Saturday, March 31, 2018

Turning my ship (mood) around

Monstera  Deliciosa (See below)
What I thought was an ugly vine, bloomed for the first time today. It took me awhile to recognize its beauty ... a clue that something was off.
I didn’t recognize this as “one of those days” when I first woke up. The morning was peaceful, quiet, birds singing, sun shining … in other words, a normal day here in Ajijic. It wasn’t until I was sitting with my journal, making a “to do” list for the day that I thought there might be an issue. I couldn’t decide what to put on the list … what I wanted to do with my lovely, open day. I always have stuff I want to do, but this morning nothing was grabbing me, so I drifted into Facebook. Probably not a good choice … endless steps down a dark … and addictive … trail. (We all need to go back to cute cats.)

Finally, I pulled myself out the door for what was to be a long walk. Which direction? Long walks branch off in several directions. But, I turned in the one direction that involved a short walk to the coffee shop, trying to figure out if I wanted hot or cold coffee. Even that decision seemed out of reach.

In spite of a beautifully presented latte, and whining on Facebook, I still felt blah, so I started through my Rolodex of helpful tools … 
  • AWARE … Ask why, allow reflection, exhale. Wrote a bit in my journal, but words weren’t helping.
  • H.A.L.T. … Hungry, angry, lonely, tired. Not enough sleep, so probably touching on all of these. Thought the Facebook thing might help, and it did a bit.
All of this reminded me of a recent conversation with a friend who has experience with depression. She mentioned that she monitored her mood when she was going through a particularly troubled time, and when she showed her chart to her doctor, he proscribed medication which had turned out to be very helpful. During the conversation, she mentioned that, even now, a good day was a 7 on a scale of 1 to 10. 

That startled me because she’s a very upbeat and positive person. It reminded me that my husband, who battled depression, once mentioned that a good day for him was also a 7. Having never had more than fleeting feelings of depression, I became curious about how I would rate my own mood. This, of course, meant developing my own scale, since I didn’t like any of the ones I found online … although I borrowed from them liberally.  Here’s the mood chart I now use:

Mood Chart
 For a few weeks, I tracked my mood and found that I almost always wake up at 6 or 7 and have moments of 8 and 9 most days. Level 10 seems to require focus and intention. I quit tracking after awhile because it was always the same.

This morning, sitting in the coffee shop, trying to figure out what was wrong, I checked the chart and realized I was at 4. What a shock! However, I was also a bit relieved because it made me think the issue was lack of sleep as much as anything. The major hit of caffeine meant I probably wasn’t going to take a nap anytime soon, so either this was going to be a wasted day or I needed to try one or more of the mood lifters on the list I had created with the mood chart. My list includes:
    — Remember: this, too, shall pass
    — Write gratitudes
    — Brainstorm an idea
    — Dance to hi-energy music … 3-song dance
    — Walk (plus hi-energy music … or in nature)
    — Make art, take photos, organize photos
    — Make collages or work in journals
    — Connect with someone

The challenge with this approach is energy. All of them require energy and a willingness to take responsibility for my mood. I really just wanted to whine and have an excuse to be a sloth. 
Finally, I opted for the 3-song dance and turned on Jeremy Buck’s, “Turn My Ship Around.” For many years now, I’ve found myself obsessing on a particular song, playing it over and over. “Turn My Ship Around” is my current obsession but I have a whole playlist of songs that have called to me. 
This one is a “must-dance” song so I repeated it three times, generating almost a thousand steps in those few minutes and starting an energy flow that allowed me to make a healthy and colorful breakfast … and start to examine the whole mood process in this post.

Bottomline: Moods fluctuate. However, there is a point where energy falls below the level needed to lift the mood. That’s a danger zone and having your own mood chart and strategies can help. Feel free to use the ones I’ve shared … however, it’s probably even better to create your own. What I recognize now is that while I’m writing it to clarify my own process, I’m hoping it might help anyone reading it. Since this is an attempt at generosity … mood level 9 … it is therefore raising my own mood, creating a beneficial cycle.

