Sunday, June 23, 2019

Cracks form in materials to relieve stress

Value dictates alignment
Support precedes movement
When do you stop reaching?

transitional place vs resting place

reaching without a sense of my intention
not knowing the shape of what i'm grasping to pull

the difference between reaching for something
because we are curious
and reaching to do or have something
because we feel insufficient

the difference between weight and force
the relationship between force and words

learning to move is about wanting something
not being able to change means not being alive

however big the tree will be
so must be the roots

the gathered in place might be a resource we carry with us all the time

parts don't hold meaning
the relationships between them hold the meaning

move to learn
learn to move

using space as a playmate
surrounded by requests all the time
letting myself be filled in turns
with down-ness

we all have the capacity to be sensitive
but do we have the tools to process the information coming in?

In Italian the verb 'to feel' is the same as 'to hear'
so to ask in Italian 'How are you feeling?'
directly translates into English as
'How are you hearing yourself?'

Sunday, April 28, 2019

The Structure and Development of Cyclones

Performance #1

Watching someone play their computer is really distracting from the content, what does it mean to be a performer in this context, or to be entertained? To be blindfolded or led along some kind of projected or virtual reality pathway seems like it would be really helpful to the partial experience I'm having. How is this series of sounds, this ambient textural landscape any different then listening to the night time street outside, with fragments of conversation and an occasional vehicle like a deep thundering undertone, except all of those observations offer clues and a mood that arises from our observation of it, the sound helps organize our sense of it. I'm not sure where to look, but I know seeing is distracting from what he is offering us, so I close my eyes and try to allow the sounds he is sculpting on his glowing laptop call something out of me.

How much are words lost, when dropped into the expanding universe, without visuals to hold their meaning in our mind's eye? A computer voice recites rich imagery, maybe even story filled poetry, but so disjointed and monotone, I can't follow it, and as soon as I hear the next word, the one before it is lost, unrelated in time or space or my perception. Listening to this deluge of computer generated noises, I wonder what it is we are supposed to connect with here. Algorithms can't replace the sounds we make to communicate with each other, or the desire to hear a response, to feel the resonance of human effort fill the room, to fill us.

What can he offer us? Story fragments? Flooded senses? As the landscape shifts to Raptor noises it seems like an imitation, like offering a robotic animal to an affection starved child - but I imagine that like our advanced skills of finding faces everywhere, we have the potential to connect with this too, electronic animal noises that may somehow speak to some primal part of ourselves.

As the music shifts into nightmare noises, I wonder what he wants us to take away from this performance other then a vague memory of something like the soundtrack to a horror film.

Performance #2

I stood outside for this one, and it sounded like the vocalist screamed from the same place in his body the entire time, an angsty, rage filled, raspy monotone that was a mix of vocal chords and belly. I wonder if his capacity to let himself speak from that place I had no interest in listening to was supported by the energetic quality of the other band members. Were they all in some way reaching to say the same thing? Did they all believe that monotone cry? What is the purpose of lyrics we can't hear - who do they guide in the process of manifesting a song? Maybe they provide something for the music to wrap around, maybe they inspire the emotional quality of the vocals, maybe there is no real difference between voice and guitar in some elemental way - maybe we created instruments to mimic the human voice, and like all tools found a symbiosis around pattern and tonality.

Performance #3

The sound hit me before I got to the place I wanted to stand and the wall of soundwaves felt like trying to walk into an ocean wave, I had to slow down to even function. I wonder why my response to the speed was to become really deliberate in my movements, like I was struggling to remember how to put one foot in front of the other. There is a quality of held breath, like playing with such focused intensity leaves little muscular room for the action of breathing, but maybe that was just me forgetting how to inhale. Stretches of fierce repetition so clearly mirror in my mind the chanting or fervent prayer of devout believers in whatever style of religion you could look into, and it amazes me to watch the drummer at the edge of disorientation from such impassioned repeated muscular actions but never quite losing himself in the process. The vocalist has a higher pitched quality to the sound he makes then I am used to expecting from a metal band, and it reminds me of what I imagine a Grecian siren to sound like singing men to their death, or that of a Banshee, who in Irish mythology heralds the death of a family member, usually by wailing, shrieking, or keening. Sound overwhelms my ears, but I am becoming aware of the deep vibrations spilling out of the bassist and pouring through the worn floorboards up through my body as well. There is an obsessive quality to some of the song parts, like singing the sign of Virgo into being, but also uplifting somehow, in a way that seems totally unrelated to what I know of the Metal genre. I am being held on all sides, like floating in the ocean, or stepping into a medieval church to feel your spirit guided upwards towards the light by the lofty architecture, even as you are wading through the heaviness of our earthly selves in a conversation with hundreds of years of traditions and history and bloody wars and pseudo-spiritual family trees.

Just the guitars and the bass lead into a song that reminds me so strongly of a church service that I am landed in my childhood for a moment, where I grew up in the bible belt, and the Baptist services my mother was filming for something too vague for me to remember - grown ups falling in muttering ecstasy to the ground, the women covered with frilly pink satin blankets on their lower half to keep their skirts down. I can't believe that's where their sound took me.

The guitarist's hand is a blur, and draws a sharp contrast to the profound stillness of the rest of his body for the moments of most intense playing, the stillness possibly as a support for the deftness and concentration required to bend time and space in that particular way. I am suddenly thinking about the computer generated noises I heard earlier, as well as the folktale of John Henry, who's prowess as a steel-driver was measured in a race against a machine - I am compelled by the vision of a man made sound that has a heartbeat a computer can't yet produce, but is in no way overshadowed by technology at the same time. Is it math? Feeling? Does he have to hold his breath to be available for these specific movements? Does the movement originate in his wrist? Shoulder? Center of his chest?
The vibrations coming up through his feet from the floorboards? Where does his generator live and what is it connected to?

More so than any band I have ever watched, the intensity of engagement required by each member to produce the power of their individual sounds, it seems incredible to me that they might possibly have the space left over in their awareness to entertain listening to each other at the same time. Like performing Kriya, like in the practice of Kundalini, I feel like a humming vessel waiting for something to arise out of this throbbing listening state. There is a temple quality in the shape their sound makes, we are all baptized in it, by it, in a way other bands may aspire to fill a space with enough noise to feel like this - and I wonder how each band member visualizes the architecture being created by their addition to the structure of the textural landscape. I forgot to breath again, and it feels like some of my unconscious functions are arrested by the sound my body is inundated with, while things like my heartbeat are suddenly dictated by their fast paced tempo.

