your heart is a radio

Wait. We need this before we can start talking.

Okay now that I’ve gotten Donna Summer out of my system(for now), I’m excited to share that my new play “Your Heart is a Radio” is getting ready for staged readings! It’s been a year in conception and writing so it feels good. Did I say excited? I meant terrified. After all, it’s not really theatre unless you’re scared shitless, right? The crazy thing about this show is how personal it got during the writing process. Like split open my insides, put lights around them and throw them inside-kind of personal. But before we go any further, I need to tell a Fleetwood Mac story.

On the morning of my 26th birthday in Los Angeles, I loaded up my beautiful but hyper dog and took him for a hike. It was one of those perfect beautiful LA days and my drinking felt like it was under control (ha ha ha) and my relationship hadn’t gotten terrible so that morning was pretty fantastic. On the way up the canyon, I listened to one of LA’s classic rock stations. Before playing the above song, the dj, one of those guys with a gravely voice and endless rock knowledge, told the heartbreaking story of how “Sara” by Fleetwood Mac was written. At the time,  Stevie Nicks claimed the song was about a friend she had loved and lost (It would later be revealed that Sara was about a baby she had with Don Henley and lost making the story even sadder.) The dj’s story was impactful to me for some reason as I parked the car. I then just sat there and listened to the song and felt incredibly moved.To this day I cannot hear that song and not think of that morning, that birthday, that moment.

Flash forward 16 years later, at age 42 my husband and I were having a conversation about writing and he said, “Music has such a profound impact on you. You should write a show about it.” He’s one of my most succinct collaborators and as a director he has an insight into theatre that I don’t. At the time, I thought, Hmm that could be interesting but didn’t know how or what I’d do exactly. This lead to thinking about the moments and the songs I’ll never forget, like “Sara” on my birthday or the time I was blaring Tom Petty and again with Stevie Nicks and got into a car accident with my sister

Or listening to the Promise by When In Rome on repeat and pining for a douchey, hipster goth guy.

Or dancing to “Thinking of You” high on ecstasy as the sun came up.

Turns out my life was filled with these moments and I suspected other people’s were too. Like Donna Summer, my life, my loves everything could be heard on the radio. So I took to Facebook and asked,”What’s that song the immediately takes you back to a place or memory?” Suffice it say, my suspicions were right. Over 100 people responded with touching, funny, bizarre stories.  It was then I knew I was onto something.This wasn’t about the best song or your favorite song it was about music impacting your life and your life happening while music was on. The responses were genuine and really inspiring. I started really writing the show, with the help of my writing group, in January. Piece by piece the show came together as s series of monologues that I starting calling Your Heat is a Radio, a monologue mixtape”. As my own memories of songs shaped the monologues, the show got really personal. And scary. Like I said at the beginning of this post, terrifying. Putting that much of your soul out there is freaking intense and I clutched onto the script and didn’t want to let it go. Until this week.

My plan was to have the show up in October. Pneumonia had other plans, however, forcing the show–and all writing into hibernation. Feeling better and ready to finally birth this darn thing, I got the courage and opened the document. Turned out, it was in excellent shape. (I mean aside from needing an ending and having whole portions rewritten or tossed out completely. Aah theatre.) I dove back in this week and it felt good. Of course I had the requisite, “Oh my God. This is horrible and it should never see the light of day” but that’s art for you. Being sober has taught me to not pay too much attention to the voices of fear. I can hear them and acknowledge they’re in the room wreaking havoc, give them the finger and keep going. My story, this story has merit and deserves a life so fear can suck it. I’m now planning on a staged reading in spring and submitting it to some festivals. The cool thing about theatre is once it gets in front of people it stops being about me. The audience gets their own relationship with it and takes it somewhere else. And I love that. At the end of the day, I’m proud of it and I’m proud of me and that’s fucking huge.

