An Artist's Ode to a Turtle

Recently I have been thinking about how to get ahead.  Not "ahead" financially - but emotionally and in my art practice.  I frequently look to nature for inspiration . . . usually that would mean the trees, the ocean, the clouds and, always, earth's rocks. 

But today my inspiration is the lowly and 'slow-LY' TURTLE.

According to www.animaltotem.com, having a turtle totem has the following inclinations:  "Turtle teaches us to be careful in new situations and to be patient in reaching our goals. Turtle also teaches us to take things slow, for it gives us time to figure out if we need to protect our self or forge ahead. Turtle shows up in our lives when we need to go into [our] shell and wait until our thoughts & ideas are ready to be expressed. He also teaches us to be adaptable to our environment so we can find the harmony within it."

  

 I think the most important attribute I am working on right now is patience.  I want to run down the studio stairs and immerse myself in making art - I guess that art space is my shell in a sense.  I can truly block out the entire world while I am lost down there.  Yes, it is a true protection . . . but I also might miss something important or meaningful.

So we come full circle (woot, there is a turtle analogy), to audacity.  That turtle needs a whole hunk of it to stick his neck out (this is the most dangerous time for the turtle) to get anywhere.  Can you imagine not only having to risk your very LIFE if you headed out on a journey/goal, but that you had to drag your entire shell/house/studio/life WITH you!!!??????

Today TURTLE has taught me many things . . . the importance of patience, the need for risk taking, and the acceptance of life's baggage (home, children, extended families, work, etc).  I am so encouraged that if nature has given TURTLE such a divine purpose and way to accomplish against all odds - I, too, have received the same potential and ways of progress.

I hope to live long, just like the wise old TURTLE . . . learning to work with and within my environment and balance the risk-taking with the necessary time of self-protection.

If you are interested in more meanings of turtles, please check here .  One last item I found, which I am going to print out and use for inspiration:

Mother Earth

 

Turtle is the oldest symbol for the Earth.
It is the personification of goddess energy and the eternal Earth itself.

If you have a Turtle totem,
you must be mindful of returning to the Earth what she has given you.
Honor the creative source within you.
Use water and earth energies to create a harmonious flow in your life.
Ask the Earth for assistance and her riches will pour forth.

If a Turtle totem shows up in your life,
slow down the pace.
Bigger, stronger, faster are not always the best ways to reach your goals.

Turtle is a fine teacher of the art of grounding.
When you learn to ground yourself to Earth's power and strength,
you place focus on your thoughts and actions
and use the Earth's limitless energies rather than your own to accomplish your will.

 

(excerpt from LinsDomain 

 

 

 

The One-Sentence Artist Statement

Having had a particularly difficult day today, emotionally, speaking - I want to turn the page back to last week when I had some fantastic epiphanies.

Since December and the Miami-Pool Art Fair trip, I have been trying to answer a question I received during my flight wait to Miami.  I was approached by a retired Military officer and asked "Where am I going? And "What do I do?"  One would think that I have a snap answer to that question, but I never have.  Maybe because I really work at breaking down my motivations and analyze my own psyche, I tend to answer in paragraphs or essays, NOT one sentence wonders.

So, I decided I needed to have that one-sentence answer ready the next time I am asked.

If you know me at all, and some of you do, I don't keep anything hidden, I am what I am, for better for worse . . . you know I am NOT a morning person!  I think better at night, I work better at night, and the mornings (i.e., anything prior to NOON) are not me at my best.  Last week, after realizing we would have ANOTHER SNOWDAY and that I could TURN OFF THE ALARM (woot!), I was given the great opportunity to slowly wake up and tiptoe through that twilight of sleep/dream and awake/reality.  What I realized, was that, in one sentence,:

 

I am the most broken item I have ever put back together.  It is a daily process, just like today, when I was literally ripped apart in a public forum for speaking my own truth about my rape.  I am stitching myself back together - I am a one-armed Raggedy Ann, restitching my dismembered arm back to myself.

The 2nd epiphany I experienced last week was the solution to an installation problem with "YOU MADE YOUR BED", a new series I will be installing in March at the "Ladies First", Top 10 Women Artists of Tennessee Exhibition at The Customs House Museum (in honor of women's history month).  Literally, laying 'abed' I visualized the installation solution and got it planned in my brain before I stepped onto the floor.  Here is 1/2 of the installation:

 

So, what I have learned this month?

1)  I realized what I do is, metaphorically and, literally, "I Put Back Together Broken Things", and

2)  Just as I am responsible for what my truth is, so are others, and there are deep and lasting crevices that are created from speaking one's truth.

