Category Archives: Art

Artist’s Rights

Definition of Courage Being an artist isn’t always easy. For one thing, people tend to assume they know your true identity based on your work (as if you were trying to hide it from them!) It’s an easy mistake to make, but the fact is, we are so much more than our personalities, our history, our knowledge, or even our experiences. If you allow yourself to experience the process and practice of making art, in whatever form it appeals to you, you are really being a kind of channel.

This channeling is available to everyone, anytime, and anywhere. It is a fact of being human.  We make things.  As the great but totally goofy George Clinton said at Voodoo Fest one year, “This is what we do.”

The marvelous Keri Smith posted a wonderful list of things that would make an artist miserable. Chris Roberts-Antieau wrote an artist’s statement on “Trusting Direction.” I thought I might make a list that I will call “Artist’s Rights.”

1. You have the right to not care about what other people think. These days, it seems like criticism is both endemic and a market for those who don’t/won’t think for themselves. Spending too much time trying to please everyone results in pleasing no one and will make you inefficient and unhappy. Bottom line? Screw ‘em if they don’t get it.

2. You have the right to require time alone. Much of the work that creative people do is done alone.  Allowing yourself precious private time is essential, as is keeping people who are full of shit out of your circle and your headspace.

3. You have the right to take your time. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Some books/films/paintings take years. Art that is personally authentic and substantial is worth waiting for, and you have the right to insist on taking the time you need to make something beautiful.

4. You have the right to claim some authority over what you’ve spent time doing. You are allowed to insist you know what you’re talking about based on your considered experience with, and practice in, your art. You don’t have to have a phD to get people to listen to you if you have clearly devoted yourself to a practice.

5. You have the right to grow and change artistically.  People often tend to categorize an artist based on the first successful thing they did. If Ron Howard was expected to be Opie on “Happy Days” the rest of his life, what a disservice that would be to the incredible filmmaking he has accomplished as an adult. People will continue to pigeonhole you. Change anyway.

6. You have the right to NOT talk about your work. Art can make some people uncomfortable.  Intellectualizing art is a great way to avoid feeling the emotions that can come up when experiencing it. When someone insists you explain your story/song/picture you are not obligated to tell them. Really. Allowing yourself some secrets will preserve you as a creative person.

7. You have the right to not market your work. Not everything worth making must be sold.  Structuring your work for the biggest dollar can put instant limitations on work that could otherwise be groundbreaking. Similarly, you have the right to not “follow the rules.” It can help to know the rules, but it really isn’t a requirement. What some call “Folk” or “Handmade” Art has a deep wisdom to it.

8. You have the right to not be a role model. Making art that puts you in the public eye should not also demand that you become a saint. The best work is often made by people who have explored all the vagaries of the human condition. Give yourself a break.

9. You have the right to be passionate. Some artists can get consumed by their work. These moments are like an illness that overtakes them for a time. If this happens, try and allow yourself the experience. Censoring your passion so that others will feel more comfortable doesn’t do you, them, or the art any good.

10. You have the right to keep your own hours. The muse strikes when she is good and ready, and often it is in the middle of the night. If you tell her, “Come back after I’ve had a cup of coffee,” she probably won’t. Don’t let other people give you a hard time about WHEN you need to write, edit, practice, draw, or compose. If you don’t listen when the call comes, who will?

Wishing you a joyous, liberating, delicious, frustrating, indecent, fascinating, immersing, trippy experience with whatever art calls to you!

Share

Flip Fantasia and Why I Can Make a Movie

photo by Alex di Suervo
photo by Alex di Suervo

Well that was just about the most exciting week of my life.  I just finished producing and directing my first short film, called “Flip Fantasia.”  It’s about four guys and a dead girl, about love and death and what happens when your heart breaks and grows three sizes that day.  It’s a love letter to NYC and an homage to all my favorite films (or as many as I could fit in there) and a peek into what I understand about suffering.

So what in the hell qualifies me to direct a film?  Basically nothing, really, except that I spent my entire young life going to every weird arty, what-I-thought worthy, edge cutting piece of gorgeousness that I could find in NY.  I sought out art in every form: whether it was going to hear Ravi Shankar at Lincoln Center, or going to see the Whirling Dervishes at Town Hall, or going to see Pina Bauch and Robert Wilson at BAM, E.L. Kirchner at the Neue Gallery,  Barbara Kruger at MOMA, some punk band at CBGB’s, Shawn Colvin at Carnegie Hall, Selected Shorts at Symphony Space, movies at Film Forum, Marlene Dumas at The New Museum, or the hundreds of other shows I saw.  NYC was my education, in a way.

