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June 2014

"I'm gonna say what I'm gonna say,"
says my ego.



Production on a new artwork, larger than eight feet on each side, got started last night. My CNC machine will need over a week to finish carving all three parts. Quick roughing passes were finished by 11:30pm and I returned to the studio at 6am to start the fine passes. To do the roughing I use a 1/2" end mill that I call 'the hog'. It churns out chunks of HDU and reveals the shape. I still get excited seeing the full size piece come into view. I don't have a name for the finishing bit which is a 1/8" tapered ball nose carbide with a 2" cutting length. The machine moves back and forth in a raster pattern shifting only .05" on each pass and moving up and down to make the contours. Keeping on top of the process is tedious and makes me want to get intoxicated to deaden the noise and distract me from the boredom but I am scared to death of my judgement being impaired while operating such a dangerous piece of equipment. So back and forth the robot goes, squeaking and humming, encoding the material, shaping it to amplify my energy, my desire, my will, my joy, my voice, my insight, and my spirit; and with each pass I try to transmit good vibes to the material through the bit, one bit at a time, until every little bit is done.

Jacked up too high on coffee I race to Nyack for a meeting about a project for next summer. I eat a rice bowl with tofu and almonds at the trendy lunch spot where we chat about how to position the grant proposal and I wash down lunch with a thick columbian brew then race back up the thruway at 80 mph in time to take the kids to piano and get back in the studio to get the CNC restarted and try to finish this carving. I'll probably be up past midnight.

My machine repeats
An industrial mantra



And just like that I found myself inside the Met Museum late today sampling delicious Indian and Tibetan paintings. My appetite fueled, I called for Turkish and devoured a fifteen foot medallion carpet with a side of european painting washed down with an eight dollar coffee. For dessert, I saw a show of Buddhist sculpture including an exquisite towering sandstone dharmachakra from the seventh century. An indulgent afternoon of spirit and art.




Eight days into production, still carving HDU, the last piece is on the table, then painting and laminating starts.

Up until a few weeks ago my writing here was always done as a reaction to the drawing. But since then I have tried to give the writing its own subject matter and voice. A few things have occurred to me:

First is that my independent writing voice is still weak compared to my drawing. Second, if I want to grow as a writer then the writing cannot be second fiddle. I have to find as much time every day for writing as I do for drawing. Finally, I have noticed that I resist writing about my day to day reality and this resistance inhibits my creative flow; I need to write down whatever wants to come out.

For a long time today I tried to study the quality that arises when I respond to an artwork. A friend of mine calls this quality 'the lift' and only when he senses it emerging does he judge an artwork successful. It is not about deciding that an artwork is good or bad, exciting or valuable, well rendered, or intentionally rough; the critical factor seems to be how strongly the work's presence is felt; a presence that doesn't come from any one aspect of the work but from a balance that is different in every work. I have noticed in trying to evoke this quality that careful planning sometimes chases it away; as do flippant brush strokes, and yet, just as often, they call it forward.




Somehow I always return here, to this center spot, to me. They tell me that each cell in my body has been replaced many times since I was born but something has been the same for 51 years.

If vortices of mind form in matter's flow, life provides the sensory feedback.

The earliest thing I remember is waking up, It is extraordinary to me that the sensation of waking up is where I began; a feeling so familiar, so regular, so everyday, just waking up from sleep, just that easy, from nothing arises the sense of being awake. I must have been roused from sleep hundreds of times since birth but on that morning, as a two year old, I really woke up: total depth of black and quiet, a void, mental stirring, mind sensing body, a lift, recognition, hey, here I am, noticing a bright light, loud noise, and then...pancakes.

I remember the sensation very well and I have visited it so much that I'm sure it has been embellished - apparently memories change each time we remember them. I immediately understood I was awake. We were at some sort of large public pancake breakfast and years later I confirmed with my parents that we had indeed attended such an event when I was that age. I remember pancakes, big pancakes - doughy pancakes and someone pouring syrup and I remember the sweetness of the syrup and the spongy pancake as I chewed maybe one bite. It was a brief memory, definitely my first, and, in the awakening, one of my clearest connections to what persists.


I am documenting my earliest emotions. What could be more egotistical?


Reaching a deep reservoir. Anything could surface.
Beware of strong emotions, solitary memories,
self-dissolving identities, and bursts of insight.





...as the writing separates from the drawing the pace changes - words develop at their own speed - the plan is to allow - observe - be aware - and only bring the words forward when they are ready...


After much patience, honoring the writing process by waiting for words to appear, and while washing the dishes this evening, a rare sense arose. I let this sense flower, trying not to become too attached, and when it opened I was given a plan for my writing that revealed the writing's purpose.

This kind of galvanizing insight has always inspired my most amazing creations, but previously my goal was visual art, this time the object is text, and not just words, but direction and shape; a blueprint for a body of writing that prefigures its result. I see the whole project holographically; sense it as a vibration, a deep resonant chord at multiple frequencies, and by humming the chord to myself I can connect to it.

I'll spare you the details of this plan, not that I could easily summarize it; and really, hearing the plan is beside the point, the way I'm going to get it across is in the writing. Let's just say that I know what I have to do and it will take a while to get to the end. But here goes...


Since I told the story a week or so ago about my awakening and the pancakes, I have been reliving my next earliest memories.

I was two or three years old. My family moved to a new city and we stayed in a rental house while the house that my parents still occupy today was being built. There are lots of memories from this house even though we only stayed there a year or so.

The memories I have from this time are clear in many ways. First, I remember details that are anchored by strong emotions; I clearly remember these events.

The memories also seem clear because I find no overlay; there is no pre-existing experience between me and the memory. When I see my children today, I see them through the lens of my own childhood and again as a parent; but at three years old, everything was brand-new.

There is another kind of clarity, a directness, found in the physical sensations I experience today when recalling infant memories. These memories feel wet. My brain was squishy and empty when these were the first impressions that filled it, the wetware was being put into action, remembering them feels fresh: the new house, the new yard, and the new life.


I remember one vivid morning from my three year old life when I was standing in our living room looking up at a table that held several boxes of breakfast cereal. My memory starts from the moment I realized that these boxes were put there for me.

"This is for me," I thought joyfully.

I knew that one of my parents had planned this, that they had put the boxes out on the table the night before with me in mind and what has made this memory stick with me for so long is that in this moment I understood intuitively that another mind had thought about me; and in thinking this thought I had to face, for the first time, the concept of 'me'. This thought pattern, repeated in my mind as self-realization, bloomed and maybe for the first time *I thought of me*; my first remembered sense of self.

I took one of the boxes, I'm guessing it was the big red box of Cap'n Crunch, and went to watch TV. My memory then jumps to sometime later when my mother's voice praised me for being a 'big boy' (and for not waking her up). That was the morning I found out who 'I' was.




Another vivid memory from a three year old's short stay in that rental house. A rabbit used to drink from the drippy water spigot in the backyard. I remember my father's mother peeking out the window and calling me over to see it. That must have been the first rabbit I ever saw and the excitement lingers; but when I reexamine this memory, I discover that it was not seeing the rabbit that made the story stick in my mind. It was that, in the moment, she was present, we connected, and in showing me the rabbit, I could feel, and can still feel, my Grandma's thrill in sharing the world with me.