"If you always do what you always did, you'll always get what you always got."
When people in our lives begin to die, some of us take our lives into other directions. Sometimes, those directions are unexpected. Other branches than what we have experienced previously. Some of those branches lead nowhere, they are just a tangle of lost limbs. But some lead us to a spot higher on the tree. We won’t know where they go until we follow it away. It is better to have tried, then to have missed the opportunity. For those left behind it hurts. It hurts to grow old without growing. And it hurts too, to leave your only known past behind.
Taking a knee during the national anthem is a right of protest in our country. If you cannot choose to protest the way you want (peacefully), then we are not free. It is a protest of an all too obvious institutional racism that keeps non-whites down. I’m white, I know it exists. So, 2 things: 1) if you have been shouting that it’s not about racism- you are wrong. This is not about the flag, or troops- it’s about race. Our current white supremacy administration wants to fool you, and change the narrative. That works to keep your eyes off the real rape and theft they commit, and it keeps the people who have the power to topple the regime divided. Face it, or get out of the way. (2) if you are so much about equality, then you do not understand the difference between equality and equity. Equality is everyone gets the same. Equity is understanding that the starting point is not the same, and adjusting so those behind the equal point have more to truly create equal opportunity. If you have 2 farms, one with good soil, good machinery, and good labor- and one with sour land, no machinery, and no labor; are they equal? If the argument is to move to better land, with what finances? What labor? What goods to create a living? Systemic poverty hurts all races, and creates generations of hopelessness. If you have ever been hopeless, how do you feel when someone wealthy, educated, and connected since birth shouts “pull yourself up by your bootstraps!” It is not an equal start comparing a low middle class white, to anyone non-white in poverty. If you say, oh no...not true. I say you are a blind liar. Every white man who claims they are not racist/misogynistic/homophobic- needs to not just speak up, but act up. And just acting isn’t enough. To make this right you must take it many steps further. If you do not agree with these two concepts, then you too are the problem. And if you counter that with- well what do you do loud mouth white guy? I was not brought up with money. I had no plans for college because I had no role model for education. I hated school, and yet I started college. Still paying on those loans all in my name. I have been working for 20 years in low wage social services trying to make the world better. I make art about my issues. I did not choose money. I have not sought to use the system of inequality, but I benefit from it. I am not pulled over for driving while black. Not been harassed or raped (but nearly every female I know has been). No holocaust, or war in my city. I do not live in the epicenter of crime and drugs. I have made it my life goal to fight for what is right, no matter what is in the way.
If you can’t protest peacefully here in America, then what exactly is America?
Dear resentful angry white guy & disenfranchised white youth. Can we talk? I'm white, so we have that out on the table. I'm not sure (a) why you're angry, and (b) why you're disenfranchised. Being white and male, I don't fear police interaction- even with the jerk cops. I don't fear sexual harassment (I wish! - no I don't) I often get paid well, don't get beat up or murdered for my skin color/sex partners/beliefs, its assumed that I'm educated-not a criminal-fit the religious mold-and my needs are mostly first to be met...always. That's privilege. It means I don't have to pay attention to the same everyday stressors of being gay, black, female, or Muslim. But you know what? I choose to pay attention. My community is my support, and it can be yours too- but not when you choose to see the world the way you do. Filled with rage, hate, and blame. You are disenfranchised because you have done it to yourself. You stepped away, no one made you do that. Own up to it. Unclench your fist. You can still be frustrated at the world, I am too. But so is that woman, that black man, that Muslim teen- see, it's easier to confront those life issues with a group. You just picked the wrong group. There is much more to be found with your community than with nazis and the kkk. That's a dead end. There's no magic jobs returning that you never had, no sleazy sexual innuendo that's going to get any female to love you and stay, no hate filled nazi armband will make you feel more like a man when you feel like child inside, and certainly- no law/act/wall that will stop us from joining together. Because that IS America. The hate filled side has already lost, they just haven't realized it yet. Reality isn't their strong suit. So, I guess what I'm saying is, from one white guy to some other white guys, you have a choice to make- you can join in and automatically feel SO much better (I promise), because in all of history- hate always loses; or you can stay the course. Stay angry, depressed, unfulfilled, uniformed, and regretting your life. That last part will happen, and if you don't start really thinking- it will be too late to do anything about it.
