Archives for the month of: June, 2012

Here are posts written in the weeks and months after my mother’s death. I am reposting them from my old blog since Apple is discontinuing the service at the end of the month.

Precious Vessels
May 24, 2011

My brushes are sacred objects, instruments of manifestation, tools for conjuring dreams. These precious implements of creation are not stored or organized in my studio without thought or care, but placed in vessels that act as portals to different realities and times.

These vessels engage my memory and fantasy with their stories and their connection to my personal history. Their voices speak to me through the transformative act of making art – painting my inner world, my hopes, my fears, my act of becoming.

The white porcelain vase with the young girl’s face was a gift from my father’s best friend on the day I was born, and was filled with pink roses, blessing my life at the very beginning with the hope of beauty and promise.

The Toby jugs belonged to my maternal grandmother which were then passed down to my mother and now to me. As silly and strange as they are, they were never used but displayed in fussy rooms filled with formal furniture and beautiful ornaments. Now flecked with paint and filled with brushes, the odd characters are released from their calcified existence and infused with life, possibility and inspiration.

David or Goliath
June 1, 2011

I was drinking coffee on my porch swing, the one I inherited from my mother, the one she sat on for so many years sipping her coffee, taking in the fleeting beauty of a Midwest summer morning. Like her, I sipped and rocked and inhaled the fresh aromas of the trees and flowers, listening to the song of birds and the quiet of nature. I looked up at the clouds, at the blue sky and down at the lichen growing on the deck and the insects crawling across the floor planks, scouting for a place to build a home.

And then I saw it, a special gift appearing to me within the intimacy of this domestic space, this small enclosed world – a slingshot offering from the ash tree that shades the strong rays of daylight coming into my bedroom. I knew that this gift of nature, this found object was not meant to be used as an interesting study for making art but rather as a devic talisman. And with that recognition, within an instant, it became a sacred weapon, a Vajric sword wielding its power, cutting through a thick forest of glamour and distorted views.

A question floated into my consciousness. Am I David or Goliath? Am I the small, the meek, the weak who overcomes great obstacles by releasing my fears and seizing the moment, striking outward and taking risks. Or am I a mythic giant who can be brought down by an incisive hit to the core of my vulnerability. Or am I both – do my inner David and Goliath need to be awakened so they can be revealed to me. Is it only then that I can follow the path of transformation and liberation.

Cleaning House
June 11, 2011

It’s strange how you get attached to things, even things you don’t particularly like.

Today was my second trip to the consignment store since my mother left me, since I had packed up all her belongings. I had forgotten what were in the boxes, some mugs, bowls, crystal, a couple of unusual walking sticks, knick knacks from my grandmother. And there it was, a ceramic bird I had given to my mother years ago. I discovered it at the Five Potters on Pear St. in Toronto. Mayta Markson, was the artist, the sister-in-law of one of my mother’s old friends.

It was a rather silly looking bird but that was part of its charm, particularly for my mother, who loved playful animal figurines. She didn’t like live animals – the smell, the mess, the scratching and chewing of her finery. But animal figurines were very appealing to her. She had a menagerie of decorative birds, dogs, fish, lions and horses. She even had a turquoise hippopotamus which I put on the counter in the bathroom outside my studio. I also kept the porcelain elephant-shaped side table, but like her, I did not stick a sprig of eucalyptus out its behind.

Her animals created a bit of levity in the seriousness of her otherwise elegant surroundings and this pudgy little bird was no exception. She loved it and bragged to all admirers that it was a gift from me. And today I let it go.

I left the consignment store a little lighter and carried on with the business of the day. But not long after, I was struck with a pang of sadness. I found myself suddenly wailing with grief as I was driving around town. My eyes welled up with tears as I did my grocery shopping and then again as I cashed a check at the bank. I couldn’t stand the idea of never seeing that bird again, that symbol of my connection to my mother’s quirky ways. I wanted one more look but wondered if I was mad to go back to the consignment store and satisfy my crazy yearning.