Thanks to all of you. We’re all connected on this journey, even though we frequently forget our connection. I now feel safe, trusting, hopeful (a solid 6) … well enough to give myself permission to have a quiet, low-energy day, nap included!
And, here's my mood lifter, in case you'd like to listen and watch:
Click here to listen: Turn My Ship Around

Monstera deliciosa - Windowleaf, Ceriman, Swiss-cheese plant, Breadfruit vine, Hurricane plant, Mexican breadfruit, Fruit-salad plant, Window plant, Split leaf Philodendron, and Cut leaf Philodendron.

One of about 30 species of monster, Monstera delicosa is the most well known indoor plant of its type in the world. A native of Mexico it has been cultivated as a house plant in cooler countries and in tropical and sub tropical countries it is often grown as a garden plant because of its unusual foliage and edible fruit. The name Monstera is suggested to have been derived from the large curiously perforated leaves which might mean a monstrosity.

This plant has so many common names which shows how popular it is. Windowleaf, Ceriman, Swiss-cheese plant, Breadfruit vine, Hurricane plant, Mexican breadfruit, Fruit-salad plant, Window plant, Split leaf Philodendron, and Cut leaf Philodendron. There may be more local common names as well.  This is a good example of why people need to use the correct botanical name because using the common name/s means many people will not know what pant is being talked or written about.

In nature it climbs up trees and may reach about 10 metres in length while in cultivation it may climb trees or a variety of other structures.

The shining green leaves which are also thick and leathery grow to about 40cm x 60cm and are perforated with neat curving holes making a nice even pattern not at all like a monstrosity. Sold as an indoor plant it is marketed for its foliage and its ability to grow well in a variety of indoor situations.

It is somewhat unusual to see the flowers as it needs, like all plants, similar conditions/climate to its native habitat. In large tropical greenhouses or tropical or subtropical gardens where it can grow freely flowers will occur. First we see the large spathe, a single greenish creamy white boat shaped structure up to 35cm long. Inside is the upright spadex or flower stalk (which looks similar to a corn cob)   which is a dense many flowered structure which remains green and solid long after the spathe has  finished. The fruit, when ripe is succulent and edible with a pineapple flavour. To eat the fruit pick it and place in a paper bag until the individual kernels pop off and show the edible flesh underneath. Just cut this away from the core and eat.

Usually it is propagated by cuttings from the adult section of the plant which means we rarely see the juvenile growth when the leaves are smaller and not perforated. With modern propagation techniques like meristem culture plants grown this way will go through the juvenile state to adult state. Purchasing small new plants will enable you to observe the proper growing cycle of this plant.

As it grows large, fat, light brown aerial roots will appear from the main stem and hang down. They absorb moisture from the air and in the wild will take root when they hit the ground.

Monstera deliciosa is a very popular attractive indoor plant which is very easy to grow and always looks good. It will catch a lot of dust on the leaves but a quick wipe with a damp cloth and diluted all seasons spraying oil brings it back to its bright green state. 
Older plants in cultivation may have grown quite leggy and look somewhat straggly. It can be rejuvenated by pruning off part of the long stem just above a green leaf. A new shoot will grow from this point. The piece that has been removed can be used as a cutting (or several cuttings) to grow plants to give away to friends and neighbours.


Friday, March 30, 2018

Another surprise from Mexico

As sometimes happens, snafus occur at the worst moments. This morning, about an hour before one of the biggest days of the year for Mexico, the power went out here in Ajijic. I’m sure a lot of the people involved with the Good Friday passion play were affected much more than I was. 
For me, it was a minor setback to find that the camera battery I thought was fully charged, had somehow discharged, and the one in my camera was only half full. So, without power to recharge, I was off to watch the Passion of Christ play in the church square knowing that I couldn’t take hundreds of pictures as I would normally.

The square was filled with people vying for scraps of shade. A long line of people stood side-by-side in the thin shadow of a palm tree, while others arranged ancient gray-metal folding chairs in rows around the stage. Soon an angelic aria wafted from the blue curtain backdrop where people readied for the coming performance. Unfortunately, a generator roared to life behind me, making it impossible to hear or see the performance as the crowd almost instantly swelled to hundreds blocking my carefully chosen square of shade which had once had a clear view of the stage.

