Sunday, August 30, 2009

Art Blog: The PERFECT Storm

Sometimes I make myself laugh. Sheree World is a very funny place sometimes. Last month, I decided to do my “Me Bootcamp”. Little did I know that all hell would break out just after the announcement of this new phase of self-improvement. First my dog died. Then I returned to my day job and found that for the first time in my life changes have made going to work nearly unbearable. I am fighting tooth and nail with the symptoms of depression. This is wearing me out both physically and mentally. Yesterday I realized I am coping by just zoning out. I laid on the couch and watched television reruns all day yesterday. However as night fell, I had had enough. I went to bed early and must have dreamt about my survival skills. In fact as soon as I woke up, I thought “This is a PERFECT STORM”.

I have mentioned here before how the Universe hits you on the head to help you learn life lessons. WELL, I am being hit on the head with a huge, heavy mallet right now. No wonder I feel dazed. This morning I remembered a collage I created called “Hurricane Brain”. I wondered if I had a picture of it on my computer. When I searched I found these words from one of the first posts on this blog back in January of 2007:

“It is time of emotional drama. I am not talking about “screaming, pushing, punching the walls” kind of drama. Oh no, I don’t allow that into my life. However, I have been experiencing an emotional drama of the introverted ilk. My mind is the eye of the hurricane. Thoughts run wild while my rational mind stands by with a lasso. I am trying very hard to rein things in right now.
Life passages are awesome albeit crappy. Those moments in which you see the crossroads cause unexplainable distress and pain, but I have learned to say “THANK YOU”. I have to be appreciative and know the Universe will provide as it always has. These times of confusion end up being the times that force action into play. In fact, I am so glad for the abundance in my life. I have been so fortunate. I have had so much success and good fortune. However, that doesn’t stop me from striving to be the best artist I can be. That is why I was born and put on this earth. I just have to keep moving forward!”

Those words and feelings were the impetus to start blogging again. It helped too. I have accomplished so much in the last two and a half years. There has been a whole lot of good going on here. In fact, the trauma of that time has been fixed. Now, I have a new set of challenges.

I keep thinking of my good friend Terry who is an awesome person and testament to self determination. He always signs his comments and emails with the words “STAY STRONG”. Last night I thought of those words, but I realized in order to stay strong, I have to BE STRONG first. This is my boot camp assignment this week. I have to start building up my emotional, physical, spiritual, and mental strength again. I will need this power for the new changes coming. I will get through this perfect storm. I need to keep moving and steering my own ship until the winds subside and I see the glint of the sun coming through the clouds. I can do this.

“Hurricane Brain”
Sheree Rensel
Mixed Media Collage
24” X 24”
Click pic for detail view

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Art Blog: Qualitative versus Quantitative

A few years back, I started to work on my Ph.D. It was such an eye opening experience. At that point, I had 10 years of college credit under my belt. I had the obligatory Associates degree, Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, Master of Fine Arts degree, two years to get art educator certified, another two years to get special education certified, and then I was on my way to earning more credits towards my Ph.D. I loved being in a doctorate program. I really loved it. I was doing so well. Then the bills started piling up. I had to stop because I was so worried I would never be able to pay the cost before I died! I let it go. Maybe I will finish when I when the lottery.

The point of this post is not about the absurd cost of trying to be well educated. Actually, I want to speak about something I learned during my doctorate work. When you get to that level of education, it is all about research. There are two kinds of research: Qualitative versus Quantitative. The second describes when you can quantify your findings. For example, I could write about how the results of my tests prove 78% did this when I did that. In other words, quantitative research deals with exact numbers. It is objective. Another example could be the Olympic runner ran this time. There is no way you can refute the time. It is solid. However, if you are talking about the score a gymnast gets while doing a workout or how does the TOP CHEF score after preparing a meal? That is another story. There is a subjective component to this score. In other words, there are people’s opinions that are in play. This is part of life. This is part of data gathering. However whenever subjectivity is involved, that is qualitative data.

While in the doctorate program, I found myself very securely in the qualitative category. So much of what I do and am interested in, depends on observation, my interpretations, and gathering past research to support my opinions. This is why qualitative research is a sticky wicket.
I am talking about all this now because it relates to a situation I am in right now. I find myself in an environment that is all about brass tacks. We need to count widgets. I am supposed to conform to the norm. I can’t. I don’t live in that kind of world.

