Tuesday, August 16, 2016
Saturday, August 13, 2016
|Detail from Mother/Daughter, 2016. Embroidery thread and hair on cotton, 14" x 18"|
From a recent application:
My artwork is about experience, both public and private, for both myself and the viewer/participant. Obviously there is my own experience of making the work, which is sometimes at the center of the piece, such as in some of my laborious, handmade works where part of the premise of the piece is its very handmade-ness, the process of making, the meaning of time versus labor, and the appearance of the artist’s hand in the work. Sometimes I begin with that and then offer it outward by inviting the viewer to become a participant in the labor, to devote some of their own time to the project, to include their hand in the final piece. And sometimes I step back once the piece has begun and almost obliterate my own presence so that the project can be carried along by experiences of others. I become a catalyst between the idea and the viewer – the spark that sets the experience in motion but then gets dissolved in the process.
What this looks like (because I am, after all, a visual artist) varies. It has looked like a mile-long, handknit road stripe laid on a street in Dallas, TX. It has looked like a house museum for tourists and locals to interact on the western coast of Newfoundland. It has been hand-dyed, handspun yarn knit into hats by people of all ages and backgrounds, shared among each other and with homeless women and children in the Bronx. It has looked like over five kilometers of handknitting installed by a highway in South Korea. It has looked like a fun house created in a university gallery in South Dakota.
More recently, I have been experimenting with subtler ways of presenting this idea of how we record our experiences for ourselves and each other. Most of my work over the past 15 years has been increasingly outward-looking even, as I mentioned, to the point where the artwork is entirely dependent on the participation of the audience and my presence is no longer necessary or visible. Now I am curious if a similar result can be created via more inward-looking means.
As I have been stitching down locks and strands of hair that once belonged to Lucy (when she was about eight I think), I have been thinking about how the materials themselves can be the container for the experience. Lucy's hair is an expression of her life as an eight year old - what she ate, how she slept and played and felt - it's all in there. To me, it feels sacred to work with such materials: material as reliquary.
Monday, August 08, 2016
Sir TKV Desikachar passed away yesterday after a long illness. He was the teacher of my teachers and it is testament to the strength of his teaching that I feel like I knew him too. Their stories about "Sir," as his students called him, reveal him to be a humble, deeply knowledgable and realized human being. This morning, I am thinking about how they described him teaching to an almost empty room at at Yoga Journal conference sometime in the 90s. It made me catch my breath - here, a genuine acharya, offering his profound teaching and everyone was flocking to whomever was the latest superstar at that moment. Still, as they describe it, he taught his class wholeheartedly. Perhaps as a good follow-up to that story, my teacher Chase likes to remind us that Mr. Ds definition of avidya (which often is translated as incorrect knowledge or delusion) was "I know."
Chase also said that one of Sir's favorite chants was in English, done to the same svara or melody as "śanti, śanti, śantih." He would chant, "Thank you, thank you, thank you." To me, this sums up his wisdom. One might be tempted to think that it was simple, indeed so simple as to be easily dismissed. But don't be fooled! Don't be fooled.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Thursday, August 04, 2016
When I heard a conversation with him on the radio one day, I had one of those moments when I thought that scientists were finally catching up with what people knew back in the day of the Buddha. We already know this stuff - it is written out quite plainly! But, you know, western scientists need to figure it out for themselves. In any case, to me, it all seems right at the intersection of art and yoga: perception and understanding the true nature of reality. And, it is expressed in every major work of art ever made, across genres and disciplines. How fascinating to delve deeper into the why and the how of it from another perspective.
One of the things he states early on is (to paraphrase) that mistakes are our best teachers. Our human eyes and brains are always looking for symmetry and have developed patterns based on seeing relationships between things, remembering them, and expecting them to appear again. When they do, the met expectation brings a sense of pleasure. When they do not, we wonder why and inquire - thus expanding our understanding of things. Unless things are so unexpected that we can not make any sense of them, in which case we just see them as "noise". As Wilczek says, we like surprise but not too much.
He is quick to point out that what is too much surprise to us, as humans, might be just lovely to another species, which means our universe is more like a multiverse.
See? It's all quite beautiful!
Monday, August 01, 2016
Monday, July 25, 2016
Friday, July 22, 2016
|524 yds, Portuguese Merino, 2 ply|
Last time I spun it, I made a shawl, which I promptly lost at the Sunnyside Post Office the second time I wore it. It still causes a pain in my heart to remember it. I am thinking that I will make that self same shawl with this yarn, just because. Apparently Portuguese Merino is no longer available through any wholesale suppliers so it may well be my last time working with it. I'll try not to lose this one!
|Yes, that is a space heater in use on July 21st.|
A fresh start all around.
Sunday, July 17, 2016
Every other week, he also hosts a longer class immediately afterwards where we talk about the classes and how they were constructed and we share our experiences (this class is geared to yoga teachers). This is my favorite part because it is so interesting to learn how other people receive the instructions and how what seems so simple and straightforward actually is quite complex.
This past Wednesday, after some moving and breathing, Chase asked us to picture ourselves on the peak of a mountain with a clear view for miles and miles. Then we did some more moving and breathing and he asked us to think about an issue that is unresolved in our life, something we have confusion about. The thought that came to my mind was, "Should we really be using meditation to fix things?" Personally, I would say no. It seems quite important that meditation have no goal. Let's face it, we often accept ourselves as so small. We eagerly create little boxes and jump right in them! Why would this be any different with our so-called solutions in meditation? I feel quite strongly about this point. In the second class, following the meditation, we had a really interesting conversation about this that was very helpful, especially as I consider ways of offering meditations to my own students and clients.
This morning, I was still reflecting on Wednesday's conversation but thinking about it in terms of art making. Art that has an expressed goal to solve some problem suffers from the same limitations and for the same reasons - we generally aspire to so little when actually we have the whole universe at hand. When I look at my publicly engaged projects, the ones that were most successful - some continue to spur dialogue - were the ones that were the most open-ended, where I proceeded without much of a clear idea of exactly where I was headed. The ones (and I think mainly of one, in particular) that fell flat were the ones where I had an idea and I tried to force the situation to fit that idea. Even when I framed it as a question, in my head, I already had the answer.
Those kinds of projects interest me less these days I think, in part, because I found my own limitations too confining. I still love conversation and hearing people's stories. I definitely still love getting people to try new things that put them back in touch with what it means to make things by hand, but those are not the driving forces behind my work now. Or perhaps I should say that I am trying to make work that has that same kind of energy and contains all those possibilities without needing to overtly ask the questions out loud. Problem solving without answers. Or questions, either.
Thursday, July 14, 2016
|Sometimes the road less travelled is the Trans-Canada Highway.|
Quiet has come to my house. My mom, who is about as spry as it gets for 89 years old, is a talker. As soon as she heard me stirring in the morning, she would pop out of her room and start talking. The conversational flow would continue until we went to bed, unless of course you count when we both went silent while watching the first season of Downton Abbey. As the last person on Earth who had never watched it, I had my reservations. Of course, I am totally hooked now. Between the storyline and the amazing clothes and Maggie Smith's most excellent snide comments, one would have to be semi-conscious half-wit not to be sucked in. And so I am (sucked in, not a semi-conscious half wit).
Saturday, July 09, 2016
|Just minutes from the ferry (Wreckhouse)|
Have I awakened from a dream or did I just fall asleep? It feels like one or the other as it seems like I never left this beautiful place. Yet, it's been a good, long while as evidenced by the amount of effort it has taken to get the house up and running again. We are almost re-connected with the world (phone is still out) but, given what is going on out there in the world, being out of reach and out of touch might have its merits.
Monday, June 27, 2016
Thursday, June 23, 2016
At this point, we are spending a lot of time meeting with clients who volunteer to allow us to work with them, referred by the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at Vanderbilt University. We receive a very short description of the person - two or three sentences about who they are, their age and what their problem(s) are. There has been a fair bit of debate about whether this information is helpful or gets in the way or totally useless. Each day, three of us meet with our client while being observed by a faculty member and a group of about 6-8 other trainees. It is a pretty unnatural situation but there really isn't any way around it as it is so useful to get the feedback that everyone offers and, as an observer, to be able to see the many ways that issues can be addressed. There has been incredible synchronicity between the seemingly random assignment of client with student therapist - somehow most of us have been matched with people who are just right for us.
Yesterday was my day to meet my client for the first time. It was an amazing experience and a challenging one. If I had allowed myself to have any kind of expectations beforehand, I quickly tossed them out the window. I had to be present with the person in front of me and all the theories about this or that tool or practice pretty much went out the window with the expectations. But we had the most important thing - a real and immediate connection. The whole experience was beautiful and I can only express deep gratitude to my client for coming in and sharing their story and life and letting me enter it, just a little. We will meet again on Saturday for a follow-up.
After the client left and we debriefed as a small group and then with the whole group, I could feel a pain begin to rise in my left eyelid. It is almost comical! In the moment, I was (mostly) not stressed since my job was (relatively) clear. Or so I thought. After the fact, it is also clear that the added piece of being observed and having everyone in the group hear about and analyze my performance (hard to call it anything else) caused me more stress than I thought.
This morning, as my eyelid was about double its normal size, one of the faculty was discussing the role of breathing in our practice and our tradition. She said that the body might be willing but the breath won't lie. Meaning that we can force our bodies to do things that take it a little too far or override our sense of what is best for it but that pushing or overriding will always show up in the breath immediately. It is a true barometer of what is really happening in our system.
I might add a little caveat that the body is willing - for a time - but the chickens will come home to roost eventually. Perhaps, like many of the clients we have been seeing, the pushing and overriding has been happening so long and has been pushed so hard that the chickens are coming home in a big way that can no longer be ignored. Or, perhaps like me, they show up immediately. A little reminder that just because you can't see it or feel it in the moment, things are happening on subtle levels. Indeed, it is this very fact that gives yoga therapy its power. We don't know everything of what will happen or even exactly why. It is lovely that scientists and researchers are starting to confirm what yoga has known for millennia but even with all that, there is still some mystery to it all.
And I say, thank goodness for that. Swollen eyelid and all.
Sunday, June 19, 2016
Everything is Waiting for You
Your great mistake is to act the drama
Friday, June 17, 2016
Ouch! Man, talk about hitting a girl where it hurts the most.
|This is Tika, the Temple cat. She sometimes leaps into my arms too. So there!|