Thoughts on Studying Film

Possibly my first love, and likely for everyone, is the language of film. It’s something we use to define our world, used for both propaganda and high art, it’s become the most ubiquitous form of media, ceasing to be something rare or in novelty but almost reality itself. It may be said the dominant form of understanding comes from our sense of vision, though I have learned in describing my art to some folks on twitter who are blind that we can reach new understandings without our eyes. The world become writing, or even just someting we can feel, a kind of emotional literacy that finds it’s way back to speech, and to the mind, sound to vision, vision to language, sound to meaning.

I can’t ever say that I’ve been far away from it, and so none of us can, in this world of ticktock and loops of fiilms that for a long time have changed the way I view film. The standard two hour film length of modern cinema is a specific form of narration, a construct that defines itself in it’s underlying structure, from it’s earliest inception to our current tolereance for film. Even though for a long time I gave it up, only going to superhero films and special effects experiments that are at a juncture quite unlike the quietness of the films I’ve been watching. I’ve been watching for days, but I’m used to it. One of my most memorable experiences was watching Out 1 in a theater in San Francisco, a full 12 hour film. It may seem like a a long time, and the small audience at the Alamo theater created a camaraderie among those of us that gathered to watch the rerelase. We encouraged each other to not give up, to always wait until we had finished our work viewing the film. We became part of the experience, the films length giving it the process of initiation. Are all films initiations, are they all ceremony?

I’ve been watching for several days, researching global cinema. The films we allow ourselves to view in our culture rarely speak to the quieteness of the films I’ve been watching. Of Men and Gods, Pather Panchali, Chronicle of the Years of Fire, and Andrei Rublev, across French, Algerian, Indian, and Russian films from some of the best directors, and I could go on for the rest of the day but after four films and eight hours I’m taking a break, returning to study later in the evening or during the day. Because if I don’t allow them to change my consciousness I don’t know what will.

That is the problem of the pervasiveness of media, I am often seeing reviews that imply that many people view so. many films, while I have only seen a few. Each one I”m selecting carefully, and researching to find exactly where I left off and what I have kept in memory of things I wanted to see. I have been utterly transformed in the last two days, almost beyond recognition in my own mind, because I have finally realized the ability to see through anothers eyes that are not my own, and that is from researching aesthetics and film theory that made me realize that the filmic art is both inductive and tranductive, transcendental and transformative, as we enter our own lives into the wold of another, a gathering of ideas and structures that creates something new between the perception and reality that is a shared agreement we enter into as we become the films themselves, and the films become us.

There is a problem in our society that I could call the spectator issue, which is by admonition of our own existence that we indirectly imply our reality by non participation into the experience of the film itself. We often understand things in the context of sports, and it was mentioned in one of the books I have been reading something that was fascinating, the idea that if you look at sports without bias, all of it is in a way quite akin to dance. It’s just abstracted with a mathematical and rule based architectural construct. It’s quite formal but it is also it’s own language, beautiful and complex in a way that many other arts are not. But that is a language for it’s own use and not that of film, as what I’m learning in my current mode of studying that some languages can only be understood unto themselves, making a vast landscape of indefinable and immutable beauty in the reality that it builds, from simple sounds to the most complex forms of human thought.

The modern film structure reads like the limits of a conversation, it ends almost like the perfect end of a conversation with a friends, probably defined by how long our physical bodies can sustain the stress of the organic forms of speech. Indefinable though, like love, is the thoughts that follow. How long we hold on to these images as time goes by. I hope I never see too many films, or if I do, always understand that there are more than I could ever see, and the few that I have seen, by their rareness have allowed themselves to stay with me as friends as a long conversation, for when we realize how long that conversation happens, is almost as though there is no length to the film experience, at least with great film. But if we don’t allow ourselves to be transformed by film itself, we just become spectators, only quickening the pace toward more misunderstanding, as if we reject each embrace from the poetic forms act of sacrifice and love. That’s what great film does, and so far, these films are that for me. I have seen through new eyes in work that spans years and lifetimes, and I’m sitting for awhile and just letting them stay in my mind. Because that is the greatest repayment I can give to the hundreds of artists and lives that bring us these films. I’m going to study these four films and see where it can take me for the rest of the day, because more than a conversation, I have fallen in love with them all.

