Thursday, November 16, 2006

Proposition for disposal

As I prepare for my application into graduate school I've been frequently pondering what to write in my letter of purpose, here I would like to sample what I'd wish to write, but I'm not sure would be considered appropriate.

The first draft:

Dear Graduate School,

I am terrified to apply to your graduate art program. I'm simultaneously horrified of both failure and success. I look at my sad little resume and I am filled with insecurities. I wish I could say that it has been a steady journey for me towards my goals in the arts, that I've already had multiple successes and recognitions adorned on me like glittering gems in the crown of my achievement. That has unfortunately not been the case. My artistic pursuit has been fraught with demons. So much of my time and energy has been spent overcoming the effects of long term emotional abuse and negative indoctrination. So much of my adult life has been hampered by poverty, anxiety and a fight to find my path. How dare I even approach you? But how can I help it? My past cannot be helped. I have not outwardly pursued advancement or recognition in art, instead I have let it just be a quiet and steady part of my life, my art hiding behind the other work I do for money and survival. But it is time for that to change.

Have you known those times in your life when you are broken in half? It has been one of those times for me recently. I have felt virtually fit to explode. I knew somehow I had to return to myself again, that I couldn't run from pursuing what I've needed to pursue since I was born. To make art. I can't deny it its place in my life anymore. And though I may sink a little when I've laid out a piece of myself on canvas and it isn't understood or appreciated, it doesn't matter anymore. I no longer want to hide until I've secretly achieved some false vision of perfection. I want to strive in the open among the most celebrated and critical practitioners and assessors in my field. I want to be inspired and humiliated and then find my own place among the best and brightest artists of our time. This is why I am seeking you out.

My earliest memories are of my attempts to render a skeleton or a snail crawling on the delicate arches of a southern Utah landscape. In elementary school I taught my friends to draw horses and swans and to build paper houses. I painted to work through my adolescent issues and to express feelings that were not easily spoken. As I approached adulthood, I was unfortunately, and probably not atypically, squelched. I was expected to relegate my art to hobby status and to focus my sights on a more practical career. And I tried. But I never felt satisfied or happy, a part of me couldn't help but repeatedly return to art making whenever it seemed possible. This eventually led to my attaining my BFA. It was near the completion of my degree that some very serious shifts happened that made me realize that I need to break from my programming and reconsider allowing myself a career in art making.

I was in Germany, finishing up my coursework via a study abroad program. I traveled about from museum to museum, painting plein air out in the streets, then returning to home base in Steele to study color theory and work some more. I got to live just making art. And I was inspired by the art I saw, revelations came. I discovered that bizarre work done by an artist with confidence and reiteration could find itself valued in the annals of art history. I discovered for myself that I was drawn to work that seemed to have a brilliant mastery of color, regardless of movement, admiring alike Vermeer and Kokoschka, Rothko and Picasso. The greatest revelation happened for me in Bottrop in a small museum, set in a garden, dedicated to the work of Josef Albers. I had been studying the Bauhaus and their version of elegant modernist design inspired by respected artists of their time. I found a favorite in Albers. I saw him begin as a school teacher, then expressionist all the way up to the simplest experiments in color theory represented in a series of "Homage to the Square". One standing alone (as I had seen in the National Gallery in DC) was unimpressive. But when confronted with an entire climate of them I was quietly astounded. I always thought it was rather silly of Mondrian and his crew to think you could change human behavior with good design and using the right colors, but here I was being ever so subtly changed. Our world is filled with ever increasing chaos and horror. I used to hide from it, as much as possible, but now I try to be aware of it, and to understand it. But how does one deal with the aware experience of living in an American city with extreme discrimination, poverty, drug abuse and murder? How does one find any peace when they study the effects of American foreign policy on the Middle East and come to an understanding of the horrors with which some members of the human population have come accustomed to as part of their daily lives, an experience which some of those individuals seemed determined to spread?

Art might not be able to directly change human behavior on a grand scale, but it can be a shelter and solace for those that seek it out. It can be an inspiration and an impetus for those seeking already to change themselves. Art is important for communicating an identity of a person or people and I think also important for offering beauty and a moment of repose. Josef Albers, either knowingly or not, created through his experiments with color, a powerful moment of repose for such an unsettled soul as mine.

The series of oil paintings I am currently working on stems directly from my inspiration from Josef Albers. I have sought to simplify the composition, so that it frees me to think about the interaction of the colors I place together. I have however, also chosen to include elements of visual texture, some color blocks more complex in nature than others. I like the point of intellectual connection those blocks create and the mystery they sometimes add to the compositions. These more complex blocks are also a product of my process. I created small scale studies in collage, before blowing each of them up to a larger more arresting counterpart.

