[BLANK] As ART #4, Space

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Simply as a very quick qualifying statement as to not mislead, this blog is not about OUTER space as “art”, but rather wide-open spaces. While I cannot discount the fact that outer space holds many artistic parallels, I have never been there and can’t speak emotionally about it. Perhaps one day I will be able to write from experience on the topic, but not today. Proceed with this knowledge.

 

We have all witnessed that overwhelming feeling when you arrive at an empty beach. That moment when you get to kick off your shoes for the first time and run (and you know you run) over the vastness of the sand towards the waves. Often times and inexplicitly a pirouette, cartwheel or any other physical form of happiness will find it’s way into your romp. This is ART! The feeling of happiness that taps energy so deep in you that it cannot be contained is not unlike hearing the right song at the right moment or witnessing a painting that transcends explanation. This is the exact goal of artists all over the world, to move a person with their creation in an effort to recreate these primal emotional moments.

 

I recently moved my family to farm country. I was not leaving “The Big City” by any stretch, but certainly a hub of commerce, traffic and noise. So much so that for years I have not really seen the stars. Yes the commute is long and yes we are re-learning how/where to shop, but the feeling I get when I truly smell earth, or hear cows somewhere (close) in the night, or see a vast expanse of stars overhead on a crisp fall night have led to emotions that I have been unfamiliar with.

I equate the time we have spent here so far as coming up for air from a multi-year deep-sea dive. My arms want to stretch as far as they can and grasp nothing and my feet want to run forever at full speed and get nowhere. This is art to me.

 

The above picture is taken from my commute shortly after leaving my house. After this was taken, my phone goes away and I am left on this road to think about my day, my week, and my life and by the time I plug in, I begin to write. It feels effortless as the thoughts are untethered by the grind that had their claws in me for so long.

 

Open space is why we vacation in the mountains or the beach. We need to recharge our batteries away from the pollutants in our everyday life. This is the very environment that artists have been recreating with communes and workshops since the beginning of commerce avalanches.

 

I am not trying to start a movement, otherwise you might all end up back in my space, but I am championing the notion of finding your own vast horizons. To quote Joe Versus the Volcano, “away from the things of man”, GO! You really won’t believe how many stars there are!

[BLANK] As ART #4, Relationships

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Welcome back to our monthly series of BLANK as Art! As a recap, this is where we uncover, rediscover and often redefine what “art” is.

In our recent adventures, we have unearthed a few topics that one does not generally look at as art and exposed the parallels to art so as to see it in a different light. Today we look at relationships.

We can all agree that dancing is a form of art. One of the freest and expressionist forms of art created by the individual and presented to the public for their interpretations or executed as a team and presented for the same reasons. If we take into consideration that relationships are not unlike a dance then we recognize the connection. If “Dancing” is “Art” and “Relationships” are a “Dance” then “Relationships” are “Art”. See how that works?

Let’s then explore the nuances of the art form of relationships.

First of all the longer we work at a relationship, is the longer that we are invested with our hearts and emotion. The purest foundation of art is emotion. We see, or experience a singular act performed within the confines of the relationship and we are moved emotionally. This is not unlike my previous stated experience of being moved to emotion by a Mark Rothko painting. Not only are we moved emotionally, but also we use this emotion to guide us through next steps.

The emotional reaction to a relationship can harvest negative reactions as well. When a relationship takes a turn, be it slight or course changing, we are apt to react with anger, disbelief, sadness or even rage. Think of a piece of traditional art that has had the same effect on you. Perhaps a painting depicting injustice or abuse, a song that pushes the lyrics past your own personal point of comfort or any attack senses that your body goes into natural defense mode. How is this different than the issues that arise to test the strength of a relationship? The answer is, it is not.

Finally, Relationships are complex. The more that we work at it, the more hours that we put into building and learning, is the more impossible it is to duplicate the results. Layers of complexity are stacked on top the other with every team decision you make. Each layer can prove to strengthen the piece or be the deciding factor in the demise of what once was a masterpiece.

