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.   

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Sound-Bites Magazine Release Party Featuring Live Music from Sensitive Men!

I found DIY photocopied comic books appearing around campus. When I tracked down the artist and asked how he made his little books, he replied, “Just experiment. The library has free printing.”

Fast forward three years. I’ve graduated, served an AmeriCorps term, and returned to my hometown. I make magazines.

There was a moment before the first Sound-Bites Release party this March when I thought no one would show up. Something in my gut told me to put up the decorations anyways, to lay out my magazines on the table in front of the T.V.

So many people came to my party. I was in love.

Fast forward three months. Submissions sent in from around New Hampshire and the Midwest. I have a box of Sound-Bites magazines on my kitchen table. This is the 9th edition, and each one is 24 pages and full color.

Sound-Bites is my passion project. It’s an independent magazine featuring the work of artists, photographers, and writers. It focuses on the practice of listening and taking time to process the noisy world around us through making art.

Now published on a quarterly basis, Sound-Bites is a community-focused project. Anyone can submit their creations, and submissions come in all sizes and shapes. They center around a theme each quarter. Past themes have included Sounds of Love, Sounds of the Road, and Sounds of Red.

Thursday, June 29th, the 9th edition of the magazine will be released at the Wayfarer Coffee Roasters on Main Street in downtown Laconia. The release party will feature live music from the Sensitive Men of Concord. They are three guys who talk about their feelings and play music. Also featured: magazine contributors presenting their work, magazines for sale, and wine!

Attendees are encouraged to come wearing their finest vintage ensembles. Why? The theme of this issue is Sounds of the Past. All submissions to the magazine were created with a wholesome helping of nostalgia and an electric look back at each artist’s personal history.

Sound-Bites invites all of us (even those who claim their art sucks) to pay close attention to our environment. Making things is a way to pay homage, to be present, and to make connections to the other people who share in our everyday experience. If you’re up for an after-work art adventure in the Lakes Region, come to the Sound-Bites release party! Everyone’s welcome to attend.

 

***See the original version of this blog post at Stay Work Play NH.

Trimming Hooves

The farrier comes and he talks about North Korea, nuclear bombs,

and a possible war with China that’s blowing around on the news.

He’s holding the hooves of the horses,

the big black draft leans his weight onto him.

We’re talking at least 150lbs of horse haunch

that the farrier supports with his two tattooed arms

while he trims a quarter inch of dead material from the base of the hoof.

The farrier complains he’s getting old but I see he can still hold his own here,

even with these massive animals, even in the middle of what we fear may be

World War Three.

It is something real and far on the horizon,

an approaching jeep on a desert highway.

Heat waves rising up from pavement, blend with engine exhaust,

but the sound of acceleration cannot be mistaken.

Behind the barn, I can hear the dog

gnawing on the cast-off shards of hoof walls.

 

 

***Creds for the art included go to a wonderful library patron who collaged with me last Friday, age 8! Words in the collage are by Rumi.

Sound-Bites Release Party Highlights

Hi everyone,

The first ever Sound-Bites Release party was pretty flippin’ magical!

Highlights included: Lincoln Logs, bug stamps, origami cranes, caprese skewers, raspberry tarts, twinkle lights, random questions, cherry candles, red sweaters, anti-trump hats, corduroy, ukuleles, guitars, ginger ale…oh and did I mention the wine??

We succeeded in making this night in March a warm one despite near zero temps outside. I’m so grateful to have all you creative, smart, goofy, and joyful people in my life.

Today’s work is mailing the zines to my contributors far afield, posting the submissions call for Sound-Bites 9, and attempting to run nine miles.

Oh, and for anyone who wants to hear more of the band that played in the living room, here are the links to the Sensitive Men Soundcloud and Facebook.

 

 

 

Philandro Castille and the Door

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Check out Unicorn Riot for livestream of Philandro Castile protests in the Twin Cities

Living with anarchists, I feel a lot of pressure to go out to protest, to do something in the wake of Philandro Castille’s murder. This Friday night though I choose to be at home alone, to paint in my front yard.

I witness two young men beating each other on the front steps across the street. The mother screams at them to stop. I keep painting.

A woman walks by and says hello to me. I ask her for suggestions on how to fill the blank space. The women gets out two pieces of paper and a pen. “I love art,” she says. “People think I’m crazy, but when I get an apartment, it’s my dream to paint a door like this.”

The woman leaves me standing on the tiny green square of green as dark comes, her careful sketches left behind to guide my brushstrokes. They are blue, green, yellow, and red, so simple. I am so sure of the brush in my hand, the imperfect form of each line.

“You’re not crazy.”

I Will Always Answer

***For my sister who’s driving home to New Hampshire tonight.

 

I will always answer

a late night phone call

from you because your words

are dripping with nothing,

love and even when I’m whispering

into the phone with my eyes closed

sitting on the carpet

back leaning into the bed frame,

the wind’s blowing through my window,

quiet, low brushing my hair at my bare shoulders

and you say that talking

on the phone makes you sad

because it means we’re

running long distance with words;

these are marathons of hope and

symphonies of voices

we imagine are attached to a real body

at the other end of the line.

Distance is blue flecked with copper glitter,

breath-taking, really

but it will never be

simple as together:

heads nested on pillows

hair rippled, mixing strands,

mouths singing about nothing.

sister