In film, I was blown away by the Apu Trilogy by Satyajit Ray when I was 25.  Watching that I was hit hard by how film could create an connective and yet transcending human experience.  I also became a huge Francois Truffaut fan, gobbling up the Alain Delain series like an animal.  In a case of “From the sublime to the ridiculous,” I also loved the timing of Blake Edwards’ SOB and Victor Victoria, the incredible comic performances in Tootsie and the hilarious surrealism of Living in Oblivion.

My favorite artist is Laurie Anderson.  Most people have never heard of her but she’s awesome. Her kind of off beat storytelling is right up my alley.  I am pretty sure I have seen every performance she brought to the states post 1997, when I discovered her.  She is hard to pin down, too.  Performance artist doesn’t really cover everything she is.  She’s a musician, a poet, a writer, a storyteller, a performer, and an artist.  Why not?

So what is “Flip Fantasia”? Well it’s kind of a combination of these influences.  It’s funny, and heart breaking, surreal, and spiritual.  It’s full of color and pain.  It’s everything I love.

It’s not like I just pulled it out of my ass.  I studied directing with the late Curt Dempster, the artistic director of Ensemble Studio Theater.  After that I wrote and directed Mona7, a performance art piece that I did in NYC which was totally my vision.  Here is a picture from when Mona becomes one with the universe.  Sadly, my co-director took my vision and got herself a grant from Dance Theater Workshop without giving me any credit.  Not cool, but water under the bridge.  It was a long time ago.  I know it was my vision and I loved making it with her.  Too bad she didn’t know how to be a friend, that’s all.

Mona7

 

 

 

 

 

I also studied painting in the late 90’s early 2000’s with Nancy Chunn at the School of Visual Arts, then International Literature at NYU, then creative art therapy and fairy tales at The New School.  As you might know I just wrote a whole book called Murdering My Youth which will come out eventually.  Who knows, I may just turn it into a movie.  So doing something like a short film isn’t really a total shock.  I guess you could say my whole life has led up to this.  I’m an artist.  I make things.

That said, I believe all the art I have done (except my postcards) is totally collaborative.  I’ve worked with the great videographer Tal Yardan for Mona7, and the amazing producer and musician George Walker Petit for my album…  frankly, every movie, play, or TV show I have ever done is a collaboration with the director, writer and other actors, whether it’s with the writer David Ives “The Red Address,” the director Richard Benjamin on “My Favorite Year,” or Michael Knight on “All My Children.”  Making a piece of art that requires more than one person requires collaboration.  I have a great love and respect for it.  All that matters is that everyone brings their passion to the table.

Eden Marryshow at Smeg

For “Flip” I had the great luck to find Alex di Suvero to be my Director of Photography.  He’s got an amazing ability to find the beauty in the awful, which was the task I set before him.  I am thrilled with what we have created together.

Here is a photo of the character “Smeg” played by Eden Marryshow, who, as you might guess, is a seeker.

That’s my arm on the left.

One thing I learned about film making is that it requires an understanding and a feel for ALL the arts.  You HAVE to know painting, and music, and literature AND film.  If you don’t, you are really missing out on what film can be.  Well, let’s not put the cart before the horse.  I still have to edit the damn thing.  Oh yeah, and let’s not forget I LIVE with a filmmaker, and associate produced HIS first feature, so I’ve had a little crash course, you might say.

But I wanted you to know all this about me, so that you can see this film as something that is a part of who I am, because it is.  It is perhaps the most intimate piece of work I have ever made.  I hope you will like it.

Here I am with DP Alex di Suvero, and AC Nikita Carpenter in SOHO, NYC.
Here I am with DP Alex di Suvero, and AC Nikita Carpenter in SOHO, NYC.

 

 

 

 

 

Share

The Big Pink

Graffiti isn’t for everyone, but it is.  Whether I like it or not, whether I want it or not, it is right there in my face.  Staring me down.  Daring me to react.  It is raw, untamed, full of emotion and sometimes… pink.

