Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Daily Art Heart: Week Three

Day 15

This is a very small t shirt that fits me when I am also very small. People look at me funny when I complain about recent weight gain. At a petite 5 foot 4, and having lived life for long and recent periods at the most comfortable weight for a small person, as well as the most uncomfortable, and knowing I far prefer the former, going up a whole size or two in mere months really does make a huge difference in how I feel. On Day 15, in spite of fatigue, aches and depression, I forced myself to exercise, on behalf of the small strong me that is currently buried inside the less small, less strong me. Because New Yorkers are fighters, regardless of size. 

 Day 16

Get used to it. Any artmaking challenge involving matters of the heart as inspiration is going to have more than one appearance by Henry the cat, here proving to be the ideal model by immediately working the perfect pose with the provided pipe cleaner heart prop.

 Day 17

Last week I became, and still am, addicted to the live feed of April the Giraffe, now well past 15 months pregnant and continuing to be due any minute. Mostly she walks around the edges of her pen, pauses, snacks, hangs her head, and looks forward to her human visitors who touch her and leave. Her mate, Oliver, is in the next pen, visible, but mostly out of reach. Her pain is obvious in her awkward gait and her ungainly body stretched to its limit with the burden she carries, but her kind, even in captivity, and relative safety, knows not to betray weakness lest she become vulnerable to attack. She doesn’t sleep much. On Day 17 I realized I am obsessed with April the Giraffe, because I am April the Giraffe. The only difference being that no one really expects her to have a life beyond this mindless routine, which has way more followers than mine ever will, and she, presumably, will one of these days unburden herself and have something beautiful to show for it, that people actually care about.

 Day 18

My mood didn’t improve much after that. Plus a headcold crashed the party of my usual gang of physical ills and together wrecked the joint. Whenever I find myself at a low point in present circumstances or conditions, I keep going back to moments when I unimaginably  and unpredictably left similar low points behind, moments I exceeded my own expectations and defied those of everyone around me. It’s sad but helpful to remind myself both that “I’ve had worse” so many times and survived, and that “I’ve had better” soon after. I seem to be stuck in a series of worsts without the betters lately. But my first tattoo, the sword of the spiritual warrior, will celebrate its 18th anniversary this summer, and in all that time I have many times thought I’d never see another summer, only to see my entire life change, so it remains a constant reminder that I still have some fight left in me - and on me.

 Day 19

On Day 19 I visited the magical wonderland of shopping known as Target (pronounced Tar – ZHAY in the French manner for true enthusiasts). When I left NYC for Boston back in 2001, I pretty much created a household and a wardrobe from the offerings at this store. Life goes in cycles. I moved house last summer and I am still in the honeymoon phase of assembling and arranging just the right items to make this more than a living space, in fact, a true expression of who I am and how I want to be for the many years I hope to be living here.  I spend so much time at home, it better be a reflection and extension and reinforcement of who I am. So, being in Vermont five years now, I don’t miss Boston, but turns out there’s a Target less than an hour’s drive away, and I do miss Target, to whom I am grateful for my new perfect throw pillows.

 Day 20

Part of my resumed home d├ęcor enthusiasm involved buying a beautiful batik wall hanging called Tree Lovers, of which this image is a closeup. The full panel features two tree beings intertwined, yet separately bearing fruit and flowers, connected but individual. The sun streams through it and creates a lovely colorful glow, as well as a haze of wishful thinking


Day 21

This has been a week of circling around, circling back. Of reaching what seem to be intolerable limits and somehow finding the strength to keep going. As of this writing, April and I are still pacing and pausing, feeding and waiting. Henry is still striking perfect poses. I am further along on a journey, in a place where I can look back to other places and other versions of me, and sort out what remains and what falls away, like this poem I wrote 16 years ago in the space between my New York Life and my Boston Life, a space where I am who I always am and will be, wherever I go, whatever I do next. The poem still speaks for me, and to me, and true. A whole woman is a heavy burden.      


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.