What do they hope will fill the void of their absence when the music is over?

Saturday, April 13, 2019

don't talk to me before I've gazed into my abyss

Reflections from one of the schools I'm working as a teaching artist at, as required by the program. These are some of my experiences working with about 140 4th graders at a school in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn for 6 hours every Friday. The theme for the mural we are developing with them is games, and the ways we play with each other.

Class #3
It's all still quite a lot to take in, and I feel less like an adult and more like a pair of lungs and eyes and a heart, beating and breathing and seeing out of habits I'm so glad exist independently of my conscious choices. Stuff is happening, drawings are being made, and connection is manifesting, there is just so little time to do anything but constantly respond rn, with so many classes and hungry faces stacked back to back to back. I'll find the rhythm, I know I will.

Class #6
Gosh where do I start. It feels really clear how much the kids need a space to make their own rules, and something about today's task really gave them a container to explore that. Split into groups where they could pick and choose how they were involved, what they were interested or felt they had to offer, letting them organize themselves was devastatingly beautiful to watch. A few of the more intense students really embraced the role of petite community organizer, one of them expressed a kindness and respect for his peer's abilities that was so different from his usual antagonistic tone. It was also interesting to realize that for every shy student that felt helpless but didnt know how to reach out, there was another student excited to work with them to come up w something together. I feel like I've had the equivalent of a religious experience today.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Have I been kissing or just engaging in mouth-to-mouth resuscitation?

about the bizarre character that showed up to head my crew
I often sync up with the rooster
surrogate spousing the one who commands the army
I'm never surprised by their interest in me
the fierce femme who can speak their manspeak
Load capacities, deck mis-alignment, height discrepancies
calling them out on bullshit in their own language

I was distracted suddenly by the shape of his hands,
the dusting of freckles on his forearms
as he screwed a pin into its shackle
the pattern of his curly salt and pepper hair falling
from the crown of his head in glossy once-dark ribbons
to dance around his shoulders
when he leaned down to tighten a bolt
and felt like I had trespassed
witnessed some intimate thing that was not mine
that filled me with a private heat
not like the one building in the space between us

I can't explain why it affected me so much
have I not really seen the people I've flirted with?
what was I looking for, what did I even notice or respond to
when I've been caught up in other people?
What do these little nuances mean to me, this deeper expression
of his selfness underneath his comically curled mustache
the true things beyond the performance
and why do they suddenly touch me so deeply?

What has changed in me, to give me access to this new lens?

What do I do with it?

Saturday, December 8, 2018

hurricanes with two eyes can see where they're going

Eulogy for the thing I used to be

That I didn't realize I was dragging around like a kid with their favorite blankie
or 'Unh - uh' as my youngest cousin used to call hers
This thing that I used to get hired for - I could see the light in various employers eyes
As I roared edicts and froze entire oceans of men with the sharpness of my words

The landscape has changed.
Me and my fellow giants huddle together at bars, able to see each other like no one else
can, there are fewer and fewer people who remember how powerful we were
so I get asked dumb questions about my competence from people far less capable then I

I've spent so long proving to the world and myself that I was strong enough,
That I'd fought hard enough to deserve the respect no one would give me
And when I encounter situations where people assume I know what I'm doing,
I almost feel robbed of the righteous anger that used to crackle the air around me

No one can conceive of how hard some of us work, have worked
But in this new landscape that doesn't seem to matter
And my story about how hard I am doesn't fit with my rapidly softening hands and body
and now I am wracked with the memory of the strength that used to course through me

But now I have nothing to be proud of conquering,
myself or others, circumstances, institutions, ways of thinking
Not having to pry my sense of self and worth out of them all
isn't as freeing as I thought it would be

Habits of prying and proving, the language I formed for defending myself from monsters
just rasps at the soft skin of the people that have filled the void where giants used to be
and even I am tired of talking about the shit I went through to stand here
Its clearly time for a new pair of glasses, but why can't I seem to let these old things go?

Watching the holidaze is always illuminating
it strikes me how luxurious it can be to have such a black and white view of everything
no familial bonds makes it easy to not get caught in the aching webs of love and loyalty
shame expectation tenderness frustration longing layered into a rich tapestry

Like Umami, that perfect balance of salty sweet bitter sour
that completes a dish, makes it multidimensional, whole
No one would say I lack dimension, but I am a direct descendant of smoke and mirrors
Learning to be seen at all was like learning a new language

And some things will never quite translate directly
especially if I can't let myself be immersed in muddy murky relationships
to find the contrast to my briny demeanor, the sharp iron taste from tending metal
and flame, something to bring out the subtle chamomile quality underneath it all

I've used my mother's toxic coping mechanisms to their highest capacity
I absolve her of monster status, release her from the labyrinth of my ideas
of self, but how do I hang up my cowboy hat now that the frontier has been settled
how do I stop obsessively searching for new frontiers to conquer

Who am I without the skin suit of all the things I used to be?
A tattoo artist said to me that images become clear just as we cease to need them
anymore, a friend told me recently that I shouldn't force the elusive things I contain to express themselves, but just keep making space for them to arise, on their own time

That doesn't mean I don't miss the powerful things I have been, or the lessons I learned
about what I was capable of along the way, I doesn't mean I'm not proud of the fierce angry
little girl I used to be, and I don't know what to be proud of in this new landscape
and I wrote a Eulogy to try to help let that part of myself live in the past

without me.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Uncovering the house so the plaster can breathe.

Prosopon: The Greek word for the human face refers to the sight one presents to the other's gaze.

