Tuesday, December 23, 2014

What Christmas Means to Me.

 What does Christmas mean to me?


It's not my holiday! 

All this stuff?
Pretty, but meaningless.

I grew up the child of immigrant parents. Jewish. Holocaust survivors. Both of them.

Of course, as children, their neighbors and playmates in Hungary and Czechoslovakia had Christmas trees, and plenty of traditions...leaving their shoes outside, hay for reindeer... etc.

But they never followed them, never celebrated, didn't go to church. Didn't recognize Jesus as the son of G-d, or G-d or anything like that.
Who was Jesus? A nice Jewish boy, had some interesting ideas, tragically died young.

I was a little jealous of our Catholic neighbors, the Fredricks... they had the tree, the ornaments, presents... we had Hannukah, a nice holiday - we had a menorah, dreidels, gelt, potato pancakes [never had a jelly donut, must not be a Hungarian thing.] We did get some presents, but not giant toys, not the crazy haul the Fredricks girls got. We didn't have disposable income. I used to go over to check out the tree - I tried a candy cane at their house, and it was nasty. They also had a dog that wanted to bite me [Tuffy], so I didn't spend a lot of time there. Besides, those crucifixes on the wall were pretty graphic and not very cheerful.

At that time, people were still blaming the Jews for Jesus' death, so I kept it on the down-low when I could.

I never understood the issue... if Jesus didn't die, didn't resurrect... you wouldn't have him as a saviour...so what's the problem? I thought Jesus' entire message was about love. About forgiveness.

For centuries, our loving Christian brethren have been slaughtering Jews for that crime, and for any other reason that pleased them. My parents and their families really paid a steep price. When I was a kid, in the 20th Century... my loving Christian friends would call me "Christ killer!" to my face. I would be chased, threatened, and sometimes kicked or had my hair pulled.  I'd shout "I wasn't there! I didn't do it!" but I guess that doesn't matter...something about bloodguilt? How loving and forgiving that practice is...

In college, I piped up during a Religions of the World class when the professor [actually the Dean of the Humanities Department of a publicly funded state school] told the class we would all go to hell if we didn't accept Jesus as our personal saviour. He also had us read the single chapter on Judaism to discuss. I was a little disturbed - the entire chapter was almost entirely devoted to circumcision. that The Q&A included questions about big noses [?] controlling the banks and Hollywood, and using Christian children to make Matzo. Well, that was fun!

Hey, there were Hindu and Muslim kids in that class, too... and he made fun of their religions relentlessly!  Then there's me...the outspoken Jew [and two others that were cowering in their seats] who disliked the increasing spread of this "propaganda." 

I was followed to my car after that class. By a few loving Christians who wanted to beat the living daylights out of me. Why? Luckily, I had a pair of nunchaku under my car seat and I knew how to use them. I got all Bruce Lee on them and they left me alone.

I stopped going to that class for the rest of the semester.

At about the same time, I had a part time job at a department store, in the gift wrap department. I used to wear a beautiful silver necklace with a Magen David pendant. A beautifully attired older woman brought me gifts to wrap, and while I did... my necklace was dangling... the woman asked me what it was... she actually reached over and touched it. I said it was a magen david [sounding more like the Hebrew than English] she said "What?" Oh... A Star of David... "What?" Oh... a Jewish Star I told her. She immediately reached out, lifted up my hair and asked me where my horns were. Oh, these adorable Christian traditions based on a bastardization of a word in Exodus describing Moses... and this statue didn't help. Thanks, Michelangelo for keepin' it real. Not.

Through the years...every job I've ever had [when I wasn't self-employed] I would ask for the High Holy Days off... back when I actually went to Synagogue and bought into all that jazz. [These days, I'm more of a provisional agnostic] [I'm not a joiner] Every time... without fail... some fellow employee, or boss would insist if I took those days off, I had to work on Christmas. Well -- you oughta know, I was perfectly willing to work on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day... I wasn't doing anything else.