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Hope for the Future

As I write this I’ve spent almost two years coming out of a semi monastic experience studying art and design. It was jarring at first, I read so much information, watched every countries speech at the United Nations and began my first steps into a larger world. I’ve been up all night again, and now I’m relaxing in the afternoon. I’ve been taking some time off after being pushed to exhaustion at the constant pace of getting my first work into a show in SF. The work is being shown and I feel like I can finally take a step back. There is so much to understand in the world, so many crises. I often wonder in the midst of all the detail I study just what are the commonalities that might be able to help make a world more free of conflict. I’ve always sought a path of peace.

I hope we can all realize in these great difficulties, that any war costs so much human misery, for all of us. We’re all part of the same world, and especially when we have so much facing us in the climate crisis, we all need to come together and pool our efforts of every facet of our world culture. What will this world be like if we keep fighting in a world that needs all of us right now. What greater responsibility for our entire reality is placing down our grievances and allowing us to share with one another in this great fabric of life, this impossible reality of the simple miracle of being alive. What greater torment could befall us if we are responsible for taking another life. We all deserve a place in this world. We all belong. For me the world crisis is not one of separate distinctions, it’s a crisis of the imagination, the ability to suspend the concept of self and other, the ability to realize the space between each other is almost unreal.

I’ve stopped making figurative art for a while to give a space to breathe. My canvases now are as vast or as small as far or near as the imagination can take us, and somewhere in the surfaces I hope to offer a place of respite and rest, and that’s why I’m making my art right now, this is the prayer I give to all of us, that in our busy and frenetic world, we can all, together, find a place of peace.

Voices

I’ve written around three novels in my life so far, with additional zines and comics not included. The novels are quite serious on the surface. I’ve looked at the mental health crisis from firsthand experience, I’ve written perspectives on my own personal views of ontology and psychology, trained from spending years in therapy. But I’ve never really spoken plainly and calmly about the terrifying situation in my life. I’ll try to make this as brief as possible. Folks who know this blog know that objective reality isn’t exactly my thing. But I’ll try my best, from what I know, to recount these experiences. I don’t know everything, but here’s what I know. Over the course of the last two years, I’ve been able to piece together fragments, from research and study.

I’m not sure how far this goes back, or the reasons why, but I’ve been under surveillance for many years. I know this from frequent tests, which at some point I became obsessive about, by working on twitter and checking the results, at first I would go straight to the feed, once I was comfortable enough, I started to do it through tweetdeck, and somehow, I’m not sure how I found it in journalism. I was shocked by its effects into an almost daze when I realized it was happening.

Over two years, I learned that our apartment in Emeryville was bugged. My phone is compromised. People can see this screen, and it puts me in a position I don’t think anyone understands. Every second of my life is an act of hope against terror, every instant I do anything I know that there is a risk of death or torture. No one has ever told me in plain language what is going on. Instead, people in my life have used it for political gain, keeping me further in torture, or advancing their perspectives.

We used to have cars making sounds outside our window in Emeryville, sometimes I still hear traces of it even when I’m walking, and even cities seem to stress me out sometimes. Now it comes in small collections of birds, an act of sound torture which is well organized. Often its in leaves on the ground. It’s a stealth situation, by mimicking sounds of the natural world, they are redirected and untraceable, and from what I can tell, this is well known. The effect is cumulative, they’re laughing sounds, which puts everything I do into a critical focus, as if my entire life was for entertainment. Sometimes I blow past it, other times like last week, it pulls me into relentless despair.

At this point I have had almost every conceivable threat directed toward me. Some of the most offensive accusations have been made that are unfounded and only result from the constant lifting screenshots on my phone and on my screen. I see when it’s happening.

There’s also a code system used for numbers relating to people I know, as if my entire life has been made into a game. This is terrifying and I don’t know when it will end. I’ve been driven almost to a psychological breaking point because of how it diminished all of our sprits and turns everything into a game of life and death.

I want this to end, and I don’t know quite how to do it yet. I’ve tried through poetry, through music, through art, not as artifice but as a cry from the depths of my soul. I hope no one ever has to go through this. It’s terrifying. So lately I’ve been getting into Human Rights Activism, since this is first hand knowledge of abuse that I can relate to with victims as an ally, someone tortured yet somewhat free, able to use my voice and my mind.

