Lunch with My Favorite Artists

Last week I had lunch with two of my absolute favorite professors from college. They’re both extremely accomplished artists in their own right, and any time we’re in the same room I’m desperate for their approval.

Willie Sutton (right) is a photographer who shown his work in countless galleries, was featured in National Geographic, and was recently awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship (no big deal). View his work and learn more about him here.

Eugene Stewart (left) is slightly more elusive but also one of the most interesting people I know. He’s a printmaker who I credit for inspiring me to explore my passion. You can view his work here, however the fact that his site is limited in content and currently “under construction” sums him up very neatly.

Both men sort-of happened into their careers at Regis, from what I understand. Which is not to understate their talent or hard work, but does speak volumes about the job market’s devolution. They have been professors forever, but are first and foremost artists.

I’ve been having lunch with Gene ever since I met him in 2010. Willie, however, is harder to pin down which made his presence at lunch all the more surprising and kind of hilarious. They both have a very dry sense of humor and banter back and forth through most of the meal which provides endless entertainment for myself and also reminds me of how I interact with my close friends. Despite their distinguished titles and dress, their immaturity towards one another reminds me that though boys grow up into men physically, mentally some will always remain boys. And that is certainly not an insult; in many ways I believe having a young spirt nurtures and is almost necessary to the artistic lifestyle.

Which bring me to my next point: twenty-somethings are in a very similar position as retiring professionals. Hear me out. Gene and Willie discussed Gene’s upcoming retirement, and it’s a conversation much like I have pretty regularly.  They talk about what he wants to do with his life, his passions, continuing his education, new experiences he wants to have and who he wants to become. Being someone who struggles with all of these points daily I’m both relieved and horrified to learn these are not questions that are answered through a long fulfilling career.

Recently a fellow twenty-something made a point that has stuck with me for the past few weeks: she said “Don’t mistake having a career with having a life.”

Eventually the two of them were able to break away from their boys club meeting, and we talked about me. My life, my career, an upcoming show they are mentoring me through. When I brought up feeling lost in Denver and wanting to make a new start in San Francisco, despite not exactly having any job prospects – they were both thrilled. This isn’t exactly the reaction I’ve received from other responsible adults in my life, and it was a nice change of pace. I’m not discounting the fact that they come from a totally different time, nor how male privilege has benefited them through the years (as I’ve mentioned, the ratio of male to female artists featured in galleries is dumbfounding). And I am certainly not under any illusions that things will just fall into place for me the way the two of them seem to think they will. But from the standpoint of Gene and myself being in very similar positions; forging new roads and finding ourselves, it’s encouraging to have their approval, if only just this one time.

Eventually, Willie excused himself to go and meet with the mayor (or something ridiculous like that), and Gene and I chatted a bit more about the art show I’m cohosting with another Regis alumni. We hugged goodbye, and I went home.

I’ve thought a lot about everything that was said in our meeting. And I’ve realized my vision of the future has changed. I’m less insecure about my career; one way or another I will find a way to make a living. But first and foremost, I am an artist.

 

 Top 10 Beyoncé songs that make me cry

979081b5712343e95826fa96d7ab6f62This is a top ten list, because, if I’m being completely honest with myself, anything that comes out of Beyoncé’s mouth has the capability of making me cry. So in that case, without any sort of limitations, this would just be a list of every Beyoncé song. Which, while lengthy, would make for a much less interesting read. I also had to make a serious effort to avoid exclusively listing songs from Lemonade. This list should shine a light on just how easily I cry (which is extremely – see also; gay dolphins, anything miniature, unlikely animal friends, hamsters being served tiny meals, toddler ballerinas, and the list goes on and on). Disclaimer: these songs are in no way based on what a reasonable person finds emotional – though there is some overlap. Essentially, not tearing up by these songs does not make you an emotionless void. But if at the very least you don’t take this opportunity to enjoy to wonder that is Beyoncé, then you probably have no heart and worse, very poor taste. These are in no particular order. Here we go.

10. All Night

This song is actually the inspiration for this post. It came on in the middle of my morning bathroom ritual, and I had to stop plucking and have a seat to collect myself. I had an idea of what I would write about it while brainstorming, but I put it on as I started typing up this description, and I’m a puddle. It’s so loving and hopeful and just all around so beautiful. At the end she says “how I’ve miss you my love.” Goosebumps. This is one of the more reasonable songs listed.

