Friday, October 28, 2022

not just 12 notes

I've watched a number of Jacob Collier videos now and his magic is clear.  

It started for me with this one. 

I'm sat here sobbing.

At the sound of a choir.

A choir made of 5,000 untrained singers, otherwise known as an audience.  Fans, probably, mostly.

At the end of the sound they make, the music they've just created together, they clap wildly for Jacob.  They're the ones who made the sound, but he's the one that (one the spot) turned their sounds into song. 


And then got me thinking about the concerts we all go to - and almost every person is singing along, under their breath, or out loud, with each other.  It's inevitable for most of us.  I have moments where I think it's okay to sing the words out loud (I can't even help it!) and other parts of a song I wouldn't wanna hear anyone singing the words but the artist I came to see.

It's the strength of singing together.  Hearing an audience ('choir') of thousands that gives me goosebumps.

And I recognize, at the end of a song that we the audience all sang, we also clap wildly!

As much to thank the artist as to express the energy, the joy we just experienced.  A kind of 'we did it!'


I used to sing in a choir.  I love choirs.  Now I do a lot of singing in the shower and while i'm walking the dog and definitely in my studio with headphones on.  'Cuz no one can hear you that way, right?!

Thursday, October 27, 2022

You Are Not Alone


Remember when you were younger than you are now and you totally thought you were alone: in your thoughts, your feelings, your body oder, your acne, your wants and needs... and then maybe, just maybe, you met that ONE friend who laughed at your terrible jokes, told you she had those thoughts about abbazabbas, too, and those feelings about music and dancing alone in their family room ...that person, whoever they were/are to you, I like to remember, they made us realize, we are not alone in this.

My friend Mel sent out her newsletter recently, and she wrote about a story currently playing out the news : It was about using someone else's photo in your artwork, selling the artwork and not crediting the photographer.   In this particular case, it was in regards to a portrait of Prince and how the Andy Warhol estate used the image.  Also, in this case, the photographer wants recognition and ultimately, money. 


It made me wonder if photographers that take class photos or student portraits would also have that feeing?  Then I realized I actually have a friend who would know! And can answer that strange, possible rabbit hole-like question...


And yes, it has occurred to me the kids in this photo might actually see themselves in my work.  Heck, they may even be following me on social media...Assuming they're teenagers in this photo, I think they'd be in their 60's today...




Monday, October 17, 2022

Souvenirs

i wrote this piece in 2017 but never published it.  tho it still feels very pertinent, much, much has changed since then...


“We live stitch by stitch, when we’re lucky. If you fixate on the big picture, the whole shebang, the overview, you miss the stitching. And maybe the stitching is crude, or it is unraveling, but if it were precise, we’d pretend that life was just fine and running like a Swiss watch. This is not helpful if on the inside our understanding is that life is more often a cuckoo clock with rusty gears. In the aftermath of loss, we do what we’ve always done, although we are changed, maybe more afraid. We do what we can, as well as we can. My pastor, Veronica, one Sunday told the story of a sparrow lying in the street with its legs straight up in the air, sweating a little under its feathery arms. A warhorse walks up to the bird and asks, “What on earth are you doing?” The sparrow replies, “I heard the sky was falling, and I wanted to help.” The horse laughs a big, loud, sneering horse laugh, and says, “Do you really think you’re going to hold back the sky, with those scrawny little legs?” And the sparrow says, “One does what one can.” 
--Anne Lamott, Stitches



I've been working on getting the kits together for the workshop I'm teaching in France this coming June.  Teaching workshops isn't new, but the approach I take these days is.  I have a very different attitude about teaching, I think, than many who teach crafts, projects, or artistic ways.  I'm coming at it the way I used to with my first graders.  With a sense of meaning that extends beyond the project, the made piece.  I want people to infuse a sense of meaning in the work they make in my classes.  

I am not a fan of just making to make.  I don't particularly enjoy workshops that end with me owning something I don't want or won't use.  I like learning the technique, but as far as the end 'product', it's a rarity that I care about it.  I like to approach my workshops with the attitude:  Let's make something you care about, want to hang on your wall, or put on your shelf, or proudly give to someone as a gift.  With that in mind, the materials I use are important, if not particularly elegant in any way. 

