Armature: NYC Liz Ainslie Art Opening

This week’s blog is coming early to coincide with an art opening that may be of interest to you New York City folks…

I met Liz Ainslie at the Millay Colony for the Arts, nearly six years ago now.  I was writing and she was working on her paintings.  Liz was not a painter of portraits, of landscapes, but of shapes, which fascinated me because I could still feel emotion in the work without human likeness or association with human experiences (like a pleasant outdoor scene that a person would likely enjoy, etc.).

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“At Bay,” 2016, oil on linen, 48″x36”

It’s easy to spend a lot of time in front of her work, letting your eyes trace the differences between lines and colors, some of which blend and coincide, others which conflict or combat one another.  I like her work because I feel there are different stories in there that can be written by each unique viewer, purely based on the way each viewer’s own brain unpacks and makes sense of the colors and lines painted there, in various relation to each other.

I am no art critic, but I am a word-nerd, and “Armature,” as her new show at Transmitter is named, is defined by the free dictionary as either:

1. Electricity

a. The rotating part of a dynamo, consisting essentially of copper wire wound around an iron core.
b. The moving part of an electromagnetic device such as a relay, buzzer, or loudspeaker.
c. A piece of soft iron connecting the poles of a magnet.
2. Biology A protective covering, structure, or organ of an animal or a plant, such as teeth, claws, thorns, or the shell of a turtle, or:
3. A framework serving as a supporting core for the material used to make a sculpture.

 

In all cases, the term has to do with varying degrees of structure, and in my read, it’s not only the way the paintings are structured that interests here, but how the viewer structures perception or emotional reaction around the shapes on the canvas.

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“Flipsy,” 2016, oil on canvas, 48″x36″                      “Pooling,” 2016, oil on linen, 12″x9″

 

Was I right about any of this regarding her original intent?  I didn’t know!  So I decided to ask her a few questions last night, just prior to her opening:

1. Hi Liz!  Why do you paint? 

I paint in order to see an impression of my own perception, distorted through translation. Each time I mix a color on the palette and place the brush on the canvas, I’m reworking my definitions of abstraction, painting, and observation.

2. Why do you paint what you paint?

Abstraction is the most generative type of painting for me. By creating rules that guide each series of paintings, I set up a continuously shifting puzzle. Right now I’m working with several basic drawings that repeat throughout the series. The drawings function like armatures upon which I can intuitively to build complex compositions through color and material.

3. What kind of a role does painting occupy in your life overall?

Painting and drawing have defined my life as long as I can remember. I need to be making something in order to feel balanced. It’s just who I am.

4. What inspires your work?  

Traveling abroad. On trips, I always notice the specificity of light, color, and perspective in new landscapes.

Making observational drawings. I like the act of translating what I’m seeing physically to the paper quickly before it changes. This lack of hesitation opens new pathways.

I like to dance in my studio. My paintings are getting larger so I’m finding full body movement to be more influential.

5. How do you hope your work impacts your audience, whomever they may be?

I hope as people encounter the paintings they are drawn to spend time looking at them. Since my process welcomes unexpected outcomes, I hope viewers will get a sense of my experience making them. I want them to be analogous to poetry. Good poetry can be analyzed based on knowledge of the medium, but can serve just as much purpose being read plainly for what the sensory experience provides.

6. If you could say or give one thing to a young/emerging painter, what would it be?

Don’t be afraid to make some bad paintings. You have to get through it in order to develop a lasting methodology.

*****

So, food for thought this week, NOMADs, whether you paint or care to interpret this medium: a meditation on structure and how structure (yours or those imposed by others forces) impact and inform your work, your process, is the enterprise of the week, should you choose to accept it.

Thanks for the inspiration, Liz!

Interested parties can find more about Liz andher work here: http://www.lizainslie.com/

And her show details:

ARMATURE: New Paintings by Liz Ainslie
June 23 – July 30, 2017 at Transmitter:

1329 Willoughby Ave. 2A, Brooklyn, NY 11237
Weekends 1–6 pm and by appointment
info@transmitter.nyc

Opening Reception: Friday June 23, 6–9pm

 

 

Fathers in Sketch

I wanted to write a tribute to Father’s day, one, it is today, and two, blog writing is not easy for me and this idea seemed obvious.

