Getting Hit with Covid

Getting Hit with Covid

I’ve tested positive. It was bound to happen, and yet, somehow it still caught me off guard. Even with two vaccinations and the follow up booster the virus managed to worm its way into my system. Blinding headache, but I’ve been getting migraines for over a year now, so thought this was some new horrible post menopausal progression that was the new normal. Took migraine meds.  Nothing.  Doubled the dose and finally had some relief. People who have chronic migraines talk about being in so much pain they’re nauseous and even vomit.  I stopped just short of that.  The feeling of exhaustion I attributed to my mother’s memorial service, losing her, missing her or some combination of all of the above.

But in the end, I’m a New Yorker.  We’ve been through some pretty horrendous times when it comes to covid so when there’s any sign of fatigue, sniffle, anything out of the ordinary, get tested.

Negative. Whew.  Dodged the bullet.  Again.

Then the feeling of being chilled, even though it was a beautiful spring day.  Sunny, in the 70’s.  We haven’t started using our air-conditioning yet. I check the thermostat.  75 degrees inside. I’m happiest when it’s 70 or maybe 71, so this was odd as normally I’d be warm. Decide to test myself again, just to be safe. And there they were, those dreaded two lines. Grab a mask, start texting everyone I’ve come in contact with, cancel any appointments that can be postponed.

Instinctively reach for my husband’s hand, sense his reluctance and draw back. Right. I’m a walking viral infected vessel for the foreseeable future.

Still I was able to conduct my Patron’s Ask Me Anything Zoom meeting. I did a demonstration of how, with photos, and in real time, I evaluate a piece, the things I look for to help me decide what my next step might be by looking at value, composition, mark making, etc to give me ideas and direction. I use lots of photographs and annotate them.  I even have one piece that isn’t quite right yet, this is a perfect example of what I’m talking about.

Afterwards another call, immediately after my Patron’s Zoom, but I’m still well enough and the distraction is nice.  Besides it’s always great to see other’s work evolve and take shape.

New meds, Paxlovid, are delivered, the young man delivering this new medication door to door is maskless. I restrain myself from scolding him. He’s a grown man, after all, surely he knows the risks.  He’s delivering medication to people with covid…. it’s impossible for me to understand the thinking. Everything’s political now, taking precedence over common sense and our collective well being. Still I worry about him. I fall asleep at 7:30 with his face in my mind.

It’s morning now, I’ve taken my 2nd dose of Paxlovid.  Am I any better?  Is it working?  Did I wait too long to start the medication?  Who knows.  I think I’m feeling a little better, maybe. I don’t know. It’s hard to say.

I go to gratitude.  Because this life is so fleeting and then we’re gone.  Laughter, kindness, random acts of care and thoughtfulness is always the way to go.  There’s so much pain and suffering out there, am I part of the problem or part of the solution?  These are my go-to thoughts, especially when I don’t feel great.

My brutal, brutal migraines are Covid and not the new norm. Yay!

I was able to get this new medicine quickly from our GP (who also has Covid). We compared notes on symptoms and next course of action.

My husband, who is recovering from surgery is testing negative.  So far so good.

My children are both negative.

I’m upright and able to type this and even maybe have put a few coherent sentences together.

It could be so much worse.

Thinking of all of you and hoping you are safe and well.

Saying Goodbye to my Mother

Saying Goodbye to my Mother

This weekend we flew to Aspen for my mother’s “Celebration of Life.”  I forgot to take photographs at the Celebration, but I did take a couple when we arrived or I should say, barely arrived.  We were the last flight to get in. When we landed one of the guys unloading the bags said to me, “you are SO lucky!”  I thought he was referring to our bags and said, “Really?  You mean our bags almost didn’t make the flight?”

“No!  Ten more minutes and the plane would have had to turn around and go back.”

Evidently the visibility was deteriorating by the minute. So yeah.

Arriving in Aspen

Herbert Bayer Sculpture outside the Aspen Institute

Surrounded by family and good friends, the Celebration of Life was a beautiful tribute to my mother with an outpouring of love, memories, laughter and sadness. But mostly joy.  Joy that I am fortunate enough to have such a big, wonderful family, with lots of siblings, and extended family, all of whom I love and am close to.  I was able to spend time with one of my nieces that I haven’t seen in ages, and spend time with cousins, distant cousins, extended family and many, many friends.  And then, dancing around the edges of all of that was my mother.  My beautiful, smart, complicated, funny mother.

