as i was biking home tonight i was thinking that maybe happiness and contentment have some pretty significant connection to the feeling of wanting to be where you are. i mean, looking back on life, there have been times and places that felt so right, and others that took some adjustment. some things just never panned out. i’ve definitely struggled with feeling totally at home or connected in this town since i arrived. i guess there’s always a bit of an adjustment. ups and downs, that settle (eventually?) (hopefully?) into and upward trajectory. but what about when you don’t seem to adjust? even before i was on this ceramic artist track i was pretty nomadic, so i’ve rarely been settled in one place long enough to really come face to face with overcoming disconnection. until now.
i was just thinking that, when things don’t seem to feel right, when you find yourself procrastinating more than you are being productive, it’s not because you are a terrible person/artist and lack any discipline, right? perhaps it is because of the totally human reaction to discomfort and disconnection—>avoidance.
i definitely don’t mean “place” entirely in a physical sense. where we are is definitely a mental state too. and since we can’t always choose where we are, or how long we’ll be there, maybe we naturally cultivate acceptance and excitement about how to move forward. unless we don’t. i mean, sometimes my reptile brain just takes over and avoids and it’s only when things get bigger (i.e. finding yourself avoiding making work a.k.a. your favorite thing in the world to do) that you have to take a step back and evaluate.
ok, so it’s fine. despite all the positives, benefits, and amazing people around me in this time and place, i’m finding myself not feeling it. this is normal-ish. and as a flawed, awesome, multi-faceted individual i can call upon my strengths to move forward and embrace this unique experience i’m having.
huge crowd outside, waiting for the doors to open.
in january i had the good fortune to see tavis smiley and cornel west speak in pugh hall at UF. i showed up about an hour early, not knowing what the venue was like or what kind of crowd there would be. thank goodness i got there when i did because the place was packed. i was extremely lucky to get a seat, as some folks were diverted to an auditorium where they were streaming the talk live. not only did the stream not show up well but the auditorium, i heard, was packed as well.
tavis smiley introduced cornel west. it was clear in his presentation that he greatly admired dr. west and he seemed to set the stage for him to speak. this was my first time to hear cornel west speak and they made a great duo, smiley with his clear cut details, and sassy asides and dr. west with his theatrical way of speaking.
they were there to talk about poverty. as in, 50% of americans are in or near poverty. really depressing stuff but when i got up to leave, i didn’t feel depressed. they said what they had to say in a way that lifted the audience up.
looking down at my notebook, all i see are scraps of phrases, statistics and quotations. it doesn’t make much of a picture. but what i remember is a particular feeling of elation every time west spoke of a movement that needs to be multi-racial, multi-cultural, and inclusive all all genders, ethnicities, sexual identities, faiths (including athiests:)). it goes without saying but i LOVE that he didn’t let it. i loved that when someone brought up racism happening in the occupy movement, it didn’t phase him, simple, white supremacy and male supremacy come up in progressive movements, we just have to help each other out, push each other to be better.
after the talk i went up to shake their hands, it was a huge crowd, and i think if i hadn’t been alone i may have easily been talked out of it. but i felt so touched and i wanted to shake cornel west’s hand and tell him that the book race matters had significantly impacted my life. it’s so easy to get bummed out, to think that their is no way that equality will ever prevail, that things are always getting worse, but one of the points that resonated with me from race matters is that the one thing you can always do, the one thing that will change the world, is to create love and foster connections.
as it turned out, by the time i got to the stage, he and smiley were being encouraged by their assistants that it was time to leave. west reached down a hugged a few of us left waiting, tavis smiley shook my hand, i said “thank you” and headed out.
good bye 2011. hello 2012. the last year has been paradoxically super challenging, the most so since i returned to the u.s. in 2005. sounds crazy, i know, but i just haven’t felt that full-on “flow” in the last year of my life.
anyway, new year, new life, and some resolutions to accompany it.
1. blog everyday. write more.
2. be proactive (and hardcore). follow all the roads to the end, creatively. schedule studio time and stick to it. apply to at least one show a month.
3. enjoy health. schedule exercise. go out into nature at least once a month. transition to eating only local/organic meat.
4. stick to my budget. find ways to decrease spending.
5. visualize/create the future. set large goals and make step by step plans. do things (like a garden) on a small scale. reach out to old friends.
photo of a photo, snapped from the facebook of stephanie burns.
i spent the first 18 years of my life in pretty much the same place, most of it in the same house. but being the child of immigrants, was raised with this idea of other places i might call home. i think this upbringing really impacted the way i’ve lived the second half of my life, often moving, creating communities everywhere i’ve gone.
tonight i was looking at a friend’s photos on facebook. (i snapped this with my phone off the computer screen) she and her partner just took a trip to europe and one of their stops was in florence, italy. of all her amazing pics, this kind of random street scene, with closed up shops (maybe it’s on the ponte vechhio? i’ll have to ask her…) really gave me a big shot of nostalgia.
as much as i want to go new places i want SO MUCH to go back to the places i’ve been. i want to keep recycling my experiences somehow. learning a new place and then leaving then returning. returning makes everything feel new AND familiar.
i don’t know– i’ve never been one to go somewhere having done research, practiced the language, or any of that. i love how the urgency to communicate necessitates learning, wondering around, having to ask for directions, strangers sharing their time and advice.
as much as i loved learning renaissance art history in florence, the things i remember most are…..
…the lady at the train station telling me to stop waiting in line so patiently. because obviously, you will never get to the front if you wait, you kind of have to push your way forward.
borrowing a stranger’s cell phone to book a spot at a hostel–as the train rolled to a stop in that city’s station—and jumping out of the train on a whim to visit a new city.
after 8 months of living a somewhat subsidized life (via student loan money) i hit a financial wall. all the sudden i found myself with bills up the wazoo and no money to pay them. omg, i had to find a job!
kind of the land of way too much supply and not enough demand (job candidate-wise).
i had been putting aps in at the hospital all semester, picking up shifts at planned parenthood and the sweetwater branch inn (as banquet staff) but the hospital wasn’t calling me and with out student loan cash i wasn’t making ends meet. i mean, the pp here isn’t even open on saturday! (hitherto my bread and butter day as a contract employee.) so i hustled. i EVEN wrote a resume specifically for reception. (i hate making new job specific resumes.) the first call back i got was for a martial arts school in jonesville, which is about a million miles away as far as i was concerned, not bikable (at least not according to MY definitition of the word bikable) and a hot BUS mess away. the second call back was way better. (thank goodness, i didn’t want to write a COVER LETTER!-seriously) small, locally owned plumbing business needing a dispatcher. i went for the interview and got it. there’s even a bike path (not a lane but an actual shady path) pretty much the whole 6 miles between it and my house. in the weeks since i started working here i also got a car (another hot mess for another time) which helps (kind of).
next week i start a fourth job (yes FOURTH) working as a studio assistant for nan smith. i’m so happy to work with and learn from an amazing artist for a little while this summer.
so that’s what i have been up. most of my inspiring fellow clay folk seem to be gallivanting off to haystack, arrowmont, penland and lots of other legendary locales (i.e. the bay area) but i’m not complaining! i’ve been pretty lucky to get to live a life focused on the pursuit of dreams for the last few years. now that i’ve accomplished one of my big goals (get accepted to grad school–oh, have i not mentioned that??) i can handle a few months being studio-free, working behind a computer, and staying in one place.
buuutttt all those facebook pics do make a me a LITTLE envious of course:)!
once again i’ll em bark on the turtle life. pack up all my stuff into my little house on my back and roll on to the next stop. my next destination is gainesville, florida where i’ll be enrolled in the post-baccalaureate program at UF.
it has been a very interesting, challenging and often amazing 6 months in the city of brotherly love. i am always lucky to meet friends wherever i go and in this short amount of time i’m delighted to have met and connected with so many awesome people, my roommate and neighbors in west philly, inspiring artists and teachers of the philadelphia art scene and my friends and coworkers at pp.
every step you take in one direction means not taking other steps in other directions and i always kind of struggle with that. i want to do everything! but i feel confident that as i bumble along, on my own path, i’ll figure out the right way to go. this crazy turtle life has taken my a lot of places and on many adventures. i guess this is the most wild adventure of all. bringing it all together and making dreams come true.
i guess i’ve always had a special connection with my father. i grew up with stories of my mother’s and his lives in tunisia and italy (where they each respectively lived until emigrating to the united states when they were teens). he says “there are two kinds of people in the world, those who are italian and those who want to be italian.” reminding me daily that while we might live in the united states and have american citizenship we were certainly more italian then american. after living for 3 years in japan, i can understand that sentiment. no matter how much you may like your adopted country it’s natural, i suppose, to romanticize your country of origin. anyway, back to those stories of far off places. for as long as i could remember i wanted to get away and travel. and my father has been central to some of my favorite travel stories, even though he wasn’t with me physically. he was a little bird in my ear telling me where to go. or maybe leaving a trail of breadcrumbs is more accurate. here are a couple of those favorite stories.
since i moved abroad in 2005 there have been some pretty intense leaps in technology, or at least in the accessability. now-a-days, even a technophobe like me can look up directions on google maps, or for that matter, take a snippet of information and google my way to an address and phone number. but in the early 2000’s i didn’t even own a computer and cell phones didn’t have gps on them yet. so when i decided in the winter of 2001/02 to hitchhike to new york city to see the metropolitan museum of art’s show of works by caravaggio and the father and daughter orazio and artemisia gentileschi it was with the aid of a map, made of paper. imagine. i didn’t even own a cell phone yet. my only other destination was arthur avenue, the “real” little italy, in the bronx. armed with the crossroads (186th st. and arthur ave.), crytic details (look for a deli with a star of david tile on the sidewalk out front, that’s the best deli in the area) and a list of requests(pepper biscuits, a few pounds of proscuito de parma, etc.) i took a day and headed there with my friend kat who had hitched up with me. from a friend’s place in washington heights, we took various buses and walked a fair distance, honing in on these crossroads, until finally, we found ourselves in the the little italy of the bronx. walking through the streets i kept my eyes peeled for the star of david tile in the doorways. finally i found it, affixed to the sidewalk in front of teitel brother’s deli. kat was a little amazed that we had found it. but for some reason i knew all along that we would find it. of course now the teitel brother’s deli has a website, as does arthur ave which spell out for you exactly which publix transit to take there but who needs internet when you can rely on psychic connection?
fast forward to the following summer. i have been in school at fau for a year and decided to do the study abroad program in italy for the summer. basically, i spent a month and a half in florence, italy learning italian and studying rennaicance art history (pretty amazing) but the real amazement came afterwards, when i spent a month traveling alone throughout italy. there were just a few relatives still in the country that my parents were in touch with, namely my mother’s 2 cousins. one in san remo and one in partineco (sicily). i spent a few days in san remo and about a week in partineco. both were really good visits but stories for another day. on my dad’s side of the family we weren’t really in touch with anyone. but again, i had a list from my dad. names of people and villages (in an email, actually, via my mother). once i arrived in the tiny, tiny train stop at ponte’ (during siesta, which is no good), stumble into an empty bar and am pointed in the right direction i start walking. and walking. and walking…..finally i flag a small car down. the car’s driver happily takes me to casaldune, the small village outside of which my father grew up. once there he tells me that the bus in front of us is leaving and it’s the last bus out of casaldune. it’s not like this place has a hotel! so i thank him and jump out. pulling out my camera, i snap a picture in one direction! turn and snap another, call up to the bus driver to please espeta just a minute while i take another photo. catching on he yells to me “la fontagna, la fontagna!”. to my left i see a small set of basins with spigots and snap a picture of it as well, hoping it’s the fountain he’s speaking of and jump on the bus. the driver takes me back to benevento station (benavento being a proper city with a proper station) and i find out from him when the morning bus runs for future reference. later that day when i talk to my dad, the first thing he says is “did you see the fountain?!”. thanks bus driver!
