My Aunt Susie died today. She was my mom’s only sibling – her little sister. She would have been 71 this year. It’s crazy how there was a little bit of longevity for the women in my family (at least early eighties), and they both died before they were 72. What’s in store for me, I wonder?
Susan was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer about a year ago. She went through five rounds of chemo and miraculously won. She was in remission for a few months.
Just a few months
Then it mastisized all over her brain, and progressed rapidly, yet, at the same time, slowly. I don’t know which it was. All I know is that the last month has been a blur. She’s been confused. She’s been totally lucid. She’s been in denial. And she’s been lovely, as usual.
Not four months ago, her only daughter, Lisa, passed away at 40. She literally JUST given birth to a sweet baby boy named Sammy. So Susie took on Sammy, as well as Lisa’s other child, (who just turned 10), Damon. Damon also has autism by the way.
I suppose I should also mention that Damon and Sammy’s father could not live without Lisa – took her death pretty hard – and a week before my aunt collapsed and entered hospice, he also died.
And so today, Damon and Sammy, over the past four months, have lost Mom, Dad, and Nana – who was really their entire world. They are currently in the Alabama (Tuscaloosa) foster care system.
Susie has been taking care of Damon since he was born. She actually adopted him from the get-go, and Sammy too was/is (I don’t know – WAS) in her legal guardianship as well. My cousin and her husband, though the nicest people you’ve probably have ever met, struggled with addiction for many years. Luckily, Lisa stayed clean throughout her pregnancy with Sammy. He is a strong, healthy boy – and honestly, he’s not going to remember much of what has happened over the last few months. Anyway – they were never going to get legal custody of either kid because of their antics.
Now Damon… He’s the cutest kid. Everybody says that about their own family, but I swear, spend five minutes with him and you’ll be laughing and crying at the same time because he’s so fucking, hysterically cute!
That poor kid, Jesus Christ!
Well, can you believe this? My brother is going to adopt these boys.
It’s going to take a little bit of time because the laws are whack, and bureaucracy is like a bag of shit on fire under your nose, but everything is going as fast as humanly possible, and we should have these kids here within three months, maybe sooner.
With all the death we (my brother and I) have experienced over the past few years, finally something beautiful comes with it.
Today I was just barely skimming the surface of getting organized. I am so overwhelmed. I hate when things get to that point, when it’s past the point of even writing things down – simply because I haven’t had the time to stop to put a pen to paper just to jot anything down. That’s when you know your life is getting a little out of hand, right? Well, I’m at that point, so today I began to write some things down.
The first thing on the agenda were all the rewards from the Kickstarter campaign, namely because I can start working on some of those already. I also have to split them up into categories, like supplies I need, and which things I will be needing to take along with me to the desert. All of that still is not quite organized. I only have who gets what, how many of each, and in what order I am working on what. That took more time to put together than you’d think.
My studio has been a complete and total mess for well over a month because I haven’t been able to open the garage door for several weeks. There was a fence issue over here. It kinda sorta fell over and made it so the door wouldn’t open anymore. In the meantime, the gardeners were blowing leaves into my studio every other week underneath the door, and I also had a few shipments of art that came back from various places that needed to be unpacked and put away that I couldn’t get to.
I started on one of the packages right before the fence fiasco. I was right in the middle of unpacking more than 60 drawings that came back to me from Houston. I had to leave it there, half way undone all those weeks, barely covered up with leaves and dirt being blown in there. I almost couldn’t sleep at night.
Unpacking them made me think about a lot of stuff about my “creative process” since many of those drawings were done before 2007 – before I was on medication for being a mental case. I think I was a lot funnier back then. That might be so, but I was also a LOT more obsessive in terms of drawing. Hyper focused, and I don’t know if that was such a good thing. I preferred the little funny drawings over the obsessive ones.
I was able to dust about 1/5 of the studio today. That seems like a far cry from getting anywhere, but a few more days in there, while pacing myself, I’m sure I’ll get there. It needs to be ready by the morning of the 21st for a special studio visit.
Can you believe it? I can’t! I am out of my mind with happiness, excitement flabbergastion, butterflies, gratitude, and more gratitude!!!
Wow! Wow! Wow!
And guess what?
I just received a grant for $1000 from the National Arts and Disability Center to help me with the painting leg of my project for when I get back from the desert!
I am blessed all kinda ways!
So I’m going to get right to telling you what comes next. Why wait? I’m excited to reveal it all, aren’t you excited to hear it? We are all part of this thing now, so I figured you’d be interested.
This project officially starts RIGHT NOW! That’s right. The wheels and cogs have been a-turnin’ in my mind throughout the last 30 days during the campaign, and I can’t keep my ideas contained any longer! I want to get to work. I want to keep you abreast. I want you along for the ride.
