the loveART blog


Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the art category.

1 revolution. 0 bullets. infinite joy.

As an emissary of the power of the love, today the wordARTist celebrates the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Growing up during the Cold War, I remember President Kennedy’s speech on our black-and-white TV, the weird knowledge that in a single city, far far away, a gigantic wall divided its citizens…things that only grownups, perhaps, could understand.

What I never imagined was that this seemingly permanent fixture of our psychic landscape could ever crumble. Much less without bullets–in a frenzy of dancing and kissing and love, an amazing example of humanity coming together in pure joy.

Ten years ago I visited Berlin. A museum of human rights at what used to be Checkpoint Charlie documents thousands of attempts of East Germans to escape. I was moved by the fierce determination of people to be free. But what really cracked my heart open was walking the streets of a neighborhood where a fragment of the Wall still existed. There it was, a marker, like the WWII bullet holes the British left on the sides of the Victoria & Albert Museum or the memorial that currently stands at Auschwitz…lest we forget.

Naturally the fall of the Wall inspired all sorts of creative expression. Here are some that I like.

The New York Times invited nine major poets from Eastern Europe, the U.S., Russia and Germany to write new poems inspired by the twentieth anniversary of the Wall’s demise.

David Lanz’s piano piece “Dancing on the Berlin Wall”:

A goofylicious guy thang:

And visual artist Christoph Niemann‘s poignant personal take on the Wall today, a narrative in words and woven paper in his New York Times blog Abstract City:

Christoph Niemann - Over the Wall

your playing small doesn’t serve the world

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In an interview this week with the Washington Post, Sir Ian McKellen says that his remarkable professional success came only after he revealed publicly that he was gay:

…he also credits the uptick in his show business profile with the growth of his comfort level with himself, a peace of mind that developed after revealing that he was gay in 1988 during a BBC radio program examining the Thatcher government’s policies toward homosexuality. “It all happened since I came out, ironically,” McKellen says of the Hollywood phase of his professional life.

The belief among some in his field that opportunities automatically get narrower after such candor is to him mythology. “I’m living proof the opposite is true. You get more self-confidence. You don’t have that bit of dishonesty,” he says, adding that acting “is about disguise. But it’s not about lying.”

At 70, Sir Ian enjoys the rare distinction of being both a world-renowned pop-cultural icon (with his roles as Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings and as Magneto in X-Men) and a leading classical actor on stage and screen, “one of a select few who has all but defined Shakespearean performance for our time,” according to the Post. The Shakespeare Theatre Company just honored him with their annual Will Award.

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He is also a very public activist for gay rights; his website has sections on Activism, Gay Rights, and Acting Is Activism, among other things.

The wordARTist finds it easy to believe that Sir Ian’s creativity was somehow unleashed when he permitted himself to be seen fully, in public, for who he really is. Furthermore, the wordARTist posits that by taking that risk–a large one, in the public profession of acting–he opened the door to taking other kinds of risks in his work, risks that have benefited him, and us, in visible and invisible ways.

Coming out of the closet means defeating one’s shame. And don’t we all hold back, in countless ways, a little bit or a lot, each day? I am reminded of the famous quote from Marianne Williamson’s book A Return to Love (often misattributed to Nelson Mandela):

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine, as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us, it’s in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Think about this now: in what dusty corners are you hiding some piece of yourself, restraining it from public view? It might be in your creative work; it might be in your relationships; it might be in the ways you pursue happiness, or don’t. Sir Ian is a beautiful example of what happens when we confront our shadows, shine a light on them…and then transmute them into a source of strength.

(Photos of Sir Ian McKellen from Photobucket.com.)


better than spiderman

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Several readers have inquired about the outcome of artist Yulia Pinkusevich’s live wall-drawing performance at Warehouse 21 in Santa Fe, New Mexico (“Paypal: The New Medici?,” posted on March 29). You may recall that Yulia used email and Paypal to raise funds in order to get herself rigged up in mountain-climbing paraphernelia and execute a room-sized drawing before an audience. Filmmaker Kristin ten Broeck of New Media Films just completed filming for two short videos of Yulia’s piece, which is intriguingly titled “The Great Temple of Fallen Civilization.” Check them out below. Better than Spiderman!

