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no labels [or celebrating Oneness with Willie Cole]

Sculpture “With a Heart of Gold” by Willie Cole, photo by Perry Garvin

I had the distinct pleasure of viewing some amazing artwork by artist, Willie Cole, at the Frye recently. I took my summer camp students to the exhibit and later, had the honor of hearing him speak and shaking his hand. His art is political, spiritual, humorous and very dynamic. It defies labels and I think he probably likes it that way.

He is funny, charming, engaging and very humble. I am so glad I got to meet him. When I told him how much my girls loved his art he replied, “Kids always get what I do. I think it’s because my 12 year-old daughter is my best friend”. How lovely is that?

Here are some notes that I took while he spoke. He said that art making is very much a “subconscious process” for him. He said “The energy flows. My job is to be open to what comes.” I can relate to that very much.

He was once mentored by a Nairobi priest who told him to, “Make something and tell it what to do. Let it go do that.” Willie humorously said that one piece was told to “go pay the bills”. I just love that.

The thing that I was most moved by and which I have since quoted several times is this: Willie was asked by a gentleman in the audience how he felt he fit into the “African American Art Movement”. Willie very respectfully said, “I don’t. Artists transcend labels. I don’t know many European artists who are known by their ethnicity”. He went on to say, “If you want to conquer something, label it. In fact, I don’t really like the word ‘artist’. I prefer ‘perceptual engineer'”. That just makes me smile.

He said he is, “Inspired by everything.” He wonders “Where do things cross? Where do the conquests and the settlements come together?” He said “It’s not about the objects, it’s about the Spirit of the object. All things are one thing.” He also mentioned “Synchronized moments and energy”. He said, “If you line up five objects in a line and look at them from the right perspective, you see one thing”. (I LOVE THAT!)

On artmaking:

“Doing commissioned pieces brings balance”

“With sculpture, I just play. I start with a pile of things and see what they want to be.”

“Before I had an art dealer, I wanted to live all my dreams at once and got nowhere.” (I can relate to that!)

“I was told to sleep with pieces before I let them go”.

He also told a story similar to this one from Yoruban Mythology about Eshu Elegba which I loved. Eshu Elegba is at once a messenger, holder of power and authority and guardian. He is associated with disorder and destiny as well. Willie referred to him as a “Master of Potentiality”.

Eshu was walking down the road one day, wearing a hat that was red on one side and blue on the other. Sometime after he departed, the villagers who had seen him began arguing about whether the stranger’s hat was blue or red. The villagers on one side of the road had only been capable of seeing the blue side, and the villagers on the other side had only been capable of seeing the red half. They nearly fought over the argument, until Eshu came back and cleared the mystery, teaching the villagers about how one’s perspective can alter one’s perception of reality, and can be easily fooled.

Yes, perspective is a huge issue in this world. We can believe in the Oneness of Life, or we can choose to believe that there is some kind of schism between us and others or everything. I think Willie Cole is on the right track by refusing to accept labels. We sort and parse and label to divide and conquer.

I choose to swim in the world of the Divine Matrix and celebrate the Oneness of life.

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a curve in the labyrinth…

a curve in the labyrinth...

when i am swallowed up in my own pain
when people are here but not here
when i am overwhelmed by the needs
and expectations
of people who want me all to them themselves
to be their balm
to be an audience
to be what they need…

i look for a way out
and then i realize
there is nowhere else to go
but inside

and i remember i need to decide who it is
I want to be

and make it happen.

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cowardice and courage

My Heart | Happy Valentine's Day!

“My Heart” watercolor on yuppo 9″ x 12″

I recently encountered an experience with someone in my life whose actions I deem as cowardly. It made me think of “The Cowardly Lion” from The Wizard of Oz and his struggle to find courage. I googled “cowardly lion quotes” to see what I would find and came up with this quote from a user on the IMDb website known as “rzajac”, “I guess the part that “gets” me about the movie is how the writers made it pretty plain that the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion really already had what they thought they were missing; that their respective problems were in misapprehending their own complete natures. That’s a powerful statement for many of us. I found myself most touched in scenes where the Scarecrow was showing wisdom, the Tin Man feeling deeply (“…when I think of Dorothy in that awful place…”), and the Lion…well, maybe accomplishing this effect was harder in his case…what *is* true courage?”

This made me think about cowardice and courage much more deeply. So I looked up the definition of cowardice on which is “lack of courage to face danger, difficulty, opposition, pain, etc.”.

In the spirit of self-exploration, I ask myself what part of myself does “the cowardly lion” in my own life mirror back to me? I certainly don’t want to get stuck in the place of judgment but rather desire to let my experiences inform and heal me.

