Sunday, September 24, 2017

Words and images playing in a metaphorical field

You'll Never Know
"The only thing that keeps 
a person going is energy.
And what is energy but liking life?"
— Louis Auchincloss

In my long-ago working life, I touted the benefits of metaphorical thinking, proclaiming that you could find a way to link any two things together and thus gain insight about either of them.

This morning, I decided to test that concept with two extremely unrelated images shown below. Now, I will spin the metaphorical metaphor wheel and see what happens.  
First image: A clown I found on a wall in Eureka, CA. 

Second image: a trimmed plant revealing its inner nature, found in the garden at the Lake Chapala Society here in Ajijic, Mx. 
Both images intrigue me, each for different reasons. The look on the clown’s  face makes me think some inner information is bubbling up, lighting up his multi-colored eyes, ready to spill over into guffaws. The cut stalk of a plant with its holey and woody texture makes me wonder at the unseen world, now revealed by a gardener’s machete.

How do these two relate to each other? Thoughts: One was never alive except in an artist’s imagination. The other’s life was altered by a human viewpoint of the way things ought to be. Both subject to the whims of another.

The clown puts on a mask to entertain, attempting to create mirth or surprise in others. The plant has evolved into a moisture- and nutrient-collection system in order to survive and thrive.

Both are products of an unknown artist, be it a human with pots of paint, or time with its eons of tweakings to maximize well-being, or a mystery force too massive for our comprehension.

The insight … duh! … is that everything is part of life. Living things obviously are alive, but even those things that look inanimate … murals on walls, buildings that topple when the ground quivers, boulders on their journey to becoming sand on a far-away beach, a spoon, conceived by a brain and implemented by hands to deliver nourishment to a collective of cells and bacteria we call the human body … all play their part of the web of life. 
When they came together in Photoshop, these two images did not want to play together. I tried to tell them this was just an exercise, but they decided to make me work for it. Finally, they transformed each other and I could hear them whispering, but what they were saying, I'll never know.
Day 8/100

Saturday, September 23, 2017

At the beach with Maggie and Milly and Molly and May

At the Beach
One of my favorite poems comes from e.e. cummings and as I started to play with some beach images today, that poem came to mind and claimed the image for its own.
maggie and milly and molly and may 
went down to the beach(to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang 
so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles,and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing 
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and

may came home with a smooth round stone 
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose(like a you or a me) 
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea

Friday, September 22, 2017

Kaleidoscope of Sight

Who knows where this will want to play.
Kaleidoscopes have always been one of my favorite things with their constantly shifting, never-ending possibilities of shape and color. It surprised me this morning when I discovered that one name for a group of butterflies is … kaleidoscope. A kaleidoscope of butterflies. I love that and it became the title of my latest painting, which had been originally called Tulip Abundance.

It made me think about how we see things. The world is a massive array of shapes and colors, constantly shifting and being shifted. If we turn the ring on a kaleidoscope, we see a whole new image, something never seen before, a view we’ll never see again in exactly the same way. If we shift our own perspective on the world, the same thing happens.

Sometimes I think my life has been a journey of sight, almost like The Wizard of Oz, from the land of black and white to the world of Oz where everything is in technicolor and everywhere you look, you see a horse of a different color.

Years ago, when I took my first digital collage class from Robert Masla in a tiny fishing village just south of Puerto Vallarta, he taught me to change the way I saw things and the way I took pictures … from scenes to elements that could be used in a larger collage. Suddenly, the number of photos I was taking doubled or tripled as everything … a key, a bird, or a tea bag … showed itself as a possibility for becoming part of a larger image.
Three Circles wound up in "Kaleidoscope of Butterflies"

The world became a different, bigger place where everything had potential and meaning. Something similar happened when I discovered the magic of Photoshop’s blend modes that allowed images to play together in completely unexpected ways. A peeling, painted wall behind or on top of an ordinary tree might become an otherworldly scene that would take my breath away in surprise and delight.

Once again, this changed the way I looked at things. Now, the only criteria for a photo has become … is it interesting? Does it have lines, shape, texture or color that might want to play with another image?

