Carrie Allen – Cry, heart, but do not break

To be human is to know pain.  During times of loss and personal crisis, we are thrown into chaos and can often tumble into despair, misery, bitterness, anger and angst.  Whether it be physical or emotional pain, we all have dark hours. In those darkest hours, it feels like you are so completely alone and you lose hope.  I know, I’ve been there.  Yet to be human is also to be resilient.  We do heal.  Things get better.  It just takes time.   Albert Camus asserted that “there is no love of life without despair of life.”

Everyone has his or her own path for grieving, for mending…for coping.  For those I know hurting now, try to slow down and find solace in quiet moments, simple things.  Focus on the senses. The way a breeze feels on your skin.  The taste of a treat.  The texture of a fabric. A soft touch. Smell. Breathe. Taste. Just be.   Staying present and intimate with the moment, requires mastering maitri, the Buddhist practice of loving-kindness toward oneself, that most difficult art of self-compassion.

IMG_5097

When my brother Robbie passed away in 2001, it was a horrifically dark time.  In my attempt at trying to find order, to cope, I chose to paint a portrait of him, painted from a small wallet-sized senior high school photo of his. I still have it today, it’s scratched and worn, but Robbie’s spirit shines through.

FullSizeRender (2)

I painted through my tears. I painted and painted, reworking it over and over.  My intention was to paint a portrait of my brother for my father as a gift, to help him heal.   I spent many months with the painting.  I realized much later that my colors were skewed.  His vibrancy does not come through.  I think my sadness shrouds the painting still.

FullSizeRender (2) copy

Robbie’s birthday was July 29.  He is always with me but these last few weeks even more so. I honor him with this post. This entire blog is a tribute to him. I miss him every day.  His passion and zeal for life and adventure touched so many.

The day after he died in March 2001 his close friend wrote a poem for him.  I close now by sharing it with you here.

Jilted
To Robbie, March 23, 2001

I loved a man who danced with Life;
He’d twirl her in his arms
Until she dropped exhaustedly-
Too heavy with his charms.
I used to look on jealously,
And wonder if he knew
How quickly I’d replace her
If he’d only ask me to,

Because I feel I wouldn’t tire,
But last into the night.
I’d take his turns and twists and dips
With all my strength and might.
We’d cha-cha, tango, maquerena
Till the dawn broke in,
And once we thought we’d had enough,
We’d jitterbug again.

Unconstant Life, you drew him in
Until you recognized
How much he needed loving you,
How much of you he prized.
So whimsically you threw him off,
Refusing one more dance
To one with whom I’d dance forever
Given half a chance.

Love, Kathryn Dunnington

Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love. Read more about her inspiration here. 

 

Hannah Dunscombe – Naive Melodies

Dunscombe 01

There’s a little boy and girl who live across the street from me in a handsome pink Victorian house. When I first moved into my shabby apartment building with a condemned front deck five years ago, the girl across the street was just a toddler, and an only-child. About a year and a half after I settled in, a large cradle appeared in their front window and a tiny new person appeared in her parents’ arms.

As I’ve watched the kids across the street grow, I’ve felt more and more removed from the comfort of my own childhood. When I first moved to Boston, I was excited to make my first real apartment after college into a home. I created a studio, decorated the walls, cared for plants, adopted pets, mopped the floors, and lovingly kept our dishes clean. But I didn’t really feel like an adult.

Dunscombe 09

I was working a minimum wage job that I didn’t care much about, barely scraping by, and every year that went by was another year that I hadn’t done much with my education. I could never afford to go home for the holidays, so I missed them. I found that I had some of the fatigue of being an adult – of having big plans but always being too tired to see them through, and instead focusing on cooking dinner, running errands, and getting as much sleep as I could so that I could do it all over again tomorrow – but I felt removed from the autonomy that I had always imagined all adults possessed. And even then, I didn’t have nearly as much of the responsibility that I observed in the parents across the street.

