My Body Is Not A Democracy

My Body Is Not A Democracy

My body is not a democracy. My body is an empire and I am its dictator. You do not get a vote. There will be no coup d’etat. Rebel forces will not overthrow me. I am in charge of it forever.

You are welcome to have your opinions. And you are welcome to keep them for yourself. Please do not leave them at the gates of my empire. They will only be thrown in the incinerator, as all of my storage facilities are full.

For the last year, it has felt like there has been an attack on my body, from both the outside and the inside. When I hear the stories of young girls being raped and then bullied by other GIRLS for speaking out, I begin to think I have stepped into some strange world where Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Alice Walker and Ani DiFranco never existed.

When I hear men speak about how women’s bodies work and their ideas for controlling them through legislation, I wonder if they have ever seen a woman’s body. I wonder if they are married and if they are, do they throw those sheets with the slit in them over their wives before they have sex? How can a man in 2013 be as old as they are, with as many children and be so ignorant? And who are the women that let them get this way?

As I look forward to 2014, I realize there is a bit of fighting we need to do. If I have to fight for my body and the freedom to govern my own beautiful empire, then I will, but I will not fight with my body any more. I will not fight with those horrid little uglies—those pests that creep into my mirrors and magazines and photographs that tell me I am too fat to be loved or be beautiful. And just so you know, the uglies attack the skinny girls, too. It is something we all have in common.

NEW RULES FOR MY EMPIRE:

Rule 1:
I will feel as fierce as I look when I dress everyday. I am a fashion revolution and my uniform is my beauty and grace and my fabulous shoes which I have the uncanny ability to find for reasonable prices.

Rule 2:
No longer will it be acceptable to compare my body to any other woman’s as I walk down the street or sit on the street car or look at magazines. Not even the, “well, at least I’m not as fat as her.” This is a punishable offense.

Rule 3:
Punishments for being human and making mistakes are now outlawed. Punishments for any offenses previously mentioned shall be a dose of self love. This may involve singing in the shower, buying new face cream or treating oneself to a donut– even though I am not a big sweets eater—there is a time and a place.

Rule 4:
When I love something another woman is wearing I will tell her, even if I don’t know her—she deserves to know that her uniform is fabulous and that our empires can be friendly allies.

Rule 5:
I will listen to young girls as they give their perspective on the world and gently remind them of my own, allowing them to come to the meadow of the feminist revolution for themselves, as we all do eventually. I will welcome them when they get there and remember that they are dictators of their own empires and are free to govern as they wish.

Rule 6:
I will remember that I am more than a body. I am a spirit, a soul, a being of light. I am but a precious moment on this earth and while that time is short, it is also powerful. I will do my best to honor the sun, the wind and the sky as they bring my existence into perspective.

You are welcome to visit my empire. We have lovely accommodations and reasonable rates. The spring here is fabulous, though we do offer various treasures year round. And just remember, you can visit, but I am the only one who gets to live here. And I am in charge.

This image is now available in a print from my Etsy store: Get it here!

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ACCOUNTABLE COFFEE : DAY 23 : Jeff Hylton Simmons

ACCOUNTABLE COFFEE : DAY 23 : Jeff Hylton Simmons

Jeff Hylton Simmons
Sound Engineer, Owner Blackbird Farm, Radio23 Founder, Big Thinker and Dreamer

My favorite thing about art is that it is transportive. Music is the heaviest on my heart or the art that can transport me the fastest. Whether it is visual or oral or theater, just the fact that it takes you away—and not always to the place the artist wants you to. Music is definitely the one that does it the most for me.

Sometimes it does take you to a safe place. Specifically, music is the type of art that can send you to a familiar spot where you can feel safe—I know this place, I know this song, I know this album.

I learned early on with theater and my love for movies, I just love to go on that journey.. Quite often there is some kind of conduit between the artist and the audience in any given medium. For me it’s microphones and cables, for a painter it’s a canvas and museum. My favorite part is that space where the audience member transports whether it is on headphones walking down the street or in the museum. You know, the variety of different places where it can happen, that is my favorite part. Just being able to stop being yourself as an audience member.

As an artist at the same time, I really love, specifically with sounds and mixing sounds together. I spend a lot of time trying to create this perfect audible space that someone else can have a transformative experience in. But I have to say, that I feel like I almost enjoy being transported by another artists more than I enjoy doing it myself. I definitely enjoy it, but it is an interesting place that you get into that includes a lot of narcissism. A lot of the best artists are transparent in that narcissism in the sense that they are not spending a lot of time saying “Look at me! Look at me!”, they are just so engaged with whatever their given medium is that they just have to do it. I think that is when it is the best for me—when the artist, in the theater world we called it indicating, when I was in school, when the artist is stepping outside the art and indicating the performance experience is in. But my favorite type of art is when that doesn’t exist and the audience and the artist just go to a totally different place.

