Stand by for Breakthrough…

My breakthrough piece!

My breakthrough piece!

My formal schooling is in English literature and poetry, as many of you know. However, I’ve lately been dabbling in the visual arts, which I’ve done most of my life, but for the past few months, I’ve been very intentional about it, drawing nearly every day and sharing my work on Instagram.

The other day, I had a breakthrough—I let the work guide me.

Allow me to explain: because of my training in writing, specifically creative writing and poetry, I have a bunch of tools in my writer’s toolbox so to speak. What I mean by this is that when I’m stuck, I have methods of pushing through. Put simply, I know how to “play” with language. If a prompt isn’t speaking to me, I move to another. If I’m experiencing writer’s block, I repeat what I just wrote until a new thought comes. I’m fairly comfortable with my writing sounding terrible in the first draft because I know I have the skill set to fix it up. I’m not intimidated by the “shitty first draft,” as Anne Lamott so eloquently puts it.

But when it comes to visual art, I’m terrified by that shitty first draft. After all, when you make a mark with paint, you can’t just cut it out and paste it somewhere else (like the trash) as you can easily do with writing. What happens when a mark I make isn’t what I want? What happens when I don’t know where to start? How can I “play” as freely as I do with language?

Over the past few months, I’ve been working diligently to add some tools to my artist’s toolbox and have done so fairly successfully by studying the work of artists like Lisa Congdon and Shantell Martin on platforms like Skillshare and Creativebug. (For a more comprehensive discussion of how I’ve come to accept my art as well as information on the tools I use, listen to the fifth episode of my podcast here).

As mentioned earlier, I recently had a breakthrough. Like with writing, I think I finally learned to “go with the flow” of my art and let the process guide me instead of me making the art piece strictly what I wanted.

I was inspired the other day to try my hand at a profile because of artists I follow on Instagram. It started out as a person, but as you can see from the finished product above, it turned into a lizard girl.

See? Totally needs texture!

See? Totally needs texture!

When I started adding color, I first added a darker flesh tone on the forehead, which I liked. However, the more of that particular color I added to the face, the more I didn’t like it. So, I scrolled through my digital color palette and found a color I liked–green. Without hesitation, I slathered that on. But when I stepped back, I realized I wanted more texture, so I added some scallop scales and, voila, my lizard girl was born!

This is really the first time where I trusted the artistic process and wasn’t afraid to stray from my original concept. Normally, I have an idea in my head and force it, even when the piece is clearly calling for a different approach or simply isn’t working. When I was adding green to the girl, it was fairly easy to silence the critic in my head that was saying “Hey, people don’t have green skin!” The part of me that said, “Yeah, but let’s just see what happens!” was way louder. I think this is because I’ve been practicing my hand at other techniques, so my “letting go” muscle has been exercised enough in preparation for a moment like this.

Is this piece the best thing I’ve ever made? Nope, but I’m really excited about this breakthrough and can’t wait to see what else I make when exercising my “letting go” muscle in the future.

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Why Are People Staring at Me? Or My Experience as a Portrait Model

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Oh, hey, it’s me!

I recently hung out with a friend who does improv and loves it. On our train ride into the city for a show, we got to talking about our summers. She told me more about her improv shows, and I told her about the activities (paper marbling, sketching, and copy editing, among others) I was making time for.  Her reaction was, “Wow, you do a lot!” But I never think I do. And then later that night I told her how I used to bartend and that I was also an honorary member of my alma mater’s theater department back in the day. OK, maybe I have done a lot…

This past weekend, I got to add one more experience to my ever-growing list: portrait drawing model. I’m a member of the Center for Contemporary Art in Bedminster. I’ve taken a few classes there, but lately, I’ve been taking advantage of the open studio time.

During one of those studio sessions, I was asked if I’d like to be a model for portrait classes. I accepted, and this past weekend was my first gig!

I’ll be honest: I had no idea what to expect. I mean, I knew there’d be pencils and that I’d have to sit still. But otherwise? No clue.