So, for week one of this workshop, which is a souvenir french-flag banner, I am sewing little fabric bags for the kits. The bags are made from an old, gorgeous, linen duvet washed and dried and loved to near shreds (therefore perfect to cut & use in its next life form) given to me as a wedding gift by my Aunt Nancy.  Nancy was my dad's only sister and one of the coolest Meng's I know.  She passed away recently and, in a strange and empty move, I've never formally written to any of my cousins or Uncle and given my condolences.  It's awful and very unlike me.  I think it's very important to contact people, let them know you're thinking of them, at times like these.  I was very focused on my dad and what it meant to loose your only sister.  To be the last of your original family members.  I remember wishing I could just sit in a room with him and let him sob it out.  My dad doesn't sob, so this was purely theatrical thinking on my part, but the idea of it felt cathartic.  And maybe in my fantasy of that scenario, I also sent comfort to my cousins and my Uncle.  Telepathically?  I'm not sure.  I just know I didn't do it formally.  And now it feels too late.  

In French, souvenir means "remembrance" or "memory".  It seems fitting that in Nancy's memory, these linen sacks will hold the current souvenir for these women who travel with us.

And, yet, along with this beautiful linen textile that I pulled out this week, I had another encounter with the spirit of my Aunt Nancy.  A woman in Chicago reached out to me after she had bought a piece of artwork at a resale shop.  She researched my name, signed on the back of the work, and tracked me down.  She sent a photo of the piece and contacted me on various social media platforms asking if I was indeed the artist behind this piece.    This is a piece of art I made years ago that my Aunt Nancy purchased at my first solo, gallery art show.  I remember it so clearly:  There's Nancy standing in front of this piece, titled "Dear John" telling me how much she loved it and that she must have it!  Nancy could match my theatrics beat for beat, and it was always thrilling.  She purchased the work without a moments hesitation.  Lived with her to her end.  And, in the end, homes change, families move, objects get donated.  This is how the woman in Chicago found "Dear John", then found me, and we both found a connection in a piece of artwork that went a long way to make a full circle.


i wish this was the 'dear john' piece, but i cannot find a photo of it!


Saturday, October 15, 2022

Morning Has Broken


Laughing to myself the other day realizing I used to think waking up early was a waste of time.

When the thought occurred to me, i was standing outside watching the birds flirt and a little squirrel dance with seeds he’d just found.  It was around 5:33 am and the light had just enhanced the world around me.  I smiled to myself, and even snickered out loud at my earlier limited thinking.


Having ‘the whole place to myself’ used to be a key reason I gave for not wanting to get up before dawn.  What would I possibly do at that time, I wondered?  


Now, my most favorite time of the day is when it feels like the world is sleeping and i have the whole place to myself.  Turns out, I should have been asking myself what I COULD do with that time.  I get a ton of stuff done between the time I wake up-and-when everyone else seems to emerge.


found this juicy little book at a vide in france this past summer 


Friday, October 14, 2022

In the Garden

a different kind of 'weed' altogether : sea weed

 When I was little and my mom let me help her in the garden, I loved weeding.  I think the reason I loved it so much is because I wasn’t actually weeding.  My mom knew this.  I did not.  What I was doing was pulling the leaves off of the stems of the weeds.  I was breaking the blades of long grass at the tips as my chubby little hand grabbed quickly and pulled even quicker.  I’m not sure I could have actually done the job of weeding.  Not only because I didn’t have the strength to pull a weed up from it’s deeply rooted space, but mostly because I’m not sure I would have had the heart to pull a weed up from it’s deeply rooted space.  Weeding requires commitment.  You can’t just stop at the part that breaks off in your tightly coiled fist.  To actually weed means to take that living, growing greenery, find it’s very beginning, it's source, and yank it from the ground.  


Weeding, as an adult, leaves me conflicted.  Yes, I would like this space of dirt to grow something beautiful.  In order to do that, I need to clear the way for those beauties.  Which means, I need to yank out, exclude, and even banish these other plants.  And to do that, I must move slowly, methodically and with precision, pulling up from the earth every last root that is desperately hanging on.  

It’s a strange dichotomy of feeling:  I feel totally satisfied when my fingertips touch, see, hear this long root and all it’s offshoots come up from the dirt and land in my yard-waste pile.  The other feeling is one of destruction of a living thing.  I have stopped the growth of something potentially great.  Most people would argue weeds are not ‘great’— but I think the only difference between a weed and ‘something beautiful’ is naming it.    We call weeds invasive, and invasive has a negative connotation that’s for sure.  And flowers BLOOM.  Now, bloom is a lovely word...