Written as a response to todays White House non-statement to the Minnesota Islamic mosque bombing on 8/5/17. Today they announced that (without any evidence from any source) it may be a "false flag". The cry of the conspiracist. I grew up with a lot of presidential BS. At times I questioned the choices. I may have supported some, argued against others. Never have I felt the way I am feeling now as a citizen. Embarrassed is not enough. Scared is not enough. Shocked is not enough. I honestly question the mental health and well being of our leaders and their supporters. It is hate driven. Unless action is quickly taken, this will all slide towards a terrible destructive conclusion. I doubt many will even see this comment, but it is increasingly hard to go about your everyday life when the sheer pain inflicted upon the core of our country doubles every day. I fully expect a large scale strike on DPRK as a pissing contest. Maybe thousands will die, maybe more. For what? Ego. To avoid treason? To distract the masses? To create fear and cement power? This blood will be on every Americans hands. Supporter or not, unless action is taken. Disagree if you want, but the wounded animal is in a corner. Politics are rough, this isn't politics. Politics are tough situations resolved with carefully thought out choices. Do good, be good, think good. None of that is happening here, and it honestly hurts me where I have never been hurt. In my pride as a citizen.
Imagine yourself as a child. Most kids grow up with some family issues to deal with, some small- some large. Now imagine being a young child and everything you are told does not match the reality you see and feel. EVERYTHING. Imagine how much that would affect you as you get older. What would it do to your social skills? Your self-esteem? Your relationships, jobs, education? Growing up in an alcoholic household affects the rest of your life, and bears a very strong resemblance to the effects of a household in Domestic Violence (physical and emotional). All that you think, you see, you feel, and what you do- is questioned. You spend the rest of your life trying to make the puzzle pieces fit. They don't. You are better off just starting a new puzzle.
If you get hung up on words, you are going to let a lot of evil people through. Because they are the first to learn the words to smuggle their evil shit through- Patton Oswalt
Words shape the way we think.
"Watch your thoughts, they become words. Watch your words, they become actions. Watch your actions, they become character. Watch your character, it becomes your destiny." -Lao Tsu
(I stole this, but believe in it)
9 things to give up if you want to be happy:
2. Limiting beliefs
3. Blaming others
4. Negative self-talk/thoughts
5. Dwelling on the past
6. Resistance to change
7. The need to impress others
8. The need to always be right
9. The need for others approval
The Outside Inside
On or about of October 2005, I saw a special on creepy world destinations. One place really caught my attention: Xochimilco, San Lorenzo, Ciudad de México- better known as the “Island of the Dolls”. I am a skeptic through and through, but the mystery and magic of monsters in the world has had a grip on me from the time I was a wee tot. This island has the standard legend of the little girl who died, and the odd isolated caretaker of the island. But the story turns when people began leaving dolls at the island. Hanging from trees, nailed to sheds, tied and bound- all rotting away from the non-stop barrage of weather and time. At the same time I started to develop a fascination of old abandoned structures. Asylums, schools, military bases, hospitals- all caught my artistic eye. I had long been making mixed media drawings about moments lost in time. Small forgotten interactions. Words, expressions, feelings. I held a fear after my father passed away in 1993 that people would never know about lives lived, we would all become some dusty name in a roll call book that no one ever knew.
