HWS 4.30

Georgia with abstraction

Dear Georgia,

We took the train to a new gallery this weekend to view an exhibit of female sculptors. Did you know, or is it a thing, or maybe just something with this exhibit – that sculpture has everything to do with the body? Is that true of all art? I think it’s hard to over intellectualize something that requires great physical strength to create.

I was reminded of how the train pushes me back down to earth and creates in me a chance to feel of the earth and the earth of me. Is this how you felt on your land in NM? I imagine that you felt that you were of that land. I find it’s not easy to feel a part of this whole thing going on around me, but the train and also music ground me in the environment and I don’t feel separate.

I gave up on meditating for a while – I lost the thread and seemed unable to pick it up for quite some time. I finally decided that I would start again even though I didn’t know why or what it would do for me anymore, just that I felt bad not doing it. Once I was about a week in I remembered that it allows me to experience my body and all my feelings just as they are right now, without any need to fix or change anything. And just sitting in it, steeping in my alice-ness – alive-ness is a real relief, even though it doesn’t always feel comfortable.

Love,

Alice

 

 

 

 

 

Drive

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“The relationship was really very good, because it was based on something more that just emotional needs…of course, you do your best to destroy each other without knowing it.”

Quote by O’Keeffe found in How Georgia Became O’Keeffe by Karen Karbo

I have spent the day bouncing between New York City and Abuiquiu, New Mexico, looking for clues as to your daily life. It will take me 12.5 hours to drive to Ghost Ranch. It would have taken you 31 hours or more from New York in 1929. I heard you learned to drive and washed the car in the yard in the nude with your traveling companion that summer that you found your heart/home in New Mexico away from your husband. I am spinning with skirts and skulls and distant points that don’t seem entirely clear and I am loving you. I think today I really began the journey with you, suddenly it feels like you are nearby and I am alive and a little giddy. I am going to San Francisco this weekend, and will look for you there.

 

Abuelita

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Dear Miss O’Keeffe,

This morning I awoke early with this word ringing in my head like an alarm clock. Abuelita. I got out of bed and the apartment was pink. I looked out the window and the sky was an explosion of fuchsia color mottled by dark grey and green clouds. In ten minutes it was over replaced by a sheet of mild lemony yellow lavender, as if it had never erupted in such intensity.

Grandmother. Abuelita.

As I am making tea I remember that I heard a woman asking for “Abuelita” in the grocery store yesterday and that it is a kind of Mexican hot chocolate that my sister and I used to serve with chipotle paste rubbed on the side of the cups when we worked at a Oaxacan restaurant in Brooklyn. My sister taught me a lot about food in our Brooklyn apartment, much too small for all of us.

There is a song by Beck that mentions abuelitas called Que Onda Guero. “Abuelitas with plastic bags, walking to the church with the spanish candles…” I used to run in Brooklyn with this song blasting in my ears, long hair swinging.

Maybe I am claiming you as my ancestor, my abuelita. I want to hang in the kitchen with you, take long walks and slow down… see the beauty in nature. I want to learn from your fierce independence and search for self-authority. I want to spend a year at your house, safe in the routine of life…not afraid of the quiet moments. Learning from a life almost completed.

I don’t know very much about you but I already know that you created a world where it was safe to be you.

I see you raise your eyebrows now and say “there is no safety”.

Would it be okay if we explore this together? I don’t know how you might answer this question, but I will look for answers in the sage brush in Griffith park today.

With deepest respect,

Alice

 

Buy Tickets Here!

Comfortable

Ever notice how “what the hell” is always the right answer? – Marilyn Monroe

Purchase your tickets to the Los Angeles August 4 performance installation here:

http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/408929

 

The Middle

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I am working on creating a timeline for how I will get from [here] to [filming a short film about Marilyn] and I find myself staring into the middle. How do I travel from inspiration to fruition?

When Norma Jean Baker was renamed Marilyn, she gave up having a middle name. At the beginning Marilyn, at the end Monroe. Ba-boom. Truth is, I spend much of my time mucking around in the middle. Here I am sending you this note from the middle.

Part of the reason I want to create an unscripted short film as the end result of this project, is that I want to explore Marilyn’s middle place. When she was alone. Those moments when she was somewhere in-between, by herself in her own space. So much of life is made up of this space when nothing much is happening. I’m starting to feel that these moments are as important as those moments when SOMETHING is happening, otherwise I would need to “just get through” about 95% of my life.

In the last two years, I have discovered that life can be over in a flash. All the fire and burn of trying to be something when I grow up collapsed into this realization that I am already here and it could be over at anytime. A small voice says “don’t forget that this is life, the brushing your teeth, the walking the dog, the calling a friend for no reason but to say hi.”