 

 

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Swing From The Chandelier

A weird thing happened on the radio this summer– pop music got sober. Okay not all of it. But it’s hard to ignore one of the season’s most popular songs which talks about that special kind of self-destruction only we drunks and junkies can really understand. The song I’m talking about is Chandelier by Sia and to me it isn’t her faceless presence in the video that’s most fascinating. It’s the catchy lyrics and Sia herself’s story that I find utterly captivating.

The above video has a staggering 92 million views on YouTube and is without a doubt one of the most talked about music videos of the year. It’s an incredible visual interpretation of a song that’s nearly impossible to get out of your head. Having been a fan of Sia’s for many years, it’s the kind of arty, bizarre and entertaining video I’ve come to expect from her.

As interviews and details of the meaning behind Chandelier filtered through online press, my love for her and the song only got deeper. At first blush, you could consider lyrics like, ““I’m gonna swing from the chandelier, from the chandelier/ I’m gonna live like tomorrow doesn’t exist, like it doesn’t exist,” to be part of a rebellious party anthem but the more you listen, the more heartbreaking the message really is. “But I’m holding on for dear life, won’t look down, won’t open my eyes\Keep my glass full until morning light, ’cause I’m just holding on for tonight.”  I certainly identify with that sentiment. “Holding on for dear life” is something I did in my addiction for many years and leave it to a fellow addict to succinctly come up with the words to capture that misery and isolation so well. Although she shies away from the press, Sia has talked openly about her own alcoholism and addiction. “I was really unhappy being an artist. I was always a drinker but I didn’t know I was an alcoholic. Then I got seriously addicted to Vicodin and Oxycodone,” she told Billboard last year.  Sober since 2010, Sia’s life and career have totally turned around. Since then, she’s written hit songs for nearly everyone

and some even that quote what we hear in the land of recovery.

Sia told NPR that AA has helped her stay sober and become a better songwriter. “”I can sit while people cry,” she says. “I can stand when someone’s angry. Like, I don’t know. I’m fine around other people’s feelings. It doesn’t make me nervous or anxious. Probably because of the program. If you’re in an AA meeting, people are sharing. Sometimes there’s crying. Sometimes there’s feeling. And we’re just witnessing it.” Her new album, 1,000 Forms of Fear debuted at number 1 and Chandelier has been nominated for several MTV VMAs including “Video of the Year”.  Sia’s not the only one singing about recovery. Sure, addiction has long been fodder for really dramatic pop, country and rock songs. Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Pink, Eminem, Aerosmith, Trent Reznor and the Postal Service are just a few of the artists who’ve covered hitting bottom in song. But it does seem like there’s a new crop of recovery rock on the charts. Global smash hit, Habits (Stay High) by Tove Lo details an unhealthy coping methods of a young girl dealing with a breakup.

While the inescapable  I Wanna Get Better by Bleachers talks about changing old behaviors, if not specifically getting sober.

As a writer and creative person myself, sober success stories like Sia’s are important. Seeing people like her or Robert Downey Jr or Zak Efron or Anthony Hopkins or Stephen King continue to create and stay sober is incredibly inspiring. It tells me to keep going and that if I stay sober anything is possible. I need hope in the rooms and online but it’s amazing to hear it on the radio too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

movie therapy, part 2

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The world lost somebody pretty special when it lost Roger Ebert. No writer ever understood the power of film better than Ebert. “Every great film should seem new every time you see it,” he once said. It’s this kind of thought that illustrates what a fan of movies the guy was. And I happen to agree with him and I’m a fan too. As I round out my top ten favorite films today, I guess it’s important to repeat that these are movies I love or that affected me or helped me and maybe not considered the best films of all time. Different list. So without any further ado, here’s the rest of my top ten.

6. Guys & Dolls: Sinatra the actor and Brando the singer are two things that shouldn’t work but for me in this movie, they sure do. Add to it ace directing by Joseph L. Mankiewicz (director of my all time favorite, All About Eve, coincidentally) and terrific songs like “Luck Be A Lady” and “Sit Down Your Rocking the Boat” and you’ve got a film that never fails to put a smile on my face.

