Friday, January 31, 2014

What we risk reveals what we value.

A man sitting across from me burst into a laugh he couldn't keep in his chest, startled a few of the subway riders around him. But he didn't notice, giggling silently to himself, so completely immersed in the pages of his short novel with yellowed pages and cracking, apple green binding. I don't remember what stop he got off on, or the name of the book, but I remember that true bursting laugh, it was so familiar to me it was almost as if it came from my own insides. Like a handshake. Or a hug from someone I haven't seen in awhile. And it had nothing to do with me.

A deep, rich rendition of 'Papa Was A Rolling Stone' filled the Delancey/Essex F stop that was so compelling I was singing it behind my face mask. Suddenly another man's voice rang out from across the platform on the opposite side, going in the opposite direction, belting out the painful and true words with the aging black gentleman singing behind me and fingering his worn guitar. I went to board the train as it drowned out the music, interrupting the palpable connection being experienced, when a very large man with dreads and a puffy tear stained face leaned down and explained to me through his thick accent that the music moved him so much - he could barely even speak. I didn't know how to handle such an intimate confession, the connection suddenly choking me, just as I was small against the tears and large figure towering over me. It may have just been a subtle lean in my direction, but I was the only person he addressed, and him being so large and wide I felt wrapped up in him practically, his emotions dripping like sweat down my spine, too raw and real for comfort. Slightly panicked for some reason I thrust myself into the faceless crush of bodies and lost myself inside the guts of the mostly silent impersonal subway car.

Sitting on the Myrtle/Wykoff L stop with my dog in my lap, a heavy set, loud, socially awkward woman started talking to my dog in the hopes for some kind of reaction, like the hobos or creepy dudes who make barking noises to get her attention while she perches calmly on my thighs like a proud little ship, anchored by my heart and nothing else. I trust her to handle herself, so remain solidly planted and dismissive as the woman talks at her, and at me. My self aware, self possessed little girl pointedly looked everywhere but at the woman making a scene till finally giving up and wandering off. Since I had stepped on the platform with Calypso sitting straight spined and tall in my arms, I watched a handsome younger man continuously glancing in my direction. Having a dog in New York City inspires a wide range of interesting and often emotional reactions in people, and I always let her make eyes with certain people across crowded subway cars, and yearn towards spiky little boys pretending not to be just as interested in her as she is in them. I pretend I don't notice, let her have these little romances with other people's hungry eyes and hungry hearts. As I sat down, he finally approached me and gently vomited up bits of his life, currently in transition. Going through a break up, having to find a new home for his dog, starting a new job. Still swimming in the romance of loving and losing, his whole presence seemed tender like a bruise. Open, honest, he was confessing his whole being to the little, warm creature in my lap, and I felt, again, like his face was in my hands, or snuggled in my lap with Calypso, though she hadn't even bothered to glance in his direction. I knew exactly who he was in that short, quiet conversation. Then he stepped off at the Lorimer stop. I may never see him again, and I surely won't recognize him if I do.

I walked past a pizza placed but continued since the two guys behind the counter stared, more interested than I am comfortable with... but doubled back because it was my last chance to grab food due to the lateness of the hour. The pizza section melted into a low lit bar and I sat in a boozy semi darkness stuffing mediocre pepperoni slices into my mouth gracelessly, while the older man of the pair came and leaned back against the alcohol regarding me and the nightly news on the tv near me with thoughtful silence. I watched him subtly as I dripped grease on his bar counter and scattered red pepper and crumbs across the dark wood surface. He was distinguished looking, of some Arabic/Persian descent that I couldn't quite place. The obvious ethnicity made me wonder what the people working around me felt about women and propriety, since I sat in a cutoff sweatshirt that left my tattooed shoulders exposed, the left shoulder bright underneath the pin-light over it. The face of a Siren from Homer's Odyssey stared drowsily at him, and he stared back, focused, contemplative. There was nothing lewd about how openly he stared, I thought, smacking and sniffling as the red pepper lit up my sinuses, as I watched him watching my shoulder. It was interesting to see someone, like in a museum, looking at art on the wall, but they were looking at a piece of my flesh, but it was so earnestly interested, almost reverent, and honest, I made no move to cover myself, or distract him from his thoughts. I waited for his questions to inevitably surface, and I answered them.
'She's beautiful' he said quietly. 'Who is she?' I gave him the name of the Greek story, but didn't see recognition in his face.
'Why that?' He asked. I explained how sometimes when we experience emotional and mental battles, that test our souls and our hearts, I find it is unfair that I don't have literally battle scars to show the world how hard I have fought to be where and what I am.
'What if you change your mind?' he asked finally.
I asked him if he could go back and change things in his life, his childhood, choices he's made before there was grey in his hair. He nodded to let me know that he understood some part of my question. Then I finished my food, cleaned up my mess.
'Get home safe' He told me as I disappeared out into the cold and dark.