 

 

 

 

Forgiveness Begs The Question

This FB entry is by my uncle, Jimi Barlow,  writer for the Univeristy of Oregon (formerly  journalism at U of Ill - urbana/champaign) Jimi - 1975      Early Career  Left -Jimi in 1975, Rebel with a Cause. Right photo - Jimi in 1955 - already predestined for a writing career The following Facebook Entry is just one example of why I love this man - my Uncle Jimi - endowed with integrity, wisdom, and the curiosity of Michelangelo and a pen of wisdom . . . he is the one I can thank for my love of reading!  Spending time with him in the summers, I read The Odyssey and Illiad at age 12, The Pearl, listened to the Beatles, saw that the world was bigger than the crumbling 'abode' I was growing up in . . . saw that education can make a difference.       http://uonews.uoregon.edu/staff/jim-barlow His travel blog:  http://www.barlowtravelerblog.com/?page_id=4 In front of some overstuffed bookshelves -  ..  he passed this love of the written to me, a most pecious heirloom.   He is the definition of what an uncle (my biological father's brother) should be (as opposed to the white trash uncle -married to my maternal aunt - that raped me). And always, he was the doppelganger of John Lennon . . . if John Lennon were still alive, he would look like my Uncle Jimi! Facebook does provide some intelligent conversation, such as this topic: Jim E Barlow I answered our main line today, something I don't normally do. An older, well spoken woman with a European accent said that she was needing to say something about an on-going situation we're having on campus. As background, we have a retired professor who years ago began hosting a free-speech forum in which he invited people with rather oddball opinions to speak on their causes. The events were off campus, but he got ousted from one or two places, then realized as a professor with emeritus status he could, under university policy, use some meeting rooms without charge. Recent events have included those who deny the Holocaust. The forum has been labeled by a national oversight group as a hate organization. Things heated up this academic year with a series of talks by those who pledge allegiance to the Nazis and who openly use swastikas. Students have become outraged, marching, holding protests and prompting their student-government association to approve a resolution calling on the university administration to close the campus to this forum. At face value, what the students are asking could be applauded. Their stand is stop such blatant hatred away, but they are making this stand on a campus long known to be open to counter opinions and cultural choices. The administration is wrestling with repealing a policy that allows long-time professors who retire in good standing from having access to campus. To refuse the forum's use of meeting space would be acting in opposition to the very stance that allows free speech.... See More Back to the woman caller. After saying she had something to say, she literally continued talking for some 10 solid minutes, without me uttering so much as a uh, huh. She said she was very upset over the current dispute and the hatred that underlies it. She said that in World War II she lived in Europe. Her family was continually in hiding and/or on the run, and the appearance of swastikas always led to oppression and brutality. Her family fled to England, and nearly died together amid the onslaught of German bombing runs on London. As she wound down, I was sure she was going to urge me to tell the president to close the doors on the forum and forever silence the voices of these hate-spreaders. Then she blew me away. She said that she struggled for years to understand what happened to her family, and why. That she, over many years, had come to find peace and forgive the Germans but not the underlying hatred. She said that our students need to listen to these purveyors of swastikas and what they stand for. The students need to be told and understand the history of the Nazis and learn, probably for the first time, that such hatred really happened. Do not oust the forum, she said, but encourage students to listen and absorb, and then study the context from which these people emerged. Don't silence them. Learn from them. Reject them, peacefully. Finally, she stopped. I simply said, "That is the most intelligent, compassionate and most-educated comments I have heard since this issue came up." Our conversation continued for another 10 minutes. An hour later she called back and asked to talk to me again. She thanked me for listening and told me about her family. She has three grown children, each living in another country, including deep in China. That someone can survive the most hideous oppression and then speak up on behalf of freedom of expression is awe-inspiring. And it makes you think. Yesterday at 11:16pm The comments following were as heartfelt and as brilliant as he is, if you FB - you can friend him!!!
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Unconfined Perspective

