A while back, I wrote a blog post called “The Poky Little Puppy” and an accompanying email called “In Defense of the Slow.” I talked about how, at 40 years of age, I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder, Inattentive Type. This realization has helped me to better understand some of the challenges I have had in navigating this life.
But ADD is also closely associated with having a creative mind. Artistic mind, attention deficit disorder, who knows where one ends and the other begins?
My mind is not organized. Information comes in the form of so many scraps of paper, fluttering about in the wind. Projects or professions that involve any complexity seems like an insurmountable undertaking.
I’ve got a terrible memory. I often forget essential aspects of whatever task I am performing. (Recently I set off to buy new glasses, leaving my prescription at home.)
But, I have learned something sort of fun about my mind, and how it likes to organize itself.
I was trying to develop some sort of regular, consistent, doable habit in regards to posting on social media about my art. “Everyone” was buzzing about social media.
You know, “Everyone,” don’t you? “Everyone” says:
And so on, and so on. All that resulted from this was a panicky sense of dread.
Enter, the Mind Map.
Here is all is. I spent hours on this silly thing.
I tried to impress my friends by sharing it with them, but they didn’t even want to LOOK at it, and who could blame them? It seems overly elaborate and faintly ridiculous now, but the one most important thing is also true: now I know.
Now I know. Social media is no longer confusing to me. I may need a reminder of the specifics, but the tiny scraps of paper have settled down into an orderly pattern. Now I understand.
As I just wrote about in my post “Evolve or Die,” I revealed that I am starting on a new body of work, inspired by archeology and deep history. It’s really exciting, and really scary. For the first time in many years, I genuinely have no idea what I am doing. It will be an adventure into the unknown.
I have been a consumer of archeology media of various kinds for years. I have two magazine subscriptions. I watch archeology shows. I listen to podcasts. Over the years, I have absently absorbed a lot of scraps of information. Over time, these bits of information started to formulate themselves into a loose, fluttery vision of the world.
I became filled with the desire to understand these little scraps in context, in an order, like maybe a mind map… or maybe… a time-line.
Fueled with this new obsession, I knew that I was not going to be able to commence on my new journey of art-making without tackling this. I took a large roll of paper, and I set it on a little table. I rolled it out on my wall and tacked in down. I decided on a very general form: seven areas of the planet, drawn with seven horizontal lines. The time demarcations will be the vertical axis. But, I am still not sure what time periods I am going to depict, and where along the horizontal axis they will land. So, I started to write bits of information I find intriguing on bits of rice paper, and started to tape them up at various places. Everything at this point is in flux and movable.
I feel like a mad scientist.
In fact, I have recently learned from The Google that there is a thing called “The Crazy Wall.” It’s a meme, stemming from the media’s dramatic use of an “evidence board” real detectives use to solve crimes. It was used to most dramatic effect in the 2001 movie “A Beautiful Mind.”
For the first time in a long while, I am creating something that I have no real intention of putting on display or trying to sell. Somehow, I just know I need to do this. I need to capture and contain what I know, but cannot yet use. Something that simply comes out of my beautiful mind.
My beautiful, inefficient, scattered, forgetful, creative, artistic mind.
A video of me about to dive into the time-line.
"Evolve or die" is a common quote. I’m not sure I would die if I didn’t evolve, but stagnation is something I cannot exactly live with either.
Since the beginning of my art career, I have had two main bodies of work, which I call “Vintage Snapshots” and “Film Noir.” Now I am commencing on a whole new body of work! I don’t really have a catchy name for it yet, but it is inspired by my fascination with archeology and history.
Notice I make a lot of pencil notes on it, to keep track of what combinations I have used.
For the first time in many years, I genuinely have no idea what I am doing. It will be an adventure into the unknown.
From the adobe-style buildings, to the textiles, to the silver and turquoise jewelry, regional Native American peoples have created the basis of the “Southwest” style.
Santa Fe is chock full of museums. Now, I love museums. Wherever I go, I seek out museums, and can spend an almost distressingly long amount of time in them, reading every interpretive panel and label as I go.
Museums are different than when I was young (heck, everything is different than when I was young!) All educational materials were oriented from a white, male, European-oriented point of view. This has really shifted.
The Palace of the Governors
Now, back in 2004, Jim and I visited Santa Fe and went to the Palace of the Governors. I remember seeing exhibits in the long, rambling adobe building situated on the main public square.
There, I learned in great detail about the clash of three groups; Native Americans, the Spanish, and later the “Americans” (I wish to goodness I could call us “United Statesians”- far more accurate!)
Museum of Indian Arts and Culture
Contemporary artwork is included along side of the historical objects, giving an even larger sense of it being a living experience, not a dry report.
The main permanent exhibit is called “Here, Now & Always” The title is appropriate, because it used to be that Native Americans were described in past tense, like they didn’t exist anymore.