I realized in my last relationship that I was being treated with more respect - simple kindness even - on the train, by complete strangers than the person I was rushing home to, and in the last 6 months I have met people who see me clearer and deeper than family members who have known me my whole life. It feels like I've suddenly discovered I don't have to vigilantly protect myself from the people I encounter, that I don't have to live in constant fear that they don't really know who I am, or care what that means. My days are filled with such rich, electric interactions that even I can feel my own realness, I can hear the heaviness of my footfalls as my body connects with the earth, with other people, because I am real. More than just a phantom of other people's perceptions and expectations, family, lovers.

It was the third of September; that day I'll always remember,
'Cause that was the day that my daddy died.
I never got a chance to see him; never heard nothin' but bad things about him.
Mama I'm depending on you to tell me the truth.

Mama just looked at him and said, "Son,
Papa was a rollin' stone.
Wherever he laid his head was his home.
And when he died, all he left us was alone."

Papa was a rollin' stone.
Wherever he laid his head was his home.
And when he died, all he left us was alone."

Hey, Mama, is it true what the say, that Papa never worked a day in his life?
And Mama, they talk all around town say that
Papa had three outside children and another wife
And that ain't right.
Heard them talkin' about Papa doing some storefront preachin'
Talkin' about saving your souls and all the time weak, dealin' in death
And stealin' in the name of the Lord
Mama just hung her head and said,

Papa was a rollin' stone.
Wherever he laid his head was his home.
And when he died, all he left us was alone."

Papa was a rollin' stone.
Wherever he laid his head was his home.
And when he died, all he left us was alone."

Hey, Mama, I heard Papa call himself a jack of all trades.
Tell me, is that what sent Papa to an early grave?
Folks say Papa would beg; borrow or steal to pay his bills.
Hey, Mama, folks say Papa was never much on thinkin';
Spend most of his time chasin' women and drinkin'!
Mama, I'm depending on you to tell me the truth.

Mama just hung her head and said, "Son,
Papa was a rollin' stone.
Wherever he laid his head was his home.
And when he died, all he left us was alone."

Papa was a rollin' stone.
Wherever he laid his head was his home.
And when he died, all he left us was alone."

Papa was a rollin' stone.
Wherever he laid his head was his home.
And when he died, all he left us was alone."

Papa was a rollin' stone.
Wherever he laid his head was his home.
And when he died, all he left us was alone."

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Distance provides a kind of grammar.

Seated in the audience for a small dance company's showcase I had designed marketing materials for - the performances were all filled with interesting young women, except for one particular piece. A 70 year old woman, the choreographer and company's focal point moved alone, feet shifting in and out of time to delicate sounds. Like a butterfly, like a crone, halting and awkward one moment, powerful and arched the next, making shapes in the space with her body, her sharp movements, her meandering, emotional pauses, she danced as vigorously as a young woman, whatever one's taste for performance, her presence and sharp awareness were nothing to be overlooked, alone on that stage.

I was struck by both her freedom and control over the movements of her body, and thinking back to people in my life, family members, pseudo role models, teachers, adults I encounter all around me - near her age, some not even close who have lost that sense of connection with themselves. It makes me so angry sometimes, that the people I should have been able to look up to when learning what truths composed the world I exist in seem to have willfully relinquished that awareness, of self, and the space around them. That I could find deeper, more meaningful exchanges with individuals perceived through a screen, remote, unrelated to me, than when drowning deep in the clotted embrace of some of my blood relatives. That a simple movement of an aging figure against a white wall could make me want to cry for the grandmother I should have had, for what the human body could be, could have been. For the wisdom I could have drunk off of knowing individuals at the earliest formation of my own sense of self and concept of power.