If you ever see me making art, stop paying attention to numbers and each process of what I’m doing, at this point every time it happens it’s a new assault. This takes so much bravery that I didn’t know I had. I have a vast wellspring of resistance that, for now, can’t be extinguished. I’ve always been looking for someone to state these facts plainly to defend me, and for this moment, that has to be me. So many others can’t speak out, so I have to. we have a desperate movement of suppression in many parts of the world, every time I do anything now, taking a breath, getting a drink of water, walking down a hall, playing with our cat, conversations with friends, I’m aware of this, and carry these burdens with me, for until all of us are free, none of us are free.

Distances

Light Fields really gives me a chance to share what my world is like. It’s not something I expected and its happening slowly. Looking back on it I’m realizing that after being somewhat abandoned as a child growing up, I see vast distances of space in all things, the figures moving silently through landscapes alone, searching for something, never quite knowing what it is. These distances can seem bewildering, a vast environment of abstraction and solitude. This silence is like a friend, maybe the only friend we have in our loneliness. I’ve been quiet today. Almost all my experiences have been in a way solitary like a cloudless sky. It makes my friendships that much richer and sacred to me. It may be where my emotions come from. Working as a freelancer was difficult before we moved to the forest. It’s really been a place to heal. But this solitude is so familiar, it’s like my childhood, the cities I traveled alone in, the long walks to school in Chicago, the long commutes to work and school from the East Bay. All of these memories have faded into the distance, so far beyond me that I can’t perceive them anymore. And in these distances I find something I can hold onto, almost nothing at all. The space of time like a chasm, a quiet canyon in the imagination. The possibility of freedom all around us, the faith of something invisible, the air we breathe, that is always with us and giving us life. And its in these moments that I feel peace, even with all the injustices that have broken the silence at times, the attempts to understand what is so clear and true, that only we know our own worlds, and in the distances between each other, we understand something new, something in the space between self and other, in the distances we create the future, together making something that could never be apart, we are all part of this space, the distances, and with each breath, we create, together, something new.

My Relationship to Color

I recently shared some work I had been doing with another member of our Climate Action Committee, after working on some branding work together to set the visual tone for the this year. She remarked almost immediately that she loved the colorwork. It’s something I’ve heard for a long time when I show people what I work on. I absolutely live for it and it’s my absolute favorite method of communication. I know not everyone sees the same way, literally, it’s the one place I know I can create in complete emotion. I’ve been doing this for years. My favorite moments in art school, if I really think about it, were when I was in the painting department at SAIC, in enormous rooms that were filled with daylight, and at night they were like an inner, warm glow, On weekends, which I often went in for, not many people were around, every motion was like an arc in space, you could really sense it. Something I noticed early on was how the colors on my pallette, while I was mixing, were possibly the best compositions I made. The colors blending into one another as there were moments in the painting practice where there were tests being made, directly experimenting with color on a small section of the pallette before putting it on the surface. Sometimes I would get distracted and just stare into the colors as they appeared in the mixing process. Anecdotally something I read recently stated that you fall in love with a painting when you just notice one color next to another one, a practice used most emphatically by Mark Rothko, a hero. I’ve been making color compositions for almost two weeks now, sometimes four or five a day. It’s the best way I have to enter into another world. It’s everything to me.

But color can be used in negative ways: propaganda and symbols of power, but color itself is magic unto itself. When we get too caught up in symbology we can miss it. Here’s an exercise I sometimes do. Pick something around you to look at, it could be anything, and let it hold your attention and don’t drift from it, just look, when you see things this way you drop into something like another field of expression. You just let the colors be, free of intent. That’s the way I learned to paint. It’s a very simple process and I often do it now. And once I stared at a wall in college and made blank pieces of paper in series to emphasize the fact that nothing is neutral, it was another experience in study that brought me back to appreciation of all things. This is an advanced practice but it’s worthwhile. Far past color or symbology, I create to just let colors be, let light be, free of any intent. We can anthropomorphize anything, and so often, that’s an objectification of reality that is truly dangerous. When I look at painting I’m in another world. That’s my foundational interest in abstract expressionism, I try and bridge those worlds. So please know that the spectrum of light is in all things, it belongs to no one, and has someone mentioned to me, in the same way it belongs to all.

