Abide With Me

  We are not alone.  We exist in a beautiful community of souls.  This post is dedicated to Haven Kimmel and to her beautiful community of souls which have enriched my life since I stumbled (it was fate) upon them in August.  [  www.havenkimmel.com , click blog]. The above work (entitled CATCH ME IF I FALL) is a perfect visualization of my experience in Havenland.  [begun with this bizarre altar niche I found in a thrift store in Fort Walton Beach, FL, it costed me only $6.00, which is a perfect example of where I get my main inspirations (junking or dumpster diving).  The doll face was cast from my original Krissy doll (the one that you pulled on the string and her red hair went shortor long).  One of my more prominent motifs are the wide-spreading oak trees (as it dominated the 'house yard' of my grandfather's Veedersburg, IN farm) and the handmade wooden rope swing that I spent many hours dreaming on as I strove to walk the sky].  Although this work can be disturbing as you notice the barbed wire which entwines the rope, and you realize that to stay balanced you would have to grip that barbed wire (what is supposed to keep you safe might BITE you), to me it is all about the hands that reach up under the swing to . . . catch me if I fall. As a child, due to many mitigating circumstances, most out of my or my 'guardian's' control, I rarely felt safe or that I had a soft place to fall.  Now that I am grown I am allowing myself to rely and trust in and on others . . . these are souls that have become guardians of my creativity and celebrants of my soul. I hope you can see the resilience of this peace and celebrate with me, the beauty I have found not only in Haven's blogland, but in the world that seems to shine brighter with hope.   Barbed  Guardian, 2006.  (Porcelain Doll Head, Rusted Wires, Encaustic, Gold-leaf) As the child's eyes reveal in Catch Me, we, as adults, are reflections of our childhood experiences.  I want to celebrate those that have been able to nurture 'little sher', she will always be a part of me. In Barbed Guardian, a friend of a friend heard about my search for rusted barbed wire/other objects and she shipped me objects from her farm in Sevierville, TN.  That is love.  To the left is WINGED GUARDIAN.  She is a perfect example of my friend's and family's support of my work.  My sister, Lisa, collected the remnants of a cardinal on a nature walk and carefully saved the skull (with its carmine beak) and the wings . . . this forethought and support is what, I believe, imbues the pieces with the ethereal essence I constantly seek to capture.   Lastly in the guardian trio is DOMED Guardian, she is veiled and unknowable.  She is the hidden spark of resilience I believe we can all find in our own souls if we protect it and treasure what is sacred and pure in our hearts.  She IS BROKEN, yes - but she remains. 'find a sanctuary inside oneself, no matter how small' - Lemony Snickets, A Series of Unfortunate Events
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Nature's Gifts

 This is the glorious view I woke up to this morning in our little corner of Tennessee.  We don't have real acreage, but we are blessed enough, and have worked hard enough to be backed up to this undeveloped and protected lowland.  Within about 10 minutes it went from a complete blanket of fog to this softly-filtered divine light. I can't express how beautiful it was and how grateful I feel to live in such a beautiful spot on our planet earth.  It holds up to all the beauty I have seen in Italy, or anywhere else in the United States - all in my backyard!! Here is a view of what remains of the Tibetan-style Prayer Flag I created for the health of my favorite author, Haven Kimmel.  If you haven't read "A Girl Named Zippy," yet - buy it tomorrow.  It will bring a smile to your heart and a laugh to your soul. May Nature Shine Her Light Upon You, For Art's Sake,

Sher

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What My Kindergarten Report Card Says About Me

"My Kindergarten Progress" (7"h x 5"w, encaustic on board with attachments) reveals so much to me as I view the years through the veil of time. Many things still ring true, that I do indeed still "LOVE TO TAKE PART IN ART ACTIVITIES."  But what is so poignant to me is the fact the teacher felt the need to state other things, as well: "The difficult spelling of Sher's last name has made it difficult for her to learn" - obviously I was scarred for life, barred from the learning I so desperately sought. Creating "My Last Name Was Creekbaum" (5"h x 8"w, encaustic on board) was just as cathartic as I reviewed my assessment.  I rejoice that my mother so lovingly stored this and many pieces of my childhood art.  Because of her forethought, I re-discovered and was reintroduced to myself as a child.  Somethings never change:  Unbeknownst at the time I was dyslexic and STILL "Need Improvement" in that area of knowing "my right from left". Although time goes by, I can still see myself in that little brown- toothed girl (I had two crescent shaped "milk" teeth for my two front teeth) and recognize her spirit in my kindergarten progress report . . . and again in this image from 1st grade. Though much heartache has happened since I was an innocent kindergartener, there is still a sense of unbounded joy to be had in life. Celebrate the child you once were and try to relive the innocence and beauty of discovering a new butterfly in a color you've never seen before and in wading in creeks (that were really just sewers) and making mud pies.  Live your life like an innocent child:  one day, one moment, one breathe at a time. Protect the innocence of the children your life - encourage their curiosity, celebrate their efforts, dry their tears.  But most of all, speak with them about life and what it means and how important they are to the world. "you, too, are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and stars . . . "  excerpt from the Desiderata of Happiness, by Max Ehrmann
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Even When We Feel Static, Progress Is Occurring

Even though I feel many days that "I got NOTHING done" - I can look back on the last 7 days and know that progress is being made. Artistically:  I was juried into another regional exhibition for contemporary art - this exhibition will be at the Renaissance Center in Dickson, TN - a jewel of an art center, literally, in the middle of nowhere - but they have fantastic exhibitions and programs.  This is their 10th Annual Regional Exhibition covering all of the Southeastern States. I will be exhibiting SANCTUARY, 36" x 36" x 36", Mixed Media Installation.  Materials: vintage crinoline/lace/wire/bird's nest/robin's egg/kozo paper/ink/encaustic. The viewer will bend over from the waist to look down into the assemblage, which will be installed on the floor. After creating this piece I saw  A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS and I was enamored of the ending where he mentions that the Boudelaire's "found a sanctuary, no matter how small" everywhere they lived.  As a woman/human, I feel I have to maintain an inner sanctuary where I can go - it is where I hatch my plans and nurture my soul.  The second piece that will be exhibited is "MYTH OF INNOCENCE", an altered rubber doll.  9" x 4" x 3" . . . it refers to some personal icons (safety pins) and the idea of our outer shell (here a girl in her "Sunday best" underclothes and shoes) and our inner strength and resilience (the built-in altar). Materials: Found 1950's rubber doll, vintage lace, acrylic paint, liquid lead, acid, gold-leaf, safety pins (represent the "christian" school dress codes which required safety pins in all slits of skirts and between gaping buttons, and to hold down wrap-around skirts, etc.) I would love to hear back from you, my wonderful viewers/readers, what these art pieces say to you, I learn the most from feedback and can never really be offended as I know all comments are useful to my future pieces. So, what do you think?  Do you see any universe symbols that I didn't even realize I used? Personally: The studio is coming along and I only have about 3 more van loads of supplies that my wonderful hubby, Donny, is promising to get out of storage this weekend.  Isn't he gorgeous???? We celebrated our 17th anniversary this weekend, not counting the 1.5 years of living in sin before . . . Here he is on the boat between Murano and Burano, Italy.  Our first day there after about 20 hours of planes, trains & boats . . . Anyway, I wouldn't be who I am today if it wasn't for his belief in me and his support through the college years, the paxil years, the pregnancies (9 mos. x 3 of puking and hospitals and bed rest), births, breastfeeding, and he is always the primary caregiver once he is home . . . he is a catch!  And, no, you can't have him - I am his, he is mine. We don't believe in any of that - you complete me, Jerry McGuire BS - we are each independent beings with our own interests - he plays tennis, basketball, and Tiger Woods Golf on the Wii, and he is a very gifted nature photographer . . . I paint, antique, read, blog, photograph, knit, crochet, bake . . . and we let each other have our own fun and then get together for major fun - together we like to hike, kayak, make up CSI homicide scenes (then photograph them), no kidding, play Wii, scout out waterfalls . . .watch the birds . . . it is a simple life (except for the 3 busy kids!) Work:  so now I am working on 15 ink illustrations for an art history book: Faking Ancient America by Dr. Nancy Kelker and Dr. Karen Bruhn . . . I also created the cover art of some "fake" Pre-Columbian masks.  I am also working on finishing the Vincent Van "Cr"ogh Scarecrow for Cheekwood Museum. I'm busy, but happy.  Spending lots of time on Haven' Kimmel's blog www.havenkimmel.com and then remember I might want to actually post on my own! Here are some updates on the kids: Claire, turning 6 in 2 weeks, is enjoying 1st grade and making many new friends.  She is wild about the new tire swing we hung up in the 300 year-old huckleberry tree we are lucky enough to have in our backyard. Here she is being the main nurturer for SNAPPY, our new, tail-less kitten.  Snappy is named after Lauren's favorite Monday night restaurant, Snappy Tomato, the pizza buffet. Other names we considered: Waldo, Pompeii, Ash . . . Snappy won out.  But Claire and I usually call her "OOpsey!" Dylan, the soon to be 16 year old is  busy taking driver's ed (god save me), ROTC, Drill, Forensics and Latin Club - he is busy!  He continues to astound me with his philosophical insight, intelligence, and purity of heart.  We are blessed to have a gifted mentor for him at his school, Ms. Z, who is always there for him as he navigates his way through an athletic crazed school, below his level teachers and classes and generally helps push him from behind while I coax from the front - two more years and he will be off to college - we have so little time to prepare him for the big world. Dylan also has this great taste in music: Beatles, Tom Petty, Peter Gabriel, Rolling Stones . . . it goes on and on - and he is an actor and even sang 2 solos in the MusicMan this summer at the Algonquin in Manasquan, NJ - I can't wait to see what he decides to do for his life's work . . . we are so proud and admiring. Lauren, 14, has started babysitting and otherwise spends her time on-line, on her cellphone or chattering incessantly to me after school, and to us after dinner, and until we tell her to go to bed . . . she has been doing egg experiments: you soak an egg in white vinegar for 24 hours and the shell dissolves (she can tell you why), then you just have the membrane sack, the whites and the yolk, which you can see, and pick up and it is like jello (don't squeeze)....then you soak it in food coloring water over night and turns that color, but translucent - it is so awesome, she says you can throw it at something and it will splatter everywhere - it is gorgeous and I want to photograph a bunch of them.  Lauren is so gorgeous and beautiful and I am frozen in fear for her in this big bad world. so, we are busy - the kitten knocked over the hermit crab tank, the moles are taking over the yard, I have 52 mosquito bites . . . but all is well in our little corner of the world. sher
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Shaky Ground