Like a prayer, like flagellation, like a nightmare, I can only keep fiercely repeating to my friend walking through the cold next to me, to myself in bed that evening:

I never want to be trapped in my own body, by age or fear or disuse.

Oh god, please.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

And broken heartstrings bled the blues.

I have not been brave in art. I have been merely a technician, and possibly, that is why making art has always been a painful struggle for me, one I would happily avoid to go cover myself in grease and heft heavy things around. Just because I can use the tools of society's concept of Artist with obvious skill and precision doesn't automatically mean I have said something worthwhile with any of it. All those awful early student paintings my mother is hoarding are the same as anyone beginning the study of a craft - coagulated excesses and structural inaccuracies, just as my first welds were lumpy and unsuited to actually supporting weight, useless - we must all do those same technical studies to build the skill set to actually craft things, and our growth is measured by how far we have evolved since those early attempts at creation. I was always just trying to tell the truth. To do what was 'right'. It is easy to aspire to truth in a discipline, truth of form, but it is only of face value, it can only ever be vaguely structural. Floating on the surface, wrapped around a skeleton, holding something together, but not imbuing it with meaning or experience. We can rely on truth of form and space as being universally agreed upon in its general 'rightness'.

The nude figure is an ideal study subject, as it is often completely devoid of a specific personality, stripped down to a loose similarity that dispels the illusion of self we drape around us/shield ourselves from via clothes, and witty conversations or political stances. I wonder if that has something to do with the proliferation of tattoos in my generation - trying to claim a self-hood that extends deeper than our clothes and is impossible to be robbed of, or so we don't lose ourselves in the constant tidal shifts of acceptability and expectation coming from generations past. I cling to my figure modeling work as a tiny bit of respite, like going to yoga, one of few places where I can safely escape judgement, free from assumptions or expectations related to my role, gender or sexuality. I can completely unmask, allowing a room full of people bear witness to the truth of my existence without feeling the need to protect or defend myself. But it is easy to hide in that intimately non intimate place, never getting past skin deep. To not feel.

I have tried making art as an emotional experience, but a desperate fight always ensues in my brain with what looks correct, and in response to some deep desperate fear of exploration, of straying too far from the recognizable, I give up. I shrug my shoulders. I do something else to avoid the helpless frustration. If Life imitates Art or vice versa, I have spent my Life/Art in search of Truth... not of Self. Maybe I needed to find Truth, so I could construct Self from a premise I can rely on, a foundation rooted in function, where every muscle is justified for its existence and can be moved with purpose... I have been tasting other people's wants and dreams, like Goldilocks, to see which ones taste 'just right'. Artfully avoiding having my own, so I don't have to learn the bitter flavor of disappointment. Trying to embody truth, rather than self helps me lose myself in the machine of working on crews, and the loudest thing being spoken is body language, and we are all an extension of each other, a functioning being made up of characters and muscles allowing me to interact with the varying degrees of wants and dreams, truth and self, and I can be lost in a tidal wave of emotions that pass through me like electricity, but don't weigh me down because they do not belong to me. Sometimes I desperately wish I could bring that home, wrap myself around like a blanket, like a human being, to taste the technicolor realness of wanting something - but I know that the ringing truth of making structural things speaks to our rational selves. I can allow a total sensual immersion in work/coworkers because we are all aspiring towards the same thing, and the similarity of our experiences is reflected in each other with such intimate familiarity that I forget they have lives, girlfriends and wives and children they go home to. Expectations and friends, roommates and pets. Families and needs. When we step offsite, there are rich, throbbing Real Selves where the Rational Men used to be. 

Sometimes I can feel the beast in my blood that I have yet to look in the eyes. I don't know when it woke up, but I am too unsure of its needs and expectations to bring it into existence by calling it by name. I think it is my Self, and that it grows too hungry for me to contain much longer. I have been on a passionate pursuit to break every boundary I've encountered, and have always found truth on the other side, disproving the necessity for other people's boundaries at all. But I can't be truth in my core, truth is just another boundary. It is a thing that sits outside, and on the surface, and while shielding me valiantly from lies and illusion, so too is it shielding me from the richness of emotional experiences.

Maybe Truth is the next boundary I am meant to break.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

it's because you taste like home.