My admiration for Albers was not the final revelation for me though it was a powerful one. Another important moment for me came on a miserable rainy day in Berlin. I was in a very low mood, an old demon chewing at my heart and I wandered alone, drenched and in search of a metro station to return to a cold hostel. Then I saw through a gate a very quiet statue, it was a woman curled in a ball clutching a young man's body to her. It was sad and terrible and suited me perfectly. I later realized it was a sculpture by K├Ąthe Kollwitz. I saw much more of her work after that, so much of it full of emotion and misery. Her art was a witness to horror and a personal journey through darkness.

Each day I awake and wander amidst my canvases, works in their various stages of completion. I have to decide what I will make that day. These days I work placing color next to color and luxuriating in their mix, but other days there are different things to say. Perhaps a reaction to my culture, or an expression of the demons that live inside me. Some days I abandon color altogether and work with charcoals. My subjects typically lusting after sleep and escape.

I want to share one final revelation. I've discovered that I value tradition in art. Innovation on its own merit is not satisfying to me. However, I feel it is very important to live in and respond to the present. Tradition and innovation must meet. There are several contemporary artists out there that I feel are continuing to honor the aesthetic teachings we have collected over time and use that collection of knowledge to respond to our time. Some of these artists most certainly include those of you I seek to study with.

This is where I feel I should tell you how great you are and how you are just what I need to have a shot a making art my life for the rest of my life. But you know this. Your status as a great masters program for painters like me is no secret. And now I should tell you I'm offering my passion and commitment, my willingness to struggle and endure and hopefully triumph, whatever triumph there may be in the life of an artist.

Mostly, I just want to continue this journey everyday. Living and then responding to life on canvas and paper until I meet completion, ask him how-de-do? and shake his hand. Please take me on.


She-burt the reckless letter writer and applyee

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Thoughts on Porn and Sex

well, ok...
Do you think it's alright to be confused on some issues? I was taught to believe porn was bad. It is an addictive behavoir that can sometimes lead to marital indescresions, unreasonable spousal expectations, low self-esteem in women, lower social respect for women, higher sexual harrassment, less career advancement for women, or even violence against women or children, sexual abuse and abberrent public behavoir. I believed this too. They have all those studies out that cite the porn-crime/porn-evil connection. On top of that, in my social psychlogy class, I learned about studies done where men were exposed to certain imagry of women as a sex object then put in situations to interact with women on what is meant to be a professional level (I think it was a job interview situation). The men exposed to the imagry treated those women in a more disrespectful and objectifying manner, some were outright crude, and they took the women less seriously as potential candidates for a professional position and were less likely to listen to what the women said.

But now I'm faced with more than one person I respect that seems to think porn is pretty harmless overall and just provides fodder for sexual fantasy to enhance your personal love making experience and doesn't necessarily lead to all the things I believed it leads to. Some women peops I know even see the sexual "power" exercised by women as a good thing and like to be able to exercise that power. Even I, an exceptionally curious individual, have seen porn or soft porn images (hard to entirely avoid in this day and age) and though as a rule I don't seek porn, the images interest me. I want to understand exactly what it means for a woman to work as a stripper, a porn star or a prostitute. I feel like I've skirted this somewhat myself, having worked as a belly dancer, which to many Middle Eastern men is interpretted as akin to a stripper, although initially, I didn't think of it that way myself. In our popular culture, the music videos and television shows seem to often heavily sexualise women, show them in skimpy outfits, doing vulgar dance moves that really clearly are meant to incite sexual excitement, or imitate the act of sex, which of course go well with many lyrics all about sex, or television plots centered on sex, and this is in religious conservative America. In much of Europe, porn is regular fare on nightime TV and if there is a sex scene in a regular movie (not a porn movie), they often actually show people having sex, even women enjoying it. (Apparently male pleasure is more accepted in the USA movie rating system than female pleasure.)

Sex is a big driving force for us humans. True. But I know if my man were to get into porn, I'd feel hurt by it. I'd feel somehow inadequate like I wasn't good enough or pretty enough to keep him interested or satisfied. Maybe that wouldn't be right for me to feel that way, but I know I would. When I think about it, I even feel hurt by the fact that my man has had sex with other women besides me. Sure, that was before we met, but still. I feel jealous of those women. I wish he had saved himself for me. I can't say I was the symbol of total purity myself, because I had issues with petting and making out with one boy before my husband and I've kissed a few boys, but I can honestly say, I had my first sexual orgasm with my husband, he is the only man to have seen me naked (since I was grown) and he has been my one and only sexual partner and I have every intention of keeping it that way.

