Pandemic Painting

Here’s a few paintings that I’ve done in the renewed COVID lockdown. This is the first time I’ve done acrylic painting on canvas. I’ve worked with tempera paints in the past. I’ve done decoupage off on and on. I’ve always loved mixed media.

Here’s what I’ve been up to…

Reflections On Quarantine Film Making

Today, I was reminded that art is alive and well. The Hollywood industrial process has been under tremendous pressure. The indie film world, also slowed, is still at work too, even though COVID remains with us. I say this because I’ve been judging the Quarantini Film Festival, a monthly fest founded by Dana Olita that supports and awards filmmakers making socially-distanced short films during this difficult time.

Quarantini Film Festival supports the indie film community during the pandemic with access to online screenings and awards.

I have learned and been reminded of a few things while judging the Quarantini entries:

  1. Art finds a way. I’ve seen some great films submitted to Quarantini Film Festival. Where there’s a will, there is a way, even under un-ideal circumstances.
  2. Sometimes, constraints embolden our creativity. Doing a lot with a little is part-and-parcel of low budget film making, but the constraints indie filmmakers are creating under are unprecedented. I’ve seen amazing creative risks taken on screen in the last three rounds of the Quarantini Film Festival. Some hit and some missed the mark, but when business-as-usual goes out the window, we have to ask what’s possible. I’ve witnessed tremendous creativity under the pressure of the pandemic.
  3. The pandemic has many people committed to speaking their truth, directly or indirectly. I’ve seen heart-wrenching drama shorts, contemplative docu-dramas and wicked comedies that all hit home. All of us have a story to tell that’s part of this larger pandemic narrative.

The truth is many film festivals and the whole culture of film festivals going forward is uncertain. Theatrical exhibition is still difficult and frankly, unobtainable in many areas. Your larger press outlets like Variety, Deadline, The Hollywood reporter, et al, are only really covering the larger festivals that have film markets. That gives sort of skewed picture of the filmmaking landscape in general. Indie filmmaking is alive. Indie films are being shown. It may not be on a large screen, but you can get your work out there on online fests like Quarantini. Seize the moment. You’ll never know what you’ll learn, how you’ll grow or who you’ll impact.

The Moving Image

I’m in the midst of editing “The Central Authority“, which is my first feature collaboration with co-director Armin Nasseri and co-producers, Nasseri, Dana Olita and Matt Chassin. Shooting and editing during the pandemic has been challenging, even as we use existing technologies to make a fully-socially distanced feature film.

Yesterday, Armin and I were in the midst of editing a great scene starring horror queen Genoveva Rossi. Genoveva plays an artist of some renown in “The Central Authority”, sort of a female Bob Ross. We allowed the actors a great deal of freedom in this movie and much of the movie is improvised. Genoveva came up with a profound truth about her character and art itself. She said, as her character Gwen Ross, “Art is about getting a reaction out of people, good or bad.” That was just what I needed to hear yesterday.

I have come to the epiphany that a moving image, a movie, must move. It must move us through time and space, but more importantly, it must move us–emotionally, spiritually, philosophically. That, for me, is really what a moving image, a motion picture, is–something that moves us.

Armin and I continue to work on editing the movie, taking each challenge as it comes, editing virtually now. It cannot be glossed over that as we edit this movie, we are also witnessing the massive social movements against police brutality into account. We are moving as a society and as a consciousness.

I’ll continue to update you on The Central Authority as it moves forward. Thank you for your support of our work and we look forward to releasing “The Central Authority” soon.

Self Care for Artists During Self-Isolation

Sometimes, after years of being in the arts professions, we have to get reacquainted with ourselves.  We are not the actor, the dancer, the comic, et al, we were a year ago, much less five or ten years ago.  Hopefully, we’ve grown.  Sometimes, we have growing pains.  With arts imperiled by corona virus, artists of all disciplines can lean into this cultural and social pause and do some self-care.