At the movies with a handsome carpenter on christmas, I had one of those moments where I remembered who I was, and the true value of what I am doing. It is so easy in the entertainment industry to get lost in the brilliant waste, of building concerts and spectacles only to ride home on the subway and hear the audience members around me open and close their mouths with debilitating, complaining negative noises about the experience I gave the labor of my body to, for it to have manifested for these ungrateful bastards. Seeing the newest Disney Princess confection (Frozen 2013) the best part of the movie was hearing the reactions of the children around us, especially the loud "Huh?" every single child uttered when the prince/boy did not save the day. Discussing the newest line up of Disney princesses with some of my close female friends, all of us with a vested interest in the genre, as a large amount of our college friends have ended up in the Disney/Pixar/Dreamworks world, it was fascinating to note the extreme and different reactions we all had to the different stories, what we resonated with was so much deeper and more tangible than the barely more than skin deep princesses that defined our concept of femininity, destiny, self worth and true love in our child selves.

How would my mother and grandmother be different, if they had these kinds of Disney characters in their earliest memories and associations?

I witnessed, in that audience, the shift from previous expectations and the happily ever afters my generation and those before me chase, crumbling under the weight of failure... and I saw the future change. As much as movies and tv shows are crafted for children to sell a ton of merchandise, more than make something beautiful, there is an inherent shaping of culture that is taking place, and it may be decades before the meaning underlying the medium of transmission can fully reveal itself in our adult incarnations. Stories like that of Wicked, and soon, the movie Maleficent, go back to the stories of our childhood, to look at what happened through a different kind of historian's eyes. The new Batman movies, and Daniel Craig's James Bond focus on pushing our boundaries of right and wrong, black and white, bringing us into the shadows that our existence is actually comprised of. Allowing children and young adults to weigh motivations, to feel for what was previously considered the 'bad guy', to see past labels and unlucky situations is giving our youth the ability to come into their own with a much deeper awareness of the depths and feelings that trigger the responses of the people around them. Buying that ticket to see that movie, that crappy princess Merida costume, those Batman action figures may be feeding into the mindless consumption that some of us struggle against, but when our children pretend to be these characters, they are embracing the depth that WE as the makers of entertainment have given them.

It may be that the only way to truly experience/engage/affect culture is to be immersed in it. Maybe to be above it, or better than it actually separates us because we are stepping out of our time and its realities, and become disconnected from time altogether. If a handsome stranger running from an unpleasant past hadn't walked into the Columbia Restaurant in Sarasota Florida and made eye contact with a youngish woman who hated her father, sometime in the late 80's,  I wouldn't have had the silly, sweet voice on the phone with me last night, listening to my panic attack about my career - my sister would not exist without the holes created in our mother by her father, who then allowed that handsome/horrible stranger to alter the direction of her life. those threads are necessary in the grand design, and to go back in time to fix those holes would alter the entirety of the universe. It is because of my grandmother's 16 year old self, writing letters to a handsome young man in the air force that my mother grew up broken and angry, a cause and effect that we can have no cognizance of how it will ripple the future, how that 16 year old's first love, sometime in the 1950's may still hinder the positive choices I make in my personal and sexual relationships now. Memories are as real and tangible as atoms, they construct the realities we live in and the things we choose to define ourselves by. They are real, and they exist in this time, because we carry them with us, using them like divining rods to navigate the future. We are carried along by the momentum of simple actions, getting up in the morning, buying that cup of coffee, the smile one gives a stranger whose life may be altered by that simple muscle twitch, evolved from southern manners an individual cannot escape. The feelings of a 16 year old in the 50's resonate with so much momentum, they are still swimming around me in the now that I exist in, in such a real, unbreakable state, just as real and powerful as Elvis's pelvic thrust in defining culture and moving us all forward. Just as I may have atoms from exploded stars composing my flesh, so too are moments from a past I will never know reflected in the anatomy of my own unique existence, and every choice we make is a ricochet of those 'past' atoms, colliding and making 'future' atoms, no different than matter and anti matter, just unnamed and undiscovered by the science community yet - the 4th dimension, the undiscovered plane of existence that we are unable to see as a scientific reality because we are still so emotionally sensitive to it.