Museum of Contemporary Native Arts
What have I learned?
I understand that what I am about to say is going to be a cliché, so please bear with me.
European culture is very compartmentalized. Emphasis on the individual, especially here in the US, is unusually important. On top of that, artists and art are seen as being apart from the rest of society, as being “special” and isolated.
As I was immersed in and experienced what these museums were offering, two main themes emerged.
One, that for these Native American creators, communal identity is a part of what goes into every form of expression.
Two, that the things created and displayed were often regarded not as “objects,” but as living things with an energy of their own.
One terrific exhibition at The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture is Grounded in Clay: The Spirit of Pueblo Pottery. The collection of pots and sculptures displayed are from diverse places and times, and were curated by a group of Native American potters, historians, and educators.
In one video, a potter said “Each pot has its own journey. Each pot has its memories.” (See video below)
It seems to me that the act of creation for many Native American artists is not merely an attempt at personal expression, but is an essential tool. A tool not only for cultural survival, but for their communities to thrive, and communicate who they are to the outside world.
Yes, but what about Moi?
I am so happy to say that I have been interviewed by John Cornelison at Classic Movie Review. He read my “Why Noir?” article and realized his listenership would probably like to know more about how film noir inspires my art.
John is an author, movie enthusiast, archeologist and bonsai tree specialist who has produced Classic Movie Review podcast since 2014.
In our interview we talk art, movies, and even a bit about archeology (which, you may know, is also a great inspiration for me!)
Among other things, he asks me what my favorite movie is, and who is the best femme - and homme - fatales.
Here is an excerpt from the interview, where he asks me more about that perennial archetype in film noir, the femme fatale.
John: "Fatales have often been villainized for the methods used to attain their goal. I believe this is the only tool or agency that women have in these cases, in these films. And it's not more sinister than a man beating up or shooting another man. Do you have any thoughts on how femme fatales are portrayed?"
Leslie: "I would agree with you. Oftentimes they are presented as being more evil than the man. But I think that has to do with who's writing the films and who's reviewing the films and talking about the films rather than the actual story.
"There's a great quote that's attributed to Margaret Atwood that says 'Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.'
"I think that that that's relevant in this case because sometimes the men that are reviewing or making the films really think being laughed at or being made a fool of by women is worse than being violent."
For those who love traveling, it can be a tremendously invigorating and inspiring experience.
Why? Because it takes you out of your normal life and, in a certain way, changes who you are. It sort of rearranges your alchemic make up. When you come back, at least for a while, everything looks different.
So, when my friend asks me, “what was your favorite part of the trip?” I have a difficult time answering. Which part of me are you asking?
What aspects of myself went on this trip with me?
The Artist, of course.
The Dance Enthusiast
The History Geek
The Antiquarian/Archeology Nerd
(Also, The Spoiled Princess- who can’t sleep because she doesn’t have her special pillow with her.)
I am a bit overwhelmed by all the amazing things I saw and experienced on this trip. So, rather than being able to write about it in a single entry, I need to write about it in parts, and let the entries come out when and how they may.
This entry is about The Artist in me.
I saw a lot of art on my trip, both in museums and in the historic places we visited.
I also got introduced to an artist I had never heard of before, Renato Guttuso, which was wonderful.
Madrid is one of the major cities of the world, with two of the truly great historic art museums, The Prado and The Reina Sophia.
The Prado houses art from antiquity up to the late 1800’s. It’s a large and unique collection of European art, mostly Spanish, some well-known, others not as much. It includes some of the most famous paintings by Bosch, Titian, El Greco, Rubens, and especially Velázquez and Goya- a LOTTA Goya.
The Garden of Earthly Delights is one of the most wackadoodle paintings of all time, and it is, well, a delight.
A particularly satisfying art experience was seeing Las Meninas by Velasquez.
Painted in 1656, it is over 10 feet tall. It’s one of the most enigmatic paintings of the era, during a time when subject matter was really controlled and standardized. It is like a snapshot of a moment in time, rather than like the rigidly posed and symbolically informed art that was in vogue at the time. There are nine figures in the painting; the Infanta (or, Princess), various attendants, two dwarves (who were also attendants) the king and the queen reflected in a mirror, and Velasquez himself.
(A few years ago, I was able to go to The Museu Picasso in Barcelona and see a series of 58 paintings that he did in 1957, all based on Las Meninas. But more about that guy later.)
There is happy Goya, then sad, crazy Goya.
Then there is dark Goya, who really stepped out of the common, more commercial art-making of the day to create stark, raw paintings and etchings about some of the vile aspects of humanity.
The most famous of these is Saturn Devouring His Son, based on Greco-Roman mythology.
I have seen reproductions of these paintings all my life, and to see them in person was thrilling.
Then, there is The Guernica.
