Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Daily Art Heart: Week Two

Lately – or let’s be honest, for quite a lot of latelies – I’ve been dividing my time bailing out a sinking boat with a teaspoon and taking breaks to row myself to shore. I can see that I am making some sort of progress, because the shore seems less unreachably far away, and I am, after all, still bothering to bail and row. Occasionally I smile and signal across the distance to other boaters, for whom the waters are less hostile and vessels more seaworthy. They mistake a desperate communication of helplessness and hopelessness for a jovial greeting and sail on. After all, I am still afloat, so I must be okay, and they can always keep me in mind and come back later if things get obviously worse.  From a distance, I probably look like I’m enjoying the struggle, or at least totally up for it. If I were really in trouble, surely I’d have given up by now. But just like this artfully arranged crocheted chain heart I created and photographed on Day 8, I am just one tug from unraveling, and just because it all looks great in this captured moment, clever and composed, there are a million other moments behind, around and ahead of it that aren’t clever or composed at all.

 Day 9

This is my heart in storage. Literally, it’s a ridiculous pink pillow, old and useless, that has followed me around for at least a decade through various changes of relationships, apartments, cities, jobs and miscellaneous fortunes. I can’t bear to throw it out. Not because I think it will ever serve a purpose, but because the metaphoric ramifications of putting a big soft heart in the garbage are just too much to abide. For those of you who believe in the powers of manifesting, this would amount to seriously asking for trouble.

 Day 10

My cat has a heart shaped white marking on his chest, and an actual heart inside that chest bigger warmer and more generous than nearly any version, feline or not, I have encountered. As some people speak of their human life partners, as perhaps I too will one day be able to do, I declare Henry my rock, my compass, my comfort, my companion, my hope, my love. When I am tired of rowing and bailing, and just wish this godforsaken boat would sink already, I realize I am not alone, and if for no one else, nothing else, I owe it to him to keep going, because he is my one proof that I am doing something right, and worth continuing. 

 Day 11

On Day 11 I had one of those good days that are as encouraging as they are dangerous. I briefly exited my lonely leaky boat and did more socializing in one breathless 15 hour whirlwind than I do most entire months. The problem with being social is that once it’s over, solitude feels that much lonelier, waking up back in the same old boat having briefly, exhaustingly, but not altogether unpleasantly experienced an alternative. Kind of like, well, a pair of gloves emptied of the hands that filled them. Have you ever noticed how sad discarded clothing looks without the human beings for which it was designed and destined?   

 Day 12

This hanging heart was photographed at the Vermont Farmers Market on Day 11 but it was all I could manage to post on Day 12, which was spent in recovery mode from Day 11. It turned out to express much of how I felt, suspended, with everything else sort of blurry in the background.

 Day 13

The problem with being around people is that there are so many of them that are twos. I am a one, and not quite sure what I am doing or being wrong that keeps my status fixed thus. No matter how many strategies I use, or don’t use, how much attitude adjustment I undertake, and I have had years of experience, I come back around to the same unavoidable, undeniable, intolerable truth: I want to be part of a two, and I am not, and nothing will ever make that suck less than it does.

 Day 14

Because deep down, I know there is nothing wrong with what I am doing or being. I seem to get a lot of compliments and attention, particularly from men who are either not free or willing to act on it. Without sounding boasty, I can get a lot of action too, and have, times I have convinced myself that allowing myself to be borrowed and returned is better than gathering dust on a shelf. There seems to be no in between – I’m available, admirable, collectible, but at the same time, avoidable, forgettable, disposable. The curiosity seekers are always ready to browse and sample me, but not moved to acquire what I have to offer. Leaving me no other choice but hanging a CLOSED sign on the curiosity shop door. For this photo, I crumpled up a cutout paper heart and threw it away. Even discarded at the bottom of a black waste basket, it radiated an intense red reflection. The real one is just that hard to get rid of – and ignore.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Daily Art Heart: Week One

Day One

So, firstly, sincere apologies for my long absence. Believe me, you would not have wanted to hear what I had to say all this time, so it has proven, in classic Gabriella contradictory manner, both a selfless and selfish act keeping the full extent of my mediocrity and misery to myself. I’m back, for now, thanks to another artist in a creative funk, who, one week ago, on her birthday, set herself the task of creating a heart-themed artwork daily for as many days as years she’s been here. A wonderful idea, birthday or not, and just what this funk and fog-bound artist needed to get the creativity happening again.

 Day Two

The idea was to create something and then journal about the process and its progress and the things learned along the way, or just random thoughts associated with each piece. One week in and I’ve been really good about creating and posting my daily results on Instagram and Facebook. Not so good on the accompanying explanations and observations. What, you want an artist who hasn’t written more than a to-do list and has mostly been taking pictures of weather, food and her cat the last almost half year not only to create a thoughtful piece of art but write about it too? 