So, here is where I started. I wanted to make artwork to leave outside. Let the weather have its way, to make my own little island of the dolls, my own abandoned school. Where old thoughts and dreams and fears all intertwined en mass as a victim to time and weather. I started with one painting, and then a few dolls, and then more collected materials. Things that caught my eye, or things I did not want to throw away all made it out to the pile. Then as my son aged it took over part of the wooden structure of his play-set as he outgrew it. At first it was a pile of materials, nothing I would even call art- except as a creepy joke in reference to my neighbors. In the summer of 2016, I took it all apart, and began reassembling the materials into a cohesive idea. I grew up in an alcoholic household, and I have worked in addiction for many years. Decades of my life have been bogged down by a cruise control method of thinking. Detachment was a way of surviving the fears of “feeling”. That was my rudderless direction, the branches of my life. The ups and downs, the mistake of ignorance is bliss. What I learned as I got older, is that the old saying “ignorance is bliss” is a lie. There is no bliss when you ignore a problem, and growing up in a household with 2 alcoholics, even if I am not an addict- created many problems. I wanted all of those entanglements on display. All of life that I missed, and all of the life that I found. A combination of the real fear and disjointed reality of alcoholism, and my life long fascination with the macabre and all that is horror. This creeptacular backyard assemblage is my inside, outside.
Pictures can be viewed on the "Odds & Ends" page of this site
If it leads to nowhere, if all is lost; and I too get lost along the way- at least I know I had a map of the world as it should be. I will stay on that trail for myself and for my corner of the world. The disease that has the power cannot touch me.
Inspiration for the day:
If I have not before mentioned this, I work with clients that are homeless with mental health and/or addiction issues. Today I spoke to a client at work. He grew up with a series of his moms boyfriends being verbally and physically abusive. He is a prime candidate to be an abuser. Poor, ignored, and distorted relationships as a home model. He is young, but has been in our program for a number of years. 3 years ago his mother was murdered by her boyfriend. Beaten into a coma for a week before dying. This left my client, barely 20- alone with a drug addicted brother, and a 14 year old sister. What remained of his family all shows the struggle with violence and addiction. The ripple effect. Very few that grow up in this environment avoid becoming abusers themselves to deal with the rage and lack of control, or become addicts to numb and forget. On Mother's Day (2 days ago) he went to his "Aunties", she's not related. Her boyfriend was very drunk and verbally abusing everyone. The more he drank, the more it became physical. The whole house shut down. Accepted it, stared at the floor, fled to other rooms. All except my client. 23 years old, black, no role model family. The kid who with help got into Community College. He got off public assistance (or welfare if you like), works 2 jobs, and helps his sister who is only 17 pay for baby needs and models maturity. That "kid" did not leave. That kid dragged this man outside and it became a physical fight. "I just saw black and thought of my mom" he told me. No one broke it up, and as he said "there was no way I was just going to sit there". It may not have been the best way to handle this, but it sure was the most noble. This is standing up to Domestic Violence. This is being a MAN. This is saying out loud- NOT EVEN ONCE WILL I LET THIS HAPPEN. He is not alone as a survivor of a dysfunctional family. A survivor of public assistance to a better life. This won't be a quiet discussion to end generations of pain, it will be a fight. This kid has the real way to Make America Great.
To survive the times we currently live in requires humor, and a need to create. And by "create", I mean anything. This is the type of climate and daily barrage of negativity that cause everyone to seek out some activity to release the sheer disbelief. Disbelief of audacious lies, all while looking directly at us as citizens. Our democracy is not just at risk, it is in the shredder. Corporations and religion have joined hands to become one large money gobbling rapist of the American citizen. The most at risk are anyone who is not white and male. I'm privileged, but it matters to me because it is threatening to use up and spit out everyone and everything I love dearly. So I write. I write on facebook, and I write to my representatives. I make art. Whether I plan for it to be political or not, that seems to be where it ends up. I am acting up, and acting out...and I'm not ready to finish any time soon.
What started as a joke out of anger & frustration, became a very serious statement about my country. I decided to run for president. The odds cannot be calculated against me, but I have my reasons...
