About face

Masking Taped

Wedged between Halloween and the Day of the Dead, most ghouls ringing my doorbell this past week were hiding behind a mask.  Some scary, a few goofy and others just plain sweet. My front porch has always welcomed the masquerade parade with an equal mixture of carved expressions.

We take our jack-o’-lanterns very seriously at my house on Halloween.

We take our jack-o’-lanterns very seriously at my house on Halloween.

Masks have a rich history of varied cultural significance, used to protect, disguise or transform those they adorn.  Mask-making is a highly revered art form in many societies, practiced by the artisan and passed to the apprentice.  In classrooms across the globe, our children learn tradition, ritual and myth as they create masks with their own hands.

But, in the season of costume, I wonder more about the mask so many artists feel compelled to wear.  Why do we hide?  I say it’s time to take off the mask and reveal the ugly truth.

Oh so serious at a stick installation in San Antonio, March 2018.

Oh so serious at a stick installation in San Antonio, March 2018.

 Yes, this is the face of an artist.

 

Dead calm

When in the midst of creating an installation, I am lost in the moment.  Concentration and problem-solving are core to the creative process, but I believe it is the hand-mind connection that brings me the most satisfaction.  The world’s problems disappear and I find a quiet peace that I wish could be sustained forever.

So tell me, why such a sour face?

Watching out for that sneaker wave on Pacific Beach, Washington, July 2018.

Watching out for that sneaker wave on Pacific Beach, Washington, July 2018.

It was shocking to see myself as others would if they stumbled upon me during an installation.  My heart is singing, my fingers are dancing and my mind is in a calming meditative state.  The mask I’m wearing does not reflect the sheer joy I’m experiencing as a working artist.

Moss, moss everywhere and not a spot to place, Lodingen, Norway, October 2018.

Moss, moss everywhere and not a spot to place, Lodingen, Norway, October 2018.

Who is this imposter?

 

Wafer thin

The psychology of imposter syndrome is a very real affliction for many and seems to be rampant among the artist community.  Reflecting back over my 50 years, there is no doubt I am an artist and have been traveling a creative path, no matter how winding.  Technical sales in the auto-id and telecommunications world may be the mask I wear in my ‘day job’, but it’s the creative spirit beneath that defines me.

So, stand tall, fellow creative, hiding behind a veil of self-doubt, afraid to utter these words:  I am an artist.  We can see you through the transparent material because an artistic soul is impossible to shroud.

And, while you rise up, I will be routing for all things creative from down below.

Getting a dose of hot lava rock during an ice installation on the black sands of Maui, June 2018.

Getting a dose of hot lava rock during an ice installation on the black sands of Maui, June 2018.

Truth or dare

As I bumble my way through the landscape of social media, I’ve seen just how much the world wants to see the face of the artist behind the creations.  The overwhelming positive response when posting an image of myself in my element, particularly lying face down in the sand, has been touching and extremely encouraging.

The balancing act of a blue pea ice stack on Vikten Beach, Lofoten, Norway, October 2018

The balancing act of a blue pea ice stack on Vikten Beach, Lofoten, Norway, October 2018

It is the real, raw authenticity of the journey that we can all relate to.  We feel connected by the passion to do exactly what we are meant to, no matter how ridiculous we may feel.  Truth be told, as soon as we reveal our heart, absurdity vanishes into thin air.

Likin’ the lichen during a heart-red ice installation on Sør Arnøy, Norway, October 2018

Likin’ the lichen during a heart-red ice installation on Sør Arnøy, Norway, October 2018

But, I didn’t see this on my own. Deep in creative thought and high on installation wanderlust, I was completely oblivious to the face I wore or the lengths I might go for my art.   It took the love of another to show me how others might see me when I’m being true to myself.  The gift of this mirror has helped me see my face behind the mask.

The man in the mirror, Chris, getting a piece of the installation action in San Antonio, March 2018.

The man in the mirror, Chris, getting a piece of the installation action in San Antonio, March 2018.

Eye scream

As scary as a Scream mask might appear on your doorstep this time of year, let it be a reminder that we as artists need to shout out loud.  The world is waiting to hear our voices and see the sparkle in our eyes and the smile on our faces.

Why not take off your mask and let me hear your voice in the comments below?

 

 

 

 






Take charge of living large

The stuff of dreams

Nestled in the sand among sea-weathered driftwood in La Push, Washington, my daughter, Zsofi, dazzles us with tales of the universe.  As the stars above begin to twinkle, wild statistics of relativity bounce around our banter like the sparks of our campfire:

  • All of the planets from our solar system can fit between the Earth and the Moon.
  • Jupiter is approximately 318 times as massive as Earth.
  • 1.3 million Earths can fit inside our Sun, but 9.3 billion Suns would be needed to fill VY Canis Majoris, the largest known star in the universe.
How many grains of sand can you hold in your hand?  Only the La Push jellyfish really knows...

How many grains of sand can you hold in your hand?  Only the La Push jellyfish really knows...

And to bring us right back to the very beach we are huddled on, famed astrophysicist, Carl Sagan’s timeless quote drifts by:

  • The total number of stars in the universe is greater than all the grains of sand on all the beaches of the planet Earth.”

So, as we sit in awe of the cosmic vastness around us, a very simple truth emerges:

We are small.

Zsofi sizing up the largest piece of driftwood I've ever seen.  The magic of La Push, July 2015.