Mom in her 30’s

Prior to flying out west I was feeling a bit grumbly about the whole thing.  It’s not easy flying out, it’s expensive, I didn’t want to go, but lurking under all of that grumbling was the feeling that this was the final goodbye.  By coming out to where she lived and having this very public “ceremony” we were closing a chapter.  And that… that felt far too painful to contemplate, much less really feel and be acutely in touch with.  That we also arrived in a snow storm, with flight delays and everything else that comes with traveling with four other people, it seemed to confirm my feelings that all of this should have been done via Zoom.  And then something bizarre happened.  On the final leg of our trip getting there, I was seated next to a young man who was going through a really, really difficult, as in life transformative, time.  He kept apologizing to me for spilling his “guts” and reassured me that he never does this. He poured out his troubles during our 45 minute flight and told me what was going on with him and it made me realize how important rituals are.  How ceremonies aren’t for any one person, but more for the collective group, the family, the community and in our recognition and attendance we heal individually, but also together.

My mother dressed in a Tweety Bird Costume during one of her many costume parties that we had up at the ranch.

Mom deadpanning while wearing her polar bear hat one Christmas on the ranch.

As it turned out, one of my brothers was quarantined in Brussels with Covid and so couldn’t get out and another of my brothers was unable to come, but attended via Zoom, as did a number of other people.

We started the ceremony with a pianist playing Mozart and ended with Ragtime, one of her favorite genres.  Everyone who spoke, spoke eloquently about my mother and there was laughter and memories and sadness and connection.  The following day I fell apart.  It was as though I’d been holding things together up until that point, but then couldn’t keep it up.  I felt exhausted and completely and utterly overwhelmed with feelings: grief, sadness, love, gratitude and everything in between.  Thankfully I was with family.  Family my mother was once the matriarch of.  She is gone now and yet she resides in all of us.  I can just hear her adding, “a dubious distinction…” I’m so, so grateful to her, and to all that she left behind.

During this bizarre time of Covid any gathering has the potential to be a superspreader event and while I am keeping my fingers crossed that this was not one of those events, I have already heard that 6 people who attended have now tested positive.  My immediate family has not, at least not yet, but we will continue to monitor ourselves.

When Traveling, Time Changes

When Traveling, Time Changes

Have you ever noticed how when you’re traveling, time seems to move differently?  The days go by both faster and slower, and once home, it can feel as though you never left.  Yet simultaneously seem like you were gone for months?

That’s where I am right now.  My trip to France seems like a dream, while also remains deeply embedded in my mind.  It’s both real and unreal. The piece I created while at the artist’s residency, a physical reminder of my time there.

La Bete turned vertically!

Isn’t it interesting how a piece can change, often quite radically by turning it.  This was done by pure accident because I needed to clear the desk it had been resting on horizontally and the only way to prop it up was to turn it vertically.  I didn’t think much of it, but then my husband called to me and said, “Look!”

We both decided that we liked it better this way, so this is how it will now be!  A little like time, everything shifts when you change things up and view from a different perspective.

 

 

Home, The Artist’s Residency and A Look Back

Home, The Artist’s Residency and A Look Back

I’m back home.

And in the middle of teaching a workshop this week, but thought I’d grab these few free minutes that I have to write a post. First off, if you haven’t seen my other videos and posts about my artist’s residency, it was AMAZING!  Truly beyond anything I had imagined.  Being immersed in art, living with a group of artists for two weeks was just incredible.  I had no distractions other than self imposed deadlines, and the occasional load of laundry, but otherwise I was free to explore, create, learn and be inspired by everything and everyone around me.  It was magical.  And added plus, in a group of 16 artists, there wasn’t a single prima donna!  Not a one.  Everyone was beyond lovely.

I’ve been home now for just over a week and already it’s all beginning to fade into the background.  In many ways it feels as though I was just there, as in yesterday, and in other ways it feels as though it was all a dream and never happened at all or if it did, it was years ago.  Time is strange like that.  Still I have both Paris and Orquevaux on my weather app, so everyday I look to see what the weather is like over there. It’s a tenuous thread that still attaches me to that magical place and time.  One of these days I’ll remove them both, but for now, it’s a bit like listening to an old phone message from my mother.  I know she’s gone, but I can’t bare to delete it.