When I was little I found my dad's playboys. I looked through them to read the comics, most of which I didn't really get. I also found my parent's massage vibrator, which if I remember correctly I tried out, but then I felt bad about it and hid it all away again, this was a hell of a long time ago, I couldn't have been more than 6 or 7, maybe 8. I saw films when I was little about famous strippers and for a while there thought that would be cool, to grow up and be a famous and well loved beautiful, sensual and sexy stripper. I drew some of my own sex comics, which my mom found and chided me for. I even played pretend stripper with some of my girl friends. Something I'm pretty embarrassed about now. I was pretty young, this would have been elementary school. I knew all about sex. My dad gave us all sex lectures on our family car trips, I think more intended for my older sisters, he explained in detail what sex was, how girls get pregnant, how boys masturbate and his ideas on the evolutionary psycology associated with the sex drive. I think this was a less than healthy developement for me. When I got a little older, they started teaching me in church that you shouldn't date until you are 16 and then it should be in groups and you shouldn't date steady until you are older and looking for a marraige partner. Any kind of sex was wrong before you marry, masterbation was wrong, petting was wrong, french kissing was wrong. I was to keep my mind and body pure. And I tell you I did my level best. My first non-family serious kiss on the lips was when I was 13, from a boy you manipuated me and pressured me into an exceptionally uncomfortable situation, he was 18 and it sucked as a first kiss, he tried to slip me tounge which grossed me out. The dickhead. All my friends at the time had boyfriends that they made out with and I'm pretty sure at least one of my good friends was already sexually active, although she would never own up to it to me, nor did I ask her to. I had a boy friend (not official boyfriend), but we weren't kissing or making out or anything, we just hung out together. We'd give hugs goodbye and we would play fight, wrestle and stuff, and hold hands but that was it for physical stuff. I avoided dating, and I, for the most part, avoided the boys I was seriously crushing on. Until I was 17 or 18, then I met a boy who had some serious issues when it came to sex. He fell for me, because I'm damn cool and pretty unique. Also he wanted to get into church and stuff, get his life on track. But he was very emotionally needy and he would always want to hold me and he would just hold me close and too long, then he'd start to feel horny and so would I, but I didn't want to go there, so it was just super frustrating. We both felt like crap all the time and we fought a lot. I started to tell him I didn't want to get close to him, I don't think he understood how naive and innocent I really was, but he would always need my love and attention, then when I got feeling horny and frustrated and backed off him, I'd blame him, and he'd blame me. It takes two to tango, he told me. Yeah, but he had problems with porn from the time he was a kid, and was sexually active before he ever met me. It was like he had really low self control, and me I was innocent, but (and this is something I wouldn't learn until years later in a very hurtful experience) I had no boundaries. I didn't know how to stop people from crossing into my territory(even now, it's a struggle). I think it was because my parents, especially my dad, didn't let me have boundaries. It was always his way. I didn't have a lock on my bedroom door and he would never knock, even when I was a teenager, he would just walk in. And if he wanted a hug or a kiss from me he would just take it by force, for as long as I could remember, whether I liked it or not. He was always running my life and making my decisions for me, for the most part. He had to control. He was manipulative and abusive. He was the only man in my imediate family, no brothers, and no really close extended family. He was what a man was to me. So every man, especially an authoritative, emotionally manipulative man like my father, could just cross into my boundaries and take what they wanted and I aquiessed, unfortunatley too predictably. I'm fortunate not to have been much more taken advantage of. I'm very lucky to have had a few strong protectors in my life that have helped to keep me out of worse trouble than I got in. Even the kid I messed up with, on another level protected me from people who would most definately been much worse than he was. He actually loved me and didn't want to hurt me. We were just too messed up ourselves to keep everything right like we wanted.

But it's weird, now I'm married and have sex pretty regularly, which I enjoy. Sometimes sexual images I've seen pop up into my head, sometimes not so much, sometimes I just like to be in the moment (my favorite), but if I'm bogged down with distracting worries then I'll dream myself away, but I prefer my own dreams to the one's made for me by the outside world. The outside world makes me feel like I need to be different than I am to be sexy and beautiful, and that I'm forcing the feeling, but my husband thinks I'm sexy now, as I am, I get hard proof of it daily and this after 8 years of marraige and I think he's sexy too. Thing is, I don't want there to be any porn as a part of it. I just want it to be my husband and me. I want to think of us together when I close my eyes and I want him to do the same. Because that way it seems real. Like it's our love that we are expressing and we aren't acting out some fantasy. I want to be respected and adored and not objectified and controlled. And for me porn has no place in that. Porn would be to me like having another woman to compete with and I hate the thought of it. I get one man, and he gets one woman. That's it. Nobody else gets to participate.