However, my dark my mind immediately thought of Goya’s Saturn Devouring His Son. The painting depicts the Greek allegory of Kronos, a Titan God who craves power so much he is willing to eat his children to prevent the prophecy of being overthrown by an offspring from coming true.  Eventually, his is tricked and one of the children is hidden away from his reach. When he grows he revolts against his father to become the new leader of the gods, better known as Zeus.

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Francisco Goya. Saturn Devouring His Son. c. 1819-1823. Black Paintings Series. Oil Mural transferred to Canvas.

 

Here is another version of the same story.

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Peter Paul Rubens. Saturn, Jupiter’s father, devours one of his sons, Neptune. 1636-1638. oil on canvas.

Personally, I enjoy Goya’s version more.  I feel like you can see the fear of losing one’s power.   To my understanding, Greco-Roman gods depict human emotions within themselves, but in much more extreme conditions.  Kronos’ fear of losing celestial control outweighs his fatherly duty so much that he is willing to consume his sons and daughters to prevent revolution, and by doing so himself to that very destiny.  Evil obsesses, devastates, and eventually its own creation swallows itself whole.

Speaking of creation, and religion, my mind also turns to another obvious and famous painting, The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo.  This story derives from the Book of Genesis and tells how God created mankind in his likeness, the very first being Adam.  Of course, by this time, Christianity has already determined that God is a white man of European descent.  It is still impressive to think Michelangelo painted this on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel entirely while straining his neck to slowly build this masterpiece.

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Michaelangelo. The Creation of Adam. The Sistine Chapel. c. 1512. Fresco.

As we all know, Adam eventually falls in God’s eyes (famously blamed on Eve) and is cast away from the Garden of Eden.  Just like the Greek Gods, this monotheistic God is also full of earthy emotions and known for being extremely vengeful.

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William Blake. God Judging Adam.  1795.  relief etching.

Vengeful fathers are not just synonymous with religion, it also reaches many parts of the human condition, in this case, represented in the literature by Shakespeare.   Hamlet is haunted by the ghost of his father, possibly in the case to ask his son to avenge his death. Or to tilt Hamlet’s sanity in the observer’s eyes.  Either way, the picture by Delacroix is a haunting depiction of a father and son’s relationship.

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And to leave you on a more positive note, as I think fathers are an irreplaceable edition to families, here is a gorgeous and emotional painting by Degas of his father.  He is shown enjoying a small concert, clearly, he passed on his love of the fine arts to his talented offspring.  The paint slightly melts together, creating a fine light that expresses a slow fade of the ego leaving the person to fully encompass the moment of the song.  It is apparent that a parent’s (or supportive figure) influence is truly important to what a child becomes.

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Edgar Degas. Degas’ Father listening to Pagan. 1869. Oil on Canvas.

 

Happy Father’s Day!

 

Linds

 

 

 

 

The First Blossom: The Importance of Creativity for Kids

Yesterday, June 11, was Children’s Day in the United States, a little known holiday not often pre-printed into gift-shop calendars.  Although some may wonder at the value of a day designated for kids (“aren’t kids always special?”), the answer is that kids around the world and within the U.S. have their own sets of problems stemming from powerlessness relative to adults: homelessess, abuse, inadequate access to nutritional, emotional, and educational resource, lack of choice in life circumstances, etc.  Many countries around the world have a designated day to help bring awareness to these issues (http://www.nationalchildrensday.us/).

In the spirit of bringing awareness to the needs of the young, here at NOMAD, I’d like to explore the specific need of kids to be able to be creative.  This is especially relevant at a time where arts funding (visual arts, music, creative writing, etc.) to school curriculum is often cut; administrators, especially those in higher-level and more hands-off positions, may not recognize its value for kids when math and sciences are more testable (and hence, more results-provable) areas of study.

