Death of a sweater, birth of a hat. And a shawl.

I am a sloppy knitter. I’ll be the first to admit that. I don’t measure things and I don’t knit gauge swatches, because eh, I can’t be bothered. I knit for fun and also for therapy and while I get that grabbing your ruler and counting your stitches per inch are foundational steps and have myriad benefits for both your finished garment and your overall knitting practice, they are…decidedly not fun. They feel too much like math homework. Which is the opposite of therapeutic for me! This DEATH BEFORE SWATCHING is a stance I have stubbornly stuck to for years, and I don’t know why I dig my heels in about it, but I suspect it’s because I failed Algebra II in tenth grade and took it again in summer school–and failed again–and so maybe I am scared?

Sometimes I get lucky! Through absolutely no measuring or swatching at all, I made not one, but two really lovely sweaters last year that fit me perfectly! Well, let’s say 85-90% perfectly! But mostly this cavalier attitude regarding whether or not I actually have enough yarn to finish a project or am I playing a wooly game of chicken, or am I knitting too tightly or too loosely with this weight yarn and this size needles, it comes back to bite me. More times than not I actually do not have enough yarn, and half of the time I wind up knitting an elephantine kaftan when I was meant to be knitting a regular-sized sweater.

It was just such a sweater that I unraveled over the holidays. I had been knitting it for the greater part of a year, but as I began working on the sleeves, it finally occurred to me to try it on. It was massive. Much, much too big. And short of starting over, there was nothing I could do to fix it. That sucked.

So. I ripped it apart and knit up a hat. Which is…also slightly too big. Whatever! There were no lessons learned here.

…and here’s the rest of that sweater. Reincarnated as the beginnings of a rustic shawl! And if this shawl is a bit oversized, I think that’s fine.

My Bathtub Was Too Sexy For Instagram

I have only just recently learned of the pleasures to be had in mid-afternoon bath-time reading. It is the most marvelous, most delicious thing.

This past weekend, I drew myself a bath and did a little photoshoot of the tub, the books I planned on indulging in while the water grew cold and my toes pruned up, and arranged all of the related accessories, to include my beautiful new bath tray from Peg & Awl. Full disclosure: I am actually taking a product photography course over on SkillShare, and I just wanted to try out some of the concepts and techniques that the instructor was sharing! You can laugh if you like, I guess it is a little silly; I don’t have any professional reason to be learning these things, but I thought it might be nice to figure out a few ways to make the pictures I take of my food and my knitting a little bit nicer.

…which doesn’t really explain why I was taking pictures of my bathroom, but I was pretty excited and I had to start somewhere, right?

In a strange turn of events, I woke up this morning and the trio of tub photos that I posted to Instagram had been deleted! Was my tub too sexy for Instagram? Was the reflection of phantom nipples in the bathwater too scandalous to behold? Was my tray lacking the requisite Cobb salad, two computer monitors, and a woman laughing uproariously at nothing in particular? I am still trying to solve the mystery of what exactly might have offended someone’s delicate sensibilities here, and got my photos removed.

I mean, come on, people! If you don’t like baths or books—that’s on you, man. Don’t make it my problem.

As it turned out, I didn’t end up reading either of these books in this particular bathtub session. I grabbed something else instead…. but I am very much looking forward to reading them both, and I have a sneaking suspicion that many of you will be interested in them, too: Unknown Language, which I believe is a sort of fictional narrative attempting to convey Hildegard von Bingen’s expansive impact, and A sonnet to science: Scientists and their poetry

Also: if you’re curious about the geode planter sitting above the soap dish, it came from Tal & Bert! And the bath salts I was using didn’t really turn my water this acid green shade. It was more like “I did an accidental pee” yellow. So you can imagine why I tweaked the colors!

2020 Reading and Book Reviews

Featured image: Woman Reading by Candlelight by Peter Ilsted (1861 – 1933)

As 2020 ended, reading and books were the glue that held my fragile, frazzled human seams together, binding me back into myself, and keeping me from crumbling into a brittle, bitter heap of dust.

In our Stacked feature at Haute Macabre this week, I review some of these titles that, good, meh, or otherwise, kept me together as we entered 2021.

Typically at the end of the year, I compile a list of all the books I’ve read and share it here on the blog, but eh, that sounds like a lot of work for a year that was so stupid. If you’re curious, though, you can see them all over on my Goodreads books read in 2020.

