Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Burden Boat Project

The Burden Boat Project.

I will be conducting this ceremony on 9/11 at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC this weekend. Conducting I call it rather than a performing as this is not entertaining but a ritual and it involves all that choose to participate. This project has opened me up to something new within. It is easy to call myself an artist because I have twenty-five years of art in my wake, but this has woken up the healer, shaman and ritualist within me. At first this was intimidating to my ego, as I do not have a shaman certificate but gosh I never went to art school either. When I get out of my own way and just allow my life to unfold moment-by-moment this is the kind of thing that happens, I become more then what I thought I was. I am coming to believe we are all more then we think we are and we all are healers in one form or another.

This whole project came from my need to heal my own deep pain. With a broken heart and a broken spirit and pain that I questioned whether I could endure, I came back to my art for healing. I sewed by hand dozens of canvass bags and stuffed them with my wood chips, these chips represented my pain and something inside felt better when I had that pain in bags that I could see, hold, feel the weight of and hang outside myself. I eventually found joy again in my life and after that intense dark time the joy was felt with more gratitude then I had ever known before. I found myself smiling again and even laughing often all by myself as I walked in the woods.

Shortly after this I was invited to show at the Art gallery of Virginia Tech. The pain I had just gone through gave me compassion for the victim’s families and loved ones involved with the mass shootings that took place a couple years prior on the campus. I wanted to do something meaningful to help ease the pain. The bags I stuffed with my pain, now called burden bags and the healing I found in them sparked the idea to do a participatory art project as part of the sculpture show. A beautiful curved piece of wood showed up that spoke of boat shape and the idea of the Burden Boat originated.

A vessel for people to write their burdens down and place them outside themselves. A place to collectively lighten the load we carry and to realize that we all carry pain not just our own but also the collective pain of others. This allowed the opportunity to see that so many others are carrying burdens as the boat filled we could see that we were not alone in the struggles of life. Over the duration of the show the boat filled with more scraps of paper all inscribed with burdens people were ready to let go of. A courageous act to let go of something we may have held onto for perhaps a lifetime and even holding the identity of who we think we are. On the last day of the show, the burden boat was carried outside onto the grounds of the campus and a ceremony was conducted, the burdens were set ablaze the burden bags that hung over the boat by strings burned through and fell in to a hole dug in the earth, the notes turned to ash and the heaviness of all those burdens became as light as smoke.

On 9/11 the Burden Boat will be carried to the courtyard of the Smithsonian’s National Portrait gallery. Here a new ritual will be conducted to release the burdens associated with the pain of 9/11 ten years later. This time instead of fire the burdens will be cleansed with water. The boat will be placed in a “scrim” of water, a (shallow flowing stream) and water will be poured over the burdens, cleansing them and washing them down stream.

The wet paper now cleansed of burdens will be collected and re-pulped into new handmade sheets of paper and a book will be created for people to write their hopes dreams and intentions of what to do with the space within opened up by the release of their burdens.

This is to happen in a few days from now, I prepare the space and myself and when the time comes it is my job to simply step aside and allow spirit to move as it dose.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Art heals. I believe all art heals in some way, as self-expression and this way of being in our authenticity is a healing act. I have an interview today with a fox TV station of all things. I will be asked what is it that I do and why?

I do not really know what will come out of me but deep down I trust that the spirit of my creator self knows exactly what to say. Maybe something like this. Art is a journey of the soul, the soul is the journey of the self and through connection art and the true self makes a connection to our divine source. I do not claim to be always in an ecstatic state when I do my art but I can claim there is an overall deep down satisfaction that this is what I do with my life.

The art that I make is inspired and connected to nature. How did that happen? I was a suburban kid and still I found nature in my back yard. I feel we are so deeply rooted in nature no matter where and how we live and I also feel sadly that we deny this of our selves. A form of beauty that’s free available to all and is what we are.

I being a dude with a big fat ego wants to save the world, I with a humble sense of realization of how small I am still want to do something of “good”. So I have set myself down in the land of the Blue Ridge Mountains alone and deep in the woods and I sit. I listen to the birds, the wind, feel the air and contemplate? What the heck am I doing here?

At this point my answer is I am here to absorb the essence of the majestic land, make art from it and take what is created here and transport it into the urban world. I feel the power of the entire forest rests in a single branch, trunk or root. These trees have been here longer then people and they live in the elements all the time, they are the weather, the sounds in the forest, and the still constant motion of life, death and rebirth.

To take a portion of a tree back to my studio, working it by following the energy or natural direction of it’s growth and adding my element as artist/creator and then turning it into something referred to as art. Upon completion it becomes a co-creation with nature. Then to bring it into a gallery, a museum or a home, it now emanates that power of the forest into the human created space.

