On Being at Home… A Lot

Screenshot_20170414-184253

Since it became clear that social distancing would be necessary to slow down the spread of coronavirus and hopefully avoid overwhelming our medical system, there’s been a lot of advice circulating on how best to deal with this event. The advice tends to fall into two categories: optimistic “use this time to tackle that project you’ve been putting off” or anti-capitalist crossover self-care crowd saying “now is not the time for productivity, it’s time to rest”. This advice or validation is not wrong, depending on what you feel you need, but I do think as extremes on a spectrum of activity it tends to take the short view when this crisis is more than likely going to take a long time to be resolved. 

For those needing to make dramatic adjustments (and frankly having the privilege to do so), I have a few suggestions based on my 10+ years being chronically ill and experience as a stay-at-home parent. Obviously my suggestions cannot apply to everyone and I don’t pretend to speak for people who are unable to self-isolate at home. This goes out to all the people who have eaten fennel for the first time in their lives because it was the only fresh thing they could find at the supermarket. 

  1. Avoid trying to impose structure on yourself with big, meaningful plans. For example, “I’m going to re-establish my spiritual practices,” or “I’m going to write a novel like I’ve always wanted.” Instead, develop structure through routine. Maintain as much of what’s normal for you as possible, but don’t be afraid to embrace your relative freedom in planning your day. Maybe you’re not a morning person, maybe you are exhausted mid-day. Loosely plan according to your energy flow. If you can add the practice of something important to you, then do it in small doses. This is a marathon, not a sprint.
  2. If you were not somehow finding a way to carve out time to work at a big project or skill, you’re probably not going to do it now. Time does not magically create motivation or discipline. It does however afford you the chance to begin. Keep your goals and expectations low,  and instead deep dive into your curiosity, your desire. Avoid anticipating a particular outcome. 
  3. Find a way to move your body. Dancing, walking, yoga, low impact calisthenics, leg lifts in the bath. Whatever. You don’t need fancy gear or special training. No one gives a damn if you’re gassy or there are holes in your sweatpants. If you want to learn how to do push-ups, check YouTube for tutorials. We are not talking about weight loss and this is not a Hollywood prison montage. If you become Sarah Connor over this shit, you need to do some inner work.
  4. Be flexible. Access your body and your feelings regularly. Am I dehydrated? Am I not washing my clothes enough to have clean underwear? Am I feeling sad? Can I remove x, y, z tasks to give me more time to rest today? And listen, y’all. You need to shower. Other people seeing or smelling you should not be the only reason you clean yourself. 
  5. Don’t beat yourself up for binge watching shows or playing a lot of video games. Really don’t. It won’t help you make different choices later and the ability to make different choices later is what will enable you to find your balance. Nobody is out here learning calligraphy and harpsichord and six languages. I promise you. Just enjoy what you’re doing when you’re doing it and move on. 
  6. Try to notice when unchecked bias shows itself to you. For example, are you surprised (and maybe outraged?) by how hard it is to…. be the predominant caregiver? Stay at home with your kids? Educate your kids? Live with income uncertainty? Get your social and physical needs fulfilled with limited mobility and access? Remember this shift in perspective. Respect teachers, nurses, caregivers, stay-at-home-parents, single parents, chronically ill folks, and gig workers. Consider how we can show better support for each other going forward.
  7. Learn how to ask for help. Read The Art of Asking. Or like ANY Brene Brown books. Consider what kind of support has helped you the most in the past. Do you want jokes to make you laugh? Go ahead and let people know you need to see some funny memes. Do you have specific boundaries? You can talk about that, too. People may not reach out to you, but that doesn’t mean they don’t care. They might just need some sign from you.
  8. Generosity is nourishing, scarcity mindset is depleting. If you can give — listen to a friend vent their anxieties, offer toilet paper or diapers to neighbors, make masks for medical professionals and grocery store employees, buy a bidet and use washable cloth wipes instead of buying limited paper products, help someone pay their bills, share information on a small business having a sale, etc. — then it’s in everyone’s best interest for you to do so. In times like this it’s easy to feel like you have nothing to give. That is rarely true. Giving is so much more than money or labor. It’s a reminder that we can hold each other. 

And speaking of ways to give, I’ll include some links below to groups that I have observed doing some great work. Some are Denver based, some are in Tennessee or North Carolina. If you’ve got anything to add, feel free to do so in the comments. 

People who need things to do with little kids/tips for being at home (some are free, some are not):

Art Domestic is moving

I’m moving the series Art Domestic to Tumblr. Partially because I’m not sure if I’m going to have a blog anymore — I’m not very good at maintaining it, obviously — and partially because Tumblr seems like a better format for it. I’m hoping the nature of Tumblr will encourage people to submit posts and to share the art in their homes.

Here’s the link: http://artdomestic.tumblr.com

p.s. If you want to make a submission, but don’t have a Tumblr account and have no desire to create one (understandable), you can still email submissions to me. Thanks!

xx

Art Domestic: Entries and Departures

September has really flown past. I can’t really account for steps forward or backward, only that it all feels like it’s part of the same dance.

There is a slender wall immediately adjacent to our bedroom door, which acts as mini entry area for us when we come home since it is also right beside the front door of our apartment. (If that sounds awkward, that’s because it is.) I wanted to collect an assortment of precious objects for entries and departures. When my friend Mira Gerard gave me one of her paintings a couple years ago, it fit right in.

artdomSEPT

xx

Interested in participating? Check out the submission page. If a blog post seems like a hassle, you can also post to Twitter or Instagram under #artdomestic.

Art Domestic: Welcome to My Crib

Anyone that has rented an apartment in an old house or building knows that you’re likely to have weird or awkward spaces. Those spaces are typically part of the charm. Still, they can be a challenge at times.

For example, when your front door opens immediately into a narrow hallway and you’re not allowed to paint it, how exactly do you brighten or enliven that space? For a while we had paintings and such stacked salon style all the way up to the ceiling, but I had a drawer full of unframed art that I really wanted to liberate despite being unable to frame all of it.

This was our solution:

artdom1There’s a lot of stuff there so I’m not going to get into detail about each and every single piece. Most of the work I received as a gift or as part of a trade. I still plan to properly frame their artwork, but for now at least I can see most of it, which is especially important as people move onto other adventures in their lives.

artdom2In this section: Marie Porterfield Barry, Stephanie Streeter, Amanda Richardson, Liz Layton, Jessica Augier, Stephanie Ott, and just a corner of Ira Pratt’s octopus print. artdom3In this section: Liz Layton, Stacie Williams, Wyatt Moody, Reese Chamness, Marissa Schillaci-Kayton, Keaton Lawson, Stephanie Streeter, Jessica Augier, and Ira Pratt. artdom4Not all of it is art, as you can see. There are also a few wedding photos. We used to have more pictures up, but they kept felling off the shelf, so those are in a drawer for now.

In this section: There’s some more Liz Layton, Ira Pratt, and Marie Porterfield Barry work in this section. Charlie Haskins and Geoff Pratt each have a drawing poking out.

artdom5This is one of my favorite possessions. A little girl named Alex gave it to me.
artdom6“Little Womb” by Taylor Norris. This painting was part of her BFA show and I snatched it up. (Pun intended.)

artdom7Unfortunately I don’t remember what this silverpoint drawing it called, but I can tell you it was made by Jessica Augier when we were undergrad students together.

xx

Interested in participating? Check out the submission page. If a blog post seems like a hassle, you can also post to Twitter or Instagram under #artdomestic.

Art Domestic: REBIRTH

This is a high drama post, in case you couldn’t tell.

A couple friends on Instagram have started sharing photos of art in their home using the #artdomestic tag, which was totally their idea and very sweet of them. (How did I not even think of that?) Here are a few shots:

a-Danaartdomestica-Jenniferartdomestic1a-Jenniferartdomestic2So, if you use Instagram and you’re interested in sharing the art in your home, please use the #artdomestic tag so I can find it! And say a little something (or a lot something) about it. Curious minds.

I missed the last two months because it was my birthday and I didn’t plan properly, then in I went to a friend’s wedding in May and, again, didn’t plan properly. My apologies. I’ll try to be more consistent.

While I was in Portland visiting said friend, I had the mildly upsetting experience of becoming reacquainted with really old, awful paintings of mine, like when you are happily shoveling fresh blueberries into your mouth and suddenly one of them is so sour it momentarily puts you off eating anymore because your mouth is so offended.

Robert and I have the artwork of many friends in our home. A couple of them have expressed the desire for us to put away their old paintings and drawings. (Okay, so, mostly just Geoff.) When I came back from Portland, I emailed my friend to tell her I’d happily give her a new painting if she gets rid of the old paintings. Burn them, re-use the canvases, I don’t care. After I sent the email, it occurred to me that I never thought I’d be making such a request and, to date, I have personally only honored that request once when it was made to me.

Here is a friend that clearly values these paintings — they were hanging in her house without her previous knowledge that I would be staying with her — and they are examples of a short period of my life before college where I was desperately trying to develop some artistic skill and direction within the examples of Frida Kahlo, Egon Schiele, mythological storytelling, and Tori Amos. I find them to be embarrassing on their own, and caught myself telling other guests at the house that I didn’t “make work like that anymore”, even though they clearly didn’t care much either way.

So then would it be “okay” if they were juxtaposed with new work? If the fear of misrepresentation is gone, can the embarrassment simply be the harmless embarrassment most people feel about decisions made in their youth? Can it not just be appreciated as a fragment in time that is both lost and ever present? Can I be thankful to my friend for caring enough to keep these paintings through multiple moves spanning ten years or so? Or would pairing them together only heighten the uncomfortable transparency of not only the old work but also the new?

I don’t know. But it all kind of makes me feel like an ass for complaining. After all, it has not ever been my task to tell people what to think or feel about my work, and the life of the art beyond the artist, gallery, or museum is the whole damn point of this series. It’s unreasonable to say to someone, “This object you have in your home, I made it and I don’t like it anymore. Get rid of it.”

Thank you, Marissa.

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!

10003103_10100884849821236_11077910_n

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

10013740_10100884849806266_1251957113_n

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.

1903575_10100884849836206_574301107_n

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.

1937832_10100885376800166_386421625_n

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.

1927160_10100885376635496_548655075_n

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.

1940142_10100884849746386_1819818296_n

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.

10002619_10100884849726426_1478276193_n

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

1961616_10100885376351066_794004238_n

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

10008331_10100885376246276_1446740885_n

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

1964745_10100885376196376_477612233_n

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.

1964258_10100885376026716_568552969_n

Her name was Miriam Jane (Race) Alspaugh.

10003265_10100885376560646_1780670933_n

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

10013600_10100885376505756_1856314129_n

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

1966679_10100885379514726_1623363315_n

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.”

1960355_10100884849701476_77724902_n

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.

1927052_10100885376934896_1136718921_n

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.

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.

use2

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.

useme4

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.

Now, and then plans

The work spaces I have in our new apartment are coming along in that they are functional, but I’m not nearly satisfied enough with their current states to allow them to remain that way. Since I don’t have a room that is specifically and only a studio, I’m trying really hard to prevent my work areas from making the whole space look cluttered and chaotic. (Anyone who has been in one of my studios can definitely understand the difficulty. A friend of mine once said, “I don’t feel like I’m entering a studio so much as I feel like I’m entering your brain. It’s kind of scary in there, like being inside a tornado.”) Although I don’t regret committing to living and working in this apartment for the next two years, I miss not being able to create a cocoon for myself.

The painting area is in the living room…

…and the everything-else-that-I-do-plus-some-painting area is in the bedroom.

I’ve decided that the trip across the country will take place in the spring/summer of 2013. This is so that I have time to save money for the trip, save money for a video camera, and become more acquainted with said camera. I would go alone, as She does, if I could. But I can’t really be trusted, now can I? Husband is coming along because he is my best companion.

I don’t want to plan the trip too much because I trust my instincts, and I think they will lead me in the right directions, regarding hotels and bars and roadside diners. I should try to figure how much it will cost, though, right? That would be really responsible of me.