I’d have to say my favorite fiction was found in the best of the weird, the bizarre, the off-the-wall stories: Bunny, Where the Wild Ladies Are, and Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead are the first three that come to mind. The ghostly, chilling arctic horror of Dark Matter was my favorite audiobook of the year, and in terms of nonfiction, my top picks are the macabre biblio-adventures involving books bound in human skin found in Dark Archives and the exploring the mystical wonders of creativity with the exercises, practices, and rituals in The Magical Writing Grimoire.

What books did you thoroughly enjoy in 2020? What titles, in particular, got you through that spectacular dumpster fire of a hell year? And what have you got in your TBR stack for 2021? (There’s a lot of exciting horror in this fantastic Tor roundup, if you need some ideas!)

A Splendid Divorce Blanket!

I’m not crying, you’re crying! Pictured here is my dear little sister, one of my favorite weirdos in the world, wrapped up in the hopes and dreams of the divorce blanket I started knitting for her six years ago, and which I finally completed a few weeks ago. “Hopes and dreams” and “divorce” probably don’t sound like words that go very well together, except that sometimes, I think, they quite splendidly do. She wrote about it on her blog, which you can find here.

Below I have included a gallery of some images of the process if you’re curious. And here is a link to my Ravelry page for more! And so many thanks to the thoughtful, generous friends who shared yarn, and well-wishes, and stories of their own along the way.

My First Year On YouTube

I probably never would have gotten around to starting a YouTube channel in 2020– or any other year, for that matter–if not for the badgering of my baby sister, who has been on me to start one up for a while now. I’d personally rather read a blog post about something than watch a video about it, but I’ve accepted that not everyone feels that way, and so to keep up with the rest of the world and to practice being flexible and adaptable and learning new things in general, I chose this ridiculously terrible year to get started. And I’m pretty proud of myself! Nine months later, I continue to upload videos, although not exactly consistently, and while I’m no award-winning cinematographer, I daresay my efforts have visibly improved along the way.

From reading lists and hauls, to author chats and Q&As, to my obsessive love of perfume to those “what I do in a day” type videos, I think I’ve got a handle on the things I want to present on my channel, and surprise, surprise–it’s exactly the same type of thing I would write about on my blog. Which is okay, I think! Because people who are reading my blog aren’t necessarily stopping by here to watch my videos, and vice versa–and that’s fine! I’ll just try and connect with people wherever they are.

So what’s the plan for 2021? I literally have no clue, but I’d like to keep on track with my one-video a month plodding progress, so if you’ve got any ideas or suggestions or anything, in particular, you would like to see or hear me talk about, leave a comment and let me know!

See below for links to everything mentioned in the Hexmas holiday gift haul!

Danish dough whisk https://amzn.to/38NHuo1
Rolling pin https://amzn.to/3aWiEFd
Wooden utensils https://www.etsy.com/listing/80401133…
Seitanic Spellbook https://amzn.to/3814f8E
The Necronomnomnom https://amzn.to/3hz6bsj
Baba Studio https://baba-store.com/
Handsome Devils Puppets https://www.handsomedevilspuppets.com/

And a bonus that didn’t make it to the video, are these incredibly snazzy dangle earrings that my Best Good Friend sent me! A bonus about having hair that looks like a Fizzgig is living on your head, is that now everyone can see my ginormous danglers! From Haus of Sparrow on Etsy, if you are interested.

Giveaway Time!

✨👁GIVEAWAY TIME!👁✨

Today I am over-the-moon thrilled to cozy up with the extraordinary Lisa Marie Basile for a magical, mystical year-end giveaway! If you are interested in ritual, the occult, history, writing magic, poetry, journaling, or magical symbols, this little book bundle is for you! ✨

One winner will take home THE ART OF THE OCCULT & THE MAGICAL WRITING GRIMOIRE, courtesy of Quarto Knows. This giveaway is limited to North America at this time. ✨

Peep over at @lisamariebasile’s Instagram account this afternoon for giveaway details! ✨

(In the meantime, if you’d like to read my interview with Lisa Marie Basile, author of The Magical Writing Grimoire, click here!)

Currently {December 2020}

Jakub Schikaneder (1855–1924), Podzimní červánky (Autumn Red) 

I am tired. I bet you are tired, too. This has been a weird year. Has it even been a year? Has it been a thousand years? I feel like I’ve aged immensely in these last 365 days and yet…I’ve experienced nothing. I can’t quite convince myself I’ve done nothing, I won’t allow myself to think that. No matter how furiously that self-effacing little demon on my shoulder tries to bully me into thinking it! I have idle tendencies, but I’m not lazy.

