Art Domestic: Amongst Dried Flowers, Heirlooms, and Friends

This post is the first of this series to be of someone else’s home and I’m really excited about it. I have been in this home multiple times and there are many treasures there. If you’re interested in participating, check out the submission page.

xx

My name is Liz Layton, and I am sharing my home (Halldór the Cat, Mirian aka Little Cat aka Baby Cat aka Mel, the Kitten, Sid the Significant other, and Strummer the Baby) for this edition of Art Domestic!

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The piano is a favorite place for Baby Cat to roam around.  It also houses some of our art treasures.

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One of these treasures is a Christmas present, made by Sid’s mommy.  This is a fabric & embroidery piece, that depicts the “Dala Horse”, a Swedish symbol that is often seen carved out of wood, but is branded onto many materials.  The symbol originates from Dalarna, Sweden.

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Further down our dining room is this photograph, given to me by my friend and BANDMATE, (we did one show to a one person audience in our school’s painting studio, once, as The Fiber Optics, and it was not at all bad or embarrassing), Andrew Scott.  This piece was featured at his B.F.A. show.  He is easily one of my favorite artists.

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Hiding between a pearled photograph I took of a horse, and a melon colored scarf thing I use as a window decoration, is another Andrew Scott original.

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This mixed media piece is postcard size, and features a stamped astronaut, some mysterious gold script, and layers of paper that culminate into a soft surface that is gilded with crayon of the Crayola variety.

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In the corner of the living room is a piece from my own B.F.A. show, as well as a tiny golden goose thing we found from the basement of our previous house, and now use as a shelf that holds the LP cover of whatever record we are listening to at the moment.

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This is Sid’s most recent LP he’s acquired, by Guerilla Toss, entitled Gay Disco.

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Above a tiny bookcase lies an original artwork I purchased from a British artist’s Etsy shop.

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The artist’s shop is called “SeeSusieBean”, and the illustration features one of my very favorite musical artists, Grimes.

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This pleasant and exceptionally symmetrical fiber art is made by my grandmother, who made SO MANY QUILTS.  Many of her works were rather large, but I very much enjoy and cherish this pink heart embroidery loop piece, as well.  And it perfectly captures her personality- warm, sweet, old fashioned, cheerful, hardworking, precise, meticulous, prolific, and highly skilled.

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Her name was Miriam Jane (Race) Alspaugh.

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My latest acquired work of art is a print from my friend Patrik (who performs locally as Mannequin Hollowcaust).

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I LOVE seeing his print beneath the “Moon in My Room” that I gave and then permanently borrowed from my little sister.

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I enjoy the simplicity of the image, and how it simultaneously evokes a strong sense of mysticism.  I hope Patrik is okay with his print being presented within my gold spray-painted frame.  His illustration is entitled “Ominous Rituals Under Harvest Moon.”

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Our mantelpiece is my favorite place in our whole house, to decorate.  The area is divided into a warm/yellow side, and a cooler/blue tone/melancholy/ moon side.

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The piece on the left is an illustration of my family that I commissioned from the highly detailed Marie Porterfield Barry.  She is  also a very favorite all-time artist of mine who happens to be a colleague and dear friend.  The little green-gold wooden box in front of the family portrait is a tiny keepsake made & given to me by my friend Diana, who is from Romania, and can speak three languages and has an amazing family, herself.  The box holds some of my strangest tiny treasures.  Next to the family portrait, on the right of the dried yellow roses, is a porcelain (or ceramic?) tile-shaped piece that I cherish, depicting a graceful farm scene with a prominent windmill.  My mother got it as a souvenir, from the Southern California Danish community of Solvang.

Yay.

Art Domestic: Preserving & Disintegrating

livingroom1Another section of our living room for this month’s Art Domestic post.

livingroom2livingroompratt1We received these paintings from Geoff Pratt years ago, though my husband had the “mask” much longer than that. When I met R, it hung above his bathroom door. He had pieces of Geoff’s work in various places throughout his apartment “because otherwise Geoff will destroy them”. Geoff complained about them whenever he came over, claiming he’d replace old pieces with new ones if we’d just get rid of them.