But experts who study art and its impact in childhood development agree: art isn’t frivolous, it’s an important tool for learning: “As kids manipulate a paintbrush, their fine motor skills improve. By counting pieces and colors, they learn the basics of math. When children experiment with materials, they dabble in science. Most important perhaps, when kids feel good while they are creating, art helps boost self-confidence. And children who feel able to experiment and to make mistakes feel free to invent new ways of thinking, which extends well beyond the craft room.”

http://www.parents.com/toddlers-preschoolers/development/intellectual/why-art-and-creativity-are-important/

PBD Parenting’s Grace Hwang Lynch writes, “When kids are encouraged to express themselves and take risks in creating art, they develop a sense of innovation that will be important in their adult lives…The kind of people society needs to make it move forward are thinking, inventive people who seek new ways and improvements, not people who can only follow directions.” –http://www.pbs.org/parents/education/music-arts/the-importance-of-art-in-child-development/

We see this especially now, in a time where technology changes rapidly as one new idea for growth follows another in grossly competitive markets: old formulas for business don’t work the way they used to.  Service can’t just be friendly, it must be innovative, fast, daring. Products can’t just be reliable, they must be cutting edge and pleasing in multiple ways and across many cultures.  Enter the importance of innovative thought.  Enter the importance of beauty: organizational psychology now studies what kinds of colors, spaces, sounds, and smells make consumers the happiest and healthiest.

https://www.designmantic.com/blog/the-golden-ratio-in-design/

Mathematics fields now study classic creative works of painting, sculpture, and music to discover why and how lasting forms impact the human social-emotional condition.  This kind of information, which has been intuitive for so long, now drives enormous markets.  It changes the everyday quality-of-life of people around the globe.  Can anyone still argue well that the arts are not important, and important to foster during a human being’s fastest time of mental/emotional development?  If you want to give children a true edge in understanding, don’t just teach them formulas…let their minds begin to teach themselves through the creative processes that exist in this complex world for a reason: expose them to and support their work in creative fields.

On that note, we here at NOMAD leave you with a goal for the week: to think of a way you can foster creativity in the life of a child near you, and also in your own inner child (which also needs nourishment and love…though this may be an altogether new topic for exploration!).  And we’ll see you again next week for more arting.

Best,

Lydia

Breathing Room: The Art and Value of Relaxing

These days it can be hard to relax, but “doing nothing” has long been recognized as being essential to the creative process.

I read an essay one time about a guy whose wife would always ask him, “why are you staring at the wall like that?”  And he replied that despite looking lazy, he was doing important work….opening the brain to allow it time to figure things out without the help of more directed logic.

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Don Delillo writes of his own wall experience writing Underworld:

“It occurred to me that the sensible approach I was taking, post-prologue, was uninspired. Whatever the quality of the writing, the novel needed something more dynamic at this crucial early stage, a departure, a breakaway point, and I found myself staring at the wall….

What is the wall?It is the upright structure of building material located just beyond the typewriter, the manuscript pages, the jutting pens and pencils in the marmalade jar. It is also what a writer stares at during the dead times.

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It is the upright structure of building material located just beyond the typewriter, the manuscript pages, the jutting pens and pencils in the marmalade jar. It is also what a writer stares at during the dead times.

There were a few photographs and small paintings on the wall but there was also enough blank space for me to stare at. And the wall seemed to bounce something back at me, not a curse or a moan but a distinct idea of what was needed to animate the book and the writer. First, most immediate, a leap forward in time and a radical change of place. Eventually a first-person narration would develop as well as a flipped switch from present tense to past tense.”  – Don Delillo.  See more at: http://www.picador.com/blog/august-2015/don-delillo-staring-at-the-wall#sthash.TUPHlbwz.dpuf

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This last week, I went to Hawaii, and did much of this: staring.  At a wall.  At an ocean.  At some hills.  On occasion, at a tv.  At my love.  At dinner shaped up on a plate.

Nothing happened for the first six days and then, without thinking it, I took out a notebook and drafted the shape of my next book, the outline based on common themes…and this was a project I’d been trying to figure out for several months with constant distraction and I didn’t set out to work on it this time, it just solved itself when there was space to do it.

So my challenge to you, this week, is to give your mind extra time, without a task, to think the thoughts your mind naturally wants to think, without particular goal…let things bubble up autonomously.  And I leave you with this poem I wrote:

“Prayer”

At the last minute, I changed my mind.

I rode here instead

and stole all those moments

other people thought

were theirs.