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Photo by Negative Space on Pexels.com

Starting last year, I went through a period where I felt I needed to take stock.  One of the things my self inventory yielded up was the need to forgive and release past experiences on stage and screen.  #MeToo and #TimesUp have us sharing our stories, and I also came to the conclusion I needed to re-write, by releasing and forgiving, my narrative of myself, particularly in my profession.  I also needed release negative, defeating beliefs about “how things are”.  This is what I came up with for myself:

“I release myself from all past and present pain in acting.  I release myself and surrender times of overwork, over-stress, humiliation, body image issues, hurtful and invalidating comments and all other pain and trauma I’ve experienced during my life as an actor.

I embrace a vibrant, creative life that I love, where I do the acting work I’ve always wanted, needed and been called to do.  I am a happy and healthy artist who’s thriving.  I love communicating verbally and non-verbally to the best and peak of my abilities.

I release all negative, harmful, self-defeating patterns and thoughts around acting.  I am a sane, healthy, happy, holy person who makes art.  I am loving, kind and compassionate and that radiates throughout all my performances.  I honor my unique needs and challenges and honor the needs, challenges and contributions of others.  I am here, now, today, firmly rooted in the reality of my chosen profession.”

Artists, if you’re not already, utilize this valuable time.  Practice, create, innovate and experiment!  So often we’re too rushed and rely on technique and well-honed skills and don’t have the precious silence that cocoons inspiration.  There are gifts in this experience.  It’s also a great time, to challenge your beliefs and get present to yourself, the artist today.

Questions to ask yourself:

  1.  What assumptions do I make about myself based on my age, gender, etc., in my field?
  2. Do I have a teacher, coach,mentor in the arts, that I have hurtful memories with?  What did they say or do?  What toxic lesson did I learn from that?  How do I re-frame this to empower me, now, today?
  3. What are my culture’s harmful beliefs about my arts profession?  Stereotypes?
  4. What are my family’s harmful beliefs or invalidating comments about my arts profession?
  5. What do I feel I lack as an artist?  Discipline?  Depth?  Re-frame that belief.
  6. What do I truly desire for myself in my arts career?

Identify patterns.  Re-frame your beliefs to empower you.  Claim the power in the present–whatever the present may bring.

May you be happy, safe and well, now and always.

 

Born Naked, Annihilated by Fashion…til now

Note:  These Botero-inspired, body positive fashion images are NSFW. They are also not safe for preserving outmoded paradigms of what a woman’s body should be.

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Kristin West in Global Intuition scarf & sneakers.  Photo courtesy of Yi Zhou Studio.

We are born naked and when we die, our bodies are stripped, examined and prepared for burial. Between birth and death, we are contextualized and classified by fashion. It is our nakedness that is universal and transcendent. It is fashion that gives us a sense of time, space and place. Fashion changes. That’s its nature. Our nakedness does not change.

So much of fashion for women revolves around hiding, camouflaging, binding, masking and correcting flaws. Many of those flaws even become fashionable after a time. What’s considered beautiful to one generation is horrifying to another. Binding of the feet, whalebone corsets, and obligatory shape wear are all examples of how we try to minimize women even in the space that they take up in their physical, tangible life. We do this in the name of beauty and glamour, but the tacit message is that a woman is not allowed to take up too much space and must expect to suffer as part of daily life as a matter, of course, to be acceptable to those around her. Wallis Simpson’s famous quip, “You can never be too rich or too thin,” has stayed with women long after her death.

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Relaxing poolside in Global Intuition sneakers.  Photo courtesy of Yi Zhou Studio.

Idealized images of the female form have been around since humans began the endeavor of making art but over time, our ideas of what a woman should be and could be have grown smaller and smaller. Would the Venus of Willendorf be considered gorgeous today if we saw her living, nude, in the flesh?

Siegfried Kracauer famously said, “The photograph annihilates the person.” Indeed, we live in an age of hyper-inundation of images. The average American sees 4,000 to 10,000 ads per day, many of aspirational models portraying fictionalized situations rather than actual people living actual lives. Kracauer also said,”…what appears in the photograph is not the person but the sum of what can be subtracted from him or her.” People are reduced to objects, things, ideas, sales pitches, and talking points instead of subjectivities. The average woman has been annihilated in this unrelenting tide of over-processed, idealized imagery of unobtainable standards.

Is body positivity just having a moment? Is it fashionable? Or is body comfort, body positivity, and body acceptance something that we can reclaim as women? Is fashion having a fat fetish moment or can we truly embrace women of all sizes? Can we truly and whole-heartedly say all sizes and shapes are deserving of being clothed well?

