the loveART blog


paypal: the new medici?

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Michelangelo had the Medicis. Diego Rivera had Rockefeller. And Yulia Pinkusevich has Paypal, her trusty email list, and a large dash of inventiveness to propel her artistic vision forward.

On April 3, 2009, at 6 pm, Yulia will be suspended high above the lobby staircase of Warehouse 21, a community arts organization in the currently hot Rail Yard district of Santa Fe, New Mexico. There she will create a large-scale charcoal drawing covering much of the upper wall and corner of the 40-foot space. What makes Yulia’s project especially intriguing to the wordARTist is the way she set about raising funds. A couple of months ago she sent out this email:

I will create a large scale drawing directly on the wall. The wall will be rigged for climbing and I will be suspended by a harness. The performance will consists of me negotiating the vertical space while drawing an image with charcoal and tape.

The action of drawing and climbing will leave marks from my body along with marks made by my hands, leaving a trace of physical struggle that will become an inherent part of the drawing and image.

I have begun rigorous training for the performance and am seeking sponsorship for this project. I need to raise $1500 to pay for the space and equipment rental, setup, filming and production costs. If you, your organization. or any others you know of might find this idea interesting, amusing, or would simply like to see it realized, please take a minute to donate as much or as little as you can. Every dollar counts! I have set up a quick pay pal link for your generous donations!!  DONATE NOW (via PayPal). 

The new piece will be a natural extension of some of Yulia’s past explorations, large-scale charcoal drawings either directly on walls or suggesting walled enclosures:

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“This is the first fundraiser I have initiated,” she told the wordARTist. “Most of the people who donated are friends and know me personally–except one art organization from my college town in NJ. This was a nice surprise! Yes indeed it is strange territories that I am sailing, since I am not so into asking for money and never liked selling anything! But in the spirit of this project and knowing how difficult it would have been to realize it without the help of others, I decided to be bold and simply write an email. I hope it’s not too pushy. I figured people would just delete it if they are not into it.”

Yulia has also obtained help from Kevin Jaramillo, a world-class climber and filmmaker from New Mexico “who helped me with the rigging of the wall to be safe and climbable. Also he showed me how to use the various devices/equipment to help me move around. He was very kind to donate his time and equipment to the project.” Filmmaker Kristin ten Broeck, studio director and founder of New Media Films, is also donating time and efforts to collaborate with Yulia on a video of the performance, to be premiered in Cambridge, MA, on April 30. In addition to these in-kind donations, Yulia has raised some $800.

Her whole enterprise strikes me as being so in keeping with the spirit of these times. As the old infrastructures crumble around us, more and more we are reaching out to community for support, as well as inventing new ways of accomplishing our goals. The wordARTist loves Yulia’s out-of-the-box thinking for raising funds, which puts her squarely in the vanguard of a new breed of artist entrepreneurs that the New York Times recently identified in the article “Shifting Careers: Making Artistic Careers Lucrative.”

Yulia says, “I am hoping, now that others are involved, that this project will be good enough to make people feel that it was a worthy cause to contribute to. It’s a fine line between silly and serious.” I’d say it’s just plain inspiring.

(All images courtesy Yulia Pinkusevich.)

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for whom the bell tolls


Yesterday Dr. Paul Elwood, a renowned new-music composer, champion banjo player, and professor of music composition at the University of Northern Colorado, turned me onto the quirky little comedy Stranger Than Fiction. In the movie Will Ferrell plays a terminally boring IRS agent who discovers that (1) he’s actually the character in a novel being written by Emma Thompson and (2) Emma has plans to kill his character off. Faced with the certainty of his imminent death, Will makes radical life changes in the few days he has left.

Then this morning came the tragic news of the real death of Natasha Richardson, a passionate and gifted actress from a long lineage of passionate and gifted artists. Richardson died after suffering head trauma in a skiing accident. She was 45.

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Her father, the Academy Award-winning director Tony Richardson; her mother, the actress and activist Vanessa Redgrave; her grandparents, the great actors Michael Redgrave and Rachel Kempson; her husband, actor Liam Neeson–these people have given the world so much. The wordARTist is struck by the shocking suddenness of Richardson’s passing, especially immediately after having watched Stranger Than Fiction.

What would you do differently if you knew you were going to die tomorrow? Why not do that now? Hardly new questions, but ones that we do well to remind ourselves of in moments like this one.

(Photos of Natasha Richardson from Photobucket.com.)


are you holding suffering?

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Today the wordARTist is thinking about how hard we are on ourselves. How we beat ourselves up when we don’t put paintbrush to canvas or words to the page or notes to the instrument. How we take our little human mistakes and magnify them until we are overwhelmed with the certainty that we cannot possibly be worthy of love. 

Today, just for today, what one small kindness can you do for yourself? It doesn’t have to be perfect or big or difficult. Just kind.

Here are some wise words to help you on your quest.

May I learn to look at myself through the eyes of understanding and love. –Thich Nhat Hanh

Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. –the Dalai Lama

There must be quite a few things a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them. –Sylvia Plath

The one thing that can solve most of our problems is dancing. –James Brown

Suffering is not holding you. You are holding suffering. When you become good at the art of letting sufferings go, then you’ll come to realize how unnecessary it was for you to drag those burdens around with you. You’ll see that no one else other than you was responsible. The truth is that existence wants your life to become a festival. –Osho

(Photo: The Gardens at Hedgebrook, Whidbey Island, Washington, copyright 2005 by Diana Rico.)


do you believe in miracles?

Marianne Williamson says:

Miracles occur naturally as expressions of love. The real miracle is the love that inspires them. In this sense everything that comes from love is a miracle.

In Taos, where I live these days, my heart swells with love every time I see the sky.