I decided I didn’t care and I drove back to the store and walked up the steps to the office where I had dropped off the boxes earlier that morning. I could see that the bird was still there. I explained to the woman working behind the counter why I had returned and asked if I could take a picture of the bird, the little treasure from my past.

She understood and allowed me to capture my need for a precious memory, a tender fragment from a life and a relationship that is no more.

Words of Love
June 22, 2011

Preparing sacred ground for my installation, inscribing it with ancient words of love in an ancient text – ANI LEDODI VEDODI LI.

I want to capture a fragment of consciousness not bound by time or space, with elements of the distant, the near, the mortal, the immortal, all connected, intertwined and converged, and infused with the primordial impulse of attraction, where we are moved to love, to commune and to find beauty in the holy refuge of union.

Toe Talk
August 3, 2011

When I am ready to start a new adventure, I begin by giving myself a pedicure and choosing a color that marks my mood and the magnetic influences that guide me. Royal Blue it is – intense, alive, mystical, magical and soulful.

I am just about finished the last minute details for my installation for the exhibit at the Anton Art Center next week. “Ani Ledodi Vedodi Li” is starting to take shape and come to life. I see my mother reflected in its sensuality, its rawness and its beauty. I have cried many tears over this meditation of love, dedicated to my mother, who passed away only a few short months ago.

Rest in peace my little lamb and know that I will love you for all eternity.

The Collaboration
February 6, 2012

A few weeks ago, I found a needlework art project that my mother began in the 70s and left unfinished. Missing her terribly, I felt an urgency to complete the project as if to collaborate with her and somehow maintain a fragment of the intimacy between us. I went through her bargello books to learn the complicated stitches and tried to follow her artistic vision. There was only one section that was left virtually unplanned with just one of her initials in the corner and some green in the background. I came up with something that worked with the rest of her design; I only had to change the background color in that section to pink because there was not enough green left in her stash of wool.

Then it was time to turn the needlework into a pillow. I wanted the pillow to be extra special and have the fussy details that my mother would have loved. So I searched for the perfect color for the backing, which was not easy to find and had to be special ordered. Then I sewed the pillow together and made tassels for the corners. Oh how my mother loved tassels.

And then as if destined by some cosmic plan, I completed the pillow today, on the day of her yahrzeit (Jewish anniversary of her death). With this realization, I tried to share a moment with her and placed the pillow under my head. Immediately the feeling of her washed over me, cradling me with her warmth, with her love, and assuring me deep within my bones, that our collaboration was real and that our journey together is ongoing.


Pescador Arte Films

The New York screening at Anthology Film Archives went just great. The timing was perfect, right in the middle of NY Pride week. Chris Rabideau, whose story was featured in the documentary, attended the screening as well as Eva from the Windsor Pride board. I was thrilled that the three of us could share in this moment and celebrate all the months of  hard work.  And how sweet of them to present me with a beautiful bouquet of flowers!

In the Q&A, we received very positive feedback from the audience as well as from the NewFilmmakers organizers.  One member of the audience was so enthusiastic that she is looking into the possibility of showing the film in Europe.  We’ll keep our fingers crossed about that!

Here I am with my cousin Portia Steen. It was great that she came out in the sweltering NY heat to show her support. Afterwards…

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“Kontiki” (1950 by Thor Reyerdahl. Hardcover. 500 pgs.), altered book, multi-media, by Carol Morris

Carol Morris’ altered book, ‘Kontiki’ is another work that will be exhibited at Man Up! No Balls About It. This piece strums a few personal chords for me as the book’s title was one my father’s pet names for me, with a little adjustment – I was known as “Kiki Kontiki.” I am certain that in my father’s case, the name was chosen for its lyrical sound and had nothing to do with the book’s content. But enough about my little stories from way back, and back to the business of art.

