the loveART blog


Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the creativity 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
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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.)


spirits rising

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Item 1: In March 2009, 2,250 people stood in line at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., for half a day awaiting the privilege of paying $22 to see Elizabeth Gilbert speak. Gilbert is the modest and utterly engaging author of the smash-hit spiritual memoir Eat Pray Love, which has been translated into 13 languages and has 7 million copies in print.

Item 2: Oprah’s been inviting guests like Thich Nhat Hanh, Marianne Williamson, Byron Katie, Elizabeth Lesser and Jon Kabat-Zinn onto her tv and radio shows and Soul Series webcasts. When she launched a virtual “study group” (complete with syllabus and workbook) centered on Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose, 450,000 people tuned into the first webcast. By the time the ten-week series wrapped, 20 million people had downloaded the programs.

These little things make the wordARTist‘s heart sing. They confirm my observation that the number of folks hungry for connection with Spirit is on the rise. And as we delve into ourselves to find, explore and deepen that connection, all sorts of good stuff becomes possible. Stuff like, oh, a stronger sense of community. An honoring of the mother earth. The eradication of hunger. Global peace. You know.

As my own small contribution to this heartening trend, I am offering two programs this weekend. Wearing my hat as the curator of the 2009 Summer Writers Series for SOMOS (the Society of the Muse of the Southwest), the preeminent literary organization in northern New Mexico, on the evening of August 21 I will host “Women in Praise of the Sacred,” a program featuring readings by award-winning poet and activist Dora E. McQuaid, chants and poems to Spirit by the short story writer, poet and artist Pat McCabe, and a special surprise guest. (A three-word hint: slam poetry champion.) The program starts at 7:30 pm and is at the new Taos Art Plaza, 223 Paseo del Pueblo Sur, downtown Taos.

And on August 22 and 23, Dora McQuaid and I will teach “The Alchemical Heart: Writing into the Sacred,” an intensive workshop we organized under the auspices of the Creativity and Consciousness Institute of Taos, a new University of New Mexico affiliate dedicated to education in the areas of creative expression and human consciousness. (Dora and I are both members of the CCI Board of Directors.)

Dora and I are excited to teaching “The Alchemical Heart: Writing into the Sacred” at the historic Mabel Dodge Luhan House, a fabulous 100-year old complex abutting Taos Pueblo Indian land, backing up into a sacred Penitente morada and dense with the creative spirits of D.H. Lawrence, Georgia O’Keeffe and other former denizens of Mabel’s infamous salons. Here’s a fun half-hour interview Dora and I did earlier this week with Jim Ball of Taos’ progressive talk radio station, KVOT-FM: Alchemical Heart & Women in Praise of the Sacred. (It starts at 19:48 minutes in.)

While you’re waiting for the (slooowww) audio clip to load, I’ll leave you with a petite writing exercise: What makes your spirit rise? List ten things.

Now go out and do one. Then come back, pour yourself a cup of tea (or something stronger) and enjoy the radio interview.

(Photo credit: Elaine’s Quan Yin, copyright 2006 by Diana Rico.)


let’s dance


The wordARTist
is getting just a little bit tired of waking up to snow on the ground when it’s supposed to be spring already. (Whine whine.) So I was heartened to find the video above on the “Move and Be Moved” blog of Visudha de los Santos, an artist and healer who facilitates ecstatic dance workshops based on Gabrielle Roth’s 5Rhythms and other expressive movement modalities.

Visudha had posted the YouTube video on her blog under the title: “We Are Called to Dance.” Called, I believe, as in a holy calling. What could be more sacred than our natural impulse to move joyfully to music? Rumi wrote:

We came whirling out of nothingness, scattering stars like dust.

The stars made a circle, and in the middle we dance. 

Just viewing this video makes me feel hopeful. Spring will come! Soon! In the meantime, I’m taking a dance break. In my living room, among the stars.


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.)


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.)


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.)