A week ago, a friend and I went to Tlaquepaque, a rather upscale shopping area in Guadalajara. While my friend bought an incredible dragon to protect her new home, my eyes immediately went to the “bits” that might play in future images … like the piece of material above and the other images scattered through this post.

Silver balls and reflections
Delight and possibilities are everywhere … new sights and gifts from this journey of photography.


Thursday, September 21, 2017

What the Buddha told me this morning ...

“Let yourself be open and life will be easier."

Of course, Buddha didn’t say that to me directly. My friend Krystina Morgainne puts out a daily inspirational message and this was today’s wisdom. Interesting synchronicity.

The painting shown is one I bought from Pedro Arnoldo Cruz Sunu, an artist who was here briefly in Ajijic. I didn’t get to meet him when he was here, but somehow we connected on Facebook and I fell in love with his art. Eventually, he posted a photo of one of his works that I couldn’t say “no” to and it arrived yesterday.

I had hoped that I would like the painting as much in person as I had in the photo. Actually, it is far more stunning in real life as it has an almost sculptural effect. The paint is three dimensional, reflecting the textures of the subjects. The fabric looks woven or stitched, the corn kernels are rounded or shriveled where they have dried, the calla lilies are veined. 
Atiteca corn detail
 I hope this detail gives a sense of the texture of the painting.

I was curious about the pattern in the garment shown and was only slightly surprised when he said the design was Guatemalan. I thought it looked Guatemalan, but I assumed he was Mexican. In the course of our Facebook back and forth chat about shipping the painting and so on, I learned a bit more about his creative process and him.

What Pedro told me and what the Buddha said just makes me smile and shake my head at the same time.  Not only is Pedro a painter, he is a painting collaborator with his brother, a collaboration they consider sacred which has gone on for 18 years. And, he actually lives in Guatemala. 
One morning on Lake Atitlán
I only know one place in Guatemala, however, I fell in love with that one place … Lake Atitlán … and have always wanted to back. You probably know where this story is going. Yes, Pedro lives on Lake Atitlán, and yes he invited me to come down to visit … and stay in his gallery … and, yes I am going when I can figure out dates. 
What else could I do? The Buddha told me to let myself be open. 
 Day 5/100

For more about Pedro and his amazing art, see his Facebook page.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Don’t sneeze hate … it’s contagious.

What strange times we live in. 
As the pestilence of hate flies free from its constraints, the haters come out in force, prompting the non-haters to begin to hate the haters, thus becoming haters.

I’ve been living in Ajijic, Mexico, for five months, long enough to become aware of how hard most of us try to respect the cultural and logistical differences here. Most of us are at least attempting to learn the language and revel in the colorful art, customs and history. Of course, there are those few who, knowingly or unknowingly, are rude, inconsiderate, and boorish.

Facebook is a huge connector here with pages created for almost every possible interest. This week a thread was started recounting the rude behavior of a woman in a local restaurant. It was a trigger because most of us hate the thought of being an “ugly American” and when we see someone doing that, it pushes our buttons.

All the pushed buttons on this page exploded into a torrent of outrage, name calling, and threatened violence. No one on this thread knew this woman. No one knew what she might be going through or what her life was like. She had obviously had a moment of rudeness. However, is she an evil, bad person or did she just do something stupid? No one knows.

When the good guys become haters, what does it say about our world? The folks on this thread were the “good guys,” the people who want people to be treated with respect and kindness, and yet the hate-filled ugliness they spewed into a public forum toward an unknown woman made my head spin.
I tried a mild diversion with some humor. It didn’t work. They were committed to their angry self-righteousness and, apparently, just thought I was being funny. One commenter with an Asian name expressed his sympathy for the woman. They ignored him as if he hadn’t spoken. 

The thread went on for the better part of a hundred comments before I dropped off, befuddled by the venom. The woman hadn’t struck anyone or damaged any property. While she was apparently rude, she hadn’t called anyone names. The response on this Facebook thread felt like a form of mob mentality.

