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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Reactions Are Reflections

There are so many things we react to, each and every one can be learned from. Of course if we attempt to learn from every reaction we have we won't have time for anything else so lets start with the big ones.

When I get angry it is a clear sign that I am not in balance and some work needs to be done. I often hear people tell me "This" or "That" thing or person "makes me angry," and I see how that can feel and seem, especially in today's world. What I want to cover is that it isn't the person, their actions or the thing that is actually making you angry, it is you, and your imbalances. I am sorry to break it to you.

When an experience comes my way in which I react with anger I first have to separate anger from what it is I might be blaming the anger on. It is not the guy who cut me off, it is not my boss telling me to rework some nonsense, or the kids who picked my pocket but it is only anger, and when I can see the emotion for what it is, not judge those the brought it about in me, I can examine it. In examining the emotions, and the circumstances that brought it about, I am in a better position to learn and move on.

Anger comes about for a lot of reasons, it is often an emotion that we use to cover up other emotions, it's retaliatory. I hear people say "I have the right to be angry" and although they are right, anger is probably not what they are feeling. I say this because, just by saying "I have the right to..." they are justifying. That statement also presupposes that there is another observer which could be the self, the one that wants to do the work of healing. Here, the speaker is just looking for permission to be angry because if they were not angry they might have to admit they are not balanced. For myself this is 100% the case, and I actively work at understanding myself enough to accept that anger is needing more balance.

Once, in my early 20's, I got so angry and slammed a heavy wooden door, it crushed and mostly severed the tip of one of my fingers. After they put my fingertip back together, for months, I couldn't help but look at how one split second change my life forever, because my finger would never be the same again, and it was all because I was angry. I don''t remember what set me off but as soon as my finger was just hanging there, whatever it was that made me angry just didn't matter anymore.

We permit ourselves to be angry for all sorts of reasons. I usually see people being angry to cover up a sense of weakness. This is associated with shame, fear, and inadequacy which can really go into that shame category, and probably a whole host of other deep seeded issues that these emotions direct us to address. Unfortunately we don't have the kind of culture that values this sort of work.

In the US we value wealth, greed and strength. All of which are also used to cover up the chasms that exist within us. Greed is fear, plain and simple. Wealth, although often disguised as a way to help others, is used to eliminate the need for faith in others and close relationships. Strength and perseverance are rewarded over weakness, but without weakness we cannot learn the true meaning of strength. We not only have lost our way as a country, or world, being lost has become the ideal lifestyle somehow, it is praised, it is valued over all else.

Because the value system is so off kilter we can't be expected to learn how to be what we are meant to be. Only a small number of people will be truly geared to excel in the world as it has been built by a small number of Europeans. That is not to say we don't all have a purpose or a way to excel in the world as it is, it just might be a bit more uncomfortable for others than the few that can just pick it up and run with it, a case for not comparing ourselves to others, but we still do. When we compare we compete, it is part of that world created by that small number of Europeans.

Competing is about seeing where you fit in some linear scale. It reinforces the idea that some belong and some don't. When we do not measure up we feel shame, to counteract that we find those that measure up even less. This is not hate, it's fear. This is not people acting as they are truly but acting as they have been taught, they have learned they will be rewarded for being stronger. They are innocent, and have never learned to reflect.

When we reflect it is our just to take the steps to be more in accord to our true nature, there is nothing to read because no one has your answer other than you. The faith you show in yourself is due to your knowing that however you react to what the universe is showing you is a message from that unique inner voice that is in concert with all the billions of other unique voices, none of any importance but the world would not be that same without.

I Am My Greatest Acomplishment

So I am writing out some life goals and outlining my plans or hopes and wishes for the coming years. I have done this loosely in the past but combining this with some vision board work and all my new ideas and all, I really feel like I can make some strides. One of the things I want to do is own a home, it's not an "American Dream" thing, although it may be, it is really about me having space. I love space, I want to host dinners, I want a garden, and not just for growing things in, although that is a must. I want to breath there, meditate and have time to be. I am also looking at being published which is odd because there is nothing that I avoid more than books, but it is something that I have in me and I will not deny it.