Can we even fathom what it feels like to be born shaped like a nightmare creature
No real relationships with anything other then the terror of arriving, new
of being considered hideous, no one willing to touch you, to teach you kindness
not knowing the word revulsion doesn't mean you can't understand it when you see it
in the faces of others

We see the Minotaur in his full blown sexual maturity and we assume so much
as he prowls the cage he lives in and may be too terrified to ever leave
never having experienced anything else
we assume he demanded virgins, like he understood something about them
in relationship to himself

Does he consider himself to be a monster? Was he not also an innocent?
Does he consume the fluttering hearts of the other innocents sealed in the maze
to arrest what he feels when they gaze upon him, eating his own reflection in the mirror
His only access to outside, these girls that smell of sunlight, the sky still in their eyes
more scared of the vastness they represent then anyone could ever understand

They have no idea the power they wield with their eyes
as the warmth of the sun leaves, their bodies going cold with fear and revulsion
they possess the ability to make him feel as small as he did that moment
when he understood what was happening, as his father closed him in
laying the bedrock of his feral coping mechanisms

Labyrinthine patterns carved so deep that he can't possible discern the difference between
catching a glint of sunlight piercing the darkness on his skin, warm as touch
and the pheromonal heat coming off of these young women that tugs at a part of himself
that has never been touched
yawning into a wordless hunger and enveloping sadness, twin flames devouring him

The crushing similarity between sounds
of the unseen and unheard child calling for contact, buried in his body
the piercing screams of these barefoot phantoms when they stumble upon him
bearing witness to what happens when we have an overbearing will to survive
but no guides

A byproduct of jealousy and greed between Gods and Kings
Adults who give no thought to how their actions may make monsters of men
who were children once, yearning for touch, comfort in their explorations
who shouldn't have had to warm themselves at the fire of fight or flight
eat or be eaten

Monday, October 29, 2018

Every rock tells a story


I think I was there for fun, for recreation
My friend with her mermaid green hair paddling with me in the water
only it quickly became clear something was wrong

The dark water didn't give away its contents
but they became quite obvious as they wrapped around my arms and legs
brushing against my torso

How we got so far in I can't really be sure
but it became a bit of a desperate scramble to figure out how to escape
a floating shack, like a tiny boathouse came into view

I tried to throw myself into a deeper current
to less congested water
in the canal under a bridge

She chose to use the submerged hardened layer of nightmare materials
to try to walk along the edge of the cement wall
that attracted barnacles and garbage with sediment glue

Some of the structure broke apart under her feet
but she was braver then I, who hates squishy weird stuff in my toes
she made it to the boat house first

My hand hit a large chunk of concrete that had solidified
around a bunch of empty bottles
so remained suspended just below the surface, invisible

I was faster then her
vaulting myself into an open faced kayak
and slicing through the water while she struggled with a canoe

I paused to make sure she was going to be ok
paused long enough to feel relief washing over me
then opened my eyes to the early light spilling on to my bed


It feels so foreign to come back to this place, this space where I learned how to connect in and listen for my internal mutterings and sighs. Having been so focused on the space between myself and another person makes it really striking how difficult it was to drop in to awareness. Struggling to sink past the intellectual storytelling, the constant narration for another, it felt like the longest journey to that wordless place.

Then I got there. Landed. Arrived.

I reminded me of the night before, sitting next to a close friend in a cozy bar, the smoke of his scotch overwhelming my senses. The disappointingly visceral reaction to the taste of it as it evaporated off my tongue, replaced by the warmth spreading down through the center of my body. Not alone.

Monday, July 30, 2018

a woman tried to hand me a pamphlet titled 'the secret to happiness'. I politely declined and kept walking

listening to the scenic designer all evening
I am drowning in all the things I don't know yet
I do know the powerfully successful ways I get noticed
begin to rise above
but here is the tender space
where I have to contend with my fallibility
and the designer was so tender with me, when he so often is not to anyone
my colors are on point, instinctual, noticeably correct
but the application I put on, then wipe off, put on, then wipe off

The color is good, you just have to trust it, he told me.

His aged friend worked with us in the quiet of the theatre
as they rambled and told battle stories
they talked about a color that was missing
their intimate awareness of the thing-that-was-color
a thread connecting them to something
in the space between and underneath the words they were using
and I realized I had cut that out of my life for some reason
chosen to learn the languages of others

rather than speak in my own, with people who were fluent

getting off at my subway stop, at the edge of tears
I am full of so many feelings
I am amazed I can keep moving one foot in front of the other
choices I've made about the future choking me with their definitiveness
humbleness, day to day admitting where I come up shortness
potentially living constantly in a state of not being good at a new job, different job
fear of picking a direction I won't like the taste of, that I will regret putting in my mouth
anger at friends helping to dig this hole I might never climb out of
the prism I always talk about wanting to be like

this is what it feels like I realize

and maybe I can feel all of these things
knowing the foundation has been laid
and inertia set in 
in a moment of clarity I made a choice about my future
maybe I can feel all of these things 
and still trust my instincts
let one foot fall in front of the other on their own
while I take the time to savor each refraction, emotion

without getting lost

thinking about the designer who we had been so angry at earlier 
for the impracticality, unnecessary grandiosity of the set
hearing them talk reminded me of Tony from the carpenter's union
retired, but kept showing up
not for the money, but because that is what he is shaped like
and I realized this lame little theatre with its blue haired audience
was a twilight stage for them to live in the shadow of what they had once been
because that is what they are shaped like
and all of my frustration shifted into love

a clue.

a thread.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

It’s not that the sunset isn’t beautiful. It’s just not what you came here for.

Letter to my college mentor, whom I haven't spoken with in 10 years:

Hiya, its cool. it ended up being a whirlwind visit, but it was quite a shock to realize that essentially once i got to new york, i had never really left. I really only had a quick opportunity to check in with Cyndi in career services one sticky morning, and to wander the little stretch of campus that I remembered. My baby brother got his degree in construction management and is a field engineer with the company doing renovations on Sarasota Memorial, so it was weird to see the city through his daily grind, and super strange to just wander onto campus without having to provide a ton of credentials (being a figure model in nyc means proving to security guards you belong there constantly). also strange to be able to go to the beach without the constant whistle of lifeguards calling people back into shallower water. And little things, like the shock of the chlorine smell from the fountain at the entrance of SRQ, which took me immediately back to all the trips to theme parks as a kid when my mom was a travel agent and got mad discounts.