 

Not everybody can do traditional forms of art and are just as happy witnessing the work of others and the same goes for relationships. However, anybody can learn to do either with time, patience and flexibility of their previous conceptions and definition of art and relationships respectively.

Halloween and Little Feet

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Finally, the seasons are changing! Here in California, as I am sure you are aware, we have been dealing with a drought that has claimed the lives of countless lawns and put dramatic water restraints on all of us. This parched earth has not been made easier with our sporadic triple-digit temperatures that seem to pop up out of nowhere. However, it seems that a reprieve is imminent.

For the last 5 days in a row, we have had to close the windows in the house at night and turn the heater on the early morning hours. Before the dust could burn off the grates, we have rushed to storage and taken down the bins of autumn and Halloween decorations to properly receive the season.

As our annual archeological dig commenced we were once again reminded of our bounty and how they came to be in our possession. So much of our décor was created with the help of our young children as a testament to their growth as well as the holiday.

Here are our 4 favorite items and how they were created.

 

  1. Spiders and Ghosts on Canvas: For our son we painted a canvas all black then let him put his bare feet into a plate of white paint. He then proceeded to place his foot onto the now dry canvas. When the picture is turned upside down, his foot is the shape of a ghost. Let dry and draw in eyes and a mouth! For our baby, we were a little more hands on (literally). For her we painted her canvas bright orange then painted her little sausage hands black then pressed her whole hands on the now dry canvas. When turned upside down they look like spiders. Add a few cobwebs, eyes and the work “EEEK” at the bottom and voila!

 

  1. Monster Hands: For this we traced our kid’s hands, all the way up to their forearms, on green construction paper. Then we cut them out and glued them to a black and orange sheet of paper. We then gave them dried beans and lentils to glue wherever they wanted on the hand. This gives the effect of warts and lesions. With a couple of candy corn nails, you have monster hands.

 

  1. Window Spiders: On the inside of the windows to their bedrooms we took black paint and again painted, or let them put their hands in. Then they press their hands to the windows with the left and right fingers facing out and the palms overlapped to make a really large spider right on the window. They can then wait for the paint to dry and scrape off the eyes.

 

  1. Outdoor Ghost: We bought a cheap white bed sheet and inflatable ball from the local drug store. Cut a hole in the top of the sheet and place the ball in the middle of the sheet. Run a string, rope or wire hanger through the hole in the sheet and attach to the ball, then draw a face on the ghost. We have our ghost hanging outside the dining room window from the roof and lit him from underneath with a floodlight. Ours is a friendly ghost with soft eyes and a smile as to not scare the little’s when the wind blows.

One of the major things to take into consideration when doing any of these projects is things will most likely get messy. Paint very rarely goes exactly where you want it to when applied to your toddlers, so be sure and use patience and washable paint. The best part of these projects (with the exception of our friendly ghost) is that year after year you get to see the growth of your little ghouls, and of course the kids think that being allowed to draw on them is a blast.

Happy Haunting!

[BLANK] As ART #3, Nature

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So at this point we have reached the understanding that “art” is emotional. If for some reason you have not been privy to the first two posts in regards to redefining art, then please take a moment to scroll back through the blogs, don’t worry we will wait.

[Blank] As Art #1                      [Blank] As Art #2

Ok, is everybody back? Let’s proceed.

Art is so much more than colors on canvas, a sculpture of a figure in time or a charcoal sketch of a bowl of fruit. Art is where we go to escape, to take a break from the daily grind of life and find the peace and solitude needed in order for us to tune back into our soul. By this simple criterion, is there anything in the universe more fitting to be dubbed “art” than nature? We think not.

Nature is the very essence of art. When one communes with nature the points of conscience and sub-conscience are alerted in our bodies as they align and tune. Our chakras open up and a steady circular current of positive energy flows in a snake-like pattern from one to the other. Sorry, I actually just slipped into mini-mediation.