The beauty I see in this is in the contrast. We as rather sophisticated beings create living spaces based on beauty and function. Nature is all about function and the outcome is often seen as beautiful. Bringing these elements together is a natural co-existence of what I choose to believe is our true nature.

So perhaps I’ll say something similar to that.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

My Lover, Warrior, Magician and King

It is one of those mornings to stay in bed with my lover listening to the rain driving against the bedroom window. A little scary wondering if this wind just might rip the roof off. But its warm in here, the tea is brewed and we have made love for hours and nothing but the weather exists outside this realm. The news, the world, troubles concerns just aren’t relevant this morning. And even though all alone, I feel in this moment, my lover here within me a deep satisfaction and conection. The week has been full of warrior energy, out there in the world doing my best to make “it” happen. I fight to make my art by searching for shows and commissions and funding and doing whatever it takes to create the space the freedom and the inspiration to do what I love.

To be in the studio creating, or walking deep in the woods, this whole crazy world suddenly makes sense. Nature doesn’t care what happens no emotions of good or bad, right or wrong it just dose it’s best to reach for the light, bend and twist if it must, repair if injured and continue to live or just painlessly die to feed the soil for more life to grow. Art dose the same, it deals with obstructions and always finds a way to light, then in time to only to have been, a memory, an inspiration a something that once was. I wonder if communities do the same, deep down we are dependant on one another and at the same time we cling so fiercely to our independence. Like trees each one grows on it’s own but it is the forest that it lives, strives, thrives and dies in.

I am to speak tomorrow as an artist along with a professor and a minister about bridging communities. I trust the right words will find there way through these vocal cords and in the spirit and the intention I set for my art to be a bridge of healing. I love this work, to be called up to speak of what I do not know and at the same time know completely. This is the magician in me that transforms what can’t be understood into some sort of form, in my case it is sculpture and a few chosen words. I want to speak of the creative and how that lives in us all, whatever the form, we are all creating all the time, it is life and with that we are all God if we must be called something.

When my lover is warm and nurturing and when my warrior has fought the good battle and my magician has transformed confusion to truth my King is joyful. He sits upon his humble throne and loves, loves all in his community and his community opens to the world, at this point he needs no possessions, no status, no glory. He loves and that is All.

Image. Black Madonna, she's 84" tall

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

When the art leads the artist must follow

When the art leads the artist must follow. Sometimes he must do every thing he can to keep up with speed of art. It’s the creative energy that moves at a pace of it’s own not particularly interested in the pace of the artist that is enticed to create.

Making Art. It often comes in a flash, a dream or a vision during morning tea. All fine and good but the making of the piece may be incredible labor intensive involving research, learning curves, figuring, discovering etcetera. The inspiration dose not care of such obstacles it just says here you go, I gift you with some brilliance now good luck manifesting it. Oh and by the way, while your busy creating that vision, I’ll be sending more ideas, thoughts and brilliance for you to contend with.

My old mentor Raymond Barnhart said to me in his 90’s still with a studio filled with works in progress “the dilemma of getting old, as an artist is that there is even more to do then when you first started”. His personal solution to this is doing the work and loving your friends.

Not only dose creation need to be realized then there is a pull for it to seen in the world. As of late I feel like I have been chasing my art from show to show. This started with an open studio tour the first week of Oct 2010 in Floyd Virginia, the 2nd and 3rd week was an open studio in Grass Valley California, the 4th week was the opening of my solo show in Norfolk Virginia, when that show came down it went directly to Roanoke College for my largest show to date, 39 substantial sculptures, the day that ended was the day to set up works for the Marginal Art Show in downtown Roanoke and at the same time I had three works juried into the Biennial back at Roanoke college, the Marginal show ended and two days later I delivered three works to the Taubman Museum for an invitational show of south eastern artists, next week I have works in the opening of a new gallery back In Floyd.

How dose one keep up with the creative impulse?

I think this is a quandary for every artist. Ideas come at breakneck speed and there is no way to keep up and then there are those times when we have time on our hands and the creative well appears to be dry. Crazy making it can be, and if we can find our way through the maze and find moments of balance and be right there in the rhythm of the flow. This is what it’s all about becoming one with creation, being the creator and in the moment all is…so profoundly spectacular.