But part of me still cries, there must be something else! Where is the big payoff? It can’t be just about brushing my teeth and breathing. I just want the instruction manual to Alice. The one that says “Here is Alice, here is what she is meant to do in this life, and here is how you take care of her.”

But I don’t have the manual. What do I have? a heart and some wisdom and second chances. Courage to make mistakes. And lots and lots of middle time.

Transformation

The Oxford English Dictionary says to transform is to: make a thorough or dramatic change in the form, appearance, or character.

Just to be clear (and lest I forget) I am transforming myself into Marilyn Monroe over the course of a year. Of course, it isn’t possible for me to actually be Marilyn Monroe, but the experiment is about finding out how close I can get. I am curious to find out what is inherently me and not her and vice versa? I wonder how far I can push the boundaries of Alice, and what it is like to step into Marilyn’s shoes. Is there any Alice that needs to be held onto? What is really true about Alice, aside from the stories I tell myself? These stories seem to tether me to ideas about myself, which creates an identity. As my cousin recently pointed out to me last night, this construct seems to be “paper thin” and easily disappears in a moment where we forget our self-consciousness.

In a book called The End of Suffering, I find this paragraph:

Of course, many of us try to move beyond reinventing ourselves externally—new clothes, new car, new face, new partner….And confusing your story with your true nature leads to unsustainable inner contradiction and paradox. The actress Marilyn Monroe was an outstanding example of this problem—a person who seemed to have everything—and nothing, not even a self. In spite of her beauty, wealth, and position, she became lost in the Marilyn Monroe persona of her own creation. As she walked the alluring and profitable tightrope between innocence and sexuality, she was, in the end, unable to internalize and discover the woman behind all the photos. For Marilyn, being seduced by her story produced negative thoughts that began to outweigh her positive appreciation of life. It was this dissonance of story versus life that made her both crazy and sick. Over a long period of time, these contradictory thoughts, whether we are conscious of them or not, can become disruptive forces that bring dis-ease to our minds and our bodies.

I wonder if any of us can find the person behind the photos. The more I look for myself, the less I know about myself.

Lately I have been interested in the period of Marilyn’s life when she moved to New York City seeking transformation. The above photo is from that period. I love that she is wearing this shirt and tie, and her hair is almost masculine. The photo is from an interview when she returned to Los Angeles to make the film Bus Stop in 1956. You can watch the video here. This is the most self-confidant Marilyn I have seen yet. In the end she zings the reporter with: “No, I am the same person, it’s just a different suit.”, but I think she was exploring this question of identity constantly. Every photo session was an experiment

I think there are many forms of transformation but I am interested in two primary kinds. There is the transformation that arises from life experiences like birth, old age, sickness and death (check out this beautiful project to see a man age 12 years before your eyes) and then there are the transformations we choose to create ourselves. I am a total sucker for before and after pictures.

So the question I am working with is: What happens when we seek transformation? Are we able to truly change?

(I’m sorry, Marilyn)

Eve Arnold 1960's

It just rained. Water is dripping from the roof into the small pool outside. Each drip makes a ripple in the pool that expands out bigger and bigger until it disappears. I am reminded of how a twenty year old boy killed twenty children last Friday. Like the pool, we are absorbing that impact. We are changed.

What does this country need? I find myself asking this question and wondering what I am adding to the pool with this project.

I have wanted to do this project for a long time. Recently two people have used the word “madness” on hearing what I am up to. I think the responses upgraded from “interesting” to “madness” when I made the first step towards physical transformation.

The physical transformation began about four weeks ago with a big blond streak in the front of my hair. I spent 5 hours at the salon with Rachelle, hair and make-up artist, who will be assisting me in transformation. At first, the blond streak was nifty.

Over the last two weeks a creeping feeling as I look in the mirror. I don’t want to be Marilyn anymore. (I’m sorry, Marilyn) I want to be old broken-hearted brown/grey haired me. In the mirror I see someone confused, part blond part brown, stuck in some in between state. I look at my body and know this body will not be able to be her body.

Today is the end-of-the-world day (12-21-12) and yesterday was my birthday. This was the first birthday that I have not heard my father’s voice saying Happy Birthday to me over the phone as he died in October this year. In Newtown, I’m sure there are a lot of firsts happening too. We are at the beginning of a whole new cycle.

I don’t want to give up on you, Marilyn. Sometimes, I like to bail out when things become less nifty. Maybe you did too. But I am going to stay here, because maybe there is something to be learned, even if it is just learning to stay with the in-between, the unknown and the no-longer-nifty.

There is some hope and truth for me in your form. I want to stand in your shoes for one moment in time and see what happens.

See my blond streak? Here we go…

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