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Striking a pose in a couture gown by Aida Novosel & Global Intuition sneakers.  Photo courtesy of Yi Zhou Studio.

These photographs are deeply informed by Fernando Botero’s oeuvre. Botero often imagined bodies as round and full, comic even at times, as opposed to clean lines and hard, harsh angles. Can we too have a full circle moment? Is it possible to enjoy looking at many different types of body types in photography and allow for their subjectivity?

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Feeling beautiful and authentic poolside in Global Intuition sneakers.  Photo courtesy of Yi Zhou Studio.

 

We privilege chiseled perfectly toned, perfectly controlled bodies. This is what we hold up as the ideal. This is what advertisers sell to us. This is what so many women suffer for— trying to prove that they are in control of their lives by being in control of their bodies. It’s about proving to the world if you are indeed control of your own life. The sad history is, that even today, with remarkable freedoms for women, not all women have equal access to those freedoms. We are not always in control of our bodies at all times, all over the world.

Nakedness is also vulnerability. You’re not hiding, you’re not distracting, and you’re not camouflaged. You’re there with all your rolls, pooches, all your stretch marks, all your cellulite, freckles, and moles. Forty percent of American women are obese. That’s a large minority. Instead of pressuring these women to be more in control, to work harder, to do better, perhaps we should unbind our thinking. Perhaps we should drop our whalebone thought corsets and make fashion compassionate. Let’s be seen, heard and accepted as we are.

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Feeling comfortable in my body and in my Global Intuition sneakers.  Photo by Yi Zhou Studio.

According to the American Psychological Association, women are twice as likely to report that they’re stressed and then men. Instead of gouging women’s pain points as a means to sell them things, it would be far more effective to extend the everyday woman the compassion she deserves, whether she’s a size 6 or size 16 or a size 26.

Instead of belaboring whether a woman is visually attractive or sexy, it’s far more important to help every woman find what’s within her that’s attractive, vibrant, sexy and alive. That’s why body positivity is so important–not to make the range of what we find sexy and sexual bigger, literally, but to help people feel better about themselves in the world that often undermines our mental and emotional health and our well-being in the name of profit.

 

A Little Glue, A Little Paper, A Lot of Insight

At certain pivot points of my life in acting, I’ve needed a hobby where I didn’t have to perform.  For me, decoupage has been a place to exercise my right brain, create and decompress without feeling the need to “do it right” or impress.  I’ve done a few good pieces over the years, including a shelf, a glass table top, vases and now these votive candle holders made from the Oui by Yoplait jars.

Things I’ve learned from decoupage:

decoupage jars1.  Tissue paper is very delicate.  It tears easily, especially when wet.  It needs a light touch.  A light touch is often the right touch in life too.

2.  Sometimes the dye of the paper bleeds.  Don’t worry about it.  The things you can’t control are often the most beautiful.

3.  The most interesting patterns have more colors.  Add a little color to your life!

4. The magic of decoupage is in the waiting for the piece to dry.  Once it’s dried, you actually see it.  Before it dries, it’s a wet mess.  Patience pays.

5.  Edges first!  It’s much easier when you attend to the edges first and then work to the center, especially on household objects.  Parameters are important.

6.  It’s okay to “fail” or it not be what you were expecting.  It’s just a little tissue, a little glue, a little water and a little time.  Failure in decoupage is allowed for me!

7.  Especially on clear glass, yellow paper and white paper don’t show up as easily and may need to be double layered in order to “pop”.   Sometimes, you have to make the extra effort to really show something.

8.  For me, decoupage is about creating a mood or bringing color to an intention.  When I bring intention and attention, decoupage is not longer just a crafty thing to pass time, but it’s a way to meditate.

9.  Once you start decoupaging, your relationship with paper may change.  You start to re-purpose envelopes and scrap paper.  Use the unusual to create the unusual.  

I think every working artist feels pressure to perform in their field.  Sometimes, the pressure to perform hems in our sense of play and risk.  When I’ve felt I’ve been at a pivot point, I’ve turned to decoupage to give me permission to play and experiment without fear of judgment.  What’s your hobby?  How does it help you?