I See, Eye See, You See

At P.S. 58, my job is to guide students to see things in a way they are not accustomed to. 

This can be a simple exercise -- like pointing out a different way to interpret what they are currently drawing.

Or, it can be more complicated -- like when I have them look at a piece of crumpled paper and then I ask them to find something recognizable in it. 

Simple or complicated, it's the practice of opening up your eyes, and your mind, and finding new associations and comparisons. And this practice is not limited to the classroom. We have visuals bounce around us all day so we are free to practice "seeing" whenever we want. 

For example: I took the first photo because it was a fun exclamation point. 

And then I turned it upside-down and it became a lower-case "i".

I found another recent photo to match into this group: a hat I was knitting at the Guggenheim Museum when I was visiting the Agnes Martin show. Behold: an eye. 

Yes, it's simple. It's an "i" and an "eye". And we "see" with our "eyes". And all of a sudden, we have the beginning of a poem, or a story, a fun visual, an opening of our minds. 

I like to find random exclamation points on the street. 

I like to find random exclamation points on the street. 

When I turned the exclamation point upside down, I found this "i".

When I turned the exclamation point upside down, I found this "i".

The beginnings of a knit hat photographed in front of an Agnes Martin painting creates an "eye"!

The beginnings of a knit hat photographed in front of an Agnes Martin painting creates an "eye"!

PS 58 Loves Pareidolia!

I was honored to spend the day with all of the first grade classes at PS 58 last week. These kids are awesome. They understood the Pareidolia concept, they sang the Pareidolia song and they drew some of the most interesting interpretations of Pareidolia I've seen so far! Many thanks PS 58 and Mr. Paul, in particular. I can't wait to come back!

 

Student Work by Vaughn

Student Work by Vaughn

Student work by Zohar

Student work by Zohar

Student work by Clara

Student work by Clara

The Moulting Pot

"Dragonfly metamorphosis" by Clinton & Charles Robertson from Del Rio, Texas & College Station, TX

"Dragonfly metamorphosis" by Clinton & Charles Robertson from Del Rio, Texas & College Station, TX

Discovery is about exploration. Exploration is about allowing the unknown to be revealed. Moulting is the shedding of an outer layer to allow a new, fresh layer to thrive.

Yes, our lives get driven into ruts and our routines get repetitive. Often we think the only way we can escape this dullness is to dive deep into the digital reality of our laptops and phones.

Doesn't this harden the shell around us?

I suggest that we shed that skin from time to time. Instead of looking into a tiny screen, lift your eyes and look straight out. Start training your eyes to see the subtleties that exist. Your world is more magical than you think.

I challenge you: look away from your computer/phone/ipad right now. Focus on something nearby. Give yourself a moment to see something completely different about it. If this is easy, I'd love to read what you see. Comment below or send me an email. If this is way too hard, give me a chance to help guide your eye. Don't give up. You are born with a creative spirit. It's in you just waiting to come out.

Creativity + Your Everyday

"I'm NOT creative at all! I CAN'T draw/paint/sculpt/write/sing/dance! Only people who go to ART SCHOOL are creative!"

It's such a bummer when I hear people say this because it slams the door on any person just having a bit of fun with their absolute-you're-born-with-it creativity. 

Am I wrong? When you do something inventive or creative (knit, cook, sing, dance, tell a good story, collect beach glass, leap to catch a baseball) we LIKE it, we feel good. We own our actions.  

Somewhere along the line, this all became specialized and only people who get degrees in it get to experience it. The rest of us are left with feeling like outsiders, not smart enough and definitely not artistic.

That's where I come in. I'm kind of an art crusader. I believe that everyone is creative and that art is all around us. And I want to teach you everything you need to know to walk, talk and act the art part. I want you to feel comfortable with your artsy side. 

I have created 12 books; all magazine size and about 20-25 pages each. They are offered monthly and they are meant to teach you the wonderfully useful skill of creative thinking. They are geared towards a younger audience but, like Bugs Bunny, they are totally translatable to adult world speak. 

Every single thing I talk about will be demonstrated with things you encounter every day. All of the art concepts are taught using every day, run-of-the-mill objects. Take this first book, for example, it's all about seeing your world a little bit more creatively. And I use stuff I find on the sidewalk for examples. 

