Archive for the ‘ Shit Is Personal ’ Category

When snot keeps you from putting the “labor” back in Labor Day.

It’s Labor Day weekend and I don’t have time to be sick.

It’s not a particularly large illness, as it were, but it’s your garden variety Cold That Doesn’t Allow You To Breathe, and I’ll be damned if I can schedule in a serious case of congested nasal passages. I have two paintings due by next Wednesday, a model to make for a public arts project proposal, a commission to start, a job application to fill out before my interview next week — which, of course, will involve sweet calls to my friends scattered across the nation, wherein I beg them to vouch for my charming countenance, ability to stay on-task, and go-get-’em attitude. (Naturally, no reader of this blog will be allowed to be listed as a Personal Reference. Ever.) And did I mention that it’s Labor Day weekend? You know, the last damned break I get before the trees go to skeletons and the wind is too bitter to consider any semblance of recreational joy? Why yes. Yes, I did.

And yet, here I am in Congestionville, USA. It’s a very sexy destination if you’re into dripping noses, uncomfortable pressure on your eardrums, and the siren song of a honking, circus-red nose. Before everybody starts lining up to take me to the Miss Mucous pageant, however, let me just mention that I’m attempting to change the course of my present physiology. “What? No!” you’re crying, “Say it ain’t so!” Oh, but it is, my dear, faceless and anonymous friend. Oh, it is. I just finished with a futile attempt to spicy out my sinuses with an ramped-up leftover curry+sriracha cure and a steam bath of thyme is presently beckoning to me with curly little tendrils of love, care, and perhaps comfort. Something I learned from the Sinus Infection From Hell last semester: never underestimate a good steam bath for your schnoz. Granted, I’m not breaking out the Afrin for this particular trip until the absolute last minute, but I do believe in the power of herbs that are not of the marijuana sort.

I’m trying to imagine myself a month ago in this state. It would have involved sulking in my sickness, feeling feeble and incapable of doing jack crap because oh my God, I’m sick. I wouldn’t have touched this but rather went back to sleep or to watch Create re-runs/entire seasons of Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations whilst feebly sipping peppermint tea and sighing. Life is so hard when you’re congested, oh woe is me, &c. It’s funny what mild depression relapses will have you do, I think, such as believe that the only thing between you and creating greatness involves a pile of Kleenexes and a pounding headache. On the other side and you’re just like, “This is a bunch of bullshit, pure and unadulterated crap. Now let’s steam the fuck out of my head, take some Advil Cold and Sinus, nut up, and shut up — not necessarily in that order, either.”

I think I’m going to keep it this way. Maybe. Knock on wood.

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Our long national nightmare is over.

After The Week From Hell, which involves having to endure not having access to Netflix during PBS Pledge Week, shitty news after shitty news RE: my financial aid, and driving in a death trap to find out aforementioned news during a heat advisory, I’ve finally arrived back on the other side of Internetlessness. As a reward for my patience, I have read three (3) books, finished a knitting project and achieved a good chunk of work on another, and will actually be able to enjoy a room to myself this evening. In honor of such an auspicious occasion, a few links and, for those who are interested, the list of Tharp questions from this week!

  • Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library to Open in Indianapolis: Holy locational bias, Batman! That being said, this is probably one of the cooler things we’ve done in the past year or so, and this is with the IMA’s opening of 100 Acres in mind. How pathetic that I had to hear about it from ArtDaily, though; I couldn’t have a notice from the news or anything? THANKS A MILLION, CHANNEL 13.
  • Dusseldorf’s Quadriennale 2010 to Present Exhibition by Joseph Beuys: I’m equal parts excited and jealous for Dusseldorf; I mean, how cool is this exhibition going to be? Yeah, Beuys is one of those decisive guys in the history of contemporary art, but I find him decisive…ly awesome. Whatever, I’ll link to what I want.

The list of 33 questions is, naturally, going behind a Read More; it just seems kinder and gentler to your screens. Also, it will make you Read More.

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Audio Post: Part 5 of Creative Autobio Week.

Transcript pending… ugh, you know the drill.

Audio Post: Part 4 of Creative Autobio Week.

Transcript pending the time I have to sit down, listen to myself, and write it out!

Audio Post: Part 3 of Creative Autobio Week.

Transcript pending the time I have to sit down, listen to myself, and write it out!

Today’s section of the survey is so… heavy. (Insert Rolling Stones reference here.)