I can't judge for my friends, but for myself, I think I still believe we are better off without porn as part of our lives.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

About me..more than I would share if I though many people I knew would read this

10 years ago
I was 20, living on my own in an apartment building that looked like a boat, bought an expensive Bosnian rug, volunteered at the local children's hospital, skateboarded every monday with 2 boys from North Caorlina and wavo-davo, played my guitar and sang songs, worked as a cartographer, had a secret security clearance, rock climbed with Dave, enjoyed my belly dance classes, I was heavily religious, sang in my church choir. Then Dave stopped talking to me for a while, that hurt. I had a couple of girl firends that gleebed on to me and used me for money, rides and info or depressed me with their sad tales. Another one of my girl friends died in a car wreck. 2 girl friends that got unexpectedly pregnant and considered abortions, one chose adoption, the other miscarried. I got in trouble for putting a silver star (my rockin friend Ryan stole from a vegas hotel room door and gave to me) on the door of my apartment (made the other dwellers jealous) and for taking in a stray homeless skater boy who ended up begging my neighbors for liquor and turning my futon pillow blue with his beard. Got asked to leave because of him and moved in with roomates, one with the same name as me who wouldn't open the door unless you did the secret knock, the other Chinese. Quit cartography and became a sweets baker and attempted to go back to school, sleeping through physics every day. I also enjoyed an intense relationship with my future husband, where we fought insanely scary fights and intensely dramatic making up - I tried to teach him to didn't take, I did however get him hooked on snowboarding, he trained me in soccer. My precious little Norfolk pine died.

5 years ago
I was 25 - lived in Artspace in SLC loved that apartment more than any I've had before. I took private belly dance lessons from Andromeda, danced in the Zarandeo "gypsy fusion" belly dance troupe, taught my first official belly dance class in an import shop's back room, graduated with my associates from the local community college in Multimedia Arts. Enjoyed animation emensely, applied to and was denied, to CalArt's character animation program. 3 of my friends also applied to the same program and got in. I landed a job in a print shop, which I didn't take because I then moved to Logan. I was married to my husband who brought us to Logan so he could finish his bachelors in engineering - we had no luck for him with the SLC schools. I took a new job as a telephone person - hated it, hated Logan, got depressed, called my mom a lot, belly danced, fell in love with Nadia Gamal's dancing, taught myself one of her routines off a video. Didn't skate anymore, didn't play my guitar much and didn't rock climb either, snowboarded only rarely. Was getting accustomed to being really broke. Applied to Utah State to be in their illustration department which was on the verge of collapse.

1 year ago
I was 29 - recently moved to the DC metro area, spent 5 weeks in Germany to finish my BFA from Utah State with a painting emphasis. While in Germany, I let a Moroccan man kiss me. That sent my husband into a spiralling depression and me as well. We sought counselling, I found out I had no boundaries and was easily manipulated, my husband found out he had serious trust issues. I also realised how extraordinarily in love we were with each other and how messed up we each were. My husband wanted space, became more of a workaholic than usual. I sought forgiveness, tried to make myself busy, to keep from being a depressed burden on my husband. I started to seek out more belly dance gigs and worked a lot as a dancer. Our relationship slowly began to heal. I began to want to grow up, so I could take control of my life, before I lost what was the most precious thing to me there was: my husband.