And I don’t mean to say that you are lazy if this year has been too much for you and you can’t function. No. But “I’m not lazy” is a mantra I have to repeat to myself, internally, all the time until I believe it. I grew up thinking I was lazy. I was told in so many ways that I was lazy. I came to believe that I am, indeed, a lazy, indolent person. Perhaps because I am slow to move and act. Often times this has to do with fear and anxiety. Also because I have a tendency to act only when I am ready to act. Don’t rush me! Perhaps also because I am not hugely ambitious, at least in the ways that the rest of the world, and perhaps my generation, define success. But I am not lazy! A few years ago, I made myself look at my progress and motivation and drive, and dammit, I am not lazy. But I still remind myself of this, every day.

Artist: Sonia Lazo

I am always working on something. Baking, gardening, knitting, researching, writing, sometimes even making myself do the things that scare me! I mean, I published a book this year! This year, of all years! That counts for something right? But at the same time, I don’t feel like any of it counts at all, like it is entirely possible that this year hasn’t actually counted for anything. Although I have done things, learned things, made progress on, and completed personal projects… I have not gone anywhere new or exciting (or even old or boring) or seen or met anyone. All of these things are different marks that add up on the yardstick for which I measure my years, and this year is terribly off balance.

This past summer, I think I felt that keenly, and so I overloaded myself with tasks and projects and all manner of what I suppose amounts to busy work. I may not have been able to travel to see friends or family, but I dabbled in a multitude of cuisines, I perfected my sourdough starter, I finished a knitting project that I have been working on for five years–I can’t say that I didn’t do anything. I did all of the things. But…it all feels pointless? Wasted? And now it’s December and the year is ending in just over two weeks and I am tired. And I need to rest. Why is that so hard to admit?

On the knitting front: I think this is the first time I’ve worn something I knit in over a decade!

While I love to knit, I discovered that it’s more about the process and the journey for me, than it is about the destination and end result. When I am done with a project I set it aside until I feel I’ve found the right recipient, or, more frequently, they reveal themselves to me mid-stitch, before the pattern is even complete. I’m never sad to say goodbye to these projects because they were never meant for me to keep.

This sweater, though…maybe it’s going to stay with me a while. I hadn’t knit a sweater in a very long time. I tend to stick to things that don’t actually have to fit, like intricate shawls and the like. Measurements mystify me! But I was gifted a book of patterns late in 2019, so I thought I’d give it a another go. It was probably a fluke (because I did no maths, and much like merging onto the highway, I just close my eyes and prayed for the best!) and wouldn’t you know? It was perfect!

Of course, living in Florida, there are not many opportunities to wear such things. But today is chilly and here we are! Warm and cozy and it fits beautifully.

I think this one has found its home.

This was meant to be a divorce blanket for my baby sister. She could have gotten married and divorced again in the 4-5 years it took me to knit this!

Each and every square was knit with my deepest heart’s love for this beautiful, brilliant, brave woman, and with wishes and dreams that her life as she goes forward is exactly as she wants it to be. And more or less it has been, I think, and utterly without the help of this blanket! Well, it’s the thought that counts, anyway.

Thank you to the many friends who have contributed yarn to this project over the years. I appreciate you all for your help.

Reading: Though I’m a life-long fiend for all things horror, my love for the genre does tend to wax and wane. Sometimes I become a bit unplugged, only to dive back in with a voracious ferocity that’s probably a bit alarming from an outsider’s perspective.

Recently I was gifted a copy of Matt Glasby’s The Book of Horror: The Anatomy of Fear on Film, and it has marvelously rekindled my love for all things horrid, haunting, and harrowing. Glasby examines some of the most frightening films created and explores with us what it is exactly, that makes them so scary. Which sounds like it might be a dry, scholarly affair, but it’s not even a bit! The analysis is tightly written, wryly humorous, and exceptionally insightful, and, coupled with the spare elegance of Barney Bodoano’s striking black and white artwork—I’m utterly immersed and enthralled and I haven’t been able to put it down.

The advent of the winter months are casting their strange spell and making me forget, as I do every year, that baking in Florida in November is pretty much the same as baking here in July. Still, the heart wants what the heart wants (even though the heart doesn’t even care for sweets) and so that means Swedish cardamom buns and cranberry scones.