I’m starting to wonder if I shouldn’t have one of those “Do As Twyla Does” months wherein I try to adhere to everything in The Creative Habit, mainly in the spirit of The Seventeen Magazine Project (which has now morphed into the obscenely thoughtful Teenagerie), complete with snarky commentary RE: the shit I definitely don’t agree with to the T. As of right now, I’m technically failing as Tharp likes to make an emphasis on a good schedule from which to extract good ritualistic practices that will eventually lead to things like better writing and artistic processes. The internet, although part of at least one of these processes, isn’t exactly conducive to starting my day as it is one big time suck — the biggest, even. That being said, I have reason to be on (READ: waiting for news on my financial aid, argh) and therefore I thought I’d do Day 2 of the Creative Biography. I mean, if one must be on, then why not consolidate?

NOTE: Goddamn, these questions made me get all introspective and harsh on myself. For those possibly getting into answering these questions: tread carefully! Be honest, but also be kind.

EIGHT: What is your creative ambition?

Whoa, this question isn’t light in the loafers at all! That being said, it’s an Important Question, so I’ll go ahead and meditate on it… if by “meditate,” I mean “think about what the most creatively-oriented gut instinct was out of the flurry of initial thoughts you had.” And although I have a lot of really ambitious thoughts RE: what I want my art to do, my largest ambition with what I want to do with my art is simple, as it always is: tell stories. A lot of the time, they are historical stories (and in retrospect, this makes more sense than it should), but not exclusively. This is connected with the fact that I really and truly find painting to be just another way to talk, but rather than get all purple prose with my descriptive exposition, I’ll just offer some canvas instead. It’s true that I want these stories to be considered important, for the canvases to raise awareness with things, for people to start thinking when they see the theme of an exhibition. But in the end, it all goes back to storytelling. Same with my writing, too.

NINE: What are the obstacles to this ambition?

Painting-wise: skill and figuring out a good, well, creative habit. The skill part is where my schooling comes into play; the creative habit is, presumably, part of the reason why the hell I’m doing this. Regardless: not doing a lot of my own studio work when left to my devices is a bit of a block, truth be told, and that’s not building up my skills. Once I’m able to get exactly what I’m imagining onto a canvas, a lot of the other problems (marketing, coping with the idea of selling my work for profit, etc.) will come. To wit, aside from the flippant-yet-true “writing this answer is an obstacle,” not having a consistent studio schedule that gets my ass downstairs and painting, there’s also the really scary reality that I might not get my financial aid in time. I’ve done the paperwork aspect, but now I’m just waiting for news that I’m going to be allowed to gain access to my financial aid. Apparently it takes a while for the paperwork to be processed, but it’s making me mad nervous. And although there’s a lot of people who say that being a self-taught artist is just fine, I definitely do not fall into that category. My university provides an excellent body of feedback for what I do and my professors know my work and my process, which in turn will give me the opportunity to be able to grow more because they’ll be able to tell me what I need to know in order to push my work to where I need it to be.

Writing-wise: I’m in a mad funk. Mad, mad, mad funk. To be honest, this isn’t the place to talk about my writing funk; I have another outlet for that and, frankly, the readers over there are more affected by the fact that I can’t get the proverbial fiction up than this blossoming community. But I need to do some inspection and introspection on the subject, that much I know; I need to find out whether it’s just a case of my not being in the writing habit for a while due to a very bumpy and hiccup-y summer of stresses and fun and more stresses or if I’m really and truly not in love with writing right now. And really, you can probably tell that this paragraph right here is just a stepping stone to a worse place, so I’m going to stop. Again: this isn’t the place.

TEN: What are the vital steps to this ambition?

Since I’ve decided to put to bed the writing obstacles (and, inadvertently, answered the question already with “serious thinking”), let’s talk about overcoming those painting obstacles. There’s letting the financial aid do its work/nagging them incessantly if it turns out that things are a mite bit slow, which in turn will encourage my education. The good and bad thing about education is that a portion of it is out of your control. You have to depend on the state to give you funding if you’re a schmuck like yours truly; so too do you have to hope that the professors you’re assigned will help push you further and make you grow stronger. But there’s also owning your education, too. You may not be constructing the lesson plans, but you can make the most out of your assignments and tailor them to your interests if you’re clever and careful. Listen to what the professor’s saying and even if you may not agree, try to ensure that you’re using it to the best of your advantage. Chew the fucking fat out of your education, get that diploma, and spit it out for all to see. You bet your bottom dollar I’m going to put the Bad Ass back in the Bad-Fucking-Ass degree in Painting I’ll receive circa May 2012, thanks ever.

But there’s the studio part, too. Let’s be frank: if I had as much enthusiasm to self-motivate myself to go paint downstairs as I do writing about how much my education is going to give to me, I would have had a mountain of canvases in my studio as of now. So really, I need to start getting this invested in educating myself by just painting and doing (which, truth be told, I actually am itching to do right now) — and yes, I do realize that I also need a regular studio habit. I have a feeling the below questions are going to (partially) help me with that.

ELEVEN: How do you begin your day?

WARNING WARNING: there is a duality to my schedule. This is probably a big sign as to why I haven’t had a strong studio habit. That being said: let’s describe both.