I often think of myself as very courageous but, in truth, I have many areas of life where I don’t want to face pain, difficulty or opposition. I have, in the past, avoided the scale because I didn’t want to see the truth of how much I weigh. I have avoided conflict in my relationships (and sometimes still do) because I don’t want to deal with the challenge of it all. I have been surreptitious rather than forthright in the way I’ve handled things out of fear of not getting my needs met, of being punished, criticized and a host of other painful things. I have been working very steadfastly to stop these self-defeating behaviors and experience the transformation available when I stop projecting it all outside of myself and own it.

The word courage comes from the French word corage and the Latin word cor or “heart” which remains a common metaphor for inner strength. One of the meanings of this word from is “The state or quality of mind or spirit that enables one to face danger, fear, or vicissitudes with self-possession, confidence, and resolution; bravery.” So, this tells me that if I remember to move from my heart, from LOVE, I will have the courage I need to face the areas of my life where I have a tendency to be cowardly.

I guess I already have what I thought was missing. I just need to remember that.

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Spirit and Matter

Gravity for Illustration Friday

When I am deeply rooted in my own power and take full responsibility for my life, my spirit can soar free.

My spirit is not beholden to gravity and the rules of the physical world but my body is. The nature of reality, according to many belief systems is that the physical world is an illusion. I am not an authority on that so I wouldn’t know. Even if we live in a holographic universe, where the matter we experience everyday is a projection, it’s still the world we live in isn’t it? When an apple falls on our head around these parts, it hurts. I believe that learning to thrive on both the physical and spiritual planes is essential to our well-being and the evolution of consciousness. After all, that hologram is projected from somewhere, isn’t it? Whatever it is that projects the hologram must be attended to just as we attend to the bump on our head from the apple with an ice pack or some arnica.

I am currently reading “The Path of Transformation” by Shakti Gawain. She has this to say about our experience in the physical reality: “It’s unpleasant and uncomfortable to face these realities and our feelings about them, so most of us try to focus on other things. yet, in order to confront our personal and planetary problems, and try to solve them, we must first be honest enough to acknowledge the confusing, frightening feelings we may have and how overwhelming it all seems. The first step we must take in dealing with any challenge is to acknowledge what is is and how we feel about it. It is only through facing our fears and difficulties that we can find creative and effective solutions.”

The book goes on to discuss the nature of how our consciousness impacts the collective consciousness. I believe it is consciousness that is projecting that hologram. Some might call this consciousness “God”, some “The Universe”, some call it “static”. Whatever IT is, I am a part of it and I must take FULL responsibility for my part and make mindful choices because my projection impacts the whole.

I have a spiritual awareness of the innate goodness of creation. This is a visceral experience I have, not just some wishful thinking. I often see and experience the very best that is possible in a person or in the potential of an experience. This spiritual awareness sometimes clashes with the reality of what the material realm is offering in the moment. There is a lot of polarity in this third dimension. I don’t revel in polarity but I accept it, I see it and I let it inform me. I think I am here to experience the sensual, multi-dimensional reality as a flesh and blood human and those things are going to be a part of that experience. My essence is “spirit” but I have a body that is a reflection of my inner truth and and I live in a world filled with polarity and contradiction. I must allow the experience.

I’m not a monk or a yogi and I don’t aspire to that. I don’t have a gaggle of devotees making sure that my physical needs are met so I can connect with the spirit realm and share what I’ve found. I must make my own food, and make sure I have shelter. This is what I choose. I want to take responsibility for myself and integrate my mind, body and spirit in the present moment. I do not seek to transcend this reality or escape it. I truly believe I came here to co-create the process of transformation that is happening on this planet. When I consider what is happening in Tibet right now, of the Dalai Lama’s struggle, I see how that fits in with my own polarized inner reality. I don’t want to hide from anything. I don’t want to change anything per se since much of what’s “out there” is beyond my own personal control. I do, however, want to find peace inside of myself and let that positively impact the collective conscious.

I want to move through the process of consciousness deeply rooted in my own power so as to allow the process of transformation to unfold. I believe this is best accomplished by enjoying life, not running from it, having the courage to face my fears, allow my pain, taste the essence of the world and shed as much pure, spiritual, loving light on it as I can. I’m not convinced that going around “spreading the love”, “sending positive vibes”, “praying”, or doing “manifesting” work is going to truly impact us positively until we begin to rip back the layers of pain, delusion and darkness inside of us and heal those first. That is where true healing begins. We are bound to positively impact the wholeness of the body of “God” when we keep our own “cell” cancer-free.

Right now, every time I think about what’s wrong “out there” or begin to judge or reject someone or something (which I do far more than I would like to admit) I ask what inside of myself needs to heal. After all, no matter how much I wish I could control the world (and yes, I often wish I could), I can only truly control my own actions and that is more than enough work for this lifetime. That means taking responsibility for my choices, being mindful of my consumption, loving myself, and understanding how I fit into the bigger picture and being aware of the impact I have.

For today, I am focusing on loving myself. My goal is to truly learn to love, honor, respect, care for and appreciate each and every cell in my own body. I believe there is a lot of healing potential there.

With every moment I care for my physical being, my spirit soars that much higher.