Somebody Else's to them, whomever they may be.

Somebody Else's to them, whomever they may be.
How I feel after throwing a party...

Thanks for the visit!! :)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Who Does She Think She Is?

Creativity belongs to the artist in each of us. To create means to relate. The root meaning of the word art is "to fit together" and we all do this every day. Not all of us are painters but we are all artists. Each time we fit things together we are creating - whether it is to make a loaf of bread, a child, a day.—Corita Kent, Artist

An artist friend of mine went to a lecture at the local university. The speaker was a female artist by the name of Ellina Kevorkian and she talked about how, when pregnant, she was advised not to go to galleries. My friend, E., posted her thoughts on her blog, which you can find here:

During (and after) reading her article my mind has raced around (and continues to do so) with thoughts and theories as to why this would be. Why would artists, gallery workers and/or agents discourage motherhood or any signs or symbols of it in the physical form of the human person? Why do they deny it in the flesh, but address it regularly in paint and photograph and clay and etc.?

I gave it a lot of thought, and came up with a variety of thoughts and theories. In the end they are just my thoughts and theories based on my own experiences, exposures and ideas, but here they are.

Perhaps it is a leftover bias against women and a disrespect for their ability not only to create serious and worthy art, but their ability to create and carry life, which is the greatest of art, within them before delivering it to the world to see.
It has been my personal experience that despite being in "modern" times that it is not an infrequent occurrence that men (and some women) in the field of art resent a capable and artistic woman. They push her down if she tries to balance herself between hearth and home and outside endeavors. If she gives more time to her family then to her trade, she is “not committed.” If she gives more time to her trade then to her family she is “cold and un-motherly.” A woman cannot win against the critic-a mother and wife even less so.

It has also been my experience that, to some individuals, if you are not soaked in paint 24x7, and avant garde in your politics and your thinking, if you are not pushing the envelope of social standards, that you are not a true artist. I disagree wholeheartedly with this. I do not think you need to place a crucifix in a glass of urine, or paint with feces or take photos of individuals in compromising positions with bull whips to make an impact. Successful and moving art does not always have to be shocking or offensive, in fact, successful and moving art, the art that truly touches and moves the soul should be something that can be shared and viewed over and over again with a positive result. By no means, does this mean that art should be devoid of controversy, because sometimes that is the greatest provocateur of ideas and change, I’m just saying it doesn’t need to always be insulting or offensive.

You might say, “Well, Tracy…the masses aren’t socially aware and we need to make them…” Really? Do you really need to **make** someone see?

Case in point, and a minor digression: I wrote a paper about Robert Mapplethorpe during the peak of his controversy back in the early 90’s. During the course of my research I found him to be an absolutely stunning photographer, a gifted artist and, through his photography, a social commentator. My issue was not with his talent, or his topic, but rather with his public, tax-based funding, but that is a separate conversation entirely. As a human, not even just as an artist, but as a human being we are free to express ourselves, to create and shout out our voices as we see fit. I am not one for stifling freedom of speech and expression. My point in bringing him up is that he became less about the art than about the controversy, in fact, it was my opinion that his controversy actually hid his art as opposed to exposing it.
Anyway—back to the topic at hand…

Motherhood, being quintessentially human, and a practice that is preternatural to the capacity of a woman's body, is often viewed by the more artistically elite as a parochial process, one that the masses should engage in, but not those who are more "enlightened." (Kind of like their view on voting…but I’m not going there today either.) I don’t understand this at all, if nothing else, a woman **CREATES** with more than paint and clay, she creates with her body, her DNA, it’s a crap shoot because she has very little control over what actually turns out, but she is the vessel for the creation that her cells mindlessly take over and produce. Once the child is born, she has the opportunity to mold that little human being, to influence it, to teach it, to raise it in such a way as to being a unique little being reflective and representative of those things that she found most important…or didn’t. Being that close to the creation process, if she is left to create artwork based on her experiences, what amazingness could she come up with if only encouraged and given the opportunity?

I performed a search online of “motherhood” & “artist” and of course was bombarded by countless examples of artwork that focused on women, motherhood and children. I did a separate search for “discrimination of mothers as artists” and came up with a handful of articles on the actual topic at hand. Most of what came up was about discrimination against women as a whole and I don’t really care about that in regards to this article, because I know about that—I wanted to know about mothers specifically.