My newest venture in my art practice is actually focused more on facilitation than it is on art. I have always been drawn to help others. I would actually help others before I take for myself, and that is something I have been examining for a long time and want to be both at peace with it while also open to it shifting as I grow. My making of art has never been real cut and dry, I do oddball things to put me in contact with others. My Portrait Project, or my ChicagoArts interview series, for both I was driven by my desire to connect, but for both I made no money, there is a combined 22 years of creative practice that I didn't charge anyone for. Now I am moving into a facilitation practice to help people self reflect, and I am charging for that and I get to connect and make art because the facilitation work starts with a portrait. I really have to open up to how that is going to work, how it will afford me a home and peace of mind. It is new and I have been put through the ringer enough over the past few years.

All of this is to say that as part of the writing work I ma doing is spelling out what my greatest accomplishments are. It is an odd question because I don't feel like anything I have done is done. I never got a degree from a school, which could be a focal point for many, TRANSfiguration barely ever got off the ground, my Portrait Project was open ended and I continue to explore that, so that is not an "accomplishment." I used to be represented by galleries, but that all changed and now I don't even make work that is intended for showing. The interview series or Our Cultural Center were things I did as well but they both kind of ended without being resolved in a way I was happy with. Everything, for me, has been a lesson, one learning experience after another. There is no accomplishment.

I could laundry list what I have done, because I have done a lot, and it has all been fun and my life is really one giant adventure. But that doesn't change the fact that this answer eludes me. I see that it is because I do not value what I have done, not because it has no value but because it is currently not a currency within my day to day. It all has made me who I am today though, It has made me the person that is loved by so many, and seen so clearly. I really do love who I am. Sure I have a long way to go, I still hold shame and desire, two things I want to get under control, but for the most part I am a great person. I don't know anyone who I would rather be. There are things I want to have more of in my life but I can get those things. The important part to all this is that I am happy with who I am and able to be who I am everywhere I am, this comes from inside myself.

I am privileged to be able to be me, and I recognize that. I do not know how I became to be me but here I am and I am extremely grateful for that. So I guess it turns out that my greatest accomplishment is me. Now, although that is great, try putting that on a resume lol.

Monday, August 29, 2016

The Onion, The Actual Onion

When we look at symbols, and as a artist I look at them a lot, there are some that pop up in today's meme world that throw me off. Actually this one has been more than a meme for me, its been a verbal reference for years used by all sorts of people. At first, because the symbolism doesn't resonate with me I was confused then after realizing their point I let it go thinking they had it wrong but nbd. I found that in fact everyone uses this symbol in a way I would never and although I love to use symbols in my language I would never use this one.

My contention here is with the onion, it's all layers, so the meme, or assumption, is that "to get to the core we must peel back the layers." Although it is true we must peal back our own layers to find our true nature, our core, I would argue that the onion is the worst item to compare this to.

Different cultures see things differently so I accept it when others say "it's like an onion" meaning that things are getting more complex or deeper as the layers get unveiled. For myself the symbolism the onion holds is shallowness, as you peel back that layers of the onion there is no change the next layer will be what the last layer was and there is no core, only the smallest little layer. This is why The Onion is called The Onion, although news and politics are rife with information there is nothing there, no content no purpose, it is there to add complexity to lives by offering shallowness, layers that do not differ.