Here's a photo I took of some weeds on the edge of the pavement.  

They grew and bloomed all on their own, with zero caretaking.

The only difference
between
a weed
and a flower 
is judgement.


-wayne dyer


Monday, June 13, 2022

Oh, Happy Day


the performance of this song rocked my little world.  i've always loved this song, or at least the feeling of it.  i don't think i ever actually knew the words.  but to watch this group sing it and the group of people listening to it, absolutely living it, well, i dare you to stay still...

Thursday, March 24, 2022

The Mirror From Church Street

 We've landed on the other side.  We are on the other side of the country; we are on the other side of a life lived in California; I, personally, feel I'm on the other side of even understanding what's next.  We've flipped it all.  I've tried to take it step by step and not get emotional or too sad or too happy or too anything because every feeling is temporary and I'm aiming solely for temperate.  So far, it seems to be working.  I'm treating the whole move like I'm getting the best of all worlds.  What could be better?  Again, so far so good.

One month ago, on the California end, after these four guys loaded all our boxes, furniture and 50 years of memories into a van and drove away, we never heard from anyone again.  We had pretty much decided our stuff was gone.  And, while we weren't horribly upset (again, taking things as they come...), we did feel we were owed an explanation.  One never came.  But, our stuff finally did, a little over two weeks after we arrived.  The day these two young boys and a man named Misha, released our boxes into this house, RK and I sat down on the couch and readily passed out.  You might think that strange, as we hadn't done any obvious physical work that day, but the tension we'd been holding onto for weeks now was palpable.  So, when the relief of the whole thing being 'over' kicked in, we could do nothing but fall asleep.

Slowly, we're unpacking boxes.  It's not slow because of thought or comfort or we're taking it all in, but it's going slowly because we didn't actually bring any real furniture with us.  When we unpack a box, we don't have a shelf or a cupboard or desk to put things on.  Maybe we didn't think that through.  I'm also used to the life of second hand furniture, where I used to visit the thrift store daily, or walk home and see great furniture on the street corner.  Now, as new homeowners, we're aiming for a little more grown-up vibe.  I don't know that it'll happen, but it's what we're after.  In the meantime, I'm unpacking what we did actually bring.  

I have repeatedly said during this move, 'if anything breaks, it's OK, it's just stuff!'  I joke that I have so much stuff, the breakage would actually be doing me a favor.  So, after opening box after box, everything in tact, this broken mirror was a surprise.  Not a shock, but a kind of deep breath memory surprise.  This mirror collection of mine is large:  Some came from flea markets, some from family, some I don't even remember where they come from anymore, but some come with a story tied to a time, a time that extends much further than me.


For me, this mirror belonged to our neighbor in San Francisco, who we never got to know but to wave and say 'hello' when we saw her.  Then, recognize as she struggled with what we assumed was a pretty serious illness, coming home one day with a shaved head and a winding scar on her skull from front to back.  She quickly went from friendly to fragile.  We never passed each other on the sidewalk again, but we could see she had help.  We would see her from across the street, out our third floor window, as someone carefully guided her from the car to her front door.  And then, suddenly, she was gone.  

One day, walking past her home, there was another woman in the garage standing amongst stacks of boxes and I stopped to talk with her.  She told me my neighbor had been her mother and she had passed away.  They grew up in that house on Church Street.  There were three girls in her family, she told me, and a family that lived two doors down had three boys of similar age.  The running family routine was to try and set them all up, for years.  It was sweet to hear they were all still friends.  Her parents were Russian Jews, very involved in the community, professional matchmakers, they held movie nights for young people to meet.  There was actually a closet inside the house, stacked with all the old film reels, she was planning on donating to the community.  She told me she was getting her parents house ready to have an estate sale.  We talked for quite awhile about how that feels, what you keep, what you let go of, how it feels to hold their things when they're not longer here.  I told her I would come to the sale because I'd like to support her, and have something to remember her mom by and then she'd know something of her family stayed on Church Street.  She invited me to come in with her at that moment:  She thought the sale might get crazy and crowded and wouldn't it be nice to walk through it together now?  I agreed and followed beside her as she told me more family stories.  Eventually, we turned a corner and entered a small dressing room and I saw this mirror hanging on the wall.  Maybe I mentioned I collect mirrors, I don't remember, but, for her, this mirror held a thousand memories of childhood.  She told me about being a little girl, watching her mom get dressed for those movie nights and seeing both their reflections in that mirror stuck with her.  She took it off the wall, handed it over to me and said 'thank you'.  

