Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Red Envelopes

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I have a friend who studied
Feng Shui (the Chinese art of balancing energies in an environment). She once mentioned that traditionally, Feng Shui practitioners are paid in 9 red envelopes containing money which is also in multiples of 9. This empowers the 'cure' for the environment.

I felt inspired to thank her for the free advice she'd given me over the years (including putting crystals on 9 inch strings in crucial spots).

So I gave her 9 red envelopes, which I made. (I thought making the envelopes might empower the cure even more; but clutter still reigns around here, so I'm not sure that's how it works.)

Inside one red envelope, I put a check for $18, in others, 36 shiny dimes, 9 five dollar bills, 54 pennies, all polished, and so on--I remember it added up to being quite a lot, and it was fun to give. She was touched, and slept one night with all of them under her pillow. Here are 5 of the envelopes--I can't seem to find a picture of all 9:




Since then, I've set most of my prices and fees in multiples of nine (though I skip the envelopes!). I like how this association to Feng Shui acknowledges a positive power in paying for the client (along with the benefit to the practitioner of being supported to continue their calling).

Framing the exchange of monetary energy this way has helped me receive money with an open, light-hearted reverence that heightens gratitude.

I don't have to tell the client about it, but I imagine that setting my prices in a way that works for my quirky magic-loving self may make the exchange more comfortable and valuable for both of us.
And maybe it really does increase the helpful potency of the work, its transformative power.

The Support of Water

The Support of Water (or:Water With a Haircut),
paint, fabrics and thread 10x15 inches 08


If you took the first part of the tour of the show I've got up at the Belfast Free Library this month, here's one of the pieces we didn't get a chance to talk about yet. It's another exploration of combining painting and fabric art.

The inspiration came from a particularly sweet moment swimming at my favorite pond. I became aware of how light and safe and complete the touch of water is, how effortlessly it floats us. This seemed a close metaphor for the gentle power of the 'still, small voice' of spiritual support. So trustworthy.

Also, visually, I'm endlessly fascinated by how water reflects and refracts all the colors around it, and simultaneously shows its own cumulative blues with such extreme contrasts of light and dark so smoothly connected--great visual contrast in harmony, always new. And I love the depth and variety of movement. Such a challenge to respond to in a static medium.


Here's how it was made. The painted parts were on a heavy dark denim. I started by blocking out some shapes with tape resist and painting over them with an opaque fabric paint medium mixed with a little pure pigment. Later I added many layers of transparent fabric paint, acrylics, hand-mixed pearlescent pigments and even some glitter. Some of the layers were scored with a palette knife or other things (including a comb!) to scratch through to layers below.



The unpainted cloth parts were made by adapting a chenille technique. There are seven stacked layers of different fabrics, sewed in wavy rows that decrease in interval (to give a sense of 3-D perspective). They are cut away in the channels between the sewing to different degrees and different levels with a chenille cutter and small scissors, and then ruffled up to different degrees too. I think this works to give a feeling of movement and variety and depth.

The fringe on the sides was made with antique silk threads I was given by a friend whose mother had been an avid seamstress. They are in beautiful, luminous colors, too delicate now to sew with for most things. I chose colors to echo and unify the other parts, and to give that feeling of how light and dissolving water is.

I thought of the alternate title, Water With a Haircut, with a giggle, as I was trimming the fringe. For me, this completed the communication of the piece; I experience that vast, loving support as including humor...where would we be without that?





Wednesday, August 20, 2008

More on Show


Want to take a little tour with the artist? Step this way....


As you come in the door to the Belfast Free Library, directly across from you next to the elevator hangs this Portrait of Rodney Dennis.


Rodney Dennis was Manuscript Librarian of Houghton Library. He lived in Cambridge, MA and Union, ME. Thanks to Christie Dennis for commissioning and loaning the painting.


Across the room, you'll probably notice first the big picture called What Is, of Kathleen Hannan, conducting singing up to a high note at an interfaith celebration.


It's at the end of the wall across from you, which you might glance at...



...before you see that right next to you, as you still stand by the door, is a wall of little mirrors, ending with a small angel altar on the left.