In reality, it was both an exhilarating and surreal experience. In nitty-gritty reality, I sat still for about five hours (minus breaks and lunchtime), and my shoulders hurt somethin’ fierce by the time I drove home. In reminiscent reality, I actually learned so much. Yes, I had to sit perfectly still, but I also got to hear the teacher lecture. I got to walk around and see sketches during my breaks. It was a crash course in seeing myself how others see me, and it was…eye-opening? Thrilling? Scary? Pretty freaking cool? I can’t put one word on it.

The first half of the class was dedicated to getting a sketch of the model (me) that would be refined in the latter half of the five-hour course. The teacher showed the students a method of measuring the spaces between my features using a pencil and his thumb. When it was the students’ turn, I took all my strength not to giggle at all the thumbs and pencils I saw pointed in my direction. From a different perspective, here were eight students of all ages (literally high-school students to elders) who were practicing their craft side by side. It was heartwarming and inspiring.

During my breaks, I walked around to see half-drawn, rough sketches of myself. But they were distinctly me! This was the surreal part. I walked around, talking to the students and taking pictures, all the while thinking, “Woah, that’s my nose!” or “That’s totally the curve of my lower lip!” I’ve experienced the thrill of getting a feature just right when I draw, but to walk around and see a room full of “me” sketches was unreal.

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After lunch, we all convened again, and the students added more detail to their drawings, trying to make them appear three-dimensional. If I thought the drawings from the first half of the class were great, these were even more spectacular! It was so cool to see each student’s take on how to render my form. One student drew me as a graphic-novel-type heroine. In another, I thought I resembled Joan of Arc, with a very stately pose. Yet another drew me with very undefined lines, making me look almost like a watercolor painting. It was fascinating!

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The teacher and a student

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The teacher’s final rendering

 This experience made me recognize all of the little idiosyncrasies of my face that I don’t normally pay attention to. It also made me realize that I can sit stone still for a pretty long time. Being on the other side of the drawing pad was a great experience, and I met some really great people. One student even took a photo of me beside the drawing he made of me. Even though my face rested while I posed, I left the class smiling!

What experience with art or writing has left you with a smile?

What My Grade-School Self Taught Me About Owning My Art

I wasn't quite grade school age here, but those pigtails!

I wasn’t quite grade school age here, but those pigtails!

When I was in first or second grade, my class read a book and then did an art project based on it. I don’t remember what the book was about, but I remember that the main character was a ho-hum-looking man. The assignment was to draw clothes on the paper doll version of the main character in the style of any activity we wished. Some put leather jackets on him, some made him a painter or a fighter.

Keep in mind that this was the early cusp of the 90s, so 80s fashion was still prominent. I decided to do something a bit different and outfit the guy in workout clothes—short shorts, lemon-yellow headband, and all.

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“Funky Doodle” Colored Pencil and Micron Pen in sketchbook

There are two things I’ll never forget about this assignment after seeing the bulletin board with all of my classmates’ paper renditions of this book character. The first is how awesome my friend’s outfit came out. She was known for being a fantastic artist, even at that young age. Her paper doll looked like he was ready for the cover of a J. Crew catalog. He sported a smartly cut-out leather jacket made of brown construction paper, complete with a drawn-on zipper. Her paper doll had swagger.

The second thing is this: I admired the bulletin board behind two of my classmates. They pointed out their own work, then began commenting on the work of others. I’ll never forget what one of them said. He swept his eyes across the bulletin board and exclaimed to his friend, “I like all of them…except that one.” He was pointing to mine.

I don’t think the two boys knew I was behind them. I’m pretty sure they didn’t even know the paper doll outcast one of them had just singled out was mine. All I know is that one sentence rung so deep in me because it pointed out something I already felt: I’m no good at art.

Two-minute sketch of Wonder Woman. Much swagger. Such wow!

Two-minute sketch of Wonder Woman. Much swagger. Such wow!

Writing was a different story. That has always come fairly easily to me. My mom recently told me that around this same time in my school career, the stories I wrote during free time were shown to the principal because my teachers thought they were that good.

Yet I was hung up on that paper man. I knew that, technically speaking, mine wasn’t the best or most attractive of the outfits. But, dammit, I’d spent time on it!

I’ve gone back to this memory a few times throughout my life, convincing myself that perhaps it meant I shouldn’t pursue art in the public eye because people will react like my classmate: love absolutely everything out there except what I make. But I’ve recently come to the conclusion that praise isn’t what truly matters (though it is nice). Community does.