I came across an interesting article in the NY Times that discussed a documentary entitled “Who Does She Think She Is?” Who indeed. The documentary was directed by Pamela Tanner Boll and Nancy Kennedy and, from the review given, would seem to address these exact issues. Why is the art world dominated by men, when in art school the field is dominated by women? Why must a woman choose between a career as an artist vs. having a family, why do people find it so difficult to allow her to balance the two?

In the world I live and work in I am surrounded by women. These women come from a variety of backgrounds and are diverse in skill, talent and appearance. Amongst these women are many who are artists, some in practice, others in heart, others who have made the trade off for family and put their own creativity on hold.

For myself, I have also made this tradeoff. Some might call it selling out, but I would not. I studied art on a university level and I loved it, couldn’t get enough of it. After graduating, I unexpectedly ended up in a professional world of finance and accounting, travel and numbers. As my career progressed, I fell further and further away from my artistic training, to the point of dust on the brushes and dulled pencils and hardened erasers. On occasion I would take out my old artwork, my notebooks and sketch pads and I would marvel at the girl I had been, my work is good. I asked myself why I left it behind, and then when there was no answer but a melancholic echo and whisperings of things I did not want to hear, I put it all away and returned to the fast paced, high stress world of what had become my “Now.”

As the years progressed, I have dabbled. I have dabbled in drawing, stamping, collage, jewelry making and photography. I have thought about all of the “What If’s.” What if I had seen it through where would I be? What if I had pursued an MFA? What if I had continued additional coursework? What if I hadn’t married and had remained a practicing artist. What if I had only said “I will not choose, but will remain.”? But these “what if’s” lead to a world of nowhere, because you cannot turn back the clock, you cannot change your choices, and would you really if you could?

I would not have missed the experience of marriage and companionship to the man I have loved these almost-20 years. I would not be the same person I am today if I had missed that world of finance and of logic and reason. What I would change if I could have was to have retained some focus with my artistic side sooner than later, but then when I think back on those earlier years, I remember the hardships and when in dire hardship, you’re trying to afford bread and rent, not paint and canvas. You make a choice according to your situation and perception at the time. Overall it is a tough situation and it is a personal choice that we all make. I blame no one. I am who I am because of the choices that I have made, and while I do have regrets as most do, I am happy with who I am at this point in my life. The most interesting thing about it all though…is I still do view myself as an artist.

My point in sharing this is to make note that women, as a whole, often sacrifice their outward showing of creativity for what they view to be a greater good or something more important that must be done now and they often come back to it later on, or perhaps they find daily manifestations and ways to celebrate it and to expose it that allow them to still meet their desires and needs.

With no discrimination against them, nor with a sour word, but rather with experienced truth, men rarely have to choose one thing over the other. It is the nature of the difference of the sexes. They decide and they do. Their primary concern is rarely about having babies in a timely manner or choosing between staying at home and working. Men can have babies forever, women cannot. An old(er) man can father a child and experience the joy of parenting where an old(er) woman cannot. No amount of feminism or discussion can change this. Because of this, why wouldn’t they pursue as they please? In relation to this, perhaps that is why some view women to be weak, because they are limited and dominated on by time and are scoffed at because of it. Due to the nature of biology and the accompanying time constraints, women do often make sacrifices in their youth in order to meet a bone deep desire to perpetuate the species and to procreate while they still can. It doesn’t make them less though, for choosing to do so.

Choosing to be a mother and an artist does not seem to be something that should be in conflict with one another, and perhaps, in the end it is not. Perhaps the conflict is only in the gallery, and in the public forum, where those in power continue to oppress women, holding them down with their hands while they speak sweet words with their lips, for wanting to be who they are without boundaries and limits. Like most everywhere else in life, perhaps the limitations and discriminations are only in the minds of those who hold the purse strings and other scepters of power and who disperse gifts and opportunities based on their unreasonable and/or pet whimsies.