As I got older, I paid attention to more things.  I read more about Christianity. How did things get so off course? I totally get how an Emperor wants to be large and in charge in Constantinople, and then how Rome gets all pissed so they have a break up. I totally get the difference between Catholics and the other denominations, and totally get how a randy fat king gets to invent his own version of Christianity so he can get out of a marriage so he can have his way with a hot babe... or how a really angry guy can nail some new rules on a church wall... and how you guys burned each other on the stake depending on who was in power, and how another king gets to translate the bible into English for the masses and gets to do a little editing along the way to make it more convenient...so yeah, over the last few thousand years, there are many, many versions of Christianity.

Sure, there are different versions of Judaism, but the only differences is how strict you are, and how many of the original 613 commandments you want to follow [yeah, not 10]. And, I know people who do. Follow. All of them.

It also cracks me up when I see pics of Moses
with the tablets and they have Roman numerals...Um... no Rome yet, dummy? Even Hebrew isn't right!

So, if this is sounding more like a diatribe against Christmas from a battered and abused Jewish kid... let me get back to the actual holiday... and why it is meaningless to me. From an outsider looking in. I still don't like peppermint, btw.

I'm not really much of a Jew either, I consider myself Jew-ish.

My first words were "more lights," I was told. I must have been talking early, but it runs in our family. I made my parents drive around neighborhoods to look at them. They are beautiful. I'll give you that. I'm guessing this is some kind of electronic nod to the Star of Bethlehem? If Jesus himself walked up to this house, do you think for a minute he would recognize this as a celebration of his birthday? Or his teachings?

Santa Claus. Sinter Claus? Old St. Nick? but how is he related to Jesus? Does that make him Jewish, too? Well... a nice story about the guy who gave to poor children got mushed from St. Niclaus to Santa Claus... I don't get the connection between that real story and the guy invented by Coca Cola
to sell more soda... but yeah, it's fun. Somehow, the story of a simple, Jewish rabbi wandering around the desert preaching love, and spirituality turned into mishegas.

Nothing says Jesus died for the sins of the world... like a dachshund ornament or ballet slippers!

The guy who warned his followers against being "of the world and losing your soul" inspired people to go broke buying their kids presents?

The man who said to love your neighbors as yourself inspired the annual War on Christmas?

And, those who think this is a Christian nation instead of a nation - a Republic - with a majority population of Christians.  These kind folks think I'm gonna get all warm and fuzzy if they get in my face to sneer Merry Christmas!!! AT ME instead of just saying Happy Holidays...or Seasons Greetings. Or busts a gasket if the Target Lady says Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas?

You can have your holiday, it's a lovely time of year, get over yourself. Why do people get so angry at people that don't celebrate Christmas? Or throw Memes around the internet saying the White House tree is now called a Holiday Tree by a Muslim President [major sigh inserted here] Are you really practicing your faith or are you just a blowhard fan?

No one even gave children presents for Christmas until the visit from St. Nick poem came out... it was written by a rich guy in 1893 who didn't want to give his servants gifts for Christmas [as was the custom], but instead invented this gat guy, the reindeer and all that... so SANTA would have to give the gifts, not him. Then, the department stores got in the act, and the rest is history.

Did you know that celebrating Christmas in America was illegal for a while??? Have you heard of Separation of Church and State? Honestly, your nativity set is lovely... get it off the courthouse lawn.

The man who said the only way into heaven is to DO the WILL OF G-D [which includes: to love mercy, serve others - especially the poor and walk humbly...., love your neighbor {so start donating to your local food bank}] and not what you SAY.
So, it's not how many times you say Merry Christmas, or how big your Christmas display is, or how many trees you have up or how much that Playstation cost...it's what you DO and how you ACT.

Ham for Christmas dinner? Uh, you know Jesus was kosher, right? Plaid bows? Wow, that technology wasn't invented yet in year 32 of the Common Era. Getting a tattoo of Jesus? That's not cool...as far back as Leviticus!

Celebrating Christmas has turned into a circus. Every year, I hear someone say "Put Christ back into Christmas." I don't see it, folks. When I look at Christmas trees, I know Jesus never saw an evergreen. Santa doesn't belong in the lexicon. Elves? come on, what did ancient Jews know from the North Pole?