Dunscombe 02

I sometimes use childhood photos as inspiration for paintings and drawings. They both remind me of my childhood and allow me to better relate to my parents. I use photographs of strangers on the street or at the park and use them as subjects, and imagine what their lives are like. Sometimes I change the backgrounds to expand the plot of the scene. I’m most drawn to photos where the subjects’ faces are turned away from the viewer because I can relate to people more without the specificity of facial features and expressions. There is more available for interpretation in posture and gesture. I can read into their story like a picture book without words.

Dunscombe 04

Last year, I was staying home sick when I heard the sounds of an aluminum ladder making contact with the dilapidated deck outside my room. Over the course of the next two months, the landlord paid a construction team to sand off all the old paint, build level floors, install handrails, and put on a fresh coat of white paint. For safety reasons, they had screwed my door shut from the outside when they started construction. But as soon as they wrapped up, I was so eager to stand in a place I had never stood before in my own house that I climbed out of my roommate’s window with a screw driver and unfastened the door myself. I noted that when the door closed, it made a satisfying “click” when the latch caught on the strike plate. I brought out a collection of secondhand chairs that I had collected from the side of the road, and invested in hanging flower baskets and a watering can. My house of four years had suddenly grown a new limb, and I now had a place to look out over the street and feel like a part of the neighborhood rather than its eye sore.

Dunscombe 10

There are little shifts like these that slowly budge the breadth of my understanding of being an adult. Shifting to a full-time job. Adjusting my expectations of how often I can create artwork. Commuting two hours each day. Securing health insurance. Starting a retirement plan. Watching my parents retire. Breaking off a longterm relationship that began when I was still a teen. Watching my brother marry his wife. Watching my ex marry his wife. Seeing my grandfather for the last time and recording his voice. Paying the bills. Building credit. Having a deck where I can come home from a long day and daydream about having a place of my own, while I watch the parents across the street shepherd the kids home from school.

Dunscombe 06

As I get older and accumulate more adult experiences, I find myself relating more to the parents than the children in my drawings and paintings, even though I’ve only ever played the role of the latter.

Dunscombe 12

I’ve noticed that in most of my compositions, the parents are often off to the side, or in the background, guiding the children, sheltering them, reading the paper, making sure everything is well. They are not the center of attention, and not engaging in anything exciting.

Dunscombe 03

I think about how my parents did this for my brother and I when we were children, after a decade of shabby apartments and piecing together their rent. They bought a house near a park. They bought us new shoes every year that we wore on walks to the park. They bundled us up in hats and snow pants and pulled us on sleds. They brought home books from the library so they could read to us every night. There is a lot of selflessness there, to raise a child into an adult, but the children must figure out where to go from there. Meanwhile, the children I draw are playing, exploring, and being comforted. They exemplify vulnerability, hope, and energy. Drawing the parent/child dynamic allows me to meditate on the different roles that we play throughout childhood and into adulthood and parenthood.

Dunscombe 05

I was recently sitting on the deck after just having finished a book. It was a Sunday afternoon and I could hear the local high school band playing “Pomp and Circumstance”. It took me a second to recognize it. Its echo was diluted by the sounds from the main road and the train tracks. The kids going by on scooters. The neighbors across the street were ushering the kids to the van. The younger brother came out of the house singing, “N-G-O! N-G-O! N-G-O!” I was in the process of spelling this out in my head when he followed up with, “And Bingo was his name-o!”

Dunscombe 11

Two different groups of kids sharing songs that convey the beginning and end of childhood. It took me a little while to recognize both.

Hannah Dunscombe photo

Hannah Dunscombe is a photorealistic painter and portrait artist from Upstate New York. She graduated from Alfred University in 2012, studied Old Master techniques in Paris, and currently lives in Brookline, MA. She spends as much time as possible out on her deck, reading, writing, and drawing.  http://www.hannahdunscombe.com/

 

Stefan Barton – Woodcuts

I am not a photographer. I mostly paint and draw. I really only take pictures with a camera if I feel I have to. I do it because I think nobody else would. The images are surprises I find in nature, in artifacts and in the play of light and shadow on some sort of topography. There are pictures of rips in plastic-foil glued to window panes, cracks in concrete walls, shriveled and nevertheless sprouting vegetables, light coming through glass-bricks, cracks in floating ice sheets on a river – and trees. What is different about the following tree pictures is that I manipulate them with my computer. Read on and find out why.

