Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Dreams...a poem


Dreams lie next to you in bed
Soft against your skin
Whispers, speaking of times before.

Dreams march alongside you
Soldier on, they say
What you desire is just over the hill.

Dreams coil around you
Squeezing fearfully tight
The message, an enigma.

Dreams are the parallel universe
And preferred universe of life
Grown from seeds of lust and envy.

Dreams appear in broad daylight
On shoulders, nibbling ears
And even in your underwear.

We fly in dreams and crash
We talk nonsense to strangers
And wake to the sound of popping bubbles.

Christmas stories to warm your heart--2014

The Maji arrived, and this year they brought a 72 inch 3-D TV. They stopped at Walmart on their way and got the last one at $99. Baby Jesus said that was fine since he never knew what myrrh was anyway.

A gangsta rap version of "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" topped the Billboard charts. Said rapper Prof.X, "Santa can be a f****n badass when he wants to."

In a recent poll, 92% of kids could identify Santa, 93% could identify Rudolph and 73% thought Jesus was one of Santa's reindeer.

When asked about the meaning of Christmas in a recent survey, Americans answered:
     72%: getting what I want for Christmas
     43%: getting others what they want for Christmas
     68%: helping Disney get rich
     71%: saving the American  economy
     85%: honing my shopping skills
      8%: helping foster peace on earth

Live manger scenes were shut down in several American cities because the methane output exceeded acceptable community levels. Said officials, "If Mary and Joseph knew what we know today, that stable would have been a very different place."

Thursday, December 18, 2014

My Christmas List

Eyelash reweaving
Pectoral implants
A gold Rolex watch
Calvin Klein underwear with my initials embroidered on the front
A Cadillac Escalade with front and rear TVs
A home theater with recliner massage seats
A pair of soft, black calf leather pants
An avocado facial and spa day
A fruit of the month membership
A year's supply of Omaha steaks
And peace for all human beings on earth

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Ten Commandments v.21c

The Ten Commandments have been the bedrock of religious values for 3000 years. Though they still contain insights about human behavior, it’s time for them to be rewritten. And I am taking on that task.

Why me? Why not me? I haven’t seen a burning bush or been spoken to by God or ascended Mt. Rumpke. I’m just an ordinary guy.

So here goes. In these times, it’s hard to give commandments. So I’ll call them
The Ten Lessons.

1.              God expects humans to love one another. Follow no God who leads you to evil and brutality.
2.              God can only be known in the individual aspect God reveals to each of us. So respect all the aspects of God, for in this way the fullness of God is revealed to us.
3.              Respect God by listening for God in the creation around you. Let your actions speak this respect.
4.              Set aside a timeplace where you are alert and responsive to God and the workings of God’s spirit in you.
5.              Honor those who gifted you with human life and those who gave of their lives to nurture you toward full humanness.
6.              Respect the sacredness of all human life. The taking of any life diminishes your own, and can only be redeemed in the sincere and conscientious petition for God’s grace.
7.              Let sexual union be always an act of loving and giving. If a sign of commitment, live that commitment. If the commitment no longer holds, end it with compassion and integrity.
8.              Be led by generosity, giving back with humility. Take only what you need so as to preserve the dignity, integrity and innocence of the world around you.
9.              Know your own good heart, and don’t betray it. Let honesty be the measure of your dealings with others.
10.           Use the material world as a means to the spiritual world. Let what you need come from what you have earned by your work, and let your abundance be
shared according to your blessings.

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Holy Church of Art: Sermonettte #6

Brothers and sisters in art, the role of prophet takes courage. To be a voice for art in the vast desert of lame, lazy and bland images is an important calling. But it is not for the faint of heart. The people have seduced by slick bombastics, eye candy, spectacle and cheap visual tricks. Yet deep down they yearn for the insights into the human condition that only true art can bring.

If you are called to be that prophet, be that prophet. Be the prophet that educates, be the patient prophet, be the prophet that perseveres. The saints of the history of art and their stories will sustain you.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Holy Church of Art: Sermonette #5

Brothers and sister in art, we are called not only to make art, but also to make art meaningful to others. We must leave our studios, go out into the streets and be evangelists for art. We must expose the false prophets like Thomas Kinkade. We must show the masses that true art exists beyond the walls of McDonald's and Motel 6.

We must be the bringers of the good news, the powerful news, the beautiful news, the challenging news, the sublime news of the art we were called to make and to make present to others.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Intimacy and social media

Communication screen to screen. The text messages and the images of the person. But not the person. Not the body language. Not the eye contact. Not the nuance of the words. For all that social media brings, is it not communication backed up by intimacy.

It is the same with the art image. We get used to the image as it is marketing, decoration in print and electronic media, a life on the screen of google images. Scale, texture, mark-making, nuance, fine detail--all the intimacy of the piece and the individuality of the artist are lost.

Does the image on the screen entice the viewer to go see the piece in person? Purchase the piece, intimacy unseen? Has the originality been co-opted as a primary value in favor of wider visibility? Is art history the history of the reproduction or the history of the art?