I really don’t have much to say about them, but I did think they were nice photos!

I have been feeling some kind of way in the last few weeks. I can’t put my finger on what it is, or why…it’s somewhat inexplicable and mostly inexpressible and it’s for sure not a particularly nice feeling.

The closest I can get at it is this: I have been hearing various friends at various points in time say that they need to delete their Facebook accounts or stop scrolling through Instagram or maybe even stay off of social media entirely, because it makes them feel crappy about themselves. They compare themselves to friends and acquaintances who have perhaps had more achievements and successes, who have gotten married or had children, who have traveled the world, who seem beautiful, valued, fulfilled, and happy…and in seeing all of this, they find that they are coming up short in their own lives and wonder where they went wrong. Rather than be bombarded by their social media reminding them of these short-comings every time the page refreshes, they delete these platforms from their devices, removing the temptation to subject themselves to these feelings.

I thought that I never really understood or properly empathized with the dissatisfaction or disappointment or depression/despair they experienced from these interactions (oh, the arrogance!) because I believed that I measured my success differently. I genuinely believed I wasn’t paying that much attention to what everyone else was doing. Or if I was, I was happy to see that they were doing well. And I am!

But I suspect…I’m more attentive than I thought I was to what X/Y/Z person was progressing with, making strides toward and ultimately achieiving and succeeding in. And inevitably, we relate information about others to ourselves, and it would appear that I am not immune to that, no matter how much I imagined myself to be! And while I might not covet the lifestyles and timelines of say, that enthusiastic person posting pictures from their themed-engagement photo shoot, or the third-time mommy-to-be celebrating milestones in her kid’s lives, or the career woman who was just promoted to Regional Director of Whatever…I do take notice of the various ways in which the people whose interests align with mine are putting themselves out there and achieving things. And I wonder what is wrong with me that my expectations for myself are so vastly different and what opportunities I might be missing because of that.

I guess when it’s stripped down to essentials, what I’ve been feeling of late is the dull hum of inadequacy. It’s been buzzing through my brain at a frequency I couldn’t quite attune to, but in writing about it just now, I think I’ve dialed it in. And I hate to blame social media, but it’s so easy to lose ourselves in what we think we should be doing/wanting/having because we see those individuals whom we admire involved in all those things…but are those things really the things we want for ourselves? Or is the algorithm just brainwashing us into thinking so? And so maybe it is better to step back. To remember who we are and what we want for ourselves, and use that clarity to both connect with our identity and cultivate our self-esteem.

Psychology today writes that:

“A stable sense of self comes from thinking about who you are absent any feedback. What are your values and preferences in the absence of anybody knowing about them? Can you be proud of the person you are who isn’t publicly posted?”

So I can certainly see how taking a step back from Instagram and Facebook can provide some time for self-reflection, to strip away all the clutter that you’re constantly barraged and the constant need to “create/curate content”.

I don’t know where I’m going with any of this navel-gazing, because while social media creates these uncomfortable and upsetting comparisons for me, it’s also a source of so many wonderful connections. And while I realize that my efforts fall far short of anything that would be described as a journalistic or literary tour-de-force, I do like to try to keep my finger on the pulse of things, so to speak, for writing purposes– and social media platforms can be such an amazing source for the sorts of tidbits that I like to stay on top of. So what can I do? Just keep it all in perspective, I guess. As poet and writer Lisa Marie Basile wrote on Instagram recently: “The universe is nearly 14 billion years old. I promise that bitch on Instagram doesn’t matter.”

Seen too, just today, via Sarah Faith Gottesdiener’s Instagram:

It is a fucking relief to dive deep into your own well, to move forward in your own integrity, and forge your own path. It is a breath of fresh air to acknowledge your own needs, dreams, and particular talents. We all have our own unique roles to inhabit and our own particular calls to heed. The more we stay in our own energy, the easier it is to attract what is for us. Do you understand?” (Read the rest of it here, it’s exactly perfect.)

I think I do understand. And so maybe you will be seeing a little less of me in my familiar haunts. You can always find me here, though.

2020 Hexmas Wishlist

WOW! It’s been a long dang time since I have compiled a list of wished-for Hexmas gifts. WAIT, no it hasn’t! I made one just last year. How could I have forgotten that? Oh yeah, I know why: because last year, as we who can still joke about such things like to say, was approx. one thousand weeks ago.