Though it was 15 years ago now, I clearly remember coming home with the mirror, telling RK who it belonged to, confirming all of our conjecture about our neighbor and explaining the fascinating history of this family, who we never really knew, but now carried with us in this reflection.

Today, there is a heartbreaking war raging in Ukraine, each day is infused with an extremely heavy feeling of helplessness; with these unknown, hurting people on my mind, opening this box and finding this particular piece shattered made me forget my cavalier attitude towards breakage and, instead, found me quietly crying into my coffee over the things we lose every day.

 


Sunday, February 13, 2022

Lives, Acknowledged

We're moving.  We're packing up our little life here in Los Angeles and moving to create a little, maybe a little bigger, life in New Hampshire.  When you pack up, you also unpack a lot of little things:  do i keep this? does this thing go in a box with that thing?  It's a lot to sort through.  So, we decided we wouldn't spend much time sorting thru any of it until we unpack on the other end.  Some things though, are hard to miss.  When you open a drawer that's been closed for a few years, you find these things and maybe you start to rifle through them just a little bit.  And maybe you get completely caught up in these things and find hours have passed as you read, sort, read some more, maybe even have a good cry over what you've 'found' again.

There are four large drawers deep in the walk in closet of our current apartment.  When we realized we couldn't have everything out on shelves or on desks or bookcases, things went into these drawers.  Now that we're moving, the drawers have to be emptied and, inevitably, I start looking through these envelopes and little boxes and catch myself going in deep.  On top of one of these envelopes, a large black envelope to be exact, is an article that is titled "A life, acknowledged" written by Richard Cohen, formerly of The Washington Post.  This article includes the story of my friend, Suzanne Hart, who was killed ten years ago in NYC.  It is a sparing, brutally honest, short piece about the people that were in the obituaries that week of December, 2011.  I can't link it here, I can't even find it online actually.  But, moments ago, when I was just trying to send him an email, I wasn't even trying to find the article online.  I had it in my hand.  I read it.  And then I read it again.  And I cried.  When I stopped crying, I decided to write him a note to tell him that I'd saved this piece and, while it wasn't particularly warm or emotional, it actually made me feel both of those things.  

Here is the email I wrote:

Dear Mr. Cohen,
I probably wrote to you back in 2011 when you first wrote this piece (12/20/11) but I don't remember if I did and, as we are packing up our whole house and moving back east again, I came across the envelope where I keep all the articles about my friend, Suzanne Hart, read it again and had a good ole sob.
I just wanted to thank you, if I hadn't previously.  It's strange to read about your best friend, a limb practically, in such detached views.  Yet, your piece made me feel that she had been seen, beyond the sensationalism.  And there was plenty of that.
Her brother, sister-in-law and I just acknowledged ten years of her being gone from our lives.  I sent them a Maya Angelou poem that I have on repeat in my head.  Though, for the three of us, at least, she's never really "gone".  We all talk to her a lot .  I met Suzanne in the sixth grade, stuck by each other like glue for the next ten years, lost touch for a bit, and then we both ended up in NYC and picked up right where we left off.  Sure, she was a 'a ray of sunshine', as the papers wrote, but truly she had a brilliantly dark sense of humor and a wicked tongue that kept us both in stitches.  They don't write that type of thing in an obit.
Another thing I came across as I was packing today was the cassette tapes I used to record answering machine messages and every friend that came thru my apartment.  On many of them, there is Suzanne, talking, laughing, smoking, living:  On one of them, she says to me, 'what are you going to do with all these recordings, molly, play them after i'm dead so you can still hear my voice?!' and she laughs and laughs. 
Yeah, Suz, I am.

But I never sent it.  In searching for Mr. Cohen's email address or where he is now (I honestly wanted to make sure he was still around before I sent this into the ether) I found more articles than I can count about what an absolute jack ass he was.  Article after article about his white-male privilege, openly racist thoughts and the sexual harassment that he displayed over and over gain.  UGH.  Each article worse than the last.  Mother Jones does a top 10 countdown of his worst moments.  I won't link it here, you can easily find it.  He's a real piece of work, retired now, but no doubt living out these traits in his real life, not just in the newspaper.  

The email, I deleted, the article I'll keep because ultimately, it's about Suzanne, not about this guy.  And when I talk to Suzanne, we can really rip this guy to shreds and no one has to read about any of it.