I notice a tattered Mexican flag flying at half-mast while the silver cross at the top of the church caught glints from the intense sun. Seeing little but the backs of people's heads and the sky above us, I moved toward the plaza, stopping to watch a man sell empanadas … piña, crema, fresca … next to the churro cart. Abundant food is always a part of Mexican celebrations. The plaza was relatively empty so I settled onto a concrete bench to wait for the parade to come.

I was there purely as a photographer and observer. While raised in a Christian environment, I left the church many years ago and the rituals and celebrations aren’t a big part of my life. However, here in Mexico, the Church is a major part of the culture and I wanted to experience it ... and take pictures. 

As the gates to the church square opened, and the play continued into the streets, I began to take the few photos my battery life would allow. It took awhile, but soon I began to realize how much the re-enactment was touching me. It’s a story I’ve lived with my entire life, but watching men carrying crosses through the streets, their backs red with whippings, made the story more real and moved me in a way I did not expect.

Mexico continually surprises me. But, then, there are also always the dogs. If any of you want to know ... and see ... more about Holy Week here in Mexico, I highly recommend this blog:

Easter Dog

Thursday, March 29, 2018

No need to be surprised: Koan Art

The time has come by Joyce Wycoff

Before I left Grass Valley to move to Ajijic, I started meeting with a meditation group that uses koans as part of the practice. Officially, koans can be defined as:  a paradox to be meditated upon that is used to train Zen Buddhist monks to abandon ultimate dependence on reason and to force them into gaining sudden intuitive enlightenment. 

However, we were neither monks nor trying to abandon reason, but we did often have insights that felt enlightening.

This morning, I was cleaning a bunch of papers that had somehow gathered themselves into a pile when I thought I had gotten rid of all my piles. Apparently, I got rid of the piles but not the pile-maker. Anyway, I found one of the koans we had used and it intrigued me so much that I decided to use it as an art prompt. 
Here’s the koan:

It’s past midnight, the moon has not risen.
In the thick, deep dark, you meet a face from long ago,
But you don’t recognize them.
No need to be surprised.

Hacienda entrance
One of the reasons I love this way of making art is that I never know where it’s going … or where I’m going. I started thinking about faces from long ago and imagining family members, lost loves, even myself as a child. The “long ago” part also made me want a frame that suggested old, so I pulled one of the photos taken during the hacienda tour last week. I particularly liked this one because of the branches in the background, although I thought I’d wind up removing all of them. 
 However, when I tried a blend mode, the whole thing turned mystical and seemed to have that “deep dark” feeling from the koan.

Since I needed a place to meet the face from long ago, I decided there needed to be a path to meet on.  If you could see a larger view, you would see that it's completely out of focus. Digital art doesn't care!
 At this point, I was starting to like where this was going but still had no idea who I was going to meet. After trying several real and figurative faces, I was getting frustrated. I knew it was a woman and probably not someone I actually knew. Searching my photo base for women, I found a piece of wall art that looked like a candidate. I had taken the photo because I liked the woman’s stance. Again, not a good photo.

She is a piece of a mural by local artist Javier Zaragoza depicting the history of the area. Below is an internet photo of the entire mural. I knew she was the one as soon as she dropped into the image. But I still didn’t know why there was no need to be surprised. Only as I went back to the original mural, as well as the tour of the haciendas, did I feel the connection to the past and the present. 
While there are layers of the past everywhere, here in Mexico, the layers seem to be a part of everything. The celebrations, the costumes, the ruins of buildings and civilizations past … all seem to be woven into the present. 

Somehow, this koan art makes me feel connected to the past and to the women and men who came to this beautiful lake so many centuries ago. 
When I look at this image, I feel like she, the priestess, is telling me that this present moment is also a future moment of the past, an illusion of permanence. Like her, we … I ... will always be approaching new doorways into unknown places, following the light of what calls me. There is no reason to be surprised. A familiar message.
The other thing I love about koans is that any other artist would take that same koan and come up with a completely different image. 