At the right side of this wall is the artist's statement. Want to read it?


The first two (glass) mirrors have little vases inset in front of them, with an offering of a few small flowers. They are both called Made Mostly of Water, like the flowers are. If you look into them, you might consider that you are part of that same flow and freeze and melt, the drops and waves of life.


These two pieces were very loosely inspired by the photos of water crystals exposed to a variety of concepts, in Masaru Emoto’s The Hidden Messages of Water.




They're roughly 12" high, made with layers of handmade papers, some sewn together and then cut with a chenille cutter and raised in grooves. The one directly above has composition silver leaf crumpled and inset at the top.

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The piece in the middle is called Mirror of Transition. When my soul-sister died, I traveled out with her into the night sky. I heard myself say, "I'll go with you a little way, Joanne" as I lay in bed miles away. I experienced an indescribable sense of expansion, spaciousness, peace and awe. The next morning I learned she had passed at just that time.

Maybe 20 years ago Joanne gave me the piece of black lace with shot through with shiny hot pink threads that veils the mirror. (The post Anger tells one small story of what I learned from her). The veil refers to the Jewish tradition of covering mirrors after a family member has passed. As you look at yourself through it, you may see a mystery.

Every transition is a little death and ascension to a new and unknown form, or into formlessness. This piece has layers of transparent and semi-transparent fabrics; it tiers back and back as you look through, into an undefined light essence rising, a distant evocation of that moment of letting go into transformation. Or, that's what I was going for. What's it like for you?


Here's a detail of what's under the veil--a small advantage of a virtual tour, since I know in person you would never pick up the veil to peek, it's very delicate.


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Next comes Mirror of Aging Beautifully. Look in--obviously, you are (aging beautifully--admit it!) Here the mirror reflects the What Is picture across the room. To the left, the little angel altar; you can barely see the composition gold leaf inset center focus in the shelf from this angle.


Maybe you recognize this piece from the flyer that's up around town about the show:


It's intended as a magic mirror, like the ones in fairy tales--"Mirror, mirror on the wall..."

Something happens when you donate your face to the composition, right up close. All the symmetry and non-symmetry and near-symmetry, the dynamic balance of vivid and soft colors, the flowing, expanding lines of crows feet, or wings, the rising and falling and circling around of the shapes, all that harmonizes with your beautiful, changing face in this irreplaceable moment....

Well, sorry, guess you had to have been there....

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Let's take a quick look at the opposite wall, shall we? This one, Inner Reach, is a particular favorite of mine.




It's a new departure for me to show more abstract pieces like this. It's done with fabric paints on canvas, and colored pencil, sewn onto a heavy dark blue denim backing.

I like how you can't really tell what's on top of what, but you wind up with an impression of depth or spaciousness, full and open at once. Maybe it evokes an enlarged section of an imaginary scan of your mind...or maybe not.

Someone at the opening said he saw an unhappy face with slashing claw marks across it. Hmmm. The eyes of the beholder, that's where art lives...

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This one at the left corner is called Stick With Love. The story behind the piece is in Dogged Dedication. The image was done with pastels and glitter on black fabric, the border, with fabric applique.

An theme of the show is experimentation with ways of combining fabric art and painting/drawing. I worked primarily in representational fabric collage for 25 years and then returned to painting where I started, in oil portraiture. So I'm interested in how to integrate the different media.

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There's three more to look at on this wall, and I seem to keep talking your ear off here. Is that enough for now? Personally, I can't look at a show for too long without getting a little jaded. Want to go upstairs and get a book out? We can come back in another post to look at the rest. As you head for the stairs, you'll see the corner on the left:


And looking down on the right as you climb the stairs, maybe you'll want to check out this Phoenix Mirror and Angel Altar later...


Oh, one other thing. Yes, most of them are for sale, but since it's a free library, the prices aren't mentioned on the wall, and there's not even a price list out.

But if you see one that might be for you, send me an email at judespacks@gmail.com and I'll be glad to tell you more about the piece, and the price.