When you look at my work, I hope you can come to an understanding that visual reality doesn’t have to be entwined in meaning, it can just be on it’s own, and like I’ve studied in elements of Buddhism, that’s true reality, and even then, it’s not the only way. We all have gifts and these are mine. Taking meaning away from my work is the greatest theft anyone could make toward me. The reality of my work is subjective emotion, yet clearly defined in my mind as I’m making it, not as an end unto itself, but completely free of symbology or context. Sometimes when I realize people are taking my work the wrong way I get into intense despair, and the only way I know how to mitigate that reality is by just making more color compositions, as many as I can, and I hope I share that simple beauty with you as I make this work, I can’t put any of this into words, but my work is available at any time. All day, every day, which is just what it takes for me to feel alive.

Climate Action this Week

For the last year I’ve been working on climate mitigation in all my work. I’ve recovered most of my work since the early part of this century and reached back to my earliest memories of painting, creating what I feel is my best work in years. I think about almost nothing else all day when I’m making work, and while it’s almost been tangential to the visual process it is the main underlying theme, both spiritual, technological, and structural foundations of the medium of impressionism and painting, a late 19th-century technology reimagined for the 21st century. As listed in a previous post, I know I’m not alone. In the NFT space I’ve often found artists who are also working in this medium, exploring both spirituality and the ecological crisis we’re facing, but are we doing enough? It remains to be seen.

I often have no idea why everyone in the world is not focused exclusively on climate change, as a missing puzzle piece that creates all of the other issues of our time, it’s the bedrock and foundation of all of our realities. The political games, the individual struggles we all have will all mean nothing if this planet is lost. So much is at stake. I’ve been working with Climate Changemakers for the last three months to get out the word about these policies, and I have no idea why there hasn’t been a bipartisan interaction, with both sides passing the legislation which seems so obviously beneficial. When I was posting NFTs this morning and getting the word out about some of my work, I learned that one of the senators from the democratic side would not be supporting Build Back Better, the social policy bill that is trying to be advanced in the Senate this week. I was devastated to learn that all we worked for in the political action group would not pass by Christmas. It would have been the greatest gift to see everyone come together to pass this.

From what Jen Psaki said in a statement, this isn’t over. I really hope it still gets through. As much as a moderate as I am, I just don’t understand why this wasn’t passed. It seemed so uncontroversial and positive. I just don’t understand. I’m becoming more motivated as a climate activist for the next week to try and find a way to make up for it. I want to learn about why Build Back Better is being ignored by folks who don’t support this bill. I don’t even know where to start.

Because of this, next year I’ll be working in a more cohesive way to investigate through my art the changing climate process and look at hypothetical solutions. It’s all on my mind right now. Where we live, our direct environment is at risk, and with the storms all across our country in the last year, nowhere is safe. Until we tackle the climate crisis we’re just not in a position to consider other issues in a meaningful way.

I wish I wasn’t writing this. I’d rather talk about advent tonight. I’d rather be making art and posting about it, but right now I’m just seeing a lot of posts about what happened this morning. It’s not too late. We can all come together because if we do the world is truly at a moment that we just can’t see yet. It could be incredible. If anyone reads this who doesn’t agree with the climate provisions, and so much that is in this bill, take a look at the details and see if it’s not something that you can support, especially if your representatives do not support it. I don’t know how to get the word out other than climate changemakers, it’s a non-partisan collection of resources and activists who are here for the climate, and little else. We can’t ignore this. We have to move quickly on this to find what’s inside all of us: and unlimited potential for a better tomorrow.

The New Arts

It was just starting to get cold outside in the forest. I was spending my days painting during the day, in communication with my thoughts and nature. Six months previously as I began to start my art practice in painting, and my days were spent studying Van Gogh and Monet, and exploring color. There were birds outside, and in the early morning light there was not a sound in the forest, it was beautiful. Often I would calm my thoughts, listening to a visionary prayer sung as The Origin of Fire by Hildegard Von Bingen: A mystic visionary who had been with me for years, always calming me, in silence in the peacefulness of the storms around me, in my mind. I was calm. There was something about her work that really fascinated me while I was in art school. The context of the work, mystical and mysterious, was a departure from the concept of art that I was learning about with the turn of the century, well last century, I remind myself.