I'm not being a grinch. I just don't take it seriously. I might've stayed up late on Christmas eve once...staring at the fireplace, just in case. I like cookies. I like carols. I really love Amahl and the Night Visitors. I'd watch the Mr Magoo or Black Adder Christmas Carol anytime. Mostly because it doesn't mean anything to me.

When I was a display artist, I decorated Christmas trees. I could fluff and light a tree faster than anyone. I fell in love with the lights and colors, and ornaments. I collect glass ones. They're out all year. One year, I got a sandblasted mesquite tree, painted it with bumper chrome, put blue and white lights on it and ornaments. No star, no plaid bows. It was our winter solstice tree. I can be a little pagan if the mood suits.

I see the Christmas being celebrated all around me as a morph between outlandish capitalism, the torture of the Santa myth until kids are horribly disappointed later - and pagan rituals. What you call Christmas has almost nothing to do with Jesus. And, I am not a believer... so other than the fact that I still don't like Candy Canes, Christmas means nothing to me.

I know you have traditions, and they are nice.

I have mine, too. Movies and Chinese Food...
and for many years, I'd go to Vegas. With all the other non-Christians [and that one granny chain-smoking at the nickel slot machine with her tacky Christmas sweater on]. I'm sure there are plenty of Christians there, too. After all, it's a Christian nation.

So if someone wishes YOU an easy fast on Yom Kippur, you'll be cool with that, right? Of if someone hopes you have a bright Dewali...you'll be grateful for the kind wishes. If someone hopes you family is blessed with warmth and grace during Ramadan, you'll say "Thank you, you too!"....right?

If you say Merry Christmas to me, I'll say "thanks, you, too!" back. I won't get mad at you. If I get a Christmas card instead of a Seasons Greetings card, I won't get mad. If I put a wreath on my door...that's blue and white... I don't think Santa is coming, it's just pretty.

So, Christmas is just not my holiday, and I don't celebrate it at all. It's great for those who do, but for me...it's just Thursday.

I'm sure these are pretty tasty, though...
Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Commission Conundrum

A lovely couple in Austin already own some of my work...
Several months ago, Husband contacted me and asked if I would create a special piece for their 50th Anniversary. He was going to send me some photos... due date way in the future.

I was in the middle of a really large corporate commission, so I didn't even take a peek at the photo[s] until I was getting close to starting.
This is what I found.
Original size? About 8x10"
Oh boy.
I was in trouble.

Husband wanted a piece 16x20" - usually no problem. But it wasn't a close up. It was their wedding pic from 1964! Husband wanted both of them in the pic, veil, cake and all.

Uh oh.
I was in BIG trouble.

Usually, a 16x20" portrait is a very close head shot.
I work from photos, and these were aged...faded...the colors were a little off.  I couldn't see both of them as clearly as I would like.
I asked... can I just do a close up wife? [no]
Can I skip the cake? [I hope not]
Can I see some more photos? [sure]

Husband sent more pics.
Didn't help.

I tried sketching, I tried painting. I wanted to say "uncle." 
I wrote - I'm sorry, I can't do it.

Husband wrote me a short, but lovely note. It hit me in the heart. I suddenly felt even MORE connected to this couple. I studied their photos. She looks like a doll...so lovely. He looks so happy.
Alright... I'll do it.

That's why they call it making Art the Agony and the Ecstasy
It reminded me... why artists sometimes feel like they're painting the Sistine Chapel. A portrait is so personal, so meaningful. I mean.. I can't screw this up!
It's too important.

I cropped the photo to this. I tried to amp up the colors.
I started, like always, with a sketch.

Is this going to work?

I painted, I cut paper, I got into it.
Suddenly, I felt like I was in the groove.

I looked forward to every day spent with the couple.

Parts of this portrait are really simple, parts are VERY complicated.

I kept going back and forth between their wedding photo and their portrait to be. I figured out what would work for me... and hoped they'd like it.

