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

 

 

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Directive #3

  1. punctuation is not always necessary
  2. B. if you can say it without saying it then don’t say it
  3. practice some regularity
  4. don’t be sentimental (of a work of literature, music, or art) dealing with feelings of tenderness, sadness, or nostalgia, typically in an exaggerated and self-indulgent way.
  5. report what is there
  6. do what pleases you
  7. don’t give up
  8. look at the edges of things – find the boundaries
  9. wear your walking shoes

 

 

 

Abstraction II

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photo of Georgia O’keeffe’s Jack-in-the-pulpit vi, 1930 from o’keeffe by brita benke

 

Dear Georgia,

I was thinking today of your series of paintings of Jack-in-the-pulpits where you moved closer and closer to the spadix in each painting, until it is not recognizable for what it is yet it tells the whole story. In O’Keeffe by Brita Benke, Benke says:

“The absolute size of the object, its dimension, is concealed behind the relative size presented within the format of the picture, it’s proportion. O’Keeffe thereby reveals a reverence for all Creation, the same reverence which, according to Walt Whitman, makes no distinction between a leaf of grass and the stars in the firmament.”

In my acting training at Brooklyn College I learned that the sounds within some words hold the feeling, the spark of the word and the very sound itself can evoke the meaning held therein.

I have a desire to take this journey with you, starting at the outer edges and going in in in until we are not talking about you and me anymore but we are waltzing. There is no description necessary. Our breath holds the whole story.

For a very long time I was standing outside the door to your room, this Room Two, listening and hearing nothing inside, afraid to knock for fear I may disturb you. Then I felt one day that you opened the door and we were looking at each other face to face. And you said “yes?” and I rambled here’s what I would like to do, and here’s how and why and it all sounded so weird and fake to me but you left the door open and walked away so I walked in. Now we are here in this room together, and you are watching me trying to pin it down, make sense or explain all of it in some way…like I’m in a museum and I need to find the way to my heart through my eyes.

And your lesson is always the same. Sit and listen. Walk the dog. Make a salad. Paint, write, research. Clean the floors. Bring a sense of beauty to all that you can, and don’t explain yourself. Explaining can begin to sound like a lot of noise and this sky is way too big for all that noise. Just breathe. There is no separation between your breath and that sky.

Suddenly this is all seeming very real.

Love,

Alice

Thank you to my friend Debra for sitting down and telling me about her recent experiences in Abiquiu, her voice carrying the landscape and Georgia herself across the states to share with me.

 

 

 

Abstraction

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Georgia O’Keeffe Series 1-No 1, 1918 Amon Carter Museum

Ever since I started working with you, all words seem like too much. I want to pare back until I find the essence. I don’t want to talk around it but sometimes I don’t know how else to do it…I just keep staring and pointing like a fool.

Maybe it’s time to start painting.

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:

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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.

Transformation Complete

Dear Marilyn,

This is me as you from August 4, 2013. I feel the photographer captured something of you in this photo. Thank you for loaning yourself to me and for giving me a taste of the moments in time on your last day.

What I want to say for now it this:

we were always free

trapped in a golden cage

lit up like a torch of hips and lips

burning through all the old papers and heart saws

rest awhile beautiful

sleep in perfect wisdom

rock out your work of nowness

enter the back room territory

as i float above alone

Love,

Alice

This is a drawing of me as Marilyn by Anne Saitzyk.

I will be on retreat until the end of August, but look forward to sharing more experiences from the day of this performance when I get back. The live stream is still available if you want to watch any of the installation. Go here.

Eating Seagulls

Marilyn scale

iwanttobethin iwanttobethin iwanttobethin iwanttobethin iwanttobethin iwant iwant iwant ohgodiwanttobethin

When I started this project, I had a secret fantasy about something. I dreamed that as a result of committing myself 100% to this transformation I would lose weight. This is a common dream of mine lacing through my whole life and narrowly evading me.

In Buddhism this is called the realm of the hungry ghosts. The hungry ghosts have gigantic bellies and little tiny mouths. They can never seem to fill their bellies, and they are always ghosting around looking for just the thing. Not surprisingly, this is called a hell realm.

In January, I went for an annual physical and found my BMI to be in the overweight category and my cholesterol to be a little high. I was not losing weight for my art – I was gaining it.

This started yet another round of trying to find the perfect combination of food and exercise that would melt the pounds away. I have cut out a lot of meat and dairy to lower my cholesterol. I feel great about this because factory farming is terrible for the environment and animals deserve happy free lives too. I also went back to my favorite yoga class and increased my vigorous walks with the Finn puppy. And in March? Still the same. No change.

I look at Marilyn’s body in pictures and wonder why I can’t capture that.

I look at my beautiful strong under-appreciated body and wonder if there is another way.

What is going on with me and food? Why am I snacking away in front of a movie, or making multiple trips to the kitchen while surfing the internet. Finn knows the habit and he trails right along beside me because he knows I may drop a chip in transit.

On those nights when I don’t make the trip back and forth to the kitchen, I feel something is missing. It feels like life is dull if I am not trapped in this drama of being good/being bad/eating/drinking/more/less. It’s not so much the food I miss, but the torment of it all. That might sound weird, but it’s true.

So today I walked outside at work and ate a seagull.

I didn’t eat the seagull, but I ate the sight of the seagull swooping down to land on the building. I ate huge and wondrous mountains on my morning walk and three coyotes that passed by. I noted the life in between the food, and those feelings of blah. I acknowledged my glee around eating. God, I love to eat.

As of today, I am still holding the dream that in the four months before the performance I can slim down. I am holding in mind that this is four months of my life not eternity. I am decreasing my food intake, increasing exercise and reminding myself to notice that I am not in the hell realm but very lucky to be alive. I am buddying with a friend who also wants to lose weight, listening to a hypnosis app, and telling people about my goal. I call this the everything plan…do all I can so at least I know I tried.

The good news is that I have so much more time and energy since I’ve been exercising and leaving out the extracurricular snacks. I’ll update you about my progress. I have 17 weeks to go.

Here’s a brief video from the front lines.

Slipping Away

Marilyn Monroe From de last sitting, 1962 (Marilyn looking curious)- Bert Stern

You are slipping away from me.

All I can find is a white sheet and some whisp of wakefulness.

A glimpse of gold.

Anatomy of a Project

Welcome! This project is called Four Rooms. The creation of the Room One will take place from July 1, 2012 – June 30, 2013.

This year will be spent researching, gathering artifacts and transforming into the woman who lives in this first room. During the year, I will write and publish my findings about the process in this blog. Toward the end of the year, I will create a performance in which I live as the woman in the room created with gathered artifacts. I am particularly interested in exploring boundaries of identity, environment, and performance.

Let’s enter the room. The woman who lives here is Marilyn.