written Aug 31, 2008, during insomniatic wakening

There are layers.

My truth is only one view through a convoluted, rippled memory.

As a child, my experiences and observations came with no contextual identifiers.  Even reactions were downplayed and re-assigned in acquiescence to an elder's (church's) desires.

In what format does a child live?  One person's most tragic day could be another's fantasy castle.

Pastelsplitself_2 The fact of some tragedy (ies) does not rob a child of their memorial joy, but it does cast a long shadow on their psychological future.

Sensory triggers are psychoneuroimmunilogical and those re-wired synapses cannot be re-instated to their seminal semantics.

This time of personal archetype development can overrun the soul.  Souls become lost in the netherworld of loss.

While surrounded by birds chirping in the clear blue sky, this, my tattered soul, is grasping at slippery roots to regain a sense of solid footing.

Shall it come to pass?

In my life, moments glimmer with mica-glittered foundation stones, until a new tremor comes along - it is hard to stand on such shaky ground.

What are my "seismic" pre-tremor shocks?

- thick, twisty "devil" eyebrows

- greasy, slicked-back, receding hair

- fishhooks

- knobs turning under a porch awning

- jelly

- banana seat bikes

- flyswatters (especially if shaped like a butterfly)

- keys or money being jangled in a pocket

- creaky swings

- fish eggs pouring from a fresh fish

- black, glossy tarmac from the glare of the sun

- dirty fingernails

- vans with no back seats

- trailers

- pencils

- having my head pushed down

- "Good Girl"

- religion

- blankets too light to feel "safe"

- the urge to pee at night and the danger of going to the nearest bathroom

Raggedy_digital Images:

Image 1 - above - "Split Self", pastel on paper, 32"h x 24"w, 2006.

Image 2 - immediate left - "Your Story Begins At Home", Found Object/Altered Doll Sculpture, Self Portrait, 42" h x 16"w x 17"d, 2006.

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Deathbed Wish/3M/Haven Kimmel's Iodine

My deathbed wish:  To be read to from my collection of books (many of which I have purchased in hardback) - the highlighted and/or underlined text ONLY. 

 

I quit listening to audio books while driving as I have had several near accidents while trying to write down a phrase or wording.  Why words at my deathbed, in lieu of visual art?  I struggled with the choice to focus on writing or visual art – the visual art won out only because it was more tactile and I have learned to merge my love of both. 

 

Assuming I will be so sick as not to be able to paint (and it is the process I love more than the product) - words won!

 

3M must be very excited that Oprah recommended the “flag highlighters” – here is a side view of the newest Kimmel book, Iodine.  A lot of the highlights are for books or authors she mentioned that I want to research further - I just LOVE how intelligent Trace/Ianthe was, it is that teetering on genius/insanity that intrigues me.

 

The dynamic of the world of academia vs. the "real" world is another that hit "home" with me - I used to go to college and just immerse myself there - it would be months before people knew I had children (they saw the car seats in the van).  I was just so being a student that I wanted those worlds separate.  I wanted to focus 100 percent on motherhood at home and 100 percent on learning when at school (I was in college from age 28-38, off and on, finally graduating in 2006, twenty years after high school).

This novel awaits my second reading (I'm still catching my breathe and research on lots of the references so that I can fully take it in).  This might be my most "marked" book ever.  Need I say more – my loved ones might just have to read the entire novel to me on referenced future deathbed (I’m going to be totally fried if I die in an accident vs. a long, drawn-out illness) . . . I’ll miss so much!

 

Enjoy (not a slight, but also Endure, Iodine);

It is worth every gasp,

For Art's Sake,

sher

PS Haven, if this isn't your "horror" novel, I have to say I am "afeared"!

 

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Integrating the Liberal Arts, Education, and Human Potential (Part III)

By representing oneself and one's creative outlet, it can be learned to respect others and their forms of expression.  Abuses against others, including animals and children, would be eradicated in general.  In addition, by each individual's ability to self-nurture and self-respect, instances of physical ailments and emotional neuroses will also diminish. These physical and emotional ailments can be directly related to repression and denials which can be expressed and embraced through practicing the arts.  Science has proved through the study of psycho-neuroimmunology that the mind and body are unequivocally connected.  Thosed emotional concerns, which are not dealt with and settled in the spirit, will adversely effect the physical health of the individual.  Conversely, if one is taught ways in which to EXpress them as opposed to REpress, we know that physical health and wellbing will be established and maintained.  Your body is an instrument that sends messages to your mind, illnesses are to be considered wake-up signs and warning signals of underlying emotional concerns. Friedrich Nietzche reminds us that "[t]he role or purpose of art is to enhance life . . . to increase . . . the concentration and force of the vital spirit" (Barzun 123).  By nurturing our creative consciousness, more meaningful and long-lasting solutions will be found for the world's ills.  "Through the arts we learn to see our environment more clearly; to sense its color, song, and dance; and to preserve its life and quality (Panel 3-4).  Our "pursuit of happiness" needs to include our relationships with others and the world in which we live.  The world does not revolve around any human individual; indeed, we evolve within our world. Through the integration of arts in our everyday lives, the world can be changed to one in which full human potential may be achieved.  A world in which every species has an equal opportunity to reach and fulfill their intrinsic purpose of being.  The arts are one form in which humans may be utilized as healers and teachers of the universe. Copyright 1999 by Sher Fick, all rights reserved. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ WORKS CITED AND REFERENCED Ackerman, Diane.  "Why We Need to Play", Parade, Daily News 25 April 1999:12-13. Barzun, Jacques.  The Use and Abuse of Art, (The A.W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts, 1973), Princeton University Press, 1974. Carbonetti, Jeanne.  The Tao of Watercolor, A Revolutionary Approach to the Practice of Painting, Watson-Guptill Publications, New York, NY, 1998. Frida Kahlo.  Dir(s) E. Herson, R. Guerra and W. Von Bonin, RM Arts, 1983. Gaines, Susan.  "The Art of Living", Better Homes and Gardens, March 1999: 58-62. The Getty Center for Education in the Arts.  Arts for Life, videocassette copyright 1990, J. Paul Getty Trust. Mellencamp, John and Green, George M.  Your Life is Now, Compact Disc "John Mellencamp", Little B. Publishing/EMI April Music Incl, 1998. Offner, Rose.  Journal to the Soul, The Art of Sacred Journal Keeping, Gibbs-Smith Publisher, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1996. Otto Dix: The Painter is the Eyes of the World.  Dir. Reiner E. Moritz.  Poorhouse Productions, 1989. Panel, The Arts, Education and Americans.  Coming to Our Senses, The Significance of the Arts for American Eduction, McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1977. Williamson, Marianne.  A Return to Love, Reflections on The Principles of A Course in Miracles, Haper Paperbacks, New York, NY, 1994. http://vh1.com/insidevh1/savethemus/ . . . 4/19/1999.  Website of VH1 Registered.
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Integrating the Liberal Arts, Education, and Human Potential (Part II)

continued from Part I . . .