When he moved to Portland, he offered to let us pick through a stack of framed paintings, which we did very appreciatively and enthusiastically.

livingroompratt2On the adjacent wall, more of Geoff’s paintings with one of his brother Ira’s small sculptures and a card from a friend’s trip to Thailand stand amongst the paintings. Unfortunately, the sculpture is disintegrating despite our very careful effort to prevent any damage. Ira gave it to us shortly after his BFA show, before he moved to Portland.

When I first noticed that the sculpture was coming apart, I was tempted to coat it in something and put it in a box, like an enclosed diorama, but the attempt at preservation would change the work drastically. I decided to let it continue to be what it is. I’m planning to keep it until it completely falls apart.

Twenty-Nine

I think I’m turning 29 this year. Yes, 29 years old in April.  The funny thing about that is I feel like I’m already past my 20′s. When I visualize myself at 19, 22, 24 years old, I see a young woman I feel empathetic toward, though she is altogether kind of terrifying and embarrassing. That’s youth for you.

Not to say that I feel old. People in my family tend to live a long time, if they don’t kill themselves that is, so I tend to think of “old” as your 60′s and after. Many animals don’t live nearly as long as 60 years. 60 years is a long time to be a living, breathing thing unless you’re a tortoise, whale, or tree. I am not any of those things.

States of being that I have occupied do not feel rooted in time so I have difficulty framing them that way. Maybe because I was never particularly invested in the time existing as a contained and named thing. Infant, toddler, adolescent, pre-teen, teenager, young adult — these words are kind of novel to me.

I remember looking at the football field one time during high school and feeling like I was seeing it for the first time, despite being an athlete and frequently playing soccer games on that field. I was wrapped in the peculiar sensation of being a Teenager, of knowing I would never occupy this space the same way again, even if it continued to exist for many years. Then I forgot I was a Teenager. Then I was just an animal, specifically a human female animal, and not a tortoise, whale, or tree.

But lately I have started applying words like lipstick, moving them around the surface of my lips, mindful of the color possibly stamping my teeth. I inspect the pigmentation, the shimmer, the stickiness, the suggestibility within each color and gloss. It’s a very non-committal process in the sense of a fixed meaning or purpose.

It may be because I have been giving much thought to becoming a mother. The weight of now, of late-twenties/early-thirties, is very present in my body. My fingertips feel especially sensitive and focused. I can go back to the whispy, ghost memories of the past and they can curl between and around my illuminate, saturated wishes for the future, but as it all blends together I don’t feel I lose my place in it.

Why Dylan Farrow is Brave

It’s not my intent to argue Woody Allen’s guilt or innocence. For better or worse, plenty of other people have done that already. I’d rather focus on part of Dylan Farrow’s open letter that addresses the many other sexual assault survivors out there who are still afraid to tell their stories.

Farrow’s open letter is harrowing, painful, clear, challenging. It’s the letter someone writes after many years of suffering, having finally found a stable position of strength and support to speak from. Her story is not an easy one to tell, whether or not the accused is famous and beloved. According to the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network, “an average of 60% of assaults in the last five years were not reported”. I personally have several friends who have never even told their families about the sexual assault they experienced. Many of them have horror stories of mental health professionals regarding them coldly and skeptically once they tried to tell their story. A perusal of Project Unbreakable on Tumblr (though it certainly deserves more than a perusal) quickly illustrates how often victim testimonies are met with hostility and skepticism by families, friends, medical professionals, and police.

It’s understandable to an extent. Most cases of sexual assault are made by individuals the victim knows personally, and more than likely the friends and family know this person, too. It’s hard to accept that a person you regarded as “good” and safe has sexually assaulted someone you care about. On the scale of insensitive responses, at best the loved one tries to find out if there’s been a misunderstanding and at worst the loved one accuses the victim of lying or deserving it.

This is part of the reason it matters so much that Farrow was able to publicly share her story on her own terms and that as fellow humans our first response is to listen. If you already decided that you knew what happened before reading her statement, you are just as guilty of bias as the “lynch mob” you rail against. If you already decided you knew what happened before reading her statement, you are part of the problem.

We need to have space in our society for victims to speak and to be given the benefit of empathetic doubt. Even if the account given by Farrow is not factually true, that doesn’t necessarily mean that she is a liar. Instead, let’s consider that she is a woman who genuinely, unwaveringly believes that she was molested by her adopted father when she was seven years old. This account is supported by her mother and brother. There is no evidence and no legal recourse.

