On Art and Fear

A dispatch from yours truly

For me, making art isn’t scary. Making origami penguins and photo albums, baking cakes and knitting hats and writing stories is always therapeutic and pleasant. But sharing those things with others gives me a lump in my throat the size of Texas, so that often after I send a story out for review, I need to take a yoga break or turn on my meditation app so I can listen to the voice of an Australian Buddhist who will tell me to sit in my chair under my weighted blanket for ten minutes which is usually enough time for me to remember how to breathe.

I was in the public library yesterday, browsing through books in the new nonfiction section at the far corner of the front room. The room is primarily filled with DVD’s and has these big windows above the shelves through which cold February sunlight graced me and handful of other patrons with its presence. A title caught my eye. It was a tiny tan book on the bottom display shelf. Art and Fear. What could art have to do with fear? Probably a lot, given that someone had gone and written a book and that book had probably been sent out to many editors, and one editor had chosen to spend their precious budget money to publish it. Then a good amount of people, including this library had gone out and bought it so the general public could enjoy it for free, and at their convenience.

I want to know that what I sit down to make every day is good, that some people somewhere in the world will see it and pay attention and find some new life after having seen it. But here’s the catch: I’d rather spend time making art than preparing for shows or scrolling through Submittable. And so I keep sitting down at my desk to write stories and make origami penguins for myself.

I sat down at the circular wooden table to open the book which had set off these thoughts and turned to a segment on “Higher Education.” Art and Fear discredited higher education so bitterly that I couldn’t help but question my decision to attend grad school, one I’d made while living at home with my parents and working at a public library for pay equal to that of a cashier at Walmart and feeling quite directionless and also kind of like a failure. The authors of the book claimed grad school would offer you a false sense of security, but it wouldn’t help you become any better at art. In fact, most people who went to grad school had to “recover” from it. I couldn’t stop reading the book which was addictive in the manner of bad sex or cigarettes. The authors claimed that most people who go to grad school never make art again. So cynical! But there was some truth to it. Not everyone gets famous. Most people don’t have the shape of their ass publicly broadcasted on CSPAN. Me and all my peers will very likely be relegated to making our art during our shift at the gas station at 2am when truckers buying soda and muffins are the only customers. I think the authors of Art and Fear would say that’s failing, and so would my eighteen-year old self, ranked 3rd in my tiny high school class. I thought I was destined to become something better.

I didn’t read far enough into the book to see if the authors even came to a conclusion about art and fear. To be honest, I was pissed at them, whoever they were. For me, the link is between fear and sharing art, not fear and making art. It’s a fear I am practicing inviting in. I invite it to sit with me and help me fold my origami on Sunday afternoons when the tea is just about to boil.   


A Modest Proposal for Preventing Six Months of Bad Moods and Cancellations of Which Winter in NH is Composed

One of the biggest problems we have here in New Hampshire is the cold weather which causes everyone to hibernate like muskrats for a good six months. The streets are generally deserted, stores have to put everything on sale and events are cancelled left and right because no one wants to go out in the cold. Really, after the December holidays, everything is downhill. The snow goes from being picturesque to oppressive, and people’s moods go from bad to worse. I’m here to tell you things aren’t hopeless in the face of this damn cold. I’m here to present a solution to this problem which is as old as the first settlement at Odiorne Point.

My solution is simple: let global warming happen. Let the basement furnaces blaze, pumping greenhouse gasses into our atmosphere. What could go wrong? The more greenhouse gasses we produce, the warmer our climate will be. We won’t have to worry about seasonal affective disorders among our population or the cancelling of schools due to snow and frigid temperatures. The only thing school might be cancelled for would be too much fun. I hear they have that in Florida. On especially nice days, everyone skips school or work for the beach, and according to Google searches, they all seem to be doing great.

An increase in global temperatures would have economic benefits too. We’d have a year-round growing season just like California. With some small improvements to our rocky soil, we could keep our economy local and, if we succeed at that, could broaden our markets to sell to other colder places like Canada and the arctic research facilities. They certainly need oranges and pineapples in places like that where citrus is rare.

I admit that if we go through with my plan, sea levels will rise due to the melting glaciers, so some of our seacoast will be uninhabitable. But we have so much undeveloped land in the White Mountain National Forest, that shouldn’t be an issue. There’s no reason why we couldn’t develop that land to adjust for the displaced population at the seacoast. Besides, we only have nine miles of coastline, so our issues will be small compared to our neighboring states Massachusetts and Maine. Come a 20 degree increase in temperatures, residents of those states will be flocking here.

Move South? No! Why would you uproot your family, your friendships, and your livelihood when there is an easy solution. The plan will be not be difficult to execute, but it requires action on everyone’s part. Turn up your thermostats pronto and forget your woodstoves. You can use your already chopped wood to make abstract art. Ignore all bids to increase public transportation and bike lanes. You probably have a car anyways so keep driving it as much as possible. Take that trip down to Boston. Make the haul up the auto road to the top of Mount Washington. In twenty years, it’ll be covered in condominiums if all goes well, so you’ve got to see it while it’s still public land. Buy a new iPhone every year, flush the toilet twice after every use, and last but not least, please leave all your lights on, even when you’re sleeping. They have eye masks for the sensitive sleepers among us. It’s the little things that count.