Now, Kickstarter puts a little hold on the money before it doles it out, but since I have had an Amazon Payments Account for a long time, I think I may not have to wait as long. I will look into that. In the meantime, I will be begin working on everyone’s rewards as soon as humanly possible. Because of the nature of some of the rewards, some of you will be receiving certain ones before others, but don’t worry: ALL WILL BE FULFILLED!
Many of you will begin receiving messages from me about your preferences on some of your rewards, as certain ones, like the À la Dan Kabbalah letterpress prints, allow for the choice of a Hebrew letter. Other rewards will require you sending me an image of the nice person I’m doing a portrait of. Stuff like that. I will be getting to these things over the next week.
I also wanted to let you in on the project website I have been building at ExodusJoshuaTree.com. While it is still a work in progress, I finally have it up “live” so that there is a living “hub” for the project itself. You will also find the official blog on the site where I will be posting on frequently, and especially all the days throughout my stay in Joshua Tree, since the site is mainly for (or begins in) the FIRST leg of my entire project: An Exodus in Joshua Tree.
Also in the news, I will be going to Joshua Tree right away!!! That’s right, I do not waste any time, plus the best time to go is now in the spring while everything is blooming! If all goes as planned, I will be there as soon as the end of this month!
To some up for now, some of you might have noticed that I put up an F.A.Q. at the bottom of the project description – just hours before it ended. I did this because I had been questioned about the title the project a number of times (mostly in person) and would have to explain it all to people one at a time. I figured if people were asking me, then other people must be wondering, so now it’s in writing. So I’m including it in this message, for yucks.
Well, I didn’t foresee this title being complex to others’ ears on the day I created it. All I can say is that it made sense in my head in the moment, and here is why:
I feel that I am about to break out of the shackles of the kind of art-making that I had been doing for so many years.
Basically, over the last year, I’ve gained the tools I need. Now I’m going out from my studio, from Los Angeles, from my fears, from my crutches, my modus operandi, TO Joshua Tree, to wander the desert, to find my new home – within myself, within my art.
That is the exodus.
Thank you all for reading, and thank you ALL for everything!
Stay tuned, and visit the blog often at ExodusJoshuaTree.com/blog
Lately I’ve been wracking my brain trying to remember the very first piece of art I ever bought. It’s because someone asked me recently how long I’ve been collecting art, and it has been a long, long time.
I’ve come to find that there are, of course a lot of other artists that also collect art, but I was surprised to learn that there are also many, many artists that do not! I’m not here to give them shit or anything, but I think I’ve collected art when I have been close to starving! I mean, forget about what I’ve had to do to continue to make art in the absolute worst of times during my life, but somehow, someway, I have managed to collect it too.
Believe me, I am just as surprised to realize this than you might be to read it!
I don’t think I ever set out to be an “art collector.” Sure, I set out to make art. I could never help that fact. If someone told me that I’d have a pretty major art collection by the time I was 45, I would have done an LOL IRL. Durrrr!
To back up a little, I actually never set out to make money. I never dreamed about it. I never expected it. I never even really wanted it. I know that might border on unhealthy, since I probably should at least try to want some wealth. Everybody needs some money for a certain amount of comfort, for a certain amount of stress reduction, and sure I do want at least that amount. But I never wanted to “get rich.” It’s always scared me. So as far as picturing myself as an “art collector,” I would have equated that with a rich person, not me.
But here I am. Not rich, and I have a pretty nice art collection.
I’ve been collecting art since I was 16 or 17 years old! Actually, maybe even before that, if only I can remember, and if only I can figure out what “counts.”
What counts in collecting? BUYING? or collecting?
I’m going to go with acquiring. Even Museums talk about their “recent acquisitions.” And I will tell you, MANY of those are donations from estates. If you think museums, especially non-privately owned museums, have the budget to just buy up a substantial collection to charge the public to come see, you’re wrong. Many of the pieces you see are donations, and some are even on loan from private parties.
My point being is that collecting means collecting. You got it however you got it, and the first pieces I got were gifts from the artists themselves. It’s all about how you treat the pieces you have collected.
In fact, I think it’s extremely important, if you are a person who thinks you can never have an art collection of your own because you either can’t afford it, or because you are unsure about your tastes, how to “decorate” your living environment, your clarity about what is or isn’t a wise investment, or any of that stuff – that you handle whatever you first have in a certain manner.
I sure hope you’re following me.
Let’s say it’s a gift. Let’s say you aren’t even all that crazy about it! If it’s on paper – GET IT FRAMED properly. Acid free mat, or float it in a nice, maple frame. Whatever you do, do it professionally, and at least frame it the way you like it. Then, hang it in your home where you think it looks best. Where you want to live with it.