I’m into the mustardy yellows now, which is a bit of a new thing to those who are used to my monochromatic palette, and overall I think in these lists you’ll see a bit more color than I’ve had a preference for in recent years. Interesting! What does it all mean? (Is a thing that I am sure no one is asking.) All in all, these lists today are a bit of a mishmash, none of it really connected or thematic… although I suppose the slippers and teas and bath related items would certainly point to a longing for calm and comfort and soothing experiences? And maybe a few sparks of magic for the kitchen and the home? Well, I guess let’s not try to overthink it.

It’s really just an opportunity to say, here’s some stuff I like! I don’t actually expect anyone to buy and gift these things for me; as I have noted before, there’s no one who can shop for you as well as you can. So I like to make these lists for myself every December, and then slowly treat myself to the things on them over the course of the winter and throughout the next year. And don’t get me wrong – I love it when people think of me enough to buy me a gift, and I am grateful…I just don’t ever expect that someone is going to read my mind and get me that thing that I really, really, want. And god forbid I actually tell them!

So here it is, then. The luxuries and fripperies I’ve got on my personal 2020, utterly selfish Hexmas wishlist. I’m not sure that these things will be of any interest to anyone but me, but perhaps you will find some last-minute gift ideas here, for either friends or family…or yourself. Happy Hexmas to us!

  1. Satin boat neck sleep set at Nap Lounge Wear

2. Multicolored gemstone necklace from Alexis Berger

3. Proxima from Centauri Perfumes

4. Good Eye earrings from Holly Bobisuthi

5. Unicorn Garden jam from Brins x The Met

6. TABINO YADO Hot Springs ”Milky” Bath Salts

7. Onsen bath towel set

8. The Magick of Food: Rituals, Offerings & Why We Eat Together

9. Ignota 2021 diary

10. Ceramic bowls from Mona Lisa Pottery

11. (I forgot to make these separate items!) A Sonnet to Science: Scientists and Their Poetry  and Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures

12. “Attic magic” art print from Rebecca Chaperon

13. Sawashi room shoes at Rumiko

14. Large black moth planter from Clarisa Eck

15. Sampler set from The Chai Box

16. Peg and Awl natural wood bathtub tray

The Images Wish To Speak: An Interview With Artist Carrie Ann Baade

Have you ever realized that you “knew” someone before you, well, actually knew them? Such was the case for me with artist Carrie Ann Baade, whose work “Artemis” (above) I was wonderfully privileged to include in the “Higher Beings” chapter of The Art of the Occult...and I own a stunning, real-life print of the same work perching, propped up against a bookcase, while we find the perfect space for it on our walls.

Though I was vaguely familiar with the artist’s work from seeing it over the years, perhaps posted on Tumblr or Pinterest–perhaps I’d even posted it on Tumblr or Pinterest!–and I became intimately familiar with it while doing research for the book…I only realized much, much later and after becoming friendly with Carrie Ann Baade herself…that I’d actually shared her work in the form of a portrait of Pam Grossman on my own blog here at Unquiet Things! Somehow I hadn’t connected the art with the artist, which makes me feel profoundly silly, and yet it was a sort of wonderfully electrifying jolt from the universe when I finally put two and two together. Listen, no one ever accused me of being the smartest in the room, okay?

Carrie Ann Baade is a contemporary painter whose work quotes from, interacts with, and deeply relates to art history. Linking the power of historical masterworks with her own experience as a contemporary artist, she is a reverent scavenger salvaging lost aesthetics in an attempt to reconcile the irreconcilable and piece together the sublime.

See below for our interview wherein we chat about the origins of her Dr. Frankensteinian technique, the mythic energies that she is compelled to “hyper-incarnate”, and how we can heal and grow and create profoundly intimate relationships with ourselves through art.

…and can I just say how deeply thankful that I am to the artists over the years who have taken the time to answer my questions and share their insights with me? In reading this interview over again, I was moved to tears and I am so grateful for all of the creators who have spared a moment or two to discuss their works and practices with me.

…aaaaand speaking of artists sharing their works with me, the artwork featured immediately below, “Dominions”, is a brand new piece from Carrie Ann Baade, an astonishing vision that Unquiet Things readers can get a first, ecstatic glimpse at.

Unquiet Things: I love the densely layered aspect of your work, how it contains this surreal stratum of personal biography and allegory and history. Moreover, you’ve stated in the past that you think of yourself as a kind of “Dr. Frankenstein attempting to piece together the sublime.” What a fabulous notion of these interconnected  many-layered puzzles pieces of myth and meaning!  I’d be very interested to hear about not just the process itself, but where along the way of your artistic journey did this technique coalesce into an artform that felt somehow, uniquely “you.” 