"The world has waited too long for a voice with fresh ideas and a new approach...we are not scholars who make every effort to understand books. We are artists who apply our knowledge to our lives." (Do nothing [Wu Wei] & Do Everything [Wu Bu Wei] by Qiguang Zhao)
"Watch your thoughts; for they become words. Watch your words; for they become actions. Watch your actions; for they become habits. Watch your habits; for they become character. Watch your character for it will become your destiny." This is a solid path to finding happiness. It is a reminder to limit negative thinking, and just how fast a thought becomes an action, and that action becomes a habit.
Many people believe that things "just happen" to them. But as you connect more closely to yourself and the realities of who you are (instead of tuning life and feelings out); we are able to see that everything that happens to us is of our own creation.
The attached article is a very good read on a current heated debate in the Arts. It is a very complex subject, with multiple areas open to debate, and (as shown) to incite anger. Its a debate of artistic style, white objectification of black tragedy, culture, public relations, art history, white guilt, censorship, social responsibility, civil protest, dignity, history, civil rights, cultural appropriation, racism, and freedom. Or is it? It is very difficult to have an objective point of view because every viewer comes with a solid set of baggage.
Awaken your empathy to become a better person, and to take less personally.
I was born in 1968. The same year that Martin Luther King jr. was murdered. The same year that Bobby Kennedy was murdered. The same year that Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their black gloved fists in solidarity. How would you like me to act when I see rampant bigotry taking over MY country?
It's been a few days of avoiding the ever expanding black hole that announces the choices of our current government. I read a short story on how depressed the average US citizen is right now, how anxiety is becoming the default setting, and how laughing is the only sane response. I'm trying. When you see the law, the land, and the liberty stripped from so many for no other reason than because they are not rich white men- it is hard to laugh. I need all of those others, the variety of ideas and companionship. The wealth of principles and beliefs; to keep me grounded as a human being. I need people who value more than money.
Freedom of speech is lost when no one listens. Reach across the divide. Being for, or against: jobs, safety, immigration, healthcare, gay marriage, crime, body image, gun control, money, global warming, capitalism, pipelines or God- is absolutely meaningless if you do not care about people. Prioritizing the well-being of your fellow men, women, and children makes problem solving simple.
DRUM by Langston Hughes
Bear in mind
That death is a drum
Till the last worms come
To answer its call,
Till the last stars fall,
Until the last atom
Is no atom at all,
Until time is lost
And there is no air
And space itself
Is nothing nowhere,
Death is a drum,
A signal drum,
I am a big fan of Harlem Renaissance poetry, the rhythm of the words for me are one of the precursors to early (or old school) rap. The period of the early 1980's to early 1990's had great substance, it was the music of the revolution. I know I'm getting old when I hear the pure pointlessness of what rap youth is spouting today. Fake nonsense with only money in mind. Whether stars (of all kinds) like it or not, they have a social responsibility. They speak to and for millions who have no voice. Anything short of trying to express the anxiety, the love, the needs, or the dreams of the voiceless is simply superficial crap destined to become a false nostalgia.
Fear drove us to where we are, and makes us vulnerable to the worst crimes imaginable. Historically speaking, Safety is never the result of fear; tragedy is the result of fear.
No, you don't need to make art with the sole intent of sales. That's a craft, although love is certainly involved. Art is following your inside feeling to an end, not to a sale. Most often there is not much risk involved with a craft beyond "Will someone buy this?" Art is risking everything, exposing your safe locked away inside self. When done right, crafts are an excellent creative representation of artistic skill. But Art and Craft are not the same, any more than Life and Death.
I have been a lifelong fan of Horror/scary movies. I was drawn to the dark because I was living in it. I think when I was a kid, it was the monsters. The fake monsters on screen were not as bad as the real life monsters. Then as a teen, it was the taboo, the gore, and the teen sex. Now it is the deep dark hidden emotions, and the palpable fear. The bleak and quiet hidden feeling that we have to come to terms with each day. Being scared is exciting, it's a rush. Everyone has their movies they enjoy, be it drama, comedy, romance- mine is horror. But horror is one of the genres that creates a heavy judgment against the watcher. Horror fans are the: dark, twisted, unstable, weird, dangerous people that you are told to avoid. I enjoy it because the fear element is fun for me. The monsters, the dark, the unknown, the uncontrollable- is what dominated my childhood in an alcoholic household. This was (and is) a controlled burn for me. There is nothing wrong with enjoying that terror, just as there is nothing wrong with enjoying sappy romance, or startling documentary, or gripping drama. We are all different, and all ok.