Perhaps women need to shrug off the standardized expectations of others who would define them narrowly and unjustly. Perhaps women should just be who they are, without title, without name, without sex, but just be. Perhaps a woman should define herself as she sees fit, as she pleases, as she desires to be, as she sees herself. Perhaps she should not fear classification or failure because she takes pleasure in who she herself declares and defines herself to be. A woman can be a mother and an artist. A woman can be a stay at home mom without having to justify that she "works too." A woman can be a high powered lawyer. A woman can be a business owner. A woman can be a wife, a friend, a mother, a lover, a grandmother, a neighbor, a human being with dreams and desires, talents and gifts to perform in many different arenas.

Georgia O'Keefe once said "You get whatever accomplishment you are willing to declare."

What do you declare?

Friday, September 3, 2010

Infinite Prisms of Light

I posted the following on my Facebook today:

“If you are ticked, angry, pissed off, or otherwise annoyed and/or infuriated with someone you love...surprise them...blow it off, concede, say "It is forgotten!" with a smile and a kiss or a hug. It will catch them off guard and they will smile...or grimace. And who couldn't use a happy surprise on a Friday before a holiday weekend? :)”

It wasn’t posted for any reason other than I was saying my morning prayers, looked up and saw sunshine and my Beloved and thought, “Wow I am blessed woman.” Which turned into thoughts of how long we have been married, and that we are like everyone else out there. We’ve had good times and bad, smooth times and rocky times, but we weathered through it and here we are now. We didn’t weather it because we are different or because we know a special super hidden secret, we weathered it because we wanted to be together more than we wanted to be apart, because we wanted it to work, more than we wanted it to break. We weathered it together, because we are both on the same page as to what we want from each other.

After putting my posting up…(a posting which when my husband said “Uh oh, what did I do now?” I replied “Nothing my love, just sharing best practices and spreading sunshine and cheer where I can…” or at least something to that effect) a friend of mine stated “But it’s so hard, any advice for how?” And it gave me pause for thought and my thought was—“Yeah. I do have advice for how, but only because I walk the walk. I’m not blowing sunshine on this one, this comes from “Tracy’s Personal Learnings From Life” tool box. And so I address the “How?” here…

You do it because you just decide to do it. You make up your mind and you move forward because you want it most, because you want it more than you want to be right all the time, or because it needs to be fair, or it’s your turn. Then, you choose to act through selflessness, kindness, and daily tender mercies.

I know it's hard and sometimes you are right and they are wrong (just like sometimes they are right and you are wrong), but if it's a matter of pride or opinion and not a matter of safety or security, it's o.k. to let go and not get your way if all it is going to do is cause contention and strife in your home. Sometimes, most times really, it is more important to serve more than you are serve, to love more than you are loved, and to give more than you are given.

It doesn’t mean you “lose” when you compromise or forgive or give in and let someone else have their first choice or opinion on something. It just means that you are sharing and serving each other with love and kindness.

This is what I have done in my own life...I'll tell you my story--

My husband is a delightful and very loving man, but he is also obstinate and has a stubborn streak that once he sets his mind, he needs to come around to it on his own if he is going to change. He also has a titch of temper...or what we collectively call the "Blue Devils" meaning that sometimes he can get blue and morose and negative. It's not often, but when it happens, he tries to control it, but it still shows.

A few years back, due to situations and circumstances at that point in time, he was going through a bad bout with his Blue Devils and was ornery and moody more than not. It was getting to me in a significant way, I was now in a funk and it was irritating and making me angry. I found that my temperament was suffering and that my tone of voice changed, that I was more negative, sharper and shorter and frowny. I pushed my "Pause" button, and thought to myself "What are you going to do about this?--Yes, you are in the right to not accept the behavior, but how are YOU going to change the tone of our home?" I told myself to stop thinking about everything he was doing wrong and how I was so right and blah, blah, blah, justify-your-own-self-blah.

And that was when I decided that no matter what happened, I was going to be my cheery, happy, loving self and I wasn't going to give in to the distress and unhappiness. He had things to work through and instead of getting cranky about it, I was going to be a force for good and joy—because if he was having that hard of a time, why would I pig-pile on top of it and make things worse? Instead, I decided that I would be sunshine.