That is tragic. That is common. Whether or not it happened, she has carried a terrible pain and fear inside her throughout her whole life. The evidence of suggestibility of children does not exonerate Allen or condemn Farrow. If anything, it simply further implies that Farrow is not the scheming, lying cow some have claimed her to be. She has suffered. There is no justice for her, as there is no justice for many sexual assault victims.

Farrow is certainly a victim, but as the result of which moral transgression specifically, that’s less concrete. In any case, her action – an attempt to tell her story, to tell the truth – should be regarded as brave. It is brave.

Some responses have been disheartening. Stephen King, whose opinion I typically appreciate, described Farrow’s letter as containing “palpable bitchiness” on Twitter. Somewhat anonymous voices in the comments sections of various articles and on Twitter have suggested that she just wants attention. One response that I found particularly unsettling was the vehemently argued position by some men that we absolutely cannot trust the testimony of sexual assault victims because otherwise men will become the victims of false testimony.

That’s certainly a possibility, and it does happen. Does that make it okay for sexual assault victims to carry the burden of injustice themselves? Why is it always better for a sister, a wife, a friend to be doubted rather than her attacker? The power distribution is blatantly lopsided.

Imbalances stand a chance to be rectified when they are acknowledged and discussed. The article written by Patrick Perion, A Child Abuse Investigator’s View of The Woody Allen/Dylan Farrow Case, addresses issues of miscommunication and ignorance about child abuse investigations. You don’t need to be an expert to realize that people are more likely to react poorly to something they refuse to acknowledge except when immediately faced with the crisis at hand than if there’s public, on-going discussion aimed at awareness and fairness.

Aaron Bady’s Woody Allen’s Good Name makes a similar point: “In the court of public opinion, a woman accusing a great film director of raping her has no credibility which his fans are bound to respect. He has something to lose, his good name. She does not, because she does not have a good name. She is living in hiding, under an assumed name. And when she is silent, the Daily Beast does not rise to her defense.”

The Daily Beast article being referred to here is the one written by Robert Weide. Weide demanded that we consider the known facts before sending Allen to the firing squad, certainly a righteous demand to be made. However, Weide gave himself away when he published Farrow’s new name, the name around which she has built her stabilized life. If he was truly empathetic to her, whether it’s deeply rooted manipulation from her mother or sexual assault from her father, he would have respected the privacy of her name.

He wouldn’t refer to alleged sexual assault as “shall we say, touch[ing] her inappropriately”, as if he was, shall we say, re-hashing a conversation about sexual exploits between two consenting adults in a movie. And why did he use quotations when referring to the anticipated accusation that he is blaming the victim? Jessica Winter’s Don’t Listen to Woody Allen’s Biggest Defender outlines the problematic tone of Weide’s piece very well.

These are passive acts, yet still potent. They speak volumes. They speak to sexual assault victims who still cannot tell their story without once again being victimized by those who should listen. If we cannot listen and then speak without diminishing the person brave enough to share their account of the truth, how can we hope to assist in the healing of a society that has too long ignored the varied, nuanced, and profound suffering of its own people?

Lena Dunham put it best when she said, via Twitter, “The response to the response to the response doesn’t matter. What matters is that a victim spoke and, in doing so, reversed her victimhood.” And then in a following tweet, “We should be thankful to Dylan. We must begin to heal, to change the way in which we process and respond to stories of abuse.”

Dueling Lovers: Words + Art

The writer in me has a hard time leaving images alone, the artist in me keeps smacking words away. And there are so many words. Direct, poetic, truthful, manipulative — they occupy various roles and in within those functions carry degrees of weight and sharpness. I feel each one in an attempt to decipher its necessity. The artist in me shakes her head regardless, unimpressed, even though writing is so much part of the process of creating the image in the first place.

Words are also a big part of how people interact with art. Stand by and watch people in an art museum — they will look momentarily at the work, then look for a label, read the label and possibly the description if there is one, then look back at the art object. If they’re still having difficulty with the object, they might return to the writing or move on. In galleries, they tend to seek out an artist statement or bio. Art institutions spend a lot of time and money attempting to offer the right kind and the right amount of information to their visitors. People expect words because a room full of art objects is terrifying.

One of the powerful aspects of viewing art is how intimate it can be if you simply walk up to the object and look. Really look. Instead of worrying about that crabby lady wearing an American flag fanny pack behind you, trying to rush you along so she can rush along onto the gift shop, or wondering if anyone thinks you look stupid wearing red eyeglasses, or whether or not you should like the art because it’s very old or made by some famous white dude, you can give yourself over to that moment and look at an object that demands nothing from you.

Literally nothing.

If you get something from the object, it’s because you allowed yourself to see it, you allowed yourself a response. I would like to say art is for everyone, but frankly, it’s not for people too lazy or busy to peel an orange. It’s not for people who hate cats because they don’t rush at you with an abundance of love and acceptance the way dogs do. I’m sorry. Correct me if I’m wrong, please. But some people are just not wired for loving art. At most, they may appreciate a very selective and limited range of art.

While they may not be in the same boat as the rest of us, they are definitely coasting along in the same river. Movies, television, YouTube videos, video games, advertisements, magazines — an excess of media fills our everyday lives. Yet Americans are not particularly familiar with art. Two people are more likely to bond over a funny commercial on television than they are to enthusiastically talk about their experience viewing a Vermeer or Titian. That’s not a judgment call I’m making. That wouldn’t be fair. It’s easy to find yourself near a television or magazine, even if you generally avoid them. You might not like the Kardashians, but you’ve heard of them, right? Maybe even talked about them?

In the cacophony of daily life, where art may or may not be recognized, it makes words and writers, including and excluding critics, potential lightbringers to the dim. Throughout history, many writers of varying backgrounds and agendas have offered their words to art: Charles Baudelaire, Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, Jeanette Winterson, Donald Judd, Roberta Smith, James Elkins, and Jerry Saltz. Some artists write about their own work or include text within their work itself, such as Jenny Holzer, Tracey Emin, Christopher Wool, and Carolee Schneeman. And let’s not forget a grand, romantic, and sometimes embarrassing history of manifestos. (I’m looking at you, Futurists.)

When I first read Marlene Dumas’ writing in Suspect, an earthquake of feeling and purpose shook my body. I didn’t know I was allowed to write. (I also didn’t know that I was secretly seeking that permission.) Have you ever read Kara Walker’s writing? It’s like laughing while being stabbed. On the opposite end of the word appreciation spectrum, if you’ve read a fair amount of artist statements and writing, you’ve undoubtedly had some moments when you inwardly rolled your eyes, laughed, felt baffled, or some combination thereof. Maybe it caused you skipped the writing (and the art) altogether.

Last year Jerry Saltz visited East Tennessee State University and he talked a bit about art writing during his lecture, which I asked him to elaborate on during the following reception. He said artists can’t really be critics because we want to write in support of our friends, “not unless you can be an asshole about it”. What I forgot to ask was, “How the hell do I write at all?”

If you offer any words, they will be attached to the interpretation of your work. Even if you are writing about a boxing match and your art is safely tucked away on another website minding its own business. The writer in me has already made peace with this while the artist in me resents explanation. The writer is not concerned with how neatly the fragmented pieces line up. The artist is considering how to make entire sections disappear beneath a single, veiled image. She is already spinning a story. The writer is not interested in one story.

Art Domestic: Call to Rooms

Sitting in the passenger seat and looking out the window during one of our many trips to holiday festivities this past December, it occurred to me that homes without art in them feel foreign to me, not because I grew up around art, but because art is part of how I define Home. Every space that I have controlled, whether it’s a bedroom or an entire apartment, has art in it. A lot of it. Rooms without art in them feel inactive, almost lifeless in their complacency as kitchens, bedrooms, living rooms. This train of thought led me to consider our general expectations about art: where we expect to find it, who can possess it, how art ends up in our homes, and what we want from the art in our homes.

I’m curious about the lives of art in private residences. I’m curious about the relationships that exist between the art object and other objects. I’m curious about intended audiences and hidden away pieces. There is already Great Art In Ugly Rooms, but the art I am curious about is not necessarily “great” or “famous” or “collectible”. (And furthermore, the rooms are not necessarily ugly.)

Whenever my husband and I have looked for new apartments and the landlord finds out I’m an artist, each time they had something to show me, some painting or embroidery made by their great aunt or sister or cousin. Or a giant ceramic vase they found at a garage sale, probably made by an undergrad ceramic student. Each time they seemed a bit nervous, but also excited. Amongst piles of dirty clothes or above a carefully made bed or hung next to a print of Jesus in a plastic frame — there were these objects they identified as Art.

The enthusiasm of others is sometimes daunting. I want to like the object. I don’t want to be reduced to a stereotype. I don’t want to demean their grandmother’s fish scale collage or wife’s painting of her childhood home. I love the paintings and drawings of children, though I often don’t know what to say about them. I don’t want to appear critical of the one time this person bought art.

When I cannot appreciate the object itself, I can usually rely on appreciating what the person has to say about it. Why do they have it? Where did they get it? Why did they put it in their bathroom? Is this the first and only piece of art they’ve ever bought? Did they feel like they needed “permission” or a lot of money to own art in the first place? Did they grow up with artists or art collectors in the family? How often do they visit museums and galleries?

I want to know.

Share the art that lives in your home.

xx

I will start with myself for obvious reasons.

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This is a fragment of our living room. There used to be a lot more photographs and paintings on the wall, but we altered the space quite a lot and haven’t really “finished”.

Stephanie Streeter made the drawing in the frame during undergrad. The first time I saw it was a group student show downtown and as I looked at it, many people nearby talked about how funny it was, how much they loved it. I remember thinking that Stephanie was really getting somewhere with the dog imagery in her newest work and that graphite was her medium, where she combined poetry and banality, bodily impulse and sophistication.

Later when she had her BFA exhibition, I saw her bring the same language to painting except with the added lusciousness that oil paint offers.

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Before Stephanie moved to Cleveland, we traded artwork and this was one of the pieces I received from her. It’s still a piece of art that people often comment on when they visit. They almost seem surprised by it.

Somewhere in the next year

“May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.”
― Neil Gaiman

I don’t know where this quote came from, other than Neil Gaiman’s Good Reads page, which seems legitimate enough. Of course, I wouldn’t put it past me to intentionally share an illegitimate quote that said something I felt legitimately worth sharing.

About five or six years ago I decided I was too cool to be someone who cared about New Year’s Eve beyond wearing sparkly dresses, drinking champagne, and kissing. After all, it is just some arbitrary beginning that many of us happen to agree on, unlike the arbitrary beginnings you might set for yourself to start spending more time with your kids, eating less fast food, or saving money to travel. It’s everyone’s favorite joke, an easy punchline, to mock your own non-committal to this new year beginning.

For whatever reason this year, I am feeling a bit warm and fuzzy about the one following. I considered that maybe I just want an excuse to dress up, drink champagne, and kiss (a lot of kissing, actually), but I’m not someone who really needs an excuse for all  that. It could be a Wednesday. I don’t mind. Being honest with myself, it may just be that I am caught up in the momentum of potential (the scary and exciting kind) that myself and my loved ones appear to be experiencing for various reasons.

What I want for myself and for them is what Gaiman has expressed (or maybe didn’t express) in this quote (which is maybe not a quote). So, I won’t go so far as to make a resolution in the formal sense.

How about a wish?

And that’s how I was magically all better

Dear Body,

I realize I should just be thankful that you don’t get sick very often and that your response to stress or poor decisions (such as living off of coffee and crackers) is just a tough love wake-up call to adjust my behavior lest bigger problems emerge down the road, so first of all, let me say thank you. I appreciate your unwillingness to let me get away with behaving like a raccoon trapped in a adult woman’s body. As anyone that has ever lived with me knows, I am not very good at being a living thing. I’d be a much better unicorn, mermaid, or vampire. So, you’re ceaseless slaps on the wrist are useful.

However, I can assure you that on this particular occasion, the occasion of my seemingly endless sickness that lasted through Christmas and appears to intend to plow on through New Year’s Eve, the lesson has been learned and you can stop punishing me. I have plans, mostly work plans, but also plans that involve exercising and eating salad. A real salad. Remember how a few months ago I was thinking, ‘I want do long distance endurance racing on my bicycle so I need to turn into Sarah Connor (T2 version, obvi)’? I wasn’t kidding. This isn’t another ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to be one of those acrobatic strippers?’ moments. And you know what I can’t do when you’re making me dizzy and weak every time I try to be upright for more than 5 minutes? Ride my bicycle.

So, you can stop it now. Focus your energy elsewhere, my friend.

Love,
Jaime

Dear Jaime,

You just want to be well so you can drink and have sex. I know you.

Sincerely,
Body

Dear Vengeful God of a Body,

Yes, I will do those things. I will also take care of myself. Besides, if I can’t have sex, you can’t have sex. Don’t try to convince me that you’re asexual. Remember when I tried to convince us that we’re asexual? It didn’t work then, it’s not going to work now.

Emphatically,
Jaime

Dear She-Beast Trickster Jaime,

Fine.

Some ground rules:
1. Coffee is not breakfast. It’s also not lunch, for that matter.
2. Calling wine “PM Coffee” does not make it dinner. It’s also not funny.
3. If it comes out of a box and you can eat it with your fingers, it also doesn’t count as a meal.
3. If you’re going to eat pizza two to four times a week, at least make it at home and eat it with vegetables. (Beer does not count as a vegetable.)
4. You don’t get a free pass on eating actual meals just because you’re busy or the sink is full of dishes or you want to keep watching videos of puppies on your laptop. I know your natural inclination is to sniff around all the cabinets and the refrigerator to find some easy, quick thing you can eat while crouched on the kitchen floor like you’re in a romantic comedy about how a woman raised by wolves finds love, but you need to eat real meals made of real food. Besides, your husband thinks it’s creepy when he finds you using your hands to put leftover macaroni and cheese onto leftover pizza before stuffing the whole disaster into your stupid face at 10 AM.
5. That reminds me. Pizza is not a plate.
6. For the love of all that is holy, drink some water! You like it. You have it. Drink it.

Agreed?

Sincerely (even though you don’t deserve it),
Body

Dear Body,

Fine. Agreed. But only because I want to be Sarah Connor.

Sincerely (because we’re stuck together),
Jaime

Bless This Mess

This blog was once devoted to my artwork — prior to jumping ship to test out Tumblr, which has evolved into its own separate thing — and I am returning to it mostly because I like WordPress and my writing needs somewhere to go. Tumblr is great for images, both collecting and sharing, but it’s not so great for words.

Two things have recently impacted my thinking about how information is organized in a substantial way: building a website and acquiring a smart phone for the first time in my life.

I had planned to build a website for about three years, but the practical actions required that I have started to undertake made the complicated structure of it more “real”. How do I determine what work to put there? How do I represent myself now with consideration for what I hope to accomplish in the next few years? How do I keep it minimal and elegant without it looking cold or generic? And so on. I have felt so obsessed with pinning down every aspect of its organization.

Then I got a smart phone and the flood of excitement over the capabilities of this device took hold. Instead of carefully placing a piece of information in one area and stepping away, I regularly consider posting to multiple areas and watch how each item plays out differently according to the landing site. It’s like watching paper airplanes float or dive across a room. You have some intention about yourself, but also some uncertainty and joy. The dull paper force of its nose hitting something is satisfying, even if it means the flight is over. You can build another plane. You can enjoy the tactile sensation and precision of folding the paper, turning one object into another.

But then what do I do with all these planes?

So while I’m feeling less concerned about organizing every detail of my extended, digital self (beyond the obvious privacy/audience concerns), I also have a lot of unanswered questions. Maybe I will write about them here. Maybe not. In any case, there will be writing here of various sorts — personal posts, articles, art exhibition reviews, and links to other words that I find worth sharing.

Forgive the mess.

Do the Art Hustle

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It’s better than disco. I promise.

I added many of my available original paintings and drawings as well as prints to Etsy: http://www.etsy.com/shop/unicorntaxidermy

I also uploaded some images for print at Society6: http://society6.com/JaimeSantosProwse

More is coming, believe it or not. It turns out I have made a lot of things.

I cannot immediately begin working on commissions because I already have three to fulfill, but if you have something in mind that doesn’t need to be finished within the next 3-4 months, I’d be happy to discuss it with you. Later this summer I will post more information regarding time-sensitive, holiday season orders, especially for custom or bulk order block print cards or tags.

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