After years of wrestling with all the things i am, i now have words to go with the feelings and tears i spent so much of my senior year drowning in, feel free to share any of my experiences with anxious students. I graduated into the recession, and as amazing as my teachers were, a lot of them were at their peak before the internet, and the landscape was quite different then i think a lot of my peers knew how to handle - i think the school has since very much made up for that lost ground, but it does feel a little like my class was caught in a strange vortex at the precipice of a lot of change both internally and economically. So i did what i knew - i folded back in with the fiscal school year as a figure model, first in richmond VA (where i modeled for sterling hundley's classes, attended his first private gallery opening, and had discussions with him where he admitted way back in 2010 that he couldn't survive as an illustrator alone, that teaching had become necessary) and eventually in NYC.

the thing i love about NYC is that it has very different ideas about who and what we are then we often do. I submitted my portfolio to a number of publishing companies, and the one thing i kept hearing back was that my skill set/portfolio was too broad for them to get a sense of my voice. In my head i had trained to be a mercenary, to give people what they wanted, and to keep myself open to respond to what each specific creative problem needed (i'm sure you see lots of problems in that statement) but that comes from an entire worldview i brought in to college with me, certain kinds of survival skills that got me through growing up with a crack addict in the house and no parents who were going to make sure i was not in danger. I didn't know there was any other way to be in the world. I was too busy trying to impress my teachers/surrogate caregivers to pause ever even consider what i enjoyed or wanted. Suddenly being asked to have my own voice by potential employers, to pick a style that i would be trapped in, it was too overwhelming, because i felt like i knew too little about my relationship to the world to let myself be hemmed in. That lack of conviction, fear of commitment to myself and my voice has plagued me throughout my career. In retrospect i have gone really broad and missed what becomes available when one goes deep, though going deep can breed a lack of perspective in my observation. Thiel said to me once in front of the class during a critique 'I thought you were going to be the next (name deleted)', and i think about that a lot. I watch her via social media, and I'm sure she is doing her alma mater proud, but as she continues to ripen into her life it only looks to me like she will continue forever to draw and paint the same nude, white skinned, brown haired 22 year old female and i am confused about why someone would develop these skills and have so little to say with them.

I ended up working in a steel shop out of a series of bizarre circumstances, even though i had never held a power tool before. Suddenly I was in a place where my whiteness, college education and gender were huge strikes against me - I had to consider what else I was composed of to survive. Being submerged in the labor force made it hard to justify drawing, I wondered what my college peers even thought they had to say about the world we all knew so little about. So I took what found me, i've been an industrial welder, a rigger/ironworker doing renovations for the dept of education, a forklift/construction vehicle operator, a carpenter for all the off broadway theatres in nyc and eventually a head carpenter/technical director for theatre and massive installations involving art world heavy weights like marina abramovic and nick cave, running crews of 30+ men building huge structures out of steel and glass and other crazy materials.

After countless 100 hour work weeks for fashion week (happens a few times a year), massive art and antique fairs, building Galas for nyc high society and these art installations funded by those same individuals, i have come to see how much of this world is just throwing parties for rich people, and the disdain with which they treat those that build it, i can no longer bring myself to actively grow my opportunities in this realm. I have seen and done enough theatre to realize the 'off broadway' in nyc is the talent equivalent to community theatre, it just has the patina of nyc, and building/painting those sets is arduous for too little money, the producer's ideas too disconnected from reality for me to even guarantee the safety of my crews.

So i've turned towards film and tv world. NYC is becoming an economic force in tv, and there is a rich independent culture in its film that is kind of like a foil to the shiny studio pictures made in LA, maybe like Laika is to Pixar. I'm tiptoeing towards the Scenic Union, which includes production designers, art directors, storyboard artists, graphic designers and scenic painters. its treated like freelance, only the pay is real and there are health benefits, and after the extreme hard labor i have done to survive, i am wrestling with my sense of self and all the things i have been that will evaporate in the eyes of others, as i hang up my cowboy hat and put on the paint clothes i've hidden for so long. I have always struggled with letting my work define who i am, so in my heart i have been fighting the good fight, proving the world wrong about what women are capable of - but i'm starting to see how all of my efforts have been focused on changing how people perceive me, a real local sense of power, and that may have been an abdication of the power i could have over my own life and the choices i could make about what I'm involved in and take the time to support.

So here I am, tired and confused and about to change shapes. What do you value? what does illustration mean to you? What defines you in your mind? What guides the choices you make? What awarenesses has your unique vantage point offered you about what illustration is/has the power to do/how it manifests in different people? what thread connects the pieces of you and your life/life's work together? what called you to illustration and what calls you to it still?

what threads do you notice in my path? if my life has been defined by fighting to survive - what am i when i no longer have to do that?

Monday, March 26, 2018

To be colonized is to become a stranger in your own land

Walking home from the coffee shop balancing my old roommate's handmade dishware in my arms, I tried to channel what I imagined being a waiter would feel like to balance opening doors and holding my coffee while also making it up two flights of stairs with out dropping these precious gifts she left behind for me on her way out to LA to start a new life. A memory bubbled up, as memories often do, and I struggled with my conflicting emotions as I navigated doors and years of doing hard labor and ironwork along my path.

My freshman year of college, I was moving back to Sarasota. I had been born there, and some part of me knew I would be going back. One of the top art schools in the U.S. sprawled along the beaches there, and I had been accepted - it was the only school I had bothered to apply to. I have vague pictures of a house with a window between my older brother's room and mine, where we would signal to each other after everyone went to sleep. My mother took me to dinner at The Columbia in St Armand's Circle, where she had been a waiter during my infancy, and eventually met and fell in love with the father of my younger siblings. She had worn a bow tie and slacks like the men and refused to be called a waitress, and told me later that they had to leave in part because they couldn't avoid run ins with the Cuban Mafia for much longer, possibly because of my step father's drug trafficking and addiction.

My mother recognized some of the waitstaff during this precollege visit, exclaimed excitedly the name of the latino woman who brought us water. As my mom described who she was, I saw a pained recognition crystalize across the other woman's face, and my mother gestured to me, bragging about bringing her daughter here for college, asking about the other woman's daughter. She barely glanced at me, with my blond hair and blue eyes and fair skin, choked out a few words in broken English and walked off as soon as her task was completed. As my mother giggled and crooned about how they used to do coke together when I was a baby, I watched that woman signal a different waiter to attend to our table, and I sat in contemplative horror at the strange innocence that so defines my mother. How was it not obvious that this other woman was embarrassed, possibly for still being in the same work environment, or her own relationship with her children and college, or maybe her memories of that time are darker than my mother's, who was able to walk away and not have to face starkly different fears about surviving, how could none of that flit through her mind, somewhere behind her somewhat vacant eyes?