The piece I created while at the residency is pinned precariously to a large foam board and propped up on a desk until I can put together a more permanent solution for it.  I started referring to it as The Beast until someone suggested I use the french word for beast, which is La Bête, and they’re right it does sound better, a bit less jarring, a little softer.  Still, there’s something about the forcefulness of “The Beast” that I rather like, so I alternate between the two depending on my mood.  My friends in Paris suggested I call it Genesis, particularly since I’m doing a series.  I’ve bookmarked that idea for now.

Once this workshop that I’m teaching is over, I’ll get back to it, but for now, it waits for me patiently.

While at the artist’s residency I interviewed a few of the other artists and then ran out of time and so was only able to interview six of them.  If you’d like to see what some of the other artists were doing while at the residency, you can watch those interviews on my youtube channel.  They are all under the Interviews! playlist.

I also had time to create a number of videos on the process or more accurately my process.  Here are a couple of those videos:

Creativity Mirroring Life

Creativity Mirroring Life

It’s hard to believe that this artist’s residency is coming to a close.  I have just four more days here before returning to Paris.  So I thought I’d do a pictorial recap of my time here so far.  It’s been beyond anything I could have imagined or hoped for.  Just amazing.

Gare de l’est

On the train heading toward Orquevaux!

My Studio! I can’t believe it!!

Some of the art work in the Chateau left by other artists in residence

And so it begins… getting the work up on the wall.

but now I have all of this space… I can go much bigger!

The view from my studio

Taking a morning walk with fellow artist in residence, Kevin Ford

Throwing some paint around

Adding stuff

Working and adding

Playing with shapes, getting in the blues…

Lichen always inspires

Taking a walk to clear my head and get some perspective on the challenges I’m seeing in the piece now that I’ve doubled its size.

The sheer beauty and magnitude of this place…

The boat house

The blue alien is now an ever present “issue” that I work hard to resolve…

Deciding that I have to stitch stuff down anyway…

Boldly stitching the blue insect/alien even though I have misgivings… maybe it’ll look better once it’s stitched down.

Nope it doesn’t. Annotating the work, before adding more blue, because if the blue bits are the problem, let’s throw more on there and see what happens.

The blue rabbit hole continues. I’m so deep in it I can’t see my way out.

Still I can appreciate the fabulous art all around me that covers the walls of this amazing place.

Raclette night and the fabulous Beulah van Rensburg: artistic director

The. blue continues to prove problematic.

But I’m determined…

and when all else fails, start another piece…

Fellow artists put on a puppet show for all of us, to great hilarity and fun!

and then I return to my studio to finish my little study inspired by the lichen I’ve seen on my many walks.

And on it goes… the creative process continues.

The big take away from all of this is that the process of creating is often bumpy, but if you don’t give into despair and just meet it head on matter-of-factly, the process is actually very instructive and can be wonderfully fun.  It so mirrors life.  Some of the things I tell myself: Don’t take it personally.  You got this.  It’s a momentary hiccup, what can you learn?  This feels uncomfortable, but it’s okay.  I’ve been here before and gotten through, I’ll get through this too.  Breathe.  Be patient and honor the process.

The ups and downs, the unexpected road blocks, the work arounds, it’s all there, just as in life, but making the decision to find the joy, to be present, even when I’d rather not be, that’s the trick.  Right now I still haven’t resolved some of the issues I have with this piece, but I know I’ll get there eventually.  It’s all part of creating and creating is always wonderful!  Hard, but wonderful!

The Terror in Creating

The Terror in Creating

Terror.  That’s a word they never mentioned in art school.

Color theory, art history, figurative drawing, these were all pre-requisites; considered the very foundation of any good education in the arts.

Terror?  Fear? Not so much.  Neither of those words or any words like that, were ever uttered.

And yet… who doesn’t feel fear and even terror, at some point, when creating?