 

9. Halo

Another classic. If you search the depths of facebook, you’ll probably find a a truly awful video of me and my friends unintelligibly screaming the lyrics. That aside, there’s something about the drums midway though the song makes me choke up every time. Bonus: the video features a dachshund for about a millisecond. Pass the kleenex.

 

8. XO

John Mayer did a cover of this song, that I’ll admit I really love. However, his rendition doesn’t give me the pre-sob chills of Beyoncé’s. One time while driving, this song came on, and I had to pull the car over and accidentally ended up inline at a VERY pricy carwash. Thanks, B.

 

7. Blue

Another thing that makes me cry is pretty much anything relating to babies. This song is extremely sweet on its own. But when Blue herself is featured…forget about it, I’m just done. Further, I aspire to be Blue when I grow up. Usually when toasting, if nothing else immediately comes to mind, my friends and I toast to Blue Ivy by default. That on it’s own is something to cry about.

 

6. Countdown

Once in the middle of 50 cent night (referring not to the rapper, but rather the cost of the beverages) at The Boot, a young man performed what appeared to be a choreographed chair dance to this song for my own viewing pleasure. I assume this was supposed to be a turn on, but my friend Zoe spit her drink out all over him, laughing. Sometimes I think about this story and laugh so hard that tears come out of my eyes. That didn’t exactly go where you expected, now did it.

 

5. Love on Top

To announce her pregnancy, Bey performed this song at the 2011 VMAs. At the end of the song she dropped her mic, unbuttoned her jacket and rubbed her belly. I’m not ashamed to admit that was one of the most emotional moment of my life. I can’t imagine being that overcome with joy when I’m given the news of my own pregnancy. A similar moment happened earlier this year when she announced via Instagram that she is pregnant with twins. Once again I cried. In any case, this song always reminds me of the big reveal, and I can’t help but find myself overcome with the same emotions from 2011. I also love reenacting this moment anywhere at anytime this song is played.

 

4. Heaven

Duh.

 

3. Naughty Girl

I very vividly remember watching this video on repeat on the computer in my friend’s playroom in the 6th grade. We also danced along, trying the learn the choreography. And we thought we looked damn good, braces and ironic t-shit included. This memory brings me to tears at how much of a loser I was. Even now, I’m far too white to reasonably pull off this choreography.

 

2. Girl

There’s nothing more beautiful and tear-provoking than friendship. Technically speaking this isn’t a Beyoncé song. But if I was forced to name a lead in the group…..

 

1. Telephone….by Lady Gaga

Also not a Beyoncé song. But the thought of Lady Gaga alone makes me cry. So the combination of Gaga and B is an explosion of artistic wonder that is, for me, a sob fest. Maybe it’s the romantic in me, but it’s always been a dream of mine to one day poison an ex and drive off into the sunset with my BFF. This video is that dream realized, and nothing is more beautiful than your dreams manifesting in front of you.

 

If it seems that my blog has had a heavy focus on music lately, then you’re very astute, because it has. You must have known what you were getting into from the beginning. I mean, it is me after all; but I guess not all of you can fully understand and appreciate that. In any case, I told you up front this blog isn’t exclusively about my art – and I think you’d be really bored if it was. But, don’t worry. Expect an update on my shotguns (houses) and a really fabulous tutorial on scratchboards coming very soon. 

The Breakup Playlist Revisited

One thing I’ve realized from having a blog is that posting can be extremely cathartic in a lot of ways. Talking about the progress of my art on such a public forum has made me much more confident in presenting and promoting my art in other arenas. This has actually benefited me a lot in recent weeks, and it makes me really excited for the future of my career as an artist. Similarly, talking so candidly about how I’m dealing with a breakup has helped me to better deal with it. It might seem cliche, but the process of researching girl power anthems, and then the incessant playing of said anthems has done wonders for my self esteem and overall personal well being. And it’s interesting how documenting the whole thing and putting myself in a very vulnerable position has made coping that much easier.

So, I’m going to do my friends a huge favor, because I’m certain that by now they’re sick of hearing about how fine I am with everything, and get it all out here. I’m also going to do something very 8th grade of myself and express my current state based on corresponding song lyrics. Take it or leave it. Like I said, this is really benefitting me, so if you opt out here, it’s no skin off my back.