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It changes constantly, like a lover who never ceases to fascinate.

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It feels bigger, more expansive, more endless than any sky I’ve ever been under.

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One of the reasons I sold my car last year (after decades of living in the car culture in L.A.) was so I could really be under that sky, with my feet planted on the earth, as much and as intimately as possible. 

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What inspires your heart? 

What miracles happen when you tune into that place inside of you?

How would your life change if you accessed this more often?

(All photos copyright Diana Rico 2005-2006.)


and the angels sing

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Belgian composer Lucien Posman–whom I cited in a post below, about artists who have been inspired by the poet William Blake–has written more than three hours of music set to Blake’s texts. He invited me to share his composition “To Morning,” which he wrote for a choir of three women to sing to Blake’s poem:

O holy virgin! clad in purest white,

Unlock heaven’s golden gates, and issue forth;

Awake the dawn that sleeps in heaven; let light

Rise from the chambers of the east, and bring

The honey’d dew that cometh on waking day.

O radiant morning, salute the sun

Roused like a huntsman to the chase, and with

Thy buskin’d feet appear upon our hills.

O radiant morning, appear on our hills.

Lucien accompanied his beautiful song with a wry note: “Most of my music is contemporary modern classic music, the kind of music people don’t listen to.:)” Let’s prove him wrong, shall we?

(Artwork: Jacob’s Ladder by William Blake, from Photobucket.com.)


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At the end of an interview in the New York Times’ T Magazine: The Moment blog, the ever-strangely-coiffed fashion journalist Suzy Menkes asks Raf Simons, “Do you think of yourself as an artist? “No,” says Simons, who took over the creative reins at the innovative design house Jil Sander three years ago. “I’m a fashion designer.”

The wordARTist begs to differ. Just take a look at the Jil Sander fall collection that Simons launched on the Milan runway last week. The clothes are grounded in the now-classic minimalist sensibility for which Sander became known, but in Simons’ hands they morph into body-conscious sculpture with a graphic-design sensibility. The shapes are fresh and unexpected, the neutral fabrics broken up by swirly peeks of brilliant-colored linings. This is the stuff of subtle genius. Architecture for the body: ahhhh, it soothes my soul.


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This haunting video clip is from Masters, a work-in-progress by Brian Hull, an Emmy Award-winning puppet master, writer, director and singer. Brian was checking out the wordARTist’s Theory of the Power of loveART one day and was moved to respond: 

Building bridges, dissolving obstacles–yes, yes, yes. I do believe that art will save the world; I know for a fact that it heals. When I was in Normandy a little French girl tried to speak to me in English after a show; then a teacher giddily translated for her so she could have a conversation with me. Turns out she was with a class of mentally and emotionally challenged children and had never spoken at home or at school. So what made her want to talk to me after the marionette show?

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What mysterious power indeed? Even more thrilling, it turns out Brian’s experience isn’t unique. “I related this to my friend Philip Huber (puppeteer on Being John Malcovich),” Brian wrote, “and he said a similar thing happened when marionette artist Bil Baird visited a children’s hospital–a boy who had not spoken in years started talking to the puppet, and immediately he was surrounded by doctors and nurses. I think, though, this is not just puppet-specific, but rather has to do with the arts. Without the arts, I don’t know where I would be. It’s such a crime to take it out of schools and such.”

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Brian performs with his puppets in France, Germany and Italy as well as in his home base of Nashville. In the YouTube clip above he brings to life Van Gogh and Michelangelo in mini-puppet operas (he does the singing, too); a longer version with more artist-puppets will be released in 2010, with DVDs and CDs and an illustrated book. If, like me, you’re very visually oriented, check out the high-resolution version of the Masters trailer. It takes several minutes to download, but your patience will be rewarded with great beauty. 

(All images courtesy Brian Hull.)


in other words

Books in Guatemala (copyright 2007 Diana Rico)

As a writer, the wordARTist never fails to be amazed and heartened by the power of story. In today’s New York Times, an article titled “Read a Book, Get Out of Jail” tells of the program Changing Lives Through Literature, “an alternative sentencing program that allows felons and other offenders to choose between going to jail or joining a book club.” This sounds flip, but one study showed that program participants had half the recidivism rate of a control group. It costs $500/year per head, versus $30,000/year for incarceration. And can we even begin to measure the internal impact that reading and studying the written story might have on the incarcerated?

The probation officer begins by telling participants that “this program isn’t a miracle,” but it works in mysterious ways…. Searching for terms to explain the mechanism by which literature “changes” readers, participants come up with “turning points,” “epiphanies,” even “grace.” “When it’s working,” [program founder and English professor Robert] Waxler says, “this discussion has a kind of magic to it.”

Of course it does. Love is magic, and I believe stories, at their best, are a form of love. “Sometimes a person needs stories more than food to stay alive,” says the character Badger in Crow and WeaselBarry Lopez’s fable inspired by the stories of the North American Plains peoples. “That is why we put these stories in each other’s memory. This is how people care for themselves.” And the great Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield, in his book The Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness, and Peace, tells this remarkable story about stories:

In the Babemba tribe of South Africa, when a person acts irresponsibly or unjustly, he is placed in the center of the village, alone and unfettered. All work ceases, and everyone in the village gathers in a large circle around the accused. Then each person in the tribe speaks to the accused, one at a time, recalling the good things the person has done in his life. Every experience that can be recalled with detail and accuracy is recounted. All his positive attributes, good deeds, strengths, and kindnesses are recited carefully. This ceremony often lasts for several days. At the end, a joyous celebration takes place, and the person is symbolically and literally welcomed back into the tribe.

The astonishing power of story. How will you use it today?

(Photo: My and Lily’s Beds in Guatemala, copyright 2007 Diana Rico.)