On the way out my mother had an extended conversation with the Maitre D', while I stood on the sidewalk and watched from a distance, trying to figure out what felt familiar and what was fabricated in my sense memories of this place. As she collected me and we left she told me he had offered me a job if I ever needed one, and she threw her head back and laughed good and hard at the thought of me being a waitress, like I was too soft to be able to handle something like that.

I have thought about that moment a lot over the years of being on and eventually running construction crews, almost every time I get on a forklift, so many strange moments where I have exceeded the limitations in my mother's view of what I could be capable of.

She obsessively hoards all of the awful student work I tried to throw away, bad ideas or overworked and with tiny arms and such, the beginnings of all artists. My siblings tell me about the paintings lining the walls of my childhood home that I hope to never step into again. My little brother even stole one of those paintings once, to my glee - and he received the strangest, quietest phone call from my mother who claimed it was worth some obscene amount of money ($15,000 I think?). I don't know what picture of who or what I am lives its rich life in my mother's eyes, all I know is that anything that undermines it is a threat to whatever narrative she has crafted, and it amazes me that someone could move through their lives or look at their children with such an overwhelming blindness.

I think it makes some parts of my natural expression harder to lean into, picking up a pencil to draw carries with it the weight of potentially fulfilling my mother's blind desire for me, like it is not truly mine somehow. And I fight to be noticed for other kinds of physical prowess with a ferocity that is somehow related to needing her ideas of me to change, to recalibrate around something real - battles I bring in every day to work but are being fought for a ghost, an idea of what a Mother should be, for a child I buried in my body a long time ago.

I can't even do simple tasks without thinking about the box she thinks I live in.

Set from MFA Film Thesis I did Production Design for.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

a wave that could straddle a galaxy

stream of consciousness response to 'untitled work for voice' at danspace projects 2/24/18

pace rhythm cadence implies something sacred
sheets of metal shaken to make thunder,
leaving a newborn thing in the middle of the floor, alone

uncomfortable swallow of old man next to me as the singular performer in front of us rippled and unfolded slowly

watching someone caress the floor with such reverence makes me want to do the same
voice as resonant as her body is subtle
I notice the desire for purpose, meaning, intentions, to be illuminated
maybe because I am watching bodies make shapes and images and words, rather than purely instrumental music
maybe that is what I am witnessing exactly, how the body is an instrument

sounds eventually string together to form words
to be like a chant, an incantation, a skipping record
a confusion between spiritual and mundane/broken
like a flash of potential light words layer together into recognizable fragments
I can feel more specific feelings about
playing with reach/texture/shape of sounds-that-become-words

how are the performers supported/nourished by each other's movements, focus, sounds?
words and movements seem unrelated - what is made available
by breaking them free from each other?
words become a series of absurd sounds, same as the movements they make with their bodies
performed with ritual focus, solemn

what is the relationship between force and meaning?
are the sounds and movements trapped by something? struggling to get out of their bodies?
Stripped of their original meaning?
Given new ones?
How are their movements helping generate the sounds they make?
what happens when you explore that relationship?

Why is synchronized movement so moving, impactful?
slow motion dagger dance
like samurai, a dance of paranoia, precision, protection, threatening

A dancer flails and shakes like she is filled with rage, pain
while someone tries to dress her patiently

as she struggles to communicate, she lets it wrack her body violently
equal parts traumatic and cathartic it feels to me
both powerful and exhausting to feel so much
her movements shape the song fragment she sings
sharp intakes of breath, her feet on the floor like a drum
punctuating the spaces between wordsounds

she didn't remove her engagement ring for this performance
its sparkle distracts me in her sudden stillness

they are silhouetted suddenly
every intimate detail of the outskirts of the performer's bodies
nuances of their individual forms highlighted

moving in and out of tandem shapes and gestures is oddly breathtaking
why does it move me so much
especially when chaos seamlessly becomes a rhythm
the moment when formlessness becomes organized into form
the individuality of their bodies is sharply highlighted
but through the mirror of similar movements now

the old man next to me watches offstage
the female performer he swallowed hard at in the beginning

What is it about something with the patina of pathology
touches a weird emotional spot in me for some reason
I notice discomfort sometimes, space for the expression to take the path it takes at other points
is that called patience?
maybe it reminds me of a man I love dearly with a stutter that strangles his whole body
almost constantly

humming in short bursts like a clock
the rhythm changes, becomes subtly erratic
it feels like she is bending time
time emanates from her body
is subject to her whims
and when she eventually runs out of breath

Shapes from earlier reappear
foreshadowing vs laying a foundation - are they different?
drawing a line through time like a bread crumb trail in our memory
to make something familiar that wasn't before

Are the sentences from old movies?
is there some recently forgotten memory being excavated?
layers of familiar, pulled a part
stacked up again in a different way

unafraid to make ugly or uncomfortable sounds
exploring the shapes of syllables that form words with meanings attached
that live outside, beyond the performers as they chew and choke and push them out
with their entire bodies

this one sounds like play
like exploring the sound and volume and physical shapes
of this particular performer's potential to fill the room
it feels liberating
it feels like joy

I wish someone would look at me the way she looked at the bottom of her foot
its already the distant past by now but I will remember it for a long time

wordsounds ring through the church like a choir
childish chaps swirl around a performer's legs like the religious dress of a whirling dervish
sound of footsteps like a drumbeat slowly recedes in the sudden symbolic darkness
that lives at the end

bits of light from outside catching the stained glass windows all around us
the building's final statement

Monday, February 19, 2018

'Our sun is an eight-pointed star,' the magician explained

'Stars don't have points,' the astronomer replied.
'Oh really?' the magician asked,
'Try drawing one.'

My friend issued some homework for me after one of our intense 4+ hour spiraling conversations tracking from superficial ideas down into the depths of where they emanate from - To fill a single spaced typed page answering the question "Who am I?". Halfway through I realized so much of it was the dregs of previous stories that I never stopped telling, things I present as, or want other people to know me for, other disingenuous lenses through which I have been perceiving selfness. I thought about starting over right then and there, then decided that maybe it would be useful to document the starting place of this line of questioning and attempt at defining, the lines that I have tried to circumscribe on something as amorphous as it is resolute - a shape shifter. A Magician. Myself.

*Done in the style of a tarot book my mother used until it fell to pieces - as if you were drawing me like a card from the deck.