Some of us, 70 years after the great depression, still cannot walk past that huge value bag of greasy potato chips that their grandchildren will never eat, because some part of them is still caught in the scarcity of the past, on repeat, like a scratched record, or a ghost, walking the same hallways, doomed to live a traumatic event over and over again. Some people repeat their parents mistakes, or continue to fall in love with the same kind of man, at the expense of their children's safety over and over again, stuck at a point in their development where things ceased to change, to grow. Like the past atoms became a cancer, that multiply and fill them up with a time they cannot escape and are doomed to repeat. I also know people that are so afraid of the past atoms they were given by their parents, they choose to only live in the future, and are caught in a time warp of working and planning so strong, they cannot even see that they are missing out on their lives in real-time (I was caught up in too many past atoms once, and encountered someone filled with future atoms and flaming red hair, and a few conversations with him exchanged enough mutually missing atoms to balance that I could move out of the mistakes I had been repeating. Those conversations changed me and my entire life path). And some of us are taught as children that there are no boundaries, that we can do and be anything we want - some of us learn it the hard way, later in life, how to get past the skip in the record - and some of us have been doing it the whole time without ever realizing the power of our actions and self explorations:

Change is time travel. It is dependent on one's emotional state and their concept of boundaries. To disrupt the waves of poor choices or bad memories carried throughout history, to stop and actually effectively choose what kinds of momentum you offer to the universe intimately manipulates the future in ways so far past our ability to see, it is when we are fully present, to give positive ideals and experiences to the collective waves into the future, the rooting of and knowing of self in our own time and cultural history that we actively define the next generation, what matters to them and how they see themselves. Just by living more deeply than our parents and with more awareness of self than previous generations we are laying a stronger foundation for the future.

I saw it for a second, the future, like a flash in that dark movie theatre, and I no longer doubt my ability to be a part of it.

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

some people underestimate how erotic it is to be understood

the last gallery show i was in (that i got featured in the new york times for), the series i did was based on the concept of that miscommunication/misunderstanding of our worth in relation to our female sexuality (that it could, in fact be directly linked to a higher form of spirituality, but our mothers never realized that potential, and let society continue to brand it as shameful and 'naughty', so could never teach us that it could be a source of good, let alone related to our own divinity) and this negative expression is passed onto us from our own confused mothers, and their confused mothers, something that defines the types of partners we choose, the fathers and grandfathers i had (awful men, all of them) and that is a similar feeling i have about watching my mother and grandmother's terrified and almost superstitious relationship with money, and the things they consider to be rewarding (fast food, sitting in front of the tv and shitty lattes, rather than eye exams/prescription glasses/ability to see properly, nourishing/high quality/healthy food, yoga/bike/anything active) and on into infinity. especially right now, as i am the only member of my family to have moved out of florida (little sister recently changed that too!) i feel like it has given me the distance and objectivity, as well as vastly new and different stimuli to consider (while they continue to ruminate in their own juices and reinforce their misconceptions) to really breakdown some of my learned behaviors towards my sexuality and concept of worth, men, food, taking (real) care of myself, money etc... and it seems to have resulted in this disconnect with my heavily female based family, where it is like speaking two completely alien languages, and our concepts of everything are so different it makes conversing practically impossible, particularly due to the fear base from which they respond to everything, reinforced by the whiffs of the baptist church my family is bred from.

that series of work was really just the beginning of my being able to bring some of these gossamer notions into a more concrete understanding of actual concepts and breaking down and restructuring neural pathways that have been built to receive and log information in very specific ways from my early cognitive development. then i come across articles like this (i've read stuff about this before) and aside from making me feel more rooted to history through my genetic ties, strikes me deeply as i may be wrestling with precognitive conditions gifted to me from such major events as things like the industrial revolution, potentially harboring a distant, glowing link to eve herself, stripped of the power of creation (babies), something truly beautiful and awe inspiring, divine even, by being made to feel it was born from a shameful act, forevermore a condemnation against that powerful place in ourselves that possesses the power of god and was turned against us/her - relegated to nothing more than a ball and chain forced on her by a man she did not choose (adam).

i think this kind of stuff should be talked about more, i think, for people like the ones in my family, it may be the only way to establish a bridge to speaking my new language, with its foundation in logic and rational self awareness. i know its just a boring science article, but i think the concept could potentially be much farther reaching: