Saturday, April 28, 2007

Mental / Emotional “ISSUES”

This week I overheard a person explaining why they were undergoing psychological therapy. He said defensively, “I have issues!” I thought that was an interesting and humorous way to put it. I am not laughing at him; I am laughing WITH him. I have “issues” too! Who DOESN’T these days? Currently, I don’t go to therapy or take medication for my mental, emotional maladies. I just deal with them as they emerge. My whole life has been one long tidal surge (in or out, up or down, over or under, hyperventilating or smothering, happy, sad, mad, yadda, yadda, yadda, blah, blah, blah). It gets very tiring and exhausting especially if these swings are monumental enough to warrant a diagnosis.

I have often read articles questioning the link between artists and mental illness. I have read enough literature about this topic that it is apparent that any connection is an assumption. Nothing has been proven. Yes, it seems artists tend to be more emotional and sensitive. However, I haven’t seen any research on this as it relates to an “artists” subset juxtaposed along side the human race as a whole. In other words, artists are just a microcosm of society. People with “issues” are from all walks of life. It is just that artist’s work advertises the drama. Speaking of myself, I know this is a genetic thing. I can't complain though because I got my "issues" genes from the same gene pool as I got my creative genes!

Artists who are walking the emotional tightrope have an advantage. Artists have their art as an outlet. They can find a way to channel this energy through the making of the work and have a concrete manifestation of the thoughts, feelings, and attitudes of particular moments once the work is complete. Of course by showing your work, you are exposing your “issues” but that act could be interpreted as a way of embracing or casting off those demons. Take your pick. I have survived as long as I have because I have taught myself to pull myself out of the funk or just hold on for dear life when I am experiencing a destructive “tidal wave”. Also, the manic times can be fun! However I can say with confidence, if I hadn’t been an artist all my life, I would have been dead a long time ago.

by “Unknown Artist”
A kid just handed me these beauties. I was in such a frenzied state at that moment, I can’t remember who gave them to me! I guess it was a moment I was having “issues”!!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Catch 22!

Oh my gosh!!!! I am so fed up! I am so frustrated!! If any of you have worked for a bureaucracy, you will understand. During my “day job”, I work for a bureaucracy. Everyday, I encounter things that are so snarled with idiotic logic, it is so funny it is sad. Today was a day that made me think long and hard about this kind of idiocy. Nothing makes sense! Unfortunately, this facet of our world is becoming more and more familiar.
Without going into details, I can say that I wanted to do the BEST job for the benefit of the organization. Yet, I was denied the “tools” to allow that to happen. In other words (I know I am being vague.), I am told to do a great job, but the system doesn’t allow the time or necessary tools to do a great job. This is a “Catch-22”.
There is a book titled “Catch-22” by Joseph Heller. This book was made into a movie. For the youngsters out there, you may have never heard of this. The movie was out in 1970. Ironically, I remember seeing the movie when I was in high school. I wasn’t mature enough to understand or relate to the concepts and satirical message of the movie. However, there must have been something that resonated with me because I have always remembered the term “Catch 22”.
I am living in a “Catch-22” world now. I hate it. I get very frustrated with it. I continually look around and say in my mind’s eye: “Does anybody else understand that all this makes no sense????” Maybe they do, maybe they don’t. It really doesn’t matter because they are a part of this destructive, negative chasm too.

I just have to rent this video to revisit this concept!
I want to see it with an adult perspective!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Cool Stuff!

In my quest to find new and interesting things to give my life a boost, I found some DVDs that just floor me. If you were a techie, a computer artist, a musician, a wannabee or any of the above, it would be worth your while to check these videos out. Animusic videos are digital animations of music. I know it sounds weird, but trust me on this one. When you pop one into your DVD player, you can choose from an array of digitally created “concerts”. The instruments and music have been digitally created. I am sure the creators could be far more explicit. I am just speaking as an observer. Now, I am from the generation when synthesized music was a real wonder, but not taken seriously in many circles. However, I think the difference here is this music may not be going into the archives of music history, but the visual elements make it facinating. These videos are great fun to watch!

I look at them with an artist, techie, and teacher point of view. I am amazed with the technology, imagination, and skill it takes to create things like this. I could watch these videos all day long. They are more than cool. Even though I am an artist and study the workings of the creative mind all the time, these works of digital art and music amaze me! If you get the chance, check them out!

If you have an opportunity to view this DVD, do it!
They are amazing and mesmerizing!

Monday, April 23, 2007

What really matters?

Something happened this weekend that made me think long and hard. A friend died and I started thinking about what really matters in life. We are bombarded everyday with sounds and images of the things we should seek out in life. Miracle wrinkle creams, get rich quick schemes, celebrity lifestyles held as a model for which to aspire, and endless advertisements for things we really can’t afford to buy, yet we think we NEED, poke at us each day. It is easy to interpret we just aren’t good enough. Our lives are not as good as they should be or at least that is what we are told 24/7. We all want more, different, and better!

What really matters? Once it is all said and done, what do you want your life to represent? What will be your legacy? How will you be remembered?

Sandy Zenisek died this week. So? Who was she? Sandy was a Michigan artist. She was a GOOD artist. She was a person of great character and a fabulous spirit. Her sculptures were one of a kind. Her work represents the creative output of an inspired individual. She expressed herself so very well through her creative work.

Sandy wasn’t really my “friend”. She was an acquaintance. She was part of the Detroit art scene and I saw her all the time at openings and art venues. We were never close. Yet, when I was told she died, I felt so, so sad. My very first impression and thought was “She was always so happy! She smiled all the time!” I haven’t seen her in at least 16 years, yet her smile and gentle spirit is what I remember most. That is her legacy. It appeared to me, she was an artist who loved life and it was reflected in her work. Her joyful spirit was apparent. Her essence was very clear to me even though I was on the periphery of her friends circle. So I learned from her.
What really matters is how we live our lives. If we do our work and appreciate our gifts, we will smile. Also, it is important to realize others are watching. What we do makes a difference to others. We all have an impact on each other. Yes, it is important to be productive and honest with our life hours. Yet, it is most important to use those hours in a way that will be a positive inspiration to others. Sandy was that to me.

Sandy Zenisek
An accomplished woman, an accomplished artist
We can learn from you.
Be at peace and smile your beautiful smile forever.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Synchronicity in a great way!

It would be very easy for me to use this blog to be pretentious, grandiose, and just plain obnoxious in an overly intelligent way. However even though I want to speak on relevant art issues that will inspire and be pertinent to artists, there is a part of me that wants this blog to be relevant to everyone (or at least a good percentage of our human race).

Well, today I learned a lesson. During my day job, I have been working on a mural with kids for the past six months. We only get to paint for around 45 minutes each week. In other words, it is very slow going. To complicate matters, the kids working on this mural have various disabilities. This is why each week’s work makes me feel so proud of these kids because they are giving everything they have to give!

Yesterday, I spoke of making your mark in the world. Well, I had an experience today that made me realize I speak words that are relevant to many, many people. I was priming a new area of the mural and I had a new, unknown student come up to me. He asked if he could work on the mural. I said “Sure!” and then asked when he would be available to come to work. Now mind you, this is a disabled student speaking. He is different. Yet he continued to explain the reason he wanted to help work on the mural. He said: “I have been thinking about this a lot. I know you wanted help. I know I won’t be at this school forever. I want to help you and paint this picture so other kids who look at this picture will know I was here.”

When he said that, I jerked back physically. I reacted that way because I had just written about this very same thing on my blog yesterday. Of course, I told him YES!! Then I finished priming while I smirked and thought,”Yep, what I write and think relates to an awful lot of people!” Everyone does want to make his or her mark on this world! He will do his part in the coming weeks. We will all know he was there!

The “mural” at 6 hours
We are at about 30 hours now
I will post the finished product in four weeks

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Making Your Mark

After writing about being a hermit artist and feeling just fine about “nesting” all alone, I realized I am not really alone. Looking down at "Gizmo, Wizard of Wizzlewolf", I realized he suffers a bit from my antisocial behaviors. When I stay home, he does too. This isn’t good for an animal with genes that tell him to wander and explore. Feeling guilty, I went and got his leash. When he sees that leash, he has the same exuberance I imagine I would have if I won the lottery!
So we ventured out. As we walked, he smelled and I listened to my iPod. Shuffling along listening to an eclectic mix of U2, Sia, Dave Matthews, Joni Mitchell, Andre 3000, Techno Underground, Andre Bottchelli, etc., I watched the GIZ as he smelled and peed, smelled and peed, and smelled and peed. I silently laughed as he made his mark on the world.
Then, I realized how he isn’t really thinking about anything particular. This is just his nature. He is in heaven, plodding forward with his nose to the ground. When he finds some good smell, he pees on it. In essence, he is saying to the world “I WAS HERE!!!” I tried to see this as a metaphor for my own life. No, I don’t urinate on everything over two inches tall. However, I thought about how we all do this in our own way. We all want attention. We all want to scream to the world “NOTICE ME!!” We search for something that will leave a legacy. I suppose my art is my mark on the world.
I often cringe at the thought of what will happen to all this art “stuff” once I kick the bucket. It really doesn’t matter, but I can’t see my daughter savoring all my oddities. I guess I will learn another lesson from the “Wizard”. Like him, I will think of the now. That’s all. So he will go pee. I will go make a painting. We will both be happy, as we both know we made our marks on this world!

Making his mark on the world!


As an artist, it is important to be part of the world. It is important to see everything. Artists should learn as much as possible because the world is the impetus for your subject matter and inspiration. Anthropology, science, math, geography, sociology, psychology, etc. are all subject areas, which congregate under the umbrella of the artist’s mind. That is why it is so important that an artist gets a well-rounded education with big dashes of life experience.
Yet this is a dilemma for me. Yes, I have been well educated. I do have life experiences. However, I find it more and more difficult to get out and be a part of life and society. It would suit me just fine if I didn’t have to leave my house/studio. I would even like it if I could get food delivered by a robot that wouldn’t converse! I am one of those people that likes being alone. Yet this is a dilemma. As an artist, I need to get out to feel the pulse or zeitgeist of the moment. Actually, I can feel these things at home in an artificial manner. I turn on the computer or TV and Whammo!! The world fills my house! I want to plug my ears, cover my mouth, and shut my eyes in hopes of barricading the invasion! This is why I often don’t want to venture out in this world. Things are scary out there!
It goes in cycles. Right now I am in a “nesting” mode. I go to my day job, come home, work in my studio, talk to nobody (except online or in this blog), and hang up on telemarketers because they are invading my space. There are days when I protect this “Sheree World” like a mama bird protecting her nest. Usually during these nesting periods, I get a lot of art done, keep my sanity, and get fatter. Then the pendulum swings. Eventually, I do go out again. I become active, social, (and skinnier). I suppose this would be called the “hunter/gatherer” mode. I take in more life, get more experience, and get fed up with some of the insanity of the world. Then, I retreat again. To steal the words of Kurt Vonnegut, “So it goes!”.

Detail of my painting “New Start”
My “nest”

Monday, April 16, 2007

Time FLIES!!!

These past few months, I have been reminded repeatedly that time is marching on. It is strange when you meet up with friends you haven’t seen in years. This is especially true when those years sum up to a LOT of years. One friend from Detroit came down to Florida last month to visit me. He was a former coworker at a day job I held right after I got out of grad school. We went out to dinner and I thought how it was funny how we looked the same, but so, so much older.
Just this past week, I had a lunch date with a former neighbor. I moved away from that neighborhood six years ago. When I saw her, I was taken aback because she has let her hair grow out to its “natural” silver color. I sat there struggling to see HER beyond the whiteness of it all. In my minds eye, I still see her as a brunette. Things change.
Then just yesterday, I saw a pic of one of my best, best friends. During a circuitous journey of web links, I found an article in Detroit’s Metro Times “Feast Your Eyes”. I wasn’t looking for her. I was reading another blog that mentioned artists who take photos of their food. I thought that was so odd, I had to read the article. Lo and Behold, there was Gilda!! I haven’t seen Gilda in person since 1991! She looks the same, but older.
Believe me, I am in the same boat. I look the same as I did back then, except with many, many more wrinkles! However, it is strange how you might feel wiser, but don’t realize you are aging physically until you look in the mirror! I guess this is God’s way of saying “This doesn’t last forever, so get on with it!!!” LOL

My “BESTEST” Friend, Artist, Gilda Snowden
PHOTO CREDIT: Rebecca Mazzei, Metro Times arts and culture editor

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Have you ever done this?

Rarely have I ever done this: overworked a painting. For some magical reason, I have always been satisfied with the end result of the works I create and intuitively known when to STOP. However for the first time, I think I ruined a painting I have been working on. I am sick about it.

I was DONE with this painting and brought it into my house to look at it for a while. It sat there for a day or two and I admired it. The other night, I decided it just needed "something else". I took it into my studio and started painting. The next morning, I went out there and it looked awful. I have been reworking and reworking it for the past few days. I can't get it back to the way it was or get it to a point in which a resolution is satisfactory. I am totally bummed out.

Have you ever done this? If so, do you just trash the bad piece and start over or do you keep trying to revive the overworked piece?

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Happy? Easter

I totally forgot it was Easter weekend. Now that my daughter is grown, there are no baskets, chocolate bunnies, or Peeps to buy. Today I thought about how we take so much for granted. I know a lot of little kids who won’t be getting any Easter treats tomorrow. I am around kids all the time who live in families that don’t celebrate such things. Due to lack of money or parental neglect, the Easter bunny is not part of their family holiday routine.
That is one thing I can be thankful for in my life. Despite all the adult histrionics driven by substance abuse, at least my childhood had the tooth fairy, Santa Claus, and Easter Bunny. My parental unit held it together enough to provide that on a pretty regular basis.
Well, it got kind of dicey one year. I was eleven years old. The eldest of three girls, I played “Little Mama” when necessary. On Easter morning, my sisters woke me up. I couldn’t care less about the Easter bunny coming. However, it was very important to my younger siblings. They pulled and tugged at me to come help them find their baskets. We searched the house. No baskets. The little sisters whined and pouted as we went from room to room over and over again (it was a very small house). The pouts turned to tears and frustration. My little mama mind started to get really pissed off, but I kept telling my sisters to keep looking! I prodded them to look in closets, under tables, and even unlikely places like in the oven!! I needed time to think. I rushed upstairs to nudge my parent and asked, “Did you get Easter baskets???” I was given only an incomprehensible groan. I could feel the heat coming to my face. I looked over and saw car keys. Feeling pangs of doubt, I thought with my junior high mind, “What the hell!! I’ll give it a shot!”

I told my sisters to put on their boots and jackets. I said, “Maybe the Easter bunny hid them outside!!” They believed me. We opened the door to a blustery, winter wind. So out we went. Three, little stairsteps trudged out into the snow bundled in pajamas, coats, and galoshes. We got out to the car and I looked in the windows. There was nothing in the back seat. SHIT!! Ok I kept thinking….keep it together Sheree! One last try. I walked to the back of the car, put the key in to open the trunk. With a spring action, the trunk lid flew open. There in the trunk laid three (frozen) candy laden Easter baskets. My sisters screamed with delight. I just smiled while thinking this is such B.S.!
Oh well, such is life. I am who I am because of my past. I appreciate my life experiences. Things could always be worse. Also, I don’t dwell on the stupid stuff. I live by the doctrines of “The Church of What’s Happening Now!” If you are a Sia fan, you will know the words to that song.
Therefore, I wish every one a creative, happy holiday!!!