Carol Morris has altered “Kontiki”, “a 1947 macho memoir of a bunch of European men sailing around the world on a raft with a can of beans and fishing poles. There are plenty of pictures of the rafters strangling dolphins for dinner, playing grab-ass with girls in grass skirts, and deepening their tans on half clad bodies on the open seas. Not a wisp of femininity is evident.” Through this altered book (that incidently took years to complete), Morris reveals her contempt and delight at the man cave mentality of this needless saga. Her edgy feminist humor prevails with her playful use of color, pirate imagery and 250 cigar labels glued into the pages.


Just Because I Am will be screened in New York on June 20th, as part of the Newfilmmakers Spring Series. Chris Rabideau (gay activist and drama educator featured in the film) will be accompanying me to the screening. This will be his first time in New York not to mention his first time flying on an airplane.


I just had a wonderful conversation with Jennifer Weigel, a performance artist who will be participating in Man Up!. She was filling me in on the details of her exciting performance piece “huMAN up”, an exploration of gendering in language and how this affects all of us, both male & female, by playing into and perpetuating stereotypes. This interactive performance will take place during the artist’s reception on July 20th 6-9 pm at the Gallery at the Duderstadt Center in Ann Arbor MI.

“huMAN up”, performance poster by Jennifer Weigel

By examining the phrase “Man Up!”, evolving it into “Woman Up!” and finally into ‘Human Up!’, Weigel urges viewers to think about the effects that language plays in gender relationships & prescribed roles. Why are some traits associated with men and others with women, and why are many of those traits frowned upon when roles are reversed? How does this affect how we define ourselves & others?

I can’t wait to be a part of this!


Awesome juror, Suzy Lake, has made her selections for Man Up!, an upcoming multi-media exhibition to be presented by the Michigan Chapter of the Women’s Caucus for Art. The show will be at the Gallery in the Duderstadt Center, July 12, 2012 – August 9, 2012. The artwork in the show explores the essence of power and the notion of “besting” oneself, other artists or men in general. I can’t wait to start hanging the work with Exhibition Co-Chair Margaret Parker.

Homeland Security by Ulla Barr

The pieces are exciting and edgy and varied, featuring work of women artists including celebrity artist/juror, Suzy Lake, a native of Detroit, who now lives and works in Toronto Canada. Lake is among the first female artists to adopt performance, video and photographic work to explore the politics of gender, the body and identity in Canada. Combining photography, performance, film and video Lake’s work is notable for its early investigations into the idea of identity as a construct. Using costumes, make-up and props, Lake creates self-portraits for the camera, often by assuming new identities.

Suzy Lake as Jay Lee Jaroslav by Suzy Lake

By highlighting the artifice of her adopted personas, Lake “dramatizes the self-transformation involved in posing for the camera.” Today, Lake’s art is widely recognized to be pioneering. Roberta Smith of the New York Times notes that Lake’s work “parallels and may precede that of Cindy Sherman.” In the 1970s, the two artists were contemporaries; Cindy Sherman invited Lake to exhibit in an early Hallwalls show in 1975.

The featured artists are: Ulla Barr, Tracy Brown, Katie Halton, Birgit Huttemann-Holz, Claire Hyman, Krista Jiannacopoulos, Lauren Kalman, Suzy Lake, Tara MacDougall, Carol Morris, Amanda Moyer, Molly Marie Nuzzo, Brenda Oelbaum, Maxine Olson, Patricia Olson, Priscilla Otani, Margaret Parker, Roxanne Phillips, Judith Roth, Helene Smith-Romer, Cyane Tornatzky, Jennifer Weigel, Margi Weir, Lorena Ziraldo.


Watch the trailer for: Just Because I Am
JUST BECAUSE I AM takes the viewer through the inspirational journey of an LGBT youth group, led by an enthusiastic gay mentor, who together give a response to homophobia by creating a performance on love, respect and tolerance. While experiencing t

Click Here to watch the complete film.

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