I am a Muslim. The most dangerous kind to our current fascist government, because; I am not actually a Muslim. I'm not even religious. I LOVE my country so much, I would die for it. So much that I can't stand how quickly we have lost our ideals. I love my country, but not the government. We are not perfect, but we are not this disfigured monstrosity led by an orange moron. I. Am. Muslim.
I am taking a self imposed short hiatus from facebook (except to post art) and the news. In one week what has happened in politics is shocking. The drumbeat of you-know-who's name is non stop. Magazines, news, all over tv in every damn direction. The saturation point of pure negativity, bordering on evil actions is too much. It is like being out on a sunny day when that thick slow cloud rolls by blocking out the sun, except it never stops. I love my country, I would die for it. But, I hate the government that is moving in the polar opposite direction of what America strives to be. This is not freedom, its oppression. I'm ashamed.
I have been watching the show Supernatural. I love the show, how I did not watch before now (12 seasons late) I don't know. But better late than not at all. Anyway, I am in a season where the 4 horsemen are a major set of characters. I love the alternative character ideas, and I decided to focus in on them for a project. I want to make trading card inspired updated versions of not just the 4 horsemen, but also the 7 deadly sins- and maybe one God, and one Satan to make the pack a perfect 13 in number. Nothing like upbeat topics!
My son Asher turned 13 yesterday; and the Women's march in support of women's rights and against our notmypresident Trump stunned everyone with people coming out not only all around the country, but also around the world. The photos are inspiring, and I am so grateful to everyone who participated, you give people like me hope. Turning 13 is a big deal. Asher is a teen, and it only happens once. Chris and I chose to focus on our little corner for the day, but we both supported the march. I have great pride that so many people chose to march for rights, freedom, and ethics. Here is a fantastic article with photos, and the first commenter below the article nails how so many people feel about "getting over it"...
1/16/17 MLK day
Everything you do, you do as a member of a community. It affects you, me, your family, your neighbors, your schools...your actions do more than hurt you. Think before you speak. Think before you act. When you improve YOU, we all improve.
I'll start the new year with one of my all time favorite quotes by Teddy Roosevelt, because I'm a quote junkie...
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
I come from a very skewed view of friendships. I moved 4 times when I was in that key range of 9-15. As you get older, a lot gets in the way of creating new meaningful friendships. Relationships, jobs, schedules, kids- and then beliefs. For most people, beliefs cement as you get older, and you tire of the debate, or at least I do. It seems as if it's getting harder to find people who don't think that they know you after a few meetings (they don't), who don't want to judge you (they do), and don't come with a never-ending set of issues that they are going to thrust upon you.
My time in grad school was fairly prolific in art production, I made multiple paintings and drawings a week. Then in my late 20's I was mixed media drawing obsessed, I carried a sketchbook everywhere. I have piles and stacks of art. I wasn't just trying to improve the quality of what I was making, I have always used art to communicate when words have failed me. I thought until about a year ago that I was slowing down. I didn't know if it was my age, or just how it worked with creativity and life pushing its way in each day. But then I found (or finally embraced) mixed media and digital creation. It was like setting off a bomb in my soul. All my studio approaches all at once. Walking, eyes closed up to the cliffs edge, the excitement of living and dying and making art bloomed all over again. Risk and reward, trial and error, all my tools, textures, colors, challenges- are now on the table. Now I know, it wasn't age- it was the boredom of limitation. My brain is always on fire to make my thoughts visual, that rush of creating something is like getting answers to questions you don't yet know.