Here's the finished piece and some details. The majority is upcycled junk mail [like I do] and I used paper doilies to create the lace... some rhinestones for details in the veil [and ring]. I made a few color changes and a bit of paint to hopefully make the tulle more realistic. This is not in professional lighting...just a quick pic while still on the easel... sorry about the glare.

A challenge met is a real triumph. I'm very proud of what I created.
And, the happy couple is really happy, too. I was out of town when Husband received the finished piece. His note to me made me cry.

Say what you want about suffering for your art - making something with your heart and soul...with your own two hands - that has such a tremendous affect on another person[s] is what it's all about, baby.
I will forever be connected to this lovely couple who have a piece of me on their wall and I have a piece of them in my heart.

10 years in the making - HARAJUKU Girls Kawaii! Style...

Something like...oh, ten years ago Gwen Stefani's song Harajuku Girls came out. I liked the song, the album, and thought the styles the Harajuku girls developed was so much fun! I never forgot it.
Here's a pic of Gwen with a few of the girls... and here's a LINK to the song on YouTube.

 I had a dream about a year ago... in it, I was creating these ridiculous necklaces featuring plastic babies, that were flocked. I searched high and low for the right size babies, bought 'em, painted 'em, flocked 'em. They're still in my studio waiting for a place to go.

I rediscovered Harajuku girls again... and there are a LOT of different styles. I like the Kawaii style that includes a lot of toys, baby colors, and ornaments. Here are some samples of what's happening in 2014:

Cute, right? I love the sparkles, the Hello Kitty look, the bright colored hair... so I decided to create a portrait of some Harajuku girls using upcycled items. I collected a lot of used things from thrift stores... barrettes, yarn, buttons, toys, jewelry, glittery things... and then started drawing, painting and cutting paper.

I made some changes along the way - in color scheme and a few other things...my motto is "The Impulse is the Action!" I put some red and white rays in the back to simulate the Japanese flag... everything else is from my imagination and inspiration.

first sketch
The paper I used is in my studio...a collection Holiday cards, packaging, postcards, business cards, menus, calendars, training manuals, trade magazine covers, catalogs, business cards, tags, etc. I save everything. All the paper used in the background is Christmas cards, or paper with metallic. Every single piece is cut by hand and glued on to the painting -I created- on canvas.
I cover all of the painting with paper... and the only paint at the end is used on the eyes.
Paper part done!
After I finished the paper mosaic, I added a little blush [yeah, real makeup] to the "girls" to tint the paper! I sealed the composition with a non-toxic gloss lacquer. Ah...but I wasn't done yet.

I assembled all those thrift store toys, jewels, etc. to add to the portrait. I know - the girls are flat, and the toys are dimensional. I HAD TO follow through with my vision. I attached, using glue, thread and fishing line... a variety of "stuff."
I even took some of those babies, painted on some pajamas, flocked them with irridescent glitter and coated them... drilled holes into them and made them into a necklace!
plastic babies in their glitter onsies

I cut slits into the canvas to attach hair clips, a crown and earrings. There are jewels, a doll, a pony, hello kitty eraser, a baby pull toy, more weird plastic babies, teddy bears, buttons, and other jewelry.
I was going to use lavender yarn for hair, but it didn't lay right.
At the very end, I touched up the eyes, adding just a bit of paint. The finished piece is 30x40" unframed, but edges are finished. You can see it "in person" in Miami in December at the Spectrum Art Fair. For information on how to get tickets to the oepning, send an email.

Yeah, it took 10 years for a song to make it to my easel, and to finally get some babies on a necklace!
Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Shut Up and F*@$ing Kiss Me, Already!

Shut up and Kiss Me...again! Again!

I've always wanted to show my art in Miami. It's been a goal to get into Art Basel, but I'm not represented by a gallery that will be there. So, I found another way to be Art Basel-adjacent.
I have a few things I want to show, but the most popular image I've ever created is called...
"Shut Up and Kiss Me."
I got out the sketch book and played with an image I've done before... a few times, in different sizes, different color schemes, different styles, different compositions each time.
They're not the same!
They're all one of a kind, all drawn by hand, using a whole group of new materials. I improvise as I go...after all, the impulse is the action!