I love when I go see a live performance of an artist and everything else just goes away. I’ve never really spent a lot of time about being an audience member, but I don’t think a work of art is finished until it is received. I don’t think until it is transmitted to someone else is it really a piece of art.

ACCOUNTABLE COFFEE : DAY 22 : Rob Delahanty

ACCOUNTABLE COFFEE : DAY 22 : ROB DELAHANTY

1.9.13
Rob Delahanty
Photographer, Musician, The Ninth Child

My favorite forms of art are music and film. The biggest impact on my life was music at a very young age. I like how I can listen to music and be completely taken to a new place. Completely. When I am in a mood—good or bad—I can accelerate that mood or decelerate that mood or take me somewhere else. I feel the same about film. It just takes me out of myself and puts me in this area where it is going to be okay. I feel safe there and I feel it is also safe to be weird and I have been weird since the day I was born. And I mean that in a very healthy way.

And it causes conversation. That’s a huge thing. Art always causes a conversation. If you find a hard core republican who hates art and a liberal who loves art, that is a conversation right there.

I don’t think people really hate art, but I think there are people who think we can do without it. I think if we do without it, we’ve just cut off our limbs. It’s dangerous.

I’ve had this conversation with people, who think that if you can’t make a living from it, why would you do it? And that doesn’t make sense to me. It opens this window up in your mind. It’s like taking acid, because it gets you somewhere. You go ‘Wow! That’s amazing” and you learn something.

Pink Floyd was my first massive, intense experience with music. My brother had speakers the size of me when I was five years old. I come from 9 children. I’m number 9. My earliest memory is of my 2nd oldest brother KC who had these massive old 1960’s or 1970’s speakers. They were wood with canvas or cloth. And the sound of Wish You Were Here and Dark Side Of The Moon would pour out of these speakers and it was so big and it was so frightening. We lived on a lake and we had no TV. We just had conversation and music and home movies and flashlight tag and stuff like that. We were really out in the middle of nowhere. Every once in awhile he would play Pink Floyd and it was bigger than life. It frightened me and excited me. I thought, “I want this”. It touched me on a visceral level it was so intense.

When I was in Junior High my friend Matt—who went on to be an agent in LA at CAA—he said to me “I just saw this movie ‘E.T.’, you gotta see it.” We were in 7th grade or 8th grade at the time and so I went to see it. I remember that this was the first time I recognized music in a movie as a character. And then I remember there was this seen where they really pay attention to the keys on someone’s belt when they are searching for E.T. and I really saw and heard stuff for the first time. And I was happy in the movie theater and things weren’t always happy at home. I remember thinking I want to be the guy behind the camera. So, when I was in early high school, I remember thinking I wanted to take photos of my friends playing lacrosse. So my brother, who was in the military, got me a camera cheap and I started taking pictures. It was the first time in my life I got an A in school because I was a horrible student, but I thought, I can do this. I went off to college, went off to New York and have been successful.

For me, Art’s been my buddy. I’m not the type of person who goes to museums or galleries, but I see Art in everything all the time. And more and more, as I get older, I hear it; I see it; I feel it all the time. It’s been my buddy, like all my life to let me know it’s going to be okay. It’s okay to be weird. It’s okay to think different.

Rob’s website with images of his work: http://www.robertdelahanty.com/

Getting Back On Track…

Getting Back On Track...

I just now realize that it has been over a month since I have posted anything and I am now starting a new blog entry with the tired line of “Gee, I haven’t posted for awhile.” Sorry about that, but really writing is best when you are honest.

I have spent the last month preparing for a sale, which was a success (the photo above is from that—more later), traveling to visit family for the holidays and falling down a rabbit hole of movie watching, which if you know me then you know how easy it is for that to happen.

Years ago, I went to a doctor who told me that if I was feeling like I needed to lie in bed all day, then do, because eventually I would get out of bed and continue on. This was obviously before the invention of Netflix streaming. But she was right, I do eventually want to get up and out and carry on, though I also want to crawl back into bed and watch old movies. It was the first time in my life someone gave me permission to not feel bad about what I was feeling, but rather to feel it, move past it and know I would probably feel it again. Like most things, it is a cycle.

As I have grown older, I realize it is one of the things we don’t allow as much space for, for ourselves or for others, to just feel how we do. Feel petty, feel insecure, feel sad. It makes it easier to feel open, feel joyful, feel peaceful. Feel, get through to the other side and go forth.