If you’re still not that crazy about it, leave it hanging and start thinking about who in your life might like it as a gift. And if you start liking it, great. That’s the first piece of art in your collection.
If you didn’t have to frame it, make sure you know how to care for it. Find out what it is. Is it oil? Acrylic? Is it on canvas or a wooden panel? Who painted it? Maybe you got it at Goodwill. Find out as much information about it as possible. The medium is pretty important. Just take it to someone who would know. A frame shop will most likely help you, even if you are not framing it. Most of those guys are artists and know something about the paint that was used. They can tell you how to clean or dust ir, or if you should hang it out of direct light.
So far, none of this cost you much, if anything. But framing can be really expensive. Especially if you have tastes like mine! Ha!
Anyway, I was going to talk about ME! And what the first thing I got was… Oh yeah, I couldn’t remember exactly, but I got work from other artists. Mostly work they were going to throw away. “I’ll take it!”
They’d just be surprised that I liked it, which I did. I’m only talking about a few pieces here and there, maybe the few days I went to school. Maybe they were doodles. I’d stick them in a frame at home.
But when I started buying things, weirdly enough, I bought objects, not paintings. Ceramics and sculptures. The first thing I remember buying was a ceramic “mug” that was really an art piece, never to be used to drink out of. I paid $17 for it. It was a TON of money for me at the time, and I was around 19 years old.
I’ll get a pic of it for the next entry. Sorry this was all text. In fact, I’ll get a few pics of some early things I started off with.
——-> AN EXODUS IN JOSHUA TREE <——–
Alrighty Folks! Here we are at the final home stretch of this thing.
I am so unbelievably delighted that we’ve come this far already. Really – I couldn’t be happier to have reached my goal — and then some! I will even be able to pay the Kickstarter Fees now! So a HUGE thanks to all that have contributed so far. Thank you.
This will be the second to the last update – as far as the fundraising campaign leg goes. I will be sending out one more in a week from today – Saturday morning. That update will have a good deal of information about what comes next, because, officially, that’s when my project will start.
Yeah, I know. I don’t waste any time! I like to dive right into things. It’s because I can’t wait to get to work!
In the meantime: I am not finished fundraising!
There are SIX MORE DAYS to contribute! So, it’s time for me to get annoying!
I want you to reach deep, s p r e a d the word, tell your friends and family, share, share share on your social media networks, and call the Pope!
Please help me make this Kickstarter like one of those crazy, world-famous ones that break the glass ceiling in the last moments of its existence. Let’s at least try.
In return, I promise you very unique rewards, and a very thought-provoking, engaging (and pretty) solo exhibition next spring at Shulamit Gallery.
Thanks for reading.
That’s right, I was about to take a portion of my book and tweak it into a small, 1500-word piece of prose and maybe send it into a contest. Then I realized I should save myself the fees and just leak it on my blog! I wouldn’t win the contest anyway. I’m sure they are looking for “real” writers.
So here it is, a rough portion called, Hargas Street:
Hargas Street, where I remember all the fighting. It’s where I shared a room with my brother, Mike. Where I retain vivid memories of the room, my blankets and sheets, my Flintsones pillowcase, and even the potty by my bed before I used the “grown-up” toilet.
Some people think I have a screw loose – that I can remember so far back, but I remember. My eight year-old brother caring for me, a kid himself, because of feckless parenting. It was Mike who helped me in the middle of the night when I needed to use that potty in the dark.
We more or less hid out in that room and created our own world. It was our attempt to get away from the hell going on outside of it. Mike took on the job of protecting me from future traumas, however futile, but he tried to distract me with playing “Army,” or making me laugh into an undeniable belly pain. A lot of times it worked, but just outside our hollow wooden door, there was another war unfolding, with bombs dropping, plates breaking, doors slamming. A battle of screaming profanities. Oh, the sacred proverbs I learned from behind that door.
Peace would come when my dad would finally clomp across the lawn towards his little yellow Fiat. We’d peek out the window, affirming the end, and watch him peel off for a few hours.
Quiet stretches were when they’d make up and take a trip somewhere. We’d have a babysitter named Mrs. Shealty. She was an elderly lady, somewhat conservative, and strict – more than my own parents anyway, though, anyone would be. She set bed times and rules, and I’d merrily mind them, anxious to please. I felt safe when she was there. Although a grizzly bear could have broken into the house and she would only be armed with knitting needles.
However, I came to hate Mrs. Shealty one afternoon when my brother and his friends were playing in the backyard. The four of them came into the house through the back door, one by one, and into the bathroom. Each came out of the bathroom with extremely soapy hands. They used a slightly wet bar of soap so their hands were all white and cakey. As they exited the back door, they left soap smears on the walls and all the doorknobs.
I spied all this from the hallway while playing with my dolls, and of course, it gave me ideas. Perhaps if I soaped up my hands like theirs, they would let me play with them in the backyard?