Newest version, bad lighting...in my studio just after completion.

I decided to share a bit of my process with you by taking photos as I went along...  you'll see, if you look closely, I change the drawing, the color scheme, and make adjustments to different features. And, it's all done by hand, there are no computer programs that I use, just old-fashioned ART.
I hope you like seeing the process over a length of time.

Some of the strips of orange junk mail I was sorting...and my high tech cutting tool!

One version, in a private collection in New York

Another version, in a private collection in Texas

Another version, in a private collection in Mexico
The newest version is 30x40" - and will debut in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida - November 15th, 2014
You're invited!
click here for more info on the opening                                            
And then here:

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Smoke and Mirrors and Wolves and Wall St. and Feet of Iron and Clay

Magazines, Celebrity and Advertising - a toxic blend
in the "Age of AspirationTM".
They've sucked you in and made you believe in a world of smoke and mirrors...and you consume the nonsense and you consume the products and rich get richer...
unless they don't...

Poor L'Wren. It's not the first time a beautiful, talented person met with a devastating end. What seemed like a perfect existence to many on the outside - wealth, famous friends, luxurious surroundings and the best mode of travel... Might be like the life you want...but it may not be all as it seems on the surface. She killed herself. Because she was in debt.
A life beyond her means, and I don't just mean financial means. She reinvented herself and bought into a lie...that the fashion industry [like so many other creative industries] would reward her, with air kisses and fawning praise and great reviews, but more importantly - with a fabulous income. Not enough. So she killed herself because she wasn’t what she seemed.
Suicide due to embarrassment? L’Wren - isn't your legacy so much WORSE? Every news outlet imaginable picking apart your bones - digging in your trash - interviewing everyone you didn't want to know to truth... Just to find out you're in debt... ? It's SO sad. So many were jealous of your life. But now?
Look, it's not that I am unempathetic. I'm baffled! I think there is a problem in our culture.

‘Cause we live in the "Age of AspirationTM".
And the people that are most highly regarded by popular demand appear to be RICH beyond your wildest dreams. Grab your Cristal and take a seat while I snark it out.

I mean, really? What is on the cover of almost any magazine - not including “the one” causing all the controversy right now?

Ugh... photoshopped people doing impossible [for you and me] things - in exotic places - with other beautiful people. Yippee - they’re even losing weight while in the Maldives!

Inside? Photoshopped people in extremely expensive clothing you can't afford...BUT they are holding ASPIRATION pieces that you might... Can't afford the Prada dress? [What, it's not de rigueur for that parent teacher meeting Wednesday night?] Well...maybe you can afford the handbag...no? perhaps the shoes... no? Come on, the bracelet... alright, how about the perfume? NO??? FINE, just rub the sample on your wrist and call it a day.

And while I'm at it...not EVERYTHING can be HAUTE couture [so stop saying it, it means something very specific].
And not EVERY event deserves a carpet...much less a RED ONE. [What, no RED CARPET at The Bachelorette viewing party you're going to in last year’s Chico’s outlet pants and oversized T clutching a container of hummus and a bottle of three-buck-chuck?]

Look at who is being admired!
Yeah, allegedly getting sued by Trump "University" students who said they didn't learn anything.

Far be it from me to name the talentless, vapid brood nestled in Calabasas raking in YOUR MONEY  pause....pause... pause... And FOR WHAT? What are you thinking? ASPIRATION - "if I buy this perfume, or this clothing off the rack at Sears or watch this show or buy this magazine... then surely I'll be her friend? I'll have an out-of-wedlock baby? I'll have a vacation in Mexico? I’ll need another waxing by Thursday?
No. Nothing will happen. Well...they will make more money. And the magazine will buy more photos of them doing “normal” things.
Proud of yourself?

