Monday, June 22, 2015

The time I put Instagram in its place.

Two friends captured previously at one of the public pianos.

I decided I wanted to take a walk today. I work in a basement. Sometimes we all just need to get out. I wanted some fresh air, to recall the season, and to escape the shackles of my computer.  

I walked to do some business at the bank, which is about a half mile from my workplace.  Along the way I encountered one of the City Sounds Public Pianos. Part of a local organization's efforts to put pianos in random spots in the city for anyone to play. I figured I would try it out.  I don’t know much about the project, but I assume the purpose is to bring people together. An artist paints and prepares the piano, musicians passing by sit and play and sing, interacting with passersby with no agenda. It’s a way for people to be present to each other.

I sat down to play.

“But wait. This is something I should document.”  I began questioning myself, “How can I get a video of this so I can post it to Instagram? I wish there were someone to hold the phone for me while I sing. Shoot.”  All of the sudden, this perfectly public art exhibit that I was participating in became a chance to gain attention elsewhere, just so that I could get a few hearts from people I hardly know.

I put aside my phone and kept playing. Forget about social media, I told myself.

A woman came up to me, “I heard you playing down the street! I love the piano, I can’t play anymore.”   

She was in a wheelchair, “Do you have any use of your hands?”  I asked her.   

“No, not since the accident.  Thank you for playing, I love hearing it,” she said, rolling away and leaving me alone to play for my fellow humans.  

Instagram was there, a phantom vibrating in my pocket, telling me I was disconnected - that mankind needed to know what I was doing. I said no. I played for the world in front of me, in all of their glory with skin and eyes and vital organs. I talked to another human being and felt the awkward emotions I was supposed to feel. That was the time I put Instagram in its place.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Coup d'état

Coup d’état
“Les morts ne sont pas morts.”
The heated trinity, tertiary structure,
distorted by tyrannic tritones,
would have never remembered,
nor would have they encouraged,
the wild slice of slutty youth,
sneaking into your fragile sack-
blood and bones disguised as humanity.
“Your first day was your last,”
is how it passed through the ears
of doyennes fearing their fortunes.
They used words like catatonic and
ephemeral.  They wept, wanting to
be grown up, big bones and thick cheeks,
dark red blood and witty remarks,
a foretaste of their last day before
becoming an afterthought of humanity.
You can’t put blush on a ghost
or get her a boob job,
or a booster bra.
But on sacks of blood and bones
despots can do all that.
They can make minions of men.
Millions of them. Drones buzz above,
they relax on  
cow stretched couches and other such
glamourous comforts.

They start wars from their phones,
and take breakfast in bed at midnight.
Inferno at their fingertips, forbids
them to see the fight of slaves
at the light of day.  
“Here lies a great saint,” the slaves will say,
each one walking away with a few cents in pay,
knowing that lies are free like truth
and that sacks of blood and bones decay.  

All those wronged rise from pity and life’s
unfortunate past to triumph in torture
of blood-bone sacks.
Rip them open and let them bleed,
and feed what's left of their bed-breakfast
to people in need.
To people who see the reality,
the slaves of humanity
who seek to lead.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Monuments of the World

I just can't stop. When my best friends moved into a new home, I knew I had to make something special for them.  I was trying to think of something that would reflect our homeland. Cities usually have something that represents them - Des Moines has arching bridges over the river and the capitol, New York has skyscrapers, Paris has the Eiffel tower. What does Guthrie Center have? BAM!
Guthrie  Center has a water tower. It's nothing spectacular, not huge, but it is the first think you see coming into our little city.  So I wanted to create something ironic using stencils, spray paint, and canvas. I called it "Monuments of the World." 

I made two copies, one for both of my friends, and they are now both featured prominently on their fireplace mantel. 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Art Student: Stenciling

One of my favorite parts about my job is that I can sneak into visual arts workshop and actually make art myself.  I often think I might have been more successful if I had stuck with visual art then with performing arts, but alas, I've found myself in a life where I can immerse myself in both!

The art workshop's current project is stenciling and spray paint. I'm in love with stenciling!  I started out with inspiration from Des Moines Juice's recent cover.  It Involved this picture: 
(c) DSM Juice

Anyway, I walking home at night, I go through an intersection where there are about 8 different sets of stoplights. I don't know why, but I find that beautiful in the dark. The changing colors, it's like Christmas time.  So I decided to make these stenciled feet march down a street with stop lights.  This is what happened: 

But I wasn't pleased so I started in with some different stencil ideas. The first episode of Portlandia inspired me. Put a bird on it! 

And it ended up on my board! Enhancing the birds eye perspective.

I tried another idea too, though I didn't use it on my board. This is a sharp-edged Keith Hahring inspired stencil: 

And here is my work with the other kids. Sometimes I get kind of competitive with them. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Defy the Day

We see between the place to be
Confiding in the lines on either side
Believing we are what we dream
And sighing when we find the lie.
They pray that strayers remain
Not knowing they hoard there lows
In safe sad space where their ways
go away like an unarmed foe

We defy the day and go. 

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Hen. . . a Zine

I've had a hard time getting the attention and admiration I long for regularly through this zine i created last week. I have thus decided to share it with the interwebs.

The Hen

She wants a boyfriend.
Who shall she choose? 

She found someone! 

They made babies! 

The End!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The hour of the beach is sacred.

Every Sunday morning, I would wake up the boys around 7:30 or 8.  "L'heure de la plage est sacrée," I would say to them.  Yawning, stretching, we put on our clothes and migrated towards the front door. Jacob would feed the poultry, while Adrien would push the motorcycle out the front door of the living room. 

Moto, Jacob, Adrien

The haze of the swamp fell over our house and the city, keeping it cooler than usual.  In my daze, I straddled the motorcycle, waiting for the boys to keep up with me. I would sit forward, almost on the gas tank, leaving room for them to join me on the motorcycle.  The suspension coils pushed to their limits, I let off the clutch, gave the bike some gas, and and the three of us rode off to the beach. 
Moto soaks in the view while we frolic. 

We sped by statues representing old Vudon stories, and what seemed like the entire city of Ouidah on their Sunday run.  “Yovo,” the would yell at me, or “Teacher!” as we beat them to the beach.  

January brings cold mornings. Adrien, Jacob
We would park on an old foundation, probably a former buvette or boutique. The boys would dismount as I dropped to the lowest gear and plowed through the sand, mounting the cement slab.  Leaving our sandals behind with the bike, we jumped off the platform and into the sandy wonderland.

We would walk if we had energy, chasing sand crabs, racing, rough housing, and dancing in the waves. If we were tired, we would just sit in the sand, admiring the spectacle of fishermen pushing their boats out to sea.  A careful game with the waves, they stood there at the shore, watching the water, finding the perfect time to push forward.  Anxiously climbing over the waves to get out to calm waters. 

The beach wasn’t beautiful in the traditional sense – you had to watch for broken glass, piles of trash, and the occasional piece of drifted styrofoam or wood.   The arch of the Gate of No-Return, the monument to slaves gone away, prominently marked the beach. It was surrounded by a collection of derelict buildings - a hotel once glamorous with windows punched out and soot stained floors.  

Sometimes tradition wins over beauty, or tradition becomes beautiful. The beach was our church - our Sunday morning place for quiet time, reflection, conversation, with whatever spirits might surround us.