7. Young Frankenstein: As kids we must have watched every Mel Brooks movie a million times. But none of them can still make me laugh like a crazy person like Young Frankenstein. Particularly great in this movie are the women. Madeline Kahn, Teri Garr and Cloris Leachman are all hysterically funny. The folks in this film taught me how to be funny and I’m still working towards being a pale imitation.

8. Lady and the Tramp: No doubt there are better Disney films and this one is far from perfect. But I distinctly remember watching it as a kid and thinking, “That’s what love is like”. I’m sure my 6-year-old brain thought love was nothing but spaghetti dinners and Peggy Lee numbers but to this day I still think its one of the most romantic and charming films I’ve ever seen.

9. Rear Window: We were also big Hitchcock fans in my house and my parents and I watched this one a few years back during my first holiday season sober. My husband and I even worked on a stage adaptation of it. It’s great storytelling, terrific acting and Hitchcock doing what he does best.

10. Chicago: This was tough and could have been a four-way tie to round out the list. But Chicago is a movie I can’t get sick of and I’ve seen it A LOT. I remember watching a few times when my life wasn’t exactly great and for a few hours, Chicago made me feel better. Plus the casting and choreography is nothing short of inspired.

Honorable mentions and close calls: Wall-e, Clueless, Sixteen Candles, The Muppet Movie, Silkwood, Gone with the Wind, 9 to 5, Private Benjamin, Postcards from the Edge, Cabaret, Casablanca, Some Like Hot, Sense and Sensibility, Thelma and Louise, Dangerous Liaisons, Aliens, Working Girl, Out of Africa, Broadcast News, Hugo, The Piano, When Harry Met Sally, A Fish Called Wanda, and Grease. 

Now, it’s your turn. Tell me all about your favorite films and those movies that helped you. I’m dying to hear your list!

movie therapy, part 1

After a day of medical ups and downs ending with a solution (they adjusted my meds, officially ruled out pneumonia and cancer and sent me on my way with an easier plan than before–yay!), I had that feeling. You know that “I need to sit and stuff my face and watch a favorite movie” feeling. Aside from psychically still feeling sort of horrible, I need to turn my brain off. All of this uncertainty has worn a bitch out. So no era of filmmaking helps me forget my troubles better than comedies from the 1980s and early 90’s.

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I really wanted to watch Overboard or Outrageous Fortune or something incredibly cheesy of that nature. Since I’m a Netflix/Hulu/YouTube only kind of guy having said “See Ya” to cable years ago, however, I had to make concessions. I settled for the underrated camp classic Soapdish, the straight up brilliant Fish Called Wanda and Heathers, a film so funny it still slaughters all other teen films. With the exception of Sixteen Candles which is a comedy from God. My mini-moviefest helped. It was nice to laugh and quote the lines before the characters said them. Movies, I realized have always been my therapist, my escape and my friends. I watched hundreds of hours of old movies as a kid on local channels and on AMC. They were my education outside my little Denver neighborhood and catholic school world. Moreover, they were the reason I wanted to move to LA and tell stories. I’m sad that new movies don’t really inspire me or get me excited. But the thing about being in love with movies is you never give up hope or stop believing that maybe next season there will be ten things I want to see. In short, it’s a romance I won’t let go of.

This got me thinking about my LIST. You know that list of movies you can’t live without and that somehow made your world a better place? Maybe they aren’t all academy award winners or sheer genius. But they mean something and never fail to move you when you watch them. So here’s my part one of my top 10 list and feel free to leave the titles of your own movie therapists in the comments below.

1. All About Eve: Since I like show business, theater and films, it would only figure my favorite of all time would be about just that. But All About Eve isn’t only a great movie about showbiz, it’s also a great movie about life, friendship and integrity. Plus the writing is so damn good it blows my mind.