On a random road-trip through the countryside one of us got car-sick and we stopped for a short break. I got out of the car and walked around a little bit, eager to continue with the driving. Then I noticed something odd in a pairing of trees in front of the wall of some dilapidated and rather ugly farming-compound: nothing of importance, just a vague geometric sensation, an aesthetic challenge presented by the coincidental arrangement of lines and spaces. I debated with myself, but then got the camera out of the car and took a picture. I wanted to preserve the sight and find out if the vision would hold up on the computer, in a different environment, at a different time…

Some weeks later, I stood at the living-room window, staring at a row of far away linden trees. Again it took me quite a while to decide to get the camera, feeling a little silly. A hint of dancing, floating, naked figures, headless…

Another tree I could see from the same window, looking back at me somehow…

6

Walking in the countryside, armed with camera. The realization that in a forest, in small groupings and single trees, there are countless perspectives, countless compositions of trunks, branches and twigs. I would sometimes run around among the trees for hours, circling them, walking away, getting nearer, studying the bodies, arms, faces, eyes. I could imagine seeing myself from a distance: some weirdo with a camera running randomly around in the forest, obsessed with something invisible in the canopies, in the bark of tree trunks, stumbling, unaware of the path, spellbound, unable to look away. Or standing motionless for minutes, seemingly lost in thoughts.

Afterwards, the downloading of selected images, manipulations with software. Careful cutting and deleting of content, rearranging, little alterations, leaving authenticity to a certain extent intact, the taste of the original randomness, a sense of believability, the possibility of the composition. Simultaneously creating an odd shift in reality, a perforation of it.

The manipulations leading to something recognizable, hinting at something familiar, classifiable, interpretable.

Is there something in forestscapes that wants to be seen; are there hidden images in trees, manifestations, truth in observation?

The way of the wood – branching, the dendritic ramifications – is in reality too chaotic for us to recognize the true emergent and complex structure of trees. It is chaos –  and self-organization. A tree is in its slowness something like a frozen fractal. But it is slow only to us. In its own temporal reality it grows rampant, shooting upward waving about greedily for light, competing for height and size. The procession of days is a flicker.

There is beauty in trees. They are reassuring and steadfast. But they are also mysterious, incomprehensible.  One can, as in clouds, choose to see metaphorical images, maybe meaning. The barren treetops and the geometry of wood transcend the apparently mindless growing-ons and sproutings. One can refine it, purify it, even show the absurdity of it.

Wood doesn’t blush.

StefanBarton

Stefan Barton resides in a village near Hamburg, Germany where there are many patient trees, but he spent 20 Years in the US (San Francisco and Boston Area). He works on paintings, drawings and printmaking. Once in a while he is transfixed by taking pictures and manipulating these in a peculiar way. To see more of his images contact Stefan (stefan.bartongmail.com ) visit  http://clex-werk.blogspot.de/  or look at a book:

verform

 

 

 

 

Holly Soffee Bohannon – Art love

Art has been in my life for as long as I can remember. I loved everything about it.

IMG_2593

In grade school, I would look forward to art class more than any of the other classes.  In high school I was like a kid in a candy shop trying to decide which art class to take.  I wanted to take them all!

IMG_2590

I got married and started a family quite early. I continued to keep it close to me whenever I could, usually through my kids. My husband would always nag me ” You need to paint.” He knew deep down how important it was to me. It wasn’t until my late thirties that I finally realized, there was no ignoring that voice in my head any longer.

IMG_2581

I started taking painting classes, and automatically it all came rushing back. My first love, my true love, my art.

IMG_2579

I have  worked in different mediums, but my favorite these days is graphite and charcoal.

IMG_2588

I love being able to control the pencil and detail that you can achieve, especially when working on a portrait. I will usually save the eyes for last, because I believe that in the eyes there is a connection to the source- something that goes beyond what we know.

IMG_2592

Over the years, my art has lead me to become more connected with my spirituality.  It is almost meditative.                                                                                                                           

IMG_2582The world around me can be beautiful or grim, and it doesn’t matter. When I have my canvas or paper in front of me, life pauses and I can just “Be” even if for a moment.