Few will bother to read the content of the link below, or even notice it. Even I'm numb to the utter disregard of the arts in the US. There are many professions that are maligned and mistreated, but a lot of people don't even think of art as a profession. "You are so talented" has been my go to joke for years, but not talented enough to even come close to making a living financially. The years of hard work are seen as a scam of the lazy. Hundreds of hours of hard work to create a one-of-a-kind artwork judged against mass-produced Wal-Mart garbage. The artist will always lose the fight for the dollar. Even at the peak of commercial work, I just barely paid my bills. Heck, comics are more popular than ever- and the established legendary artists that made comics are near broke. But it's art, so no one cares. Oh I'll get nice compliments and more, but little else that allows for a total commitment to pursue the arts in this country. People will say I chose this, and stop complaining, and try harder. This right here is the most I have complained. I have always gone to a second profession to live, and outside of that 40 hour work week, outside of family and home care, and many other responsibilities- what's left for me, I soak up every second to make art. And here is the capital T truth, so few survive as long as I have. The creative passion is killed off in order to pay bills and take care of family. Imagine how much passion has been killed? Imagine what we might be if we had support? I'm only still here because I owe my life to it. If art had not taken me over as a creative outlet for a raging, repressed, ill-educated, and misguided lost youth, I may very well be dead or wishing I was. So I go on, for myself and for those lost. I pour a little oil paint on the street curb for my art homies, and wonder how the world may have been different.
I have taught some form of college level art for 20 years. I've had the talent challenged classes and survived. But this fall I was faced with a generation that would only do the bare minimum to complete an assignment. It wasn't about quality, it was about getting it done and expecting praise for anything. I sent email after email that went unread, handed out copies that students wanted me to read to them, and geared the projects to their own personal interests. Nothing created the interest and desire to work diligently. Nothing. I even bluntly told a student "if you don't challenge this level of quality, you will never work in any area of art." I had a student expect an "A" simply for being there and doing something. That was after he told me over and over "This is hard.", and "I wanted to take art because I wanted something relaxing." Art has a stigma that all my action and work won't change, but no god damned way! No way do you (at best) half ass the work, not read the emailed directions, ask me questions answered right in the fucking handouts and expect much of a grade. I know this is running rampant in school. This do nothing and complain until there is some pressure to be given a passing grade to avoid the heat mentality is real, but come on! What on earth is your future going to be like with this mentality? I was distressed by the lack of urgency from an educational standpoint, and the overwhelming apathy towards independent thinking.
I was called "merciless'" by a student because I did not accept her portfolio late on the final day of class. A portfolio deadline that had a strict verbally announced and discussed time- not once, but for 3 consecutive classes prior. A deadline that that was also emailed twice, and placed in bold on the final project handout. Not only did she rarely complete an assignment in 15 weeks, she missed this deadline that allowed students to make up for the ENTIRE semesters missing work by 2.5 hours. And, I was also responsible for damaging her GPA to get into her "dream school".
Maybe the end of mankind is not in some disease, or zombies, or nuclear war' may be it's the internet. The raging sheer ignorance that has run unchecked via conspiracy sites will be the fall of Rome. Rome will burn and the astronauts from the fake moon landing will play a fiddle with the pilots creating vapor trails to keep us sedate while we are all consumed.
Anyone who is not nervous about what paths of destruction our president elect will wreak, is just plain ignorant, or willfully blind. Each day has brought a new statement against everything that our country should be about. Yes, we have a lot of problems. Yes, we are too slow to fix them. But we still hold our truths to be self evident. Nothing about our soon to be leader shows any signs of self evaluation and justice for me to support. And no, I will not blindly support any leader simply because they hold a title. You want respect? Fucking earn it.
We are not witnesses, we are participants.
The start of my new website. My very old and outdated site had a lot of varied writing. I like writing, even if no one reads it. I have been told that I'm "opinionated", hmm- maybe. Most of what I write and think about is related to some element of my artwork. Stay tuned...