Do not confuse this with dwelling. No, don’t dwell. Recently, my nephew took a massive tumble over a coffee table when I was watching him and his little sister. He is going to be 5 soon and is a big brother now, but man that tumble was rough. His sister, who is almost 1 turned into a crying puddle of Yorkies being stepped on by Great Danes. It was amazing to me how we could go from laughter to utter chaotic pain and devastation in about 5 seconds.

I put my nephew on the couch, and gave him a bag of ice for his head. I comforted him. His sister meanwhile never stopped crying. It was like she suddenly realized shit was happening and mom wasn’t there. I put her on my lap and bounced her while he cried on the couch. And then he stopped, but she didn’t. As she continued to cry, he would do a little pretend cry to keep it going. I simply looked at him and said, ‘Cry if you need to, but don’t waste your tears when you don’t have to. You will need them later.” He looked at me, scrunched up his face in utter confusion and stopped. And then of course he asked me why. We talked about how things can hurt, but eventually hurt can go away. Let it go away, I told him.

His sister eventually settled down to a low puddle of Chihuahuas being stepped on by Corgis, but it was hard to comfort her. I did my best and we continued forward. The minute her mama walked through the door, she was done crying. Feel it, get through it and go forward.

I did not mean to start this post with this story. I wanted to share with you what I have been doing for the last month, but that is pretty much it. The above photo is of 4 little girls I created portraits of when I had my sale in Bend. They are so sweet. It was a good experience for me to remember how magic happens. For those little girls that day, I made magic. “How did you get so good at that?” they would ask me, their eyes wide, mesmerized.

“The same way you get good at anything,” I’d tell them, “love it and practice.”

I feel happy when I look at their pictures. I feel happy to know that there are these 4 little girls in the world with portraits of themselves reminding them to listen to their heart and that they are utterly beautiful. Sometimes, I think I am suppose to do more, be bigger, go farther, but really, that is one of the greatest things I can do– love something, practice it. Feel it and go forward.

ACCOUNTABLE COFFEE : DAY 21 : Matthew Dickman

ACCOUNTABLE COFFEE : DAY 21 : Matthew Dickman

Matthew Dickman
Poet, PDX Native, Master of Metaphor

Can I have two favorite things about Art? One of my favorite things about art—which also happens in nature—is that art is something that has the ability, when you see it for just an instant, to move you in a dramatic way, to take your breath away. I think that’s wild.

My other favorite thing is that whether you are making it or just engaging with it, it is our inner life trying to be made sense of by the artist, whether it is a poem or a sculpture. And to make that or to see that is crazy.

In terms of poetry, you can go backwards in time to understand that thing that poetry can be. I come from a movement that believes that poetry comes from prayer and prayer comes from incantations and that incantation comes from just a rhythmic thumping sound to tell the person in the cave 5 millions years ago that they are not alone. It is interesting to me that poetry comes from a time before history was ever conceived to us. It comes from a time of, I imagine, of pure mysticism and survival and violence. And now, you can just go to a bookstore and buy it. It’s crazy to me. It’s like flying. A comedian (Louis C.K) once said that, you are 35,000 miles in the air, eating peanuts and if you are a little uncomfortable, so what? It’s magic! I think that way about a poem. Whether it is a good poem or bad poem, it is coming from this long line of not being alone and trying to understand the self.

I think art can be made out of anything inside the human spectrum of emotion. It can come from ecstatic joy, anger, jealousy. I think that it can come from love– all these places. I think the only place art cannot come out of, or if it has, it can not sustain itself, is if it comes out of meanness. I think that is the only time art isn’t able to survive itself.

I worked at this little, well, on the surface it looked like a Ma & Pa hippie store. But really, it was owned by millionaires who made most of their money selling 40 oz. of liquor and tobacco. In their wine section, they had this really smart advertising. They made these signs they had posted all over the wine section that said, “What bottle of wine is a good bottle of wine? Whatever you like!” Well, that’s not true. Let’s have some self-awareness! I mean, I like eating a Hostess Cherry Hand Pie. Do I think that’s good pastry? No, of course it’s not good pastry! It’s awful. There is stuff in there they make bombs out of, I’m sure. That’s not good food. Do I like it? Yeah, sure, I’m an idiot. Of course, I like it. I like other things, too. I know what they are. I think it’s like Hollywood, where I think it is a place where the art of the middle is made. There is a laziness to it. Well, probably more likely, there is no laziness, there is actually a lot of work being done to create an art form that will apply to a vast array of people. It will only move them for a moment and will do nothing for the culture, that will never become part of a movement or an ideology. I don’t know if people in visual arts are doing that, because there seems to be so little money in the arts, compared to the rest of the world. It seems like if you endeavored to make art for the middle, as an artist or poet, that seems insane to me.