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Holy Church of Art: Sermonette #4

Brothers and sisters in art, art is our religion. We worship at the altar of art. Like other religions, we welcome others with the gift of bread and wine. But for us, this gift of bread and wine is not a sacrament, it is an enticement. It is a distraction. It is the very thing that keeps them from the art. A token "good job" or "nice work" and it's off to drink alcohol and gossip, token attention paid.

What is the feast that brings them to the altar. It must be the art. The art itself. That is where the sacrament is.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

The art attack

Art attacks us and then settles it in us in different ways:

As a hobby

As a career

As a profession

As a lifestyle

As a calling.

Each comes with its own demands, expectations and rewards. And any one can morph into any other.

Contemporary art in a nutshell

My 6-year-old granddaughter asked me this about the show I had just put together:
"Is it going to be boring or is it going to be pretty?"

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Holy Church of Art: Sermonette #3

Brothers and sisters in art, rejoice in whatever piece of the world you are given to explore. For in each piece of the universe there is a universe. With alert attention you will find there the challenge, the confusion, the enlightenment, the confusion, the mirror to self, the confusion, the message. So search with commitment, courage and generosity. Trust yourself. Be open to others and for others.


Friday, October 31, 2014

God aka God

If God exists, then God is surely a being, an entity, a force with powers mysteriously beyond any of those of human understanding. Yet some are certain they know God and can speak God's mind for God. They can live in a world where human dress, human behavior, human interests and human preferences are wildly different, yet they think their human experience of God should be everyone's  experience of God.

If there is any sign that points to the existence of God, it's the yearning that exists, I believe, in every human being toward a oneness, a completeness, a wholeness that can only be resolved in a God-space. The great teachers tell us that this can only be found through a life's work. That this is evidenced by the uniquely chosen path of each unique individual, framed and followed in each individual way. This is how God, wearing whatever guise, is revealed to each individual.

This is the most we can expect or earn in a life.

The Holy Church of Art: Sermonette #2

Brothers and sisters in art, have you been baptized into color, techniques, formal qualities, jargon, the beautiful product? Well, this is the baptism of sprinkling, the small baptism, the temporary baptism, the baptism that likely won't take.

To enter the Holy Church of Art, you must experience the lasting baptism of total immersion. To be pulled screaming into the cold river. Dunked into murky confusion, and come up gasping. Dunked into persistent self-doubt, and come up gasping. Dunked into eddies of rejection, come up gasping. Dunked until you realize that this river is the river of life you're in, and you're being carried along by the personal vision you must commit to.

It's then that you understand that the real art is the ride.


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Keep asking

Over the years I've asked myself many questions about my art. About beauty, skill, technique, content and more.

But maybe the hardest question, the one that takes most courage:
Is it relevant? Does it matter.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Messages from the American cultural landscape

Have a deep and thoughtful idea? Keep it to yourself. No one wants to hear it.

Looking for a hero? Just look for the white teeth, big muscles, large breasts and celebrity status. YOu can't go wrong.

Feeling like you need to rethink your personal values? Go shopping. You' soon give up that foolish idea.

What does society value most? Look at the paycheks.

Feeling anxious and unsettled? Just stay true to your faith in consumerism, and corporate America will take care of you?

Uneasy about democracy? Accept that it's just a way for the wealthy to hire the best lawyers, get the best justice, employ the most lobbyists, get the most favorable legislation, use the most energy and take up the most air space.

Looking for integrity? Good luck.

Looking to continue to fight the good fight? America always offers hope.

Eating God

Plains Indians would thank the buffalo they had just killed. They recognized that the buffalo had made a sacrifice so they could survive. Zeus ate his own children. Warriors would sometimes eat the hearts of those they had defeated. If we are playing with a child we love, we will often say, "Umm, I'm going to eat you up."

This is a part of our culture and human history. Why does it still persist? I don't know.

Christians, symbolically or literally, eat the body of Christ. I did. What should happen to me once I've consumed God? Once I'm fed by Christ's body. A profound transformation? How often have you seen that? Do a few extraordinary individuals experience extraordinary transformations and the rest of us ordinary folk only ordinary transformations?

No matter the religion or the spiritual quest, the quester must must be fed to sustain the journey. In our culture it's easy to find fast, crappy food or expensive designer food, but much harder to find good, solid nutritious food. It's the same for the spiritual quest. It's easy to find fast, easy religion or trendy spiritual pathways. It's much harder to find transforming spirituality that moves with courage and generosity  that takes its paththrough the hearts of those around it.

Saturday, October 11, 2014


A couple of my students are doing a project on attitudes on death. This prompted me to think about this topic.

Birth is both the entrance into life and death. As we go about the tasks of living we are constantly dying, cell by cell. At the smallest level it’s a cycle, a battle, an inevitability.
It’s life partner in that dance that happens at every level of this universe in constant flux.

As living forms, we humans are constantly becoming, but never getting there. In each increment of time, we are different persons in both small and large ways. Each moment becomes a transition. Then death, that last great and mysterious transition.

What comes after death? No one knows, and no one will ever know. Perhaps the first time we became humans was when we asked ourselves that question, and answered with sacred acts of burial. It is only natural that each of us ponders the afterlife and congers a comforting solution or finds faith in the solutions of others.