Sometimes loud / sometimes will go all day without speaking, unable to summon the energy required or unwilling to break the spell of silence / Freedom Fighter / currently engaged with the prison of my powerful and successful survival mechanisms / Child of Con Artists / Real / Present / Thoughtful / Cautious / Passionate / Vigilante / Forward, especially when being sneaky / Deeply protective of those I deem deserving of my love / Child of the ocean, of myself, of circumstances beyond my control / High standards / Full of weight, gravity / Curious with an earnest contemplative gravitas / Honest, sometimes to my own detriment / Someone who listens in multiple languages and planes at the same time / A Kaleidoscope / A Prism whose light only leaks out through the holes in my patterns of self preservation / Filled with light that often escapes in the form of Laughter / Laugh like my mother, like all of the Bussell women, but especially like her / Hosts delusions of Ego and self importance / Deep belief in my potential destiny to have a healing impact on the world / Drawn to broken things, things wearing their history / Watching for evidence of the past rippling into the now and creating structures that will manifest in the future / Masterful anticipator / Compulsion to heal other's pain and my own through physical contact, often accidentally manifests as or gets confused for sexuality / A scared little girl in a woman's body / Siren / Fool, refusing to fold into society, living on the outskirts so my voice isn't lost, remains differentiated from the chorus / Fearful of committing to something, for how it necessarily removes other potential manifestations / A sculptor of experiences / An Agent, but not a free one / Bound in the spider web of associations, which I play like a harp to get what I need from people / Letting myself be filled with other people's needs so I can be called into action by the room and its constituents, like a holy weapon / Filled with poison, but skilled at modulating its affect on my system / A Scorpion / Endless reserves of patience for those I believe in, respect, love / Strong at my own expense / Clever, truly crafty at hiding my weaknesses / Aware of the spotlight, of how to use its luminescence to get what I need done / Lonely in a quiet, animal, skin-to-skin kind of way / In a constant process of transformation, never quite recognizing myself in the mirror / Often starting processes I've done a hundred times from scratch, like I didn't bother to make a map of the landscape, or notice the pathways I used to get somewhere or do something / Obscure to myself / Protective Steamroller / Reformed Stress Response Addict / Overwhelming fear of helplessness that often leads to paralysis / Vessel for something, not sure what though / Laser / Force / Listening constantly for the intentions of others, unconscious or not / Deeply curious about how things and people work so I can anticipate how to be and respond appropriately / A consummate performer / A highly skilled translator/ An alchemist in training, my life's work is looking for the space where the immaterial becomes material and back again.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

if all i ever gave you was a hammer, everything becomes a nail

It wasn't until I left tonight that I realized what I was trying to say. What I've been dying to tell you.

While anger was my access point, it is not the motivation. The same pathways can channel all sorts of force, now that they know where to go, right? There is something so profound about learning that my sword is available at any time, that I can protect myself when I need, that it starts to make parts of my armor unnecessary. I am no longer that girl, locked in the bathroom by her stepfather until she stopped sobbing, choking on my inability to use my voice, to defend myself. I can move freer and less hindered by my fears now, I can move from what I believe in NOT because someone else is able to hear me, but because I am listening to me- to my value system, to my boundaries, to my sense of safety and integrity, things I have learned how to cultivate since meeting you.

That is MY job. I listen myself into being.

In the same space, through this cracked filter, which in my mind resembles a muzzle, new and bizarre kinds of conversations and opportunities are finding me. After three years of being paralyzed on your floor, I have the capacity to allow myself to be immersed in these new situations. To commit to these opportunities even with the knowledge that they are going to change me, and that the work I do and things I create will be infinitely different because I am not too afraid to let that happen.

For the same reason I can declare my boundaries, I also have felt incredibly compelled to tell you how much you mean to me. But I am terrified that expressing something so huge would change some crucial aspect of our subtle relationship, that the weight of my love might be more than you are willing or interested in bearing. I know how much support you have offered, even just the gentle baseline of your presence has had a powerfully sustaining affect on me as I navigate huge internal shifts.

I couldn't voice any of this, because there is apiece of me still locked in the bathroom, and I would merely choke and cry in the attempt, so I let my opportunities pass.

Last week a friend really pinned me down in a conversation about my relationship with the idea of strength - it is something I am terrified of not being, the opposite of which is hard for me not to associate with weakness or helplessness, my two biggest nightmares. As we tussled with Strength and unraveled the knotted bundle of my associations with the word, I discovered that to me, strength is tied up with the idea of not needing help, and deeper still, my mother's entire existence is wrapped up in convincing others to help her so she doesn't have to take care of herself. So I think underneath my fears of hoisting myself on you is the truth that if you did change something, if you pulled away with all of this information, that it would feel like some piece of the ground had disappeared from underneath me, and I don't know what I would do if that happened.

I don't really need anything at the moment, but I have all of these feelings, and I don't really know how to handle them, or what to do with them other than acknowledge their presence, along with all of the other things that have finally found their way to the surface.

Thank you. For being what you are. For breathing and speaking and thinking the way you do, and putting yourself in a position where someone like me could witness it. For listening in the keen subtle way that you do. For not apologizing about the space you take or the values you stand for. For being someone the scared little girl I used to be could watch for clues about other possible ways of being in the world. Thank you especially for being a witness while I worked through all that pain, I know it can't have been easy to watch - but I couldn't have done it alone. Everything is so different from when I first walked in, and you were a really important piece of that process.

I think its time for that little girl I used to be to go live in her own time, instead of haunting me like a ghost - it's my turn to be in this body.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Night after night, construction equipment accumulates in your dreams.

When does playing 'together' start
not just alongside,
or taking-toys-from
or giving-toys-to
the seeds of being in a community?

What needs to be there
for activity-next-to
to become
or activity-together?