Hey, thanks for looking and reading so far! Seeya later.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Invisible Creative Blocks


Do you have an invisible creative block??
Some creative blocks are obvious. That dead smell coming from the drawer with the unfinished novel in it, the cobwebs across the studio door--these might be clues. 

But maybe you're not stalled or tortured, not scratching your head raw hoping a light bulb will sprout out of it. You've tamed the worst of your procrasto-gizmos, and things are coming along quite well, thanks, whether you're creating in the arts, at a job, or in daily life.

Some blockages to creativity have subtler symptoms. Here's a random sample of hidden jam-ups that may mute your joy, ruffle your peace and stunt your leaps as you create.


Groove Turns Into Rut
You're grateful for your success. But you've been doing the same thing the same way for so long that you can do it in your sleep, and you do (snooze). People clamor for more of what you're known for, what you do so well. You wouldn't want to risk a flop by trying something new. You're not sure you could get along on short rations of approval or money now that you've gotten used to having them.

Bound for Glory
If your internal talk-radio shouts fiasco predictions while you're trying to create, it's no surprise when you lose momentum. But if that inner DJ spins out lavish praise in advance, woohoo! you're flying and feeling no pain. While you're imagining your outfit and planning your humble acceptance speech for the big award, you don't have a whole lot of patient attention left for your masterpiece-to-be in its current gawky faze. You're so busy being a genius that the mundane spadework of creating doesn't actually engage you much.

Ball and Chain You have the discipline and determination to see your project through. In the satisfaction of steadily accomplishing what you set out to do, you hardly notice that you haven't surprised yourself in a long time. While you were keeping control of yourself and the process, the thrill and the fun sidled out the back door without saying goodbye--they didn't want to interrupt your serious work.

Reverse-Perfectionism Those poor saps who niggle at every irrelevant detail have really got a block (yes, they do). You, on the other hand, are zipping along, making good time towards your destination of being done with this project and on to the next thing. If you cut some corners, well, you were built for speed. You're the kind who sees the forest and doesn't bother with the trees. But did you really see the forest (much less take a soulful walk in it)? In your rush to the finish did you deny yourself the beautiful depth of view that was down a side road, off the exit you blurred right on by?


If you find yourself bound up in these or other limiting patterns you recognize, congratulations! Finding where you are is the first, crucial requirement to moving on. Even Houdini couldn't get out of a box he didn't know he was in.

All creative blocks originate as fearful thoughts--fear of failure, success, or embarrassment, fear of people's opinions, fear of change, etc. And no matter what their content, thought patterns can change.

The good news about blocks, hidden or obvious, mild or miserable, is that they happen in your head. Recent research shows that your brain is much more flexible than previously known. It has a huge capacity to free itself from its own old patterns and structures as needed, and to create new ones.


The topic of neuroplasticity is on my mind lately (pun intended). Read more about the liberating implications and how you might apply them to your own limiting patterns in this post: Fun With Your Plastic Brain

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How does this apply to you? How might you get more oriented towards your own unblocked clarity, inspiration, resilience and ease in the midst of the nitty-gritty of your particular challenges?

Sometimes a coaching conversation can throw open the doors you didn't even know you'd shut on the freedom and capacity of your own mind. If you'd like to talk over the possibility of working together, answer a few questions here, and we'll set up a time to see if we'd be a good fit. 

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Show Up

What Is, fabrics, fabric paint, pastel, acrylics 36"x56" '08


I've had an intense month of finishing work for a solo show in the gallery at The Belfast Free Library. Now it's up, for the month of August! The opening happened and most of the left-over snacks have even been eaten. In my little apartment, the walls are blessedly clear, and almost all the pins have been swept up off the floor.


First to try the snacks

I ride my bike down to the Library most mornings to check on the flowers in the pieces with mirrors and tiny offering vases, and to see if anyone's left me a note in the book. If you're in Maine and can find time to stop in, please do.

The piece What Is at the top of the post is the biggest and sunniest in the show--it gets to be a focal point in the room. Read about its beginnings here. This is the photo that inspired it:





More to come....