The dead poets I was supposed to read,

the classmates and teachers,

and the dialogue I owed them

my friends and the beer, and the mirth I owed them

the lover

I love to love…

All fooled,

 

for I captured that time,

went alone with it in a room

and made it mine

in the small, quiet minutes of my life.

 

I won’t tell you what I did with it

for you do not need to know.

Instead, know this:

I have no mistress but this time

today I went to my mistress again

and I changed

my

mind. -Lydia Paar

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Torte and Tart

It’s Memorial Day Weekend and my friend Katie and I made some delicious food.  Lots of it.  We thought we would share our homemade and original recipe for a gluten free kiwi-coconut tart.

Katie and Lindsay’s Kiwi Tarte (GF) with a Coconut Custard.

For the crust.

  • 2 cups shredded coconut
  • ¾ cup coconut oil, room temperature
  • ¼ cup coconut flour
  • 3 tbsp agave syrup
  • lime zest from 2 limes
  • juice of 2 limes
  • a pinch of fine sea salt

For the Custard.

  • 1 1/4 cup Coconut Milk (canned, use mostly the thick cream)
  • 3 Large Egg Yolks
  • 2 TBLS Coconut Flour
  • 2 TBLS Cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup sugar

Topping.

  • 6 Kiwis, or enough to top the tart
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sugar or agave syrup

Combine all crust ingredients in a bowl and after it comes together you are ready to press the dough into a 9″ tart pan.  Put in fridge to cool for a few minutes.  Then bake at 360 degrees in the oven for 8-10 minutes until brown and remove.

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To make the custard you combine eggs and sugar and mix.  The add in cornstarch and coconut flour with the egg and sugar mixture.  Heat up the coconut milk and bring to a gentle boil then slowly combine with other ingredients.  Keep stirring as you combine and this will prevent the eggs from curdling. The pour all ingredients back into the saucepan and bring back to a boil.  When it boils stir for one minute until thick.  Let the custard set in the fridge until completely chilled.

After about 30 minutes the coconut custard will be ready to put in the crust.  Then decorate with kiwis, you can choose whatever pattern you are feeling, or feel free to mix some other fruit in as well.  After the fruit is placed you can make a simple syrup with water and sugar (heat until sugar dissolves) and lightly brush on top of the fruit.  You can cool further in the fridge for a more firm tart, or serve as is. Enjoy!

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Oh and we also made this fabulous Blueberry Torte.  That one’s not gluten free though. Sorry!

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Happy Sunday BBQ day!

Nomad

Frida and Diego

Featured Image; Photographer unknown, Frida with Diego with Fulang Chang, 1937. Gelatin silver print.

The Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera exhibit is built from the Jaques and Natasha Gelman Collection courtesy of the Vergel Foundation and the Tarpon Trust. (Heard) Jacques Gelman was a Russian-born producer of Mexican films who died in 1986, and with his wife, Natasha, they were famous for their impressive ownership of some of the best-known artists of the 20th century.  The Met even publish a book about the Gelman Collection, which ‘ formed what is arguably the strongest private collection, in the world, of the art of the School of Paris.'(NY Times) They lived as ex-pats in Mexico during the early 1940’s and became well-acquainted with the local art circle, befriending Frida and Diego.  From their impressive oeuvre, 33 pieces are featured in the exhibit supplemented with photographs from Edward Weston, Lola Álvarez Bravo, Hector Garcia, Nicholas Murray, Guillermo Kahlo (Frida’s father), and more.  Also shown are dressed mannequins that mimic Frida Kahlo’s indigenous fashion choices, however, I was unclear whether this travels with the show or if the Heard included the clothing of their own volition. The Jaques and Natasha Gelman collection will be the only North American stop, you can visit it at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, AZ and will be on display through August 20th, 2017.

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Diego Rivera, Portrait of Natasha Gelman, 1943. Oil on Canvas.

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Frida Kahlo, Portrait of Natasha Gelman, 1943. Oil on Masonite.