Carrie Ann Baade: In graduate school, I had one of those breakdowns that were indistinguishable from the breakthrough. I got out my scissors, cut up my artbooks and made collages of the paintings.  However, figuring out what to do from there was a process.  It required lots of trial and error to make this work. Anytime we do something new, it takes time to process what we are doing. Maybe I am still in the process of comprehending what cutting up and making new things means or does. It’s synergistic, it’s mad scientist, it’s conjuring; it’s also a bit like a tarot reading. But also, art is about seeking and making inquiries. If I truly solved or understood anything completely about what I was doing, I would likely quit doing it. The chase is towards mystery and this process allows it.

By allowing chance into my process, it allows the pieces to talk back to me and say things through a message detectable amid the potent symbols. I stoke my container of cut ups images like a fire. What it yields is often untranscendent and then after more play, it will yield a composition for a painting when I need ten. It’s a mystical process for me. With the world of symbols comes meaning and storytelling. The images wish to speak. As much as I want to speak through them, very often they are speaking through me.

I am intuitive and I find the safest place to exercise my gifts is through art. Art can take it. Why? Because although intuition can be irrational in day-to-day life, it is highly functional in art. I do find this process works best when I have a question…like “what happened to female genius” and the answer the images returns shocked me to my core. It’s a radical submission into a process of dialog with the world of symbols that results in my painting.

“Seraphim”

I believe I read that you were raised in Colorado, you studied in Chicago (and Italy) and now you live in Florida. Many varied locales and landscapes! I am wondering what role, if any, does environment play in your artistic endeavors? I ask this as a Floridian myself–in our sultry, sweltering semi-tropical climate, for 9 months out of the year I don’t even want to move, let alone create anything!

Strangely, I have found where I am informs what I am making. I have painted in Florence, Valencia, Poland, and London… as well as, Florida.  I think different places have different energies. Different houses do. The location seeps in. And then the paintings themselves are pretty demanding… I once had painting insist on being put outside in the moonlight for it to absorb. I had another painting that wanted to be left alone to cook in the 100-degree  sun. I listen to the work and it tells me all kinds of things.

“Hellmouth”

As a professor, you have read a fair amount and taught art history, so no doubt you have considerable knowledge of mythology, religious symbolism, stories of creation–I’m curious about some of your favorite stories to tell. Or if not “favorite”, perhaps most compelling, or urgent.  The myths and narratives that for whatever reason, you return to again, and again?

I am an advocate for serpents; they are present in all creation myths in the form of snakes or dragons. I am curious about these perhaps being conscious wavelengths? Serpents move through symbolic representations of the goddess, genius, Medusa. Perhaps they represent the presence of the archetypes themselves. What is a snake but a wavelength with eyes?  All of these have been and continue to be significant for me over the past 25 plus years.

When I align myself with a myth like Medusa, there is usually an act of embodiment, I become an alter ego.  This energy through embodiment or hyper-incarnating, as I like to call it, results in a painted image. It allows me a small glimpse into being more or different than I am. The Medusa myth has also allowed me to work through rape, victim shaming, anger, and processing feelings of being abject or monstrous.  It’s a way to learn and potentially process experience. Once I work with a myth or narrative for a while, I will shed it and move on, to work to develop another aspect of myself in a new form.  Perhaps this is no more than an actor taking on a new role but that too is a way to unlock and explore our human potential and get some breathing room in our identity. I was reading a book on transpersonal psychology last year and the author described research as “soul work”. I like that. I hope that is what I am doing.

“Angel at the End of Time”

Again, referencing that Dr. Frankenstein quote about “piecing together the sublime”, how do you experience the connection between spirituality and creativity?

When I am a making, it starts by doing time. This is sometimes going through the motions. Yet, when the flow state hits, this is what I call going from “fraud to gawd.” Every night I die and every night I am reborn through the creative act and working in the studio. When I start, I am lower than dirt and this never seems to get any easier. After a period of struggle, I am let inside the greater mystery of connection as I make. A feeling that one could assign to ego, or as I believe, that there is a oneness that permits exquisite technical and conceptual acts. For me, I humbly assign the better work to a greater genius or insert your definition of god. I am a decent painter but when I am truly connected it’s more like something moves through me. Whatever it is, it is a natural high that is very addictive. I struggle to get back there and then the process is worthwhile… but man, I would not wish the low on anyone. Who wants to be separate from that sense of creative flow?

