20 January 2010

Reinventing the artist

Much like others go on pilgrimages to sacred places, art has been for me an act of searching. It has been a vehicle to describe the sensation of being a receiver of information and vision. It has given me an identity as part of a tribe of curious people asking questions visually. It has been a philosophy for processing stimulation, unraveling identity, and understanding the past.

What I didn’t expect as an artist is that I would leave the art world

And reenter by asking questions about what art really is.

Conversation is just part of Art is Dialogue. It is also an inkling that the rules for artists have changed while old models are still being employed. It is an invitation to consider the artist as being part of larger spheres of science, psychology, domesticity, entrepreneurship, travel and language.

Art is Dialogue gives credence to Jean Houston’s visionary idea that everyone has the potential to be a “social artist” as much as Mark Rothko’s exploration of art being divine and a location for spirituality.

Has art ever changed you? If so, was it the art itself, the space in which it was shown, or perhaps the place you were at in your life at that moment?

18 January 2010

The Art of Cultivating a Creative Life

20 women sit around long tables pushed together in a corner of a café in Istanbul on a Saturday morning. The clink of coffee cups, the murmur of orders being placed. I pace around a little bit, preparing myself physically and mentally to talk about creativity to this group of professional women that I have been a part of since 2007.

The painter Robert Motherwell reportedly always started his day with figure drawing, though in his finished work, literal figures are scarce. He did it because it got him up and moving, pushing kinetic energy around until the good stuff could come out. He knew the power of drawing.

I have planned a drawing exercise for this reason, and I move around the room, saying hello to all the women who have come: a mother with her 6 month old baby and her 4-year old daughter, a salon owner, lawyers, entrepreneurs, writers, bakers and teachers.

The title of my talk is The Art of Cultivating a Creative Life. I hand out sheets of paper and pencils, and we do one of Betty Edward’s exercises from Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. I do this to dispel the “I can’t draw” so “I’m not creative” myth. I also choose this exercise because it relates to perception. How we think we see a chair, a hand, a house, but what we really see is a symbol. By slowing down our brains, we trick it into overriding its impulse to see the symbol of a hand and not its network of lines, hangnails, smooth nail beds, and curve of the thumb. Some women grasp a shift in their awareness immediately, others later as I talk about the application of a seemingly simple exercise to the borderlands of work and home, to professionalism, to adapting to life as an expat in Turkey.

I talk about navigating new territory abroad. About being faced with making decisions in the gray areas of bi-cultural life. I talk about reinvention. The spark. Creativity as a way of being and not just the action of sitting down to make something or write something. I talk about the magic of dialogue, concluding by putting out the extraordinarily uncomplicated idea that all moments in life are art. And then I pose this question:

Can you identify where you feel moments of spark in your own life?

Now, where are yours?

12 January 2010

Art is Dialogue

Unveiling a spark, a five-year-in-the-making idea that started out as the tiniest flicker. Out of art + nesting. Out of blurry boundaries. Now an invitation for you to explore along with me:

Art is Dialogue, a series of dynamic conversations hosted online on curated topics where art is in the exchange of ideas.

Through the alchemy of discourse, Art is Dialogue facilitates new perspectives and useable knowledge for multifaceted lives.

The questions change. The locations change. The premise does not:

The separate identities of artist, curator, and critic are merging. Artists are now scientists, teachers, philosophers, parents, authors, and engineers. Curating is done by artist-led initiatives, sparked by gathering of individuals meeting for conversation online, over dinner, or coffee. Critics are artists of word and vision. Art is conversation, the grouping of images, objects, people, and location around meaningful topics. Art is in the words we speak, ignited by the chemistry of language.

Contemporary living and art making requires multiplicities, engagement with life in dynamic ways, crafting identities that resonate across geography. Freed from the wall, art craves non-specific locales, driven by new vocabulary and a glossary of terms that represents the intricacies of life today. Being present is critical.

The definition of an artist has changed. The studio is you.

Interested in joining in on a conversation? Care to host a talk? Follow Art is Dialogue on Twitter for updates (freshly hatched as of today, Jan/12/10, so expect more soon!).
More information forthcoming on the inaugural collaboration with expat+HAREM this year while Istanbul is the 2010 European Capital of Culture.

03 January 2010

On the way to Ortaköy

This morning I boarded a bus in Izmit to cross a continent* to walk past Çırağan Palas where there was no one on the street save for a few couples and men pushing carts, where after leaving Beşiktaş only a block or two down the road on my way to Ortaköy there was a fire that a man hobbled in front of wearing a worn-down green sweater. The fire looked like muddy leaves aflame, the kind where brush and tree branches and leaves got swept together into a great or not-so-great pile and were lit to remove debris or clean out metal garbage cans.

Until we realized, all of us on the street, including a police officer at the police station across from the fire that was just staring at it while talking to another man quietly, until we realized the small fire had started shooting up another floor.

This is a real fire, I thought, and kept my head craned towards the orange spit canvassing the stone exterior until a headwaiter in a suit and tie emerged from a restaurant with a fire extinguisher, and the sound of “ssshhh ssshhh-ing” filled the nearly empty Sunday morning street.

Triumphant, he looked around while all along the street valet attendants were on their cell phones doing what, not calling the police because the police were already politely watching the scene, and I didn’t hear a fire truck once.

*from the Asian side to European side of Istanbul to meet the lovely Keryn, Renai and Verity in person, where after many months of blog reading and admiring the timing was right and the continent right to drink coffee in person and discuss photography, expatriotism, mothering, and milestones.