And so I started with small things. "Honey, can I get anything for you to drink?" "I'm going to the store, is there anything I can do for you?" "What would you like for dinner tonight?" "All of your laundry is done!" “I packed your lunch for you.” Giving smiles and kisses and hugs and I Love You’s at every opportunity and then going about my business. If I received a sharp reply to a question or a conversation, I merely smiled and said “I’m so sorry you’re having a hard day. I love you. I’m going to go upstairs and make dinner(, or read, or whatever it was I needed to do next.) Can I get you anything before I do that?”

Relationships are managed and run by the small kindnesses and tender mercies that we show one another. Instead of getting annoyed by a less than satisfactory statement, I would say (with a raised eyebrow and a small smile) "Oh my. Perhaps you'd like to push your “pause” button and take this opportunity I am gifting you to use a different tone, my friend.” I’ve done this with kids, teens and adults, and *most* of the time it works. Because *most* of the time people don’t really mean to be belligerent or abrupt.

Just as a precursor to all of the commentaries about how someone is so mean, or they don’t want to change or they don’t respond to your kind behaviors and acts of service…I know. I know that there are people out there who will not respond, or people who may even be provoked by your kindness, it doesn’t change the fact that doing right for the sake of right, and doing good for the sake of good is still the right path to take. A true sourpuss will not be moved, but it doesn’t matter, you still need to be you. There is no reason not to still be joyful and happy just because someone is a crabapple.

Additionally nothing that I say or that I do makes a difference if you don’t apply it with your own style and your own way. You are first man on the ground. It is your eyes and ears and heart that know what is going on and what can or cannot be done. You must assess your own situation and the people around you that you love and decide what the best course of action is to take. Sometimes people try to replicate instead of incorporate and it does not work as well that way.

Now, just to be clear, I’m not talking about abuse or a situation where outside intervention or counseling is necessary. I’m talking about fairly normal people with fairly normal lives who love each other but are just having a hard time figuring it all out and keeping it all balanced and are going through a rough patch…and yes, it worked, and it still works. He is as kind and as loving as ever, and he has grown, and I am as kind and as loving as ever, and I have grown.

At the time, I just wanted a return to joy within my home; I didn’t know I was making advancements or positive changes in our relationship as we were growing together. I just didn’t want to feel the way I felt anymore, and I knew that whether he knew it or not, that he didn’t want to feel the way he felt anymore either. This is what relationships are about though, and I think it gets lost in the daily hub-bub of life.

We are here for each other, to learn, to grow, to love, to progress, to help one another. Sometimes the people we love the most get a little lost in our day-to-day shuffle, and we need to get back to them and to the things that are important. The best way to do this is to scale our own selves back, to reel our own selves in and to ask not “What are they going to do for me?” or “Well, they are the ones that need to change.” But rather “What can I do for them?” or “Is there something I can change or do to make things better?”

Love and joy and peace are out there in the world. If we grab onto them, and we magnify them through our own actions and behaviors, the world around us has the capacity to burst into an infinite prism of light and goodness all because we chose to love, to create joy and to share peace with those we come into contact with.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Baudelaire, Cheesecake and Plus Sized Delight

Baudelaire said it best, and for non-Francophiles I've included the translation:

La', tout n'est qu'ordre et beaute. Luxe, calme et volupte.
There where all is order and beauty. Lush, calm and voluptuous.
-Baudelaire, Charles
Les Fleurs du mal,'L'Invitation au Voyage'.

I was talking to a friend of mine today, and she was looking up beads and baubles online. As we went back to the main page, we noticed "Plus Sized Clothing" and she said "Oh I should take a look at that."

As I looked at the words, I thought "Wow...not attractive. That doesn't sound like so many of the winsomely delightful and beautiful women that I know who are round around the edges."

And so I made an executive decision on behalf of my comfortably cushioned cohorts...

It shouldn't be "Plus Sized Women" boring and completely unimaginative.

Instead it should be "Deliciously Sized Women that Men in the 1500's Wanted to Paint and Snuggle."

Lush, Calm & Voluptuous...

Am I wrong?

Thanks--I'll go ahead and answer that...No, I'm not.

Nobody wants to snuggle a pokey, bony stick. No offense to the pokey, bony, beautiful sticks that I know...but seriously. What's wrong with a woman with some cushion? You know what they say... "More cushion for the pushin'..." Oh quit being offended. I already posted on Naked Time, don't make me post on the ridiculously comedic human aspects of sex.