"Artistic" is just a fancy word for "Perceptive". And perceptive is, very simply, about looking at things just a little bit closer, just a little bit differently.  

My goal, is that you will finish the year feeling your creative identity bursting forth. You will no longer say "I'm not artistic" but instead will feel as comfortable talking about a kid's drawing as a painting in a museum. You won't feel like an outsider any more. And you will again experience the joys of being creative. 

If you would like to order Book One: The Pareidolia Project, please contact me here. And please let me know if you would like to subscribe to the whole year. 

Thank you for giving yourself permission to be creative again. 

See you soon!

A Urinal and Some Trash; Let's Call It What It Is

In 1917, Marcel Duchamp found a porcelain urinal and put it on a stand. He titled it Fountain and signed it R.Mutt. He then submitted it to The Society of Independent Artists', paid the show fee and waited. It was rejected by the committee even though all works were to be included in the show as long as the entrant paid the fee. 

This, of course, stimulated controversy and the Dadaists got involved by publishing its photo along with an editorial in their publication The Blind Man. It proclaimed:

"Whether Mr Mutt made the fountain with his own hands or not has no importance. He CHOSE it. He took an article of life, placed it so that its useful significance disappeared under the new title and point of view – created a new thought for that object."[source]

In 2014, I began The Pareidolia Project. My thought was to create a refresher course for anyone who was interested in seeing their daily lives with new interest. I take photos of things that most people scoff at: garbage, sidewalk cracks, oil splotches. My cardinal rule is to never touch or in any way alter what I see. With this project, I am not interested in crafting something with my hands, I am interested in singling something out and presenting it for interpretation. 

I always see something in the things I shoot (I practice pareidolia, after all) and I ask others to tell me what they may see the same or differently. The point is to exercise our right to see beyond what we know, to think creatively past what we assume to be true. And happily, the great bi-product of this way of looking is the addition of some very welcomed humor in our sometimes humdrum lives. 

Sure the Fountain is a urinal but it certainly can be a fountain, too. Isn't the definition of a fountain some sort of receptacle that shoots water into the air and catches it back? Isn't liquid always cascading into such a receptacle?

Sure Spirit Bird is the smushed leftovers of somebody's lunch. But can't you also see the shape of a proud white bird, its talons holding a fish below it and arching around its head the faint outline of a halo? 

Take a look at some of your recent photos and try and see them through Duchamp's eyes. Are there any that change meaning or tell a surprisingly different story?

The Great Balancing Act

Thoughts on Chaos and Calm

balancing_act.jpg

Do you ever wonder when Americans slow down?

What habit have we, as a culture, perfected to offer enough literal and mental space to slow down and calmly, but thoughtfully, reflect on the subtle beauty of our world?

I am asking this question because I recently attended a Japanese tea ceremony demonstration and it left me feeling uplifted and gentler. I felt calm.

Expecting simply to sit on the floor and sip a cup of tea, I was astonished to be told that the tea ceremony itself is akin to performance art; that there is a theme to each event, that guests are honored and purified upon entering and that the (up to) 4 hours spent inside is time for host and guests to muse/discuss/contemplate beauty and tradition (more). Business discussions and world news are forbidden. The tea room is for contemplation about works of art, things of beauty, tradition, stories, myths, symbols. The guests are guided into the tea room where a particular scroll is hanging. The scroll sets the theme or tone of what’s discussed. There is a loosely placed flower/s in a vase. The flower chosen not for its hardiness but for the opposite; the guest admires this bloom knowing that that will soon fade and die. A suggestion and reminder of the temporal nature of life. The tea bowl is observed and carefully handled, its history felt in the hands, its beauty in form, function, and imperfection (more on that in another post).

There are so many levels of looking, reflecting, admiring, discussing that the ceremony becomes a hive of noticing things with a reverence not typically accomplished. The gathering pauses our chaotic drive towards goals and lets us revel in the fruits of our (and our fellow human’s) labors. We connect to those who have gone before us and who have added to our experience of our worlds.