I don’t remember exactly how this happened, but somehow I began to explore the digital reality of what I will call the New Arts. I started making virtual reality exhibitions of my work, I shared what I was doing on Twitter, and then I found it. A hashtag that was a portal into the current work being made by other artists, the #NFTcommunity. What I found there was everything I had always been looking for. A portal into the most revolutionary new forms of making. Digital sculptures, hybrid mix media works, and the absolute best artists I’ve ever found. I didn’t need to find the perfect city to make art, as I had always been searching for. Moving so many places. This was it. Like mystical and spiritual art, this provided a new context, and that context was everything. The new arts do not wait for appraisal or acceptance for the work their creating. The context of the communication of the medium allows for a rapid growth structure that can almost be blinding in its pace. Spending an hour researching and looking at the art made here, you realize that the world is moving so fast, with such incredible leaps of the context of art, that you get the sense that what is termed NFTs are something much deeper than that. It’s freedom of expression at the speed of light.

I don’t even remember how I found them, but I began to find a group of artists that I resonated within my own work, @meppomaru, @GareebAadmi666, Blackout Punks and the pixel art community and its critics. As a collector I have purchased two pieces so far, and I plan to get some of @meppomarus work when I have a bit more funding. I have in my collection one of Aadmis works and a Blackout Punk. It’s vital to support artists as well as make your work in this field as an artist. It’s a community. We support each other. All the art I’ve seen can’t be listed independently. There are just so many artists who blow my mind every second I’m on Twitter. I’ll focus on these three because they represent three distinct and individual currents in the work I’m finding, pixel work, neo-impressionism, and visionary sculpture. The other work I’m finding is so vast, so individual, that searching the NFT community you are reminded of the limitless individual creativity within all of the artists making this work. It’s vast. Each work is almost sublime, and when you look at all of it together, it is as vast as space, unending and constant in its revolutionary forms of making, and expression. Each line and every form and structure.

@meppomarus work that I found focuses on discreet movements of the brush, often finding a base of simulation of impressionist techniques. Like Seurat she moves in short bursts of color, building into a vast symphony of individual pieces of color compositions. She often posts her process and you can begin to get insight into her work through what she shows in her making. It is irreplaceable. There is absolutely no way anyone else could make the work she does, it’s so balanced and resonant with her own work across each individual piece. I followed her work for almost a month, watching as she went from piece to piece, daily, in the expression of a girl with a witch hat, no more magical than the spell of art that she made as she filled the canvas with dashes of color. This was impressionism at light speed, it’s exhilarating to watch. In here subject matter we find a variety of everyday experiences, the girl multiplied into various forms, at a laundromat, relaxing on the beach, tending a garden, and enjoying a walk outside, often with a black cat, like our own. What happens in this individual exploration, as a viewer? For me, it offers a sense of the magic in everyday life. If this central figure or expression across each individual in her explorations, she is, herself, creating something like magic.

What is magic? Its concept is so mitigated by popular considerations of the term that it loses its potency, the language of the description of the concept isn’t even appropriate to have a word. I can’t answer what this term really means. I find it most often in the arts, but in the work of the music I’m listening to as I write this, that Von Bingen was just as much in the every day that she was in the careful contemplation of her belief in the mystical reality of her God. What is the Origin of Fire? For Von Bingen, it means something only expressed in the arts and also in dedication of the science and experimentation. The New Art is also like this, each expression through technology a subtle interaction between engineers who design the applications, the communication device of programming technology, and the tools the artists use. This is artistry on an infinite scale, a combination of science, technology, and the arts, that defy categorization.

We often take it for granted. Every second we’re online we are in a state of incredible flow of artistry between everyone who works in this field. It’s a constant revolution that is unending, transforming rapidly, and while I can’t contain in a single post just what this means, take a step back and imagine everything that we’re doing that is uncategorizable, in this state you realize the sublimity of the everyday. There is no everyday, and in this context @meppomarus work reminds us that every experience of our day-to-day life is transcendent. It reminds us that every experience is just as careful, rapid, and fast as existence itself. I purchased, after looking for so much work over the last month, one piece that I could find that was absolutely beautiful that I could purchase.