Then the test is how one lives out a life framed by this personal choice.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Some thoughts on mediocrity

Mediocrity makes no demands.

Mediocrity is the ocean that surrounds the islands of excellence.

Mediocrity can be an aimless result or a conscious choice. But it's still mediocrity.

American business and American culture depend on mediocrity.

Mediocrity is a warm blanket.

Mediocrity hides in spectacle and special effects.

Mediocrity too easily becomes transparent.

Mediocrity needs excellence for its knock-offs.

Everyone is mediocre at something.

Keep swimming or you'll drown in mediocrity.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

High art

Anything can be art. So the mantra goes. And from the point of view of the average Joe, that might be a reasonable view if ones looks at a good sampling of exhibitions of contemporary art.

Then let's begin with idea that anything can be art. If art can have any meaning at all, some discriminating qualifiers could be selected. Fine art, serious art, museum quality art, etc. to distinguish from popular art, crafts, low art, naive art etc.

I've thought about this issue for a while and keep coming to tentative answers that I soon reject. Art as all-encompassing has appeal. It let's everyone in. Then what?

Then I guess it's each person's choice as to how to live with and in art. And this leads to the constructing of personal definitions. A personal definition becomes a device to seek out art. But the definition must be well thought out and fluid.

No personal definition of art that I've constructed has ever come close to Eugene Ionesco's:
Art is the collision of a man with the universe.

What this means for me is:
Challenging substance in the art
Hard, intense work to crack the puzzle
Willingness to risk destruction
Knowing I must pick up the pieces and remake the whole.

Monday, September 22, 2014


If you want to be an artist of substance, first be a human being of substance.


Conception is random.
Genetics is random.
Parenting is random.
Experience is random.
Education is random.
Relationships are random.
Justice is random.
Life traumas are random.
Death is random.
This is why integrity, love, generosity and compassion
must be result of personal intent.


Creativity is not magic, and it's not the exclusive possession of a talented few. Just watch children. But our educational system does not foster creativity as a priority, and the marketing machinery of capitalism is more than happy with a society of consuming sheep.

When creativity is valued and nurtured, it is a potent thing. Creativity is a very satisfying thing to grow. It feeds on risk, play, passion and critical analysis. It take over as a life principle to be harnessed. It can burn you up. It can open you up to worlds in worlds. It can make you obnoxious.

This is why it is the domain of artists. They can stand all this. It's their job. Business and government say they embrace creativity, but risk and passion are not typically part of their game.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

What's wrong with this picture?

People dressed to be seen pack the CAC, drinking and talking. How many really look at  the art? Go back the next day and the next day and the next day and you are about the only person in the place. What's wrong with this picture?

AAC  galleries. How long to patrons spend looking at the art compared to how long they spend eating and schmoozing? Then, who even bothers to go into the galleries? What's wrong with this picture?

People will listen to a piece of music over and over again. But looking at a piece of art once is generally enough. What's wrong with this picture?

People read less and less and get more and more of their information from visual sources, screens, packaging and marketing, but they are taught virtually about how to read or use the visual language.
What's wrong with this picture?

People are comfortable expecting to pay for concerts, plays, dance performances and such events. But they expect to wined and dined at art openings? What's wrong with this picture?

The food and drink at art openings is the very thing that distracts people from the actual purpose of the art openings, looking at the art. What's wrong with this picture?

The newspaper will deliver extensive coverage of music festivals and 20-something bands and critical and intelligent coverage of symphony and opera performances. But art venues are neglected and coverage is random and lifeless. What's wrong with this picture? 

Saturday, September 20, 2014


Joseph Campbell identifies ritual as an important binding element in a society. From the beginning of human culture, life transitions such as birth, puberty, manhood, womanhood and death have been celebrated with rituals. These rituals had meaning, solemnity and were reminders of the societal duties and responsibilities inherent in the rituals. Even if the individuals may not have understood this, the culture did. In recent human history, religion has been the keeper of these rituals.

As religious practice has eroded and religions have not been able to keep pace with contemporary culture, the role and meaning of rituals has eroded as well. Birth is accidental or undesired. Birth is celebrated with showers and gifts. Puberty is treated in hushed tones or studies and statistics or simply ignored because it's too uncomfortable. Manhood is alcohol, cigarettes and drugs. Marriage is about the big, expensive extravaganza or the bungy jump or the holy church of Disneyworld. Statistics demonstrate the consequences that result. Death is the drive-up viewing window and the solid mahogany casket.

I know my view seems traditional and many personal rituals have value. But I am troubled by the indicators I see of a world falling apart, and I wonder, as Campbell might, what ritual might play in the world coming to some stability.

Friday, September 5, 2014


The only guarantee we get from life is death. Even Jesus had to experience that.

Evolution doesn't give a damn about us. And most of us don't give a damn about most of us. So it is our job to make life mean something. Nobody else can do that for us.

Art and life. Art has only the meaning we give it. Life has only the meaning we give it. So art can teach life, and life can teach art.

Making meaning in life is the remedy to numbness.