It made me wonder if hate and anger are contagious. No surprise: many other people are thinking the same thing. Time Magazine ran an article in June, 2017, titled “The Rage Flu: Why All This Anger Is Contagious and Making us Sick.” It’s an interesting article with many valid points. The one  that struck me most came from a massive study that stated "anger is particularly contagious on social media.” It apparently spreads faster and more broadly than any other emotion.

Hate comes from anger and fear. Could it be possible that our Facebook/Twitter expressions of outrage and all those handy little anger emojis are spreading a plague of hate? Could that be a factor in the hate we see all around us in today’s world? Maybe it’s not just the hater-in-chief that’s to blame … maybe it’s our hatred of his hatred that is spreading the hatred.

It’s time to stop. Here are five actions I intend to implement immediately.

5 Ways to Avoid the Contagion of Hate
  1. Never express anger on social media.
  2. Hate is a fire … don’t feed it. Labels and name calling are like pouring gasoline on the fire.
  3. React to the action … not the person. The action may be wrong or even evil. The person, every person, is capable of good and bad. Help them see a better way.
  4. Look inside … choose kindness. Explore how and why the action is pushing your anger or hate button. Find a way to be kind.
  5. Be an example … don’t tolerate hate. Humans are social animals and peer influence creates cultural norms. Eliminate rage and hate from your own behaviors and call them out (gently and kindly) when you see them in others or on social media.

There's a new mural in town

Day 4/100 
I love wall art. This one is by Irish street artist Karma, who has become well known for his political stencil work that critiques capitalism and the absurdities of modern life.

There is something about art that is free and available to everyone who happens to walk by.  No blue ribbons, cocktail chatter openings, no art-as-investment talk. Just an artist putting his or her creation on a blank wall. There is a fresh vulnerability and a openness to connection that touches me.

Here's another one of his, a little sharper than the one above. Source: Widewalls

A week or so ago, I was shocked to see a solid, white wall on my evening walk. I don’t remember what was there before, but I know it wasn’t white, which must be the loneliest color in Ajijic. 
It took me awhile to notice the artist and the beginnings of the mural which were hidden behind a car. 
Ajijic Mural by Romy Guevara
 I stopped to chat with the artist Romy Guevara and saw the design for the entire wall. Now, I look forward to seeing the progress every night.
Tonight I noticed the addition of a blue pig with wings and heard the entertaining story about how the pig became Romy’s talisman. He is now known as Mr. Blue Pig.
Romy Guevara and his blue pig
For any of you who are locals here in Ajijic, Romy’s studio is at 41 Colon and his wall is on Colon and 16 de Septiembre. Stay tuned for progress images. You can like his Facebook at Romy Guevara ... you'll see the picture of his pig.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

What's it all about?

Tulip Abundance
"We delight in the beauty of the butterfly,
but rarely admit the changes
it has gone through to achieve that beauty."
-- Maya Angelou

Day 3/100

Call it art. Call it hubris. 
This act of taking something, be it raw color, a musical note, a lump of clay, a bit of bright pixels, a seed of possibility that with the proper care might turn into a turnip, a tulip, or a new technology, this reworking of what is into something new, nurturing an essence into an expression, … this is what we do.

We call it creation, call ourselves creators, call our work creative. It’s part of each of us, perhaps the most essential aspect of this stage of development we call human. 
Created, we create. Evolved, we evolve the world around us. (Assuming, of course, we are fortunate enough to live in a world where our basic needs of food, water, shelter, and safety are met.)

However, the question always remains: in service of what do we create these expressions? Survival? Growth? Transformation? Beauty?

Orange Tulip from Ananda Village
Yesterday, I was filled with joy because an art piece I was working on “worked.” It pleased me.

This morning, I wonder if I added anything to the mix. Is my “Tulip Abundance" better than the actual tulip captured by my camera many mornings ago? And, is that tulip “better” than the potential residing in the bulb from whence it came? 
It reminds me of a song from my youth … “What’s it all about, Alfie?"

Wikipedia: "Alfie" is a song written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David to promote the 1966 film Alfie. The song was a major hit for Cilla Black (UK) and Dionne Warwick (US). 
Click here to hear Dionne Warwick sing "Alfie"