There is something else, though. There is the heart of the hustler. I mean if Hallmark called me and said, “You’re a poet, will you do these 20 Christmas cards and we will pay you X amount of money?” I know other poets that would be like “There is no way I would do that. It would be crossing some imaginary line as an artist.” I would do that shit in a second! You bet! Get paid. Have that money to make the art I want to make? Absolutely.

People talk about audience and who your audience might be. They do this in writing all the time. I always thought that it is this amazing thing to try to figure out and probably a path to insanity. It’s very different than marketing something or selling something—making a product as opposed to when you are talking about fine art. It’s like, if I were to have 100 strangers over to dinner and I never talked to them about what they like, how am I going to make a meal that everyone will be happy with? I will either dumb it down to the extent where everyone will be okay with it or the majority of them will be. I’d have to get rid of a bunch of stuff they might be allergic to. Or I could just turn on the Talking Heads, open up a beer and cook a dinner I have fun cooking and when those 100 people show up – if they show up—if some of them don’t like it, then that’s alright, someone else is making dinner next door.

I think you should be more concerned with the experience you are having making art, whatever that art is. If the experience has these great human things in it—joy and anguish, frustration, happiness and humor—if that is all involved and the act of making art for you is interesting, then I think you are doing great. We all want to be successful—whatever that means. I think the idea of success changes for people based on where they are at. I think the act of making art is almost more important than the success. I think it is important and amazing for art to get out there of course, and to be experienced by others. But, I mean if you get hit by a bus—God, that old bus is always hitting people—but if you get hit by a bus and you are thinking about art when you die, and not the people you love, I doubt you’ll be thinking “Those people really liked that painting”, or “I’m so glad my book got published by a big publishing house.” I think you’ll be thinking of standing in a room looking at an empty piece of paper and making something. Or looking at a canvas and the magic of a mark made on a canvas that engages you in your life. What am I going to make out of this moment?

I was told about this guy who would attend Robert Bly’s “Great Mother, New Father” Conference. And this guy was on his death-bed and moments before be dies, he opens his eyes and he lifts both of his arms up and touches his chest, and his face and his arms and he says, “Thank you, my animal.” And that is so awesome! This moment of clarity. And it is moving and I think this story, to me, while it’s not art, holds a lot of the same things that art does.

I think when you look back on your past work and cringe, I think you should cringe with love. I look back at journals of mine, early poems I wrote for people and I love that idiot! I’m like “Good try, tiger! You’re doing all the right things. You’re failing and it’s awesome!”

ACCOUNTABLE COFFEE : DAY 20 : Dan and Priscilla Wieden

ACCOUNTABLE COFFEE : DAY 20 : Dan and Priscilla Wieden

Dan and Priscilla Wieden
Creative Spirits, Arts and Environmental Advocates, Sweet Newlyweds

Priscilla
The first thing that popped into my mind was the beauty and the challenge and the stimulation it can cause. Well, positive and sometimes not—dissonant. But that is still good in my mind

Dan
It depends on what art form you are talking about, but if you generalize, it is the something I did know but didn’t know until I was conscious of seeing it. An aesthetic that is challenging but there is something original – stories I have never imagined.

My freshman year of college, Henry Miler’s Tropic of Cancer had a huge influence on me. There was so much freedom to explore things you weren’t supposed to explore either in private or public. That was an immense transformation of my brain. It gave me permission to be much more interested in everything.

Priscilla
The earliest connection to art I can remember is an interesting story. I was under seven, because I can remember where we lived and there was a television program called John Gnagy: Learn to Draw. I was so drawn to it. I loved to do that. I can still remember I drew a lighthouse and I was so proud of this drawing I had done. I remember taking it into the kitchen where my mom and my sister were and the response wasn’t what I wanted. I don’t remember if I tore it up, but I remember being really hurt and disappointed and not really thinking much about art again until I was in 4th or 5th grade. It definitely made an impact.

Dan
When a child can find a way of finding their voice and they can see how that voice resonates with other people and that they can have a place in the world. That’s important. I remember when I was in the fourth grade, with Mrs. Allen at Irvington, we had to write a story and turn it in and when she handed it back to me, there were no grades back then, but she had circled a phrase and written on the top of it “Danny has a way with words” exclamation point! I remember that sentence. It was “The night was as dark as the inside of a whale”.  And ever since then I went, well, that’s something I can do. And you start imagining that the world will listen to you or recognize you in some way.