 

IMG_2580

Holly lives in Richmond, Va. with her husband and two teenage sons. She has been drawing and painting her whole life, and started selling her work in 2010. She is always willing to start a new project if anyone is interested in a commission.
Contact Information:
Email: Jidmoski@yahoo.com

Carrie Allen – Snow day? What to do?

tips fortidyingyourcloset

As the school closings started to come in this afternoon because of the impending blizzard, my 12 year old daughter texted me at work to say there would be no school tomorrow so could I please pick up a few things up from the store.  For those of you that know her, you won’t be surprised by her forward thinking.  For those of you who do not, she is fastidious, loves to plan, likes things to be orderly, and is often a worrier.

Her list made me smile in its simplicity and intent: hot chocolate, marshmallows and waffles.  I knew at that moment she was picturing our snow day, with the white snow billowing outside in the frosty wind and with us warm inside, sipping cocoa and munching on waffles.  Her perfect snow day.

With this in mind, I thought it might be fun to post a few suggestions on things you can do on a snow day.

  1. Build a snow man, of course
  2. Bake cupcakes, muffins or cookies and enjoy with a cup of hot cocoa
  3. Pull out your art supplies, pens, pencils, paper, scissors and glue.  See what happens.
  4. Play a board game like monopoly or maybe a game of charades
  5. Shovel snow – don’t forget to help your neighbors who cannot shovel

How do you like to spend your snow days? Leave a comment below and please share.

Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love. Read more about her inspiration here. 

 

 

Carrie Allen – What’s love got to do with it?

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

heartvalentine

Tina Turner asked “What’s Love Got to Do with it?”  Well, pretty much everything.  In honor of this Valentine’s Day week, yes I made that up, I thought it important to reflect on love in our lives.  Every day – not just one day of the year.   There are many forms of love.  The deep, soul-stirring love for your soul mate, best friend and lover (which I am happily blessed with) to the profound love for your children, love for family, friends, and colleagues.  Exchanging kindness, even with strangers, is a form of love. Every person deserves love and wants to be loved and wanted.

Many people do not know the root of Valentine’s Day, some even think Hallmark made it up.  I won’t give a history lesson here but the root of it stemmed with an ancient roman pagan festival and grew into a Christian feast day, dubbed St. Valentine’s Day, in honor of a St. Valentine.  It was in the 14th century that this day became associated with love.

valentine2

Ironically it was Esther A. Howland, a female entrepreneur from Worcester, MA, who first started mass producing cards for Valentine’s Day in the 1850’s at the young age of 19.  I think that is noteworthy and pretty cool.  Prior to this handmade cards with ribbons and lace were popular.  Today I prefer handmade anything, but especially a valentine.

Putting aside the present day commercial face of Valentine’s Day, I think it serves as a reminder and opportunity to truly focus on love in its many forms. Sometimes it’s hard to show your feelings or to move past small irritations and to let your loving feelings rise up.  Try.  We all have people in our families who make it hard.  I have dreamed of sending certain family members this book:

book

I challenge everyone to focus on love.  Make sure it’s genuine, heartfelt and full of meaning.  Seriously, slow down and hold your loved ones a little closer today, stop and really listen to what people are saying.  This is what life is about.  Connecting with others, feeling loved and letting others know we care.  It really isn’t about racing to your next meeting or the next big thing and thinking how great tomorrow will be.  Make each moment count and make today great.  Make an effort to love more, and as your relationships deepen, your life will expand.  Love is a selfless investment in others with great returns for yourself. I promise.

So, won’t you be my Valentine?

victorian-valentines-cards-two-cherubs-blue-flowers-heart

Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love. Read more about her inspiration here. 

Julia Csekö -Surviving turbulent times

I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around the many events that have been taking place across the world recently. If you feel the same way, follow me for a second, maybe we can figure out some interesting aspects of this state of urgency we are experiencing.

While I find it necessary to analyze the bigger picture each day, consume information (real news – always fact check!), I also find it helpful to take the time to dedicate a little brain flexing to not thinking about the bigger picture, checking in with myself and understanding what I need, when I need it, and trying to make space for self-care each day. For some (like myself) a little exercise can go a long way, for others, meditation or a balanced meal can cleanse the mind from the excessive chatter of media and worldly matters.