The show is advertised as ‘a rare opportunity to see firsthand masterpieces by two of the most important and recognizable artists of the 20th century’ to be included with drafts and photographs taken of the couple. The opening placard mentions that the couple was first married in 1929 while Diego career was rapidly taking off and while Frida was still developing her craft. Diego generally painted Mexico’s people, often in connection with the Mexican Revolution and labor rights and was one of three famous muralists at the time.  Frida painted in a more surreal style, discussing matters of personal affliction and colonial criticisms. Shown is a small collection of paintings from both artists that play on their influence on each other and the differences they embrace throughout their shared lives. The photographs from their peers and ex-lovers were the real highlights, they served as a window into their scandalous lives, creating a fantastic connection to the paintings.

unnamed-4.jpgDiego Rivera, Sunflowers, 1943. Oil on canvas.

The caption provided by the Heard said to note the doll with the broken leg and the boy staring longingly at his mask.  Diego is possibly referring to Frida’s tribulations with an impairing accident as a youth and his own loss of his twin.  The doll could also represent the loss of the child that Frida miscarried while in New York in 1932.  His work comes from his belly, soft and ripe, full of passion for what he intakes.  Her work comes from the heart, with an edge of hardness solidified by her loss and pain.  Either way, you can not deny that the two overtime began painting as a whole, exploring similar topics within their deeply painful but loving relationship.

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Frida Kahlo. Self Portrait with bed (Me and my doll),  1937. Oil on masonite.

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Frida Kahlo, Diego on my mind (Self-portrait as Tehuana), 1943. Oil on masonite.

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Frida Kahlo, Collage with two flies, c. 1953. Collage and watercolor on cardboard.

The above work is thought to be made for Diego by Frida.  The translation of the poem was provided by the museum and reads:  “Light is the white and solitary moon/ Intimate of the soul in pain/ Light is the affectionate promise that rises/ From the virginal heart of lovers.” and “Luz es luna solitera y blanca/ Confindente del alma en sus dolores/ Luz es la nota armoniosa que se arranca/ Del virgen corazon en sus amores.”  All pieces shown at the heard are available in English and Spanish for viewers to learn about.

In my opinion, the weakest part of the show was the clothing.  The manequins were wearing various Mexican indigenous styles that Frida often wore herself.  Though she was of German and Mexican descent, she chose to explore and represent her North American heritage. They did not display her menswear choices as shown in photographs by her father and her own paintings, and I felt it a disservice to leave part of her flamboyant personality out.  In argument, I believe Rivera is known to have openly preferred Frida in the womanly native styles like the ones on display in the Heard, and the show specially discusses the two artists as a whole. Still, the outfits were adorned with atrocious fake flowers which gave it a rather cheap feel.  The photograph by one of her ex-lovers, Nicolas Murray, shows Frida in her rich and colorful clothing and brings more life to her ancestral pride than the dull mannequins.

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Frida-esque Clothing Installation. The Heard. Phoenix, AZ.

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Nicholas Murray. Frida on a White Bench, New York. 1939. Photograph.

Again, the couple’s work and photographs will be on display until mid-August 2017.  Be sure to follow the photographs in the correct order to experience their first union to Frida’s death in 1954.

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Hector Garcia, Frida Kahlo in coffin and Diego Rivera at funeral. 1954. Gelatin Silver Print.

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Diego Rivera, Landscape with cacti, 1931. Oil on canvas.

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Frida Kahlo, 11:25 (carma III), 1943.

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Lucienne Bloch, Frida biting her necklace, 1933. Gelatin silver print.

The Creative Essentialness of “Mothering”

Julia Ward Howe, issuer of the first Mother’s Day proclamation in 1870

Today is May 14th, a holiday designated in the U.S. as Mother’s Day, a modified version of the original “Mother’s Work Days” and “Mother’s Day for Peace” of Civil War and early WWI America (http://www.dsausa.org/original_mother_s_day_was_an_antiwar_protest).  Although I like and admire the original sentiment of these Mother’s Days, which called on women to seek peace for their families/neighbors in times of turmoil and keep their sons from unlearning “all that [they] have taught them of charity, mercy and patience” (Mother’s Day Proclamation of 1870), I find it a useful “accident” that when Woodrow Wilson designated the national holiday, he omitted the antiwar component.  Although peace is crucial to long-lasting human happiness, the shift in focus allows us, yearly, to focus on what it means to be, indeed, in the larger respect, a “mother.”