Buddhist monks use the mantra and meditative chant of Ohm, but do you know what Ohm is? Ohm is the natural sound that our planet makes when one quiets their mind enough to hear it. It is literally the electrical hum of energy that radiates from our planet. Guess where the monks came to hear this sound? NATURE, correct.

Mother Nature herself is the world’s oldest artist and everything she touches is her brush to canvas. A sunset over a mountain range or the wind swept patterns in a sand dune, are exactly the feeling that millions of artists have been trying to recreate for centuries, and she nails it every time without trying.

Watch any documentary on any animal species in our kingdom and report back to me if their existence is not art. In the animal world, there are instincts and patterns of how they manage their survival and often their intricate markings as a painter’s pallet. Our human skin is boring by compression.

There will be naysayers always, and while I believe that to argue against nature as art is as feeble as arguing that fire is not hot, or water not wet, I do reserve one final example that is a “drop the mic, walk away” moment. The Aurora Borealis (The Northern Lights) is the sweeping green, yellow and red lights that swoosh across our magnetic poles. “Auroras are produced when the Magnetosphere is sufficiently disturbed by the Solar Wind that the trajectories of charged particles in both Solar wind and magnetospheric pressure, mainly in the form of electrons and protons, precipitate them into the upper atmosphere (thermosphere/exosphere), where their energy is lost. The resulting ionization and excitation of atmospheric constituents emits light of varying color” (thanks, Wikipedia).

 

So there you have it, nature is art in the rawest and untethered sense. Anywhere you look in nature, you are sure to be emotionally swayed in one direction or another, and that is how I define “art”.

[BLANK] As ART #2, Food

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Welcome back to our monthly series of BLANK as Art! As a recap, this is where we uncover, rediscover and often redefine what “art” is.

In our first post, we stated the sheer definition of “art” as: “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.”

While the definition suggests that painting and sculpture are the common visual forms, we understand, as a people, that many other categories can fit into the art definition. Our aim is to get you to look at the world a little differently. Walk past a specific cloud formation and be moved emotionally or hear a piece of music and sense the beauty.

Today we explore the sheer art form of food.

This is a hot-button topic that has been lighting up the chat rooms for a few years now. One could make the argument that the birth of Food Television created a band of Celebrity Chefs that all use creativity and the desire to move emotion in order to stand out among the many in their field. For me we need look no further that painters use a palette to express themselves and chefs use your palate to do the same. This coincidence cannot be overlooked.

I myself come deeply rooted in the world of food and beverage. 15 years in the trenches of fine dining management have given me an intimate connection to the plight of executive chefs and their desire to move you emotionally.

 

Here then are 4 reasons that food is art!

 

Plating

Nowadays, in almost every setting outside the cafeteria line, chefs are using the plate as their canvas. The preparation of the food is but a footnote in the overall presentation of what your senses are about to receive. Some use large plates with small portions of food to suggest the expanse of the dining experience, the vastness of possibilities and the gentle application of color, texture and layers to unveil their long thought out masterpiece to the recipient. Not unlike real art, the greater the thought in plating is the higher price you are going to pay for it.

 

The Dance

If you have ever been lucky enough to get a sneak peek into a fine dining kitchen on a Saturday night at 8 pm, you have been privy to “the dance”. This is the carefully orchestrated and timed movements of the kitchen staff moving in every direction imaginable in order to stay on top of the relentless ticket machine spitting out demands. Each member responsible for the two-three foot workspace in front of them, but invariably needing items outside the designated area that require ducking, diving and swirling rhythmically as to not upset their neighbor clad in all white and focused on their own personal task at hand. Bodies flying everywhere, some holding knives, and never coming into contact. With the executive chef at the helm like a conductor monitoring all the movements in the ant colony closely for any room for improvement and efficiency. The scene is awe-inspiring and true art in the purest form.