 Day Three

So here’s my compromise. If I am going to stick with this for 54 consecutive days, there is no way I am going to write about what I’ve done every day too. So let’s try this: weekly updates. Already I have described the origin of this project and how I feel about it. As for the first 7 creations, I can say the following: the heart in the dish of rocks with unicorn rampant? Hey, it was a start. I love that unicorn. It is Vermont marble and has followed me for decades of apartment, relationship and other life changes, from NYC to Boston and now back home to Vermont, so I suppose it represents return, survival and revival, which is what this enterprise and my entire life seem to be all about. The red pepper was a matter of making use of what was available. Very difficult not to drain the color out of this and pay tribute to Edward Weston’s famous black and white pepper portraiture. Side note: my subject was later eaten sliced open and slathered with peanut butter. Because I need to feed more than just my soul. The defrosted strawberry was another bit of found (or lazy) art. Until I saw the results I had no idea how gory it looked, or that I had basically made an image of a broken heart forced back together and trying to look pretty, but basically still a mess.  Once again, after artmaking, I ate my subject, the implications of which I tried not to think about too much as I feasted on my own bloody halved heart. 

 Day Four

This traced window heart may seem gimmicky but it happened on a morning of sub-zero temperatures and a mood immeasurably low, and to me felt like a statement that no matter how obscured the view or hostile the conditions, or impenetrable the barrier between inside and outside, self and other, one can create a window that transforms. Through love. Which has always been the driving force of my art in all its forms, including the art of love, which lately has been a frosty distant affair at best.

 Day Five

Books have been on my mind a lot lately. I left behind 12 boxes of them in storage when I moved into a smaller apartment in 2013. Now that I am in expansion mode again and my new place has room for my old books, I have been dreaming of retrieving them. Most of them. This involved going to the place in which they now languish and sorting through them, getting those 12 boxes down to the 9 I can reasonably accommodate. Any book lover knows this process requires not one but hundreds of re-enactments of a crucial scene in Sophie’s Choice. Because it turns out, I already winnowed over a thousand books down by a few hundred when I came to Vermont in 2012. And then had to decide which 500 to leave in storage and which 200 to live with the past few years. One of the core 200 was The Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke, not a hard volume to replace had I let it go, but my copy has been with me since college and now needs to be on hand always. I will never forget reading this poem for the first time and thinking damn I wish I had written that. When I posted it last week, someone thought I HAD written it. Just now. Not in 1980 when I fell in love with it, or in 1940 when HE wrote it. Think on that, my bookish friends. Talk about return, survival and revival! As for getting the 12 boxes down to 9? Stay tuned. I may just shelve what I can and store the rest in my now quite dangerously capacious on-site storage closet.

 Day Six

Part of my recent funk has involved physical challenges. I am very much a creature of the flesh. All that sparkly life of the intellect is great, but I need to have a strong fit body I can take places and do things with, outside my own head. Badass kickass outrageous places and things in fact. Been losing touch with that and missing it. Notice the lack of nude self portraiture in this space? I’ve lacked both energy and desire for the whole process, not to mention not being able to get my mind and my body in the same room together much less speaking amicably. So, yesterday, I took a photo of myself in my underwear, showing off my tattoos, one of which looks very much like a heart. The history of my tattoos is all about my mind and body on the very best terms. So, this image is, once again, about love, of the self variety, and how it can come back around, or never quite go away.

 Day Seven

And on the seventh day, it snowed. A lot. Perfect day to stay home and write my first blog post in almost half a year. Plus, I am pretty much in love with my deck. Hope to see it again soon. And I will, because nothing that gets buried stays that way for long.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Ghost in the Attic

I’ve written a lot in this space about the unwitnessed life, the uncomfortable acceptance that I have more in common with the tree that falls in the forest unheard and therefore makes no sound than my fellow humans, and the irony of sharing these observations in a manner that doesn’t go very far beyond myself as audience, surely the embodiment of Shakespeare’s tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

But that’s the problem with ghosts like me, dead since last week, last month, or last century, I still keep trying to be part of the living world, won’t believe or accept that I’m completely gone or done, even when no one seems to hear what I say, feel what I am, even when I pass through walls, or minds, or hearts, and come out the other side untouched. So here I am again, falling, telling. 

Living alone is like being a ghost in your own life. You have a heightened sense of your existence, because so much of it occurs in your mind, where past, present and future are both tightly interwoven and easily penetrable, where worlds are created from the inside out, not defined from the outside in, where there is so much clear soaring certainty alongside so many dark pitfalls of doubt. I think therefore I am. My God, if I could just stop thinking.

Because ghosts need love too. And attention. Or at least the sense that they matter, make a difference, have an effect. There’s a reason the solitary people of the world talk to themselves. We all want to be heard, even when there’s no one listening. We all want to connect, even those of us for whom connecting has not gone all that well. We are not pure consciousness drifting in space. We are human, we have voices, we have hands, we have eyes and they are designed to communicate with other beings. 