2. The Philadelphia Story: If it’s raining. If I’m sad. If I need to laugh. The answer is usually The Philadelphia Story. Why would anyone ever watch a Katherine Heigl film when this exists in the world? It’s brilliant and was the film that made me fall in love Hepburn, Stewart and Grant all at the same time. (Ps if you get this film confused with the sappy,overrated AIDS drama with Tom Hanks, you’re missing out and should see this one instead. )

3. Almost Famous:Another showbiz film and boy oh boy do I love it. I really think it’s okay that Kate Hudson, Cameron Crowe and Patrick Fugit never made another great movie after this one. It’s so good and so profound that the world was given a true gift with this movie and all involved should still feel proud.

4. The Hours:  “I remember one morning getting up at dawn, there was such a sense of possibility. You know, that feeling? And I remember thinking to myself: So, this is the beginning of happiness. This is where it starts. And of course there will always be more. It never occurred to me it wasn’t the beginning. It was happiness. It was the moment. Right then.” It’s incredible observations like this one along with performances that I will never forget that make this movie list-worthy.

5. Hannah and her Sisters: When I was 14 I watched Hannah and Her Sisters on VHS (80’s child alert!) and that’s when I finally “got” Woody Allen. This funny and heartbreaking film covers everything from God’s existence to the complex nature of sibling relationships and I’m so glad my teenage self got to see it.

Tomorrow we’ll look at the rest of my movie therapists and please share your own! I’m always on the look out for a new love affair.

pushing through

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Thinking about writing, they say, is often more painful than just actually writing. I guess I have found this to be true. But I’m kind of like that with everything. From calling someone back to scrubbing the toilet, thinking about doing things often kills my projects before I’ve even picked up the phone/toilet brush/pen. If I have an excuse to get me out of writing, I’ll take. Want me to feed your lizard? Done! Want me to go with you to a True Blood convention? Sure! Need your living room painted? I’m your guy! Anything to avoid doing what I’m supposed to be doing. This personality trait made me the excellent addict you all know and love today. So surprisingly, this 30 Days of Blog has been incredibly helpful.

Don’t get me wrong. I write everyday. Usually its for clients and something of the stimulating copywriting variety. Yet its still writing and better yet– it pays me. This in itself is progress considering I went years while I was drinking where I couldn’t even get a word on a page. But blogging everyday for this here little bundle of hot-messiness has really been a great challenge. It’s really forced me to push on and keep writing when honestly all I’ve wanted to do is nap. “Did I write about this already?”, “Is this too whiny and self-involved (the answer to that is always yes by the way) and mainly “What the hell do I write about today?!?” are a few of the questions I have had to answer myself this month.But what I’ve discovered is it doesn’t matter. No, really. It doesn’t matter what I’m writing about as long as I keep writing and pushing through. Like recovery, 90% of my success is about showing up.If I don’t write everyday, I’ll never know what new project will appear to me. And if I don’t keep going I’ve already assumed none of it is worthwhile which I know in my heart not to be the truth.

So what if every post isn’t going to win a Pulitzer prize or if half of the damn things read like they were written underwater? The point is I did it and got it done. For a guy who tries to move as a little as possible and groans about working, this a victory indeed. Just so you know, I was kidding about painting your living room, by the way.

So friends, what helps you push through and keep going? What helps you stay inspired? Give me some pointers in the comments section, if you feel so inclined.

Misunderstood

“Why the hell didn’t they laugh at that joke?”, “What are those old people near the front of the stage whispering about during the show” and “It’s a quiet crowd. Oh my god everybody hates it and hates me” are the kind of ridiculous things that race through a playwright’s twisted mind while sitting with an audience for the first time. At least this playwright’s mind. Having just opened my second show, I know these thoughts very well. I recently wondered, after not getting the kind of response I had anticipated if that maybe people didn’t get me and maybe I was in the wrong line of work.

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Self-doubt is part of the deal with being an artist so I try not to put too much stock in these kind of thoughts. Plus, being sober and having worked my ass off to try to like myself and give myself a break as much as I can, worrying about what people think is a fruitless and boring activity. Still, we creative types are always on the hunt for approval and I have specific ideas of what that should look like. Just hours of thunderous laughter, glowing reviews, tear-soaked faces and write-ups in the New York Times are all I really require to feel properly loved and appreciated. Clearly, I know how self-involved I’m acting and if you’re going through really difficult time and reading this makes you want to punch me in the face, I totally get it.

First off, I should be clear that the response I was talking about was actually fine. And I mean this honestly.  I really have had worse audience reactions. Like the couple who walked out or the guy who fell asleep during my first show or the audience member who wanted to meet face to face to tell me how bad it was. The thing about this crowd’s particular reaction on this night it was just “meh”. It felt like a solid mediocre and as a playwright that’s almost more insulting than being Fell Asleep During Your Show guy. Nevertheless, life and our show both go on and lots of work on this project and others had to get done. With some brainstorming and technical tweaking, we addressed some little glitches and then let it go. That’s right. The guy worried about what’s on the minds of mostly strangers, just let it go. We’re in the middle of a run and we had to move on. And that’s when something remarkable happened. By letting the show do its own thing, miracles happened. Reports of the highly sought-after laughter and tears combo platter came in from honest sources. Audiences howled at jokes that previously went unnoticed. Rhythms and magic moments never before seen were happening.  Mainly, the show found its groove and looked like a show we set out to make over a year ago. While trying to figure why or why not people weren’t reacting exactly the way I wanted them to (the nerve) turned out to be an exercise in futility, something occurred to me about the show. It has an opinion and it tells the truth. Does every joke work? No. Are there five minutes we could trim off? Sure. Will it change drastically in the next round of rewrites? Most likely.

But am I proud of The Singing Room? You bet your ass. This singing, joke telling, tender, brilliant cast makes everything I write so much better and are worth the price of admission alone. Also, the show takes risks and doesn’t say apologize for who it is. Yet there’s even a bigger reason I’m proud of it. A friend whose been caring for her dying spouse made a point in telling me the other night how wonderful the show was and how grateful she was for a night out. It was then I realized that this whole making art thing isn’t really about if people love me or how amazing I am. It’s about telling the truth and hopefully providing light for other people. If everybody doesn’t get it or love it, that’s okay. Maybe a couple will. And if  sticking to that mission makes me misunderstood, then its a badge I wear with honor.

If you’re interested in seeing it for yourself, grab tickets here! 

The Singing Room: A Playwright’s Thoughts

I’m taking a break today from my usual neurosis today to write about my new play, The Singing Room which opens here in Denver on April 27th and runs through May 18th. It occurred to me that even though I rewrote the show itself about 13 times, I’ve never actually written about the show itself. What was it about a story that revolves around a birthday party in karaoke bar that I was drawn to?  How did this play start out as one thing and morph into something else? And why was I obsessed with writing a show about karaoke?

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I guess should first explain what the play is about. The central plot revolves around April, a fashion writer celebrating her 25th birthday at Sunshine’s Singing Room with her friends- Dan her timid  co-worker, Leslie her controlling but out of control childhood friend and Ava, her actress neighbor with a surprise of her own. This birthday party mixes with the regular barflies at Sunshine’s Singing room including Leroy, a karaoke legend in his own mind, Ruby a former, would-be rock and roll goddess and the owner of the establishment as well as our salty emcee for the evening Sunshine, herself. My own tireless research in bars in Los Angeles helped inform these folks, naturally.On the dubious occasion of her birthday, April finds herself at a crossroads and before the night is over thanks to the help of some friends and some strangers, her life might just get turned upside down. I was compelled to write about April mainly because that moment in a person’s life when you start to see through the cracks of how you live and start to think “Hmm. Maybe this doesn’t work for me anymore” is one that interests me very much. In my own life, I needed a series of those moments to happen before I made a change but since we’re trying to make an entertaining little show here, April gets to experience it in two acts. Lucky girl. But leaving the people and things that don’t work or that are no longer good for you isn’t always a happy ending either. Therefore, the story since its inception has never been clear-cut and the ending in my mind has always been ambiguous. This decision gave the show from the first draft to the last what we in the production have been calling “funny-sad”. You know, that hilarious yet kind of real and heartbreaking quality. The first few versions were primarily focused around just the birthday crew and April’s conflict. While funny and entertaining, there were parts that  read like a bad episode of “90210”. Something else was needed to give the story an edge. After toying with even more rewrites, we figured out that the story really needed more of the bar folks to help express the themes of love, disappointment and transformation. Duh. They were sitting at the bar the whole time.