Should any of you other artists feel so inclined to make art from this koan, I'd love to have you share your image in the comments section below.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Haciendas in Mexico ... where the past and future mix and mingle

Hacienda ruins
Hacienda tower with gun slits
In a time before backhoes and jackhammers, sewer systems, and electric lights, in a highland filled with wild cattle and endless vistas, hundreds of haciendas of the wealthy created a network of commerce and life across Mexico.  
Yesterday, Jim Cook led us on a walk back in time as we toured the ruins of four of those haciendas and tried to imagine a different world ... one where it required gun slits to protect your property.

When Jim and his wife Carole arrived in Ajijic almost eleven years ago, they began to document their travels and adventures in what has become an extremely popular and informative travel blog … Jim and Carole’s Mexico Adventure. Jim generously invites people to join him on his explorations, so we met early yesterday and headed out to explore a way of life that no longer exists.

From home to bank to ???
The ruins we toured were mostly two-to-three hundred years old: an eye-blink on the grand scale of history, and yet close enough to our own time to see the relentless forces of change. 
Two hundred years ago a wealthy land owner built a casa grande attracting the likes of revolutionary hero Miguel Hidalgo y Castillo on November 24,1810, only two months after his famous "Grito de Dolores" calling people to join him in the Mexican rebellion. 
The hacienda included housing for at least some of his workers, his own opera house (where Porfirio Diaz attended a performance), and a railway and station.
Plaque commemorating Hidalgo's visit
However, the owner's world and fortunes changed: his home became a bank, his chapel the town church, the opera house a library and event center, and the railroad station sits surrounded by chain link fencing, waiting for the next wave of change. Today, even the bank is gone yielding to progress as a central plaza develops. 
Abandoned railway station

As we walked through these ruins, though, I also saw the relentlessness of life: weeds and cactus growing on the tops of crumbling walls, cows and goats thriving in a feed lot of what probably used to be a grand garden, flowers blooming on a broken aqueduct that ran for at least a half-a-mile across the former lands of the hacienda, a pony suckling his mom while we watched.


Also, of course, what would any adventure be without a story? At one of the haciendas, we met a man who shared a name with a famous artist. He showed us some ancient artifacts he had found ... for sale, of course. A great deal of conversation ensued about their beauty and authenticity. It added to the richness of the day.
The oldest building we saw was a Hospital for Indios en Santa Cruz El Grande. It was apparently built in 1534 with an outdoor cross where large gatherings of native people were "converted." Services were ongoing when we arrived so we could see inside the structure but did not go in.

I have to wonder what I would see if two-, three- or four-hundred years from now, I could walk through my world of today. Which of today’s wonders will be repurposed into something I can’t even imagine today … and which will become simply ruins to make people of the future ponder the past?
“This, too, shall pass,” the philosophers say. Yesterday made me think we should add the words ... "but life goes on."

Thanks to Jim Cook and all the caretakers and key-carriers who generously opened their buildings and their days to share their history with our small caravan of explorers.
Stopping for a picnic along the way.
Jim’s itinerary for the day and the google map for where we would be exploring:

Hacienda La Campana- near Poncitlán. 19th century (possibly earlier) ruins at the edge of the small pueblo of the same name. Very interesting and photogenic site with beautiful countryside.

Hacienda San Jacinto - 18th century (at least) ruins in the small pueblo of same name. Also photogenic

Hacienda Atequiza - 17th century, located in town of same name. One of the largest and most famous of Guadalajara area haciendas. In 19th century, the owner built his own opera house and railroad station. Very interesting hacienda chapel is now the town church.
Hacienda Miraflores- Only a couple of miles from Atequiza. 18th century ruins with some very unusual 19th century additions.


Saturday, March 17, 2018

Why I need a monthly death day

"We do not know where death awaits us:
so let us wait for it everywhere.
To practice death is to practice freedom.
A person who has learned how to die
has unlearned how to be a slave."
  -- Michel de Montaigne

A few years ago I started annually celebrating my  “Death Day.” 

While we know the day we were born, few of us know the day we will die. So, picking a day as my death day was a way to remember that I will die and to remind me to live fully and appreciate each day of life until then. June 17 became my death day as it was half way between birth days.