And I now accept that paper man with short shorts and headband that I made all those years ago (though he doesn’t hold a candle to the snow lady I drew around that same time. She had a red bandana and nunchucks, a la Ninja Turtle style).

"Circle Study" Micron Pen in Sketchbook

“Circle Study”
Micron Pen in Sketchbook

In years passed, I’ve set out to make art more regularly and it never quite worked out so well. This year, I’m making it one of my goals to do a bit of art once per week, even if it’s a little doodle and even if I end up doodling a male Jane Fonda like my grade-school self did. And, dammit, I will own every last bit of it.

(Note: all photos in this blog post are part of this project so far. Already on a roll!)

IMG_1276Want to join me in owning your art? Include the hashtag #arteveryweek2015 on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. There are no restrictions on the type of media you use. Just have fun! Let’s collect our creations via this hashtag and create a community of artists that says, “We love all of them!” No exceptions 🙂

An Update, Some Great News, and a Poem for Your Monday

Hey gang,

As I shared in my resolutions update, I’ve been wondering how to restructure my blog so as to better facilitate posting more regularly. One of those ways involved making a three-sheet spreadsheet. Another includes making some tweaks to featured posts.

On this note: I’m trying a new format for Poetry Monday. Rather than posting a video of me reading the poem, I’m going to still share a poem, but in typed format, then give a few sentences as to why I like it. If this goes well, I’ll keep doing it. If not, I’ll go back to videos in a few months.

The great news: I got word on Friday that my chapbook,”Field Guide to Fire,” will be published by Finishing Line Press! No word on a publication date yet, but I’ll be sure to post when I know! Now that I’ll be on the author side of things, I’ve got a kick in the pants to support other authors and catch up on reviews I’ve been dragging on.

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Why raptors? Why the heck not?! Thanks to Beth Colletti for helping me with this image.

Speaking of reviews, I know I don’t usually post star ratings, but I’ve come up with a system. I’ll give books “Raptor Ratings.” The highest rating is five raptors. Why raptors? Why the heck not?!

Now for the poem. I’ve posted quite a few poems by Kim Addonizio on my blog, but given my recent publication news, she’s the first that comes to mind. I’m over the moon with this news, so I want to share a poem that makes me feel unstoppable!

“What Do Women Want?” by Kim Addonizio (from Tell Me)

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Photo courtesy of goodreads.com

Kim Addonizio - How badass is she? So badass. Photo courtesy of pirenesfountain.com

Kim Addonizio – How badass is she? So badass.
Photo courtesy of pirenesfountain.com

I want a red dress.
I want it flimsy and cheap,
I want it too tight, I want to wear it
until someone tears it off me.
I want it sleeveless and backless,
this dress, so no one has to guess
what’s underneath. I want to walk down
the street past Thrifty’s and the hardware store
with all those keys glittering in the window,
past Mr. and Mrs. Wong selling day-old
donuts in their café, past the Guerra brothers
slinging pigs from the truck and onto the dolly,
hoisting the slick snouts over their shoulders.
I want to walk like I’m the only
woman on earth and I can have my pick.
I want that red dress bad.
I want it to confirm
your worst fears about me,
to show you how little I care about you
or anything except what
I want. When I find it, I’ll pull that garment
from its hanger like I’m choosing a body
to carry me into this world, through
the birth-cries and the love-cries too,
and I’ll wear it like bones, like skin,
it’ll be the goddamned
dress they bury me in.


Why I like it
: My word, the sass! I love the no-holds-barred brashness of the language. “I want it to confirm/your worst fears about me.” I mean, damn! Addonizio dives head first in the face of what is expected of women and says, “Screw you!” I love those last lines. They’re so affirming, as if to say, “This is who I am, and I’ll be this ’til I die.” I read this poem and I have insta-confidence. And, of course, I just love red dresses.