Difference between
giving and taking
judicial system
(mutual penetration?

what is it
an acknowledgement
that my expression
is somehow
tied to yours?

first we learn
how my left hand
and right hand
can work together

and later learn
how your hands
and my hands
can work together

how seemingly disparate parts
can belong to the same body -
and in the same way
'I care that YOU are hurting'

is born from an expansion
in how I perceive the landscape
by including YOU
in my sense of selfness somehow

Knowing who I am
what I want

is somehow different

than knowing what I have
to offer

what is it
that bridges the two
That calls them out of me
in a way that asks them
to support each other

whether I am drawing my sword
or reaching out for connection

'No' as a kind of container
Rules/Laws as a kind of container
Choices we make

The stories we tell as a kind of container

Containers as a way of being held
Edges to brush up against
ways to know what I am shaped like
sculpting an absent mother's embrace
out of accumulated edges

Can we work on a project together
or a game
even while playing
by different internal rules?

maybe it allows an evolution
becomes something that unfolds
like it is alive
rather than just repeating itself

communion and community
have the same roots

Tasting the body and blood of another
A bonding ritual
the sharing or exchanging of intimate thoughts and feelings,
especially when the exchange is on a mental or spiritual level
common participation in a mental or emotional experience
a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common
especially in the context of social values and responsibilities; society
a similarity or identity
a group of interdependent organisms of different species
growing or living together
affecting each other's abundance, distribution, and evolutionary adaptation
a group with diverse characteristics linked by social ties, common perspectives, engage in joint action in geographical locations or settings

*participants differ in the emphasis placed on particular elements
defined similarly but experienced differently by diverse backgrounds

what is the nature of
the texture and flavor of
those shared roots

how do we change the landscape
and maintain a connection?

what lives underneath those things
for us to hold on to
breathe into
partake in
in the first place?

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

In all of this patience, where is the passion?

(Epic poems about a regular life)

My little brother called
it was the third time someone at the company he worked for had set him up
to take a fall
It felt like holding the hand of a victim, like I was explaining the inevitability
of sexual assault to a young woman
as I explained how to protect himself
the way I had learned to
Don't trust anyone's intentions, especially the boss
especially the boss
Ask more questions about them then they do of you
Because they are gathering clues about how they can fuck you later
Learn as much as you can about everything, because any not-knowing
will be held against you
even if it isn't your job
always leave a paper trail, something that can be referred back to later
when they lie
about your attempts to correct their mistakes
to ask for help, guidance
And never take it personally
The chumminess or the betrayal
you are just a pawn in their landscape

But if you play your cards right
and constantly watch for traps
even pawns can wield a ton of power

Let them dig their own holes little brother.

He woke me up with that phone call
I had been practically despondent
Christmas and New Years passed
My hip joints cried out for movement
An arctic chill had descended on New York City
And I had a work injury that turned into an allergic reaction
that made my face difficult to look at

Excuses really

I think I felt safe enough to be so vulnerable
I knew I was going to survive, I am invaluable to the people I work for
But my professional prowess on a recent gig
Threatened other crew heads in the space I spend the most of my time
I felt like a child getting spanked for being too smart
I was helpless in the face of their insecurities
Grown men scared of a little girl full of laughter and sunlight

familiar territory really

I used to speak to my older brother exclusively in French
to piss off my abusive, crack addict of a step father
who hadn't finished high school
I didn't mean to push that same button when the French company arrived
I was the only one who could communicate easily with them
the same trigger turned my brilliance into a weapon against myself
like I am eternally engaged in battle with my step father

Like being what I am is a sin I must constantly atone for

As I lay in bed for a week
watching movie after movie in the winter darkness
storylines overlapping, magnifying and adapting
nuances of things that matter to us as a species, cultures, emotional beings
In the kaleidoscope of my broken heart I started to understand
the value of stories and traditions to remind us of the depths of feeling we are capable of
when we forget

when winter comes

Like a ray of sunshine reaching out to an almost dead plant
my little brother called, upset
his honesty and integrity being used against him at work
and I got to say to him the things I wish someone had told me
watching him reach out in distress to someone he trusted and respected
reminded me that I could do the same
so I texted my boss and I got out of bed

I'm starting to realize
that I am in mourning
some subtle shifts in my trajectory
have illuminated the landscape ahead
in a completely different way
ways of being
and relating
successes I've hitched to other people's stars
lifelines I've clung to for survival, for years
are beginning to shift and transform
shedding like skin cells
everything is the same but different
the initial loneliness
of reorienting from others
to myself
was terrifying
but now I can't seem to get enough
of myself
as exciting as things are
it still feels like saying goodbye to a lover
a parent, a close friend
to everything familiar

I feel like that Dr. Suess book
'Are You My Mother'
Like I've been desperately trying to
Convince somebody
To take the other end of this umbilical cord

But I think it's my responsibility
to take care of this child

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Time has been expanding lately

Watching the guy across from me on the subway as he watches everyone around us, considering small details and interactions, I can't help but wonder if he isn't some invisible celebrity, like a renowned particle physicist who's face we are unfamiliar with. His innocuous clothing, smart hiking shoes and full, clean backpack with a little bottle of antibacterial soap hanging from its pocket made me think of an adjunct professor, maybe attached to Columbia or something. I notice this idea in my head of how a physicist behaves, constantly observing the world around them, seeing quantum mechanics manifesting in the inane conversations going on around us, in the contents and rustling of grocery bags, the timing of laughter and the ratios of bodies sitting to standing and how they inherently affect each other by the vacuums they create. I imagine my movement teacher as seeing the world in similar all encompassing refractions of information, the sway of someone's hips, small axis' of everyone's movements, forces rippling up through spines from one footfall to the next, information like a flood.

All of a sudden I wonder what I notice. I had a teacher in college who had us draw from memory regularly, to remind us that we think we know what everything looks like, until you actually pause and look at it. What an interesting thing to know about myself, that I've never considered - what do I notice as I move through the world?

The physicist across from me looks to see what I am looking at, I think we both know we are observing each other at this point. Being observed also makes me hyper aware of my physical expression, it's hard for me to know if I am performing a little as I take in the sense of what I am presenting. Dirt marks from work wrap around my legs and my big beat up jacket with the steel shop I used to work for embroidered on it communicate some kind of history, one that I imagine seems unrelated to my pale skin and heart shaped face with sharp librarian glasses and large blue eyes. I love being dirty on the subway, an unintentional dissonance, my desire to break all of the rules and prove everyone's ideas about the shape of the world wrong - I often watch people size me up, or glance at my face, then the steel shop name and my face again, trying to figure a story that makes sense to them.

I watch a red and blue pill roll around on the floor under his foot as he watches me.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Call it Afternoon Light Through Branches. See if it answers.

