Tuesday, June 30, 2015

"I" was a performance not an essence.

Time pressure had narrowed their 'cognitive map' ; as they raced by they had seen without seeing.


Running into a café to grab a latte, I noticed an old stained glass window hung on the wall like a picture. As I waited for the espresso to brew and the milk to be frothed, I thought about what that out-of-context window meant in the larger scheme of the atmosphere, of attitudes, of life.

Sure it fulfilled some generation specific fascination with all things 'vintage' in the hipster world of re-appropriation, but having spent so many years building things with people who will never be thanked for their participation, let alone noticed by the kinds of people that consume the things we produce, my heart swelled for a second. This piece of functional history was given the opportunity to grace a wall in the manner of artists. There are few names we know in the world of metalworking or construction, but someone allowed this errant piece of craftsmanship imply that an individual did craft this thing and it was beautiful in the way art is beautiful.

Even though sunlight will not pierce its glass and give color to the dust motes in some child's memory, something about removing it from the structure of houses, which we wear like skin, ours alone - it allows me to contemplate the individual who made this thing. To wonder if he liked his job, to respect the cleanliness and straightness of his lines and soldered edges, to guess at the time this piece was born by reading the weathered wood framing, and to place his meticulous, rough hands inside of its history.

It is a portrait of its creator. It is a depiction of the place where drudgery and art define the life of a man. Just as it exists everywhere around us, from carpenters to garbage men, so many unsung heros in our day to day that have jobs too boring for us to remember or acknowledge. When I look at this piece of salvaged architecture on the wall I am filled not with thoughts or opinions, but a strong sense of a person, faceless, focused.

And hands.

Sure, steady, meticulous, patient, rough hands.

if ritual is art, then it is stretched over the frame of habit.

All art is autobiographical. The pearl is the oyster's autobiography.

Pearls are commonly viewed by scientists as a by-product of an adaptive immune system-like function.

Monday, June 29, 2015

tiny rectangles of infinitely reproducible emotion

In some of the discussions about human development in my yogic study of the body, our observations of babies has brought up a theory of how an infant begins to discern reality - mouth to nipple is the first true and real thing in a new human's experience of world outside of womb. It will be some time before their eyes come to focus on objects, they have little to no muscular awareness of fingers and feet, playing with a toy is the earliest form of training the hands to work cohesively together.

So nothing is real until it has been perceived by our mouths. Tasted. Given a multidimensionality that gets lost as we get older, as other sense organs gain dominance over our brain's real estate. It is the tasting of our own hands that eventually empower our fingers to define reality-at-a-distance, and as we get older and begin to touch less, as physical/cultural boundaries regarding touch are instilled in us - we rely more on seeing-is-believing.

As an artist, I have spent years and years honing my eyes as a tool for measurement, drawing is the art of learning how to really SEE what is there, and our visual relationships become as refined and intimate as touch... but at what point does the experience of seeing and recording 'reality' become an act of Ego, rather than an exploration of true and not true? At what point are we filled with the expectation that the marks we make on a page must essentially be reality, so every stroke becomes a desperate attempt to prove our knowledge, rather than actively posing a question in the form of flesh and shadows. How each finished piece is then viewed as a final answer, rather than an exploration of form and space and boundaries, as well as our relationship to them.

One of my favorite parts about teaching yoga, is that we are so used to answering questions and doing things right, that we forget how much everything around us is a conversation, especially the dialogue we have with our bodies inside the yoga studio. I like to talk about how once we were so new, we didn't use words to think our thoughts and feel our feelings, and even though mind wrapped itself around human language, body still communicates differently. Breath is a powerful way to break that language barrier, I tell them. We turn asanas into statues, to prove we are strong, instead of exploring the subtle shifts and compromises of flesh wrapped around muscle that wraps around bone. So focused on an outward proof of our validity, we forget that we come to the mat to find something more, something deeper, something new. To change what is true. To question what we perceive as true. But if truth in the body is so purely an internal experience, the strongest connection I've found to verbalizing the all encompassing opening of awareness to body is that infant relationship to the world around us. Watching these babies roll and fall and crawl and taste through the world reminds me that we are designed to explore, that we have forgotten we are allowed to constantly question the nature of reality and the world around us, and that we can do so from a place that is not fraught with judgment and expectation.

How many other aspects of our lives could benefit from a lens of newness, of pure, unadulterated exploration?

A close friend of mine is often the subject of my exploring hands. Affectionate, friendly intimacy of overlapping space and belief systems, experiences and expressions of self, my hand on his back is like folding into downward facing dog, where my shoulder blades slip into the space carved for them, as they learn to free themselves from the intense relationships contained within the shoulder girdle. Home. Having spent time watching these babies bring everything to their mouths without a thought, it reminds me of the instinctual desire to replace my hands with my mouth in the most innocent of moments, so similar in my mind are those forms of touch and the feelings behind them, I have to physically catch myself. Watching the magnetic hand-to-mouth gestures of the sprawling, drooling life forms in these observations, I feel I recognize on a deeply intimate level a magnetic hand-to-mouth pull that is so fierce and new to me that perhaps I allow myself to resonate too deeply with this earlier stage of life.