Trying to find meaning in life is meaning.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A voice in the wilderness

I used to think that the Biblical phrase, "a voice in the wilderness," really was about the desert wilderness of the ancient Middle East. Perhaps it was. But, for me, it becomes a metaphorical wilderness.  I see a wilderness of crap mediocrity in popular culture, of mindless entertainment fueled by glitz and celebrity branding, of endless rows of snack food and diet soda, of facades of sound bites that hide the emptiness of persons behind them, of education that takes a back seat to politics, sports and reason.

In this wilderness, honesty, integrity, human dignity and compassion barely sprout before they wither and die.

Work habits

Every good worker in every profession needs good "work habits": for discipline, for focus, for productivity, for personal satisfaction on the job. This means artists, too.

But artists also need good "play habits": to stay fresh, to connect with imagination, to stay open to possibility, to be comfortable  taking risks, to be skeptical about "the rules," to not take oneself too seriously.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Making art? Remember this.

--The artist doesn't make the art. The art makes the artist.

--The monetary value of a work of art simply measures its value as a commodity. And that isn't always the same as the intellectual value, its human value, its substance and its ability to challenge over time.

--It doesn't matter whether you make this image or that image, this piece or that piece. What matters is how you choose ot respond to the call of art.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Robin Williams

If you have a normal brain, you take reality for granted. It stays relatively fixed, and your brain stays relatively transparent. You think with it but not about it. Life goes on.

But if you have a brain in which the chemicals wreak havoc, this is another story. Voices inside your head can be as real—or more real—than those of the people around you. Reality can change from day to day. One day the world is painted with the darkest colors of gloom, self-deprecation and utter joylessness. The next day you are invincible, capable of anything. You drag your body around as dead weight, and your thoughts race so fast you can’t keep up with them or make any sense of them. One moment you are virtually immobile, and the next you are on an irrational manic spree.

This is what the life of Robin Williams was, probably from early adulthood, if not before. And this is what the life of many mentally ill individuals is like. And there are many tragic endings in a culture where mental illness elicits shame, treatment is expensive and not always accessible and medications can be unreliable.

Robin Williams made a difficult choice, and no one will ever know the mental and emotional circumstances surrounding that choice. But the unbearable pain is gone pain which not even fame, wealth and public acclaim could erase.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Children of God

Have you ever thought about what it means to be a child of God? Of course, a great deal depends on how you think of God. Is God a loving father, a stern father? Does God expect us to never bring shame on the family name? Will God let us crawl up on his  lap? Are we ever the child of the mother God.

My perception is that God (at least the God of institutional religion) expects us to be well-behaved, obedient and compliant children. In other words, we must always be children. We can never become adults of God, sent out to think for ourselves, take responsibility for our lives and our minds, making our own ways in the world.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Holy Church of Art: Sermonette #1

My brothers and sisters in art,

The Great Goddess of Art selects her artists at the moment of conception and decides a future passion for each. Some get nature, some get geometry, some get voluminous flesh, some get death, some get the wrongs of the world, some get the color orange. In this way the whole world is meted out to art to be caressed, scrutinized, glorified, re-imagined and dissected.

But such great gifts come with great responsibilities. The Goddess demands that we strive and suffer in her name. Brothers and sisters, we must not get stuck on weathered barns and geraniums. We  must resist the temptations of gazebos floating in a pastel mist. The Goddess does not desire that we crucify our work on the walls of motels and fast food restaurants or even mansions.

It must be genuine so the truth may set it free. It must be generous so it does not beg shamelessly for attention.

So, my brothers and sisters, let art come among. Let its presence be known to you. Destroy the false idols above your couch. Only in this way can you be saved.


Thursday, August 7, 2014

When is it art?

If the artist tells you it's art, it's not art.
If the work tells you it's art, it's art.

If it looks like everything else, it's not art.
If it asserts its own authority, it's art.

If it looks like it's been made, it's not art.
If it looks like it couldn't be any other way, it's art.

If it begs for your attention, it's not art.
If it promises real rewards, it's art.

If it expects you to look, it's not art.
If it challenges you to look, it's art.

If it leaves you when you leave it, it's not art.
If it just won't go away, it's art.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

How do you pick your hero?

Do you look to see who's on other people's pedestals?

Is celebrity a hero marker?

What about a body to kill for?

Neat lycra costumes?

Is your hero more a taker or a giver?

Does your hero exist only in your imagination?

Can you be your own hero?

Does your hero really want to be on a pedestal?

Does your hero inspire you to action?

Is your hero all entertainment?

Is your hero of mythical proportions?

Sunday, July 20, 2014


Love walks on a tightrope.

Or maybe it's the safety net below.

Or maybe it's the courage to do the triple somersault from the trapeze above.

Or maybe it's the whole damn circus.

Thursday, July 17, 2014


Right now, at this crucial time, America is sitting on a vastly underused resource. Millions of gun-toting concealed carry vigilantes are at home, in cars, in bars in parks and in churches with their AK47's, rifles and pistols and nothing to use them for. They are chomping at the bit to be useful.

Meanwhile, we have thousands of young children and adults from Central America wanting to enter this country and suck us dry.

My idea is to give each of these hungry vigilantes a free ticket to Mexico and let them notch their belts with the kills of drug lords. Just wipe them out. This would give them intimate time with their guns, make the streets safe for the Hispanics and stop those greedy immigrants from making demands on us.

