This Land Was Not Made for Angels

Ask if your country is addicted to forgetting
this land is not America
it is stolen
from people who are still alive
and fighting.

Ask if you country is addicted to forgetting
rivers are living things
we are living things
we are not weapons or numbers or usernames
we are animals
and animals need clean water.

Ask if your country is addicted to forgetting
we are people
and people need some kind of sacred to survive
empire
but the God who’s on our money
is inconsistent in his miracles
and his angels are white.

This earth is brown.
This earth is red.
It does not need those angels.

It needs water protectors
prayers and poets.
It needs rebels and teachers and children
who need trees and rivers and birds
that are not covered in oil,
birds who are not cartoons or decorations,
birds who are made of bones and blood and songs
like us –

We need songs.
We need unflinching music in these unrelenting times.
Beauty will help us stay alive.
We need that winged thing called truth.
We need to stop forgetting
that we need each other
the way we need water
the way we need something sacred
to survive
like justice
and home.

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Making Magic and Getting Organized

rise-condensedIt’s been an amazing month. The inspiration has been increasing exponentially, and I’ve been painting almost every night. The more I paint, the more ideas emerge – about texture, colors, meanings, marks – and the deeper and more layered my paintings become.

As I move towards my goal of becoming a professional working artist, I’ve also been exploring the business side of things. I just finished reading From Starving to Successful; the Fine Artist’s Guide to Getting into Galleries and Selling More Work. I’ve been taking the author’s advice to try to create at least 2 pieces a week, to set up a detailed inventory system for your art, and to explore how you are going to exhibit it in the most professional ways: framing, matting, etc. I’ve also landed my first solo show in Santa Fe, which will be opening in February. Such exciting times! If you want to check out my newly updated inventory, with all my pieces for sale, click here. Here are a few samples of recent work to whet your appetite.

 

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There are Worlds in Every Accident, Every Risk

There are Worlds in Every Accident, Every Risk

 

on creating 8 paintings in 11 days.

The internet broke today. Thank god. Its absence drove me into my studio, where I fished blindly through a stack of watercolor paper and until I chanced on a painting of sea lavender I started 5 years ago. I had intended it to be the center of something – a mandala, a world – but somehow it was lost until it emerged today as the latest candidate for the controlled symphony of accidents that sometimes makes up my painting practice.

Lately my workdays, by contrast, involve a lot of linear thinking. Google docs, grids, timelines, contracts, launch plans. I make a big chunk of my living as a web designer, and I love it, as a trade – it’s like digital carpentry, or WordPress plumbing. There’s just enough puzzle-solving to keep me engaged, enough interaction with clients to keep me connected, and enough creative freedom to keep me curious and growing.

But what feeds the heart behind all the project management is not linear at all. It is a part of me that revels in discarding rulers, painting music, assembling rain and leaves and cryptic bits of text, dropping ink from different heights to see what will bloom on a slightly damp page, mixing colors like spices and balancing all their tastes. My painting is not a 7 Step Plan for Success. It does not map things out in advance. It explores the improbable architecture of vast forces – grief, growth, spirit, space – and the particular details of living things. The tension between chaos and order is palpable. Often, while I am painting, the words that will become my poems squirt out, unbidden, from the cracks in my consciousness. I jot them down on a scrap of paper, or on the painting itself, and return to later to craft them an articulate home on the page.

In the midst of this summer’s heat and drought, my painting practice went dormant. I became very practical – canning apricots, sorting out my finances, designing pdfs, migrating email accounts, building websites, and worrying. Efficient, functional, and slightly empty. In an attempt to rekindle my art, I finally set myself the goal of beginning 7 paintings in 7 days.  The time pressure was perfect – show up and make something happen. Anything. No need for it to be perfect, or final, or ready for critique. Just create.

I had the vessels for 2 paintings waiting for me – 2 sheets of watercolor paper with black gesso arranged just so, a month earlier, when I anticipated beginning a series of works about reclaiming faith in a time of darkness. The subject was so large it intimidated me from even trying. So this time, I began simply with color, applying favorite shades of turquoise and garnet red, in soft pastel – pure pigment – pure fire – on top of all that black. And that was all it took to break the spell. As usual, when I let go of needing to be good, I was carried, and everything I hadn’t been talking about took shape under my messy hands. Knowing I had made this daily promise changed each day – instead of coming home from work and sinking into Netflix, I closed the curtain to my studio, put on music, and opened my bottles of ink. I discovered what I used to know: that I can still make art when I am tired, or hungry, or unsure; that there are worlds to be discovered in color and mark-making alone, even before metaphor and message take shape; that improvisation is its own form of wisdom; that small experiments can create huge shifts. There are worlds in every accident, every risk.