More importantly than the skills which are applied in our business worlds are the values gained through an exposure to the arts.  Values can be practiced where it really counts for something - in our communities and family relations.  Tolerance of racial and ethnic traditions is required to move our communities forward in cultural and socio-economic settings.  Peace can only be achieved through communication, and the arts are a universal form of communication.  Isadora Duncan has stated: "If I could tell you what I mean, there would be no point in dancing".  The language of the arts can bridge any cultural schism.  Marianne Williamson reminds us in A Return to Love that to communicate is to love and to attack is to separate (160).

Otto Dix, a visual artist who lived through both World Wars, refers to the creative energy as a form of "exorcise"; and Frida Kahlo, another visual artist who lived with physical torments from an accident, stated that painting "purged her memory" and helped her deal with chronic pain and physical anguish.  Eco-psychologists consider art to be an integral form of therapy, one in which our communion with nature may be fully expressed and that our psyches require this communion with nature to effect emotional and spiritual balance for atonement (being at one with nature) in our lives.

Through open mindedness and an ability to express oneself, a generation schooled in the arts will be capable of reaching the peace and cultural acceptance unknown on our planet since "civilization" began.  Only through seeking creative solutions to our differences can we avoid the apparently automatic urge to "bear arms" (emphasis mine).  When an individual is unable to express their confusion and disillusionment with their world in a non-violent manner, we view their expression through violence.  As is apparently the case in the recent phenomenon of adolescent males using firepower to demand recognition and retribution in our schools.  This irrepressible need for attention was obviously not fulfilled in their younger days, they were not taught or given examples of acceptable expression, therefore they need to act out against their supposed or imagined oppressors.  World wars have always begun because of intolerance of others; we are currently suffering the consequences of our own condoning attitude towards intolerance.  One cannot hide these attitudes from family and communities.  Intolerance needs to be recognized for what it is - a sickness of the heart and soul and treated as such.  When words are not heeded, actions will follow.

Once an individual has learned for themselves "non-judgment and patience" (Carbonetti 102) through arts, these same values can be enacted in their families and communities and, eventually, universally.  By learning to express oneself through art so that one might live authentically; and by expressing one's own realizations and manifesting (i.e., making evident or plainly show something) those beliefs, an individual will be capable of sharing with the world the greatest gift.  A human who understands and has experienced their own beliefs can authentically express himself or herself.

Ackerman refers to art as a form of "deep play", wherein an individual may reach balance of mind and spirit.  Having "peace with one's self and the world" is a necessary element of living the human experience in a fulfilling manner.  To choose an outlet for one's emotions, whether it be through writing, drama, visual arts, dance or any other form of expression is to lose yourself in the merging of the creative moment.  By doing so an alternate reality is reached, troubles may be left behind, and an individual becomes the conqueror, creator, invincible; literally - "an ideal version of oneself".

Therefore, children must be given the means with which to express themselves.  Children must view peaceful and meaningful examples of communication.  Our perceptions are comprised of more than the written word; therefore, our training should include other forms of communication.  We express our emotions through body language, visual aids, cadence, and eye contact, and many more forms.  However, rarely do you ever see a curriculum that lists "non-verbal communication" other than sign language for the deaf.  A class need not be so literal, but the attitude needs to be in the learning institution that art is vital to the overall emotional and intellectual development of a child and has an inherent worth in and of itself (emphasis mine).  Art is an essential part of being human and in expressing ourselves as individuals within a larger society.  Only through expression can similarities be identified and those similarities can be the building blocks of a new understanding between cultures.  Art historians have been the major contributors of theological study in ancient cultural beliefs, daily regimes, and historical significance.  It is through their arts that we can visualize ancient Rome, Pompeii, and Egypt.    Understanding of diverse cultures may be reinterpreted into any form of dance, theater, philosophy, poetry,  . . . the list is endless.  Through shared expression a new relationship is born between the cultures and the grand collaboration of peace can begin.

. . . to be continued in Part III along with Works Cited references.

copyright 1999 - Sher Fick, all rights reserved

 

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Why, In Our Current Culture, Bother Making Art?

Throughout human existence, individuals have spoken through their arts. 

By studying a culture’s uncovered arts, we discover clues to their spiritual beliefs, daily lives, traditions, and human relationships - to name just a few benefits.

 

Therefore, artists in today’s world can bring forth these same revelations.  An artist has a chance to make social commentary (to me the most important), statements on spirituality, celebrate life, question the unanswerable, and reconcile their struggles. 

 

By communicating visually, the artist traverses the cultural/lingual divide.

No one needs to know your race, religion, or gender in order to view and interpret your art.

Ideally, art can be the great connector.  I believe expressing yourself also sends energies into the Universe – thus communicating with all forms of life.

 

It is of vital importance to express yourself in some creative manner (all liberal arts are inclusive in expression) in order to avoid repression and illnesses of mind and body.

 

 

 

Written August 2000 for Advanced Sculptural Form, University of West Florida, Professor John P. Donovan’s class.

 

 

 

Post Script - "Note on SOLE MATES, above":

 

 

 

Assignment was for a found object/recycling project: 

 

I utilized junk from the trash pile at my favorite antique/junk store in Niceville, FL - the legs and an old cabinet door was part of my loot.  I wanted to reassign the purpose of objects as well, thus changing a door into a table, etc.  While working on this project my favorite pair of boots literally fell apart while I was working in the studio.  It was a pair of "parachute" boots I had purchased while engaged in 1990 (so they were 10 years old by this time).  I was so mad, they had molded to my feet and were like working in bare feet, but safe!  I was ticked and was dropping them in the trash can (something I would NEVER do since) when I glimpsed some ART? on the sole of the boot . . . I quickly retrieved them and found this amazing rubber stamp design on the sole - in fact it was THE SOLE of the boots!  A gorgeous global map with "leave footprints of peace" or something like that . . .

 

 

 

I had been leaving those footprints for 10 years, completely unaware of my effect on my environment.  It was what we consciously and unconsciously do in our daily lives that effect the world around us. 

 

 

 

I now try to be aware and choose the footprints I leave behind.  I still re-cycle/pre-cycle my garbage, as any view of my studio can attest . . . you NEVER know when you can use/re-use something.

 

 

 

For Art's Sake,

sher

 

 

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Integrating the Liberal Arts, Education, and Human Potential (Part I)

Written April 27, 1999 for Philosophy/Ethics Class, with Dr. Dirk Dunbar, University of West Florida.

If we want our world to be still, gray and silent, then we should keep the arts out of school, shut down the neighborhood theatre, and barricade the museum doors.  When we let the arts into the arena of learning, we run the risk that color and motion and music will enter our lives.

-David Rockefeller, Jr.

By examining the benefits of integrating the liberal arts (theater, music, philosophy, dance, and visual arts) into our educational system, we see that humans can learn to effectively change the course of our culture and environment.  Through directly integrating the liberal arts into our educational curriculum, the enhancement of all individuals will be achieved.  Currently the "arts" are viewed as "extra-curricular" activities, which are not considered essential to a child's emotional or intellectual development.  Required subjects are the "three R's - reading, 'riting, and 'rithmatic".  Only if additional funds, volunteers, and resources are available do the children receive the benefit of exposure to the arts.  Yet, "the arts, properly taught, are basic to individual development, since they, more than any other subject, awaken the senses - the learning pores" (Panel 6).

Humans require means through which to express themselves, separate from the written word.  If an individual is unsuccessful in expressing themselves through the visual, theatrical or musical fields, we know that frustrations build up from repression and anxiety - these stresses lead to physical and emotional illnesses.  Art can be a catalyst for filtering and expressing our life experiences, positive and negative, so that one might better handle the future, and not be buried in the past or in negative experiences.  Through exposing children to the act of collaborating with others on art projects (writing plays, painting murals, building large sculptures) they will learn how to work with others.  By working out divergent opinions and ideas, by problem-solving, and by creating their own joint successes - confidence in themselves and other humans can be experienced.  World leaders of today could utilize these same collaborative skills in effecting world peace.  In learning to respect differing beliefs, yet by focusing on commonalities, human potential can be achieved.

Unfortunately, to date, most conventional educators have not accepted the integral necessity of incorporating the arts into the everyday experiences of our lives, "nor as a legitimate part of education" (Panel 6).  By separating the importance of arts from education, the educational community is sending a clear message that art is not necessary for success and wellbeing.  Clearly, the opposite is true:  "Segregation of art from education is unnatural . . . art is indivisible from life and education" (Panel 6).  By providing our children with artistic experiences from their earliest learning experiences we will offer unique ways of viewing the world.  Art teaches diversity, patience, and problem solving; while at the same time motivates the individuals by creating successful experiences which will encourage deeper and further learning challenges.  Direct benefits are currently being revealed:  music study leads to higher mathematical comprehension; dance positively influences physical wellness; visual arts expand problem solving and communication skills; and philosophy teaches tolerance and flexible thinking.  "Art is power . . . it influences the mind, the nerves, the feelings, the soul . . . " (Panel 7, 16; Gaines 58-72, Barzun 21).  As an example, VH1's "Save The Music" program is trying to insure that all children will be able to "expand their brain cells" by being exposed to musical education in public elementary schools (http://vh1.com/insidevh1/savethemus/ . . . April 1999).

 

Once the arts are encouraged and the natural creativity of a child is nurtured, or in essence midwifed/birthed" (emphasis mine), these skills will be carried throughout their lives.  In the professional world, artistic skills are highly coveted.  The ability of an individual to think "outside the lines" (emphasis mine) is beneficial in the technological fields where capabilities are challenged in this constantly evolving field.  Being able to think originally is what sets apart individuals and businesses into the successes of a generation.  For instance, the world would be less enjoyable without the creative thinking of Alexander Graham Bell, Bill Gates, Abraham Lincoln, Ghandi, or Rosa Parks, to name a few.

(to be continued, Part II & III, with Works Cited provided on last installment)

 

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Hiatus Ended

It is unbelievable that I have pulled an ostrich for the last few months. OVERWHELMED would be the only word to describe my state-of-mind. Fabulous things have happened since I last posted . . . 1.   We FINALLY, after 10 months, sold the house 2.    We bought our dream house with an 1,100 sq. ft walk-out basement studio for me. 3.    I am now trying to balance decorating and furnishing the house, pulling a rabbit out of the hat to set-up the studio, settling the kids in school and after-school activities . . . 4.  Maintaining a busy exhibition and commission schedule. Anyway, I'm back.  Ready to conquer the world.  I've been doing tons of reading, researching, sketching, dreaming, sharing, and am ready for several new series of work as a result of this low energy ebb - as is all things, my life is cyclical and I feel on the output upswing! Here is the empty (pre-purchase view of the studio) i.e., my "blank canvas" - still figuring out how to set it up, run some electricity, etc. So I am back in the saddle and will be posting with more regularity . . . For Art's Sake,
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TAKE CARE: The Art, Science and Bioethics of Motherhood

The TAKE CARE Exhibition has found a home on the web:

www.n-cap.org/take_care.html

Please view the exhibition essay by Veronica Kavass, New York Based Writer-Curator, in the Exhibition Brochure.  You may also view the included artists and their websites:

Annette Gates - Kristina Arnold - Adrienne Outlaw - Sher Fick - Lindsay Obermeyer - Monica Bock - Sadie Rubin - Jeanette May - Libby Rowe

Many thanks to Adrienne Outlaw for organizing the critical essay, brochure and website!!!

I'm really looking forward to exhibiting with such a fine group of strong female artists.

 

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Installation of COPING SKILLS is completed!

Completed views of COPING SKILLS.  Height 42", Width 50", Depth 15".     It's all in the details - viewer will be reflected in the floor of the altar table: To read a full Artist's Statement regarding Coping Skills, click "Pages - Artist's Statement for CS" on the right-hand side of this blog. For Art's Sake, Sher
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Interview with Artist Libby Rowe

FICK:  HOW DID YOU FEEL SEEING YOUR YEARS OF IDEAS AS A WHOLE, MADE TANGIBLE IN YOUR DESIGNED ENVIRONMENT?
This show represents relatively new ideas in respect to the overall body of work entitled "Pink".  Most of these ideas have been conceived within the last 2 years and were conceived of to work together in this exhibition.  I am pleased with how these specific pieces communicate with each other.  I have been working on "Pink" since 1996.  I knew, eventually, there would be enough pieces to really make a conversation about being female.  With this exhibition I feel I have finally hit a critical mass in this work.
FICK:  DID YOU REALIZE ANY FURTHER CATHARSIS IN THE CREATION OF THE WORKS THAT YOU DIDN'T EXPECT? Hmmm...there are always some pleasant surprises.  I normally have a pretty good idea of how a piece will look/function before I can even begin the physical making process.  I would say that with some of these pieces, I took a bit of a leap of artistic faith.  The web ["Web of Lies"], for instance, began as a pretty straight forward idea.  To begin, I sent an email out to women who have participated in my work in the past - friends, family...asking them to send me a lie they tell themselves.  I expected different levels of commitment to the internalization of that request.  Everyone is in a different place after all.  I was surprised at how deep some women went and that they were willing to share that with me.  The piece took on a deeper poignancy.    Ultimately, I am pleased with the final piece and am excited about it being filled with lies that eventually cover the web itself. 
"It Sucks" Diptych is another one that ended up holding more meaning than I first thought it could.  For me there was a lot there, but I didn't know if it would translate to other people.  Most of my work comes from my own experiences, so they are really personal on some level.  That often becomes second to the physicality of the piece as it ends up. I am coming to understand the opportunity [of participation] that is embedded in my work.  Not everyone takes advantage, but those who do make the work that much richer.
FICK:  DO YOU HAVE MORE IDEAS FOR ADDITIONAL PIECES OR SERIES WHICH WILL BE OFF-SHOOTS OF THIS EXHIBITION?
I started using myself in my photographic work as an undergraduate at the University of Northern Iowa.  During Grad School I went all out and did a series of photographs that really put me out there.  I haven't done that so blatantly since then.  I seem like a pretty outgoing person, but getting back on the horse, so to speak, was a challenge.  One of the things that has always interested me in this work is facing my own taboos and demons.  I never ask a viewer to take part in a piece that I haven't done myself.  I believe this is why people are so willing to participate in my work.  Without total exposure, total honesty on my end, I can't expect it from them. 
How does it feel?  It is nerve-wrecking, exhausting and exhilarating at the same time.  I guess younger generations should just take risks and be OK with failures when they happen.  I have been interested by many comments from people who are younger who seem to be getting the message, before seeing my work.  The feminism challenge ebbs and flows.  I would like to see them figure out how to stop the ebb, those decades where we move too far backwards.  I try not to be preachy about my feminist/humanist beliefs, with the work or in talks/interviews.  I have my beliefs, one of which is that you can draw more flies with honey than with angry feminist diatribes...wait, is that how that one goes?  My main goal is to get people to think about what they believe, where their beliefs come from, [and] possibly change along the way.
Libby Rowe is a Professor of Photography at Vanderbilt University.  Her exhibition "PINK" is on view at the Leu Gallery, Belmont University, through March 6.
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Art Inspired by Holly Hobbie

written Tuesday night, Feb 19th Here is the proof that buying vintage Holly Hobbie Fabric pays off: Detail of COPING SKILLS (see Pages for Artist's Statement). I am realizing more and more that my work is actually stronger the more autobiographical it is.  When I first began collecting fabrics I thought it was purely aesthetic, that I was drawn to the designs/colors/nostalgia.  As with anything, the more you do and the more you practice, it gets better.  I really feel like my work is beginning to come into focus - almost as if I am manually using a lens to clarify my views and expressions. Today was a hard day artistically - spent most of the day doing things that you don't really think of as "making art" - detailing the model of RAPUNZEL and tweaking the altar table for COPING SKILLS - just like motherhood I am multi-tasking. Here are the jobs I did today: 1.  Daughter/sister while my mom was enduring another post-operative visit following her heart surgery (coordinating with siblings from hundreds of miles away) 2.  Model maker/Woodworker/Carpenter (here I am using my favorite tool - a Rotozip, a gift from my stepdad, Lloyd). 3.  Painter 4.  Sculptor 5.  Set Designer 6.  Furniture Mover 7.   Photographer and photographer's assistant 8.   Graphic artist (editing digital photos) 9.   Historian 10. Chauffeur 11.  Cook 12.  Maid ...........it goes on and on......... The sense of accomplishment is making it, mostly, worth while.  But my back does ache! For Art's Sake, sher
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On-line Interview by Erica Volpe of West Chester University

Conducted on November 30, 2007 VOLPE: PLEASE PROVIDE YOUR Name, age, location etc.  FICK:  Sher Fick, turning 40 this weekend, currently residing in Rural Tennessee. Midwest until age 18, Atlanta until age 22, Princeton NJ,  Atlanta, Panhandle, FL (age 26-36), Rural TN since 2003. Raised in Rural Illinois/Indiana.  I became obsessed with art from age  4. My first success was being asked by my first grade teacher to paint a manger mural for Christmas - it was a huge wall-sized piece and I had to get on a step stool to put the star in the sky.  In second grade I did a  Bicentennial Poster of Betsy Ross sewing the flag - I remember putting in the wood grain on the churn standing by her side.  On a negative note I also remember painting an old-fashioned girl (long flowing dress) in a field and having fellow 5th grade boys say it was a Kotex ad . . . I was devastated!   Moving into junior high and high school I was involved in art class and state competitions.  By then I was known as the "artsy" student. Dealing with the issues of motherhood vs. artist the work is more visually disturbing, but is constructed in the same celebratory feminine materials - the actual juxtaposition/conflict of material vs/with subject (as in "Constraint", a hand-made, quilted straightjacket, created as an "Ode to Motherhood" or in "Tread Lightly", my wedding shoe altered with safety pins overflowing from the shoe), so I think initially the viewer is drawn in by the warmth and nostalgic surface and then, hopefully, looks for a deeper  message. I am not bothered by displeasure from a viewer, as a matter of fact some of my work should disturb - I think the fact that I am willing to express my struggles so honestly is distressing to many people.  It makes them uncomfortable - so I expect mixed reactions.  Getting a reaction is what it is meant to do, complete disinterest is probably the worst reaction!  Regarding reactions, I have actually sacrificed a close relationship with a family member because of my candid worldview and my commitment to my art.  I have to do what is right for me and my family and if others can't deal with it (viewers or friends/family) - then they can lump it.  To me that is their issue, not  mine.  I separate myself from the reaction (good or bad) because I don't  want to be swayed in future creations.orks/series. VOLPE:  What do you love most about art? FICK:  To me the expressive qualities of art making has become a very therapeutic practice.  I get very grumpy and "off" if I haven't had enough art time.  I also love the fact that no matter the age, language, etc. of the viewer, they can communicate (or I can communicate to them) through visual art.  To me, art breaks all boundaries.  I have this weird thing, too, where I just love to look at art - I'm appreciative of the technique or the sheer ability to express.  I have a few pet peeves as well - Thomas  Kincaide makes me livid.  Ugh.  That is another story . . . VOLPE:  What medium do you work in, why is this your medium of choice, and if you'd like to explain some of your processes in working  with encaustic or other mediums you use. FICK:  After training for years in various methods of painting (from liquid watercolor, acrylic, oil, and handmade temperas, gauche, and mixed media with collage) I would hit a wall after "mastering" the media - I became completely  bored and kept searching for new techniques to emphasize the luminosity factor - even worked with tinted resins for a while.  The first time I saw an  encaustic and saw it labeled that (about 1999) I was intrigued.  After researching I began auto-didactic practices in 2003.  The publication of Joanne Mattera's "The Art of Encaustic Painting" was a goldmine and it has become my encaustic "bible".  In particular I enjoy the flexibility of the media.  I can also utilize it in assemblage work and textiles (something which Jasper Johns began in the 50's).  I am drawn to the ancientness of the materials, as well, and  the fact that it is completely natural and organic.  I am an avid environmentalist so this is important to me to not leave a negative  footprint (as with oils/plastics/etc). VOLPE:  What do you get out of doing your art?  Financially, emotionally, spiritually, being able to make a statement? Political, etc.? FICK:  Well-being is the main reason I practice art.  Expression vs. repression.  I have had emotional challenges in my life and art is a  catalyst for my resilience.  Financially things are beginning to take shape  - but that is never my focus when I am creating art.  In fact, the less I  worry about what others will like or buy, the more successful I have been!   The emotional and spiritual benefits of art are hand-in-hand, as well as mixed with a feeling of accomplishment and productivity in life.  I always feel the need to be pushing forward, breaking down barriers (personally, culturally, politically), and advocating for liberal arts in general.  Politically, I am concerned mainly with the personal acceptance of oneself - authenticity is the true success and in this way I have found myself in a group of female artists. VOLPE: Much of your work is themed toward women, would  you consider yourself a feminist, and why have you chosen to go this route? FICK:  It was never my intent to create feminist art.  However, I think all creative endeavors are best when the maker is expressing what they know best and when they speak from a place of experience.  I am a woman - so my experiences  are related to that.  I don't want to box myself into a label, but I do not mind doing series of work which relates to a genre.  I also do  environmentally inspired work, they are just different series to me. I am currently having fun exploring this feminine side - I am going at it full on and not questioning the impulses to use pink and lace and paper  dolls. Some of the seminal pieces (before I even recognized what I was  doing) were declarations of my working out the struggles between being a mother and a strong desire to be a working artist.  The mother part of me was  expressed in womanly fabrics and "handwork", I just followed the trail and was then approached by another female artist to be included in a group exhibition.  That was the first time I ever thought about my art being  "feminist" - I actually prefer "feminine" as I don't feel a huge burden to wave a pink political banner.  On the other hand, I don't want to deny the political implications of equality, opportunity, etc.  I have met and discussed this (briefly at an art opening) with Judy Chicago - I understand her view points based on her era, but I want to be open to an evolving, modern femininity and its issues.  I see no reason  to repeat what has already been said or to fight for what has already been won. VOLPE:  Was it natural for you to focus on female issues and/or childhood themes or whatever else you focus on because of being a woman, your own experiences, etc: and what does this do for you? FICK:  I actually fought myself tooth and nail to NOT express myself in a feminine way because I didn't want to be labeled.  That created a major imbalance in my own psyche and it showed in my work, I would even not share work that appeared too "girly".  My journey of self-acceptance included the integration into my art of who I already was.  It was similar to trying to merge several personalities into one. As I explored the subject matter I began to discover metaphors of media to the chosen subject.  The idea of working with fabrics and quilting directly correlated to my subjects of constriction and concealment, fo r example.  Following these avenues led from one connection to another until I was, literally, quilting found objects into altar scapes (see, "Coping Skills", which will be my first traveling Museum exhibition). VOLPE: What would you like your viewers to get from  your work? FICK:  My favorite reaction is to an initial sense of "fun" and "nostalgia", then  a deeper reaction to the underlying messages of "myth of childhood innocence", "celebration of innocence", and, possibly, the sadness of the loss of those things.  VOLPE:  Are there any particular issues you'd like to bring up? FICK: I think artists should free themselves to explore what is important to them, to not worry so much about selling, or reaching 90% of the  population.  I hope maybe 5% "gets" me.  I also think that the most successful artists were not trying to create only "sell-able" work when they made their greatest breakthroughs, I like to say I am following a "creative impulse" when I am trying something crazy or new.  If you only pre-plan and produce what is already acceptable, then you remove the opportunity of making a discovery along the way.  I really encourage the idea of following the artistic impulse without question, then once you have created you can begin the analyzing  phase - usually meaning is revealed through/after the creation process.   Sometimes it is way down the road or it can be instantaneous - but if you don't follow the impulse you will never know. VOLPE:  Do you come across any difficulties in the  professional field of art stemming from being a woman? FICKE:  YIKES - that is such a heavy question. I do think that the number of females in administrative/curatorial positions has a direct effect on the art that is selected.  That being said, I also believe that women have to choose between making art and raising families, so there are fewer women artists in any given pool to select from.  I don't like the idea of being chosen for something because I am or am not a woman - any type of discrimination disturbs me.  I do not feel that I have been kept from any opportunities because I am a woman.  The roadblocks for me have been logistical - I have no brain cells when I am nursing, I can't use toxic materials around infants or while pregnant, I chose to stay home with my children until pre-school age (thanks to a husband who has emotionally and finincially supported myself and our children) and then only part-time, so the number of hours I could have been creating art have been greatly reduced in my life.  Therefore, my personal choices have created major delays and constraints to my art expression. On the other hand, I feel I have so much more to share now that I have 20 years "under my belt" so to speak.  I feel like I am finally getting a clue  . . . so those years of diapers, cooking, cleaning, playing, were spent in a cocoon which has lead to the final product - and I am still discovering metamorphic results as a woman, as an artist, as a mother, and THEN, how to blend those aspects of myself.  I have no regrets, but I do have  frustrations and feelings of being caged artistically. VOLPE:  Do you have another job? Do you have children? A  husband? How do you balance everything? FICK:  I was a paralegal for 7 years before being married - I created art as a hobby during that time period.  After marrying and having the first two children I opened an interior decorating business, which morphed into Art Consultation . . . at that point I began taking classes and slowly working on an art degree (it took me 7 years to complete my BFA).  I have worked as a Curator, muralist, artistic portrait/collages, commission artist, private and public art instruction - it is only in the past year (as my youngest child went to school full-time) that I have abandoned any other forms of income to being a full-time artist.  I saved up money from being a paid Studio Manager/Curator and am lucky that my husband of 17 years can pay the mortgage, etc.  All funds I earn from my art can be re-invested in my art endeavors.  I could be making a lot more if I wasn't committed to being a mother who is  accessible to her children after school and on the weekends.  My children are aged 15, 13, and 5 - yes, I had a bonus ("too many bottles of wine for New Year's baby!") - the timing was terrible and completely tripped me up career-wise.  So I took a baby break, finished my degree, and am finally back on my feet (paying for preschool was a major hit financially for me) - it would have been cheaper to stay home and give up on my art all together, so I chose to do a half way on both things . . . I have to live with my conscience at the end of the day.  My husband is very supportive which helps, but I had to sacrifice many things and had to pay for childcare while interning and going to school, so I'm still personally pay ing off student loans, etc.  This is something that most people don't consider.  The hardest part for me has been being torn, literally, between my children and my  art - I feel that both have suffered, but that I need both things in my  life. I fully intended at one point to go to graduate school to become an art professor.  Along the way I discovered my love of creating and that I didn't need the MFA to be an artist.  I hope to one day have a larger studio where I can teach workshops for children and adults to fulfill my art advocacy/teaching impulses without sacrificing my creative time.  I also continue to develop and guest curate exhibitions of which I may or may not be a participating artist.  These side ventures tend to fund the art supplies and can at times even create a positive balance sheet.  I am also involved  in group or individual creations of public art installations which are paid contracts . . . that keeps expenses covered and is a great network/marketing tool for the individual w VOLPE: Are you satisfied, overjoyed, anxious? What  would you like to change for you----what do you really, really, really want? FICK:  Five years ago I created 5 Year Goals - I reached all of them ahead of schedule.  I am making new "bigger" goals and I am ecstatic at this point. Conversely, it terrifies me that I have to commit so far in advance  to contracts on "intangible" ideas.  I think that is my perfection gene and the feelings of inadequacy that was drilled into me as a "Christian" girl, also having 3 children I understand the fact that you have to leave buffer zones of time and funds as you never know what might happen to delay things. One of my biggest hurdles was the decision to sell our house to purchase one with 1000 sq ft of studio space for me.  This will enable me to be accessible to the children before/after school, but I will be able to gain access to my studio at any time of day or night (I am definitely a night  owl).  This is a huge decision, but one that I feel will benefit all of us  - I won't feel so guilty in being away so much.  The biggest negative is  that I won't be in "town" in the middle of all the art networking.  I will have to make big efforts to attend openings, drop in on fellow artists, lunch, etc. - it is amazing the information that flies through the air between artists.  I will greatly miss that - I will also hold open studio times at my place for fellow artists to drop in for work days and I also spend days in other artist's  studios working on "hand" work. VOLPE:  Are there any words of advice you would like the whole human race to know, and/or especially up and coming women  artists. FICK: Trust yourself.  Joseph Campbell says it the  best - "Follow Your Bliss".  For me, my best results have always been when I followed my instincts rather than the advice of others.  That being said, I have a very tight group of mentors whom I regularly enlist for feedback -  these are people that "get" me, that I respect for their own intelligence and work ethic.  If I do not admire the person (morally, ethically), I do not give credit to their opinions.  If I feel someone is tearing me down just for the fun of it, I review if it is someone I respect . . . if not, then I let it go.  Most  constructive criticism is provided from givers. Negative and mean-spirited critiques are given from takers.  Distinguishing between the two has really helped me move forward and not be side-tracked in my work. I also think that being free of grades is incredibly invigorating.   Some colleagues find it impossible to be self-disciplined, but it has been the opposite for me.  I feel let loose on the world instead of held back.   I think you need to weigh the source, decide if it applies to you, and make personal decisions on your work.  In that way, you are completely responsible for any successes or failures.  I don't believe any work is a failure, by doing we move forward to the next piece, in that sense all pieces are linked to the previous - make, make, make and the success (knowing that you have expressed what you intended) will follow. Also there are no absolutes.  One professor might have said "DON'T USE  ANY TEXT IN YOUR ART", but then you see an exhibition notice for a purchase award for a library gallery which required the use of text . . . so, don't exclude yourself from opportunities based on someone else's rules.  Find your own rules, create them if you have to . . . let them be flexible. I take every opportunity I can get to share my philosophy and art with others.  It has been a blessing and encouragement to me to encounter in my day-to-day life such open-minded and invigorating spirits.  So if someone asks me what I do, I proudly reply "I am an artist and a mother" - if they are interested in more, I give it, if their eyes glaze over, I shut up.  The perception of being an artist in America is very different from what you encounter in Europe - there they practically bow at your feet, here they  snicker.  Strangers, family, (former) friends actually feel it is selfish of me to apply my energies to my art, that I am "indulging" myself, almost like a drug addict.  To me, being an artist is a gift and a burden.  To  have the gift of creativity means you should honor and protect it.  Of all the liberal arts, I think Visual Artists get the biggest put down.  It offends me, so any opportunity I can have to further the understanding and acceptance of Visual Arts are greatly appreciated.  If I had no creativity,  I would definitely be a Philosophy or Art Philosophy Professor.  I think that educationally, the philosophies play a major role in advocacy for all liberal arts - they can actually teach someone how to appreciate and analyze art.  The more people who understand, the more support we, the artists, will have. ~~~~~~~~~~~~END of INTERVIEW~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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I'm Forty Saga

I'M FORTY SAGA: Written December 3, 2007
I admit it - I'm 40, this was hammered in today, when the evidence could no longer be ignored:
 
1. Woke up and drove 2 kids to school but have no memory of it until I was lost for 2 hours looking for the driver's license bureau (it moved, my license is expired, and THEY AREN'T OPEN ON MONDAY!) 
2.  I made 16 beeswax candles and attempted to begin about 20 paintings and 2 sculptures, but because I kept having to stop - I "FEEL" that I accomplished NOTHING today.   
3.  After picking the crippled, eldest child at school at 3 pm (yes I was 10 minutes late, sue me), yes he is fine, but on crutches (sans bus until Xmas . . .)   
4.  Back home, Squeezing in 1.5 hours of work in the FREEZING garage (yes, Don got me a heater, but it is still cold), and a guilty 20 minutes watching Dr. OZ on Oprah, (I gave up taping them because I never watch them) . . . I go to pick up Claire from Kindergarten (yes she gets out at 3, but LIKES to stay for after-school "play" time), had to go back in the house for:  a) KEYS (which I never take out of the van, what was that about?, b) COAT (40 degrees), and c) CELL PHONE (in case somebody calls to see the house which is for sale and I have to retrieve children, clean, and vacate in 30 minutes . . . you never know) . . . ok . . . so then absently leave said CELL PHONE in the car while I check Claire out (takes 10 minutes), and, we have no home phone right now because CHARTER cable is waiting 3 weeks to connect it . . .
(Claire with the beautiful flowers G'ma Shirley sent for my Birthday)
***THIS IS THE WHAMMEE***
I get back in the car to see an unearthly blinking light emerging from my melted glass of diet coke (which I left from the AM/Driver's License debacle) . . . it was the CELLPHONE . . . ugh . . . I drowned it!!*&###@!@@@*.
5.  Home . . . feeling like Scarlett O'Hara, but more diminished than that . . . eat salad, boil spiral pasta, grill burgers . . . who cares, it doesn't go and isn't gourmet, but . . . my poor husband, so desperate for a wife/homemaker is ACTUALLY happy about this slop!!!! Ha!  He actually thanked me profusely . . . Hilarious!
6.   OH CHEER - my sister Susan has had a beautiful arrangement of flowers sent for my erstwhile birthday - aren't they pretty???  And isn't the cell phone intriguing with its innards revealed . . . more about this pic in a moment . . .
7.  At this point I become overwhelmed and go up for a timeout . . . (i.e., Mommy nap, even though it is 7 pm) . . . it lasts barely an hour . . . I optimistically run a bath, there are 4 humans in the house...what was I thinking??
8.  Look for cookbooks for a while (of course, the ones I want are in storage . . . the house is for sale remember, 1/2 our stuff is in storage units!) . . . so waste an hour looking at recipes on-line . . . 
9. Take the bath I ran 2 hours ago, yes, the water was cold . . . had to drain and refill . . . now I am an idiot 40 year-old AND an environmental criminal . . .
10. 11 pm - still can't get to sleep so get up and bake a cake . . . which I forgot to flour the pans before I poured the FROM SCRATCH batter . . . ugh, again . . . this time I realize I also forgot to add the milk, so this is good, NO???  Put the goo back in the blender, pour the milk on top and FLOOEY . . . it splatters EVERYWHERE . . . it is around 1 a.m., by the way . . . but I cleaned that up, the cakes are in the oven . . .    
11.  I DECIDE I DESERVE A MARGARITA . . . . . . and happily pour it in my vintage Holly Hobbie glass (which I purchased during an insomniac e-bay buying spree) . . . . and knock it over . . . guess where? ? ! . . . ON TOP OF THE DISMANTLED PHONE!!!!
12.  WAITING FOR THE CAKE TO BURN . . . CHEERS, I'M FORTY! 
On the bright side:
Pros to 40 - I got some awesome flowers, had a great day with my kids and hubby Sunday (and a Dippin' Dots cake - I don't advise, tasted ok, but is horrendous looking, the kids liked it!), good date with Don and Art Gallery Hopping with Art Friends on Saturday . . . looking forward to seeing friends next weekend . . .
It is good to be 40 . . . it is 2 a.m. now, the cake is only slightly burned, and DON has promised to take the kids to school in the morning . . . it doesn't get any better than that!
Here I am a few days later  - practicing blowing out the candles on my homemade, from scratch, Vincent Van Gogh, Starry Night, Action Figure Cake!  Yippee! Shout-outs to: Donny (the hunky hubby); Bea Jurgensen & Julie Anderson (best friends in the world); Selena & Sean (more friends) and Larry Winslow for his friendship and musical talents/entertainment . . . yes, it was a small party, Lonnie - but it was great!  Cheers!
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Self-Expression in Art

Quite Contrary, 2007 by Sher Fick (encaustic on board, paintbrush)
Creating art is ultimately a healing process of self-expression, self-evaluation, and self-discovery.  Art can be manifested in many ways: writing, painting, sculpting, acting, performing, teaching, and reaching out through charity.  With this broad definition we realize that the mere act of breathing can be considered a form of art.  In our day-to-day communications, person-to-person, parent-to-child, friend-to-friend, and down through the chain of life, we are developing ourselves, which will lead towards a becoming, of our final masterpiece and legacy, the circumference of our human existence. "None of us really changes over time, we only become more fully what we are" (Rice, 248).  Travail and adversity merely proves to our spiritual soul that we are alive, "we bleed just to know we're alive" (GooGoo Dolls).  By experiencing our lives more fully, breathing deeper, feeling more joy and pain; one can begin to have the information from which to draw forth creativity.  By allowing the pain and joy to have an outlet through any form of art, we facilitate healing from the pain and increase the capacity for more joy in our lives.  The roller coaster can peak only as far as it plummets. Any art form is about the self-expression of the artist in question.  While the viewer might find a particular artwork to be morally offensive and degenerate (for instance, Mapplethorpe's photography of young children in seemingly sexually exploitative environments and poses), is it society's job to judge whether "right" or "wrong?"  One can only speak for oneself in these matters.  Such emotionally relative considerations are personal choices and society should trust individuals to decide for themselves - whether they wish to support a controversial artist with their personal funds.  The pursuit of self-release and healing in the act of creating art should never be censored by any society, religion, or political forum.  Only the financial support of such art is a valid concern. By reaching a conclusion that art is a form of expression, a facilitator of communication of human emotion and concern, we see that an entire world is open for interpretation.  Before judging art, you should consider from where the art is coming.  An artist's statement is always helpful in this regard, however, an artist statement is not always provided.  So, then, how do we judge the intent of the artist? One way is to set up a list of assumptions which can be used to fill in the missing information from the artist.  Obviously, making art is sacred to the artist or he/she would not be doing it (I'm excluding commercial/decorative art here, which is produced for the masses as a product).  Also, we know that our forms of communication are reflective of our pasts.  Our language, habits, beliefs, and symbols have to do with our life's journey, so by identifying these mannerisms we can begin to communicate with the artist through their artwork. By celebrating the mere act of an artist's ability to even attempt to express themselves through the visual and audio worlds, we can reach a level of understanding towards the artist.  This is not to be misconstrued as agreement with an artist's style or subject matter, but merely respect, tolerance, and acknowledgment of the artist's human right to express him/herself in the manner in which he/she chooses. Many draw a line when the artist might involve others in their creative process.  If others might be injured (physically or emotionally) through the act of creativity, then we have reached a moral atrocity.  Hitler's form of art, his experimentation with human life, is morally reprehensible, few would argue that fact - it is astounding to realize he began his young adulthood attending art college - unsuccessfully, I might add.  Had he reached a level of self-expression which leads to self-healing, earlier in his life, it is possible he would not have become the monster he himself created. "Human beings casts their own shadows" (Sister Wendy), by accepting responsibility for the creation of their inspirations, by sharing with others an inner doorway into their souls, all artists (all humans) can explore and share spiritual healing and greater joy.  Only by observing other artworks, and continually increasing their bank of techniques and knowlegde, can an artist draw forth additional insights which will increase their own ability of self-expression and self-healing. A true friend is love with understanding.  Art and all of its forms can be considered as friends of our soul's ultimate desire. Works Cited: Rice, Anne.  The Vampire Lestat, quote from character Lestat, Bantham, New York, 1986. Goo Goo Dolls, City of Angels Soundtrack, 1998. PBS Special, Sister Wendy's History of Painting, Volume II (Renaissance Art), 1996.
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Eco-Psychology and its Importance in Creating Inter-World Balance

The greatest good is the knowledge of the union which the mind has with the whole of nature . . . ".  - Baruch Spinoza   By recognizing the inter-connectedness of the human mind/body with the whole of nature/universe/cosmos, humankind may achieve inner balance, physical health, and world peace.  Through the acknowledgment of an inter-connectness with our physical and metaphysical surroundings, humankind will reach and achieve conservation/preservation and provide nurturement to self, other humans, and animals, producing an effect which may reach to the depths of the ocean and rise past the stars. It is by enactment of a reciprocal relationship that our realities shall operate as a whole.  As each part cares and nurtures other parts, balance of the whole is attainable and sustainable.  All beings are irrevocably connected to nature; it is the recognition of such a connection which will instigate the healing process needed to restore inter-world balance. Through a joining together of previously segregated fields (ecology and psychology), ecopsychology delves into the roots of humankind's attitude towards "nature" and "nature's" attitude toward humankind.  By assigning equal weight to each entity, the search is on for understanding regarding the give and take of this previously disregarded relationship by the "scientific" and "religious" communities.  By previously and continously encouraging a separation of science and religion and by segregating separate fields of study within each arena, we are only now understanding that such a disparity has been harmful to the whole.  Modern consideration towards an inter-connectedness in the sciences and ecumenical religious practices has opened the floodgates for a new Zeitgeist to formulate.  This new "spirit of the times" is inclusive of ecopsychology. Several fields of study are inclusive of the broad term of ecopsychology: ancient philosophies, anthropology, architecture, behavorial ecology/analysis/geography, community studies, cybernetics, deep ecology, developmental psychology, eastern views/religions, ecofeminism, ecology, environmental education and justice, evolutionary psychology, horticultural therapy, indigenous world views, mythology, psychoneuroimmunology, paganism, psychotherapy, quantum physics, religious/theological perspectives, spiral dynamics, "Romantic" studies, sociobiology, systems theory, and wilderness therapy.  Many more studies are off-shoots or natural progressions of the above listing. Studies in ecopsychology ask the following questions: How can our sense of self be seen through the natural world and our connection in/on it?  Why do humans seek communion with nature and what do they receive from said communion?  In what ways are humans benefited by contact with nature and, conversely, is nature benefited by human contact? Further delving presents even more disturbing/thought-provoking considerations:  Does our current ideology and our current ways of learning and knowing lead us to a balanced inter-world relationship?  If not, how might we as a technologically based culture adapt our future behavior and learning systems to embrace mutual respect and a healthful relationship within our natural world? To truly embrace the concept of inter-world (all things, all forces, all time and matter) relatedness, one must reach a cognitive understanding of the effects of our current multi-faceted stance:  Our quest for sentience reaches back in time.  Prior to the scientific fields of research, human kind searched the skies above and looked to the seas below for answers to their queries. Levels of existence fight for survival, which implies a revolt agasint physical threats and a questioning of purpose.  Even the "lowly" sea anemone, considered a "plant" by most, can lift itself from the ocean floor and pulsate its form through the water in search of a "safer" location from predators (see, "Life at the Edge of the See", PBS Documentary).  Rather than simply "survival of the fittest," ecopsychology views these acts as deliberate.  Humankind's need to understand and know that which simply is, takes us back to the mythical alchemical snake which bites its own tail (Roszak 2). By accepting that there is more to the self than the physical individual and by recognizing the self's connection as being part of something bigger, one can interpret and understand the "quest" and need for religious/spiritual direction.  The principles of ecopsychology provide ways of the self to understand that part of us which is MORE THAN SELF. Jung's theory of the collective unconscious has been expanded to being part of an ecological unconscious (interchangeable with inter-world).  By maintaining an open and reciprocal relationship with the inter-world, humankind and individuals will experience and maintain physical and emotional well-being.  Such a resolution would cure the collusive madness caused in part by our modern, technologically driven, industrial society. Complexity of nature can be understood through the study of new cosmology.  By answering questions through a relation of inter-connectedness, benefits sought by individual fields can be applied to other fields.  (Such as, researching biographical emotional causes of dis-EASE in the human mind to cure a biological physical ailment). Connected, by Sher Fick (8"w x 16"h) Encaustic, paper, attachments), 2006 By encacting therapies to reconnect the current urban psyche with the repressed ecological uncounscious; by researching and reviving ancient earth cult rituals, wilderness therapies, and so forth, the individual experiences personal and reciprocal interaction within the natural world - thus reintegrating the individual with the ecological unconscious.  Distressed people can easily find surcease in the healing effect of wilderness.  A recent survey concluded that: 16 out of 17 individuals practiced visualization therapy by imagining themselves in some "natural" locations which included: 12 aspects of water, 15 various patterns of sounds of nature, and 1 "silence of nature."  The participants were a diverse group of individuals with varying religious and environmental backgrounds and beliefs.  Yet, more often than not, all sought communion with nature to "quiet their soul."  An additional benefit to literal wilderness therapy is the physical well-being found in exerting our bodies while on our "journey" towards a specific sight in nature.  The psychological benefits of the peaceful environment and the feelings of self-esteem when successfully reaching a challenging location are notable as well.  This benefit in our individual "self-perception" cannot be ignored.  By focusing inward during wilderness therapy we can easily avoid the outer stresses of our daily lives - much in the same ways we "escaped reality" as children. Through the encouragement of recovering children's innate animistic attitude towards nature in our "adult" experiences (by practicing natural mysticism in religion and art) a healthy ecological ego can be recovered and, therefore, nurtured in our youth.  As children, many of us ESCAPED FROM REALITY through play outdoors.  By leaving behind the challenges and responsibilities of home, school, and church, children were revitalized and calmed by their discoveries and interaction within nature.  Nature did not judge them, but became a teacher and care giver.  Children learn sensory truths and connect to a global life community.  Children view nature as "families" and seek to re-integrate and restore balance in their natural activities.  A four-year old child once stated "this baby rock belongs with that mama and papa rock, it got lost."  So, too, has humankind been "lost" from their connection with their earth parents. After the previous principles have been enacted a natural evolution of attitude shall occur.  The maturation of our ecological egos will foster eco-responsibilities which will manifest in our government, society, and personal lives.  Nature is to humankind as our arm is to our body.  Unless one is suffering from a form of autophobia, one does not hurt one's own arm.  Therefore, as we care for, nurture, and feed our own body through practicing autophilia (self love), one should care for, nurture, and feed our larger "world" through biophilia (earth love). We shall at this point, as a joined culture, re-awaken our "feminine" nurturing attitude towards nature and move away from the current "domination" practiced by current political practices, urban development, corporate industry, and religious dogma.  Ecofeminism will grow into a naturally developing occurence.  By balancing the GIVE and TAKE in a balanced manner, the earth and our "universe" shall reciprocate.  The simple act of communicating WITHIN nature - leaving behind less of a human mark than when we arrived - is an act of biophilia. Rather than being an ANTI-industrial/technological theory, ecopsychology is a POST-industrial/technological theory.  By recognizing some of the damage done by our techno age, but lauding the beneficial discoveries,the practice of ecopsychology in our human everyday lives is simply a natural, ideological evolution of human world view. Humankind is enacting the seminal/transitional phase wherein a renewed quest for a re-awakened "search for the holy grail" shall occur.  As our current techno-world emerges from its self-induced darkness of the soul, our collective search for wholeness shall heal the planet, our larger "cosmos," as well as our inner selves.  The denial of the existence of inter-world relatedness does not mean it is not there. In conclusion, Roszak states" "The needs of the planet are the needs of the person, the rights of the person are the rights of the planet" (Roszak 5).  By encouraging a synergistic approach to our life experiences, we connect with the divine and the divine connects with us. WORKS CITED: Cleary, Thomas (translator).  The Essential Tao (an initiation into the heart of Taoism through the authentic TAO TE CHING and the inner teachings of Chuang Tzu).  New York, Castle Books, 1992. Cowan, James G.  Letters from a Wild State (rediscovering our true relationship to nature).  New York, Bell Tower.  1991. Durant, Will.  The Story of Philosophy (the lives and opinions of the world's greatest philosophers from Plato to John Dewey).  Washington, Square Press.  1961. Ehrmann, Max.  The Desiderata of Happiness (a collection of philosophical poems).  New York, Crown Publishers.  1995. Quinn, Daniel.  Ishmael (an adventure of the mind and spirit).  New York/Turner.  1992. Roszak, Theodore.  The Voice of the Earth.  New York, Simon & Schuster.  1992.  Ecopsychology: Eight Principles at the ECO-PSY web page, 11/29/00, copyright 1998. Szymborska, Wislaw.  View with a Grain of Sand (selected poems).  New York, Harcourt Brace.  1995. Zimmerman, M.; Callicott, J; Sessions, G; Warren, K; and Clark, J.  Environmental Philosophy (from animal rights to radical ecology).  Second Edition.  New Jersy, Prentice Hall.  1998.
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Essay: Anthropocentrism v. Ecocentrism

  Left - Ephemeral EarthWork created at Grand Canyon, 2001 by Sher Fick When considering the effects of anthropocentrism versus ecocentrism one must reflect upon societies which based their communal existence on either and compare the two.  We know that originally, all humans were ecocentric in their manner of living in communion with the earth and, literally, worshiped the ground from whence they emerged.  Anthropologists note the major shift from the "earth mother" native cultures occurred when communities became tied to one piece of earth and to agricultural development.  The agriculturalist belief system spread and conquered surrounding societies to fulfill their need for food and shelter. Continuing the agricultural movement has led to the now coined "techno-man" (see, philosopher Sam Keen) who seeks to conquer even the world in which we live.  The techno-men propose ways in which to prevent natural catastrophes (for example, proposing to hang a 2-mile wide mirror in space to reflect the sun onto the ocean surfaces to warm water to prevent hurricanes).  Maybe the hurricanes are Mother Nature's way of getting rid of fleas off her back, a type of population control.  It might be brutal, but so is birth and death, a natural life cycle. While some advances are clearly beneficial to humankind (eradication of small pox and polio for example) and improve our quality of life, it is unknown what the ultimate outcome of technology shall be.  Considering the atomic bomb, which has killed thousands of people and destroyed acres of nature, to be a beneficial technology seems rather ludicrous as the technological aim is supposed to be improving upon nature, not destroying it. It is the man-centered technologist who is making advances without due consideration to the world population as a whole.  It is a dreadful gift to create something which leads to ultimate destruction of any being.  This changes the creator into a destroyer.  If man's legacy upon this earth is measured only by his technical creations, we see that more has been destroyed than "created" in the last two hundred years. An emotional wound is also left by this worship of technology over the natural world.  We view the phenomenon of serial killers and rapists in particular, most who profess a need to "overpower" the weaker individuals in an effort to prove their own superiority.  The belief systems have been inbred from childhood in the grand hierarchy of abuse - - - father abuses son, son abuses smaller children, smaller children abuse animals, so on and so forth, each generation increasing its abuse and victims evolving into abusers.  The grand pecking order of the anthropocentric belief system does not allow for empathy and compassion to any other individual, unless it serves one man's needs, let alone extending to women, animals, and the earth. For thousands of years before techno/anthropocentric man, ecocentric humans inhabited our earth, communing with nature and surviving in a peaceable manner.  Communities moved with the seasons, gathered together when desired, yet left what they did not need.  The Kouri (Australian Aboriginal people) still live today the way they did for thousands of years.  The earliest art known is found in an Australian cave, dating back 14,000 years.  For millenniums the dreamtime tales have been passed down through verbal records, the same manner of building, harvesting and art making have continued unchanged.  Who has the right to say "This is not the right way," certainly not anyone outside of their culture.  Yet they have been dwindled in number down to only a few thousand, pushed time and time again from their ancient lands, forced to live on the outskirts of their sacred earth and ancestral dwelling places, to view in horror as "modern man" destroys the tundra and thousands of its species.  Native Americans have lived this same experience. Anthropocentrism has all but killed out the ancient ecocentric way of life.  Only recently has the negative effects of anthropocentrism (war, bigotry, massive consumption of natural resources, etc.) become apparent to the general public and the positive effects of ecocentrism has made it to the forefront (complementary medicine, benefits of cultural diversity, conservation of nature, animal rights, etc.).  Not until the balance has been reached between the two will the outcome be known. We have the power and technology with which to destroy ourselves and our planet, it is yet to be seen whether or not we have the power and technology to save ourselves and our planet. written March 1999, Ethics Class with Dr. Dirk Dunbar, copyright Sher Fick
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