but curvy frame.

Lord knows we’ve pressure to look a certain way and now it appears that we must smell a certain way as well. I’ve already written about the female genital mutilation so prevalent within Europe and the United States in my article “Barbie’s Vagina” so I won’t go on about that. However, doesn’t the idea of not allowing ourselves to have a lovely natural smell seem a bit absurd?

Would I be too off base to guess that the makers of the “peachy” product don’t like woman much, or the smells that come with loving one. Or would they say that, on the contrary, they love woman to bits, which is why they would like to control the way they smell….and look….and act….

Musician, A Photograph of Life

“He had a theory that musicians are incredibly complex, and know far less than other artists what they want and what they are; that they puzzle themselves as well as their friends; that their psychology is a modern development, and has not yet been understood.”
– E.M. Forster

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Reflection, A Photograph

“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.”
– Mary Oliver

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