I can tell it's almost Christmas cause I'm sitting in a spacious bodega stuffing mediocre Chinese food down my throat cause I forgot to eat, and the only other person sitting here is a thoughtful homeless man scribbling tiny indecipherable notes on the stacks of newspaper surrounding him. Considering the insane amount of notes I take, already stuffed into coat pockets and overflowing from under the couch in my room, I recognize that homeless man staring contemplatively out the window as a spectre of my potential future. The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.

I had a Floridian slip and bought a bunch of tiny oranges, desperate for some sunshine downloaded directly into my being. Then I realized they were frozen and tasted weird. It's winter in New York City, what was I thinking?

I decided to give these tiny weird oranges to my future self, sitting in the window oblivious to my attention.

Turns out he wasn't interested. I'm proud of my future self for knowing that we are both better than those sad, out of season oranges. Relieved that he wasn't so desperate that he felt like he had no choice but to accept my offering. Amused at how gracefully he turned me down.

Maybe I had to turn him into a metaphor to receive what he had to offer me: Hope. Faith. The kind of humor that arises out of the bittersweetness of life, as tart and real as lemons grown in the Florida heat.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Hearing the Cello

Last night I had a dream I only remember small pieces of. There were grounded stingrays being whipped around by the wind and there wasn't much water for me to submerge them into. According to a stingray represents Fluidity of movement, agility, and the ability to lay low and camouflage oneself (especially emotionally). As I run into rough edges at work, I wonder about how I may be finding myself in situations where there isn't enough water for me to express my fluid potential, I don't even know what kind of environment might make such a choice possible.

we all move and make choices in response to the stimulus of our environments.

Something I have considered one of my greatest strengths is my capacity to orient so deeply around the people who can teach me the most in any situation, that I can anticipate their needs or next moves almost before it escapes their lips. I pay such fierce attention to preferences and body patterns that I can find a rhythm and fast forward my learning, but I have also continued throughout my life to run into a deep confusion of relationships from people I have needed, even momentarily.

I find myself staring that question in the face again, but I can't keep claiming innocence.

It strikes me now that I have very much embraced the role of the needle, or the hands guiding the warp and weft of the projects I have worked on at a massive scale. It is necessarily a tapestry of all of our efforts to manifest it, and the flavor and style of my impact has been relegated to sculpting the experience from above, the only evidence of my work lives in the physical expressions of the crews I run. The shape and structure of the tapestry, of all of the hands who did the manifesting remain, and I am a ghost, too busy piercing the space with other people's threads to have woven in my own. Performing the part of the invisible plane, the axis. Guiding everything through its intimate relationship to myself. I have spent years writing about feeling like a ghost, not tied to history, about seeking proof of my existence through other people's responses to me, and I see that same pattern in the tapestry of the piece I just finished constructing.

My mother and I were one symbiotic organism when I was a child. I was logic and follow through, she was desire and destination maker. Our roles were reversed, I learned there was no truth to hierarchy, no rules actually existed. I have always been the needle. The Compass. Guiding hands. A container, rather than something contained.

But I am starting to suspect that not having a clear through line, a thread of my own selfness is also a choice I am making - to be the teller of the story rather than the character inside of it. To be infinitely responsive/acquiescent to others around me, so I can wear the right mask at the right moments. Shaping the world so I can control how I am shaped by it. My desire to feel myself through contact with others is kind of like a weird nervous tic, betraying something I feel helpless to control, a way of getting close to the feeling of being inside of my own story, so I can feel its heat from a safe distance.

As profound a skill as my awareness often is, I think it is time to consider how those habits might be manifesting a particular kind of reality that automatically keeps other possibilities languishing in the shadows.

"the problem with war is the victor. he has proven that war and violence do pay. Who will then teach him a lesson? And how?"

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Of course, that's what water does.

everything is changing
like, more than usual
I used to prefer it that way
I knew myself in chaos,
because I was a wall
rooted to myself in such a way
that I always knew up from down

but I gave that job away
cause I had other things I wanted to be
and it was getting in my way

I know myself
what I'm worth
what I believe
better than I did
this time last year
maybe up and down
are relative

I realize
this is probably
why people have mothers

in a class last week
I was asked to orient to the ground
as I rolled from my side to my belly
I was so focused on being
a conduit for forces
the idea of holding an intention of movement
at the same time seemed mysterious, foreign,
a revelation

this is how we are meant
to move through life I realized
how exhaustingly huge.

in the shower it struck me, as I recounted my day
that I seem to collect Taurus employers, Captains of Industry
and as bizarrely secretive and possessive as my mother

also a Taurus

forceful, emotionally demanding, tricky with the information they share
molding the people and world around them into a landscape of their liking

to their advantage

also unwilling to ask for a certain kind of help, a safe space to expose
their weaknesses unless it is a ploy, to help protect them in the long run
Scorpio is the Sorcerer, a mover of people and matter

I am an ideal helpmeet

Just like Ariadne, keeper of the keys to the labyrinth
which leads to the bull at its center, waiting for human sacrifices
given as tribute from the surrounding villages

I finally understand who the Minotaur is

who do I give my gift to
this thread to find their way back from my depths
after killing the monster the haunts me?

once, in the throes of puberty
my self disgust manifested
as physical punishment and I knew
I needed something so I stood in front of my mother
paralyzed, voiceless
she put her arms around me and I was stone
in that embrace but before any part of me
had time to melt she pulled away
yelling at me because of some weird insecurity
maybe she felt rejected
I just needed her to hold on long enough that
I could turn from stone to flesh again

I think it was around that time that
I started to shut down
my stepfather's eyes and words were so often on my body
like it was a thing that didn't really belong to me
and I was starting to understand that my mother
wasn't going to protect me from what comes next
he was institutionalized before it got that far
but the next decade or so was a blur
of out of body sexual experiences

A weird disturbance arose today, low in my pelvic bowl
a whisper of what might be considered a period cramp
something I've never dealt with in my entire bloody life
I usually get migraines instead, blinding, nauseous, debilitating
every 28 days or so

sitting on the subway, mulling over this little, pulsing, precursor to pain
I thought about my recent fling with a handsome foreigner
a stunning project we all worked on together, and how utterly female
curvaceous and powerful I felt showing up to work alongside him
a part of myself that I've hidden for as long as I could remember
reveling in my own femininity, tasting another human being
with nothing but pleasure in mind for the first time in my life

were those migraines a manifestation of those things I cut off
since I first began to bud
blinding, nauseous, debilitating
what does this new pulsing sharpness mean?