We mold our womanhood from a thousand bits of clay, not the cool wet river mud of our deepest stories, but countless social scripts that shape our permissions. We learn to bypass our biology and ignore the quiet moments with our mothers in favour of the symbols and rituals of an artificial construct. But bring time into the equation and that construct begins to fade away. Continue reading
For those of us whose minds and mouths seem so much more adept at forming questions than answers… For those of us who swing wide on the flexibilities of our viable worlds… For those of us who can never stop exploring… Is it possible to overdose on philosophy? If there is one solid answer in this world, it is to this question. And three days ago it smacked me upside the head… YES!
It was the last dream before the morning. In the boundless, though tremulous reality of my dream’s gestalted storyline, I am teaching a small toddling self to play catch under a purple sky.
“OK, here we go,” I said. “I’ll throw you the ball, then you catch it and throw it back to me.”
My mini mirror caught my light toss with expert ease. But then she hesitated, looked up at me and asked, with blue eyes wide and questioning…
Robin Gibb, 1/3 of the legendary Bee Gees, cheated on his first wife with (by his estimation) over 100 women. They divorced and he spent two years in bed with a bottle, so depressed he feared he was going mad. This is the same man who so recently fought with everything he had to stay alive for just one more day. What had changed?
We all live in different worlds. One person’s reality may look, taste, and smell quite similar to another’s, but our brains wire meaning and importance with incredible variation. Where/when our realities overlap, we feel safe, accepted, secure. Surrounded by like-minded brains, the world makes sense – cause and effect, social etiquette, cultural norms. But there is only one place where we meet, all of us, on the same plane… emotion.
The artists we remember have the ability, through their work, to draw us into an emotion and keep us there until we feel it is our own. Emotion and intellect is a back and forth evolution of consciousness. Art, whether through colour, words, or music, allows us to engage in this evolution outside of ourselves, protecting our delicate identities and egos. An emotional reaction triggers an opening in our thinking. Suddenly, we have internal permission to change our perceptions of reality, bringing them either more in line with the artist’s vision, or reinforcing an opposing viewpoint.
But what about the artist?
“The real world was just too real – and we didn’t want to be part of normal life. We wanted to create a magical world for the three of us, and the only way we could do that was to lock ourselves away and be creative.” – Robin Gibb
We must not underestimate the emotional intensity and sensitivity needed to create an outside expression of a universal emotional reality. Among those few born with this gift (some might say curse), along with the talents to communicate it, there are fewer still who can touch us independent of their time. We call them ‘the greats’ – our ‘geniuses’.
But when a mind can only justify itself by creating its own external reflection, participation in a communal, comfortable reality is an impossibility. To add to the artist’s burden, the energy costs of this constant self-reflection make peace of mind an active, rather than a passive, state of being. The artist requires a certain level of selfishness to preserve these energies and not get sucked into the bottomless emotional demands of a world, which to them, is forever on fire. Those who deny this in-born protection, and claim an artificial selflessness, risk their minds following ‘the rules’, if not their very lives.
Robin Gibb got out of bed and began living more honestly. When an artist accepts himself/herself as an artist and begins to live authentically in their ‘village role’, they are able to surround themselves with people who will support (if not necessarily share) their unique vision of reality. Under these circumstances, the artist can finally give back more than he/she takes. Robin Gibb found Dwina, a liberal-minded woman who gave him the space and freedom to live in a way that fueled his creativity instead of draining it. Even so, Gibb pushed his luck by fathering a child with their maid. Because after all, artist or not, guess we’re all stuck being human.
Historically, samplers began as a way to record and collect needlework stitches and patterns for future use and adaptation. When a needlewoman saw a new or intriguing piece of stitching, she would quickly sew a copy onto a piece of cloth. These samplers evolved organically over a lifetime, the patterns spreading outwards with the deceptive randomization of fractals, as the needlewoman’s collection grew in variation, texture, and complexity.
After borders and alphabets were added in the 17th century, along with religious and moral verses, samplers became more deliberate, organized, and methodical. No longer a collection of tactile experiences, samplers became a showcase for skill and were taught to young girls as a “sign of virtue, achievement, and industry”.
Sound familiar? Our 21st century culture celebrates those who channel their energies into ‘profitable communication’. Everything we do has become a demonstration of skill, rather than a collection of knowledge and experience. But humans are not efficient, or perfect. Our stitches are brushstrokes, not pixels. When we allow our hands to record our world, a new honesty surfaces in our observations. The Blank Canvas Sampler is a collection of true life images and people, overheard tidbits and cultural commentary. Let’s bring the sampler, and our lives, back to their root humanity.
Note: This matching winter morning couple made last Friday’s walk to work feel a little less like a walk to work
Barry Berkus, a world renowned architect based in Santa Barbara, has created a portfolio of inspirational structures that have evolved from exploratory sketching – the sensory rich dialogue between body, mind, and medium. Click Here to watch his excellent youtube series – How to think like an architect. From his innovative bubble diagrams to a brilliant plan for the rebuilding of New Orleans, this Blank Canvas thinker has the courage to practice what he preaches: Dream Big – Dare to Fail.
Secret freedoms… deepest passions… strappy high heels… The wording of my first official Blank Canvas Living assignment comes loaded with clues to its criteria.
In order to integrate sketching into her hectic lifestyle, the client would need a way to carry a sketchbook discreetly, protect its pages, and be inspired to let go of her inhibitions and excuses every time she sits down to draw.
The nature of this project, with its almost total creative freedom, is intoxicating. My mind races with ideas. This is the same thrill I felt designing my seismic skirt after burning those horrible ugly pants up on the roof. I’ve craved this level of creative engagement for so long, and I need to prove with this assignment that I can be part of Blank Canvas Living as more than just a tourist.
One idea dominates all the others – a two part sadomasochistic hood and handcuffs protective tote. Is a bondage sex theme too much? Too extreme? I don’t know the client’s history, but those strappy high heeled shoes keep leading me straight back to BDSM. What better way to tempt the client into artistic expression than ‘artistic bondage’? I submit to the process, and get down to work…
1-Cut calf of sacrificial black leggings to length of sketchbook + 1” (depending on thickness of book)
2-Sew cut end closed to make a pouch
1-Stretch 3/4” wide elastic around sketchbook to desired tension – cut two of these lengths and stitch ends together to form ‘cuffs’
2-Cut third length (the ‘chain’) with ¾” extra on both ends to fold around ‘cuff’ loops.
3-Sew ‘cuffs’ onto their ‘chain’
Slip the hood over the sketchbook, then slide on the cuffs, leaving enough slack in the ‘chain’ to create a handle. The handcuffs can be used alone (as shown), and will hold pens/pencils securely under the ‘chain’.