Gizmo and I wish everyone a HAPPY EASTER!!

Friday, April 6, 2007

“National UNPLUGGED Day”

I have been sick with the flu the past three days. Besides feeling awful physically, I am about to go crazy mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Being a prisoner of the couch cushions and having only enough energy to watch TV for hours on end, I am more convinced than ever that this world is going berserk. It seems 98% of the information that is broadcast is either stupid celebrity gossip (who cares???), violence/vulgarity, reality shows ad nauseam (I feel sick enough), or journalists arguing politics.
I couldn’t take it anymore so I decided to log onto the computer to find something of merit to ponder. Oh yeah, right!! Ha ha ha! Let’s see here….AOL welcome screen greets me with a terrible picture of Hillary with her eyes popping out of her head like a bobble head doll advertising a horror film. Stories about Angelina, filthiest cities, dangers in your home, and richest zip codes call out from the white screen for my attention. I don’t think so. I don’t want to lend energy to any of that.
This made me think about how we are all so attached and addicted to our electronics. Televisions, computers, cellphones, blackberries, and other gadgets all qualify. Besides turning our brains into tapioca pudding and disconnecting our personal relationships, it seems our electronic dependence is filling our lives with the loud hiss and crackle of WHITE NOISE.

I did find something to think about with my “sick” imagination. Daydreaming, I envision a new holiday. I propose a day called “National UNPLUGGED Day”. YES!! It would be like an electronic INTERVENTION! That would be a great idea!
I am going to go grab a book now.

Wouldn’t it be nice to just UNPLUG once in a while?

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Compelling Visions

I have said before that St. Petersburg isn’t an art mecca. Well…..there would be people that would argue that point. I will rephrase. St. Petersburg is not an art mecca for the type of art I admire or for which I find inspiration. Yet this weekend, I was shaken to my core. The St. Petersburg “Museum of Fine Arts” has a show titled “Compelling Visions: Florida Collects Folk Art”. This show blew me away. I sat outside on the steps of the museum and waited for it to open the doors on Sunday. I have always gravitated toward outsider, na├»ve, or folk art. It is all of the same ilk which I love. I wondered what this show would be like. It was hard for me to wait the ½ for the museum to open.
I wasn’t disappointed. The works of these artists is phenomenal.

I have always loved primitive art. Even when I was at the university, I would always reference the work of African, Oceanic, or American Folk art for inspiration. Seeing this show was emotional for me. I moved into the second room knowing I would have to come back again. I just couldn't assimilate all the wonderful information this show offered. In fact, there are three rooms of work by artists such as Howard Finster, Purvis Young, Benny Carter, Nellie Mae Rowe, etc. and there are so many powerful pieces, it is overwhelming. The art is pure, innocent, and real. They speak their realities. They speak their truths. We can learn from them.

Howard Finster
”Superpowers” 1985

Sunday, April 1, 2007


I wanted to share a GREAT resource. For any of you who really want a CREATIVE life, I recommend reading a new book by Twyla Tharp titled "The Creative Habit". I can't praise this book enough! In fact if you find this book at a bookstore and stand there while reading the very first chapter, I promise you will be on your way to the cash register within a few minutes.
Besides being a great choreographer, Tharp is a delightful writer. She writes like she is talking to you. She uses plain and simple language and relates stories about her creative life as if you were sitting with her at her studio. I read another one of her books "Push Comes to Shove" years ago. I loved that one too. However, the CREATIVE HABIT makes so much sense to me at this time of my life.
To briefly explain the thesis of the book, I will say it is about making creativity a habit, routine, or ritual in your life. From the very first chapter, I would read a page and say YES YES YES!!!
If you are interested, I am sure any bookstore would have the book or could order it. It just came out recently. Here is the AMAZON link to it: