News

Through Sept. 20: Bronx Calling @ the Bronx Museum

Participants are invited to string together the flags representing  their strengths. Connect the toggles to the loops.

Participants are invited to string together the flags representing their strengths. Will shows how it’s done: connecting toggles to the loops.

July 9–September 20, 2015
Bronx Calling: The Third AIM Biennial
Bronx Museum, 1040 Grand Concourse, Bronx, NY
Always free.
Open Thursdays–Sundays 11–6 and until 8 on Fridays.

I’m very pleased that this exhibition, which has been two years in the making, is now open. It includes work from 72 participants in the Bronx Museum of the Arts’ Artists in the Marketplace program, who have diverse, strong practices (whose praises I sing in the Time Out article below).

On July 15, the museum held an open house for Bronx Calling as well as ¡Presente! The Young Lords in New York (recommended!). Over 1,000 people attended. See photos of the open house, which included numerous performances.

I’m debuting Character Strengths Signal Flags. This project has been three years in the making—I designed and sewed 24 signal flags in an edition of three. Each flag has a letterpress-printed label identifying the character strength and one of the six categories developed by positive psychologists Chris Peterson and Martin Seligman. The flags are installed with a legend and flagpoles. Viewers are invited to find and fly the flags of their strengths. See more pics on my website.

Character Strengths Signal Flags, 2015, linen, twill tape, letterpress-printed ribbon, rope, wood, flagpoles; 24 flags: 12.5 x 12 inches each; edition of three; flagpoles: 72–84 x 12 x 12 inches each; display: 73.5 x 20.5 x 27 inches.

Character Strengths Signal Flags, 2015, linen, twill tape, letterpress-printed ribbon, rope, wood, flagpoles; 24 flags: 12.5 x 12 inches each; edition of three; flagpoles: 72–84 x 12 x 12 inches each; display: 73.5 x 20.5 x 27 inches.

See Time Out New York! 

Dana Varinsky. “Emerging Artists Take the Bronx,” Time Out New York, July 15, 2015.

Dana Varinsky. “Emerging Artists Take the Bronx,” Time Out New York, July 15, 2015.

Bonus: You can top off your visit with a street festival!
Sundays, August 2, 9 and 16, 12–4pm
Boogie on the Boulevard
Right in front of the Bronx Museum, Grand Concourse from 161st Street to 167th Street will be closed to cars and open to a world of fun with free music, activities, and programs hosted by artists and organizations from the Bronx and beyond. What’s not to like?

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Make Things (Happen)

Make Things (Happen) Response Activity Sheets

Examples of completed and make-your-own activity sheets.

A few weeks ago, I received a nice surprise in the mail. Suzanne L’Heureux from Interface Gallery sent me some of the completed and make-your-own activity sheets from the Make Things (Happen) exhibition in February. One of the hardest things about that project was leaving just two days after the opening, saying “so long” to friends, and not seeing how the project would play out over the month. Going through the responses was joyful and bittersweet. Here are a selection.

Artist unknown, contribution to Make Your Own Activity Sheet station, 2015// Think Feel, Arrghh, OK, reflect

Artist unknown, contribution to Make Your Own Activity Sheet station, 2015

Participant unknown, activity sheet by Galeria Rusz.

Participant unknown, activity sheet by Galeria Rusz.

Participant unknown, response to activity sheet by Nick Lally.

Participant unknown, response to a pattern-based drawing activity sheet by Nick Lally.

Artist unknown, contribution to Make Your Own Activity Sheet station, 2015 // The I/You/Me/We Pyramid

Artist unknown, contribution to Make Your Own Activity Sheet station, 2015

Participant unknown, activity sheet by Dionis Ortiz.

Participant unknown, coloring activity sheet by Dionis Ortiz.

Participant unknown, activity sheet by Susan O'Malley (1976-2015).

Participant unknown, activity sheet by Susan O’Malley (1976-2015). This is one of five activity sheets that Susan contributed. You can learn more about Susan at morebeautifulthanyoucaneverimagine.com.

Participant unknown, activity sheet by Kevin B. Chen.

