For the record, I think plastic canvas is severely underrated as a fine art material.
It is very, very exciting to be part of an exhibition opening on October 5th at UNA Gallery in Portland, OR, titled artlikelifelike. It is a group show of works by the artists associated with WAMER (Women Artists Meeting Eating Reading) - a studio and reading group that I have been part of for almost twenty years. Although our work is all quite different from each other, there is a familial relationship, a thread of intimacy that runs through it all. As far as I am concerned, there is nothing that I can call my work without acknowledging the impact of WAMER.
For the exhibition, I have created two new pieces. One is an embroidered map of the group that depicts all our connections. The other is a quote - a line from the epilogue of Middlemarch by George Eliot - that I have made in plastic canvas. I have an idea to make another piece that will go in the gallery's bathroom but I don't think that I will have time. More's the pity. Maybe we need several more group exhibitions.
If you are in Portland, I hope you will check it out. The show runs through October 28th.
In the wake of the events in Charlottesville, I was witness to a conversation thread about the inherent privilege in "craftivism" (a term that has never been a favorite although I have had my work occasionally included in that category). A woman who identified as Latinx called out white women, in particular, for only giving a damn when things directly related to other white women (among other things) She used the Pussy Hat project as her main example. What became clear was that the author of the blog post wasn't interested in having a dialogue about it - she just wanted to have her say. And more power to her!
As an aside, I wish that she had been upfront about this. Being clear that she wanted people to hear her out but not engage her in a conversation, we would have been forced to just listen. Period. It's something that we need to do more of - just listen, not respond. I recently read an article by a woman of color about how she has been treated by white women in spiritual communities where she did just that - said she was presenting her experience and didn't want to engage in a conversation about it. It was good to have to just take in what she was saying, as painful as it was to read, and then just sit with all the feelings. In this instance, however, other people (of course) wanted to have a dialogue and it didn't turn out well. The more people commented, the more the author seemed to become angry. The (mostly) white women who asked questions or clarify or, worse, tried to defend, ended up being shamed into silence - by the author and by other white women. Finally, it devolved into a bit of a contest as to who might appear to the be most woke with the author pretty much condemning the lot of them.
At the same time that I was witness to that thread, I participated in a discussion about removing Confederate statues with two people who live in the South and who defended their presence. Mostly I don't engage with that kind of thing but the person who posted the initial thing also has posted many things that led me to believe that she follows some kind of Buddhist teaching. It all felt so incompatible so I poked the hornet's nest a little to see what would come out. The other person who got involved also identified himself as a Buddhist. It also was a tough one - they mostly ignored my main points and attacked me for things that I didn't ever actually say. And I had Buddhism repeatedly mansplained to me (sigh).
These two conversations have been rattling around in my head for a couple of days and it seems to me that they share a lot in common with each other despite their being at opposite ends of the political spectrum. I saw it first in the one about the Confederate statues. The people defending them gave me less than zero benefit of the doubt. If they didn't quite get what I was saying, then they went to the most extreme, negative possibility - that I was saying that I thought every white Southerner was evil and that every remanent of the Civil War should be destroyed. I was afforded no grace and there was no trust whatsoever. It was pretty much the same for the author of the blog post and the people who tried to engage her. Despite tying themselves up in knots to get in her good graces, she would have none of it. Look, there are good, solid reasons for there being a negative trust factor. And yet. Where does that leave us? Sitting alone, feeling righteous?
A friend did a meditation intensive with Reb Anderson, a long-time teacher at the San Francisco Zen Center, at the Brooklyn Zen Center. The BZC is quite deliberately engaged in issues of social justice - it's central to their practice. At a certain point during the sesshin, Reb opened it up to questions and someone asked him about how to be a Buddhist who is actively engaged with issues of social justice. His answer was that, by all means, work for what is right but "do not abide in righteousness."
