I have been blessed to live in a very special area of the Bronx. It’s two years of an amazing community that grows around me every day. I lost my home in 2014 and lost my job. I was broke with no idea how I would find an apartment in NYC. But here I am living in a fairy land Riverdale. An artist dream on the Hudson River.
I am exploring Riverdale history. I found a pond called Indian Pond on Indian Road. Filled with large turtles. The history of this pond is in the 19th century it actually was an Indian Settlement granted to them by the government. The Indian group used to perform shows on the pond for the people who had homes there. A big crowd would attend and watch as Hiawatha was performed. Other acting groups would perform shows as well. The Indian Settlement was moved further up North in the early 20th century. No surprise there.
Here’s Indian Pond today.
I have taken a quiet time the last couple of months to restore my mind. As an artist and inspired individual where do I go from here. How do I use art to heal this broken world?
The world is broken because we don’t think creatively. Every person has this ability to be naturally creative. It’s suppressed and replaced with following formulas that don’t work for everything. Schools don’t engage students to think. They memorize to pass tests. The individual is lost.
Art has been tossed out of people’s lives. Not important. Today’s craze of adult coloring books is a farce. Again no creative thought is used. Just color in someone else’s creativity.
There is a fear of being creative. Being creative is not “keeping up with the Jones”. Not following the pack.
I am mentoring a young woman artist. A beautiful Latino woman who has given up her art. I looked into her eyes and I saw a spark of hope that she could do her life differently.
I’m going to get her to think like an artist.
PEACE TO THE WORLD
It happens often. I bolt up in bed look at my phone and it’s only 3:00am! Isn’t 3:00am when the spirit world is up doing their thing?
Arghh, I’m up for the count. But I’ve gotten used to it. In fact I love the dark quietness that surrounds me. It is a sacred time. The Twilight Zone episode where you are the only person left on earth. I’m in a special world with my God. Together we create future dreams. My mind can travel anywhere. The world of censorship is still sleeping!!! I journey in my journaling. Page after page of writing whatever comes out of my sleepy mind.
3:00am is Alice falling down the rabbit hole. It’s time traveling to the 1960s.
I conjure up the time I studied dance with ALVIN AILEY at the YMCA on Broadway and 51st Street, 8th Avenue. I was fifteen and wanted to dance desperately. I went and persevered amongst the other professional adults because I was fearless I WANTED TO DANCE! Mr. Ailey was a dark giant of a man. You could feel his talent was brewing in those classes he taught before the big time hit. The class was always packed. Mr. Ailey shouting out movements and then the thundering sound of the drum banging out the moves as we each danced across the floor with quick looks to see if Mr. Ailey approved. LOOK AT ME MR. AILEY. CAN I BE A DANCER?? AM I GOOD?? I didn’t care, I did my best dodging the long legs of dancers who plowed through me because they were in the dance zone and didn’t know I was there. I love the way my body felt moving and through dance I made body connection in my figure drawing. Dance was another artistic expression for me.
4:00am – I’m back from the sweaty dance studio and sitting in my peaceful apartment in Riverdale, NY.
NOTE TO SELF: a chapter of my life story; Dancing in Alvin Ailey’s Dance Class.
I experienced a future genius celebrity!
3:00am is special!
In my teen years during the 1960’s, if you put a piece of paper in front of me it was instantly covered by some drawing from my imagination. The 1960’s were turbulent times. Race riots were explosive headline news daily across the country. There was fear and hate I didn’t understand but was fed.
It was the time of school busing and I was to be bused to a junior high school far away with a lot of black teens. I heard about knives in the schools and being told to carry extra money to pay off bullies
I ended up being sent to a boarding school because I was a truant for a year and left back so my mom sent me away to have the nuns deal with me. And I would have to go to school.
Actually I ended up doing well with discipline and I had company with a lot of wealthy girls who were problems to their families. We were misfits trapped in a nunnery in Sag Habor Long Island. But I have to say I did well in school. I only tried to escape once!
Anyway, back to this post of the racial issues. I ended up being accepted by the High School of Art & Design in NYC. My major was fashion illustration. And I always was doing a doodle or drawing every day. My mom rescued boxes of my work and that was the tip of the iceberg.
So one day I had my markers and paper and in my imagination I saw two young black girls and it started with a doodle and became this small drawing. I called it “Sisters”. It was in my mom’s apartment.