Participant unknown, complete-this-drawing activity sheet by Kevin B. Chen.

If you are one of the unidentified artists or participants and would like me credit you, get in touch.

Find all 45 activity sheets at the Make Things (Happen) web pages.

With gratitude to Suzanne, Interface Gallery, all MTH artists, and participants.

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Meta-Practice

Artist’s Inventory Software Reviewed

My highly-opinionated takes on Artwork Archive, Art Cloud, Gyst, Artwork Inventory, and Tessera.

 

When I first reviewed art inventory software, it was 2008: the dark ages. In 2010, I started using Flick!, a Filemaker-based program. It seemed like the best option at the time, and in retrospect was laughably affordable at only $30 for a one-time license purchase. It has room for improvement but works fine for my needs… for now…

Recently I researched current art inventory software for artists (not for galleries, those are too expensive and sales-oriented). Judging by the more crowded market and higher prices, entrepreneurs have been paying attention. But none of the products soar.

CRITERIA

For my first criteria, I refer to the CALL workbook from the Joan Mitchell Foundation, which identifies the basic functionalities required of inventory software:

  • Inventory number
  • Title
  • Date
  • Medium
  • Size
  • Images
  • Locations (current/home)
  • Value/Price
  • Exhibitions

The CALL workbook also suggests tracking contacts, but I’m not sure why you’d need to do it inside your inventory software, and not your native contacts app or Gmail.

Second, I’m not interested in turning my art practice into a profit generator, so I don’t need my inventory software to be sales-oriented. I have other software for bookkeeping and making invoices.

Third, I’m looking for usability and stability, to insure that my investment of labor and time will not be lost. Depending on one’s practice, it could take 10–40 hours to populate the database with existing works, and then a few hours every month to update it with new works, loans, etc. The software should be stable and operable for at least 5 years, if not 10 or 20, and ideally, 50 to 100. That means the start-up tech companies won’t fold, radically change fee schedules, or stop releasing updates for future operating systems. There’s a lot at stake—choosing this software is essentially betting a longterm stake on a developer’s longevity and commitment.

And if it all goes pear-shaped? My fourth criteria is that the software should have clear export functionalities. At minimum, you should be able to easily attain a CSV backup. That’s a common standard, but I still feel a tiny bit more secure with Filemaker-derived software, due to the durability of Filemaker itself.

To CLOUD OR NOT TO CLOUD

The first decision an artist may want to make is whether you need the software to be based on the cloud, or downloaded onto your computer. On the cloud, assistants can log into your account from any location without having to download the software. But when the software’s on your computer, you can work on it whether or not you have Internet access. Some cloud-based software boasts daily back-ups; downloaded software should be regularly, manually backed-up to an external hard drive or cloud.

I’d prefer software that automatically backed itself up. However I found the limitations of the cloud-based software were more significant and inconvenient than the relatively minor convenience of automatic back-ups.

 

CLOUD-BASED

 

The first screen upon log-in is the Location view.

Artwork Archive: The first screen upon log-in is the Locations pane.

Artwork Archive
https://www.artworkarchive.com/

Cost: $19/month
(Free and cheaper plans are available; I focused on comparing plans for professional artists.)

My take: Beauty, not brawns.

Pros:

  • Clean, easy-to-read interface.
  • Export to CSV feature.
  • Clean, attractive “reports” (printouts).

Cons:

  • Too simple. It’s not robust; the number of fields are too limited.
  • Too sales-oriented to me.
  • Artwork Archive has a strange organizing principle for their menu: Artwork, Locations, Contacts, and Insights (reports). During my testing, I kept ending up in the Location tab, but I’m only interested in locations as they pertain to artworks—the two are not of equal importance to me. It seems over-enamored with mapping.
  • Lacks a field for exhibition history (part of our first criteria); you have to add a new location for every exhibition, but if you have more than one exhibition at that location (such as your regular gallery), it could get confusing or complicated when you search for the work in an exhibition. You also enter dates as specific dates, but just because the exhibition ends on a certain date, doesn’t mean that the work will be received back right after.
  • Limited edition runs are confusing, because it automatically assumes that the location is your inventory. You can’t change it unless you register a sale. But what if part of the edition is at a gallery on consignment, or at the print shop that made it? What if you donated it, but it may or may not sell? What if it’s in transit?
  • The Reports feature is not very robust. To make one, you download a PDF. You can’t preview it first. You can’t seem to adjust the typography or add headers.
  • You can append which competitions you’ve submitted the work to, but that seems of limited value since nowadays so many calls are hosted on Slideroom or Submittable, where you look up that info.