Monday, January 17, 2011



For a man it’s a loaded word. He has been dealing with the idea all of his life. Most of the time the context is sex or fighting. We penetrate our opponent and we penetrate our mate. As simple as those two statements are we spend the majority of our lives tying to figure out how to be doing one or the other. Enormous amounts of energy focused on how best to conquer other men and as much energy focused on getting inside “our” women. We may seem like we have become peaceful loving caring men full of compassion, soft and safe, unchallenging and somewhat trusted by both men and women. But deep down in our balls a feeling wells up, a feeling so strong, so fertile and primal. It starts as an agitation, a questioning of our existence, a rumbling, a stirring, a force that anti feel drugs, obsessive sex, a new car and more stuff just wont quench. A fire is brewing inside that has to burn, it needs fuel as it is the life force of a man no longer able to fit within the cultural paradigm that smothers the flames of his life. He starts to feel this need, this desire, this primal urge to penetrate. But what? What is it that he is to enter that he can fill and be filled with? He has formed a trusted band of brothers by this time in his life and he speaks to them of this deep urge that must be acted on, he is a good man and dose not want to risk his job, his marriage his friendships or his life. In a quandary he searches his soul through quite time alone reading books by men that have pondered this in the past. In the quiet of his solitude and with support of his brothers he comes to terms and realizes the truth of a life of service. He comes to understand it is his nature to penetrate and to live full he must penetrate. He discovers his mission in life and he takes that mission as his strength his goal his purpose and he penetrates the world with it. He dose whatever it takes to live his mission of service, he discovers in this process allies begin to show up, synchronicity, coincidences and when challenges arise he is strong and sees them only as that and not to be defeated by them. A sense of energy runs through him, he’s excited to get up in the morning and he naturally takes good care of himself, sleeps soundly, eats organically and moves with vitality and purpose. He has penetrated his own life, he has penetrated through the veils of illusion, He can now penetrate with his warrior energy the injustices in the world hold men accountable for their actions, he penetrates the lies, deceit and inequalities. With compassion he understands the shadow and the immature unconscious pain that drives men to penetrate with organs and objects of destruction. He dose not let them off the hook with this compassion but holds them to the fire of accountability with love. He now can penetrate his woman, deeply and full, not only with his organ of primal desire and pleasure but with his love and fullness. He is present, open, vulnerable, a strong force of nature with out a need to control or dominate. He is filled with humor and lightness he laughs with his partner he cares about her and honors her deep feminine nature. The wisdom she carries he learns from, he is humbled by her strength and with deep respect he protects her gentle nature. As he grows old he grows ever wiser, he begins to discover a quiet peace that he can describe as nothing other then Zen. He is not afraid of his death, as he knows his life is rich and full. He ages with grace, knowing his body is nothing more than the beautiful vehicle used to travel through upon this earthwalk. He has taken the heroes journey through life and he is love realized.

photo: "Emergence" 2008 Riechmuth Park Sacramento CA.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Questions, No Questions.

Living the life as an artist. Rich indeed, the deed of creation, creating something out of nothing. Entering the studio on a daily basis with the excitement of what is going to happen today? What will come through these hands, this imagination, inspiration, divine or forced, allowed or willed, what’s it going to take today to bring creativity into being. These are the questions asked or not that always hang in the background. Yes it is so rich to be blessed with a life of purpose, a reason for getting up and getting out, a reason for being born and a reason to have lived. In my youth I thought art could save the world, now I see it as an act that saves myself from the slippery slope of mediocrity. I strive to create beauty for no other reason then for beauty’s sake, to make art that has a deeper meaning than can be known in the process as it is made from the place of no thought but many decisions. If it can touch another, spark a light in the shadow of existence then just perhaps it is all worthwhile. Some sense of trust permeates that knows what’s in the work, it’s universal as it is emotion skill and vision, yes my vision and my skill but emotion, I feel that belongs to the collective. Sadness, anger, fear and joy is embodied in the work, we all carry this within perhaps for different reason and perhaps for exactly the same but either way it is a link that binds us to the experience of life. At times I laugh when I work at times I have cried, I can tense up in fear and I can dance around the studio overflowing with Joy. My hope is that these works permeate with such emotion will touch the collective connection within us all and remind us of the humanity shared by our existence. We are all in these together, victims and the perpetrators, we all suffer, the lovers of life suffer death as love and loss is inevitable. This is not a bad thing to suffer this is the beauty of being this is the contrast that lets us know joy, this is what compassion and connection are born from.

Is art the nature of being human? Are the winds of creation the source of inspiration? Is there a silent howl beneath the breath that urges us on to create? Or is it just a way of giving importance to an artistic life? These are questions I’m trying not to ask, working to come to the place of no matter, the place that dose not analyze, just is and that is enough. Enough to walk in nature, service the body with food and shelter and to enter the studio with an open spirit, open to allow creation to flow unhampered with questions of reason.

Above is the Image of "Elders" a public sculpture created in a traffic circle in Grass Valley CA. A prayer wheel honoring those that suffered during the California gold rush and sending out the essence of love, joy, kindness, and forgiveness.