In 2005 I found it and showed it to my friends at work. The paper was old but the drawing was strong. One of the secretaries loved it and she offered me an excellent price for it. It spoke to her as a black woman. It was how I related to African Americans in 1965 as a teenager who despised violence and hate. I didn’t want to have fear and in a doodle I saw love.
Sometimes I think I’m alone in my artist block. The ability to see that others have been in this position and they have gone through the pain of not creating for a long time helps me identify and not feel alone. Even hearing that a person has survived being hospitalized for a mental breakdown is inspiring and hopeful for me . I’m always in fear of having a mental breakdown. I’m afraid people will leave me for being crazy. I’m afraid of never being creative again.
I started to research artists who have had breakdowns and blocks. Here’s one that surprised me. Georgia O’Keefe.
In 1932, after falling far behind on a Radio City Music Hall mural, O’Keefe suffered an intense nervous breakdown. It was only after a period of hospitalization and NOT PAINTING FOR TWO YEARS that she was able to rekindle her life’s love of creating art.
I was blown away by this story. I’m in great company with my mental breakdowns and blocks. It happens. So what.
I’M NOT ALONE!!!!! HERE’S TO YOU GEORGIA!!
August 12th I had carpel tunnel surgery on my right hand. It’s my dominant hand. So I took the time to relax and heal. However, it eventually took me down the mental rabbit hole. I ended up depressed, lonely and blocked creatively. It was like my mind was empty. A dust bin.
I couldn’t think and forget posting on my blog.
Weeks were passing and now I have feelings of failure. I want to write a blog post but I feel stupid. It’s been forever. I’m a terrible blogger with an artist block!!!!
And then I realized that my blog is about coming back from an artist block. Isn’t life always about the comebacks.
The artist comeback can be a Phoenix rising. A new path, a different story. And actually I have a new theme I started in my paintings. I have added figures to my landscapes. The figures are faceless children ( they are me or you) and they are escaping into landscapes. This is the first of a group that I will be working on.
I purchased Dr. Seuss’s “Oh the Places You’ll Go ” 15 years ago. It’s my favorite inspirational book for what life is about. So this morning my daily writing practice turned to the voice of Dr. Seuss.
“OH THE PLACES YOU’LL GO…”
Oh the people
It’s a journey worth taking
But it’s not a small feat
Though you may want to quit
Hide your head in the sand
If the fear takes over
You can hold someone’s hand
So be courageous and go towards the light
Never use avoidance
To deal with your plight
This world isn’t pretty
In fact it is sad
When you keep giving to others
It negates some of the bad
As an artist standing at the turning point
Not knowing how far
Keep being creative
Be the artist you are
I HAVE BEEN STALKED AND CAPTURED BY THE DARK CREVICES OF MY MIND. I CAN UNDERSTAND VAN GOGH’S FIGHT WITH SANITY. BUT I AM A VERY LEARNED WOMAN WHO HAS SPENT A LIFETIME EDUCATING MYSELF ON HOW THE BRAIN WORKS.
KNOWING IS THE FIRST STEP IN BEING ABLE TO STOP FIGHTING THE DARKNESS AND LET IT JUST FLOW THROUGH.
DURING THESE TIMES I HIDE IN MY HOME AND RETREAT. I’M TAKEN AWAY FROM INDULGING IN LUSCIOUS OILY PAINT COLORS AND BUILDING LAYER UPON LAYER OF RICH THICK PAINT. I’M IMMOBILE TO ACTION.
I accept those times even though I shut the world out and fear I will never escape my demons. But I have to always avoid giving in to false evidence appearing real.
A month ago I experienced a new mental twist…anxiety disorder! I didn’t know that I had it. But I have to say I chased my recovery from it and sought help. I don’t have to go through pain alone anymore. And all through this I let the luscious oil paints flow on canvas and shared my experience to a troubled student in my painting class.
I don’t give in but I also don’t fight my mind…my darkness is another part of being an artist. I even used darkness in a series of paintings.
I’M BACK TO BEING JEAN. I’M BACK . I trust God and give to others.
MY MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES ARE NOT A MORAL ISSUE. THEY ARE THE PIECES OF THE MYSTERIOUS PUZZLE CALLED JEAN MESSNER.
IN REMEMBRANCE OF VINCENT VAN GOGH.