As children, we run headlong, without thinking, without concern, without fear, and we create.  Using mud and sand and sticks and our fingers. We don’t pause and reconsider.  We don’t think – but maybe this isn’t a good idea.  Yet somewhere along the way we learn to be fearful. We learn that being creative opens us up to criticism, anger, even rage and perhaps violence.  Suddenly what came naturally to all of us, no longer feels natural.  We tell ourselves that we aren’t “creative types”.  And yet, I would argue that we are born creative.

Every. Single. One. Of. Us.

Creating doesn’t have to be on paper, it can be an idea, a vision, a way of thinking.  Each of us has a unique mind, shaped by our experiences, our interactions, what we love, our passions, where we were born, the families we were born into, the land upon which we were raised.

So where does this terror come from?

Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of rejection, fear, fear, fear.  We are taught to be “sensible”.  We are taught to not “dream too big”. We are taught to not “waste time”.  We are taught that to create is a luxury.  But what if what we were taught is wrong?

Moving through fear, even terror is one of the most exhilarating, transcendent things I’ve ever experienced.  It is what connects me to other human beings. It is what connects me to my creativity.  It bonds, unites, and can bring me to my knees.  It’s what causes me to rediscover the unadulterated beauty and joy of my innocence, that exquisite time before I learned to feel fear.

If any of this resonates with you, consider enrolling in my new workshop: Finding Your Voice where we will use various prompts, words, exercises and even stitching to break though our fears and find ourselves in our work.

 

The Creative Process Step By Step

The Creative Process Step By Step

A documentation of the process… I’ve come to rely upon this documentation as it helps me figure the next step out.  So this is how it began when I arrived and then I realized – Oh!  I can create something SO much bigger!!  Once that idea hit, I took all the other stuff off and began adding fabric.  In fact, I doubled the size of the original piece, which was very, very exciting!!!

Beginning

An idea occurs to me: I can go bigger!

Bigger it is!

Now I have to find a sewing machine so that I can piece it together…

And then I took another photograph once it was all pieced, so that I could put it up on my computer to annotate it.  This step is crucial and one that I’ve come to rely on.  I find it makes all the difference in the world as I can literally draw on top of the photograph, delete, play, try any number of things, play some more, move shapes around, see what I think, before committing to anything.

Where do I go from here? Annotating makes all the difference in the world!

 

Testing the annotated ideas…

Continuing to look, play, try out ideas…

Stepping away.  Zooming back in, stepping away… this is all part of the process.

Adding a bit of blue in the upper left corner.

Now what?
Who knows?!  And that’s all part of the fun of the process.  Adding, moving, playing, trying out other ideas…

It’s time for lunch, and then I will return and play some more, but all in all I’m loving the process and enjoying the movement of this piece.  The trick is to keep going and not allow oneself to get bogged down with doubt!  Continuing is key!!  And loving every moment helps as well.

The Artist’s Residency Begins!

The Artist’s Residency Begins!

I cannot begin to describe how incredibly grateful and fortunate I am to be able to do this 2-week residency in this Chateau in Orquevaux.  It is beyond anything I could have imagined.  I have a studio, a real studio where I can splash paint around and create pieces that are much, much bigger than anything I could have dared imagine back in my workspace in New York City.  It is like being in a dream.  Seriously.  And here’s the thing, I’m practically in tears because I’m just overwhelmed at how lucky I am to be able to do this, to have this opportunity, to have this kind of space, to be able to create without distractions, to be able to make a mess… it really is a dream come true.

My view…

My studio for the next 2 weeks.

This is the piece I brought with me and have begun working on…

And here it is a little bit later…

More will be revealed!

Wandering in Paris

Wandering in Paris

Yesterday I did more wandering and in doing so got a bit turned around and so approached a woman of a certain age, who, in reply to my question, “Excusez moi, parlez vous anglais?” said, “Très mal!” Which means, “very badly!”  I was just thrilled. No, seriously, my heart skipped a beat because I knew this meant that she would put up with my fumbling attempts to speak french AND would probably forgive my butchering of her beautiful language.  I was then able to tell her I was lost and was trying to find the metro and did she know where the correct metro line was.  Thankfully I was even able to understand her directions.  Yay and Yay!