SCHOOL SCHEDULE: Wake up c. 6am, slap snooze button. Weep when I realize that I have to get up. Drag ass out of bed, do initial bathroom pit stops, make tea, curl up in miserable ball on couch and bemoan that I am awake this early in the morning. Stare up with bleary eyes when mom walks in and says good morning in a tone that is actually good. Spoon with dog. Enjoy snuggles, belly rubs, pseudo-hugs, even face licks. Realize tea is ready and crawl to get it before going back on couch and waiting for the weather to come up. Realize everyone is out of the bathroom and I know the weather report, so I can get started with the usual: brush teeth, wash face, fire up straightener whilst I get dressed, do hair and (in case of wearing contacts) make-up. Hurry about getting breakfast and lunch ready for self, along with making mental inventory of what I need to bring to school today. Confer with mom RE: whether or not we’re ready and depart for school/work, blasting Morning Edition all the while.

WEEKEND/SUMMER SCHEDULE: Wake up c. 9am, slap alarm off. Wake up c. 10am with second alarm, slap it off too. Actually wake up at noon, wondering why I am alive. Crawl out, make food and tea, sit on the couch. Fire up computer, read e-mail and all my time-wasting websites, soon realize it’s 4pm and I’ve wasted the entire afternoon, start my cycle of hatred and self-loathing that only ends when I am tossing and turning like a disgusted insomniac in bed and have to listen to either Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! podcasts or David Attenborough to lull me to sleep and mental ease.

TWELVE: What are your habits? What patterns do you repeat?

If we’re just looking at the schedule’s up there: good lord, it’s tea. I only repeat tea. Lady Grey is my binky. It’s not like I didn’t know this, but oh my god. Actually, I forgot the part with my weekend/summer schedule that involves snuggling with the dog too. Basically, Lucille, tea, and having problems with getting out of bed are my big constants from schedule to schedule and that is it.

That being said, I’m pretty sure that Tharp meant what are my general habits and patterns. Again: taking care of my dog and drinking tea is a constant. So is taking my vitamins, as they are doing me a lot more good than evil. Sometimes, exercise makes an appearance; to be honest, my occasional unhappiness would be healed if I did this a great bit more. A while ago, checking my e-mail and Google Reader was also a constant, but in recent weeks I’ve been something of an e-recluse and I’ve been dropping off on that too. Watching series like MythBusters, Dirty Jobs, and Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations before going to bed is also a bit of a habit.

Point being: a lot of my habits are lazy habits. I’d recite more and more, but they’re really starting to gross me out. I think I need to make a new habit: SCHEDULE THE FUCK OUT OF THINGS. But tea, I’m never gonna give you up, let you down, run around, or hurt you. You’re constant. You too, puppycup.

THIRTEEN: Describe your first successful creative act.

It was a narrative that I wrote for a collaborative writing project. I couldn’t tell you what, exactly, but I was content with it and that’s what matters. In fact, you can herald them into one swoop after that, since I’m not going to be like “and then my second successful creative act was another narrative piece.” Lame.

FOURTEEN: Describe your second successful creative act.

A self-portrait I did at the very end of Drawing II, the likes of which I do not have on JPG. Now, it seems really dated to put that, but if you read up on the last question, it’ll make sense.

FIFTEEN: Compare them.

To describe why these were two acts are grouped together is to understand my definition of a successful creative act: something that I made that was true to itself from concept to finish. The vague “narrative” that I spoke of? A carbon copy of what I had imagined in my mind for the scene. Same with the self-portrait, as it dealt a lot with the idea of feeling invisible, transparency, identity, the concept of home, as well as words and how they make you a person. It was a lot to get into one image and although I look at it now and think that it’s stylistically dated, it’s definitely a great example of expressing myself conceptually from start to finish. Right now, that’s not as easy for me to do and that clouding is scary and a little disconcerting.

… but you know, rather than whine about it, I’m going to get down into the studio (finally, as it took me two hours to fill this out…?) and do less ruminating and more working. Maybe it’ll make things better. I hope so.

Meme Week. OR: Writing out a “creative autobiography.”

Lesson #23409824098 About Blogging: Don’t promise to do something unless you do that task in that entry. Otherwise, it signs you up for failure, which is bad. Basically, we’ll wait until I’m more reliable and not prone to be taken for spontaneous adventures on the weekend. Rather than bemoan the fact that there are no Montana stories to post, however, I will attempt to live up to one promise I did make: the Twyla Tharp questionnaire on creative¬† biography. I’m not going to just jot down 33 questions in one go, though, oh no — what kind of blogger do you take me to be? No, I’m trying for actually posting five days a week, which means that I’m going to cut these questions up into little digests — duh. And so, here we go: Allison Brown’s Creative Autobiography, Part 1 of (presumably) 5.