It makes perfect sense to me, that exploration through my fingertips or my tongue and teeth and lips, can free me to disregard the hierarchy of my eyes and ask the kinds of questions that only have wordless answers, a conversation composed of salt and breath instead of words and rules and expectations. That inquiry via smell and taste and flesh boundaries are important in defining realness on multiple planes of existence, to know the fullness of another being's dimensionality in space.

To know truth from projections, real vs hologram.

One of the people leading the observation/post discussion responded more sharply than I had anticipated towards my interest in bringing the baby's newness into adult life, cutting into my romanticized notions of the baby experience, reminding us how knowledge would have to be relinquished to be in that place, that they are moving through the world without conscious awareness yet - how returning to that state involves a letting go of what we've learned, to be what we are now. It must seem bizarre, sitting inside our armor, built up from the wars we've fought to survive and flourish to look at a place where emotional callouses aren't built into the smooth pockets of baby flesh yet. It seems natural to mourn our own necessary loss of innocence, to want to crawl back to a place where our only responsibility was to taste everything around us. I think that desire manifests often in our cultural awareness, a constant desire to return to Eden, of innocence, in the unbroken, something contained within virginity of all sorts, from gadgets to people. But those soft creatures, the babies rolling and falling and drooling around us are only possible because we are there to protect them until they can wear their own armor. I do not touch my mouth to his skin because there is an inherent responsibility inside of that action, a reality that will never be as weightless as a toy in a baby's mouth, or as simple as when I kiss my puppy's face.

I need the knowledge of anatomy to draw a human, so I can communicate through form and gesture a myriad of other things, I need the cultural history of words to speak the things I believe, and I need the history of knowing those things inside of other people's brains for the things I do and draw and say to be received, to respond and be responded to, to have any kind of power or presence. And I will continue to let my fingertips say the things my mouth cannot verbalize or texturize yet.

Boundaries are powerful too.

You set me straight, just like an arrow,
Until we lay, caught in the afterglow,
My world was gray with all the others,
Until you came, you showed me colors

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

weigh anchor in the harbor of my thighs

I was searching for the tall green-and-white subway stop markers, that indicate a stairway that descends underground, while a few MTA workers screamed 'NO' and pointed. Flustered from the noise they made, I moved anxiously - and nearly stepped off into an abyss. What I had thought were subway markers were actually the top of a roller coaster, its steel bracketed frame fell steeply away from me, plummeting to a depth I couldn't gauge in my surprise. Stepping back to glance around for the true subway, the MTA workers yelled and gestured wildly to my right, across the park towards ancient semicircle concrete steps. I decided to take a few minutes to explore the area, since I had visually located the correct subway entrance. One of the MTA people close to me misunderstood my body language, assuming I was still lost (or stupid) and started pointing as he hollered in my face. He fell silent with shock as "Leave Me The Fuck Alone" fell out of my mouth. No one was going to tell me when and where I should go, I was distracted by something, and it was MY life and MY time to wander and explore. It was their noise and violent hand motions that had caused me to almost step off a dangerous path in the first place, I was not going to let them rush my process, my curiosity or when I chose to arrive at my destination.

As I descended the stairs, I realized that they wrapped around a forgotten, overgrown public pool. Thick trees grew along the sides and reach out across the water to caress each other from opposite sides, and the water was cool and blue as my grandmother's pool when I spent all my summers brown and smelling of chlorine, even though scum floated on the top, in the deepest shade of the trees overhead. I waded in towards the cool darkness in the bright of day, to the woman I knew was waiting for me, chest deep, her long hair swirling around her, like when my hair was long, long and golden, when I used to pretend I was a mermaid in my grandmother's pool. My short, dark bobbed hair now seems like a symbol, the contrast is so highlighted. My conversation with the long haired young woman is knowing and familiar, she is like a sister to me, though she looks more like me when I was still fresh faced, than my sister ever did. She had warm, encouraging things to say to me, about my direction, assuring me in the face of my chagrin at my circumstances, but her face expressed no emotion, her eyes have no pupils to make eye contact with. The sweetness of her words hit me so sharply it almost felt like pain and my arms wrapped around her for a farewell embrace, a loving embrace. The cool skin of her arms hug me back, though her face does not. The intensity of moving on, for her forgiveness as I said goodbye filled me with so many points of sharp bright feeling that I couldn't hold back sobs that wracked my body so fiercely I woke up in bed, tangled in the sheets, still sobbing.

Years and years ago, a psychic who used symbolism to communicate her visions told me she saw me wade into a pool of water, and before I got waist deep, I stepped on something incredibly sharp. I backed out of the water the way I came, and for a long time only circled the outside of other pools of water, never getting past my ankles in any of them.

For years I have not dreamed, as far as I can remember, and the deep, dreamless sleep afforded me by doing physical labor have felt like a gift. But recently, dreams are surfacing. This was not the first time I have seen my subconscious draw parallels between subway trains and roller coasters, and they always involve MTA personnel directing traffic in some frustrating/distracting way. I have been in pools of water before, and for some reason, I find direct or indirect references to my grandmother floating in the fabric of the dream. As I notice images manifesting over and over, maybe it is important to pause and study them a little bit closer.

We can only ignore ourselves for so long.