Win win all around, don't you think?

Friday, July 11, 2014

Creativity and productivity

The American capitalist system requires productivity to work. Productivity assures that the middle and lower classes gain the perception of financial stability while the rich pile up wealth. In a weak economy, the productivity mantra clamps down on the workers with more hours, fewer benefits and less job security. Workers become cogs and automatons simply for the privilege of having a decent job. This is often the consequence even of a college education that is seen as a career path.

Creativity engenders an entirely different set of circumstances. For the creative person, work is its own reward. Creativity assures that the work has value. It makes for rewards from within and not from without. The creative person sees college as an adventure toward full humanness and finds a way to sustain a meaningful work and personal life.

The danger is to not see value in work and to not work hard to work satisfying, to not wake up one day to be a cog.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Once a week

Once a week:

Ask yourself a hard question.

Find the quiet time to renew your friendship with yourself.

Decide what it is that most makes you human.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Love and hate

Why is it so easy to hate, even enduring for centuries, and so hard to love?
Why is it so easy to find a Satan to kill, and so hard to find a stranger to love?
Why do we crucify the Ghandis, MLKings and Dorothy Stangs, while petty tyrants sate themselves in luxury?
Why do we fight so hard to hold on to our ideologies and material wealth, while we so easily give up integrity, responsibility and human decency?
Is this the eternal broken condition of humanity?

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Living life

Life is to be lived. But a rich life comes with the accumulation of wisdom and self-awareness. A rich life acknowledges that growth comes from giving, not taking, that the self is bigger when it embraces rather than excludes. The full human being flourishes in a web, not a pod.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

New medical discoveries

Scientists have long known that many Americans suffer from the painful and unattractive disease  called stupidity. Many don't recognize the symptoms of this dangerous problem early if life or ever. Scientists have now perfected the iQ, or ignorance quotient. They used advanced mathematical formulas based on education level, book and movie preferences and the location of the navel in relation to the edges of outer garments and other relevant factors to arrive at the iQ. Clinical trials have proven the iQ to be a reliable predictor.

Psychologists, over the last 5 years, have clinically tested a new measure of longevity. Called FQ, or fuck quotient, this measure quantifies the number of times an individual uses the word fuck or a derivative of fuck in a specified amount of time. The higher the FQ, the more likely the person is to die an early death, even up to 15 years earlier than normal. Forms of death appear to be lung cancer, alcoholism, murder, vehicle accidents and accidental self-inflicted wounds.

A new discovery levels the playing field for men. PMS (penile madness syndrome), colloquially called horniness has been scientifically proven to be a form of temporary insanity. Dr. Emil Steinmetz, head of the research team which made this discovery, said the following in a recent interview, "The higher functioning parts of the brain shut down during PMS, and the lower functions of the brain move elsewhere. And, of course, the old definition of insanity becomes relevant: Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome."

Friday, June 20, 2014

Body Mind Spirit

The traditional diagram for this triad is an equilateral triangle with one of the components at each vertex. This allows us to see how each mediates the opposing pair. Spirit gives mind and body transcendent motivation. Mind is the facilitator of the dialogue between the physical and the ethereal. Body grounds spirit and mind in the material world.

In contemporary secular and material society, the vertex of spirit has been largely lopped off. This means that body and mind can easily appear as opposing forces in a black and white duality. The human is seen as at odds with his/her own self, fragmented and not capable of integration. The spirit, always present, has trouble finding a home. It becomes distorted into fundamentalism, sect hatred and rigid forms into which it expects human behavior to fit.

Sunday, June 15, 2014


Celebrate fathers, not sperm donors.

Celebrate fathers, not studs.

Celebrate fathers, not cool dudes.

Celebrate fathers, not superheroes.

Celebrate fathers, not bathing suit models.

Celebrate fathers, not players.

Celebrate fathers, not hot guys.

Celebrate fathers, not jocks.

You get the idea.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

A poem

1000 Cranes

Are not enough to fill the skies
Or to wipe out memories of the
Dead millions
Or provide the feathers
That stones and shells require
Or convince that life is
Or diminish the assault on
Or make you love me.

NB: 1000 origami cranes are made as a memorial gesture to victims of Hiroshima.

Friday, June 6, 2014

But how do you know it's art?