Will it make me realize stuff about myself? Maybe. Will it make for good blogging? That is also a great question. Are we about to find out? Hell yeah we are.

ONE: What is the first creative moment you remember?

I have a few, depending on your frame of reference. In terms of making things: my art classes at Children’s Park, which is best described in polite language* as the crucible of my formative years. No matter how miserable my memories of the place may be, I will concede that they offered a great deal of educational opportunities in the early days of my experiences there. But even then, I remember feeling as if art was that thing that people foisted upon me as the thing I did well. Part of the reason why I resisted a career in studio art? I thought people expected me to do that, and that sounded terrible. It was only when I was in a place where everyone else was good, if not better, than myself that I started to love it for the sake of doing it.

But even before that, there was playing make-believe in the realm of my rose-printed room, making castles out of scarves and forging treks from old homelands to new. I was always fascinated by journeys, now that I remember it, whether it be the Underground Railroad or Russian Jews running from pogroms into the welcoming arms of Ellis Island. You would think that I would be a child that was inherently interested in the land of fantasy and magic, but I was only charmed by the idea of others making new lives out of rags and hard work. Interesting, now that I come to think of it — and really, if I’m being honest, I hadn’t thought about it until today.

TWO: Was there anyone there to witness or appreciate it?

I think so, in the case of Paragraph One. My mother was (and is) one of those crazy types in the sense that she was mad encouraging — and critical. She’d tell me how fantastic whatever it was that I’d make but also tell me why such and such wasn’t working correctly, mostly because I asked her why my picture wouldn’t look like hers. I still have some of my elementary school pottery, for Pete’s sake — and all because my mother kept it.

Paragraph Two, though? No, and that was because I hoarded my pretend. My imagination would make worlds so elaborate that I would narrate everything out loud, dancing and exploring and the like because I believed I was there in the moment. But I knew, even at that tender moment, that this was something I could only understand. As such, I was embarrassed and kept it to myself. This is something that I’m thankful I shed in my older years. If there’s anything collaborative writing taught me, it’s this: sharing elaborate pretend worlds with others is okay with the right people. The wrong ones were all around me as a kid though, and so I hid them — or tried. After all, everyone has his or her embarrassing slip-up now and again, and I certainly had my fair share. Fortunately, they were mostly with family. Mostly.

THREE: What is the best idea you’ve ever had?

Accepting that my failure at Purdue was valuable for knowing what not to do with my entire life.

FOUR: What made it great in your mind?

The above may not be inventive or anything involving my aesthetic ability, but it put me on my present track: Allison Brown, junior painter. It made me realize that the safe track is not the right track, that risking the fact that I will be hungry and cold and never secure in my paychecks for the rest of my life is better than withering away in a profession that stifles my heart and my soul. It sounds idealistic, fanciful even, but I’ve seen what doing something you hate for a steady paycheck does for your emotional well-being. It makes you a miserable cuss towards everyone around you, a terrible person to be. I’m still a volatile person right now, I think, and someone whose depression is always risking to burst to the surface from my mismanagement of stress and bottling everything until I’m bound to explode, but I know that I finally am doing something I love. It doesn’t grow old — and thank God for that.

FIVE: What is the dumbest idea?

In direct relation with 3 and 4: trying to convince myself that graphic design was my major.

SIX: What made it stupid?

Just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean that it’s something that, in the words of a very wise woman, nourishes your soul. I knew it was bad the very day that I sat in the Design 3 studio and knew, with sinking dread, that I would hate every moment of my existence in that room. The fear of doing something just because I was good at it dominated my indecision RE: studio arts, ironically enough; I thought that by engaging in a design path, I would be able to be artistic whilst still getting a day job. Ha! If I could actually sell something, maybe I could be a graphic designer; as is, I hardly was able to sell Girl Scout cookies. Fucking Girl Scout cookies, folks. If that’s not a sign that this is not the career path for me, I don’t know what is.

SEVEN: Can you connect the dots that led you to this idea?

You know how everyone professes that artists live in cardboard boxes? You also know how scary it is to sometimes have to return your groceries to the supermarket? Imagine those two ideas converging on each other when you’re trying to make your Big Decisions in college. I’ve had embarrassing moments wherein fiscal irresponsibility have bitten me on the ass and a few years ago, when I was emotionally secure and hadn’t discovered how terrible the feeling of being a robot going through the motions of God knows what just so you can have something a little cushier than the bare essentials to life itself was, those memories were my motivator. And then I went to Purdue for a year and discovered everything I hated, dissolved into a fugue of apathetic disgust, and knew what real ennui actually was. But hey, youth is made for mistakes.

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* I can think of impolite ways of thinking of it, but I’m sure you wouldn’t want to hear any of them. Unless you would, in which case: tough cookies.