 

Wine Pairing

This is where the rubber hit the road for me in food as art. Before my first stint in fine dining, I had eaten great food and I had sipped fine wine, but I had never taken the suggestion from the brainchild born from two mighty artisans in their craft and married the two. When the Executive Chef and the Sommelier get together to discuss flavor profiles and ingredients in their own respective inventories, amazing things happen. When a perfectly cooked rib eye steak is paired with an old vine zinfandel and the black pepper notes from the wine swirl on the palate with the butter richness of the beef, the term cathartic is inept. If you go into a place with a sommelier be sure and utilize their suggestion based on your appetite that evening. This is art in the purest form.

 

Ratatouille

Leave it to Pixar to simplify our own thought processes and present them in a way that we can all understand. The catalyst of this movie is that the ice-cold curmudgeon of a food critic serves one purpose in his lonely existence. That is to pick apart all forms of food and exposé the flaws to the public. That is until he has the peasants dish prepared for him of ratatouille. On the first bite, he is whisked back to his childhood, to an easier happier time. The surrounding light is golden and suggestions of his mother and her maternal love envelop him. Immediately his impenetrable exterior is shattered and he is reintroduced to his love for dining. This is the power of food as an art form and is replicated in individuals daily all around the world.

 

There is no doubt that food is art. Anything that attacks one, or more of our senses and causes a severe redirection of that sense is certainly art. Anything that requires such planning, thinking, and practice in the hopes of flawless execution and emotional appeal is art. The only problem now is where am I going to find a steak and glass of old vine zinfandel at 9 am?

[BLANK] As ART #1

what is art?

 

Admittedly, Googling “what is art” was an exciting venture for me. At first I thought the simple script would cause smoke to begin pouring from my hard-drive. I imagined that this is the type of question you would use against a cyborg to cause it to self-destruct, but then again, I am an artist. What exactly does that mean? I am the type of person that sees art in almost anything without having to cram the square peg into a round hole. I was prepared for even Google to fall short of my own personal definition of “what is art”, but then, like a fortune cookie, Google nails it with a broad net. For just a minute the cynic in me was screaming for them to BRING IT ON, then they disarmed my internal time bomb with two words: “emotional power”. This is exactly what I think “art” is, and why I truly believe that art can be found in the most unsuspecting of places.

 

If you recall, we recently posted an “ongoing” exposé of music as art, and began with Flowers Are Red by Harry Chapin. After careful consideration, we (as a committee) became convinced that the greater picture was being ignored and that a great injustice was inadvertently being done to every finger of creation and happenings that fit into the art category by definition of things that hold “emotional power”.

 

I have been an artist all of my life. So much so that when I “grew up” I was convinced that I was supposed to do something else because it was never work to me until I realized that there is a way. However, I first became aware of the emotional power of art in my early 20’s. Here is that story.

 

I was lucky enough to be in the Guggenheim in New York. My friend and I were on a cross-country tryst. This was a last minute adventure to really get to know each other by escaping the ills and obligations of west coast life. While there, we decided to fit as much “New York” into our short time as humanly possible. The itinerary was ridiculous, even by a youthful standard. In a 48 hour period we went to Phantom of the Opera on Broadway, ate at Jerry’s Famous, saw a taping of the David Letterman Show and Kelly and Regis, picnicked in Central Park, took the subway (at midnight), walked to the middle of the Brooklyn Bridge and went to the Guggenheim. It was here at our last stop that I entered the stark white hallway displaying multiple artists and their masterpieces. From a hundred yards away I could see that the end of the hall ended in an abstract two-tone piece with a bench in front of it. I didn’t really care about the bright orange and deep blue painted boxes on the wall; it was the bench in front of it I needed. I just wanted to sit down as the weekend was catching up to me. I made it to the bench, sat and began to look at this painting. My mind was blank, which in hindsight served me well. The painting was by Mark Rothko and as I began to stare at it, something inside me stirred. It started in my belly then slowly moved in both directions towards my toes then my head, leaving that “prickly skin” feeling in its path as it traversed my insides. As I got lost in the deep blue and contrasting orange, and without any warning, I began to cry. Not sob, but simply allow my tears to free fall in homage to this work of art against all of my better judgment, and I did not care, this moment was out of my control and was the true essence of “emotional power” of art!