1.   The couch goes and the artwork stays.

2.   You leave the artwork, but the artwork doesn't leave you.

3.   It's simultaneously worthless and priceless, meaningless and meaningful.

4.   It hits you in the gut over and over.

5.   It acts like it's alive.

How to make life fun

1.   Accept the fact that life is, for the most part, totally absurd and sit back and enjoy.

2.   Ask yourself some questions that will drag you around a while before they let you go.

3.   Act the fool sometimes.

4.   Know when not to grow up.

5.   Find yourself, then be yourself.

6.   Find someone (a friend, a lover) who will teach you how to laugh at yourself.

Monday, June 2, 2014

This Poem Contains No

This poem contains no statistics
No economic forecasts
No rap lyrics
No chances to win $1 million dollars
No ads for expensive handbags
No variations on “fuck”
No celebrities buying unequal justice
No politicians speaking for the American people
No bodies lying in pools of blood
No pictures of adorable pets
No nutritional facts
No new phone apps
No advice you didn’t want anyway
No personal affirmations
No biased journalism
No online romancing
No gay porn
No young black men in hoodies
No smart answers
No half-price tango lessons
No R-rated film trailers
No anime nymphettes
No gated communities
No menu items that take 7 words to describe
No chiseled underwear models
No sitcoms with laugh tracks
No postmodern jargon
No Paris runway shows
No morbidly obese housewives in tank tops
No silver linings
No ab-ex paintings
No brutally honest personal revelations
No anti-abortion rallies
No crooked cops with big bellies
No dickheads
No zombies giving directions to the apocalypse
No helpless maidens
No expensive window treatments
No eyelid rejuvenations
No bungy-cord weddings
No false expectations
No advanced degrees
No means of escape

Monday, April 28, 2014

Bumps in the road of a creative life

The reality is that a truly creative person isn't just creative at their job, but is creative at all aspects of their life. Creativity is an active principle applied generously to all aspects of the world touched by the creative person. This means the creative life can be frustrating, greatly satisfying, impractical and even crazy.

Creativity is currently a mantra for many organizations, organizations not always knowing what this entails. A creative is going to be restless and not likely to follow any straight or easily expected solution to a problem. A creative is going to lead with no real intention of leading. Others have to follow into new and uncomfortable territory. Something most don't like to do, making it frustrating for the creative.

But a creative is instinctively a creative. It can't be helped. It's a lifestyle, and somebody has to do it.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Box

Each of us is born into a box. A family box. A social box. A cultural box. We naturally grow out of some of our boxes--the childhood box, the adolescent box. But then we reach the box of adulthood. There we can stay because we are comfortable and cozy, because we are afraid, because we don't even realize we are in a box.

For some us the box becomes a trap. So we realize that to escape the box, we must first recognize what the box for what it really is. We escape that box only to realize there is another box and another box, like a set of Russian dolls, but from the inside out.

How are we delivered from this seemingly frustrating dilemma? The answer is realizing that there were really no boxes to begin with. It was the life journey in which each box was, in fact, a call to a new, life renewing adventure for those who said "Yes!" to the challenge, the challenge that is living a full life.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Fuck? Yeah!

Now that the SAT governing board has decided that there are some words that are too big, too obscure, too useless or too hard to spell, I say we just make it all easy. After all big and obscure words will make the world and life in it seem much more complicated and nuanced than it needs to be.

So I'm making these suggestions:

In all movies and TV programs, bleep out all the words but "fuck."

Require all poems written from now on to have at least one "fuck" in them.

Make a new edition of Roget's Thesaurus in which "fuck" is a synonym for every adjective in the English language.

Create a list of all variations of the word "fuck" so high school and college students can develop a more descriptive, colorful and nuanced vocabulary.

And I'm sure this is just a start.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

What is art?

This is a conundrum I have been puzzling over for a long time. In the contemporary world, it almost seems that anything is art and therefore nothing is art.

It occurred to me that the problem is looking at the object instead of the maker. The one who throws his/her whole self at the problem with skill, passion, creativity and courage and who doesn't give up.
There is the artist. There is the art.

In a pleasant surprise, this brought me back to my favorite definition of art--by Eugene Ionesco:
Art is the collision of a man with the universe.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

What I learned about teaching

Standing in front of the clasroom no longer makes sense.

Information needs to become knowledge, and knowledge needs to become wisdom.

The hardest thing is to  really listen.

You must be alert to the "teaching moments."

Use technology only when absolutely necessary. (Power points can become just dull or decorative.)

It's not about you, it's about them.

It's not about what they learn, it's about what they become.

They are growing into their world while you are growing out of yours.

As much of their whole selves as they will give, teach that.

You've done your job if their evaluation of your course is still good ten years later.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Whole Self


Consider these aspects of the self.

Check those aspects in column 1 that you are aware of.
Check those aspects in column 2 that you now put to use in your art.
Check those aspects in column 3 that you want to put to use in your art.

Aspect of self                           1                  2                  3

Chronological                           ___                  ___                  ___

Physical                                    ___                  ___                  ___

Emotional                                 ___                  ___                  ___

Sensual                                    ___                  ___                  ___

Social                                       ___                  ___                  ___

Intellectual                                ___                  ___                  ___

Psychological                           ___                  ___                  ___

Intuitive                                    ___                  ___                  ___

Instinctive                                 ___                  ___                  ___                 

Subconscious                           ___                  ___                  ___                 

Compassionate                        ___                  ___                  ___

Spiritual                                    ___                  ___                  ___

Other:_______________         ___                  ___                  ___

Now tuck this away somewhere and look at it in 5 years.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Creative people

Creative people drop the stone in the water and never know how far the ripples go.

Creative people live in the process, not in the product.

Creative people see the now as the future.

Creative people are fearless in their thoughts and their actions.

Creative people don’t box up their creativity.

Creative people are naturally alert.

Creative people are challenged by confusion.

Creative people love possibility more than predictability.