I haven’t always lived alone. I spent 29 years in my parents’ home, haunting my childhood bedroom like the ghost I was destined to become. Adding together my few brief cohabiting relationships over the decades, I managed to log 9 years in shared living spaces. And for the 16 years I’ve had no human roommates, I’ve had feline companions, who have also acquired the habit of talking to themselves. And I’m beginning to think that being such solitary creatures, cats also need to hear the sound of their own voices to make sure they are still there. My fellow solitaries out there know the feeling of being called upon to speak after long hours alone and finding your voice reluctant and rough from disuse. The mild shock when you realize you have not spoken out loud for hours, maybe days. Or when you emerge from your hermitude and someone looks you in the eye for the first time in hours, maybe days, and you’re not sure you’re even visible, much less able to make some sort of socially appropriate response. It’s like that moment in the ghost movie where the especially sensitive character can see what no one else sees and the resident spirit accustomed to being overlooked has to adjust to being recognized.  Wait, you can see me?

Two years ago I started a self portrait project, drawn from a dark lonely place of personal and creative desperation to be seen, heard, to matter. Maybe not to a large audience, maybe it was only a photographic version of talking to myself rather than risk losing my voice altogether. I needed to feel substantial, a physical being occupying space, and I went literal, using my own body as subject matter. It started with me trying on various personae, drawn from famous representations of women in art, and faltered when I switched from a year of impersonations to a year of theme shoots that ended around summertime, when I ran out of ideas, and energy, and enthusiasm, redirecting my camera to abstract subjects in the outside world. But I couldn't quite walk away from the project. And I have been waiting ever since in this invisible silence for the inspiration to bring it back to life. 

Then my regular weekly Luminous Traces assignment finally provided just what I needed with the prompt Stomping Ground, which, to my delight, I found defined as an accustomed, familiar place, or haunt. And I looked around my new attic apartment, in which I have already spent too many long hours unseen and unheard, and realized it was time to reclaim the project by doing my inaugural self portrait shoot in this space. Which results appear interspersed here, for you who can still see and hear me. Because I may be a ghost, but I’m not done or gone just yet.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Where I've Been and How I Got to Where I Needed to Be

This was going to be one of those apologetic posts about how I've been missing from this space for so unforgivably long and why. Make no mistake, life has been far from noteworthy these past two months since my last posting, and having recently re-read that piece of writing, I can see that my mood and fortunes have only improved slightly, so consider yourselves (whoever you may be) spared.

And while I'm at it, sparing you, my remaining faithful and shamefully neglected readers, I'm going to spare myself as well. Honestly I can't even recall what got me through the summer that ended yesterday, except to say that I'm here, in a new season, with the year now three quarters done, and aside from having moved into a lovely new adult-sized apartment, there's not much to tell about, or to show for it.

Except for these images. Because that's what I've mostly been doing. Twice a week, the two times I actually have to show up somewhere and do something every week, something I actually enjoy doing, I have been visiting the Vermont Farmers Market in Depot Park in beautiful downtown Rutland to shoot photos for promotional purposes on social and other media.

What began in May as a kind of community service and creative challenge way out of my comfort zone, being perilously close to doing photography as a JOB, as opposed to an unfettered expression of my whimsical spirit, accountable to no one, not even myself, soon became the thing to which I most look forward every week, and eventually, my first regular paid work in years, and maybe even the first paid work I have ever loved doing.

Turns out, fruits and vegetables are an amazing bottomless well of inspiration in terms of subject matter. I started out intending to dutifully document the variety of available produce and products at the market, and the people providing them, as close as I will ever get to commercial photography. What happened was the sort of "art as work, work as art" equation I have only ever dreamed was possible.

The biggest surprise was how easy it was. I would stroll through the rows of tents enjoying chatting with my fellow marketeers and snapping frame after frame of compositions that pretty much composed themselves. All the artistry I feared I would have to set aside in the interest of job requirements was not only available but impossible to ignore.

I even started taking decent photographs of people. Yes, people. After weeks of circulating the market with my camera as a weekly presence, either my subjects lost their wariness, or I did, or both. I have now not only built a vast archive of images of our vendors and their displays, but I no longer need to squirm and declare "anything but people" when asked what sort of photography I do.

It's been fun. It's been enriching. It's been horribly self-absorbed and also served a purpose outside myself. People, even the ones I take photos of, seem to like the images I post on Facebook and Instagram, and I hope this makes them feel as warm and fuzzy about the market as I do and want to come experience in person the feast for the eyes I lovingly capture every week. Everybody wins.

And now somehow, suddenly, it's autumn. I'm taking photos of pumpkins instead of berries. I'm doing so in a plaid flannel shirt instead of a sundress. And soon, the market will move to its indoor winter location and I will take my place behind my own table for the six months of the year that I am not only the documenter of all things VFM, but a regular vendor.

And the way things sometimes magically come together when you aren't meddling in the process, in addition to the crocheted accessories I will once again be selling come November - stay tuned for future posts on how that's going - I will also be selling prints of some of the photographs I have been taking in the off season, some of which you see collected here. So, far from doing nothing worthwhile, and continuing to go nowhere, I guess I have been doing exactly what I needed to be doing, and got exactly where I needed to be.

Happy Autumn, all.