No such luck. Mrs. Shelty caught me coming out of the bathroom with my white, pasty hands and scolded me to rinse them immediately. When I told her that the boys in the yard did it, she told me, straightforward, that it was different because they were boys!
Now, I might have only been five years old, and knew not of the Suffragettes, but I knew that was an unacceptable reason to rinse my hands. I thought she was going to tell me that we all needed to rinse our hands, but all this taught me was that boys get away with whatever they want.
Just like Alex, the kid who lived down the street on the corner of Hargas. He used to turn his eyelids inside out. We were in the same class at Castle Heights Elementary, and he’d freak out all the girls in class, including me. We ran away from him – screaming – so that we didn’t have to look at his face, but he’d run right after us, pushing his face into us, grunting like a zombie.
This traumatized me enough that I would increase my pace past his house during my walk home from school. I worried he would be sitting on his porch with his eyelids inside out, waiting for me.
In fact, Alex was such an asshole, that one day he was trapping younger kids under a wooden crate on his lawn. To make matters worse, he sat on top of the crate, so they really couldn’t escape.
I ran home and told my brother and older cousin about this horrible injustice. I thought they should do something about it! But do you know what they did? They tricked me into getting myself trapped under that crate, telling me how they would come and save me, but they never did. Instead, they crouched behind a hedge, peeking, while laughing their asses off.
I stayed under the crate for hours, as Alex would not let me out unless I showed my bare butt. I stayed until it got dark, and once my mother came home, I screamed “Mommy!” so loud, that she heard me four houses down. Thankfully, my bare butt was saved.
Hargas Street is also where my mother met her best friend Nina, and that was all because of my brother. At eight years old, he decided to steal the fruit out of our own refrigerator, then go door to door trying to sell it for cash.
Once he got to Nina’s house, she was on to him. She invited him in for some milk and cookies and called my mother, telling her to have a look in her fridge. With four boys herself, she knew all too well what he was up to and the two of them had a laugh over the phone which sparked a life-long friendship.
The friendship actually consisted of a core group of three women, my mother, Nina, and Nina’s sister, Phyllis. The extended group included my mom’s sister, Susan and my nana, Evelyn – plus Nina and Phyllis’ mother, Faye. All these women and their husbands, including my dad, were really into “bowlding.” That’s bowling for any normal human being other than my dad.
My father had a third grade education. He was born before the Great Depression and had a profoundly sad, complex upbringing. Nevertheless, this did not stop all of the women from making fun of how dumb he was. And my dad never said a word. He’d just chuckle along with them.
My mother had an interesting friendship with Nina. I think about my current friendships and they seem utterly paradoxical.
Nina had a strong influence on my mom to be ballsy, to take charge. Basically, to be a bitch in life. I’d say that Nina slightly bullied her, and if my mom failed to stand tall, she’d beat herself up – and that’s something I tend do to myself without a Nina.
All in all, they were both were strong, Jewish women and I looked up to them. But together, they were trouble. Both ruled their households – Nina with an iron fist, and my mother with manipulative guilt trips that stemmed from her mental illness and suicide threats. It was the only way she knew how to get her way, and she did – from the clothes she got, to houses my father would later purchase.
My mom felt insecure around Nina. It was hard to watch. Nina was very confident. She and Phyllis had, what seemed to be, a harmonious relationship with their mother, Faye, and this made my mom sad and jealous. My mom’s relationship with my nana was strained, to put it lightly, since Nana mentally abused her as a kid.
Phyllis had two children, a younger boy, and a girl, Tracey, close to my brother’s age. I remember how in love I was with how Tracey wore her hair.
Tracey’s hair was nothing like mine, and, it never would be. It was very straight. It had no wave and no frizz. It was as if she wasn’t even Jewish. She’d push it behind both of her ears – ears that rather stuck out a bit.
I would try desperately to make my hair like hers – wetting it, putting Vaseline in it. I even stopped washing it to try to thin it out. I tried to comb out all the wave and frizz, push and pull it behind my ears – ears that also stuck out, but it never looked like hers, ever.
Then one day I saw Tracey, she was probably 12, and her ears were different! They didn’t stick out anymore. That was when my mother began insisting I have my ears pinned back.
After years and years of Mom haranguing me about “fixing” my nose, ears were added to the list. I figured, sooner or later, it would be my whole face. Might as well. Noses take up a lot of real estate, and it’s not easy to invent clever ways for why your fingers would be naturally lingering below your eye area. Forget it.
On Hargas Street, I didn’t try to hide my nose so much, not yet anyway. Although seeds were planted, only prickly leaves of truthful flowers grew. And my memories, like weeds caught in a wildfire, lit a clear path to the potty by my bed.