You look at old'll see women you can grab onto.

They've got hips to birth babies and breasts to feed them with.

You've got women that can make it all happen. They are obviously cooking, and they are obviously eating, and working, and laughing and loving. I've heard the saying "You can't trust a skinny cook." In life...I have found that this addage is often right. You don't have to be a chubby-bubby-rollie chef, but it wouldn't hurt to look like you enjoy eating a little.

My point is, women need to embrace who they are. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I get it, you need to be healthy and blah, blah, blah. BUT--you don't need to be a neurotic about it. Enjoy a cookie or a cake, have a piece of steak, have some butter on your potato and maybe, *gasp* God forbid, a dollop of sour cream.

Sculpted bodies are beautiful, but so are people of all shapes and sizes. They aren't as perfect, or sometimes even remotely close to perfect, but they are people too. It's not just about how tan, or how fit, or how blonde, or how beautiful. In fact most of the time most of us got a little bit of beauty here and a little bit of beauty there, and where we really shine, is from the inside, from our souls, up through our throats, and out of our mouths and our eyes.

Open your eyes. Look for what cannot be seen. See more.

Right now there is a seriously discriminatory diatribe going on in the world about what you should look like, and what you should eat. I don't want to get into that whole mess, because...well, really just because it's awfully intrusive. What I want to say is let people be.

If you're trying to be healthy, o.k. AWESOME!
If you're trying to improve your physical appearance--OUTSTANDING!!
If you're trying to diminish fat, rid yourself of bad cholesterol numbers or bring down the pressure--A-MAY-ZING!!!
I will never be one to discourage you--in fact--it brings me joy to see your success.

CONGRATULATIONS to all of your efforts and hard work. For myself, I know it's not easy and I applaud your efforts...and my try to lead a healthier lifestyle. I encourage it, and I also want it. BUT--I also want to be happy and live and enjoy life, because it's definitely worth living. Just like I want you to be happy and live and enjoy life...but whether you're pokey and bony, muscle-ey and fit, or on the rounder side, you delight me because you are my friends and family and I love you.

A few years back I was getting ready to go on a trip with two girlfriends. We were co-workers and had known each other for quite sometime, and had gone from being co-workers first, friends second, to friends above all that just happened to work together. Anyway, I was getting ready to go on this trip and I knew the hotel we were staying in had a pool and a hot tub.

Now, if you know me, or even if you've read about my trip to California this summer, you will know that when it comes to pools and hot tubs...I AM THERE. I didn't know what to do. My body is not runway ready, **laughter**, it's not even remotely so and I was worried about what my friends would think, and what would I do?

My beloved, who is always the voice of reason, said to me "Tracy, you need to live your life as though you already are exactly who you want to be. If you don't, you will miss out on opportunities and you will never do the things you really want to do. Besides," he added "these are two of your best friends, they like you for who you are. It won't matter--you'll see. And if it does matter, well do you really want them as your friends if it does?"

So I packed my swimming suit (which my mom always says to never travel anywhere without your bathing suit, because "You never know!") and I went. I had an incredible time. I was a little nervous at first, but I replayed his words in my mind and said "Forget it! Put on the suit and your flip flops and go!" And so I did.

Oh we had a glorious time! In fact, I told them my worry, you know how you do--in that joking kind of way to test the waters for what someone will say--and we all talked and laughed and knew that, gratefully, it didn't matter to any of us.

Here we were--friends--truly women in the Tree of Trust with bathing suits, thighs and hips, bums and breasts--how we wanted them and how we didn't want them--in all their imperfect human glory and we were just who we were. Women. We truly bonded and solidified our friendship on that trip, sharing thoughts and dreams, fears, secrets, most embarassing moments and laughing until we cried.

The imperfections don't matter.

Be who you are--relish in it--find joy in yourself and in others. Life is all the richer for it. If people don't love you for who you are or who you are trying to become, o.k., find new friends. There are plenty of lovies in the world who aren't afraid of finding a new friend. I'm one of them.

Now---Anybody want some Black Tie Mousse Cake from the Olive Garden? ;)