Artist’s Spotlight – Stephanie Levy

I have to say that I’ve loved doing this feature and all of the artists included thus far, but I must say that this particular interview is close to my heart. Today’s Artist’s Spotlight features collage artist and e-course leader extraordinaire, Stephanie Levy. I’ve followed Stephanie’s work and have been a participant in her e-courses for about two years now. I’ve greatly admired her work and her generosity, so I was overjoyed when she agreed to do this interview. Enjoy this fresh and inspiring interview with Stephanie, one of my art heroes 🙂
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Roaring Out: How long have you been creating art and in what types of media?
Stephanie Levy: I began studying Fine Arts at the university when I was 18. I’ve worked in all sorts of media, from painting and watercolor, to collage, jewelry, ceramics, photography, and sculpture.
a+a.berlin400RO: What first inspired you to art?
SL: I was one of those kids who was always drawing and painting and making books. And I guess I just never stopped!

RO
: What types of media are your current favorites and why? Is there a different type of medium that you would like to try in the future?
SL: Now I mostly work in mixed media collage and photography. Actually, I’m pretty happy with this combination, but I would like to create books in the future that combine my collage art, photography, and writing. This is my personal dream!

RO
: Could you please talk a little about your creative process?
SL: I mostly work very intuitively and I’m often inspired by specific materials or colors that catch my eye. I usually work on small series of collages at one time, maybe 3-4 collages at one time, or sometimes larger series of 6 or 9. I like to listen to music when I’m creating visual art, but when I’m writing, I need quiet and a peaceful, cozy atmosphere. To make my photographs, I love walking around Berlin and taking snapshots of the beautiful and absurd things that I notice. That is one of my favorite creative activities at the moment (maybe because it gets me away from the computer and outside 😉 ).
30daysofcollage1RO: Most artists have subjects that pop up again and again in his or her work. What are those subjects for you? Is there a different subject you’d like to tackle in future work?
SL: For years I worked on drawings and collages of interiors. Before that I worked on chairs. I tend to enjoy drawing still lives and objects more than people or animals. That is actually the same when I’m taking photographs too.
I would like to do more abstract collage and painting work in the future 🙂
stephanielevy.journalRO: What is the longest time you’ve spent on a piece of art?
SL: It depends on how you define that. I usually need a few days to a couple of weeks for a collage, but there have also been times when I’ve been frustrated with a painting and I’ve just painted it white and started over. Which obviously delays things…

RO
: You are originally from the United States, but you now reside in Germany. How has that transition informed your artwork?
SL: I’m not sure how my move to Germany has influenced my artwork because it was so long ago, already 18 years. Most likely I’m a different person in Europe than I would be had I stayed in Tennessee. But I do love Berlin, and I truly enjoy taking photographs here. The city is so fascinating and creative and vibrant and changing—I don’t think I could ever get tired of living here and documenting what I see through my photographic walks. Berlin as a place has become a central feature of my artwork and life!

RO
: Your Creative Courageous e-courses have become very popular! Please talk a bit about what inspired you to create these sessions. Also, your sessions involve so many wonderful goodies, like recipes and interviews. How do you go about preparing a session? Lastly, what is your favorite part about running these e-courses?
chickpea.spinach.soup480SL: Thank you, Michelle! I love putting together my Creative Courage e-courses, and the new year long course, Creative Courageous Year, is so much fun because it is so multidisciplinary. I myself enjoy the changing seasonal aspect of the course, and it makes me happy to create new recipes and projects for our wonderful international group.
Preparing involves a lot of brainstorming, some reading and research into beloved books and notes that I’ve gathered through the years, and then actually preparing and documenting the recipes, projects, photos, and other materials for the course. It is a lot of work, certainly not boring, and a true labor of love.My favorite part about the courses is seeing the connections made by the women around the world who are taking the course, and when I get positive feedback from someone who has enjoyed a course, it honestly makes my day!

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RO
: You are a woman who does it all! E-courses, artwork, and family, to name just a few. The audience, particularly the ladies, would like to know: how do you make time for everything? In other words, how do you do it all?
SL: The real truthful answer is: I don’t! I believe in our online world, sometimes other people’s lives look more fulfilled, organized, and/or “perfect” than they really are. I do a lot—but there is always more that could be done 🙂 I have unanswered emails in my inbox, laundry that needs to be folded, drawers and closets that need to be organized, bills that need to be paid—just like everyone else. Some days I’m better at getting these everyday things done, and other days I’m terrible.
berlin.sept2.400I think we’re all just plugging along, doing the best we can, and it is important to take time for our real life contacts—as well as our online ones. It can be a lot to juggle, and it is something I struggle with. I’m also learning that you can never make everyone you know 100% happy all of the time. It is impossible. So it’s important to set your own priorities and then go with that. This year, I’m making plans to begin delegating more responsibilities—with taxes and housework for example. I tend to try and do everything myself, and there are just not enough hours during the day. So I’m trying to learn to be less of a perfectionist, to let go and to let others help me out 🙂 It’s a process!

RO
: If you could spend an evening with any artist, living or deceased, who would you choose and why?
SL: Hmmm, that is an interesting question. I would choose Ernest Hemingway because he was also an American who loved living in Europe—and we share the same birthday, July 21st. I know Hemingway was a big macho and womanizer, but I do love his writing and he had a lot of great artist friends. I imagine hanging out with him for an evening in 1920s Paris would be quite an adventure!berlin.sept2.400

RO
: Is there anything handmade that you own that is particularly meaningful to you?
SL: Yes, I have a few handmade quilts made by my Aunt Pearl in Tennessee that I love dearly, and I now happily have these in Germany with me 🙂

RO
: If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?
SL: Time travel and the ability to beam myself wherever I’d like in an instant—for sure!!
berlin.400.june2RO: To conclude, what is a lesson you have learned from creating art that you would like to share with others?
SL: The main lesson that I’ve learned from life and from creating art is: just do it! Make whatever it is you want to make, do whatever you want to do now—and without hesitation. Two of my favorite quotes are:
“Begin doing what you want to do now. We are not living in eternity. We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand—and melting like a snowflake.” —Marie Beynon Ray

and

Change your life today. Don’t gamble on the future, act now, without delay.” —Simone de BeauvoirStephanie, thank you so much for generously sharing your process and experiences with us today! If you’d like to check out Stephanie’s work, visit her website, blog, e-course website, and Berlin workshop website. If you’d like to keep up with Stephanie’s exciting happenings, sign up for her newsletter.

Artist’s Spotlight – Elizabeth Catanese

Today’s Artist’s Spotlight features my very talented ekphrastic artist friend, Elizabeth Catanese. I have admired Elizabeth’s work for a few years now. She deftly combines two of my favorite types of media: words and paint. Enjoy the interview, which is quirky and profound—just like her!

artistphoto copy - Elizabeth Catanese

 

Roaring Out: How long have you been creating art and in what types of media?
Elizabeth Catanese: Humans are born symbol-makers and art has been my form of symbol-making for as long as I can remember. Currently I am making acrylic and mixed media paintings, but I have created conceptual art installations, sculptural work and photography. I also write poetry and fiction.

RO: What first inspired you to art?
EC: My aunt Tricia Catanese Adler, a visual artist, would often have my cousins, Mary Anne, Tricia and me over to her apartment to make art. We did a variety of projects like sewing imaginative creature pillows, painting bird houses and making crazy hats. I liked being around her free spirit and having social time with my cousins, but I was also learning how art can be an important way to express individuality and engage with emotions. Many of my relatives are visual artists who taught me how to draw and paint as well as how to observe the world with compassionate, fresh eyes. I am surrounded by creative friends and students who always inspire me.

BrickFlameRO: What types of media are your current favorites and why? Is there a different type of medium that you would like to try in the future?
EC: My most recent favorite medium is mortar on canvas. I like it because it’s what masons use to close the gaps between bricks and this feels metaphorical to me. My art is about trying to both close and expose gaps in my life. For example, my painting “Red Brick House” is about recalling formative moments at my grandparents house (closing the gaps of memory) and also about the fact that these moments can never exist in their original form again (exposing the memories themselves as gaps). Mortar also allows me to stick a lot of stuff onto my canvases and it’s a really fun material to blend with acrylic color.

I have a lot left to explore with my current media, but I would someday like to learn encaustic painting.

RO: Could you please talk a little about your creative process?
erasureEC: My creative process for painting is a little bit different each time, but generally I go to the color-organized book shelves in my living room and pick a book to look at for a bit on my blue beanbag chair. It might be an photography book like The Lines of my Hand by Robert Frank or a painting retrospective like Cy Twombly by Richard Leeman. I might read poetry by Lynda Hull or Dean Young or even an excerpt from an old college bulk pack about Freud and the uncanny, medieval music or how to differentiate classroom instruction. I don’t look at the book for long. I’m really just trying to absorb some of the creative energy in the words and pictures created by others. Then I draw a spacial arrangement in my sketchbook. This is how I think shapes might appear on the canvas. After that, I go to my art studio and freewrite with permanent marker on the canvas. I might be inspired by the book I just looked but I am always ultimately freewriting to get at the “shadow” side of myself: whatever is going on in my life that I’m trying to deny. After that, it’s a non-cognitive visual process of putting shapes and colors on canvas and, at times, adding relevant textures. It’s also an emotional process because as I go, I learn what the painting is really about. When I’m finished with one session of painting, I wash my brushes and clean up to clear my head. Then I sit on the red couch in my studio and look at my work. I can usually tell why I’ve put that wire there or that patch of red in the corner or why the whole thing looks like a dress or a skeleton or a flame. I think about what I might do to the canvas the next time I return to my studio.

RO: What is the longest time you’ve spent on a piece of art?
EC: The longest time I’ve spent on a piece of art is eight years. That’s how long it took me to write my first (and only!) middle grade novel. I still have more to do! My conceptual art installation at Bryn Mawr college, “Once Upon a Time is Now,” was completed over three months with about five hours a day spent working on the art and another four to five hours reading for inspiration. These days, I usually don’t paint for more than two hours at a time, but I will often have many two hour sessions with the same painting or edit a painting even when it’s supposedly “done” and hanging on the wall in my living room. It’s only truly finished when it’s been purchased and is hanging on the wall in someone else’s living room!

healingRO: You are currently teaching. Do you incorporate visual art into your courses? If so, how? How do the students react?
EC: I incorporate visual art into all of my courses. In my Humanities 101 class, I just taught my students how to do formal analysis papers where they describe an ancient Chinese landscape painting of their choosing. In my composition and reading classes, I often take students to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts or the Philadelphia Museum of Art to work on specificity in writing by engaging with paintings. In my poetry writing course, there is a unit about ekphrasis, or writing about art, in my syllabus. We look at visual art and write poems based on the art.

Overall, students have responded well to studying art! In a world that is fast paced and all about multitasking, one of the best skills that can be taught to students is how to slow down and look.

I’m very grateful to work at Community College of Philadelphia. My colleagues have taught me a lot about incorporating art into the classroom, and the administration has been very supportive of my desire to create and deepen partnerships between CCP and local art museums. I love how open my students are to different ways of learning and thinking.

RO: How does your background as a writer inform your painting? Conversely, how does your background as a visual artist inform your writing?proust
EC
: Studying and making art always gives me something to write about and writing always gives me something to paint about. Having multiple projects going allows me to not feel stuck for long. I love creative hybridity. In addition to writing on canvas, I love graphic novels. I am currently experimenting with this form.

RO: You mix both writing and painting onto your canvases, which gives a nice layered effect and allows you to broach sensitive subjects at times. Is there a subject you have yet to approach/wish to approach in the future?
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEC: When my work was in the Layers and Folds exhibit at the Therese A. Maloney Gallery at the College of Saint Elizabeth, a viewer came up to me and asked me where my words came from. I said “from my head” and suddenly realized that it was important to me to incorporate voices other than my own into my work. I began a painting called Mistakes, Hopes, Desires where I emailed people about mistakes they had made, hopes they had and desires they had. I recorded my voice reading their responses and played it in a loop while I painted. The mass of voices made for a cluttered canvas (even though the canvas is five feet tall!) I haven’t resolved that painting visually, but I’m interested in keeping at it. I want to integrate other people’s sensitive subjects onto the canvas in addition to my own.

There are so many subjects that I haven’t approached because I’m scared to approach them or I feel that doing so might betray others. Overall, I think it’s important to let myself approach those subjects whether or not I share the painting or the writing afterwards. I’m not always ready to be open right away.

firedress copyRight now I am painting a lot about the death of my grandfather, with whom I had a really wonderful relationship. It’s been a profound loss for me, and I’m thinking about how I wish I had told him certain things or spent more time with him. I have much more to paint about this.

RO: Is there anything handmade that you own that is particularly meaningful to you?
EC: Yes! My favorite handmade object comes from the artist Arlene Gale Milgram. She is a very good friend and was my first art teacher. Years ago, she made me a wall hanging that was a small book made of handmade paper. On the inside it said “get crazy, find inspiration, fulfill your dreams.” I had an apartment disaster that caused me to lose all my stuff, and I wrote to her to tell her how sad I was to have lost this gift. Within a week she had made me a new wall hanging which I treasure just as deeply as the memory of the first.

RO: If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?
EC: I’d like to have the ability to fly powered by my own arms. To be clear, I would not like to have to flap my arms, I just want to spread them and soar.

I love being up high. As a kid, I loved swinging as high as possible on swing sets, and now I love balconies that overlook landscapes of any sort. I wish I could say that I want to have a superpower that will create universal harmony, or something that I think sounds more noble, but the truth is I’d like to fly because I think it would be the most fun thing ever.

RO: To conclude, what is a lesson you have learned from creating art that you would like to share with others?ElizabethCataneseRiver
EC
: I have learned, through making art, that being vulnerable and authentic with oneself can make life easier and happier. Art has made me more integrated as a human being (okay with both the outward presentation and shadow side of myself) and better able to form genuine connections with others. It has helped me become less anxious and more able to be present with others. In a lot of ways as I make art, art also makes me.

 

 

Elizabeth, thanks so much for sharing your creative process with us! To check out more of Elizabeth’s work, visit her website.

Musing on Three Years of Waiting

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Image courtesy of AK Press

In December of 2010, my poem “Smooth as Scales” was accepted to an anthology titled “Dear Sister.” At the time, I knew that the manuscript didn’t have a publisher. So began the wait.

But let me back up a bit—
I should mention that the subtitle of the anthology is “Letters from Survivors of Sexual Violence.” Before I submitted to this anthology, I’d gone through an event that qualified me to submit. I tried to convince myself that nothing had happened, but my nightmares and panic attacks told a different story. Looking back on that part of my life, I’m reminded of Jennifer Percy’s quote: “…The imagination of the event is so often more terrifying than the reality.” I know this is not true for everyone, but it was for me. I kept replaying the event constantly in my mind. In some ways, I think that rumination on the negative made me sick and my nightmares worse.

I thought about this event so much that I felt I had to write it out; otherwise, it threatened to poison my body. “Smooth as Scales” came to me. I read it to a dear friend of mine, and she later encouraged me to submit to “Dear Sister.” When my poem was accepted, it was like being told, “What you went through matters no matter what anyone else says.” It was a validation not only of my poetry, but (perhaps more importantly for me at the time) it was also a validation of the pain I had endured.

Spring forward to Winter 2012: Myself and the rest of the anthology’s contributors got an e-mail saying that the anthology was going to be published! Following that e-mail and swell of happiness were proofs and bios and media kits. It was all worth it. The anthology was published by AK Press on January 15, 2014.

Dear Sister Box of Books

In these past few years, the less-than-pleasant part of my story that appears in “Dear Sister” has simply become part of my life’s tapestry. I’m in a very different place now than I was when I wrote the poem. Seeing it in print, I think, has helped me close a chapter. I’m healed…now it’s time to pass that healing on to others.

Since the contributors of this anthology are far-flung across the nation, we were all encouraged to set up our own events. I held a poetry reading at Bernardsville Public Library this past Sunday with some lovely readers from Adanna. We all read works that revolved around the theme of healing and grief. Below are the lovely ladies I read with.

Adanna Dear Sister Reading

Stepping behind the podium to welcome everyone to the reading was an incredible feeling. Everyone read beautifully, and I loved speaking with each person at the small gathering. It reminds me of a quote from the last section of the anthology: “Forgiveness is a possibility that happens in conversation.”

If you’d like a copy of “Dear Sister,” e-mail me at roaringout@gmail.com. I still have some copies. Each copy is $10. I’d be happy to mail one out to you!