When the onion became a symbol for complexity and depth we inadvertently sided with shallowness and subconsciously accept shallow distracting layers as opposed to meaningful substance.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Psychic Portriture

This portrait was done of @instantBanana  

Well I don't know if they are really Psychic, I just don't know what else to call them. As an artist I follow my instinct, I lay down a number of marks without a reason other than it belongs there. This may resonate with more people when we are talking abstraction than when talking about portraiture or a work that has a narrative. But it is not really not different for any of that when it comes to my making. Of course when artwork become formulaic things change dramatically and this idea breaks down pretty quick so I will not be addressing artwork made by assistants or in a factory format. For me, in my practice, I try to make very few choices, it starts with mark-making and grows from there. I can tell thoughts are coming in and some of my marks become reactions to what was put down that is okay as far as I am concerned. If my mind wanders, that also is okay. Where it stops being okay is when I like or don't like something, when arbitrary rules get in the way of the creation process, and when I have preference or revert to formula.

When it comes to portraiture it is no different than any other artwork except everything on the page will be organized in a specific way. After observing my surroundings for 41 years I have a lot of material in my mind all stored up that I can use.  If you were to ask me to draw a specific eye or nose, in all honesty I probably would not be able to do it without a bit of frustration with trying to get it right. The problem is there is no "right." In the hypothesis the request is outrageous. If I as an artist set out to recreate something there will be inspiration behind that driving it, there will be purpose. If I am setting out to make something beautiful, I will, as far as I am concerned, if my goal is to make something you think is beautiful I will research what you think is beautiful and let go knowing that I will find that which you think is beautiful.

Having faith in inspiration is how these will be created. I do not want to question if something is right or wrong, that is not a natural thing to do. Animals act to what is and if that changes they change. How much proof do I need know that I am making the right decision or doing the right thing? I know I am doing the right thing because it is what I am doing, but still I doubt it all the time. I look at myself and ask "What the fuck are you doing?" "How the hell is this gonna work?" mired in doubt I continue to move ahead. To what? To where? I could not tell you and that seems to be the best because anything is possible from there. I may be delusional but if I am it is fun none the less, but stressful at times as well.

So my new portrait adventure is to do portraits of people I am connected with but never seen. I feel like I am up for also doing portraits of people I have met before of course, at this point though I think knowing what they look like would be a bit of a hindrance. It is not easy to let go to inspiration completely when I also have ideas of what I ought to be doing. Reach out to me if you want to have a portrait session with me, especially if we have never met.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Sharing Economy My Ass (Part #1)

Lyft, Uber and Air BnB are some of the biggest and most notable names in the business of sharing. I agree that they are opening up money making opportunities to thousands of people, and every day they are adding on new members willing to share what they own with the world through a company that has an app.

The companies that are leading the way in this new sharing economy have hit at a very interesting time. These days people want to, as well as want others to, get paid well, feel elite or special, engage in technology and save money. Each one of these traits can be seen individually and traced back to how society views and judges itself.

For example the "People want to be paid well" idea, which seems innocent until we look further into that: What does being paid well mean? $10/hr or $15/hr, those both sound great but one is 50% more than the other, how is that a way having a wage argument? When we look to paying the lowest earning people more, how do we then adjust the people above? It is not that I do not want a living wage for everyone, I do, it is just not that most direct conversation to be having. It is the conversation to reduce the top earners take home, and here I am speaking about the .01% of the population in the United States, we need to engage. When our argument for years is that we want a $10/hr minimum, by the time we get it there $10/hr won't hold as much value in it as we expected it to. Then the fight will immediately start over again for a new minimum. By fighting over and over for higher and higher dollar amounts that argument can, and will, become described as greedy, by the people who are the greediest.

Our culture is ripe with greed and we are okay with it, because we all want a deal and to have more money. This is cultural, and it may exist all around the world but here in the United Stated it is special. So special in fact that we torture our children so that might have an edge on making more than another child. We are competitive not collaborative, which can only be detrimental. I see people in the search for money turning on their neighbors which is a horrible reality, "just doing my job" is not an adequate response to the question "Is this right?" or "Am I happy with myself?"