Recently I’ve found that what has kept me on my feet has been finding the time, the people and the place to talk. I find it extremely helpful and even therapeutic to have long conversations with folks that are in my social circle and more and more with folks that are not in my immediate range of friends and acquaintances. Sometimes these conversations are difficult and uncomfortable. Small disagreements on sensitive topics can send anyone spinning in a rut.

If there is one big lesson to be learned from extensive conversations on controversial topics – it is the importance of developing the art of listening, which is much more complicated than it sounds. The urge to speak, to correct, and to openly disagree flourishes quickly in heated conversations and can derail a subject or generate frustration.

Living with two sociology majors, controversial subjects can be scrutinized for hours… even watching a movie can be challenging, since the movie can become the trigger for scrutiny. More recently these pleasant and largely theoretical conversations have understandably become more and more applied to reality and the political scenario. Not surprisingly, emotions have started to run high. One night as the volume of our voices increased and no one seemed to be truly listening to one another anymore, I had one of those Aha! Moments. I suggested that whenever the conversation derailed to: “you’re not letting me speak” or “you didn’t let me finish my point” and similar sentiments, that we would use a simple, yet super effective debate technique.

This technique consists on giving each speaker three minutes on the dot (you can use the timer on your phone) to lay out opinions and view points. It helps each person organize thoughts and put together ideas, and immediately lowers the level of frustration in complicated conversations, be they political, social, or moral. Each speaker has one minute for a rebuttal after which the three minute rule is applied again. This goes on until each person feels like they’ve made their point without being interrupted. Sometimes this will happen after only one round, sometimes more, but usually after a few rounds each speaker takes less than the three minutes to make their point and the timer is no longer needed to keep a coherent atmosphere, and the group can resume to “normal” conversation. This small but powerful tool has made heated debates much more fluid and productive in my house.

I can distinctly remember how much time and hassle this simple rule saved me as student in meetings and forums. It is a great way to avoid a cacophony of voices trying to overpower each other, and reinforces that a conversation is not about who speaks loudest.

Being uncomfortable is a necessary part of listening. Being uncomfortable makes you curious, alert, more careful about choosing your words carefully, and promotes thinking and preparing counter arguments and further research on divisive topics. Good conversation is the art of maintaining the balance between being upset and satisfied, between informing and learning.

Although avoiding being upset is a huge part of self-care, I believe that being upset is an important part of a healthy mind. Going outside of our comfort zones demands courage, which is a great quality to aim for, while listening demands patience, another fantastic goal to pursue. In times like these, a good balance between happy and sad, patient and eager, comforting and bold, are necessary elements to keep up with the whirlwind of abrupt changes we are experiencing.

Perhaps the biggest challenge is to create spaces and a mind-set in which disagreements can be voiced and discussed, in which we will listen with as much love and patience as we speak.

I encourage each and every one of us to speak up when we feel strongly about a subject, and keep in mind that in order to speak up one needs to listen intently. To survive turbulent times we have to stay curious, and try to heal at the same rate as we are hurt. The more we listen, the more we will have to say; and remember, three minutes is a significant amount of time to make a point, perhaps much longer than it seems. If you find yourself raising your voice, or in a group conversation that seems to be generating confusion and frustration, try the three minute rule, perhaps it might find that three minutes is a long time after all!

julia

Julia Csekö was born in Colorado and grew up in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In 2011, Csekö moved to Boston, Massachusetts to pursue a MFA at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and Tufts University. Graduating in 2013, she mounted her thesis exhibition at Laconia Gallery in Boston. Csekö is the recipient of a 2016 Walter Feldman Fellowship, awarded by the Arts and Business Council of Greater Boston resulting in her 1st solo exhibition in the USA. Csekö divides her time between being a Practicing Artist and an Independent Curator, serving as a Community Arts Liaison at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston and the Program Coordinator at the New Art Center in Newton. Since graduation Csekö has participated in numerous group exhibitions at national and international venues. Her work is featured in collections including the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada; the Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; as well as private collections in the United States and Brazil.