Obviously I have been lost for a month or so - at least to my blog.  It is the never-ending struggle of balancing my 'daily' life with my 'art' life, which somehow doesn't seem to co-exist very well during certain times of my life.  As you know, I don't have a 'day' job or a salary.  So, what, EXACTLY, do I do with my time??? I've been trying to figure that out myself.  When I do get down into my beloved, treasured studio - I am extremely productive.  In fact, I am amazed sometimes at the amount of work I can get accomplished overnight.  It is the 'getting down there' that is the problem at hand. Studio Image from Fall 2009 Studio Image from Fall 2009 Unbeknownst to some, the work of an exhibiting artists entails caboodles of paperwork.  Some days it feels like I have made work (let's say 1 day that week), but the rest of the time is spent marketing, proposing, begging for grant money, all in an effort to have that work get out to the public.  I've been struggling with this, too.  Is my work created just for me?  Would it be enough to make it and keep it hiding here in my house?  If I do keep it here, what does that make it?  A hobby? Finished Encaustic Assemblage Work - on studio shelf Finished Encaustic Assemblage Work - on studio shelf I think intent is so important here - my intent when I make objects or alter them is to make commentary on social issues.  Therefore, I have a calling to do social interpretation . . . which, therefore, requires a society to interact with them.  Would it not be so much easier if I just wanted to quilt something to keep myself and my loved ones warm?  Here is my stick - that isn't enough for me. So there.  It isn't enough for me.  So my calling is to make and my duty is to get it out there.   Towards that end I had the 2 trips to Grand Rapids for Artprize in Sept/October.  I still had my broken ankle and that made things more difficult - but the installations were great and it was seen by more than 10,000 viewers.  I found out during that trip there is still much gender-bias in the art world.  I am disappointed, but more determined than ever to move forward. Coping Skills, as lit at ARTPRIZE 2009 Coping Skills, as lit at ARTPRIZE 2009 Also during October were 2 of my kids' birthday parties (Claire's 7th was a happening in and of itself) . . . more company and then in November I had the honor of being chosen as the first ever seed SPACE artist in Nashville, TN.  [NOTE: seed SPACE is a lab for site-specific installation, sculpture, and performance-based art that brings attention to the excellence, diversity, and interest in contemporary art in Tennessee.  seed SPACE brings in nationally recognized art critics to write exhibition essays.]  My art reviewer was Chen Tamir the Director of Flux Factory, Queens, NY.  seed SPACE is currently developing their website - I will provide their link when it becomes available. Having an interview with a critic is not an easy thing.  I am a very open person (obviously) - but I find that each time I have had a one-on-one with an art critic (including Linda Weintraub) the experience has cracked my art spirit wide open - even further than it was prior to the interview.  I have likened it to having a living autopsy performed on oneself.  I maintain that opinion.  The benefit of going through this process is that the critic/reviewer, from their UNCONFINED PERSPECTIVE, can see all the connections and scars and various conditions of your lifework.  Talk about insightful.  Revelatory.  Cathartic.  I could go on and on. Thomas Eakins' THE GROSS CLINIC Thomas Eakins' THE GROSS CLINIC This all brings me to the following  responses about the experience:  the first draft review is incredibly astute and I appreciated the seriousness with which Chen viewed the work and our interview.  It  is invaluable to me, as a developing artist, to have such direct and unconfined perspective on my works to date.  Interestingly enough, these interviews always spur in me an even greater understanding of who I am becoming and my place in the world - let alone the deeper investigations with the works themselves. There are many other things which have occurred, including the beginnings of several new series, but November seemed to focus on investigating previous works as they are being exhibited.  Additionally, I have 3 years worth of blogs to re-load all the images for due to my Typepad/Wordpress transfer - total debacle! As I move into December, it begins another year of my life - my 43rd.  Although some have mistakenly dismissed me as a bored housewife, I can tell you - there is little that would be more difficult for me to attempt than to nurture my art at the same time I try to raise a family.  If I only needed to be entertained, i can think of much funner, cheaper, and immediately gratifying than being an artist.  It is not the easiest route.  Forging a new path never is.
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If You Are Here, You Found ME!

Welcome to the 'new' blog . . . testing Wordpress . . . which I am determined will be easier than my technical challenges with Typepad. Amazingly, I am going on 2 years, this Fall being my 3rd year 'on-blog'. I hope I am getting better at entertaining or at least that you are enjoying the ride along with me as I fumble through my life and art career. A lot has changed for me in 2 years. I have surpassed many goals and am sad to say other goals were left behind in the dust. View of "Coping Skills" installation, from above View of "Coping Skills" installation, from above Seriously, even if inserting and labeling the images is easier, it is worth it to me! So, here we go, fasten your seatbelts - we are off!! Let me know if you are having any troubles with this format and I will try to work the kinks out.  I still have 1 week to finish setting my gallery on the website before I will really feel 'set' - but I promise to practice and keep you posted . . . so, bear (do you 'bear' with someone or do you 'bare' with someone?  English teachers???) with me while I get the hang of it . . . As always, each day, For Art's Sake, Sher
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Another Sleepless Night