Friday, April 4, 2014

The hero story

After a day of frantic play activities, it was time for bed for my 4 year old grandson. The latest ritual is to snuggle in my bed and fall asleep there. Cuddled next to me, he asked my to sing him a song. My response was to freewheel a song about his exploits of the day, just reminding him of his skills, the little challenges he  met, the risks he took.

After he was sleeping soundly, it occurred to me that this must have been the start of the great hero stories of mythology, stories told and elaborated over time, embellished more and more at each telling. For what is the hero story but an entertaining tale of how we meet life's challenges to grow and grow up.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

In the art school business

I've been the art school business for a long time as both a student and a professor. I've been in and run countless critiques, as you may also have.

Did anyone ever ask you this question:
What is the potential of this piece for drawing out from the viewer something deep that they never knew was there?

Isn't that the essence of art? How could I have let that by me for so long?

Why think for yourself?

Thinking for yourself is hard work and demanding and scary. And thinking for yourself actually requires thinking!

But no to worry.

Celebrity athletes can decide what deodorant or clothing is best for you.

Celebrity entertainers can decide what medicines and hair transplants are best for you.

Airbrushed and anorexic models can decide what clothing looks best on you.

Egotistical, airhead commentators can affirm what ideology best distorts reality for you.

Sexy blonds with big tits have the handle on the best driving machines for you.

Pundits can tell you when to ignore science, statistics and global dynamics.

And corporations know that you are the center of the known universe.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Corporate porn

Since the Supreme Court has decided that a corporation is a person who can give unlimited money to candidates for political office as a form of freedom of expression, it seems to me that there's no reason why an exhibitionist can't tear open his trench coat and go at it as a form of freedom of expression.

Look at it this way. Corporations cram money into their corporate dicks till they are stuffed and hard. They go to Washington, D.C. and hire their lobbyist pimps to line up the eager Congressmen. They tear open their trench coats, happy to let their members get sucked by our elected members.

In both cases it's perverse, obscene and distasteful. But for corporations, it's legal.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Love and war

Our age (perhaps every age) is awash in war; in civil, social and religious strife; in centuries-old hatreds; in ethnic conflicts. We try to tackle these conflicts with with more arms, negotiations, diplomatic efforts and economic sanctions.

"Love one another." The essential basis of every religion. How often do we talk about that? Of course, it is too naive to ask: "How can we most effectively teach and engender love?" But isn't thata the only question that really counts?

Shiva and Buddha

During a class visit to the CAM, we discussed the dancing Shiva and the Buddha in repose. With a little contemplation, each of these statues released its wisdom.

In our wealthy, secure, comfortable culture with its many safety nets, we often feel we have no need for this kind of wisdom. Then disaster hits: natural, social, political, personal. Things change. Then where are the contemporary images and icons which release the wisdom we need? 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Technology and ignorance

The reality is that technology moves faster than the vast majority of us can handle. There's a real question as to whether we use it or it uses us. We must have the latest and most powerful, tossing phones and computers away like used toothbrushes. Technology aids science and medicine in their quests for knowledge and healing. And technology lubricates communication for more pleasurable experiences. It's available, we must have it; just as if an AK-47 is available we must have it.

But just like the AK-47, what's the real value of the technology we use. Communication has lost its intimacy. Phones and similar devices fill the boring minutes in which we might have to have a conversation. The technology is so seductive that the real world has lost any allure.We plug into music to drown the sound of life and nature. There is no more awe to be found in the world, and we don't care. Just entertain us with gossip, mindless information, trivia, sports facts, celebrity updates and all the other things that work to dumb us down into submissive consumers and boring people.

Whether we realize it or not, so often when we opt for technology, we opt for ignorance.

Monday, February 3, 2014

A poem

The Poisoned Heart

Original sin exists
Only in the poisoned heart.
For this is where the seeds of war
Don’t look to annihilate
With tanks and guns and bombs and poison gases.
Don’t try to heal
The schisms and fractures and
Feuds soaked in centuries of hate.
Heal the poisoned heart.

When war calls, ask:
For what?
Why not your sons and daughters?
Why make me into fodder?
What will be the prize for the rich and powerful?
Who are the true cowards?
Why must humans measure their worth
In piles of bloodied corpses? 

Ask instead:
How can we heal the poisoned heart?
Who has the endurance and courage for that?
Who can unmask the motives of power and ego?
Who can reform the empty man
For whom no amount of wealth and power
Are enough?

Who can heal the poisoned heart?

Thursday, January 30, 2014


The Aborigine of Australia believe in a dreamtime. Material objects fall out of this dreamtime and take physical form, but the Aborigines understand that this material form is only transitional and will eventually away. There is a spirit presence in places that is felt rather than named or described in a rational way.

This, I think, is how the really serious artist makes his or her way. In the West, they must go through an analytical period, unless they are among the few truly gifted and committed who can skip phase. But then art becomes an intuitive experience as the Aborigines understand it. For this artist, the artwork is not the end, not the commodity, not the piece sold and hung. Art is the intuitive journey in dreamtime, mapped by material markers which track the transitional insights along the way.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Living in the universe

The universe is a law-abiding citizen. Even when it seems to misbehave, it's behaving itself. Life, too, behaved for a long time until the human brain arrived on the scene. It tried to masquerade as as rational as the rest of the universe, but it got called out again and again. It called the universe magical and mysterious and populated it with gods, aliens and a cosmic barnyard of fantastical beings. Only to discover that it was the one who put all the magic and mystery there in the first place.