 

This day taught me more about art than my previous 22 years on the planet. I became aware that art is anything that takes over your momentary perception and makes emotional decisions on your behalf, with or without your approval. That “art” can be music, nature, children, or anything else that moves you without the necessity of a paintbrush or crayon. Our only duty then is to recognize that moment and properly label it as “art”.

 

We are going to attempt to share with all of you the things that we see as art on a monthly basis, and really open up the discussion. We employ you to go to our Facebook Page and post your own thoughts on art. Where were you when art got redefined? What then is your new definition of “art”? Are you listening to what you see?

 

Hold onto you hats and glasses, this could get emotional because it should!

Art Does Heal

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The process of gathering crayons and recycling them is a multi-tiered process with truly measurable positive outcomes. On this blog, we have explored how we keep them out of our landfills and save the planet one colorful paraffin stick at a time, but the driving force is the medical miracles that can happen when a brand new, shiny crayon is in the hands of those that need them most.

Once our crayons have been gathered, sorted, melted, strained, molded and boxed, they go directly into the hands of the patients in Children’s Hospitals around the country. This is more than a “nice-to-have” for these kids that need the power of the rainbow so badly. We give them the tools to create that rainbow, and art has been proven to heal scientifically. Here is how:

Structure

Nurses and Doctors all over the country have been interviewed about their experience with inner hospital art programs and the effects they have had with their patients. The majority of personnel have reported that the structure being taught through art has helped the patients with their medication regimen as well as given them something to look forward to on a daily basis. The simple structure of art-time gives the child a sense of schedule and anticipation. The eagerness to create has dulled the edge of getting them to take their medications as the creative side and medical side get fed simultaneously. Nurses have also noted the depletion of stress in an art heavy department and Doctors site a lower readmission rate of patients involved in art programs.

Escape

Whether the child artist is sitting at home on their bed drawing, at a desk in school painting or in the oncology ward in their local hospital coloring, they are all united in a world far away when they get to open up their imagination. This escape is especially important to the child who is in a hospital setting. The desire to leave a confined area is never greater than when you know you can’t, but the imagination of a child is a powerful thing. When a child gets drawn into the world they are creating through art they come back feeling like they have been on a small trip. They had a reprieve, if only for a moment, from the realities of being in the hospital. They got to see magical things that exist only on their own personal canvas, and they did it without changing their gowns and often refreshed enough to face the next challenge. This alone is the magic of art.

Many hospitals have formal art programs, where actual professionals come in direct the children. Many of these directors are actually therapists that use art to allow hidden fears, anxieties, and trepidation to come to the surface so that they can be dealt with. The message that these patients receive before the crayon even hits the paper is that they are not alone and that there are people that care about their emotional well-being, and are available to help when they are ready.

Iva Fattorini, chair of the Cleveland Clinic’s Global Arts and Medicine Institute, says, “The arts create this communication channel. The hospital becomes home to some people. What do we actually do to address the emotional needs of people living in that hospital? How do we change their state of mind and perception of the hospital?” She continues “What we know is that art is not a commodity; it’s really a necessity,” she continues. “It’s really about infusing some beauty and spiritual values in the arts to people whose spirits needs to be uplifted. If good emotions and energy are transmitted through good art, it doesn’t matter where (patients) are, or who they are. It does help.”

When the thought of The Crayon Initiative came into our mind, we were flooded with directions that we could take it. The possibilities of positivity were endless and still are, but as the model began to take focus we realized that the people that needed to prosper the most from this endeavor are the very users of these waxy tools, and there are no better builders than those that are attempting to re-build themselves. Our hope is that one of our crayons will create the rainbow unicorn that will keep a child smiling tomorrow through the challenges they face today.