All of @GareebAadmi666’s work resonates with me, I’ve never found an artist that resonates with this kind of reality, and just as @meppomaru finds a space of limitless expression in the painting work, Adamis work finds an expression like this in the field of digital sculpture, so careful and considered. It reflects a sense of calmness even in its transcendence. It is just as much in a field of photography as sculptured forms, often finding a base of open space just as vital to the compositions as the form itself, often in complementary of subtly monochromatic tones that are broken by flashes of colors that break the silence of the surrounding environment into color interaction that is inventive and subtle. There is no art I have found that is like it. The overall work seems meditative. Often the sculptures have as their contextual focus, few figures or individual studies. The effect is one of intimacy. We are invited to study every careful movement of color and form, and as a focus on the human body we can find an individual form of expression that is in a sense, a contemplation. It’s quiet, calm and contemplative.

In this work, I find a sense of the ineffable like that expressed in Butoh, but calmer and more penitative. Like Butoh, there is wide open space in each of these works. There’s a kind of performative work in each of these motions, you can almost feel like there is movement in each of the works. It suggests movement or anticipation of motion, you almost watch the paintings as much as you look at them as photography. Perhaps it is moving in slow motion, so slow that you can’t perceive it, maybe it moves over time in a way that transcends time, maybe it takes centuries to move a single moment. While writing this I tried to find something that would focus my criticism, I found some of Morton Feldman’s work that began to approach it, but I couldn’t find any music that can approach this work, like Butoh, it might be silence, as there is no silence. There is an open invitation to reconsider everything around us, a place of calmness and contemplation, of some of the questions of our time.

Criticism is important, and I don’t want to lessen the absolute vitalness of this form. I often read criticism in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the Washington post to get a wide sense of perspectives about the state of our world, all of these modes of expression are vital to understanding our world. When I looked at the Black Out Punks, I was reminded of something Charles Blow’s column a few weeks ago that asked me if there was a more subtle discrimination of color itself, to be considered. How often is blackness as a color feared? For me, as I sit writing this in the morning, still pitch black outside of our home in the forest, it reminds me of its true reality. Each moment there is a street light, or a window through what I imagine someone is waking up, it reminds me that in the calm of night, you can see the light that is around us in every moment. It is always around us, the sublime and indescribable, but we can begin to trace its forms, an unending expression, the arts and our world, in every moment changing, as vast and shifting as the clouds in the sky.

How to Get into NFTs

I’m giving NFTs to my close friends and family this Christmas. The onboarding hasn’t been difficult, and my niece especially, who is part of a different generation, was able to pick it up instantly. It may seem complicated but it’s very easy to get started. I had to write multiple emails about this so hopefully, this is all you’ll need to know. There are five steps this Christmas to getting set up for the morning NFT gift.

  1. Getting a Crypto Wallet. There are many available. I’ll just start from my experience early in this process. Some of the popular choices are Coinbase, Metamask, and I use Portis. This is a deep subject. Coinbase has a great introduction to this world. My niece chose Coinbase.
  2. Open an Opensea account. NFTs are not associated specifically for a platform, they’ll always be a part of your wallet, and you can take it anywhere. I use Opensea because it’s more like a gallery than not. I’m also on Foundation and Rarible.
  3. Send me your wallet address for the transfer. Your wallet address should look something like this, this is mine: 0xa1452f7602d0dd9fa58193dc262c05d62a2d3dca. Follow instructions from your wallet provider to get this address. It should be obvious. On Metamask there is a literal link right at the beginning.
  4. Get the gift. You don’t have to do anything, I’ll send it to you. Once you get the gift it should be in your opensea account so you can see it. I’ll also send a jpg to my friend and family group so you have that as well.
  5. Congratulations, you’re now part of a growing future. So check out the community. You can follow NFT aggregators and individual artists. Enjoy the space. It’s like a community, and looking at art all day is addictive and wonderful. Try following #NFTcommunity to get started, and in the morning to forget to say gm. 🙂
  6. Consider and support climate mitigation of the costs of your wallet transactions. You can do this at Offestra, at least that’s what I do. They have a calculator and ways to purchase offsets.

    I’m always on here. If you want to see what I’m up to, and let me know which of them you’re interested in, or you can wait for a surprise Christmas morning. Hope this helps, and happy Holidays!

