Want Magic? Get Personal.

One of my core beliefs is that a work of art should be as interesting up close as it is from far away. If I had my druthers, we would all be able to stick our noses right up to a van Gogh and muck around in the dabs and color splotches that make up his work.

But we’re taught to view art just outside of our own personal space; or, at an arm’s length away. Personal Space is defined as “the distance that we stand from others at cocktail parties, office parties, social functions and friendly gatherings”. We’ve been trained to view art as if we are attending a cocktail party and we are strictly reminded to heed the warnings: Don’t get too close! Danger! Don’t breathe on it! Stop! You're not allowed to see how the paint was applied! STAY BACK!

Ok, museums have their reasons. They are sitting on priceless works. There’s no upside for them to let us get close to their treasures.

Take a leap of faith now. Release the rules of what art is -- and where and how you see it. Have your own fun looking for your own treasures. It may sound odd but if you let yourself look at things within your personal space, you have a much greater chance of finding moments that will leave you breathless. Leave the cocktail party and get more intimate with your world. There's magic to be found.

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Weaving and Water

Ever wonder why you do things? Like, why you are naturally attracted to a certain type of movie or you pick one coffee shop over the other? And do you wonder whether people actually change over the years or if they are who they are at birth and onward. 

Like, you're a kid who obsessively puts together model airplanes from age 8-11 and then you get on with life and eventually become an accountant and join a fantasy football league. One day, it occurs to you: assembling model airplanes, cataloging numbers so they work, figuring out stats so your team wins. Your 50 years really don't make you that much different than you were as a kid. 

As a painter, I've painted seascapes for years. I thought it was because I loved Wellfleet, Cape Cod. I thought I was trying to reproduce the place in paint because I couldn't live there in person.

But years later, (now) I'm sitting at a loom, and as I sit there, pulling weft thread after weft thread through the shed, one after the other, inch by inch, I look at what I'm creating and you know, the result is not unlike my early seascapes. 

It got me thinking, is my love for seascapes really about a physical place on earth? Or, is it about creating a work with tonal movement, transformation, and shifts of visual bands of color? 


Spilled Milk and a Mental Model

It's spilled milk but it's also a lobster claw. 

It's spilled milk but it's also a lobster claw. 

I love pareidolia. I love the word. I love how people’s eyebrows furrow when I say “The Pareidolia Project” and I love when, after I explain what pareidolia is, people smile and say: "I understand! That’s cool. I’m not crazy. I do that!

Pareidolia is finding recognizable images in random shapes and patterns (think cloud watching or the man on the moon) and it comes naturally to some. For others, who say they don’t think that way, it can be learned.

Creativity is certainly most associated with artists but don’t let that stop you from learning and utilizing its magic qualities. The more creatively you view your world, the more “mind-flexible” you become. The more you explore past what you know, the more expansive life becomes.

I recently read an article by James Clear about Mental Models. (James writes about habits, health and creativity. Check him out here.) The article was about the physicist Richard Reynman and how he was known for his ability to solve problems that no one else could. One of the reasons was because Richard had developed a mental model (a way of looking at the world) that was a unique. Therefore, when his contemporaries were stuck on a formula (because they were all trying to solve it with the same mental models - the same way of looking at the problem), Richard consistently peered through a different lens and was able to identify and solve the mysteries.

"If you read all the same books that your peers read then you’ll all have the same thoughts." James Clear


So, you know what? The next time your kid (or you) spills some milk, take a look at it before you sweep in and sop it up. In fact, ask your child what s/he sees. React not to what you already "know" but think about what could possibly "be". Your child will be enchanted watching you having fun. What a different mental model than the crisis-mode, time out and exasperated sigh.

The Pareidolia Project guides you through re-thinking what you see. It helps you shake up your assumptions and dust off your curiosity. Practice seeing things through a different lens; it’s a great way to build a mental model or two.

Fiber in a JuneBug.

Fiber is in the air. Maybe it's because I'm learning to weave (thank you Textile Arts Center) or because I'm learning to knit (thank you La Casita Yarn Shop) or maybe it's because it's cold and everyone's wearing lots of fiber (thank you winter : ). Whatever the reason, fiber's in the air. 

And since I'm all about connections and associations, let's consider that "fiber" can also mean "thread" and "thread" can mean "connecting things to each other". 

SaraJuneBK is a wonderful hair salon in Brooklyn. The "thread" that carries through the shop is this: there's a warm and considered attention to the natural beauty of things. Oh, that's right up my alley. 

Sara's sister embroidered this small junebug for her. It presents itself so simply and beautifully on the natural wood wall. 

After my appointment, I went to TAC and as I was sitting at my loom I looked down and saw this beauty in the aged patina and marks of the studio's natural wood floor. 

The beauty of both, one created with intention and one created randomly over time, calm my soul.

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When a coffee cup lid starts a serious discussion about art.

The Way of the Shovel”: a show I sadly missed (@mcachicago), heck, I didn’t even know about it. But now I know about it and I am suggesting that, if you’re interested in art, this is a great article written by the show’s curator Dieter Roelstraete and published in e-flux (@e_flux). 

The show deals with a trend in the art world today, namely: “It appears that a number of artists seek to define art first and foremost in the thickness of its relationship to history. More and more frequently, art finds itself looking back, both at its own past (a very popular approach right now, as well as big business), and at “the” past in general.

Roelstraete suggests this mode of historicizing and storytelling (is) much favored by artists growing up in a culture of accelerated oblivion.”

And aren’t we all. Artist or not, aren’t we all being affected by this culture of accelerated oblivion? Aren’t we seeking ways to hold onto and re-tell our pasts (what’s not hot about “Throwback Thursday”).

What does this have to do with The Pareidolia Project and the street_baby-dinosaur image here? The “accelerated oblivion” Dieter talks about as a motivator to long for the past, is exactly what propels each piece captured by ThePareidoliaProject into the present tense.

Accelerated oblivion: one rain drop, one kick of a pedestrian’s foot, a one degree rise in temperature and the pareidolia piece is gone - forever. 

And the other miracle of pareidolia (for me) is that it seems to occur best in the stuff we toss, disregard, leave as worthless and gross. And, as a culture, we toss plenty.

Yet, someone walks by a tossed coffee cup lid and there it is, a real thing, an excavated skeleton of a baby dinosaur. It takes form. It speaks to us. And then, it’s gone.

In our rush toward accelerated oblivion, The Pareidolia Project celebrates our present tense moments.