Here we go again. It is creeping towards 4 a.m. and I am more awake now than I have been all day (er, confession, since I got up at 10:30 a.m.) So we did our much anticipated vacation last week.  Good things about vacation:  no alarm clock.  Beautiful weather in the North Carolina Western Mountains for the first few days, it didn't top 80 degrees, which is HEAVEN to me!  Lazy days, listening to my daughter and her friend laughing . . . even enjoying the rain (although I was slightly worried about the camera when we got caught in a deluge). Nature's Cathedral - My True Spiritual Home Nature's Cathedral - My True Spiritual Home Iffy things about vacation . . . NO internet.  In theory, this is good, right?  No work.  However, lots of my 'joy' is on the internet . . . blogging, researching, looking at other artists' work . . . so I felt pretty cut off. In the end I did lots of reading.  Knitting.  Quiet time with the husband.   Marks the spot of my journey Marks the spot of my journey On our first day we hiked around the top of Whiteside Mountain.  This was glorious.  As I walked I began to notice true calmness creeping through my being.  Not just physically, but mentally and emotionally.  It startled me when fellow hikers said 'hi" - I was so in my inner world with nature that I was surprised anyone else was there.  I found a bird on a limb overhanging a chasm and it was happily trilling . . ."helLO, here, here!" . .. seriously, and the way its' trills echoed and bounced off the rock walls - it was a chorus of heavenly proportions. I could have stayed there listening to my singing bird friend forever.  It felt great to share this with Don and the bird sang for him, too.  We were worshipping nature and all that it brings.   As we descended a toursit was smoking and I wanted to scream "Hey, a-hole, what makes you think you can smoke in my church!!!!?????" But, I didn't.  But that is how I felt.  It is confirmed - Nature is where I worship and find sanctuary.  It isn't in a particular building . . . all I have to do is open a window, step outside, or from my studio - look out upon the creek and hundreds year old tree . . . I dwell there, in my church . . . daily.  May nature continue to entwine me . . . all the days of my life.
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What I Have Learned From Trees

I began this post several weeks ago, which now seems like years. Since then, many events have occurred in my life and the lives of my most beloved of souls.  The thoughts I was having seem even more timely now.  Perhaps my soul was preparing itself . . . in any event, I feel led to make these observations on TREES.   Right View: A view as seen along the Natchez Trace in Rural Tennessee.  Taken May, 2009. If I could choose to be any kind of tree, it would be a POPLAR.  Poplar trees have the added bonus of filtering toxins from the soil/ground water.  I would love to be considered a filter - to take in the poison and give out only cleansed energy. From my early days as a barefooted, country girl growing up in rural Illinois and Indiana, trees have framed my life.  From the giant, canopy of grandpa's oak tree on the Indiana farm to the Ginkgo Trees that grew across the street, I have been drawn to the strength and beauty they provide.        What intrigues me most about trees is that they internally and externally exhibit their key characteristic of RESILIENCE - which if you follow me at all, you will know is my eternal quest to grasp.
re·sil·ience [ ri zílly?nss ] or re·sil·ien·cy [ ri zílly?nssee ]
noun 
Definition:
 
1. speedy recovery from problems: the ability to recover quickly from setbacks
2. elasticity: the ability of matter to spring back quickly into shape after being bent, stretched, or deformed It is amazing to me that a view of the tree's internal rings reveal it's entire biography - the year it was born, the travail of injury, the years of abundance and nurture.  I am amazed at the individuality of each scar.  Not only the individuality, but the fact that these scars are the cause of so much beauty and the site of resilience and self-healing.  In a way, these trees are my 'heroes' and nature is where I can instantly receive the succor and peace from everyday challenges.  It is like an instant realignment of internal and external health.  See, echophsycology posting, http://sherfickart.typepad.com/my_weblog/2008/01/essay-eco-psych.html (Eco-psychology and Inner-World Balance) as well as a previous posting http://sherfickart.typepad.com/my_weblog/2008/10/natures-gifts.html (Nature's Gifts)   Along the Natchez Trace I became lost.  Lost, literally, but emotionally as well.  This sojourn provided time to dwell in the bucolic world.  I saw the way nature ate away at the attempted confinement of man.  The trees were devouring the very man-made structures used to tame them.  As time passed, the con-finements were devoured, but the fact of them was left behind - the trees had continued to grow about the chains of man and left behind the visualization of their conquering spirits.   I, too,  seek to be triumphant and to devour my oppression and create a beautiful outcome.  Just like these trees, I hope to heal and transform my internal and external scars into marks of strength.   So, once again, my ruminations return to WHAT REMAINS?  What we keep and why? What will my story say at the end?   To learn more about the Life of a Tree, visit

http://www.arborday.org

 

 
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A Spirit of Restoration

res·to·ra·tion