A note about website integration: You can integrate your inventory with a website. I asked to see an example, and it prominently features the Artwork Archive menu bar at the top. Even if I used and recommended software to my friends, I would not want my portfolio to be branded by a product so unsubtly.

 

Too harsh?

ArtCloud: Multiple required form fields.

ArtCloud
https://www.artcld.com/

Cost: $19/month
(For $49/month, they’ll also host a website)

My take: If you need a cloud-based solution, go with Artwork Archive.

Cons:

  • Poor, annoying user experience. Dimensions, medium, and pricing are all required before you can create an artwork record. That’s not always possible. For example, if you’re having the work fabricated, or you’ve already shipped off the work, you can’t measure it. Further, artists who are represented by galleries don’t set prices. You should be able to create a record with the info you have and fill in blanks later—you shouldn’t be forced to make something up in order to save a new record. These are completely arbitrary limitations. Another example of this is that the inventory number field only allows numbers, no letters, dots or hyphens (the CALL workbook suggests including your initials, and possibly a letter to indicate a category, such as “P” for “painting”).
  • Buggy. I signed in for a trial, and created a new record, got a pop-up that a new record was created, but it’s nowhere to be found. I tried it again, with the same result, with the additional bug that the image field is no longer clickable.
  • It’s like an inventory system for an art business, with “Artwork” sharing the main menu with “Merchandise,” “Clients,” and “Invoices.”
  • No field for exhibition history (part of CALL’s criteria).

ON-PREMISE

 

Afterimages await.

Gyst: call me a design snob.

Gyst
http://www.gyst-ink.com/software/

Cost: $59–129 one-time license.

Note: I reviewed the webpage, but didn’t download a trial.

My take: Too many bells and whistles.  

  • Aesthetically challenged. The interface looks less goofy than it was years before, but it’s still visually harsh, with white text on solid red backgrounds (which may not be accessible to vision-impaired or color blind users).
  • Gyst is still a confusing amalgamation of an inventory system, resources (“Business Issues Advice”), and other functionalities of questionable utility, such as an artist’s statement archive, résumé archive, and bibliography (which text-editing software would be better for; they even suggest importing your grants and proposals from Gyst for “use in a word-processing program to fine-tune, spell check, and format”). Other potentially useful functions are underpowered: in the screen shown above, you can list expenses, but don’t count on basic calculations like multiplying the cost per unit by quantity.

 

Better a live donkey.

Artwork Inventory: a workhorse.

Artwork Inventory
http://artworkinventory.com/

Cost: $150 flat-rate license

My takeaway: A homely contender built with actual artists in mind.

Pros:

  • This came highly recommended by a gallery owner and artist who used it for years.
  • From the video, it looks like there are a wide variety of reports which artists actually use, such as price lists that are handsome enough to put in a gallery binder.

Cons:

  • It looks like Filemaker. The interface is small, pinched, and cluttered. A zoom feature would be helpful.
  • It behaves like Filemaker. Knowledge of Filemaker is not common among artists, and the learning curve can be intimidating. In Artwork Inventory, you navigate between buttons on the screen and in the menu bar. Even knowing how to use Filemaker, I found it a bit frustrating to get familiar with all the buttons and they way they are organized.
  • I watched the intro video and browsed the site, but there’s no contact info for support. I’d be nervous that software developed and maintained by a lone individual doesn’t offer any customer service. Maybe there is customer service only to existing customers, or maybe not, but there’s no way to ask first. The risk of the software not being updated for future operating systems feels larger when there’s only one person behind it.
  • You can’t drag images into the image field. That’s a minor detail that will add up when you’ve got dozens of artworks to inventory, or if you want to include multiple views per work.