Zsofi sizing up the largest piece of driftwood I've ever seen.  The magic of La Push, July 2015.

 

Major Minor

The notion of small, and it’s more expressive cousins of compact, tiny, petite and wee, are often celebrated in our culture.  All things technological are shrinking while becoming more robust and efficient.  Micro-living and tiny houses are infiltrating both our consciousness and our neighborhoods.  Even our planet, in its itsy-bitsy place in the Milky Way, is dwindling as globalization becomes the norm.

In the creative world, miniature art has been thriving for centuries with dozens of active societies across the continents.  Who isn’t intrigued by the artist who has the patience, focus and unparalleled fine-motor skills to create the minute?

That artist is not me….or so I thought.

Teeny tiny Ice embedded with pea and berry atop a lichen covered lava rock near Stykkishólmur, Iceland, December 2017.

Teeny tiny Ice embedded with pea and berry atop a lichen covered lava rock near Stykkishólmur, Iceland, December 2017.

 

Under the microscope

Building a sculptural piece for my installation practice has been dictated by the space it is created in - studio, kitchen, freezer, silicone mold – all relatively small.  However, the proximity I have to the work in vision, creation and documentation magnifies its size in my mind’s eye.  Nevertheless, like moving from sketchbook to canvas, I can see that my installation’s substrate is actually massive...

Welcome to Planet Earth!

I spy with my little eye a teeny tiny ice installation.  Can you find it?

I spy with my little eye a teeny tiny ice installation.  Can you find it?

 

Lights, Camera, Action

The Hawaiian Islands are a tiny ripple in the Pacific Ocean.  Iceland is an elf in the shadow of Greenland.  The expansive beach of the rugged Olympic Peninsula is a milli-fraction of North America’s coastline.  Yet, each of these wonderlands have elicited vastness in contrast to the tiny installations I have placed. 

Ice embedded with leaves at the base of Dynjandi waterfall in Iceland, frozen above at 330 feet tall, November 2017.

Ice embedded with leaves at the base of Dynjandi waterfall in Iceland, frozen above at 330 feet tall, November 2017.

Through the lens of a camera, I’m pulled magnetically towards the details of the artwork starring in my play, but the setting is an integral part of the plot.  The locations have been carefully selected by a visceral energy, their draw magically nipping at my wanderlust.

Simply put, I travel to these sites because of their immense beauty.

Blue butterfly pea infused ice installation melting fast on the black sand beach at Waianapanapa in Maui, June 2018.

Blue butterfly pea infused ice installation melting fast on the black sand beach at Waianapanapa in Maui, June 2018.

Placing an installation within a sweeping environment does not make me feel small, but rather fills me with limitless creativity.

You see, it’s all relative.

Acres of ranunculus blooming in Carlsbad, California, made a perfect site for an installation, March 2018.

Acres of ranunculus blooming in Carlsbad, California, made a perfect site for an installation, March 2018.

 

Blink of an eye

Beyond the miniscule nature of being alive and kicking in this teeny twirling orb called Earth, our time here is nothing more than a blip.  How about that for making you feel small?

In my artwork, people often wonder why I make ethereal pieces that will be gobbled up by the world around them.  All of the time and effort, heart and soul, to be snatched away in a matter of moments?

Organically dyed dough (or Fruity Pebbles!) installed between lava and coral in Maui, June 2018.

Organically dyed dough (or Fruity Pebbles!) installed between lava and coral in Maui, June 2018.

Placing tenuous work allows me to experience the now.  It is the nano-second of time that I can create my own unique mark and marvel at its micro-impact.

Standing in the massive lava flow on the MacKenzie Pass in the Oregon Cascades, a spectacle that belched its way across the landscape close to 3000 years ago, I see a few scattered trees.  They have no business being there, but it is their wee mark in time and space that captures my heart and my artist's eye.

So, get out there and plant your creative sapling now.

Glitter infused resin cubes installed in a Lodgepole pine setting up shop in a lava field on MacKenzie Pass in Oregon, August 2018.

Glitter infused resin cubes installed in a Lodgepole pine setting up shop in a lava field on MacKenzie Pass in Oregon, August 2018.

 

Bigsy Small

For many of us, the idea of being small is cripplingComparing ourselves to those around us can foster fear and produce feelings of inadequacy.  Artists have this affliction in spades, all wrapped up in limiting beliefs that keep us from making our mark, even though the world is anxiously waiting for it.

Installation of acrylic painted paper sticks installed along the River Walk in San Antonio, Texas, March 2018.  I had more people stop to talk to me about the installation than ever before, all curious about what kind of mark I was making.

Installation of acrylic painted paper sticks installed along the River Walk in San Antonio, Texas, March 2018.  I had more people stop to talk to me about the installation than ever before, all curious about what kind of mark I was making.

Funny enough, the best way to move beyond this fear is by taking the tiniest of steps.  Just one unique speck today creates a growing momentum and informs the splotch of tomorrow.  We’ve been graced with space, so fill it up, buttercup!

 

The granular level

The next time you are laying in the sand, imagining the grains you hold in your hand are only a snippet of the stars you see in the sky above, remember this:

Living large and making a mark on Pacific Beach in Seabrook, Washington, April 2018.

Living large and making a mark on Pacific Beach in Seabrook, Washington, April 2018.

Guess that means we truly are larger than life!

How about leaving your mark in the comments below?