Real Girls Dancing on Apocalyptic Stage

Dear Friends,

Today I want to share with you some of my creative process, not because my process is particularly special but because in my opinion and experience, the process of creating is at least as important as the final product. I do not expect to see my work in any museums, and I have zero artistic training to speak of, but I enjoy creative practice as part of my life. There’s something about the act of creating that makes me feel plugged in to the natural flow of life’s creative energy, and in that flow, I feel unconcerned about outcomes because I’m enjoying the moment.

I don’t usually stick to one medium for very long because I get distracted easily and always want to be doing something new. Recently, I’ve been excited about collage, a form of art I first encountered when I was very young thanks to a suggestion from my sister. My older sister Katie is a talented and inspiring painter, and when we were younger, I was always jealous that I couldn’t draw and paint like her. However, she taught me about collage as an alternative way to create visual art, and we used to have a lot of fun looking through art and fashion magazines for pages to make things with. Recently, I put out a call among my friends for any magazines folks wouldn’t mind donating for my creative efforts, since magazines with great photos are often expensive. So, when I was loaded up with supplies from my friends, I started flipping through magazines and comic books and finding odds and ends to work with. What follows is the creation process of a single, not-too-complicated piece of cut-and-paste work. I aspire to do work that’s more elaborate and multi-dimensional, but for now, I truly love the simplicity of pieces like this one. This level of pressure-free creative exercise is exactly enough to get my mental muscles flexing in a healthy and fun way. When I get up every morning, I spend at least an hour in my home office meditating, journaling, and engaging in some sort of art, and I’ve noticed that the rest of my day tends to feel better as a result. Creative practice is deeply nourishing for me and helps me feel a little more grounded in myself before I confront the unpredictable challenges of the day.

Today’s piece started with this gorgeous catalog for theater production companies. It’s full of great images of set designs showing off what can be done with their products. There are a lot of pages in here that got me excited to create something fun, so with several options in mind, I switched over to a fashion magazine.

I have a love-hate relationship with fashion magazines. I love them because they’re often full of gorgeous editorial design and luscious photography. Nothing is better designed than high end fashion ads. But at the same time, fashion magazines can be subtly dehumanizing to women. For example, I came across these pages in Cosmo that juxtaposed runway fashion with more practical outfits modeled by “real girls.”

I don’t want to belabor this point, but it’s an important one. Cosmopolitan is not a children’s publication, and the “real girls” modeling these outfits are grown up, professionalwomen, not girls. Also, models are real people. And in fact, many of them are girls, as in literally legally children.

Also, the label “real girl” made me think of “real doll,” and maybe it’s just me thinking too hard about this, but the resonance between these words and images seemed to be sending an unsavory message about the “realness” of women and girls. What makes a woman or girl real or valid? Is it her age, profession, body type, skin color…? Trick question! All women are real and valid, and fashion magazines need to retire this style of phrasing.

I returned to the theater catalog and flipped the pages again until I came across this gorgeous scene from the American Ballet Theatre. I do not know the actual ages of these performers, but I think of them as being young. I experimented with placing the “real girl” labels on the image and was sold. I wanted to label them as real girls because they have that particular body type that we have been told is just for models and that thin women are not real, but they are real. In addition, there is something about women whose work involves being looked at — whether they are models, actresses, porn stars, dancers, or even video game streamers. Our society (even those of us who think we know better) looks at these women and ceases to see them as human beings. Instead we see them as a collection of body parts, a piece of a scene no more individual or personal than a stage light, or objects of fantasy and entertainment. And it’s not necessarily a bad thing that entertainers disappear into their performance, but I think it’s essential to remember that behind the act is always a real person.

After cutting out the dancers, I wanted to place them on an interesting background. I flipped through the magazines again, but I didn’t just want to place them on a different stage. Instead, I turned to the stack of comic books Carrie has recently given me. There, in issue one of Maestros, I found this wild, alien world mid-apocalypse that seemed just perfect. It’s this terrifying monster death orgy that resonates pretty strongly with my experience of our current geopolitical reality.

Even though there are not very many elements in this collage, I love the overall effect. I think it speaks to the struggle of young women to cope with a dark and violent world under the constraints of enforced femininity and intense depersonalization coming at them (us) from all directions. But these dancers, these real girls, they are not victims. They are strong. They are together. They put on their dresses and fix their hair, and they get on stage and perform with all their hearts because the show must go on.

So, that’s my emotional journey through art today. I will probably give this piece away to anyone who wants it. I’ve been making a lot of things lately that I have no need to keep for myself. Like I said, for me, the value of my art is the experience of creating it. I hope you’re creating something you enjoy today, if not a piece of art, then a life you love or a moment worth remembering.

Xoxo,

Mary

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Reclining Nudes

The collector is obsessed

with bathing women.

The painters and their students

observe their canvas backs

study their open mouths

arms up, fur exposed,

soft animals juxtaposed

against dark paintings of men

heaving in their clothes

bulky masses of coats

closed around a table.

The viewer is a man.

In dignified portraits, ladies

fix him with a start

always stern faced

under his microscope.

I wish to inspect the men.

We stare at women’s faces

like fruit we might buy

if it’s soft enough

and sweet.

Let us look openly at men.

How many girls did you paint?

Naked in their evidence —

There is no proof except

the buildings full of it

the walls bursting with it

the crowds paying for it

the man collecting it.

Where are the men undressing?

In what lush garden do they hide?

Where do they bathe and lounge

on soft grasses

skin damp with summer

caressed by blue skies

caught unaware

by the artistic eye

of whom?

Where do their coats hang

empty costumes on hooks

shed from soft bodies?

Where do they lay pink

in bed before the painter

young and fresh

and for sale?

Always we are peering in

to the private lives of women.

Interrupted at their studies

leaning to pour tea

affectionately

holding small hands

meeting on a shaded hill

gazing away at what does not gaze back —

The indifferent ocean,

A docile garden.

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It’s Friday, and I’m having some feelings.

Hello, friends and strangers. I, your friendly correspondent, have some words today.

It occurred to me recently that the art of the blog may soon die. With the loss of net neutrality, the dominance of corporate media, and our increasing reliance on social media platforms for information, I find myself feeling that the average human is robbed of real voice. At one time, Twitter was the place for uprising, and lately it feels like a roiling cauldron of toxic rage with no productive outlet. And while I don’t think I’m going to change all that with my little blog, I do want to take a moment to remind you to resist. The regime is consolidating its control of our main mode of communication, but we must refuse to be silenced. Find a way. Write, my loves. Create art. Live your life as the ultimate creation of your truest self. Let your life be your statement. Don’t look to fashion magazines to find out who you ought to be. Don’t drink the poison of mass media and call it truth. Know your own heart and mind and act in accordance with your truth.

I don’t really think very many people read what I write these days. I’ve always had a modest readership of friends who kinda relate to what I’m saying, and I used to think that wasn’t good enough. I wanted to have mass appeal because I thought that’s what it meant to be a good writer. I tried really hard to mimic people who were successful in the way I thought I should be. That didn’t work because it wasn’t who I am. Now, when I write here, I am just writing for you and me because something has brought us together and that has value in itself. And I think what brought us together was that we have some shared values, some hope for the world, some desire to believe that we are basically good and everything is going to be ok. And what’s been really hard about the past couple years is that things don’t feel ok. In fact, things are not ok. So I’m writing for you and me because when things are not ok, we need each other.

There are uncertain times ahead of us. I have every hope that the Democrats will flip Congress and impeach Trump, but I can’t honestly predict if it will happen or not. And scary things could happen either way. If 45 completes a full term, what further damage might he do? Will our next presidential election be as much of a farce as Russia’s? And if he doesn’t complete a term, will we end up with a president who wants to impose Biblical law? Vote, my friends. You. Must. Vote. If you do nothing else, fucking vote. But also, keep exercising your voice, and practice regular maintenance of your mind and heart. Step away from the internet. Re-evaluate relationships and pass times that aren’t supporting your wellness. And meditate. You don’t have to be good at it, but find a way to empty your mind. If you have trouble sitting still, go for a meditative walk. Shut off the constant stream of information and give your mind a few quiet minutes at least. Remember that you are human. Reconnect with your body. Sweat. Cry. Scream if you have to. We’ve been living in an intense emotional stew for the past 18 months, and I often feel numbed out. I can’t keep taking it in. I can’t keep feeling it. And yet, if we stay numb, we lose our humanity. So remember to be human and feel it, but also let yourself scream. Let it not be ok. Cry about it. Yell about it. Protest about it. Write about it. Create art about it.