As far as karaoke goes, I’m a huge fan. I love that normal people  can get up on stage and rock out, whether they suck or not. Karaoke is less about vocal prowess and more about selling it to the crowd. It’s also huge to face your fears to just get up there and do it. I myself, suck at singing but it doesn’t stop me from having fun and being ridiculous although now that I’m sober it takes a little more coaxing than it used to. Go figure. But these themes of fearlessness and self-awareness were interesting things to infuse in the script too. We spent a lot of time at karaoke with our casts from previous shows and we both always thought that a karaoke bar would be a great setting for a play. Just the very nature of karaoke gives real life this musical/music video quality which is otherwise impossible to achieve. Also, karaoke is so random and sporadic and putting that energy on stage was an exciting and terrifying proposition. A little terror, I find, is a good thing and certainly keeps the work fresh.  Since karaoke is different every time so is The Singing Room. The characters all have a set of songs they’ll be performing throughout  the run and the show will have songs by the audience too.

My husband, Michael Emmitt, who is also directing this crazy show (bless his heart), talked me off ledges, reorganized the script and even wrote some of the shows best lines. Like April, we recently had to look at things that weren’t working and make huge scary, changes. This winter, we both finally left the theater company we built. It was painful but as April discovers, it was even more painful staying in something that we didn’t feel good about. Yet, The Singing Room has survived! From rehearsals in our living room to last-minute cast and script changes, the show, like most of them do, has gone on. We’ll be performing in an incredible theater space that we were blessed to find. Miraculously, it feels like the show we always wanted to make. And when it comes to life and art you really can’t ask for more than that.

A Dream Deferred No Longer

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What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

– ‘Harlem’ by Langston Hughes

I remember reading those words as a young kid and thinking, “Wow. That sounds awful. A life without living your dreams? How horrible.”  I read them again at age 36 and thought, “Tell me about it.” True, I have no idea about what living in the crime ridden Harlem of Hughes’ poem is like but I certainly knew a thing or two about deferring my dreams. The fact is I buried my dreams for a long, long time. Sure it sounds terrible but you’d bury your dreams too if you were me.  It’s because my relationship was bad. It’s because my childhood was tough. It’s because I don’t look like a model or come from a celebrity family or own a Mercedes. Actually, it was because I was high and drunk for a couple of decades and when reality slips away from you for that long, your dreams are the first things to go. It’s insane how easily I let my dreams just walk out the door. Things I wanted to do since childhood just vanished and I let them go without a fight.

A few years into sobriety, I had what someone in recovery poetically referred to as “the country song in reverse”- you know, getting the car, the job, the wife and the dog back. And the dreams. Mainly, I got my dreams back. When I was a kid I wrote plays for my teddy bears and stories and poems and that’s all I ever wanted to do. Yesterday, I finished my second full-length play. Me the drug addict whose biggest accomplishment was finishing a case of two buck Chuck finished writing another play! One that people are going to come and see! How the hell did that happen? Frankly I have no idea. This process this time around was TOUGH. I wrestled back and forth with the plot, the dialogue, the characters. I second guessed my creativity, my sense of humor, my choices. I battled with it for nearly a year with tons of starts and stops in that time frame. Magically, a few days ago I surrendered and moved the fuck out-of-the-way. That’s when the miracles happened and here we are with a great version that will look good and hopefully make people laugh when it makes it to the stage this spring. 