Here are the rest of the paintings:

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Whether or Not You Fly

When I grow up I wanna be Brandi Carlile

I wanna sing to tear the roofs off houses

and serve you up your own heart on a plate.

When I grow up, I just wanna feel at home

in this boygirl body, at home on 10,000

foot mountains, at home

in my own bed. I wanna navigate

rush-hour traffic with regular breath,

get along
with my family,

make love
with my eyes wide open

and call down the rain when I come. When I grow up

I wanna jump off every waterfall

without ever having to flinch.

 

I love you even if you can’t jump

even if you stand at the top of the cliff shaking

wishing for your mom
even though she was so cruel. I love you

in those moments when you can’t speak

move, sing, jerk off, or smile. Those moments

when you need to be small again –

small and held, not small and brave.

I love you in those moments when you compare

your hair to every other girl, your muscles

to every other boy, when you look

around the room and find yourself deficient

because that is what you were trained to find.

I love you with sand in your underwear

after a wave knocks you out, I love you trying

to pee when no one’s looking, I love you

unwitnessed hungry, lonely, and done. I witness you.

 

I witness you talking to that beat up 11 year old girl

inside your own chest, the one who can’t believe

someone’s finally listening to her. I witness you bring her glitter,

ice cream, and daisy chains, I witness you describing

the perfect getaway that never happened

how all your friends would come bust her out of the house & fly

through the sky in a blue car like Harry Potter

and land somewhere safe.

Safe.

Later, I witness you hiking alone

12 miles up and down ridges in the rain

and the sun, anchoring your heels into earth

your lungs to the sky, becoming part

of the widest expanse of ocean you have ever seen.

I witness you hitching the last ride down the mountain

to the last plate of fried chicken

in the last town at the edge

of the colonized world. I watch you wake up the next day

pray to the sunrise

press flowers in a book

for your girl back home. I witness you navigating

potholes, dehydration, Easter Sunday, and unrelenting wind.

I witness you wanting a family so bad you could taste it.

I witness you hoping

this girl is the one. Hoping one day
you get to plant

the blueberry bushes
you’re both keeping in pots

cause you’re waiting for them to root in the ground

together. I witness you calculating
budgets, debating careers,

trying to paint, love, fuck
and make poems

despite all the anxiety
of hustling a life under capitalism.

 

You are doing such a good job.

You are making it, you adult, you dreamer, you kid.

 

I see you when you count to three

and leap in the sky shrieking

only to find when you land

the water is actually deep enough to hold you.

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Why Beauty Matters (in Business and in Life)

Why Beauty Matters (in Business and in Life)

 

why-beauty-matters-graphic(Originally published on the blog for my design business, Root & Blossom Design.)

Let’s be real: sometimes living in a society structured around late-stage capitalism sucks.  Driving around the outskirts of most major cities and suburbs, through a desolate terrain of identical big box stores and giant parking lots, is depressing as hell. I used to have anxiety dreams at night that I was in an enormous Walmart and would get so overwhelmed that I would jump up on top of one of the end-caps of those vast aisles and start screaming, throwing products on the ground, until the security guards pulled me off and sent me away to get locked up.  Seriously, this happened more than once. For those of us who are thin-skinned and sensitive to the pulse of the earth, big business and its entrails spilled across the landscape or the internet can make us ill. We have never been any good at being numb.

For us, beauty is necessary. Beauty is hope and wonder and energy. It is a message against despair. It is heart and blood and complexity and miracle.  It makes us want to keep going. It connects us to spirit. It is in the eyes of our children and the first leaves of our seedlings. It is resistance against the corporate death machine. It is real.

mad_birthday_invite2As a small business owner and entrepreneur who spends time on social media, I am constantly assaulted by the same Facebook ads under many different names. Ads with the same colors, the same fonts, the same urgency and smiling white people and promises of tripling your email list or filling your webinar.  At first, I am lured by the click-bait. I want those results, I want economic security, I want all of the promises to be true. But I also want a business bigger than a formula and a life with soul.  I suspect you do too. We are not only in this to win the war against scarcity and claim our tiny piece of the pie.  We are in this to live and inspire and connect. Beauty is alive. Beauty inspires and connects. Beauty makes people trust us and it makes them curious.  It makes them want to be our clients, customers, and friends. This is why beauty is essential to my design practice. It is a gift with its own particular kind of magic.  It is my contribution to the economy I wish we had. It is a bringer of abundance and an antidote to the giant machine. It makes me want to wake up in the morning – and it connects me with other people I would actually want to know, like you.

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