Mountain-ness

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Pelvis series, Red with Yellow 1945

Dear Georgia,

Reading about you in New Mexico has brought this thought to mind, which I heard first from Chogyam Trungpa – We don’t have to be afraid of who we are – a theme I now see evident in your life story, your way of creating.

who paints the sky seen through a pelvis bone? you do.

I have begun using this word since I read about you painting the mountain until it became yours. The word is mountain-ness and I have been using it in relation to the way I am in the world. When I meditate in the morning I say – now I will practice my mountain-ness. It’s kind of like steadfastness but also carries an element of guardianship. When I practice my mountain-ness, I am able to root down into the earth and stay still even when the weather is really wild. And the weather gets really wild lately, both internally and externally.

Internal weather is emotion and creativity and energies that come and go, sometimes sweet and real and sometimes hidden and sneaky and sometimes like a rusty can lid seeming sharp and dangerous. I tend to think that if everything is going good I should just feel good. But good is only a portion of it, the feeling responding memories, tug of war tapestry of what it is to be human is the rest. I resist all of this. But when I practice my mountain-ness, I am the guardian of all of it. I say yes. Hello. I will sit down with you.

This practice makes me feel less afraid of who I am.

This is what I see in your paintings.

I see you sitting down and creating an experience of experiencing.

Does that make any sense?

Love,

Alice

 

 

room redux

Photo by Don Worth 1958

Well, first let me say – it has been a long time. September 2014 was my last post and that is because of that one sperm that wouldn’t give up and won the prize of becoming Ayla, our daughter. That’s the fancy way to say I had a baby. And she’s great, and I’m great and so grateful.

In September, after I found out I was pregnant I had to admit to myself that what I really wanted was to just be pregnant. To take the time to slow down and be with the baby. So I did.

And Ellen Bowers died. I met Ellen in my early days in Los Angeles and she was a kind, loving and bookish writer. She always wore a little piece of flair – like a flower in her hair or a beautiful scarf. She was the kind of person that could slip in and out of a room unnoticed but when she focused her gaze on you, you felt like you belonged. We shared our grief when our fathers died. She told me about riding a bike all over town when she was pregnant. She was an enthusiastic and committed fan of Room One, commenting on almost every blog post. She was so engaged that sometimes I felt I was having a conversation with her about art and writing through this project. And I loved that. And I loved her. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. I just wish Ellen, Georgia and I could continue that conversation.

Lately, I feel my fingers itching to be tap tap tapping at the keyboard searching out the rhythm of the project. I just wasn’t seeing how I could continue with a life so changed by this new role. But today I watched the movie Room – which is wonderful in so many ways – and I remembered that the inspiration for this project was to build rooms, to build environments to live in by searching for the artifacts that create these women. And part of the question was always how does that process change me? I realized also that this being a long duration project meant I could make it a little longer duration. So without knowing the end date, I begin again.

This time I’m bringing the fortifying thought that I was able to push out a baby. I’m bringing a changed body and a level of exhaustion like I’ve never experienced before. I’m bringing a  broken heart, and I’m bringing a rusty tool. I’m bringing the deepest yearning to connect to you through Georgia and the hope that, through her, we will both feel that we belong.

 

 

Needing Blue

Blue Lines 1916 (2)

Blue Lines 1916 Watercolor

This quote (below) is my first clue about where to begin and end and start again…stepping into the unknown and learning to recognize when it is time for blue. Oh lordy, I am feeling so afraid to make a mistake.

[In 1915] “I hung on the wall the work I had been doing for several months. Then I sat down and looked at it. I could see how each painting or drawing had been done according to one teacher or another, and I said to myself, “I have things in my head that are not like what anyone has taught me – shapes and ideas so near to me – so natural to my way of being and thinking that it hasn’t occurred to me to put them down.” I decided to start anew – to strip away what I had been taught – to accept as true my own thinking. This was one of the best times of my life. There was no one around to look at what I was doing – no one was interested – no one to say anything about it one way or another. I was alone and singularly free, working into my own, unknown – no one to satisfy but myself. I began with charcoal and paper and decided not to use any color until it was impossible to do what I wanted to do in black and white. I believe it was June before I needed blue.”

Georgia O’Keeffe by Georgia O’Keeffe

Lost & Found

AliceAsMarilynTiger (2)

Dear Friends,

I am very excited to open the door to Room Two this week but first I want to spend a few moments looking back at Room One and Marilyn. It feels necessary.

I have been away from the project for about five months. I went on retreat shortly after the installation and then came back to a whole host of domestic things large and small to take care of. I went back to my natural hair color mid-September and haven’t read a single Marilyn article or book since August. This has been a welcome break. After more than a year soaking in the story that was Marilyn and transforming myself physically into her all the while; it’s good to be me. I have been taking my time coming back to the blog too because I wanted to allow the experience to settle in before attempting to describe or label it in any way.

Last week, I was able to articulate some of the experiences when writing a blog post for the Shambhala Times. (You can read the full post here) I wanted to share some excerpts, and then wrap up Marilyn/Room One with some well-deserved thank you’s.

Last summer I lived twelve hours as Marilyn Monroe.

I started at 9:00 am in front of a live audience and a video feed which was broadcasting across the country. By 9:15 am I was completely panicked. I couldn’t pick up the handle, the phone, the truth, the fullness of it. I had no way of managing the situation, no place to hide.  Furthermore, I created nothing, I had nothing to show…just the space, me, her, and the invited audience. I had no plan.

As was her custom, Marilyn arrived late, meaning that I was this weird herky jerky thing for the first hour, not sounding nor moving at all like her but also not entirely like me either. Sometime after 10:00 am I put on Frank Sinatra and start to dance around the room, and suddenly she arrived in full force, wild, angry, sad, lonely, manic, loving and so vulnerable. Emotions arrived suddenly like giant waves and then were gone.

In the emptiness I am hyper-aware that all my usual ways of coping – making a cup of tea, snacking on something, checking Facebook – none of these things are available to me. I have stocked the room with three record albums, a record player, three books, some personal papers, champagne, and about four outfits. I quickly explore these things in the first three hours, reading from books, listening to the albums and getting dressed and undressed as I get in and out of bed restlessly.

Throughout the whole day I am haunted by the questions: What if this was my last day? How would I spend my time? There is this itchy feeling of waiting for time to pass, yet knowing that time is short. At one point I ask the audience “How do we make this time matter?”. They are quiet, eyes wide open…my partners in silence.

It’s sad joy to live in this world, knowing that I will have to let go of everything. I always resist that truth by building up my identity, my schedule, my agenda, my goals, never letting go enough to just be seen and loved by others, always proving something. In that twelve hour space and time with Marilyn, I experienced all the messiness and beauty of being human, all the expectations, the neediness, the wanting to be loved, the mystery and the itchy terribleness of staying there all the while, with just these three albums, these three books, this cactus and this champagne (which wasn’t even real, by the way, so there was no escape there either).

I think this is what Marilyn offered as the gift of her lifetime…or at least this is what she gave to me. The most beautiful things that life has to offer: sensuality, beauty, sex, and playfulness. And the messiness of being human, the not being able to hold it together, the addictions, the drama, the holding on too tight for too long, the self-hatred and closing off from others. The waiting for time to pass, waiting to get it perfect, the forgetting about the preciousness of this experience and feeling overwhelmed by all there is to accomplish. And the moments of complete surrender, where life is only what it is and that is good enough.

thankyou

There are so many folks that helped out in ways large and small, and I am going to include everyone I can think of since this really was such a community effort. I’m sure I will forget some folks, and I apologize in advance. First, I want to thank my husband Sean. He offers so much time, patience, editing skills, laughter, and heavy lifting to this project. Here is a picture of him heavy lifting with Natalie & Alicia the night before the performance:

IMG_3704IMG_3707

Special thanks to the Fabulous Four, who made the set-up, performance and take-down a total dream. Lisa Blandford, Natalie Panaia, Shelley Ray, and Alicia Vogl Saenz.

Fabulous Four

Thank you to Jmy at Pieter for making it possible in that beautiful space.

Thank you to Kathy Gronau for publicity.

Thank you to Rachelle for being my hair and make-up guru.

Thank you to Greg Schreiner and Scott Fortner of Marilyn Remembered.

Thank you to Siran Babayan & Drew Barillas from the LA Weekly.