The particular lyrics I have in mind come from what is less a song and better described as an interlude. It’s called The Suburbs (Continued) by Arcade fire, which is absolutely my favorite track from their album of the same name, and I’ve found myself thinking about it a lot lately. The whole thing goes:

“If I could have it back, all the time that we wasted –  I’d only waste it again / If I could have it back, you know I would love to waste it again / Waste it again and again and again / Sometimes I can’t believe it / I’m moving past the feeling … ”  

It’s simple and very short, but it’s also really beautiful and conveys a lot of emotion in just one minute and twenty-eight seconds. (Listen here). And to me, it very elegantly expresses exactly what I’m feeling right now. So if you’ll indulge me here for a moment…

For whatever reason, my relationship ended. Three years is a long time to completely devote yourself to another person, only to experience, what often feels like a death, a complete break. And I won’t lie and say I haven’t felt any anger or spite or even regret. But somewhere inside me I know this is exactly what needed to happen, however hard it feels at times. And overall the feelings of bitterness really aren’t there. “If I could have it back, all the time that we wasted I’d only waste it again.” Like I said, three years is a long time. But if I had the chance to take it all back, I wouldn’t. Knowing what I know now, that it wouldn’t last, given the opportunity I would do it all again. Because what I had with Alex was real, and for a while there it was really great.

This is not to say that at any given moment I’d be ready to resume the relationship. Quite the opposite. But I don’t regret it.

Without the lyrics, the song itself is very melancholy. It also inspires nostalgia (which could really be said about the whole album). It’s a sad song about embracing the past while also moving on. Things end, and that is very sad and at times impossible. But to let go of that sadness allows one to take away all that was good, and then move on, “I’m moving past the feeling” (Am I getting too analytical? I’m beginning to feel a little pretentious. Very 8th grade of me).

I am fine. Truly. And I think a huge piece of that is that I don’t regret anything about the past three years. Not one single thing. If I could do it all over, I would. But in that same spirit, I’m moving on. It’s all ok. I’m going to be OK.

I’ve always found this song (interlude?) really lovely. And it’s certainly not hard to relate to. Those few lines mean quite a lot to me, and I’ll probably have them tattooed on my body at some point (sorry, mom). If you’ve made it this far, I really appreciate you. Sincerely.

Of course there’s a flip side to this whole thing…

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Shotgun House Progress

I talk a lot about loving printmaking because of the process. And that’s completely the truth. But before the printing begins, there the process of developing content. This isn’t specific to printmaking, and it’s the hardest part of developing any kind of art. I can’t say that my initial inspiration usually comes from anything other than things I find to be visually appealing. So I generally start there – with an image of something I like. I translate this image into my own rendering, which tends to be pretty basic. Once I’ve got a sketch I like, I transfer it onto my linoleum and carve away. And now I’ve got the content. From here I can begin the actual printing process I love so much.

Below is a visual walk through of what I’m talking about. I think it’s pretty interesting to see how a piece originated. At this point I haven’t done any actual printing, but I’ll be starting that tomorrow. Once I get some solid prints going, I’ll begin collaging and painting, etc to get the multidimensional, multimedia end result – Stay tuned for that! I’m also thinking about a series of several homes…….

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Tomorrow I’ll be running some test prints and playing with color. All very exciting stuff.

The Two Fridas

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Art History preface: The Two Fridas was painted by feminist favorite and surrealist artist, Frida Kahlo (who, in my opinion, was one of the most interesting and influential women of the 21st century). Aside from the fact that she was an accomplished artist AND a woman (Today, artwork by female artists make up only 3-5% of the permanent collections in galleries in the U.S. and Europe [according the The National Museum of Women in the Arts]. That’s today. In the early 1900s it was next to impossible for a woman to make a name for herself in the art world, or really in any profession), she also endured an unreal amount of physical and psychological pain, that she was somehow able to overcome (sort of). She struggled for most of her life with chronic pain stemming from a bus collision when she was very young. Unrelated health issues caused several miscarriages, required at least one abortion and caused subsequent depression. Further, her very public as well as volatile marriage with fellow artist and much older mentor Diego Rivera ended in divorce after several affairs in 1939. She took these hardships (among many others) and transformed them into the inspiration for many of her works, usually featuring her own likeness. Which brings us to The Two Fridas.