In Chicago we have common citizens give parking tickets to other citizens. That sort of practice doesn't support a tight-knit community. Nevertheless it is done and only to help one company make a lot of money while those giving tickets make an hourly. To further complicate things, and I do not know their pay structure but, they also may get quantity bonuses. If that is true, and I do not see why it wouldn't be, a person giving tickets would then pit their needs and fears against their neighbor. The argument of "well they parked illegally" wouldn't stand too long when you look to people who receive erroneous tickets. How is making money more important than integrity? This I may never understand but I would venture to say it is because as a society we reiterate that it is more important in almost every interaction we have.

The idea of feeling elite and special, well Andy Warhol was speaking about that 50 years ago and that train has never slowed. Social media and the idea that "viral" content is important somehow has just added fuel to that fire. Today we see journalists like Anthony Ponce here in Chicago grab his Lyft credentials to drive people around and interview them for the shameless "Backseat Rider", further marketing our culture and devaluing life as something that can be summed up. Not that what he is engaging in is bad or good, it just seems more like one person using others to feel fulfilled. I think connecting with others is honest and healthy, but doing that with a microphone between the connecting parties may very well taint that. I have been making portraits of people for 15 years connecting with them but it is a personal not a public connection and the portrait, upon completion, is given to that sitter. This sort of connection is about the connection, I am taught and I learn, that is not to say that Anthony doesn't' but there is a bit of this elitism and specialness question arising in his work.

There is obviously a lot to look at to see how we got here and to look at it honestly without all the assumptions that we all take for granted within our society. First off which is more dangerous, success or failure? Success, for all it has to offer, does not always lead us to see the moral high ground. even the greatest people in our culture can be traced back to making deals, cheating, using their influences to be in a position of abusing their power, we are human so that is okay, but it is not okay for everyone. That is what I mean about taking in the whole, the big picture. And that picture is BIG and getting BIGGER all the time.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Visual Language and Portrait Counseling

Today we are not well versed in visual language, there are many studies out that tell us how we react to visual stimuli but very little research or study done to how to decipher that which is created. Most of the research being done is done for marketing so it's not always done with the best intentions. On the other hand there is of course art therapy. There is a big difference between what I am developing, Portrait Counseling, and art therapy though,  because the art being made in Portrait Counseling is guided by the intuition of a trained artist and practiced in meditative practices. In Art Therapy the art is made by the patient and they may know nothing about the issues they are facing but the art finds a way to talk to us and search for a solution.

During the portrait session, in Portrait Counseling, the counselor connects in a way we have been driven to connect for as long as people have made art, through the portrait.  Through looking, and this is not limited to be with the eyes; I see the hugging saint Amma as someone who renders portraits through hugs, I connect, communicate and allow myself to be spoken to through paint. It is a purposeful looking and connecting. It is less for achieving a likeness than it is for achieving a bond.

Although the ability exists for an artist to make a flattering portrait of a person is it less likely to hold true connection and honesty. For an artist, one trained in the crafts of rendering, it is not difficult to recreate a likeness on the page, but when there is an attempt to recreate a likeness, the artist’s attention is on themself, and what the client wants, the artists works from a place of being pressured; this may not be that case when the artist is being hired for their insight and working style, but most artists do not get hired with that agreement presupposed. The connection is only made possible by not thinking of the likeness, although the bust of the client is the center focus of where and how the image will form itself, the portrait is made more from the aether.

“The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things,but their inner significance: for this, not the external manner and detail, constitutes true reality”
- Aristotle

Portraiture, in art history has an important place dating back to prehistoric times. We can see evidence today of ancient Egyptian portraiture which is the oldest and, most likely, most notable. These were highly stylized of course, but that was a primary form of communication, we lack that sort of visual communication style today.

The question arises, is portraiture the means of communication or is communicating the purpose for the portrait. Either way portraiture and communicating are going hand in hand.

I present to you the claim that honest connection between an artist and their source can open pathways that previously were closed. We accept that meditation is a way that we can center, and hear the voice of the universe or god. It has been proven within the organizations that we trust for information regarding the weird wonky world of the unseen. Both science and religion would not hesitate, when in a space they can speak honestly, to say that meditation (prayer) works towards your overall health.

