Monday, October 26, 2009

as seen on oprah

As seen on Oprah” So proclaims James Arthur Ray’s website. When exactly did this become a credential for serious consideration? For those of you less familiar with the self-help guru that trademarked the term Harmonic Wealth™, it was at his $10,000 per person “Spiritual Warrior” retreat that three people died in a sweat lodge. Several others were critically injured.

Mr. Ray states that he wants to, “assist you in everything from setting and achieving your goals to building the million-dollar lifestyle you deserve.” I am a stickler for credentials and was curious about Mr. Ray’s other-than-Oprah qualifications. I learned that in addition to studying Business and Human Behavior in college he had read extensively in History and Psychology. Prior to establishing to his personal development career, Mr. Ray was a sales manager for AT&T where he was commended for five consecutive years. In addition he was commissioned for the establishment and management of a telemarketing venture at AT&T. He received honors for this role.

Somewhere along the line, Mr. Ray missed the flashcard demonstrating “material” as the antonym for “spiritual.” While I mourn the tragic and senseless loss, I wonder what its is about our culture that makes us willing to pay $10,000 to a telecommunications salesman to attain spiritual growth?

Granted, I am a skeptic. I would gladly forgo bedside manner in exchange for a degree from Johns Hopkins any day of the week. But I also believe in God and find revolting those hucksters and charlatans who use the ubiquitous catchall of “spirituality” to profit from and consecrate our own insatiable desire for more. Native American groups, deeply saddened by the recent tragedy are also incensed, citing the lack of respect and the ignorance demonstrated when self-proclaimed experts appropriate tribal traditions that are specific in protocol and complexity.

The result of a quest for spiritual growth can produce a variety of outcomes. Last week I went to the Kandinsky retrospective at the Guggenheim. His practice was a dedicated search for a higher consciousness. It was grounded in the emotional and visceral responses that result from the interplay of color, form and geometry. He opened up abstraction. His prodigious project presaged, informed and enhanced the aesthetic practice and experience of others for decades. It continues to do so.

As a person who once woke each day wanting to die, I have found that, with the exception of Paris, the most satisfaction comes from those endeavors that don’t necessarily cost $10,000 and don’t qualify themselves with guarantees. My own satisfaction and growth has resulted from:

The search: hard work consistently practiced over a long period of time - it’s an inside job

The credentials: The advice and counsel of one more educated and experienced than myself. Remaining willing to accept their point of view, criticism and support

The giving: developing my own credentials that I can share only when invited (this is really hard)

The messiness: The living of life with all of its love, pain, joy and vulnerability (this is also very hard)


The NO: Not getting everything I want, and not always getting to know the reason why

My friend Cindy has repeatedly said, “What you came here looking for, you came here with.” I believe this but I doubt that this would get any play on Oprah. Perhaps I should talk to that Shaman wearing the sandwich board. He’s outside the donut shop on 14th & 3rd.

Monday, October 19, 2009

An exhibition featuring Pratt MFA candidates

"Autobiography" oil and graphite on panel, Sioban Lombardi, 2009

Speaking to a Kitchen Mouse

October 18-28, 2009

Steuben Galleries South and West
Pratt Institute
200 Willoughby Ave.
Brooklyn, New York

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

At the Still Point of the Turning World: Ree Morton at the Drawing Center

Ree Morton, Untitled (Repetition Series), 1970. Pencil on paper, 14 x 10 inches. Estate of Ree Morton, Courtesy of Alexander and Bonin, New York and Annemarie Verna Galerie, Z├╝rich.

Ree Morton: At the Still Point of the Turning World currently on view at The Drawing Center, offers a glimpse into the drawing practice of the late artist better known for her influential sculpture and installations.

Though sculpture is included in the exhibition, one might fail to notice the larger, three-dimensional forms. Those who do might experience a measure of irritation over these work’s more heavy-handed intrusion into the lyrical, modest and highly personal drawings that span the length of the artist’s all-too-short career.

Made more than 30 years ago, Morton’s work is unusually refreshing and current, lacking the “looking for Mr. Goodbar” aesthetic that dates the work of some of her feminist contemporaries. Perhaps this is due to the fact that Morton had already exorcised much of the baggage associated with feminist art of the 1970’s. Having married, raised children and then divorced in order to completely engage in her art making practice, Morton was able to incorporate these experiences into the broader pool of dream, spontaneity, myth and poetry.

In addition, Morton demonstrated an ease and faculty with materials at hand, freeing her from any sort of material carbon dating and allowing her obviously rich imagination to roam freely through her work. In works such as her series of Untitled Line Drawings, 1970, one is reminded that a static line on paper can demonstrate tension, temperament, movement and space. Though heavily influenced by the drawings of Eva Hesse, Morton’s drawings possess a far more organic and ephemeral presence than structural one.

Morton’s line quality and spare execution reveal with simplicity and candor, the benefit of making drawings discreet from preparatory practice and an artist’s principal project. Her works also fortify the notion that the stuff of inspiration is not limited to spectacle and conflict, but can still germinate within the antiquated realms of music, nature, myth, literature and dreams.

Monday, October 5, 2009

carol jean

Five years ago today my mother died. The offending event, a massive stroke, came quite unexpectedly. Her death was one of a handful of seminal events in my life and bookended her period of mourning following the death of my father in 2001. I believe that her grief could only be relieved by the companionship of someone she loved, lived with, raised a family with and battled for more than fifty years. I do believe that they are together today.

Time alone in my studio facilitates reflection, and I have been thinking about her a lot lately. I think about the night before she died, and how I had planned to stay with her at the hospital. She was in hospice care, and with the decline of her brain function, her breathing became a loud, labored rasp followed by a wailing inhalation kicked into action by oxygen and CO2 levels. It’s called Cheyne-Stokes respiration. She was unconscious and in no pain, but the sound was unbearable and at about midnight, I had to go home. She died very early the following morning. This is a deep regret. I’m sorry I left you alone Mama.

What little there is that is remarkable about me is at least fifty percent due to my mother. As a young woman, and throughout her life, she was a great beauty. (My sister looks so much like her!) She had wanted to be a cartographer or stage set designer, but as with so many young women of her generation, the opportunities presented to her were nursing or teaching and she chose the former. She never lost her interest in the Arts and in her fifties returned to college to get her degree in the Humanities.

Though much of her adult life was afflicted by the same demon that is a constant companion to myself and several family members, she passed on her visual acumen, her sense of style, and the understanding of color, line, shape and proportion that affords me attendance at one of the finest art institutions in the United States. In addition, thanks to her, my sister and I are both excellent cooks.

Now nearly fifty myself, almost three quarters of the way through Graduate School and with the 20/20 vision of hindsight, I recognize all that I inherited from her. In May, when (God willing) I walk across the stage at Radio City Music Hall and collect my Master’s Degree, I can celebrate that this is indeed the stage set she designed. Please take a bow Carol Jean. With all my love and thanks.