Last year, I decided that once a year was not enough and began to celebrate the 17th of every month as a day to prepare myself and my stuff for the end of this existence … and a reminder to celebrate the time I have given to me.

Part of today’s activities will be to take care of administrative functions … pick up my health care information package and actually do the paper work of medical directives, etc. Here in Mexico, you need to have a doctor involved, and I’ve finally decided which doctor I want to see, so Monday I’ll make that appointment.

The bigger part of today is to ask myself: If I died tomorrow, what would I be sad about leaving incomplete or undone?

I like the quote above because of the sense of freedom it offers. If I’ve tied up my loose ends physically, emotionally and spiritually, I am free to use my time in whatever ways I choose. Go anywhere, do anything … or not go anywhere and stay home and do nothing. 

Whatever I do, I’ve picked one criteria: to connect me more deeply to myself and the world around me. Since connection is an ever-expanding, never-ending process, it will never be “done.” As long as I stay true to that path, there will always be a next-step … and the last step will always be enough. Being grateful for and gladdened by each sunset means there will be no grief when the next transition takes me to a place of no sunsets. Of course, that is an assumption I’m making about the whatever comes next.

One of my favorite quotes from Henry Miller relates to all of this: 
The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware ... joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely … aware.      
I am human, of course, so I forget all of the above almost every day. That’s why I need a monthly death day … to remind me to be aware of all the beauty, joy, sorrow and pain that surrounds me. If I can do that, when the actual day of passing comes, I will be awash in gratitude for all the gifts that came to me during my life. 
Photo for the Miller quote: One of the many beautiful doorways here in Ajijic, Mexico.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Egret Dance

Egret Dance by Joyce Wycoff
When I first came to Lake Chapala, I was enchanted by the American White Pelicans, their graceful gliding across the water and the high contrast of their white bodies on the dark waters of morning and evenings. Over time though, it was the egrets I fell in love with and the ones that started demanding their place in my art.

Egrets are part of the heron family and the ones here at the lake are mainly snowy or great egrets. It is apparently mating season now and watching the males fluff themselves up and dart at a normally uninterested female always makes me laugh. As these charming birds have taken over a great deal of my photography and art time, I’ve come to think of them as a “totem.” Basil Johnston, in his 1990 book, “Ojibway Heritage,” says that a totem is “that from which I draw my purpose, meaning, and being.”

I’ve thought about that statement a lot. Egrets are considered messengers in the world of animal/totem symbology, so I’ve wondered what message it is that they are trying to deliver. On one level, I just like the way they look and they seem to snuggle into whatever art I’m making, giving it a richness and life that it didn’t have before they showed up. On another level, it feels like there’s more there, some connection I haven’t quite grasped.

Krista Schwimmer offers an interesting article from her time of watching these birds. She states: 
Watching an egret fish is particularly engaging. I love especially how the bird stirs the water with its beautiful, yellow feet. For me, this gesture with its cheery feet symbolizes the importance of approaching work with an element of enthusiasm.

In her wonderful deck called “the Medicine Cards”, Jamie Sams talks about the message of the heron. She says it is about bringing balance between the mind and the emotions.
I’ll take those ideas for now and try to stay open to other messages this snowy bird offers.

Egret Dance is a piece that emerged from a previous work. I awoke one morning with an idea for adding texture and depth to my images. That led to hours of exploring techniques and being somewhat pleased with the result. However, as much as I liked the color and composition, the piece just sat there until the egrets came waltzing in. I caught these two in their mating dance … an unsuccessful dance … and suddenly the piece felt more alive.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Reclaiming my lost emoji

Enneagram from David O. Wolfe
Breathe in peace. Breathe out love.

During decades of searching for harmony and peace, I let go of judgment, stopped taking things personally, and accepted my perfect imperfection. I learned to remain calm in the face of loss and pain, and I became a survivor, a peace advocate, a conflict avoider.

Well, at least that’s what I thought until one sunny afternoon found me in a garden gazebo in an Enneagram class, a place I really didn’t want to be. 

I had explored the Enneagram in 1992 and found it confusing. I didn’t want to go to the class but my friend, Leela Harlem, needed support and that was more important than spending a quiet afternoon on my own projects so off I went, expecting nothing.

