Painting as feeling exploration

Most kids outgrow finger painting. At some point they hang up their smock in favor or more sophisticated methods of communication. I was not one of those kids.

In ninth grade I was still craving the visceral sensation of pushing paint around and of witnessing a new color appear from the blending of two others. And being the very ambitious person I remain today, I asked my parents for a set of oil paints for Christmas.

I didn’t get the oils but they gave me so much more. My parents carved out a corner of our basement, the one at the edge of the slope with a small window, and declared it my studio. My very own studio! A place I didn’t have to share with my siblings. Now, don’t get the wrong idea. Said “studio” was still in a basement and next to the clothes dryer which was perpetually on. And in fact, laundry was one of my chores. So early on I learned the impossible balance of domestic work and artistic production.

My first painting in that studio, begrudgingly executed in teenage exacerbation in acrylic, was an abstraction of my boyfriend playing guitar. In a nod to street artists of the time, or maybe because acrylic didn’t deserve real canvas, I used cardboard as the substrate. This masterpiece whipped off in 45 minutes relied heavily on the red, oranges and blues I’d observed in a Rauchenberg, with an attempt at the fluid gestures of De Kooning, and a few strong diagonal dark strokes coming off the guitar that, to this day, still insist on dominating my work. (Instagram confirms.) It was a pretty terrible painting but it did allow me to express, at least to myself, the joy I had in my heart for this boy and his music.

You see, as a really shy, sensitive kid, I felt it all – sometimes crying myself to sleep for the kids starving in Africa – but I had trouble processing what I was feeling. I learned to compartmentalize overwhelming feelings. Call it a coping mechanism. Call it learned behavior from a family of creatives brought up in times when you didn’t dare call yourself an artist; or a faggot, or an immigrant.

So enter paint. Paint helped me make sense of the hypocrisy of a religion that called to me but excluded me as a female. It helped me deconstruct the alcoholism in my family. Paint helped me find my voice in relationships that felt one-sided. It even came back in grad school after mentor Barbara Galucci released me by declaring, “you’re a sculptor.” Yes, even after finally being given an identity that fit, (a sculptor!), it was still back to painting I turned when the message of my sculptures was incoherent. (The resulting picture of a woman standing in a broken home pretty clearly let it be known that I was processing my failed marriage.)

Today, I live a life that doesn’t guarantee me much time for painting, or at least the kind of hours-long endurance painting I prefer. I meditate daily. I write. Both help me process feelings in a safe environment. Meanwhile, running helps me release the yang energy created as I manage a start-up non-profit. But sometimes these very healthy practices aren’t enough. Sometimes, and especially while seeing a particularly exciting painting show, I get an overwhelming sensation. My body screams, I NEED TO PAINT!

That sensation is a warning sign. It means I’m off balance. It means there’s something I’m not addressing. So today, the first day of a week-long vacation, seems like a good time to be a little self-indulgent. I’m pulling out the watercolor pencils and paper to check in with myself.

I will try to resist painting a portrait of my hunky husband surfing...

Sample “check in” from a Thanksgiving vacation. Thinking a lot back then about temporary shelters.

Sample “check in” from a Thanksgiving vacation. Thinking a lot back then about temporary shelters.

Can Boston Be A Public Art City?

Yes—if we take risks, flex new muscles, and forge creative alliances

Despite its moniker, Boston is not the hub of the universe. Yet the city is ripe with potential to defy its own history and create a new model for connective experiences in our public spaces, one that transforms our landscapes and the ways in which we relate to one another as citizens in these divided times. Boston should fully embrace temporary public art as a catalyst for the cultural change we seek.

We have a ways to go. For starters, Boston must address its splintered cultural identity, funding structures, and fragile arts ecosystem that make it prohibitive for artists to thrive….

Continue reading this guest post for ArchitectureBoston.

Joseph del Pesco and Jon Rub. Monuments, Ruins, and Forgetting. Photo taken in July, 2019 while visiting  Counterpublic .

Joseph del Pesco and Jon Rub. Monuments, Ruins, and Forgetting. Photo taken in July, 2019 while visiting Counterpublic.

Demian DinéYazhi´.  Falling is not Falling but Offering.

Demian DinéYazhi´. Falling is not Falling but Offering.

Monuments of Now

Ever notice how you can go to great lengths for a fresh perspective only to be reminded of what you already know?

Horseshoe Bend, Page, AZ.

Horseshoe Bend, Page, AZ.

I recently drove 1,000 miles of deserted Arizona roads to see some of our country’s most memorable landscapes including the Grand Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, and Monument Valley. I scrambled up rocks, peered over cliffs, and threaded my way through canyons no wider than a person. I also witnessed first-hand the impact of top-down government decisions — from the systemic poverty within Native American reservations, a result of being forced off their land, to the quickly deteriorating amenities of the shuttered National Park Service thanks to the federal government shut down.

More on the Now + There blog.

Accelerating Empathy

A year ago at this time, seven near-strangers sat in a circle in the Artist Studio Building where Now + There has been incubating since 2015. Katarina Burin, Ryan Edwards, Lina Maria Giraldo, Stephen Hamilton, Ekua Holmes, and Cynthia Gunadi & Joel Lamere (partners in life and business) were there as part of the inaugural Now + There Accelerator, a pilot program I created to support my fellow Boston artists in creating more public art in Boston.

Read more on the Now + There blog or visit the Accelerator page.

Checking out  Lost House  by  GLD Architects  with a local in Fields Corner, Dorchester.

Checking out Lost House by GLD Architects with a local in Fields Corner, Dorchester.

HUBWeek Changemaker interview

Back in 2013, I saw a picture of James Wines’ Ghost Parking Lot and it unlocked a rush of childhood memories. For the first seven years of my life, I lived in Hamden, Connecticut, a suburb of New Haven, and I would see Wine’s work, older model cars covered in asphalt looking like they were both rising up and being swallowed under by the parking lot of our grocery store. When I saw the photo, it all made sense — my fascination with asphalt as a material and my desire for the unusual in everyday contexts.

A similar memory jog occurred in 2010 when Jonathan Lippencot published Large Scale, a history of the Lippencott sculpture production center. Also in the New Haven area, the factory’s grounds became an unofficial sculpture park and the site of family walks. My dad tells me I saw versions of Oldenburg’s Lipstick (Ascending) on Caterpillar Tracks there. I can’t remember it, but I do know that I am inexplicably drawn to very, very large sculpture. (And it’s never big enough.)

We lived modestly in Hamden. My dad was a newspaper reporter. We drove an old car with a hole in floor. 

Read more on Medium.

Looking at Ann Lewis’  See Her  mural installation, summer 2017.

Looking at Ann Lewis’ See Her mural installation, summer 2017.

Collection of...

I’m thrilled to announce that four works from the Sidewalk Series are now part of the Fidelity Corporate Art Collection. Fidelity supports local artist communities in areas where it has a business presence and engage associates with dynamic, thought-provoking works of museum-quality art in all the spaces where they work. It gives me great joy to know some old pieces of cast-off sidewalk are now part of this prestigious contemporary art collection.

Me(dia) Response: the final creative act

Me(dia) Response: the final creative act

On Friday, October 20, we came together for the final workshop in the three-part Me(dia) Response Self-Awareness and Activism Through Art-Making series at MIT List Visual Art Center. 

Photojournalist Dominic Chavez presented his work and recounted tales of visiting Sierra Leone, Iraq and other conflict areas and Danielle Benaroche Gottesman shared insight into the importance of self-care in managing the barrage of stressful circumstances, including violent imagery.

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Me(dia) Response: Self-Awareness and Activism Through Art-Making, Part 3: Creative Action

Me(dia) Response: Self-Awareness and Activism Through Art-Making, Part 3: Creative Action

On Friday, October 20 from 12-2pm we'll conclude the Me(dia) Response series at MIT List Visual Art Center with a creative action open to the public. I'm eager to share the works participant's made during the first two workshops, expand the dialogue we've been having, and conclude with a cathartic activity during this free workshop open to the public.  (image: workshop participant work)

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