I was frustrated with my painting. I felt clumsy and akward and not sensitive. I was evaluating the previous day's visit from a dear friend, wishing I felt more natural around her and feeling like we didn't really have the good fulfilling talk we both probably needed, and noticing how difficult it was for me to finish my thought around her that day, but was glad to see her never-the-less. I was frustrated that I seem incapable of getting my own damn car fixed and spoke briefly with the car mechanic I was hoping would do it, who told me the engine I was looking to buy wasn't what he expected. I took two long hot showers to try and chill out. My brain felt like fudge that wanted to swell out of my skull. I took my bandages off my leg 2 days early because I was sick of them. (They were there because I had foam schlerotherapy done on my evil vericose veins). I talked my husband into coming home a little early so we could go to the gym together. While there we played in the indoor soccer room. Both my legs ached and hurt. But it felt good to kick the ball. We didn't talk much, both of us were distracted. He is thinking of going to Iraq to be a linguist and earn money for his PHD. He is also worried about getting a high enough GRE score to get into a good PHD program. He's not sure when or even if to get tested for a learning disability, because he has trouble with reading fast. I'm almost certain he's dislexic. He also isn't sure if and when to give notice at his current job, so he can go to Iraq. I am worried about applying to graduate schools, if I'll get recommendation letter, if I'll get accepted, and if not what will I do and what will I do anyway while my husband is in Iraq. I'm tired of feeling like I'm a burden to my husband. And I feel almost selfish trying to make art my carreer at his expense. I want desperately to be able to support him for a change. I'm tired of struggling to afford basic stuff. Like the money it will cost to fix my car. As we went to bed I wanted to make love to my husband, but he asked me not to ask since he had to study. While studying he fell asleep and dropped his book on his face with a loud thunk which made me laugh.

This morning I woke up with a new belly dance troupe choroegraphy going through my head. I read my scriptures and thought about the violent nature of mankind and why it's so hard for us to treat each other good and fairly and why we have to have rich and poor and social classes and discrimination. I later also read a news report on a similar topic. I took a shower. I walked to the post office to deliver a belly dance costume I sold. Back home I fixed myself zatar sanwiches, checked my email, then I read friends' blogs in hopes that I would feel less cut off from the world and less lonely. It helped a little and prompted me to do this little exercise one of my friends did on her blog.

5 songs I know all the words to
Trust in me - from Disney's Jungle BookIn a world of my own - from Disney's Alice in Wonderland
His Eye is on the Sparrow - As sung in Sister Act II
I'm a Child of God - Mormon Hymn
My two Little Hands - Mormon Primary Song
Jingle Bells
I Wont Cry Anymore - Aretha Franklin

okay that was more than five and there are a few more...

5 reality television shows I watch
I don't get a TV signal at my place, but if I did, I'm pretty sure I'd try to watch Extreme Home Makover, Trading Spaces (the BBC version), What Not to Wear (the BBC version), and the BBC's surprise gardening show although I can't remember the name of it now, and maybe that BBC one where people change jobs. I enjoyed these BBC shows when I used to have TV and saw the Extreme one at my Mom's and liked it.

5 television shows I watch daily
Well since I don't get a signal, I do rent netflix and even though I can't say "daily" on a strict basis, I have been working my way through the entire series of "Homocide:Life on the Streets", I own "Charmed" up through season 5, I also have gotton all that's available so far of "the Office" both BBC & American versions, and "Monk".

5 things I would do with $1000,000,000
pay mine and my husband's debts
get my husband his PHD
buy myself a house with a dance studio and an art studio and a kickin' kitchen
get myself an income somehow
pay tithing & a fast offering to my church

5 locations I would love to run away to...
Berlin, Germany
Most any city in Switzerland
San Fransisco, CA
Bali, Indonesia
Zion National Park, UT

5 things I like doing...
rockclimbing - particularly when I have about 200 feet of exposure and can just look out over the world like I'm hanging in the air
playing a good pick up game of soccer with people that know how to play and have fun
snowboarding - especially on a good powder day when you can just float down the mountain, fly off a cliff or a cat track and just flip over mid-air and land with softness and speed - aaah!
belly dancing - when you are with a full band of live musicians who kick ass, and an audience of friends, belly dance and music lovers, and the energy is high, and you can let your whole soul go.
having those beautiful peaceful satisfying moments when surrounded by people I love and enjoy
making love to my husband and holding him close afterwards
okay that's six...but why only 5?

5 things I would never wear...
There is no piece of clothing in existence that I can say I would "never" wear, as I wouldn't put it past me to wear any given thing if I feel the moment is appropriate. But I am however extremely unlikely to wear any piece of clothing that would cost more than a new car, particularly if that piece of clothing is uncomfortable diamond studded lingerie. I'm also unlikely to wear a really trashy halloween costume, particularly if it's made of plastic and/or comes with a tiara and feather boa. And I'm unlikely to wear "units" knit coordinates that were popular in the 1980s, even as a tacky joke outfit, because they are just so extraordinarily ugly and unflattering. I'm also unlikely to wear a Stongbad-like wrestling mask, since they make me claustrophobic. And finally I'm unlikely to wear a brand new full length mink coat, because I think I'd feel too guilty about those poor little minks.