When I arrived, there were chairs to be set up and stuff to be organized. I felt useful, if not fully engaged. Leela and I had talked enough to renew my vague memories of which of the Enneagram’s nine types most fit me; the 7 (the enthusiast) and/or a 4 (individualist/romantic). I confidently put those labels on my name tag.

The nine Enneagram types are divided into three centers: Thinking, Feeling, Instinctive, with each center having a "powerful, largely unconscious emotional response” … Thinking types respond with fear; Feeling types with shame, and Instinctive types with anger. Since I’ve spent a good deal of my life overcoming fear, I decided my “type” had to be in the Thinking/fear center and chose 7 as the best fit.

However, as Leela went through an overview of the types, neither 7 nor 4 seemed quite right. Since nothing else made sense, I just shrugged it off. It wasn’t until we were engaged with an exercise to “walk the types,” that I really began to wonder where I fit. As we were shown how to walk through the space as if we were each of the types, 7 called to me a little, but nothing really resonated … until we hit 9. 

The Enneagram nine immediately felt like me … but that couldn’t be … that one was related to anger. I don’t have anger, and I’m definitely not driven by anger. I tried to brush it away. It just didn’t make sense. I’m calm, easy-going, flexible. I don’t get mad.

Something brought me to this class, though. What if I had missed a piece in all my years of self-exploration?  What if anger really is a part of my being? … A piece I’ve missed in all the books and retreats and workshops I’ve taken trying to figure out who I am and what I’m here to learn.

Nah. Surely not.

I have a calm button. I never yell or cry over spilled milk. I never use the Facebook angry emoji even with the current state of our world where so many things seem crazy and upsetting. It’s important to find the positive, to stay calm and balanced. Buying into the conflict of the world isn’t going to help anyone, including myself.  
Be the change you want to see in the world. Be love.

Breathe in peace. Breathe out love.

I believe those things. I truly believe those things. In my head, I know they’re true. 

However, with morning came the yearning to know what this anger thing was all about. I had to admit I grew up with angry parents in an environment that had no tolerance for a child’s anger. Words said in conflict would be forgotten five minutes later … at least by my parents. Somehow though, they seemed to stay with me like ant bites, red and itchy. Angry responses on my part met with physical repercussions. It didn’t take long to recognize that the best strategy was silence and appeasement.

Reading about Enneagram nines, I  found a common message about anger going to sleep and being denied. Here’s one comment that struck home:

According to Jerome Wagner, in The Enneagram Spectrum of Personality Styles, the defense mechanism favored by 9s is narcotization:
To avoid conflict you numb your feelings, wants, and preferences. You make everything the same and highlight nothing. You make molehills out of mountains.
Perhaps a new piece of my journey of waking up to myself is just beginning. I don’t think I’m in danger of becoming a rage-aholic. I highly value the part of me that is a peacemaker. However, I am starting to realize that maybe there is an element of anger … both at myself and the world. A few weeks ago, a friend and I started a Facebook page: Bold Storm Rising, after the school shooting in Florida. As we were setting it up, I remembered the line from the movie, Network: 

"I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.”

Until yesterday’s Enneagram class, I rejected that line as not productive. Slowly however, I’m starting to accept that I am angry. I am angry that all of us baby boomers who thought we would change the world, lost our way and the children today are having to stand up and say: ENOUGH! 
I am angry that we may have trashed our beautiful planet beyond redemption. I am angry that I thought denying my own anger was a way to stay safe. I am angry that it has taken me so long to discover the well of my own anger.

I don’t know where this is going, but, if you're on Facebook, I expect you’ll see a lot more angry emojis coming from me. And, if you’re interested in the Enneagram, there is a lot of information available on the Internet, and Leela Harlem is always willing to do coaching or group work:

There are many Enneagram tests online, some are free, some charge a small fee. Read your results and see if they make sense for you. Here's one to get you started ... who knows you might be surprised, too!

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Sunday Review: Connecting through art

Time to Move On
The young, Mexican man stared at “Time to Move On” for a long time, long enough that I thought he might have a question. I floundered around in Spanish for a few moments before he quietly replied in English. He repeated the question above the image twice because it was written in both languages … Time to move on … from what? … to what?