The irony is that the students I teach everyday don’t live in that world either. We are all a subjective bunch. “One size does NOT fit all” for any of us.
This is why I feel very sad right now. I feel frustrated the world doesn’t understand why I feel like crap. We are not widgets.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Art Blog: Blue Jeans?

This is such bullshit. Sorry for my language, but I can’t help it. I have been an artist since the 70’s. Yes, I am that old. I have been an art educator since 1980. I cannot remember a time when my teaching dress code has ever been an issue. GeesssH!! I am artist for crying out loud! I have 30 years of jeans and T-shirts in my closet. Despite this fashion faux pas, I have managed to help students of every demographic category LEARN and learn well. We have won awards. We have strutted our stuff. We have done REALLY GOOD!

I have been told I cannot wear blue jeans while teaching. It isn’t “professional”. Well………………………I wear jeans because I am the kind of person who gets down and dirty. I am not a “pointer”. That is what I call art educators who come to work in a suit or precious clothes, and POINT at students: “You do this. You do that, etc,” never touching or feeling the materials. They do not get on the floor and paint or help kids mix plaster or show them how to work the potter’s wheel in a real life manner.

I am not that kind of artist or art educator. When I work with students, it is the same as if we were working in my studio. Would I wear dress pants in my studio?

This is just another example of how so many people in society have no idea what we do as artists. This is an example of how our society doesn’t understand the arts AT ALL! They have no clue. This is very sad. I have to say and admit, the demand to wear dress clothes is offensive to me. It really is. I am not one of THOSE kinds of people. When my day is done, you know I have worked and experienced life. I am not a “POINTER”.

I am a working ARTIST!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Art Blog: Art WORDLE

Click pic to go make your own “ART WORDLE”!

P.S. If you make a wordle and don't want to save it to their gallery, simply open up your wordle in a separate window (button on lower left). Then, take a screen print of it. You can resize and save your "wordle" to your desktop. :-)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Art Blog: Passion

This has been one of the hardest weeks of my life. I had no idea how horrible it could be to see a friend slowly decline and die. It just never occurred to me that any life could change at any given moment. Even though I might occasionally complain about one thing or another, I have to admit overall, my art life is pretty damn good. Nothing prepared me for the changes this week. I didn’t want anything like this to happen. Right now, the former status quo seems pretty good. I wish I could go back and make things the way I want them to be. I can’t. This is a part of life.

All this is so weird. There is a little voice in my head that says “For goodness sake Sheree, it was a dog! Get over it!” Yes, it was a dog, but that dog and I spent more than 4000 days together. He was my little, art studio buddy. Since my daughter left home about 5 years ago, it was all about me and him. We did everything together. We were an art team. This is why I feel like I am going crazy right now. I keep hearing my own voice yelling “Studio, Studio!” You see that was the alert that I was going out to make art. When he heard those words, he came running and almost knocked the studio door down. He knew what that meant. I keep thinking that he is in another room and I want to go look for him. Every time I hear any kind of ticking sound outside or on TV, I look up. I think it is his nails tapping on the hard wood floors. When I turn on the vacumn, he doesn’t freak out. There is no one to bark at the mailman. When I am out in the yard, I keep thinking he well come out from behind a tree. It takes a second for me to snap back to reality. He is gone now.

I had one really great experience this week. I had already bought a primo ticket to a Dave Matthews Band concert. This is a ritual for me. I go every year. This is MY band. However, I sat here on Wednesday morning and didn’t want to go. I finally picked myself up and went. It was really great.

The thing I thought about most at the concert was how DMB has such passion. Every member of the group is a true artist. They all exude PASSION. As I watch videos of their performances, I realize this is really what it is all about. Life can suck. Life is what it is. The most important thing is to pick yourself up and muster the PASSION for life that we all need.
I am trying to do that right now.

You don't have to watch any video.
Take my word.
They work up a sweat and take no prisoners.
They are my kind of people!!!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Art Blog: In Loving Memory



You see I found this dog at a "puppy mill" pet shop. He was a very sad sack. He was a Yorkie, but he HUGE for a toy dog. He was very raggedy for such a "glamorous" breed. Instead of silky long hair, he was scruffy looking all the time. Just like a four-year-old little boy, he always looked like he just got done eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich while sitting in a mud puddle.