We must do what is within our power, and we must strive to uphold our own values because that’s what it means to be the Resistance. Today, what is within my power is to get up, get dressed and go do my damn job, and to write to you with love and encouragement for the day ahead of you.

So, let’s go do our best today.

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i am in love with my skeleton

wpid-sketch7122109.pngi am in love with my skeleton
my ribs when i can feel them
hard under the skin.

i am in love with my skeleton
all these finite bones
a clattering of dust
on its way to the bin.

i am in love with my skeleton
the femur like a bat
a weapon clothed in flesh.

i am in love with my skeleton
in motion and at rest
heavy in the bed.

i am in love with my skeleton
the ball and socket joints
the hinges and the fusion
of young bones grown old.

i am in love with my skeleton
hollow with breath
the pelvic bowl cradling
this primordial ache.

i am in love with my skeleton
when a hand (mine or yours)
rests on my ribs and paces
searchingly to the hip and back again.

i am in love with my skeleton
smooth and bare as can be
a hundred years from now
dry and sun bleached.

i am in love with my skeleton
this clanky home rattling along
and creaking up the stairs.

I am in love with my skeleton
even when the pain is great
even with the sharpness
of death that starts on the inside.

i am in love with my skeleton
this blank-faced doll
when she is put to rest
by the sweet child god
whose playtime has ended.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I’m digging up a bunch of old poems, including an entire collection I wrote about two years ago and re-thinking how to present them for sharing. Brace yourself for random poetry attacks.

I also want to redesign this site, but I’m lazy as fuck when it comes to web design, so I make no promises.

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What’s With the Post-It Notes (and what I’m doing with the makeup you gave me)

I’ve been doing this weird writing/art experiment lately. I was in a bit of a writing slump, so this was just my attempt to try something new. When I start to explain it, I trip over my thoughts and ruin it, so I’ll just share a bit here without too much yammering.

It started with Post-It Notes. And a Sharpie.
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The process involves hanging out with cats a lot. wpid-img_20141007_222140.jpg

 

Sometimes it gets political. And sometimes it gets sparkly. I don’t see any reason you can’t have both. wpid-20140930_140742.jpg

Sometimes I draw a little bit, or scribble. And I have some strong feelings.
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Sometimes I outline a whole essay on Post-Its. They don’t always translate well to regular text. I think that’s because the colors, sizes and placement have become part of the text. That or I’m not a very good writer. Totally possible. wpid-20141104_101934.jpgSometimes it evolves in interesting ways. Here we have moisturizer, makeup brushes, donated makeup, and a gridded Post-It pad. Several of my friends have donated makeup they had just lying around, and I’ve been pulling from my own stash as well. The truth is, I hate wearing most makeup, so this seemed like as good a use as any for it. I got a lot more offers for makeup than I needed, considering that I don’t actually know what I’m doing with the stuff, but I’m starting to get some ideas. If you’re thinking about giving me makeup, please do not purchase any on my behalf. I intend to waste it, and I’d feel like an asshole if you spent money on that. wpid-20141027_201506.jpgTurns out makeup is not the greatest to draw with (that is, it doesn’t make my mediocre drawing skills look any better), but it can make for interesting paper textures. A bit of moisturizer helps eyeshadow cling to the paper. wpid-20141027_200638.jpg

This was my only semi-successful attempt to draw with makeup. I’m sure someone who understand make up and drawing could do something really fancy with it, but I’m not that person. My sister could probably do it. Me? I require words.

wpid-img_20141010_154706.jpg I honestly don’t know what the end goal is with all of this. It’s just fun. Ellie suggested publishing it, and I do have some ideas about that, but I’m not ready to share them because I will scare myself out of it if I speak too soon.

 

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