Inside the ladies bathroom at the MOCA in Los Angeles I was attacked by pink.  Big, fat, pink letters vibrated out at me, rebellious, insistent, throbbing across the stalls.  I did not know what they spelled at first.  It didn’t seem to matter.  They existed loudly- they overextended their boundaries, they misbehaved, they were heavily outlined in black, in BLACK!  As if there were rules big, fat pink letters had to follow, ha!

I thought, “What do they say?” followed quickly by, “Who cares what they say?”

I flashed on a traumatic moment from sixth grade.  I had always outlined my art in black.  It “contained” the image for me.  It was somehow important to me that I did so.  I don’t know why.  It was my “thing.”  One day, the teacher told us to draw anything, but with NO BLACK OUTLINES.  What can I say?  I forgot.  She was very mad and yelled at me.  I didn’t want to draw much at school after that.  What a bitch.  I could’ve been a natural born graffiti artist and didn’t even know it.  Why do our childhood selves let go of our passions so easily?  Why do we let ourselves be bullied into following the rules?

The big pink letters said to me, “I know you come into these public rooms all the time and are bored stupid by the banal ritual of cleaning your bladder and intestines, washing your hands and staring at yourself once again in a half clean mirror.  Like you, I got sick of it, sick of the meaninglessness of the ritual, of walking into a room and doing what I was told to do, day after day.  So I told my artist friend to get out a canister of bright pink paint and together, we did something about it.  Now what are YOU going to do about YOUR boredom with YOUR life, huh?”  Then the big fat pink letters laughed so hard at me I started to laugh, too.  It was all so ridiculous, to be contemplating the very meaning of my life in the toilet.

I wanted to grab my boyfriend and pull him into the ladies room to give him a peek at this alphabetic sideshow but then it struck me- we were at a “Street Art” exhibit.  The authorities from the museum had probably INVITED someone to spray paint in the bathrooms!  Oh, I was in love then- in love with about a hundred people or more who together had decided this was a good idea.  I wanted to shout for my boyfriend then to “come see, come see,” but I suddenly realized he might be having a similar experience in the men’s room.  I hoped he was.  I hoped he was getting violently assaulted by fat, vibrating letters.  I hoped they were smothering him with color, spelling out a word or words whose meaning would always be unknown to us, but whose existence we would never forget.

I peeked inside a stall to see if there was some other verbiage hiding, wondering if there might be a mean surprise, perhaps a giant plastic dookie floating in each bowl, unable to be flushed down.  But I was way off.  Graffiti isn’t a cheap party joke.  It’s a statement of purpose- a larger than life wink back at the rest of us, similarly anonymous and silent, nameless yet full of feeling, hungry to be seen.  I gasped when I saw what had been spray painted over each bowl.  There it was!  The wink!  Above the toilet a big round face with one round eye had been painted, the other eye a literal “X” marking the spot- as if it were winking!  A giant toothy grin pulled itself across the bottom of the whole head and a little heart floated above the three hairs that sprouted from just above where ears would be.  Every stall had one, and each one was in a pinkish purple color.

I took a picture of myself in that stall, sitting on the john, with the head floating behind me, just like the little heart was floating above it.   We were in a relationship now.  Some people might think I was colluding with their rebellion.  Others might think I was just plain weird- to take a photo of myself sitting on a toilet?  Dude.  What’s up with that?

What was up was an SOS from the kind of people I want to be closer to.  I took a picture because I didn’t want to forget them.  Those people who are (albeit strangers) comrades in love, who see life as I do- who have an innate understanding that we all sometimes need to be thrown off our guard in order to feel anything good at all.  Fully grasping the power of a simple childlike vision, these people bombard the adult world with images pulled instinctively from their youth and share them with abandon, lest the rest of us smother under the gray weight of our own lack of joy.

I say, “Long live random acts of art.”  Their intuitive nature keeps me in the moment, frees me from the thousand pounds of worry I tend to drag with me wherever I go.  The simpler the graffiti the more powerful it can be.  One big pink word changed me forever inside- even after (oh fuck) I finally figured out it spelled my ex-boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend’s name (say WHAT?)

One of these days, I am going to start living the life I always thought I should be, the life I imagine my ex’s ex girlfriend’s do- wild lives, full of art and freedom.  When I do (and I will, by GOD I will) I want big pink letters spray painted in my bathroom, so I never again forget who I really am.  Perhaps the letters have to come first, and my life will follow.

 

Does anybody know where to buy pink spray paint?

 

 

 

 

Share