Searching for conversation, I explained that one section of the image was from Oaxaca … the massive buildings and the parades that turned the walking streets into rivers of people … and the egret was from here, at the lake. I was surprised when, after many more quiet moments of staring, he asked about buying it and said he had to make a call because she had the money. She apparently wasn’t home and as he was leaving, I asked his name: Roberto.

It was my initial conversation in the opening of Ajijic’s first digital art show: four artists with very different styles working in an arena that a lot of people don’t understand. “What is digital art?” was a common question.
Digital art is art made with electronic tools … cameras, Photoshop, Painter and other software. It can be super-realistic or wildly abstract. Digital art is not a style … it’s a way of making an image, sometimes starting with photos or scans, sometimes “painted" on the screen with a stylus or mouse, sometimes feeding algorithms into a software program. Like acrylics, oils, watercolors or pastels, “digital” is simply a media.
The underlying question of "Why?"

Recently, in one of those trying-to-figure-out-who-I-am exercises, I was searching for the underlying reason of why I make art. Below the sheer joy of putting images together to see what comes forth, I wanted to understand what my purpose was in making art and why I seemed to be drawn to putting it out into the world. Why wasn’t it enough to just make it and let it sit in the electronic attic of my computer?

I’ve now been in enough galleries and shows to understand how hard it is to sell art … especially wall art. I’m not particularly driven to do the work necessary to become a commercially viable artist. And, yet, having my work seen is important to me. It’s a part of being visible in the world. 

In my exploration of “why,” the word “connection" appeared over and over. Eventually I realized that making art is how I connect to myself and to the world around me. It helps me see what I wouldn't see just walking through my life. And, putting it out to be seen is an act of courage, of being vulnerable, being open to rejection, indifference … or connection. It’s a fragile tendril stretching toward the warmth and light of personal engagement.

Beyond the Boundaries
It became clear that connection is my “why.” To build that into my art and the digital art show, I adopted the tagline, Connecting through art, and devoted part of my wall to questions. People were invited to put their thoughts and answers on the board around the image (push pins, sticky notes, and pens provided). Not everyone did, of course, but some folks did, and some deeper conversations were prompted. 

At the end of the opening, my friend Marge had sold one of her paintings. I had sold none. In a judged show which opened at the same time, I received no awards from the judges. As much as I had armed myself for disappointment, I felt deflated, defeated. I had put my best foot forward and the Universe neither clapped nor showered me with fortune or fame. Afterwards, in the solitude of my apartment, I wanted to pull up the covers and quit.

Fortunately, morning came and I remembered Roberto and those silent moments when we had both stood staring at an image that had come from within me. In those moments, we were connected. I remembered that my “why” was not about sales or ribbons; it was about recognizing my connection to myself and to the Universe. Quitting would mean giving up a piece of myself and all those possible connections that might be sparked by my images.

Scientists have recently discovered cave art, done by Neanderthals 65,000 years ago. We may not know exactly why they made their art, but it seems obvious that they weren't doing it for money or ribbons, so perhaps I'm in good company ... or maybe, I need to find a friendly cave.

P.S. After I write about something, I like to see what others say. In this case, I found an article from Greater Good Magazine: "Why we make art."

There I found a statement by Harrell Fletcher which could be an intention statement for me ... as a matter of fact it is going to be my intention statement for 2018:
So back to the question why I make art. In my case, the projects that I do allow me to meet people I wouldn’t ordinarily meet, travel to places I wouldn’t normally go to, learn about subjects that I didn’t know I would be interested in, and sometimes even help people out in small ways that make me feel good. I like to say that what I’m after is to have an interesting life, and doing the work that I do as an artist helps me achieve that.
Harrell Fletcher teaches in the art department at Portland State University. He has exhibited at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Berkeley Art Museum, Socrates Sculpture Park in New York, and in numerous other museums and galleries around the world. In 2002, Fletcher started Learning To Love You More, a participatory website with Miranda July, which they turned into a book, published in 2007. Fletcher is the recipient of the 2005 Alpert Award in Visual Arts.