Picasso was born in Malaga, Spain. He lived in Barcelona and France. I have gone to a lot of museums devoted to his work.
I don’t love all Picassos. He was an immensely prolific artist, who lived and worked a helluva long time. He was one of the most famous artists of all time, even during his lifetime, so if he blew his nose on a hanky, some museum somewhere probably has it.
Moreover, he was incredibly versatile and his style ranged widely. So. I don’t love all Picassos. But I love The Guernica. So much that I actually call it The Guernica, for some reason.
It’s about the bombing of a Basque country town by Nazi and Fascist Italy forces in 1937.
It is over 25 feet long.
It is entirely black, white, and variations of warm and cool greys.
The forms fold and unfold upon themselves, and it the best of what cubism can offer. The abstraction supports the emotional power of the moment. Chaos, pathos, terror, grief.
Seeing it in person was like looking at the Grand Canyon for me. I could see the subtly of the “color”, the ghosts of lines and brush marks that had been corrected or shifted. In the room where it hangs are arranged drawings and paintings that are clearly sketches for the final piece.
Also included in this same room was Minotauromachy, a largish etching from 1935.
I adore Picasso’s classically inspired etchings, and this is one of the best. Because it is an etching, and therefore there are multiples of it, I have seen it before. But I it was great to see it again.
I somehow doubt I will go into The Spoiled Princess aspect of myself, as it is somewhat embarrassing.
A series on how film noir inspires my art- Final Entry!
So, Why Noir?
Being an artist may look like fun, but it is tough.
Putting yourself out there for others to see is perennially disquieting. In order to make it all worth it, the subject and method has to be captivating.
I am compelled to tell a story with my art. No matter if it is based on Shakespeare, mythology, or film noir, I am driven to explore and share the landscape of my imagination.
For now, I am entirely caught up in the dark labyrinth of film noir.
But who knows what future stories my art will tell?
Need more noir?
Check out The Film Noir Foundation, which restores films noir and shows them at their film festivals.
It's founder, the Czar of Noir, Eddie Muller, is also a host on TCM's Noir Alley, which shows films noir every Saturday night and Sunday mornings.
Why Noir? is a series! Read 'em all.
A series on how film noir inspires my art- Entry #9
The themes are universal and can be ascribed to any individual. So, I can change the outer identities of my characters, and it can still be noir.
The scenes in my artwork are presented without irony and are imbued with an immediacy which invites the viewer to experience the scene as a contemporary moment.
The adaptability of film noir characters allows me to enlarge the limits of my understanding and expression.
Why Noir? is a series! Read 'em all.
A series on how film noir inspires my art- Entry #8
When we are engrossed in a mystery novel, the complicated plot tangles we must unravel keep us entranced.
The characters in noir are caught in a web of intrigue and moral ambiguity. Their exploits involve daring and danger, plot twists and betrayals. They usually believe they can manipulate a situation to their advantage over another.
The dream I weave in my paintings is a version of myself who is, in a word: clever.
Very unlike who I really am.
Like getting into a good novel or movie, my paintings invite you to take time and decipher what is being presented.
Why Noir? is a series! Read 'em all.
A series on how film noir inspires my art- Entry #7
A long time ago, a wise friend counseled me, saying “Romance is about NOT being fulfilled, it’s about longing.”
The characters in film noir practice a lot of bad behavior. They smoke and drink, lie, cheat, extort and manipulate.
You could say I vicariously through my own art.
Why Noir? is a series! Read 'em all.
A series on how film noir inspires my art- Entry #6
How many times have you said to yourself, "this is a bad idea,"- then went ahead and did it anyway?
This is the essence of the typical male protagonist in film noir. A guy who is presented with a choice, and even though it is a bad idea, he goes forward with his instincts, his craving, his desire, his compulsion, his desperate need, instead of what we know would be the right choice. He must live, or die, by that fateful decision.
We watch the drama unfold, unable to look away.
Men have their own particular burden to carry. They are supposed to do, to achieve, attain, and win. But the world does not have a level playing field. Additionally, he knows that when the going gets tough, he's the one who is expected to run into the fray, stare it down and fix it. But what if it is unfixable?
The strive to win against all odds is often what motivates Antihero- or the giving up is what fuels his self-destruction.
The Homme Fatale
Not all Fatales are Femme. Any androsexual will tell you so.
But this is an illusion. Another cathartic mechanism in the fantasy world of film noir.
In the real world, such men are exasperating at best- dangerous at worst.
But here we must ask the age-old question; is the catharsis we gain from art worth the messaging it perpetuates?
Why Noir? is a series! Read 'em all.
Here are the hotsheets with the sordid details, the true confessions, and the inside info on my artistic process. Learn how it all happens right here!
Not seeing what you're looking for? My previous blog on blogspot can be found HERE.