“The Great Temple of Fallen Civilization” Live @ Warehouse 21 from Yulia Pinkusevich on Vimeo.

“The Great Temple of Fallen Civilization” Time Lapse from Yulia Pinkusevich on Vimeo.

(Photo courtesy Yulia Pinkusevich.)


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.)


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.)


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.)


fashionartista

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.


puppet master

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.)


try a little tenderness

There Is Still Time (copyright 2007 Diana Rico)

This gentle sign sat at the entrance to the adobe casita I lived and wrote in at the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation last year. The Wurlitzer is a magical place, a colony where fortunate artists are gifted with the time and space to work–or not–in whatever way they deem best. There is no pressure to do anything at all, just a nurturing environment of total support and acceptance. 

We all need that, don’t we? And what’s important to know is that we can give it to ourselves

Last week the wordARTist taught a workshop called “Delving into My Artist’s Statement” to a group of painters, printmakers and photographers at the Taos Artists Organization. I know, from talking with many artist friends, that the task of writing the artist’s statement often raises fear, anger, resentment, confusion and just plain blockage in people who are accustomed to working in the purely visual realm. And so we took a few deep breaths together, and then we dove in.

First, I had them write a list: “10 Reasons Why I Don’t Have to Write an Artist’s Statement.” I think it’s very important to give yourself permission not to do something that is torturing you. The critical voices inside our heads can be cruel, especially the voices saying “SHOULD” and “MUST” and “YOU’RE BAD IF YOU DON’T.” Let’s introduce some tenderness, shall we?  Tenderness leads to self-love, and self-love is a key to unlocking the creative spirit.

We read the lists out loud, and of course common themes emerged: “I shouldn’t have to explain my art,” “I don’t know what to say,” “I don’t want to tell people how to look at my art,” “I hate to write.” The room was filled with tension as the artists spewed their negative feelings onto the page and into the room. Good. The wordARTist believes in getting all that internal poison OUT, so that it stops killing you at the root.

Then I talked to them about how an artist’s statement helps me, as a viewer, understand what I am looking at and deepens my experience of an artist’s work. A well-crafted artist’s statement opens a doorway, leads an audience into a unique world. In writing their artists’ statements from a place of loving kindness, they would be holding out a helping hand to all who might potentially benefit from seeing their work.

Next I asked them to write another list: “10 Reasons Why I It Would Be an Act of Self-Love to Write My Artist’s Statement.”  

Shoulders that had been scrunched up visibly relaxed. Arms that had been clutched in front of chests unfolded and opened. The air became warm. Gentleness settled in. As they shared their second lists, their voices rang out strong: “I need an artist’s statement to approach galleries with.” “It feels good to tell people what I’m trying to accomplish with my art.” “I feel empowered taking charge of my career.”  

They spent the next two hours excitedly writing out answers to questions I posed about their work, brainstorming the raw materials that would become their artists’ statements. The floodgates were open; it was hard to get them to stop. And amazing, moving, to see the joy that had replaced the tension in their faces. 

That sign in front of my Wurlitzer casita had a similar effect on me; it never failed to reassure me. Sometimes these days, when I’m hearing the cruel, judgmental voices in my own head, I remind myself of those heartening words. And recently I got to meet the woman who had put it up, a writer named Susan Varon. Susan is an ordained interfaith minister; she marries people. She bills herself as an “Officiant of Love.” She talks about a wedding as “a divine collaboration” with “the power of Love in the universe.”  

Isn’t that what artmaking is? The next time you’re blocked or scared or just struck dumb, pose yourself these questions: What can I do to be an Officiant of Love to myself? How can I bring a little tenderness to bear, in this situation, right now?

(Photo: There Is Still Time to Do Good Things, copyright 2008 Diana Rico.)