Back to the two conversations - as I stood in line at the grocery store, it occurred to me that I needed to highlight the place where we share common ground with the two Southerners. We all have a love of the Dharma, which is no small thing. So, I went back and said my piece, shared some links and thanked them for the opportunity to practice. We ended in a place of cordiality at the very least. I am quite aware that I had to accept and absorb more of - something - than they did in order for it to end like that. But that's not the point. The point is that, while I will never share their view on the subject, we both share the wish to be treated with respect and kindness. And that I could go first to act that way.
There is no shame in going first. In fact, let us race to be first in this instance. When I look at the other conversation, I see that the blog post author just kept getting more angry to the point where she became a bully. Although I mostly share her point of view, I saw very little good coming as a result of her responses to questions. You can't shame people over to your way of thinking. Although the Buddha labeled shame as a "beautiful" emotion because it signals to us that something is not right and provides an opportunity for correction, the feeling can't be imposed from the outside. I know for a fact that some of those imperfect, tone-deaf, but mostly well intentioned, white women left that conversation feeling as silenced and shut down as if DJT had grabbed them by the pussy. Well, maybe not quite - but close! Surely that is not the way we are going to pull ourselves out of this terrible mess.
There is a time for being loud and proud. For not staying home, for stepping on toes, for interrupting, for resisting. But especially during those times, we have to keep reminding ourselves that every single one of us wants to be treated with basic human decency. Yes, even when denying it to others! When that is happening, we have to be the ones who go first. We have to go first.
Opening tomorrow! The exhibition, Salvage, will accompany the Writers Festival, which features Canadian authors and draws an audience from all over North America. My piece, Containment, is included. Tickets to the readings sell out within hours of their going on sale but entry to the exhibition at the Woody Point Heritage Theatre is free and open to all.
Should you find yourself in Gros Morne, please stop by!
This summer, I have been working on an online business course led by Marie Forleo. She calls it "Starting The Right Business". I know it might seem strange to take a class about starting a business when I have been listing "artist" on my taxes for my whole adult life, but I did. I thought I would do the course, which one takes totally at their own pace, once for my art and once for my yoga therapy business. During the course of taking it for my art, I discovered that I don't need to take it for my yoga therapy business at this moment in time. I have enough to do with organizing things around my art.
I highly recommend this course if you have been struggling with strategies for getting your work, whatever that work is, out in the world. One thing that I like about Marie is that she doesn't sugar coat it. She says it will take lots of hard work, tons of time and you might not make much money at first. Hey, did I just pay $200 for that?? Yes, I did. And I appreciate it. She really gears the course to women, especially women who are creative and are, as she has coined it, multi-passionate entrepreneurs. Multi-passionate is practically my middle name! But the exercises she leads us through have been so helpful to me, clarifying where I am putting my energy, where I need to put it and where I need to stop putting it. I highly recommend the course if you too have been wading through multiple ideas and passions and feeling like you are giving all of them short shrift.
This process has uncovered some side symptoms, if I may call them that. One is that I have been carrying around some embarrassment at what I do to make money when art isn't paying the bills. I realized that I have believed for a very long time that the only legitimate job for a working artist is to be a university professor....something that I will never, ever be. How convenient! When I finally stepped back to examine this notion, I could see that it was based on some ancient idea that I picked up in art school because all the working artists that I knew were my professors. I think it is safe to let go of that idea now.
I love my other work - dyeing yarn, teaching yoga, offering yoga therapy. I love it AND it feeds my art. Ultimately, there is no real separation. It all gets mixed up together and comes out as art.
This fall, I have a couple of projects that I will launch here on this website that I am very excited about. Not hand-dyed yarn or yoga therapy for end of life care (although if you are interested in those things, give me a dingle). No. Art things. Very Exciting Art Things.
Please stay tuned! And please sign up for my newsletter! First issue will be out in early September with all the deets about these V.E.A.T's.
And, look, here's some hand-dyed yarn!