Paul Gauguin, la Orana Maria (Hail Mary), 1891

Now, “mother” is a gendered term having to do, I suspect, with the many-cultured traditional divisions of labor that put men out into the working world and women at home to raise children. Gender aside, however, I love it that  America, the sometimes war-mongering institution it can be, keeps a day to honor qualities in a person often associated with weakness in our culture: somehow giving birth, a monumentally challenging endeavor, and patiently nurturing, guiding, and protecting another more helpless human is often seen as a “softer” art, requiring less strength than traditionally masculine endeavors based in competitive, rather than cooperative, action.  And yet, here, today, we have prompting to pause and examine such qualities, alongside or beyond biological or gendered aspects.

Dorothea Lange, Migrant Mother, 1936

Although the initial designation of the holiday may have had more to do with building a budding American consumerism than seriously contemplating motherhood as a condition of being, we can take it as an opportunity to do so, now, in the context of our own lives, even if we are not all female, or are not all biological mothers; I, and many other creative peeps, have long considered the act of artistic or innovative creativity to share many of the same important aspects of motherhood, mimicking, across any medium, some of the most crucial actions members of a species take to ensure physical (and in other ways emotional) survival.

In fact, our creative projects, when undertaken fervently, can often replace or compete with biological motherhood to such an extent that we find article upon interview about the third “art” of creating balance between one’s artistic/intellectual passion and biological childrearing; both projects require constant attention, a nurturing capacity that supersedes sleep and personal comfort, the repetitive action of putting the needs of the baby (creative or biological) above other parts of the human physical or egotistical self.  Some couples, like writers Virginia and Leonard Woolf, and painters Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner, opted not to have children because their own creative personalities and impulses were enough to manage without adding yet another set of needs to the mix.

Amanda Palmer, a contemporary musician and writer, speaks about the paraodox of childbearing either potentially unlocking or hampering creativity, unpredictably, here:

http://www.npr.org/2015/09/13/439962984/an-artist-worries-will-motherhood-compromise-creativity

NOMAD member, poet and musician Lindsay Dragan, often writes on these same themes, and one of my favorite of her poems, here below, addresses (from my reading) the crazy original potential of our children that we can gum up with our own layered partial misunderstandings of the world.

Birth Dreams

Sometimes, I dream of her head

Crowning in the mirror,

The slick, full head of

Jet-black hair she had,

Not knowing her eyes,

Those moon-pools

Would be so attentive so soon.

Who knew

Children were the

All-seeing eyes

That we blind, masking it

As knowledge?

Who knew, the depth of our wisdom

Rests at the top of our heads?
[natl poetry month 23/30] ©Erin Lindsay Dragan

 

Alice Neel, Mother and Child (Nancy and Olivia), 1967

In my mind, the way people simultaneously value the innocent child-potential and demand its adaptation leads me to the parallel ways people recognize the honest intuitive weight of artistic work, can honor the difficult-to-explain genius of it, and value its ability to force emotional evolution in people, and yet still demand that art and artists conform to our shared world without nurturing the very creative products we crave!

It’s a funny contradiction, but one that again reinforces the value of “mothering” (whether one happens to physically be female or not!) qualities and practices as essential toward healthy babies, both people babies and creative “babies”, that change our world and our visions for the better.  Caring, nurturing, patience, and other qualities associated with “mom” are actions of strength, indicating a preservation that allows any form of physical or emotional young life to grow into a whole, fruitive state.

So, in honor of our biological mother-artists out there, NOMAD points you to this gem:

http://www.artistresidencyinmotherhood.com/: “a self-directed, open-source artist residency to empower and inspire artists who are also mothers. —You don’t have to apply. It doesn’t cost anything, it’s fully customisable, and you can be in residence for as long as you choose. You don’t even have to travelthe residency takes place entirely inside your own home and everyday life. An Artist Residency in Motherhood is the reframing of parenthood as a valuable site for creative practice, rather than an obstruction to be overcome.”

And in honor of all you non-biological mother nurturers, protectors, caretakers, and patient cultivators, NOMAD reminds you to use us and our site (www.nomadinternational.org) to access other creatives in your fields of interest for learning trade opportunities, space trade offerings, and networking; to email us and let us know how we can improve to help you nurture and “mother” your passionate works, every day, to make them ready to meet the world.

Thanks!

-Lydia

Arts Exchange Forum for All Forms…