There’s a tab for “website management” where the inventory software might become integrated with a website, which is smart and ideal, but there’s only sales language on it, no examples of actual artist’s websites produced with this integration.

 

 

One of Tessera's many windows.

One of Tessera’s many windows.

Tessera
http://arawak.com.au/

Cost: $249 flat-rate license

My take: The top of a small heap.

Caveat: I currently use Flick!, Tessera’s predecessor software, so it was easier for me to pick up its behavior. 

 

Pros:

  • It’s artwork-centric. It’s robust and customizable. There are lots of fields, including exhibition history.
  • There’s a help desk, and they responded to me.
  • You can export the data to Excel, or various formats. It doesn’t appear to include images, but it’s better than no export function at all.
  • You can drag images into the image field.

Cons:

  • It’s based on Filemaker and imposes some of Filemaker’s learning curve on new users.
  • Like its predecessor Flick, Tessera is really quirky. You can edit in some views and not others and often end up in odd views, having to find the close button on the pop-up window, or the back button. It’s a lot of mousing that would be better replaced with quick keys like shift-left arrow to go back, or command-w to close windows.
  • The customizability means there’s a lot of setup. Many fields have pull-down menu lists so you can create and select items from value lists. This way, info is presented consistently so records are easier to sort and filter. But that means entering value lists in a new view every time you want to add a new value. A smart way to do this is to enter all the values in your list at the get-go, but few artists who currently lack inventories will have that information organized and available.
  • Oddly, exhibition history does not have a values list, so then you have to re-type or copy/paste the name of each exhibition. This means it’ll be harder to search for everything that was in a particular exhibition, as typos will interfere with results.
  • A major flaw is that you can’t print a view. You can filter and sort results so you can see what you want on the screen, but then you have to take several steps to set up a new printing layout to re-create and print it.
  • Editions work strangely. There aren’t separate records for the editions. They just count them as multiples of the same thing. So then you can’t track which one is sold, who bought it, etc.
  • You can paste in information in the record, but it appears that you can’t attach info, such as an illustrated document detailing installation instructions, condition reports received from institutions, etc.
  • The dimensions don’t automatically convert. The price doesn’t include currency info. None of the other software offer this either, but Flick!, Tessera’s predecessor, did. It’s too bad this feature didn’t carry over.
  • The voiceover on the tutorial video isn’t properly mic’d. The echo makes it difficult to understand.

In summary, there’s more products, they’re more expensive, and they’re smarter and better looking. But few developers really understand what artists need, skewing instead towards art-as-business. Those who can offer power and flexibility make sacrifices on aesthetics and usability.

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Impressions

Writing Waves Indeed

The many reasons why Jay Caspian Kang’s “Writing Waves”—part memoir, part book review of William Finnegan’s “Barbarian Days”—in the New York Times Magazine resonated with me.

Kang starts out by researching writing about surfing and pondering its difficulty, locating at the crux one of my favorite topics:

“I concluded that writing about surfing was impossible because surfing elicited happiness, and it is impossible to write about happiness.”

I think positive psychologists would argue that the sciences and humanities can intersect productively with happiness. It’s not impossible, it’s just very hard to do without cliché. Kang says Finnegan

“was the first person I had come across who could write about surfing without schmaltz or weighty metaphors.”

Here’s Kang quoting Finnegan’s description of Ocean Beach:

“San Francisco’s ‘giant gray,’ ‘ominous’ waves”

I can picture those waves, and OB’s riptide warning signs, posted at every entrance. It’s there that I watched M surf, in the same years that Kang surfed there daily.

Kang, inspired by Finnegan, even considers intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation. To find flow, psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi explains, one should participate in activities that are worthwhile in themselves.

On clean, January days, surfing, even badly, was enough to give me a purpose in life. But on choppy, stupid days in September, as I paddled futilely straight into the first line of white water at Ocean Beach, I would think about Peewee’s vision of silent, simple doing over Doc’s vision of daily, ritualistic heroism. I did not really believe surfing was nothing more than surfing, but I hoped I might one day get good enough at it to drop all its sentimental trappings.

He seems to be yearning for an un-self-consciousness state of engagement, where one’s skills are matched well to the challenges: flow.

He also covets Finnegan’s freedom to solely pursue surfing, not unlike my jealousy of Matisse’s lifetime of art-making:

A surfer feels an even mix of nostalgia and envy reading that passage. The boundlessness of Finnegan’s wave chasing now feels at once out of reach and dated, in the manner of Kerouac’s Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty.

I’m intrigued by the humility, insight, and craftsmanship from both Kang and Finnegan. I adored Finnegan’s “Off Diamond Head” in the New Yorker a few weeks ago, and now am especially eager to read “Barbarian Days.”

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Art Competition Odds

art competition odds: Kala Art Institute 2015 Fellowship

The Kala Art Institute’s 2015 Fellowship Award received 275 applications for eight Fellowships and four Honorary AIR awards.

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Fellows comprise about 1:34, or 2.9% of applicants.

Fellows and Honorable Mentions comprise about 1:29 or 4.3% of applicants.

See last year’s odds, or all Art Competition Odds.

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Impressions, Travelogue

Impressions of Amsterdam

Exhibitions by Matisse, Goedel, and Kentridge.

A few months after I put up a map of the world with the loose intention of inspiring more travel, M surprised me with a short, spontaneous trip to Amsterdam for two of our favorite things—riding bicycles and seeing art and design. Here are my highlights.

The Oasis of Matisse, installation view. Photo: Gert Jan van Rooij. ©Succession H. Matisse, c/o Pictoright Amsterdam 2014

The Oasis of Matisse, installation view. Photo: Gert Jan van Rooij. ©Succession H. Matisse, c/o Pictoright Amsterdam 2014 // Source: stedelijk.nl

The Oasis of Matisse at the Stedelijk Museum

As a young art student I was deeply inspired by Matisse’s paper cutout collage. I loved how they were joyful and expressive, and full of movement and freedom. I missed them when they were at the MoMA, but it is just as well as the Stedelijk wasn’t very crowded last Friday afternoon.

There are two segments of the show. Downstairs, smaller galleries identify Matisse’s stages of development, often correlated to periods of travel, and show works alongside others by Matisse’s contemporaries. It was like a who’s who of early 20th century art, with Fauvists, German Expressionists, Supremetists, and more. I thought a lot about luck and privilege—the happenstances and conditions that contributed to Matisse’s development—being born in a certain country and period, of a particular race and gender, with the means to travel and devote oneself entirely to studying and making art, within a milieu of likewise-enabled artists, interested patrons, and a tolerant government. I thought about how these probably shaped Matisse’s psyche, and his confidence and ambition—the aspects of his art that are most striking. The exhibition leads up to Matisse’s late-in-life cutouts. It seemed that every stage was a step towards this fullest expression of the master artist. I couldn’t help but feel a pang of jealousy, of all the time he was able to devote to his own artistic development.

Upstairs, a large gallery displays Matisse’s cutouts, often using his signature fig leaf motif. I loved the color palette: rich, vibrant ultramarine, an even more vibrant magenta, black, red, yellow. These high-key colors underscore the graphic sensibility, yet the papers are hand-painted and improvised—you can see where the cutouts were cut and moved around again. Some of the collages are massive. You could spend a long time in this gallery, noticing how one’s eye moves around the musical compositions.

The Oasis of Matisse, installation view. Photo: Gert Jan van Rooij. ©Succession H. Matisse, c/o Pictoright Amsterdam 2014

The Oasis of Matisse, installation view. Photo: Gert Jan van Rooij. ©Succession H. Matisse, c/o Pictoright Amsterdam 2014 // Source: stedelijk.nl

While I was familiar with many of Matisse’s works, including his design for a stained glass window (above, left), I was surprised to see a number of ceremonial capes. These were lovely translations of Matisse’s free, expressive cutouts in satin appliqués. The palettes, designs, and relation to the body were satisfyingly unified wholes.