a few weeks later, literally 36 hours before my departure, while making my way from sicily to milan, i decide i have to try again. this time i start out at benevento station, but the earliest i can get there and get the bus (same bus driver) has me arrive just as siesta is beginning. sheesh! i haven’t written down the names my father had given me but i assume that i will call them from a payphone using an international calling card once i arrive. (the funny part was assuming there would be a pay phone!). i walked into a tiny grocery store and ask in my rough italian “where’s a pay phone?” I am introduced to this analog machine that will definitely not be taking a calling card. someone asks me, what are you doing here? when i try to explain (to the entire store, all of whom are listening now) that i am searching for my father’s long lost relatives someone gets a brilliant idea, runs off and returns with a woman who speaks proper british english. she, at the urging of everyone in the store, asks me a series of questions. what’s my father’s name? his father’s name? what village did they live in? and on and on. eventually everyone disappears, and the owners of the grocery store make me a mortadella sandwich (which they refuse to let me pay for) and things settle down for siesta. i wonder around, take photos and eploring casaldune. eventually the chief of police shows up and in his broken aussie english (everyone seems to have spent their youth being educated by the commonwealth) explains to me that we are going to the house my father grew up in. crazy! i can’t remember everyone’s name now, but i met a couple of people who knew my father’s family before they left. i get to see the house he grew up in (now a small shed really, with a giant modern house attached, with tons of drying garlic and a huge pot of sauce brewing inside), the house he lived in the year before leaving, slightly closer to town and eventually, through these people we learn that my great uncle still lives near by so we pop in on my uncle rocco and his wife. they are totally delightful, we have a quick chat and they ask me in for coffee. unfortunately well into siesta, the police chief’s wife is calling him on his cell, insisting he come home and there is no way for me to stay with out missing my flight out of milan. so we say an equally quick good bye, but i snap photos of each of them and write down their phone number for my dad before i go. the police chief takes me back to benevento and i head north to milan and eventually home feeling like i have had a pretty fantastic adventure.
since then my parents stayed in touch with uncle rocco and a couple of years following my trip, they returned to italy for the first time since their teens and visited. i never saw uncle rocco again and this spring he passed away. in a way, though, he was my favorite relative because we shared such a special story together.
i think i got my sense of adventure and exploration from my parents, inspired by their stories and lives. i’ll always kind of blindly trust those lists of names, places and cryptic clues and know i’ll find my way to another great adventure, even without gps.
here’s a pic of uncle rocco taken by my sister a couple of years ago when my parents, sister and brother all went to italy. my photos of my trip are all film and paper and stored in florida right now but jackie was nice enough to send this one to me.
well, the big challenge of my new studio life is all this talking. for me, talking, speculation, thinking out loud, comes naturally. but i usually just try to keep my mouth shut when it comes to my work. on the one hand, i’m not so confident talking about my work. on the other, i do think there is a bit of fantasy in my work and i don’t want to give people words to hinge their interpretation on.
it’s about nature, and the nature of things. ehhhhhh, blehh.
maybe this is something i should continue writing about. we’ll see. anyway, here are some shots red sent me of the shot glasses i made for the anagama firing before leaving florida. hopefully soon i’ll get to post shots of all the lovely shot glasses i receive!
got a call at 6 am. no public transit so no work today. snow day! first one ever. i casually moved up to the delaware valley just in time to experience philadelphia’s 2nd most snowfall ever. yay!
it was scheduled to start snowing by 4 pm yesterday. by the time i got off work, still no snow. when i got downtown for the first friday gallery walk i caught a few flakes coming out of the sky. by the time i was heading home there were a couple of inches on the ground and it was still coming down. yikes. it snowed all night and this morning.