We also accept that group meditation or prayer is a stronger form of this. Of course group dynamics can alter or disrupt those benefits so, and although organizations like churches and yoga or meditation studios won’t suggest this often, it is always good to explore new groups and new approaches to one's self realization practices. It has still been proven that connections among multiple people can more quickly calm the body and mind and affect things as simple but important as breathing to things as complex and mysterious as cancer. Group meditations can affect things as well as others as well as the efforts of groups like UNIFY, the Wash Alliance, Uplift and others prove.

Under these circumstances both more is better and less is more. I fill the space with less distraction, less intervention, less judgment and at the same time be more, more connected more aware, more present and allow that to drive the moment. I begin by intending to connect through the oneness that has existed since, if not before the Big Bang, the oneness that we all are, the oneness that all is connected to. That connection drives the creation of the portrait. upon completion the client reads, harnesses, and tames the painting. They see themselves, it is a book of sorts for them to read their own story. It is easier for a client to say the portrait looks angry, when they see anger around them because they are angry. 

Science has proven to us that what we are experiencing is a mirror of what we see in the world so to create an image of someone and to ask them to study it for a few days is an exercise that will give me a clear vision of how they see themselves and where to prod a bit to open their eyes to the blocks that they are experiencing. this is not comfortable but as we see in every other mime on Facebook, growth exists outside the comfort zone. Come with me and lets find some of those blocks in you 773-843-1794.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Looking Inward to Connect with the World

In a world that is increasingly “all up in your shit” it is important to take a step away from it all. We are bombarded by solutions to problems that don’t exist. We are constantly creating problems and deteriorating the pillars that we rely on to sustain some semblance of connection to one another and all that is. We find ourselves papering over the cracks in a home that what made for us specifically.

Social media, politics, poverty, food, air, human rights, everything that surrounds us deserves our attention. So where do we place it. How is gun violence or rights more important to some than poverty, and why is local poverty more important to others than global. Are these problems solvable? Are they someone’s responsibility?

What about the arts? Entertainment? What about all those things that are telling us what we need? Are nonprofits truly helping others? How can we know? Honesty, with the US presidency on the block these days there seems to be an acceptance to allow people to act like children and fear monger for votes, Trump directly and Clinton by scaring people against Trump. It is a real mess. So where do solutions exist? How do we take the concerns of everyone and move forward?

I think people are increasingly getting sick of being told what to do, what to think and how to live. I know I am. I much prefer to love everyone around me and I have found that doing that opens me up to love myself that much more. Trusting my path is not easy, but it is essential. I practice being honest every day, I look at my bais and try to locate its source. I watch myself feel fear, anger, and shame, when they arise I look to what caused it and it is often that I want something from myself that I do not know how to give myself. I use that to explore what I lack internally.

How does that help the world, is it not selfish? I do not think so, I see it as healthy.

We are all one. I don’t think that statement can be argued by too many people, and if does cause an argument is not worth engaging in. So if we are all one then we are part of a singular consciousness which is us. When we have a focus, drive, desire, inkling or thought, it is coming from us individually and as a whole. There is too much wrangling thought because of “reality” or “being realistic.”

Life is in front of us and we can fight it or enter it with passion and trust. When we feel the need to fight, we fight, but that doesn’t mean our opposition is wrong, it just means we were both looking for a fight. Of course this may seem to only work when everyone is on the same page and moving toward a goal of being totally honest with a love for themselves and the world, but I think it can be an uneven struggle as it is today. Sometimes we lose lives of those that are honest, those are hard lost battles on the forefront of our consciousness, I am grateful for the press that those have been receiving as of late, but know that there are struggles that you will never hear about. Keep those in your heart as well.

Be honest, not blind, Susan Sarandon said “People are awake” in an interview the other day and she is right. The more people that wake up the more they will inspire to wake up. I want to connect and help those that are beginning to wake up to take a hard look at themselves, honestly. There is very little that can be done when we look outward and judge without looking inward with love.