When he was a "toddler", he had all kinds of physical and emotional problems. He was born Unilateral Cryptorchid. That means he only had one testicle. That made him unbreedable as a pedigree dog. He had intestinal problems for the first six months of his life so the shop kept him caged. This rendered him "severely emotionally disturbed". He attacked everyone until he was six years old!! He was just a mean little, snotty dog. For some reason, he liked me. Ironically, I teach severely emotionally disturbed kids. I guess he instinctively knew I always root for the "underdog" (Pun intended).

So I bought him. Now the wizzlewolf part.....

A few weeks later I got the papers from the American Kennel Club. LOL LOL LOL They needed a fancy show name for this dog. They didn't know he was a WRECK and would never be in any shows. However, I thought about it and it came to me.
This was EXACTLY what this dog needed: SELF ESTEEM!!!! So I made up the very regal title like those you hear during dog shows:

"Gizmo, Wizard of Wizzlewolf"

I realized the "wizzlewolf" part was really like me: silly, humorous, yet strong and courageous. So I became the wizzlewolf to his wizard!!

EPILOGUE: That was nearly 13 years ago. Yesterday, “Gizmo Wizard of Wizzlewolf” left this life. I am sure he is now working as a helper in heaven’s art studio. I already miss him more than I can express, but I know he is a happy angel dog now.

I will always love you Giz.
You have been a true, loving friend.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Art Blog: Ssshhhhhhh

I have decided to take a little break until August 15th. I am in desperate need of quiet time. Some things are happening around here and I feel like I am walking on broken glass. I will explain later. I will resume posting next week. I just need a huge TIME OUT!
The clock starts ticking NOW.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Art Blog: Taking Your Own Pulse

This post is dedicated to “Tina”, the sole commenter on my last post. THANK YOU TINA!

Sometimes it is necessary to just stop and look around.
We all need to feel our own pulse sometimes!

I think I hit a nerve with my last entry. It was pretty much ignored or at least, it wasn’t received well. As stated, I got one comment on the entry. I did get a few tweets. Most of those comments wished me well, but had an undercurrent of condolences. I had to go back and reread what I wrote because I wondered why the responses made it seem like I was in some kind of trouble. I am not.

Yesterday, I did feel miserable. I had exercised too much at the beginning of the week. My neck was stiff from lifting kettlebells. The rest of my body was cursing the treadmill and spinner. This was expected. Even the fact I was a tad crabby is part of the deal. I knew this would happen because this isn’t my first “Me Bootcamp”. I have done makeovers before and there is a very specific process and cycle you have to go through to get to the good stuff.

Whenever you are trying to move your life along and check your own pulse, if there isn’t any discomfort it means nothing is changing. I am sorry I can’t report about lollipops and rainbows yet. I will get there. Until then, there will be some ups and downs and all arounds. That is a GOOD thing.

Right now, I am shaking up the bottle and making it fizz. That’s all. If you have never done this, you should try it sometime. This two week stint is just a start. The last time I did a “Me Bootcamp” it took about ten months for me to look around and see bright and shiny newness in my life. It takes a while for the soda to really POP. However when it does, it is like a magical fountain of fizzy delight! This is why condolences are not in order here. This is a very positive event in my life. I am happy I am taking steps to move my life forward.

Artwise: I went back and looked at my January 1st resolutions. I wanted to remember what I wanted to do with my art this year. Like I said, I am taking the pulse. As I look at my list of art goals for 2009, I am doing pretty darn well! At this point, I have been in nine shows this year. I will make that goal. I haven’t submitted my own CDs yet. However, I created Twitter 140 exhibition and I sent out 12 proposal packages for that shindig. I have collected the sculpture components to begin work on my sculpture series. I have joined two more community art groups. That is not working out all that well, but at least I took those steps. Finally, my “Me Bootcamp” is a concrete plan to help make myself a happy, healthy artist. Hmmmmm….I guess I am pretty much on target!

Believe me. I am NOT getting ready to jump off a cliff or anything! LOL LOL
To clarify, my “Me Bootcamp” is like climbing UP a mountain and being able to look down. Once I get up to the summit, I have a new panoramic vision. That is what this is all about.
It is a GOOD thing.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Art Blog: “ME” Bootcamp

Why do we keep doing the same things over and over even though they don’t bring happiness to our lives?
Are the fears of change and insecurity that powerful?

I have just about two weeks left of my “vacation”. Well, the past few months have not been a vacation. I have worked my ass off. I really mean the break from my day job will end. Seeing the light at the end of this summer tunnel has brought on the annual feelings of anxiety. This will be my 17th year doing the same things over and over at my day job. Obviously, it couldn’t be that bad. I mean, nobody is forcing me to keep driving there every morning. Nevertheless, I still feel this twinge of discomfort.