This is one of my all time favorite paintings. Not necessarily because of it’s aesthetic qualities, but because of what it represents. Art is supposed to make you feel something, and if it does, it’s served its purpose. And when I look at this piece, I feel great sorrow but also optimism. She painted this piece the same year she divorced Rivera. Here she illustrates a woman split in two; the two parts of herself that independently feel whole. There’s the Frida on the left: a traditionalist. She’s a woman very much connected to where’s from and the traditions with which she was raised, who still loves her husband very much. Then there’s Frida on the right: a progressive woman forging her own path, alone. The pain comes with trying to reconcile to two. She must move on with her life without the man she so longs for. Some also speculate an allusion to her dual heritage. Further, the cloudy sky is a symbol of her inner turmoil (if you want to get super analytical). I’ve only begun to scratched the surface of this painting, but I think I’ve made my point.

I’ve always loved this painting, and lately I’ve found myself thinking about it a lot. As I said, the piece conveys a lot of pain – but I’ve also come to find optimism in it. Very recently my boyfriend and I broke up. For a long time now I’ve thought of him as my end game, and I love him more than I’m fully able to understand myself. So to lose him makes me question who I am without him. I’ve spent a lot of time making choices based on what was good for the two of us together, and not necessarily myself. And I’m realizing that there are so many things that I want. And though I’m sad, I’m also extremely excited about my future in a way that I haven’t been in a long time. I was with Alex for a while and during that time I grew a lot, and because of that he’ll always be a part of me. But that doesn’t mean I’m done. I’m going to take that part of myself and keep adding pieces as I grow, and together they’ll make me who I am. No one thing is going to define me. That’s what I see when I look at The Two Fridas. And though this piece was created with a lot of sadness, to me it represents hopefulness.

Side note: She only made about $1,000 from this painting, which is the most she made from any of her works during her lifetime. Today her art is sold for as much as $6.5 million.

 

Nola Natives Don’t Flash Their Boobs

It occurred to me that I haven’t posted about my recent trip back to nola for mardi gras, which is a major misstep on my part, and I apologize. Contrary to stereotypical portrayals, mg does not consist of mass female exhibitionism and rivers of urine running through the streets. If you see women showing their boobs for a 50 cent pair of beads, you can be pretty certain they’re tourists and not an accurate representation of the mg culture in New Orleans. (I love love love Ellen DeGenerous, but as a native southern Louisianan with a MAJOR platform, it’s kind of disappointing that year after year she perpetuates this misconception about flashing). It may seem like I’m really emphasizing the “mardi gras is not all about the boobs” idea, and that’s because I am.

I’m frequently asked what it was like to grow up in New orleans. To be honest, I didn’t realize there was anything unconventional about it until I moved to Denver for college. I don’t mind this question, but the thing I hate about it is the insinuation that people who choose to start families there have confused their priorities or are in some way irresponsible. I consider myself extremely lucky for my upbringing, and some of my fondest memories as a child are from mardi gras. When I explain this, I’m usually met with horror and confusion. But let me just say, as a child (and actually to this day) I have no memory of seeing one single boob. Not one. And while drinking is always a prominent fixture, it’s not the drunk vomit fest people like to pretend it is. Once you realize that mg isn’t a city-wide act of deviancy, you’ll see just how beautiful it really is.

Instead of ranting about what mardi gras is not, I’d like you to know what it is. Sure, it’s a big party, but that’s simplifying it. Once mg starts, the whole city shuts down. Absolutely no other thing matters.Grandmothers start cooking weeks in advance to prepare. Parents drag around ladders so their children can see over the crowds. There are endless supplies of fried chicken and biscuits. And everyone is friends. Everyone. Whether you know the person next to you or not, it isn’t long before you’re both shouting out the lyrics to Sweet Caroline, holding their kids on your shoulders chasing down a stuffed animal, and dancing together alongside the 610 Stompers. So when people try and turn it into something dirty, it just makes me really sad, because it’s not. It’s a testament to how good people can be to one another despite race or sexuality or religion on a HUGE scale. Especially now, I think it’s important to recognize the incredible moments like these, instead of the rare instance of boobs.

(Stay tuned for new art).

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(Note: I am of the belief that the female body is not innately sexual, but is sexualized by societal institutions that perpetuate the idea that women are property. I have no issue with nudity, be it my own or someone else’s. I think that female nudity can be extremely empowering and can reteach women how to love themselves. That being said, I think that the exposing of breasts for a perceived reward only reinforces the sexualization of the female body.)