5 Ways to Celebrate Your Little Artists

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In our crunched time of public spending and budget cuts, more often than not, the first thing to hit the trash pile in our schools are the programs surrounding arts. Art programs are responsible for half of the development of our children’s brains, but often get treated as a luxury and, therefore, often discarded with little more thought than their monetary value. We could very well wallow in the injustice of it all, but step back and realize that the sheer soul of art thrives in an oppressive environment. Some of the most meaningful and moving pieces have come from somebody saying, “you can’t do that”.

If your child’s school has suffered an arts cut back or simply wasn’t there to begin with, then the time has come to channel your inner Ginsberg and Howl! These are the times where as parents we should be finding ways to celebrate our little Mary Cassatt’s and Rembrandt’s.

Here are five ways to properly pay homage and inspire our little’s to create!

1. Rotating Frame

 The brainstorm that resulted in this very blog produced this idea. This is an idea that admittedly I have not incorporated in my own home yet, but one that I certainly plan to. If you have more than one tiny artist in the house or one that paints with the passion of Jackson Pollock, then fridge space is at a premium. Why not set aside a prominent spot on a wall in your home for a frame to rotate and showcase your pick-of-the-week/month (time frames open to suggestion). Make certain that the frame is large enough to hold (reasonable) variations in art sizes. The last thing we want to do is tell our children that their art needs to be 5×7 or it just won’t make the cut. Then pick a different piece of art produced by your child to display for the designated time for all to see. This will be a confidence builder and allow the child to be celebrated for creating, as well as allowing your fridge to look like a fridge rather than a huge decoupage project.

2. Personal Email Addresses

 This is an idea that my wife and I do utilize and have had a lot of fun with. Set up an email address for your kids. Don’t tell anybody but you and your partner and safely secure the password for later use. We use this email address to send our kids thoughts, pictures, words of wisdom, fresh memories, etc. from time-to-time. The idea is to give the kids their password when they become old enough to truly digest the contents and use it as inspiration for life (17-18 years old). Working in tandem with this topic, once your child’s art is removed from the marquis placement in the frame, take a picture of the piece and send it to their email address. Rest assured that when the picture is in the frame, they are admiring their work the whole time it’s up there, whether you notice it or not. Chances are when they get to see it again later in life, it will remind them of a simpler time.

3. Make Supplies Readily Available

 What good is the box of crayons up on the high shelf? Why would you want the only paper in the house to come from the office printer where they are not allowed to go? Put your children’s art supplies where they can grab them at a seconds notice. A true artist knows no schedule and inspiration can (and will) strike at odd times. This time should not be squandered looking for a pen and something to write on. NOTE: this does not apply to scissors. When you make scissors available to little fingers pets and siblings get haircuts. Keep those up high!

4. Art Classes

 If you witness your little people creating a lot of art, sticking to one singular medium when choices are available, or talking a lot about something artistic, find a way to enroll them in a class outside of school. Talk to the about the option to learn from a professional in a learning environment and let them see that you are in tuned with their inner voice. Most communities have learning annex’s or even private enterprise options offering everything from cartooning to beginning sculpture. Observe and listen to your artist and see if you can take their learning to another level.

5. Point Out “The Arts”

 One of my favorite movie quotes is from Joe Versus the Volcano. “My father says that nearly the whole world is asleep. Everybody you know. Everybody your see. Everybody you talk to. He says that only a few people are awake, and they live in a state of constant total amazement”. BE AMAZED…BE AWAKE! There is art all around our daily lives. Art that we pass with little to no thought or even notice. This does not have to be paint on canvas or a 30-foot statue. Art can be a sunset or somebody playing piano in a mall. Our job is to stop and bring these crumbs of inspiration to the attention of our own little minds. Show them that art is constantly being created and presented to us everywhere we go and that whenever they feel ready, they too should feel like being a part of the movement. Whatever their medium is, there is no wrong way to do it and all art has an audience. This is a huge confidence builder.

There are many more ways to inspire, nurture and celebrate our tiny Picasso’s, and these are just a few. Let us know of ways that you inspire art, because after all, there is no right or wrong way!