I implore you, dear people, if you want to live in the brightest and happiest state in the nation and get us out of this deplorable mess we call winter, take a stand and let off the fumes so we can warm New Hampshire up.

New Edition of Sound-Bites


Sounds of the Cold zine is complete.
It’s a frigid edition of Sound-Bites to celebrate the last days of winter.
Click the link for a view of the 24-page spread.
Physical copies will be released at the party.

Contributors include: Sam Kulvete, Marlee Leebick-Stryker, Zachary Flessert, Jean Clarke, Anne Meyers-Welsch, Matt Soza, and Eran Hornick.

Message me for details about the release party or to request a copy of the zine. Love you!


bb does Spring Semester of Grad School (part 1)

Top 40 Things from the First Half of the Spring Semester

  1. Moving to Dover. The house is a beautiful old cavern with huge windows covered in plastic to keep out the cold. My room is at the front and my headboard is a boarded up brick fireplace. I make things while looking out the window and listening to music. I can walk to two coffee shops and a few bars. The river goes through the center of town, and there is a bus I can take to school. A lumpy mill town, teaming with hipsters.
  2. Very cold rain.
  3. There is a night when Theo and Sam and I go out and wander around Portsmouth. It is cold and I have on my black puffy. We see a bad band, and then go to another bar, and then to Gilly’s where we eat fries at the back.
  4. Petsitting in Sanbornton for a week. 1 chinook, 2 cross breeds, 1 spunky cat, multiple chickens.
  5. Cancelled plans.
  6. Writing on the typewriter to Ugly Cassanova.
  7. Writing to you.
  8. Writing for me.
  9. Getting picked up by the guys in the truck while walking on the side of the dirt road
  10. Driver gives me his number and texts me a lot about the road conditions
  11. Sam and I running around the property and exploring the workshop near midnight, the chinook jumps in the boat and becomes captain of the sinking ship
  12. Tilton Diner, waitress tries to serenade me but I don’t notice and she gets offended, throws two tootsie rolls at me and also gets mad at Sam for talking about her
  13. Henna hands
  14. Telling the story of my bike trip at the Book and Bar. How it takes two beers and a cigarette to get it out of me. Hello world, I am here, speaking. I like the sound of my own voice when it is this loud.
  15. Chaos moon, full moon.
  16. Flirting.
  17. Hiding in a dead car at the side of the bypass, crying
  18. Riding to the car garage with the tow truck guy who’s ringtone was David Archuleta’s “Save the Day”
  19. FINALLY, I get my period.
  20. I learn how to take the bus to school. The first time I blow past the driver and everyone stares, then I realize I’m supposed to show him my student ID and so I rush back to the front and flash it. Back to my seat, headphones on and shrugging my coat off.
  21. Mom, Ana and I go to the Peabody Essex Museum. Georgia O’Keefe’s fashion and her art is on display. We love it and Ana takes a photo of every single piece of art in the museum 😀 We watch a guy painting a buffalo burger and I ask him questions while Ana gets embarrassed and mom films us with her phone from across the room.
  22. Weekend passes. Homework in a coffee shop.
  23. Learning my car will cost 2,000 to fix.
  24. A call two days later. My car will cost 3,500 to fix.
  25. More crying by the pond in Durham.
  26. Transferring money into my checking account. Phone calls and confirmations. Waiting.
  27. Giant Nor’easter hits and we lose power for the morning. School’s cancelled and the world stops.
  28. Looking for new cars online.
  29. Setting parameters and casting spells. Money is sexually attracted to me. I love money.
  30. Buying a new car at the Honda dealership where they have a used Fit that used to be owned by the woman who owns the Green Elephant in Portsmouth. I sense good karma or something like that. There is also a bulldog name Charley who I can pet while the saleslady figures out where I can finance my purchase. Charley’s owner tells me she is known for frog legs and being a clown.
  31. First thing I do is drive to the ocean and draw, get out of the car and walk along the shore. The waves are massive and the sea is greener than the sky which is a pale gray flecked with lighter gray clouds.
  32. Forty things is hard. Maybe twenty is sufficient.
  33. Petsitting in Northwood. Pepper the cat and Pepper the dog are battling and I think the dog is winning because she’s take Pepper the cat’s couch cushion and Pepper the cat is giving her an evil glare from the floor.
  34. Reading Lynda Barry.
  35. Reading Jeanette Winterson.
  36. Reading Alison Bechdel.
  37. Reading Annie Dillard.
  38. Carrying around a tiny notebook to document images from the day while the day is happening.
  39. Visiting a cafe in Trashua and trying to find the abandoned town while listening to emo rap. Sam and I see so many ghosts on the road but they’ve moved the town before we can find it. We turn back home.
  40. Lunch with Dad in Laconia. Cafe table filled with car purchasing documents. Thinking how lucky I am to have someone to help sift through them 🙂