Finally, another large gallery is devoted to Jazz, Matisse’s book of cutouts and handwritten pages. While I admired how the cutouts were slightly textured as prints (and appreciated the validation that handwritten pages could make an interesting exhibition), I was interested to read that Matisse was disappointed in the result—he found the prints lifeless, and the experience helped him realize that the cutouts could work as artworks in their own rights. Even “master” artists have to take risks and fail (even if such works are not perceived by others as failures). It underscored the sense that one could use a whole lifetime to fully realize one’s potential as an artist.

Observatorie VII, 2013 © Noémie Goudal // Source: http://www.foam.org/museum/programme/noemie-goudal

Observatorie VII, 2013 © Noémie Goudal // Source: foam.org

Noémie Goudal: The Geometrical Determination of the Sunrise at FOAM

This show—with a series of large photographs, a photo-installation, stereoscopic images, and two short videos—was a stunning introduction for me to this young French artist’s work. She’s concerned with architecture that is related to the sun, and fabricates what look like xerographic constructions that she shoots as immaculate black and white analog photographs. They’re quiet and wonderfully strange.

There’s also an anamorphic installation of pieces of plate glass with cutout photographic imagery of an interior space. There are stereoscopic images of natural landscapes, like snowy peaks shrouded in clouds.

The exhibition is really rounded out by two short videos. Both are single, continuous shots from afar of a large architectural structure, wherein identically costumed humans commence and end a repetitive task. In the first, workers in white bunny suits descend ladders inside a massive, dark factory space, coming from a skylight and dropping beneath the floor. In the second, divers climb up and dive from a diving tower in a river foregrounding a distant mountain. There’s only about a half-dozen of them, and they cycle on for minutes, becoming more tired, and finally stopping. The videos function like moving image photographs of an architectural space, or like little scenes about an unidentified place. There is a sense of myth, detached from any specific time and place.

The Goudal show is excellently paired with Katy Grannan’s The Nine and The Ninety-Nine, portraits and scenes from a video-in-progress of the down-and-out in and around Modesto, CA.

William Kentridge, If We Ever Get to Heaven, installation view at Eye Film Institute

William Kentridge, More Sweetly Play the Dance, installation view at Eye Film Institute

William Kentridge: If We Ever Get to Heaven at the Eye Film Institute

There are three works in this knockout show: a 2008 single-channel stop-motion animation, a 2011 video installation with multiple channels, More Sweetly Play the Dance, a new commission especially for the Eye that is a 45-meter-long, multi-channel, synced panorama. The first two contextualize how Kentridge arrived at the third.

The video is a blend of Kentridge’s characteristic charcoal animation forming the background (I liked the restrained use of his signature style), a few puppets, and many live actors carrying props made by Kentridge. (The props are on view in an adjacent gallery, and are totally scrappy. A few are installed with the back towards viewers, to show their fabrication of corrugated cardboard, ink, hot glue, and bits of wood for reinforcement and handles.)

kentridge-prop-backs

William Kentridge, If We Ever Get to Heaven, installation view at Eye Film Institute

kentridge-prop-gallery

William Kentridge, If We Ever Get to Heaven, installation view at Eye Film Institute

The actors form a parade, which starts out with a brass band in ornate dress and dancers. The tone is joyful. I appreciated the combination of expressive looseness and high-production value. The staging of the filming must have been a massive undertaking, yet the props are simple, roughshod cardboard elements. The score, audio recording, and audio playback are very well done, yet the projections do not match up edge-to-edge, echoing the collage-like feeling of Kentridge’s animations.

As the film continues, however, the parade morphs into a darker, mournful procession. The sick push IVs, goaded along by others wearing head to toe plastic protection gear. There are gravediggers carrying shovels. One might think of Kentridge’s work in the context of the fallout of apartheid—something of the past, of a specific nation (though there’s a different resonance in the Netherlands, as South Africa was colonized by the Dutch)—but there are larger narratives, having to do with Ebola throughout Africa, that implicate all of us. More Sweetly Play the Dance is a powerful example of Kentridge’s ability to blend the specific, the poetic, and the topical.

In the exhibition essay, Kentridge is quoted as saying:

Every act of enlightenment, all the missions to save souls, all the best impulses, are so dogged by the weight of what follows them; their shadow, the violence that has accompanied enlightenment.

While I’m not totally comfortable with the futility and pessimism in the statement, it made me think about the Truth and Reconciliation process in South Africa, in contrast with the persistent institutional racism and denial of privilege going on in the US now.

A few asides:

We also went to De Appel Arts Centre, the Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam (project space) and the Huis Marseille Museum of Photography. Cool spaces, but I personally didn’t connect with the current exhibitions.

Privilege the viewing experience. While I had aspirations to visit the Van Gogh Museum, I just couldn’t bring myself to deal with the long lines and crowds. I’m not interested in elbowing my way into a clear sightline around a famous, expensive painting as other tourists snap photos. It’s too stressful and unpleasant. It’s not a good way to experience a work of art, and I am glad that I know myself well enough not to visit out of a sense of duty only.

I did have the odd feeling of recognizing works from art history books at the Matisse show. The reproduction does detract from the aura of the original, but more so does hype.

Safety first, and all that follows. I really like riding a bicycle but I rarely do. There are too many reasons not to—fear of being hit by a car, truck, or bus; concerns about personal safety after nightfall; poor bike lanes; not enough bike parking; bike theft; and aggressively car-centric attitudes in general. When you eliminate or minimize such reasons, it’s liberating. I enjoyed the integration and espousal of bike culture in Amsterdam during my short stay, and wonder how living in such a bike-friendly place impacts your lifestyle and psyche over the long term. We saw thousands of bicyclists everyday, including parents toting one or more children, and very few private cars on the road. Bike lanes were protected and clearly marked. When lanes are shared, drivers were almost always patient and respectful. A tram stopped to let us cross the street. That feeling of safety is maybe one of the most foreign and novel things I experienced—such a contrast from the outright aggression that cyclists face and have to psychologically armor themselves against when riding in NYC.

This pretty much sums it up. Life's too short to hate your commute.

This pretty much sums it up. Life’s too short to hate your commute.

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Uncategorized

Nuances Beyond Joy versus Sadness

Thoughtful ideas explicating good mental health, posted by a legit research center at UC Berkeley.

The Greater Good Science Center’s “Four Lessons from Inside Out to Discuss With Kids” by Jason Marsh and Vicki Zakrzewski (July 14, 2015) is pitched as a story for guiding conversations with kids, but the research findings in it can be insightful to all ages. Its messages are spot-on for countering assumptions about happiness and positive psychology:

Happiness is not just about joy.

It’s easy to conflate the two. As I’ve explored positive psychology in my artwork over the past six years, I’ve also noticed that people can react cynically to positivity, and celebrate negative emotions like melancholy in opposition to our current zeitgeist of happiness studies. But actually, positive psychologists emphasize that

people who experience “emodiversity,” or a rich array of both positive and negative emotions, have better mental health.

At the same time, be intentional. While you shouldn’t become doctrinaire about happiness as a goal, psychologists also suggest

“prioritizing positivity”—deliberately carving out ample time in life for experiences that we personally enjoy.

That’s what I’ve been trying to do with my work—to make space to be exuberant, think about purpose, find flow, exercise creativity, and nurture relationships.

I don’t need to make space for myself to be negative—I’m plenty good at that already. Like most people, I get anxious and stressed out. I ruminate. I replay regrets and hold pointless internal monologues about perceived slights. I get angry and sad. These are easy habits of mind for me. Via my work, I’m trying to create a counterbalance.

Lately, I’ve also become interested in non-attachment. Tackling things head-on is one strategy; letting things go by on their own momentum is another.

Mindfully embrace—rather than suppress—tough emotions…. Rather than getting caught up in the drama of an emotional reaction, a mindful person kindly observes the emotion without judging it as the right or wrong way to be feeling in a given situation, creating space to choose a healthy response.

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