My nervous anticipation is heightened because there will be many changes at my job this year. I am not really good with change. (Obviously, if I embraced change, I would have switched jobs by now!! LOL LOL) Understanding how I am and how I can be, I decided to take the bull by the horns and do some soul searching for the next two weeks.

I call this plan the “ME BOOTCAMP”. In order to galvanize my emotional self, I want to get myself back into a routine. I am readjusting my eating habits. I am hitting the fitness bandwagon hard and taking care of my physical needs. I am making efforts to read and stimulate my brain. I plan on revisiting my spiritual side via candles, music, and meditation. I have started a new journal. I want to gain a state of equipoise and balance. I really want to tackle my fear of uncertainty. Also, I need to think about what I want to do with the rest of my life.

Seriously. I am suffering from “BeenThereDoneThatitis”. Every time I start thinking of things I might want to do, it seems boring to me. I have done it before. I don’t really have any goals other than to eat today. At the moment, apathy reigns in my life. I don’t really have any kind of grand desires or ambitions right now. This is even true for my art. I am going through a stage in which I want to make art, but I don’t want to enter shows. I don’t want to try to sell it. I don’t CARE about any of that right now. I guess that is one of my predicaments. I don’t see the point anymore.

Let me explain. Years ago, I can remember living my art life feverishly. I made art with a speed and passion that created sparks. There was always another exhibition deadline. There was always the next step and goal for which to reach. Now, I make all this art and there are no great shows. There are few deadlines and even less sales. I shouldn't complain. I have accomplished a whole lot in my life so far. Yet now, I feel like there is no future.
This is not good.

So what is a girl to do? It is so easy for me to list the things I do NOT want to do. I don’t want to travel. I don’t want to take part in any kind of social activities. I don’t want to leave St. Petersburg or my little art house. I do want to continue to make art here, but I am not really seeing the rationale of that choice. I do want to work a day job that is fulfilling and for a good cause. I just don’t want the stress and negativity that goes along with my current position.
This is why I am taking the next couple of weeks to think about all this stuff. In essence, I want to figure out what I want to be when I grow up all over again.


Sunday, August 2, 2009

Art Blog: The Eleventh Hour

I remember when I was in kindergarten. We only had to go to school for half days in that first year. My day started at 12:00 noon. I loved going to school. I would sit and wait with great anticipation every morning. I never missed a day. However in my five year old mind, I became curious about what it was like to be “absent”. I didn’t really know the exact meaning of the word yet. I did hear the teacher say it aloud when she marked the roll each day. Roger is ABSENT. Mary is ABSENT. Sheree is PRESENT. Etc.

One day I decided I wanted to see what it felt like to be absent. I told my mother I didn’t feel so good. I didn’t want to go to school. She said “OK”. I lay in bed most of the morning. Boredom set in and I wandered into the kitchen. We had a clock on the stove. I looked at the clock. It was 11:55AM. I watched the clock tick closer to noon. When the big hand almost touched the 12, I screamed “I WANT TO GO TO SCHOOL!!!!” LOL LOL LOL LOL Quickly, I threw some clothes on and hightailed it down the street. I wasn’t absent that day.

I thought of this “eleventh hour” change of heart memory this weekend. On August 1st I was supposed to have the prospectus done for the “Git Outta My Face” an online exhibition I am curating. The original theme of the show was going to be artistic responses to FaceBook and social media. I took notes and began the prospectus. I have had a video promo out for the show for weeks. It was not very well accepted. Despite the lack of response, I trudged on and started writing the prospectus. However, I put it aside and let it sit for a week. Late on the night of July 31st, I started to finish it at the eleventh hour. I sat and looked at the clock once again and thought “I have to get this done!” However, it felt like too much work. I wasn’t feeling it! I realized I didn’t like this show idea either. I don’t like Facebook. I just can’t get into it. It reminds me of one of those animated billboards advertising an endless stream of things I don’t want to buy. It is just boring to me.

Eureka! If this idea is boring to me, how can I put all the work and effort into putting on a show in which I have no interest? Duh! Therefore, I am shelving this theme. I have a much better idea for the show. The new theme is far more interesting to me. I hope it will be of interest to artists too!

“Get Outta My Face”
Online exhibition prospectus will be posted SOON.