Thank you to these exceptional women:  Jude, Sonora, Cynthia, Alicia V-S, Alicia T, Katie, Shelley, Erica, Vicky, Jenny, Sharon, Anne, Debra, Amy, Laura

Thank you to the Indiegogo contributers who made things a lot more financially possible:

Dustin, Ava, Eric, Janice, Jared & Annie, Heidi & Ben, Elke, Kirstin, Natalie, Nicole & Dan, Shannon, Sharon, Matthew, Alicia T, Barbara, Jenny, Valerie, Suzanna & Philip, Sulai, Patty K, Annie May, Debra & Malcolm, Patrick, Alison P, Aunt Kat, Katie, Mary Beth, Cousin Anne, Mike & Amy, Shelley, Jessica & Jennifer (PPC), Beth & Truax, Jude, Lynn, Tammy, Joseida, Lee

Special thanks to Janice of Success is Sweetest and Ellen of Bohemian Bookshelf for engaging and inspiring me.

Thank you to Mykl & Mary Lynn, Guy Blume, Margaret Kemp, Mat Keel, Julie Civiello, Lisa Oxley, Jason Elias and Philip Lasker for asking me how it’s going, listening, and advising when asked.

Thank you to the Shambhala Los Angeles sangha for support and friendship.

Thank you to everyone who participated that day (near and far) and sat with Marilyn for a time.

And thank you to my family, each of whom continue to inspire and encourage me.

In Between Identity

It is the conflict between where I am and my version of you that holds all the truth and beauty of this piece – and because you are you – all your truth and beauty lies in the push pull of Marilyn and Norma Jean. Also maybe between what was expected and what you were able to manage in your life.

-Project Journal June 2013

Thanks to Sonora & House of Minerva for bringing this Shaw photo session to my attention.

Solitude

Make-up

The room she lived in with the fog outside the window was perched on the windowsill, asking for escape each and every day; where her doll hid under the bed and she lit matches and blew them out so she could smell the way they smelled when extinguished. She dreamed then of paper and poppies and when she woke up, the cool white blanket touching her cheek, she was always ashamed to have drooled and turned her pillow over quickly.

There was a boy who lived next door who wore a striped shirt and one roller skate. When she went outside he would ask her if she knew what snow tasted like. No she said, it doesn’t snow here and he would stick out his tongue at her and run behind the garage making a farting noise with his mouth. She wanted him to stay and talk with her but her bathing suit was riding up her bum so she went inside to take it off and get a glass of orange juice. Inside she passed the man sleeping on the couch and she ran a little as she passed him as if he might jump up and grab her at any moment. She spilled a little orange juice on the floor and rubbed it in creating a dirty sticky smudge before she left the kitchen and went back to her room. They wouldn’t want her drinking orange juice but she was rebellious today.

She stopped outside the door of her “mother” and looked in. Cool and damp inside, she made her way through to the bathroom that was through the room and shut the door once inside, trying not to allow the knob to click. Once the door was shut she turned on the light but a loud fan accompanied the light so she quickly turned it off and pulled aside the curtain to the window so light could shine in. Next to the sink, lipstick in a gold case. She touched it with anxious fingers feeling excited to explore again this world of color and truth. She opened the lipstick and twisted the bright red color up. Looking at herself in the mirror she saw parts of her face, eyes, lips chin but not all. Her lips soft and tender like a doe. She started to roll the lipstick over her lips, creating color and sex on her mouth. She wanted to eat it and put it inside herself all at the same time. She knew it was wrong. After the lipstick was applied she licked her lips tasting the perfumed creamy texture and she kissed her shoulder leaving a red mark. Then she closed the curtain and opened the door carefully, listening to see if there was any movement outside. Wait. No, nothing. She could go to her room now.

Project Journal July 2012

A Little Thing About Something Big

Andre De Dienes 1946

When I was a child I would lie in bed sometimes and think about me in the bed. Then I would expand my awareness out to the rest of the house, the town, the state, the country, the world, and eventually the universe. When I reached the space of the universe, the same deep bone-chilling thought would always come to me: If the universe was so big that I couldn’t even imagine it all, how could I possibly matter? What was to be my role in this gigantic universe full of humans and animals and stars and god-knows-what?

I was terribly afraid of aliens. Their possible existence seemed to further point out the possibility that I was just a speck in all of this. A speck of a speck.

Project Journal July 2012