Priscilla
I think that speaks to how important it is to be supportive of young artists. My story was the opposite. Part of me feels like I could have blossomed into a career in art. It reminds me of a lot of women in the choir I used to sing in would stand up and tell the story about how when they were young they were told they couldn’t sing. They believed that their whole life until they found this choir and they realized “I can sing”. For them it was this amazing eye-opening experience. It makes you think about how it is important it is to support young artists. That comment on your paper crafted your life in a way.

Dan
Oh, yeah, Certainly. And Mrs. Weasel, I think was her name, the music teacher. In my mind that’s her name anyway. In third grade she brought us out in the hall and you had to sing something. She would play some notes and you would have to repeat them and then do it backwards. The first thing she told me “You don’t have to sing anymore. You can just mouth the words.” So, I always thought I had no part of music. That wasn’t something I could do, so I better go write.

Priscilla
Isn’t that dreadful? And I hear him singing around the house and he sings well. It is quite nice, but he doesn’t think so. He also doesn’t think he can dance, but he danced quite well at our wedding. I mean he’s no Fred Astaire, but then again, I’m no Ginger Rogers.

One of the other things I think about art, that I have often thought through out my life, is when you look at a piece of art you think, “I can do that”. But the difference is that I didn’t do it. That’s makes me start to think that art just has to come out and it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. That really makes a difference. So, I think what makes that difference—is it early support versus not early support? Was it just the destiny of this person to have this outflow of creativity happen and not them becoming an accountant because that is not what they are good at? I think there are a lot of people who think they could be artists, but they don’t do it.

ACCOUNTABLE COFFEE : DAY 19 : Tyler Whisnand

ACCOUNTABLE COFFEE : DAY 19 : Tyler Whisnand

Tyler Whisnand
Creative Director at W+K, Artist, Thinker

The Art that I’ve made—well, I enjoy getting lost in it. It is relaxing and it takes you away. One of my favorite art teachers in school took us out of the studio, outside to play tag. This was in college and I hadn’t played tag in years. We had the best time. We were kind of wondering why we were playing tag during art class. Afterwards, we were exhausted and our teacher, she said “You know that feeling you get when you are playing tag? You completely forget everything and you are only focused on that. That is the way you should feel when you make art.”

I got in trouble with my camera one time, it jammed on me. I called the guy who sold me the camera. He was in Holland and I was here in Portland. The camera is a Leica M6 and it jammed. I couldn’t get it to work, so I called the guy and I said “Is there some special trick?” And he said, “No that’s unusual. What were you doing?” I said, “ I was shooting pictures really quickly.” He said, “You were shooting quickly? C’mon, you were shooting too fast. That camera is for someone who looks and thinks. Its not a digital camera.” That was a huge lesson. Sometimes you do get excited about what you are doing, but its good to breathe, as well, when you are doing it.

There should be no difference (between personal and commercial creativity). In the professional world you are working with other people but if the work you’re making doesn’t have yourself in it, it is of little consequence and it won’t be any good.

If you are just doing what people tell you to do, it’s not going to be good anyway.

There is the madness of popular creativity. You can react to it. You can make fun of it in some regard or be curious about. I think a lot of artists become curious by what the vernacular is. Like, how are you supposed to take a photograph? We are taught very young what that means, because we are told to pose for a photograph. We know how a photograph is supposed to be taken. You are supposed to look at the camera and you are supposed to sit a certain way or turn a certain way and you’re suppose to smile. You learn the vernacular so it is up to creative people or artists to work with that vernacular to change it, go against it, react to it. You can also be curious by what you find. I think if you went through everyone in this room’s albums, you could find that they are incredibly similar. I think it takes an artist to come up with concepts like that and celebrate the connection.

If you study the history of art, if you are aware of what has gone before and what is happening now, you are in touch with human history. There is no better survey of accomplishment, strife, birth and re-birth, death, destruction, religion, politics, history than to study the history of art.

You will make a lot of friends (when you study art), because you will know these artists, you will know these paintings, you will know these sculptures, these works of art and wherever you go in the world you can stop in and say hello to them. Like if you are in London, you can stop in and say hello to Rubens or Gainsborough or Mr. Norman Foster, Francis Bacon. If you are in Spain you can visit Goya. And they give you strength. I think that is the most exhilarating thing. You can’t really put your finger, exactly, on what each thing means, it just does. There is something special about it. I think that is why we as a society build museums, because there is something special about it that is vital to who we are.

And it constantly changes. It inspires you in your daily life. It’s why you need poetry. Sometimes, you need things in your life that don’t make sense, they just make you feel a certain way. There is no qualifying it. There is no top 40 radio station that will give that to you.