But not to worry. These inventions of imagination were, and still are, the engines of curiosity and discovery. The heroes that propel us forward and out of our complacency never follow the rules. This is why the universe must be our hero.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Ode to a Penis

Glory to the short and long of it
Tool and tube,
The pendulum swinging between
Turbidity and flaccidity.
Sower of seed,
Planter in the Garden of Earthly Delights.
Holder of bounteous nicknames,
Pal, confidant, friend in times of need.
Dreamer of enhancements,
Yet willing to answer duty’s call.
Love’s arrow.
Nature’s billion year experiment.
Lingum, rod, spear, bone,
Man’s second brain.
Source of endless pleasure.
(Well, 2 or 3 minutes anyway.)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The pursuit of happiness

Is the pursuit of happiness a goal for most of us? Let's take a look.

Religion has lost focus of its goals. Church attendance is down. There are scandals around money, power and sex. Most wars are sectarian based. Few church leaders can articulate the role of religion and few have the courage to speak out against violence or speak frankly with other church leaders.

Government should support the common good, but it doesn't know what that is. It is too involved in serving the politicians, bolstering ideologies, turning a blind eye to corruption. It is broken.

Education is so loaded down with social and political overtones and bureaucracy that it is drowning in it. Should it be training for careers, helping create productive individuals, develop decent human beings of just get through the day?

The family? What is a family? Whatever it is, it can't be counted on to prepare students for an education or get them safely through adolescence. It has no communal goals for happiness or success as human beings for its members.

But here's where capitalism reigns. It, unlike these other institutions, has a very clear goal. Make money by turning every citizen into an avid consumer. It does this consummately. We can never be happy because we never have enough. We must work enough to get enough no matter the cost in human terms. Even our leisure time is spent consuming--entertainment, shopping, sports. We don't see leisure time productive time, as time to expand ourselves as thinking beings.

In fact, capitalism is so successful, it has in effect bought religion, government, education and family.

Yellow teeth

I like yellow teeth. And to be up front and honest, I have yellow teeth. Sparkling white teeth suggest the lack of a moral anchor. They require muscles, cleavage, blond hair, expensive clothing, plastic surgery and all kinds of bodily adornments that yellow teeth usually don't.

White teeth on TV have convinced us that they signify intelligence, courage, manliness, womanliness, competence and beauty. At the same time we accept white teeth in TV and movie homeless people, prostitutes, drug dealers and low class characters from period dramas. (If only every prostitute looked kike Julia Roberts.)

That's why I like British actors. Most of the best of them have yellow teeth, and even crooked teeth. They spend their time not in the gym or the dentist office or at the plastic surgeon's, but learning to act.

Yep, I like yellow teeth.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

New bestseller titles

These new titles are flying off the shelves:

Chicken Soup for the Fifty Shades of Gray

Did God Design My Penis and Other Puzzles of Creationsim

Forever at the Edge of Puberty: The Autobiography of Justin Bieber

Congressional Briefs: Interviews with Washington's Top 100 Mistresses

Orgasmia:  Celebrities Discuss Their  Favorite Orgasms

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Orgasms and eternity

Humans are condemned to live in time. The "fall" was a fall from paradise and its eternalness.  But humans were granted a chance poke their heads into eternity, escaping time for the briefest moment. This is the experience of orgasm. Reached properly, all of time and space disappear, everything is compressed into the all. The physical orgasm is the closet humans can get to eternity, the potential to make the human species last forever. Ecstasy is the spiritual orgasm, the human spirit reaching into God's own domain to touch God's eternal realm. For the artist--in the most basic meaning of the word--the spark of creative insight is the orgasmic experience that gives an idea its chance to live forever.

Friday, January 3, 2014

New Year's resolutions

You may have already made yours and perhaps even broken one or two. Here's mine, no particular order.

--Nap whenever the hell I want.

--Inflict as much wisdom on the unsuspecting as I can.

--Coerce each student I can into having a profound thought  before s/he graduates college.

--Do more nude tap dancing.

--Think of my art more as a gift...since it has obviously failed as a commodity.

--Act the fool more often.

--Help my grandchildren grow up to be decent human beings.

--Love the people who love me and some of the ones who don't.

--Work harder to root against the Bengals.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Taking risks

We usually associate taking risks with fast cars, extreme sports, reckless behavior and the like. These are often exhibited in adolescents and young people whose brains, as the experts tell us, are not fully developed to make good decisions. In effect, the risky behavior comes as a result of poor choices and the ill-considered consequences of those choices. Still we admire them.

To me, the real risk takers are those who take risks fully knowing the consequences because they are committed to something they believe in or integrity is at stake or the greater good is threatened. Those are the people I admire.

That's why we celebrate a Nelson Mandela or a Pope Francis, and why we can get by without an Evil Kneivel or Mylie Cyrus.