Later I had some trouble with my metro day pass and was able to get help from two lovely gentlemen who informed me (in French) that I mustn’t keep my metro ticket next to my cell phone as it deactivates it, but they issued me a new one, and off I went to visit the Catacombs!  This last conversation was spoken in a combination of French and English, which I’m getting quite good at and people seem to understand, and are very kind and patient with me.  Oh how I love France!

As I was a bit early for my tour of the Catacombs, I went to an exhibit of female photojournalists and another on the occupation of Paris during World War II.

Christine Spengler

Lee Miller

Catherine Leroy

Susan Meiselas

The exhibit on the occupation of Paris was also powerful.

And then it was time for my tour of the Catacombs!

I was supposed to then go to the Sacre Coeur, but I got onto the wrong train and didn’t realize until it was too late to get there in time, so that will have to be another day.

I spent the evening with friends.  And on the way to their home I stopped in one of the many beautiful flower shops in Paris and brought them these.

Today I’m off to the Aiguille en Fete!

Attempting to Speak French in Paris

Attempting to Speak French in Paris

It must be said that it was a rocky start as my attempts to speak French began with a faux pas.

I arrived in Paris, breezed through customs, got my bag, navigated the taxi line and after the required salutations said, Tu prends les credits carte? Which means “Do you take credit cards? except that I used the informal you, as though we were old chums, which is considered rude, and just a little disrespectful, thus solidifying the stereotype of the “ugly American.”   My apologies to my fellow Americans out there.

There was a silent gasp.  I swear I heard it. And then, being the elegant man that he undoubtedly was, he politely responded, using the formal you, with something like, Bien sûr, mais si vous avez en espèces, ce serait apprécié. Which means: Of course, but if you have cash, that would be appreciated.  Realizing my mistake, I said, Je suis désolé, mon français est terrible, mais je fais de mon mieux. Meaning, I’m sorry, my French is terrible, but I do my best. I’m not sure that softened the blow, but I couldn’t think of what else to say. The remainder of the long cab ride to my hotel was spent in silence.

Needless to say, I paid with Euros.

Still, not to be deterred, I attempted to check in speaking French, but before I could get past the initial, bonjour, j’ai une réservation… he responded in English.

Now it must be noted that I’ve been practicing my French dutifully every single day for the past two years in anticipation of this trip and was really hoping to practice and maybe even have a conversation, albeit a rudimentary one.

However things went off the rails when the nice woman from housekeeping came to ask if I would like her to return with a vacuum cleaner because of some dirt that had fallen while the guy was trying to fix one of the black out blinds that wasn’t descending properly.  Now I know the word for housekeeper, femme de ménage, but I have never heard the word for vacuum cleaner.so I finally said, Pardon, je ne sais pas ce ça – Pardon me, I don’t know what this is, Who could blame her when she looked around in confusion.  What I meant to say was, I’m sorry I don’t understand what that means, but I was getting tired and couldn’t think clearly.  She then apologized and continued in perfect English.

Even when I sat down to have un cafe at a little Parisian restaurant on the Seine, and I successfully ordered in French and even was able to have a two sentence back and forth, feeling flush with my success I was utterly deflated when the waiter began replying in English.  Still, I insisted, somewhat comically to continue in my very bad French, while he replied in English and here’s the thing – just about everyone in Paris speaks English much better than I speak French.  Seriously small children have a leg up on me.  Though it must be noted, I did not attempt to carry on a conversation with any small children, all parents will be relieved to know that.

I did manage to take the metro, I was extremely pleased with myself, and even figured out how to transfer and purchase a ticket using one of the many machines they have. But when I tried to insert the ticket into the machine, all bets were off.  A nice young man finally came to my assistance to tell me that, yes, you put the ticket into the slot and it spits it out just beyond.  All was well.

There were countless instances when I couldn’t think quickly enough to respond in French to various things, such as when a group of young men passed me as I was walking along the Seine.  One young man said, Bonjour! and then followed that up with, Tu es très jolie!  You are very pretty.  What I wanted to say was, Merci, mais je pourrais être ta mère, Thank you, but I could be your mother, but instead I just kept walking, which was probably just as well. Oh please, I qualify for senior citizen discounts!

Still, tomorrow is another day and who knows what lively conversations I may attempt?

For those of you who’d like to see some video and photos of my first day, you can watch this short YouTube video.