Thank you Urasenke Chanoyu Center, NYC

Hide and Seek

Here is a short audio clip from Alan Watt's You're It

If the clip doesn't work, here are the words: 

..."In the same way that perhaps you could say that the protective coloring of a butterfly who has somehow contrived to make it’s wings look like enormous eyes so that when a bird who is about to devour this beast is confronted by these staring eyes, the bird is a little hesitating, like when you stare at somebody they are always taken a little bit aback, and so the butterfly appears to stare at the bird. And perhaps you see this phenomenon of the marvelous staring wings of the butterfly is in some way a result of anxiety. Then anxiety to survive all the problems and struggles of natural selection. Nevertheless in this intense struggle we are unknowing poets." 

Quiet your mind.

It could be 300 BC or 2015 AD.

Our instincts don't change much. 

Alan Watts, 1915-1973, a British-born philosopher, writer and speaker, best know as an interpreter and popularizer of Eastern philosophy for a Western audience.

Pass Go. Collect Growth.

The Learning Process Follows the Creative One.
— Theo Moorman

There it is: Pass Go. Collect $200. Just Do It. Give yourself permission to be creative.

Your job is to follow your creative impulses because it's truly how we learn. It’s the no pain no gain formula turned on it’s head. Go ahead and play, explore, and imagine because learning and growth follow. 

We learn after we do something.

“But I can’t do it until I know how .” How can I start if I don’t know what I’m doing?

Common questions. If we don’t know how to do something, and we can only learn better how to do it AFTER we’ve done it, then what exactly are we doing when we begin?

We are taking a leap of faith.

Step over the fear. Act instinctively. Apply that paint. Knit in a new color. Skateboard off the stair railing. Try that new recipe. When you feel an urge, consider the most immediate bits of info required, and then do it. Your act of faith will give birth to something that did not previously exist. And you get to look-see-feel-hear-taste it. You will naturally learn from it. You will grow.

Theo Moorman, an outstanding textile artist, 1907-1990

 

A Yarn Tree Grows in Brooklyn

The Miracle of Thread

The Miracle of Thread

Once upon a time, I planted a garden. I was fascinated by the process -- prepare your soil, drop in seeds, water and weed, and viola, food and flowers for all.

How these seeds, dried and stored on shelves for months, once in the ground, release all the elements of life to sprout is a miracle. And lettuce amazed me most of all: teeny-tiny-little specks of seeds. Where do these come from? I’ve never seen a lettuce flower…

After I poured out my package of sunflower seeds, the amazement turned to alarm. These seeds were exactly the same sunflower seeds I buy for snacking – roasted and ready. And the paranoid urban dweller in me thought: someone knew I was coming and they thought it would be funny to switch out the seeds for the city girl: she’ll never know the difference.

My connection to the food I eat was so lost that I didn’t realize that the sunflower seeds that I eat are also the sunflower SEEDS that I would plant to create more sunflowers! Really!

Two days ago, I was at TAC (Textile Arts Center, awesome place). I'm learning to weave and I was for a new color to add to my work. As I was facing the yarn tree I couldn't help but see a pile of kids coats and winter wear. Immediate connection: those coats and mittens and scarves all generate from the yarns and threads on the tree. And those yarns and threads are sheared and spun from animals, on farms, living and breathing, tended to and cared for that that year-after-year they give us the gift of cloth.

Just like with food, my connection to what I wear was dismal. Where do my clothes come from? H&M, Target, Walmart, sale racks, cheap bins; clothes are so plentiful and inexpensive that we purchase gloves and hats and scarves like they are $3 umbrellas: use them until you loose them and don’t sweat it.

I like buying my onions and eggs at the farmer’s market. I like feeling connected to what I eat now. And now that it's The Year of the Goat (or sheep, or ram), it's a great time to start giving the same consideration to what I put on my body. (I'm also looking forward to getting to know the sheep and alpaca that I’m wearing on my head!)

Happy New Year!

Transcending the Mere Puddle

One of the great bi-products of being a pareidolia project hunter is finding rare and fleeting moments of magic in the most common of things. 

Click the video and you will see 12 seconds of incredible beauty. It's a puddle on a side street during an early morning rain. 

There's no editing, no filters, no placement. It is simply a few seconds of a puddle that transcends it's lowly status of filthy water. Tree refections create a landscape worthy of Corot; the moving water feels like a slightly sped-up tide; the sprinkling of real rain on the surface takes on the signature crackle of old film.

For just 12 seconds, get real quiet and peer into this other world. It's incredible.