How about a movie [or two] starring Leo DiC that glorifies an outright thief, liar, drug abuser and serial cheat that only glorifies his own low-life self for three hours. So you watch it - no redemption, no remorse, no retribution [well, maybe in one of them, but only by accident]. Real life asshat gets cameo at the end of the other and probably a few mil for the story. Your reward for consuming? ASPIRATION Surely you will get a yacht? a hooker? a trophy wife?
No. Don't think so. But, you probably had a hankerin' for coke [one movie] or ran to Tiffany to buy a piece of jewelry "inspired" by the other movie.

Of course, you must have a Cadillac. Go ahead, you work hard.
Of course, you must have a Louis Vuitton bag for your chihuahua.
Of course, you must party in Ibiza. Tonight!
Of course, you must book Beyonce for little Clementine's bat mitzvah. And don’t forget to invite little Blue!

What has our society come to?
IT'S YOUR FAULT! You click on their images, you buy their magazines, their books, their products, you want to look like them, be like them, what's wrong with YOU??? [I mean...what's wrong with you just being you, you're okay the way you are, just ask your dog]

In the "Age of AspirationTM" everyone wants what they can't get or don't deserve.
Who gets MILLIONS OF DOLLARS into debt? - Oh yeah, those people------>

Who has that kind of credit?
I know people that can't afford their MORTGAGE PAYMENT - or their kid's daycare - or their retirement - or a vacation.

And those goofballs you see on TV living a fabulous life? They're getting paid to do that. And getting freebies all the time. Producers are providing plastic surgery for even the most minor characters [think Storage Wars] so they'll look the part - or disguise smoke and mirrors in camo and facial hair. Every clothing, jewelry, accessory manager under the sun is sending them stuff to wear on TV, sending them on trips, shepherding them into their restaurants and clubs... so their lush life is only getting plusher because of your aspirations!


Silly Rabbits, We've been trixed before.
Why do we admire these people?
All you sports fans who thought - if I buy this glove, this hat, this shirt, these shoes, this bat, this mitt... I'll look like, hit like, run like, Lance or Marion or A-Rod...or so many more...and it was BULL-hockey.

You voted for cheaters, liars, schemers...who thought they had us fooled until the mistresses showed up in blue dresses or in maternity clothes. Or military officers who fell for the cheeziest milf on the block while protecting others who abused women. The worst lined their pockets with gun money while graves filled with sons and daughters and husbands and brothers. TV channels have talking AIR HEADS spewing vitriol 24/7 so you’ll get mad, or even...and nothing changes because they’re just getting louder, not smarter because it’s all designed to keep you stoopid.

You wanted to make a boat load of moolah so you trusted Bernie who made off with bazillions.

Swaggert'd out of plenty of money... Jim and Tammy'd your prayers for nuthin'.

"Culture:" That beautiful young starlet turned forty and now she looks like she was hit straight on by a 40-mile-an-hour hockey puck. Did that aging actor have a screw installed in the back of his head that his doctor turns half a twist every six months? LOOK...WE CAN SEE your plastic surgery...you're not fooling anyone. What animal died on John Travolta’s head? Wouldn't we accept him without hair?
It worked for Sean Connery... and ladies, if you can act...a wrinkle or two isn't gonna keep us from admiring talent.


Remember Sex in the City? I just read the average income in NYC is $50,000 a year. Awesome! Who was going out for sushi and $12 Cosmos in their new Jimmy Choo's - at only $1600 a pop!?  Gallery assistant? Making...how much?

This "Age of AspirationTM" is crazy! It’s rampant. And believe me, I know it... I’m a JOB CREATOR [if you count me, sole proprietor] who creates a product I want you to buy [consume! consume!] and I’m trying real hard not to sell my soul just so kiddo can finish college or I can take the dachshunds to the vet or... you know, eat. Does that mean I have to get gussied up in a satin prom dress, get extensions, a fake tan and nails, 6 inch heels and fling a gimlet in the nearest “real housewife of Colonial Height’s” eye just because she cut me off in line at Panera? I hope not, because they don’t sell alcohol there. Me, [just like L’Wren was] is hoping talent [and the universe] will allow me to make a living.