Almost One Year of Reluctant Blogger

Well, it’s been a pretty rough few days, but things are looking better. I finally got a chance to update all of my sites with the latest work, and spent the last couple of days looking through everything and analyzing what I’ve been up to since we moved to Fairfax. During the pandemic I couldn’t focus on much, just stolen moments in a very stressful time, much of which has been documented on this blog. I didn’t really have time to relax and listen to music, I had to be so on call most of the time. I was so frightened that I wasn’t able to really focus on anything well enough to take it all in, except by proxy when I was reading the news, analyzing advertisements and trying to get a holistic view of what was going on. I had a voracious media diet, and it was absolutely necessary. It was like going to grad school all over again, reading as much as I can. I really didn’t pay attention to world events and preferred to just engage with a small circle of friends, and even then, it was mostly to study art.

I got up to speed fast. I’ve now sat in on most of the UN assembly speeches, watched countless C-Span, watched the Olympics, and read the NYtimes back to back until I could only scan the headlines once I started to look into everything else. At times the world around me was almost soul crushing, but what I realized is that I slowly built up my tolerance so that even in the most difficult situations I was able to pull through. I think that’s just what the idea of a spirit can seem like, in line with spirituality. For me the concept means that our consciousness is fluid enough to respond with subtlety with any difficulty that can occur. Even when I reach the point of heartbreak something is released in me that allows me to find a place of calm. I don’t think that’s a mistake. I meditated consistently for years, and now even though I don’t sit at a cushion as much as I used to, I engage in what is termed off the cushion meditation, just everyday zen. The way this works is that you focus on one thing at a time completely, it allows you to change, adjust and stay steady for any type of situation. It has an interesting effect. For me every action feels like a deep universe of motion, and I don’t perceive time the way I used to. A week for me seems like a year, and so much happens, but if I didn’t have the ability to forget things sometimes, I might really slip since there’s so much information I’m taking in.

I made so many paintings this year and finally went back today and looked through everything one more time. I may take the rest of the month off from making new work. The art show is next week and I’m trying to figure out just what that means. I hope I get at least one sale, anything would be really helpful to see. But honestly that doesn’t even matter. What mattered to me the most was finally looking through all of my work and seeing just exactly what I was up to. The main thing I learned is that it was all abstract. Even when I painted individual portraits and worked from photographs, it was essentially the color and texture work that really had me interested. And what I’ve found is that’s what I’ll be working on for the foreseeable future. Each of these paintings is so important to me, and the fact that I’m not focused on any one physical reality, each of them just exist on their own. It’s like instrumental music or a kind of sound that hasn’t been realized yet. I’d love to hear what this work sounds like to musicians who are looking for inspiration.

I’ve come in contact with some difficult online hate, but I ignore it. I don’t let any of it get to me, yet I”m cautious getting into any potentially uncomfortable situations. It’s quiet and peaceful in the forest most of the time, leaving me free to paint and research on my own if I have to. I often wanted to run away in the pandemic from the place we were living, but where we’re living now is essentially all I dreamed of. And I’m doing exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted a year to spend painting and researching, and so far I’ve been able to do that. This morning I finally set aside some time to listen to new music, and I listened to Taylor Swift for three hours to get a good sense of what she was up to before her albums last year, which were amazing.

I don’t know what caused me to do this, other than seeing that Red came out. I think there was a conversation with some of my friends in the Ace community that caught my attention. It was a rollercoaster, so beautiful and heart breaking, so that every song or so the happiness and joy was tempered by a tinge of sadness, sometimes almost unbearably so. She’s a genius. I listen for three hours and didn’t notice, and that is an amazing achievement. Everything is so carefully considered that it doesn’t even occur to you that you’ve spent so much time listening, and that’s the power of catharsis. We can experience our own emotions thanks to the honesty through which she channels the songwriting. The only thing as a human I can say though, is that I get to walk away once the songs are over but it leaves me wondering if the author is OK. That’s a little weird because I’m sure she’s fine, I really hope so.

After I listen for a few hours it’s weird that the later half of my day was spent finally uploading my work for the year. During the analysis I thought a little about what I listened to. I find parallels in the overall experience of all of that work together and what I had been developing on my own, the varied textures, and the lines like melody, harmony in the color structure, and a steadfast refusal to be held back. There’s a ferocity in a lot of her music, and I think that’s what gives it some of its strength. And it allowed me to be relentlessly objective after listening when I looked back at my work. I don’t know if I could work to this music, but listening to it right before getting to work was the foundation I needed to really look at what I was doing and come to realizations. My work is better than it has ever been, and even if no one likes it I know I’ve been true to each painting in allowing it to become something I didn’t expect. The fact that I don’t plan the abstracts allows it to be a record of emotion and thought, and each of the paintings I upload in the morning are snapshots of what that process looks like. I know this post is full of analysis but it’s my progress report for the year.