However, most of that is out of my control. I can’t force people to love it or pay people to laugh. Or maybe I could but I’m way too lazy to mastermind that sort of manipulation. All I know is that I delivered on what I promised, I showed up and did the work. And today, that’s what a dream looks like. It didn’t dry up or rot or get put on hold. But maybe they do explode. Maybe they blow up and set a bunch of other amazing things, hidden wishes and  life-long desires in motion. I know. It sounds crazy but a guy can dream, can’t he?

Inspiration for September 17th: Henri Rousseau

Beauty is the promise of happiness. -Henri Rousseau

In September 1910, Henri Rousseau died at the age of 66. He died relatively obscure and definitely broke. You know. The oldest artist song in the book. While alive Rousseau exhibited his works with other artists and usually took a critical beating for painting in the “naive style.”  Obviously, Rousseau transcended bad reviews and snobbery by his fellow artists. His work captures the imagination and brews up excitement for art lovers of all ages.

While reading about Rousseau this morning, one biography of the artist said that despite falling on hard times and harsh criticism “his faith in his own abilities never wavered.” A former army officer with a teenage delinquent past, Rousseau claimed that for the most part he had no formal art training and that nature and his surroundings were his only teachers. Paris’ botanic gardens, taxidermy in museums, the countryside and illustrations in books were all Rousseau needed to paint his famous jungle scenes. These works are what most artsy types consider his quintessential pieces despite the fact that they were universally hated at the time and that Rousseau himself never went to the jungle.

Rousseau’s final painting was entitled The Dream. It was shown in an exhibition in 1910, a few months before he died. Despite dying in poverty, Rousseau’s own dreams live on. He was a major influence on Picasso, Jean Hugo, Beckman, and the Surrealists. His paintings inspired Joni Mitchell’s song The Jungle Line and even the animated film Madagascar.

There is clearly a lot to be inspired by with Henri Rousseau. His resilience and perseverance are good things for me to strive for on this gray Monday morning. Also, as I work on some big projects, I need to remember that so much of what I need for research or to stay inspired I can find right here or in my imagination. I need some library time today and Rousseau’s use of the resources around him have made that a priorty for me today. Lastly, I will have an unwavering belief in my own talents today. Haters (especailly the ones in my own my mind) be damned!

Happy Monday everybody!

 

Inspiration for August 27th: Man Ray

“It has never been my object to record my dreams, just the determination to realize them.” Man Ray

Founding member of both the Surrealism and Dada movements, Man Ray is that freak artist whose massive body of work seemingly has something inspiring for almost everybody. Paintings, drawings, sculptures, fashion photography, movie making, Man Ray did it all. Friend and collaborator with the likes of Dali, Hemingway and Duchamp, Man Ray was born today in 1890 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Stark, stunning and sometimes a little unnerving, the work of Man Ray in every medium is utterly unforgettable. 

In an interview from the 1970’s towards the end of his life, Man Ray was famously quoted, “I have been accused of being a joker. But the most successful art to me involves humor.” Joker or not, Man Ray’s most memorable pieces are the ones that winkingly give the viewer something to smile about or something unexpected.

At the age of 86, Man Ray passed away and was buried in Paris. His sense of humor is immortalized on his tomb stone with the words: Unconcerned but not indifferent.

Many an art student has pondered the meaning of Man Ray’s epitaph and the internet, as you can imagine, is filled with heated discussions all claiming to know what he was thinking when he chose those words. I think he’d get a laugh out of that too. To me, the words personify the way he created art and lived his life. He wasn’t filled with worry but he wasn’t dispassionate either. Man Ray loved life and loved love (he was married twice, had several scandalous affairs and was spent his last days with his beloved Juliet whom you see buried with him above).

Today, on a Monday filled with big projects and annoying “to do” tasks, I think being unconcerned but not indifferent might be a wise path to choose. Also on busy days like this it’s important for me not to take myself too seriously so I’ll try to do that too. And lastly, I want to marinate on that opening quote of his today too by taking even little steps to realize my dreams.