“Caritas”

As an artist with many years of personal practice and experience, as a teacher who guides and encourages your students, what is a piece of advice you might give to someone, a friend perhaps, who has experienced a life-long artistic itch, a powerful inclination…maybe they feel deeply, they have big ideas…but they don’t know how “to art.” They don’t even know where to start! And I don’t even mean making a living with their art. Just starting something for the fun of it!  I just mean…what do you do if you feel like you’ve got art in your blood but you’re afraid to bleed?

By all means! You don’t want to die with the music still in you! Let it out! I think we all need to art in all its multifarious forms. This is how we heal, how we express ourselves, how we learn about ourselves, and how we grow. Set aside designated space in which to make! Give yourself the gift of time! Be detached from the results. No one prepares us for how much self-confidence to do what we love. Give yourself permission!

One should always be learning something new. This is the process of being a life-long learner. Embrace the cultivation of new interests and experiences! A healthy mind is curious and interested.

I am writing a book now and I never wanted to be an author, but somehow I got book pregnant. I have a book bun in the oven. A book requires a dedicated focus but it’s made of micro acts… not on focusing on the whole big final project but on bite sized recollections: by making myself write three pages a day. This and giving myself permission not to be worried about the outcome are letting this happen. Publishing is not the goal at this time …this act is just for me. I need to write about my life and my work in a dedicated and cohesive way. I don’t want to ask permission or care who is alive that it might impact, I just need to let it flow. It’s the most dangerous and wonderful thing I have done in our newfound captivity. I nearly made myself vomit from confessions and realization; I had no idea how visceral this experience would be.

No therapist I could pay could do what I am doing for myself. It’s a gift of time. It’s a reflection on my life that will hopefully yield the fruit of self-understanding.  I find this a scary, yet magical experience. I am most turned on to create by author Helene Cixous, who says:

Woman must write herself: must write about women and bring women to writing, from which they have been driven away as violently as from their bodies – for the same reasons, by the same law, with the same fatal goal. Woman must put herself into the text – as into the world and into history – by her own movement.

In short, we all need to create deeper more intimate relationships with ourselves to be alive and art is a way to do that. I encourage you to move into that feeling of comfortability… learning happens when we get outside of our comfort zone.

“Of Ergo and Ashes”

 Do you have a particular process you use when entering into your work? What gets you in the mood to create? Any rituals or practices?

It’s not easy to go into the studio every day. But because a studio practice must happen every day to be a professional artist, it’s kinder to flow and not to force this act. It’s best to try to seduce myself.

For this reason,  I am a total romantic in the studio. I need to be focused by candles… I ritualistically put on perfume to transport me. I generally only paint at night. Knowing the world being asleep makes me feel like I am alone and undistracted from my work. I desire to in my own world with my paintings. It’s a lovemaking.

“Bride”

In our chats, you mentioned a ladies’ tea that you used to participate in. Why do you think that sense of community for artists/creators is so important? Given the isolated nature of 2020, what, if anything, are you doing to conjure community for yourself right now?

The tea I refer is the Salon de Femme or as I refer to it “the Ladies Surreal Tea Party.” This a group of artists that I founded with Tina Imel in 2007. The founding members include: Lori Field, Pam Grossman, and Madeline Von Foerster. We met annually in New York City until 2014 and then I had a couple with dear friends in Paris. The event was simple, bring a female artist friend to tea and we all hung out and talked shop. Once we invited boys which was fine, but really it was about girl power support and love in the artworld. This resulted in events at Cynthia Von Buhler’s, a private tour of a gallery, an exhibit in Brooklyn, a couple of national curation projects, lots of networking, and lifelong friendships. The motivation was that while we had met online,  we wanted to meet in person. Some of our guests included Julie Heffernan and Allison Sommers. I think I was always inviting lesser known artists that I thought could use help. What this did do, is it gave me a mission to meet living artists in person. Studio visit reveal so much and they help inform me as a teacher.

After a long dormancy, I will be hosting a tea again before the holidays.  Our inaugural zoom tea will allow us to be all over the world, with some of us living in Europe and the U.S. We need our sisters now more than ever. We need connection, understanding, and support. Art is not just paint and ideas, it is community and belonging. We are constructing culture.

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