Why did I choose Fairfax for this? We lived in Marin when we first came to San Francisco, but didn’t really consider it until seven months ago. It seems like a lifetime. I originally thought that it would be a good place to train the mind. I shut everything out and only checked the news without great detail. The sounds of the forest were at times distracting, but I got through it, again because of zen. I just listened to the sounds free of intent, and letting them flow by. Anyone can do this, it’s just a matter of training. There are so many places that offer this in the bay area. It’s not hard to find.

So we’re almost at a year in , and this is the check-in. There’s enough on the blog now to document all the rest. I think I achieved exactly what I needed to when I chose this apartment as a place to build up my strength, both mentally and physically. The job at Peets combined all of these things, and it was hard but definitely a powerful antidote. I’ve dealt with so many difficult situations, because as Swift sings, “Because I have to.” And today by about mid-morning I realized that I had finally passed what was for me a self-imposed test. I learned exactly what I wanted to learn in the last year. It’s very simple. I learned to be completely honest, come to acceptance, and I learned to let go. Not as an ending, but so there is the ability to have something new. I posted recently the Rumi quote “Be ground, be crumbled, so that wildflowers can grow where you are” which I first heard from a Tara Brach meditation, which was a cornerstone of my practice for so many years. It doesn’t mean defeat, it means you conquer yourself and let go, so that new life can emerge, and after the early morning I painted something in a few minutes and posted it and realized that’s all I needed to do. I can’t wait to make more work soon, but it’s been a long day. It’s been a great year, and I’m finally caught up. I can’t wait for tomorrow, and all the work all of us have left to do to make this world a better place. The climate crisis is real, and we all can change what’s happening for the better. Because so much is at risk, and because we have to.

Art Practice Day 2

Just to keep myself accountable this will become a painting and writing journal. I think I’ve covered most of the other topics in this blog that I don’t have to revisit. I wanted one thing when we came to Fairfax and I started painting. I wanted to use my time here to become as closely artisticly entwined with the world we’re in as possible. My model was Van Gogh. I found that my way of perceiving the world is quite similar. I’ve thought before about becoming a monk, though that was never really a good idea for me. I am too aware of the visual world, and in many ways, like the surrealist and romantic poets, I see the art within every aspect of my day to day. I started a photography series, as mentioned in the last post, to document the day to day realities, but painting is something else. It’s a record of emotion and action, and I found so much inspiration in the group of painters that I follow on twitter. Twitter is almost like a town for me, it brings so much together. I visit it so much each day for friendship and understanding. I could talk about it for hours. It’s the best gallery and art school of any place I’ve been. I’ve grown more with the artists I follow than at any time I’ve studied. I think as time goes on it will grow into something we don’t expect. I love it, it has so much potential for social change. It brings every news team together, I visit it for hours, following pathways to articles. Learning all day.

But in the physical world we live in Fairfax, and I am in love with this town. I’m just starting to show paintings here in a shop, which I visited today to decide what to print and what to make. I have gallery representation for the first time. It’s a first step but I’m growing with it. I made my best paintings so far this morning, and it changed my life. In many ways I consider this my first day as an artist. So much of what went before was practice. Out of around 60 paintings I kept around 20 of them. Today I went through and reduced that to a handful. It’s like then end of a period, now I just need to work with what I have. But this mornings work was, to me, better than all of it. I’ve put in the work, both in study and practice, and I finally feel like I”m ready.

When I’m painting I am completely inside of the work, without any thoughts except the infinite choices and moves that create a final painting. I’m just getting started. I intend to devote as much time to this practice as I can, and I’ll know in the next couple of months if I can make it sustainable. I hope I can, because it’s without question the most hope I can offer to the world: a place to rest in color, light and motion, an absolute transmission between my mind and the open space. I’ll share where you can see my work soon, and until then I’ve posted everything on my sites and on twitter. This is what I’ve been working on for months. Working at Peets was a way for me to fund printing my work on canvas. And from now on it will be individual investments that guide my work forward and allow me to continue to be independent. I hope you guys dig what I do!