Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Creation and the World of "Jack the Dripper" ...

Abstract expressionist painter (and all-around splatter genius) Jackson Pollock is often credited with inventing the technique of working spontaneously with liquid paint (a.k.a. "action painting").

But last Friday night, I think my friend Michelle and I perfected it.

After a little bit of furniture shifting and a trip to Home Depot to buy some supplies, I taped plastic drop cloths on the walls and floor to create a temporary, non-"apartment deposit destroying" Art Studio (the plastic definitely kept the painting project from morphing into a Spring Cleaning project).

Here is the room pre-action:

Because "splatter painting" is supposed to release the inner self (that is, the supremely creative child-like self from many decades ago), I tried to stock the table with some unconventional (and fun) tools of the trade. In addition to paint and brushes, we also had scissors, balloons, a toothbrush, spoons, a funnel, a spray bottle, tape, and airsoft guns.

In Round 1, we started with a variation of a "splatter paint" idea I saw in "The Princess Diaries." After using the funnel to put paint in the balloons and taping those balloons to a canvas* on the wall, we shot at the balloons with my friend's Airsoft gun ... Best. Artistic tool. Ever.

This artistic "Biathlon," which created a vibrant and unique splatter scheme, was, to put it in one phrase, totally wicked! And it left lots of little pools of paint littering the floor like a multi-colored mine field. Having inadvertently created such a perfect art palette, in Round 2, we did what came naturally ... we dropped a new canvas on the ground and started making "Foot Art."

Here is the finished product:

After the first two rounds, we (and the art studio) were knee deep in the the Art of Entropy.

To kick off Round 3, we dropped another canvas on the ground and tried a bit of drip painting (inspired by old Jack). A rousing round of joyous spontaneity! Fun twist, though, after we finished dripping, Michelle grabbed the spray bottle and sprayed part of the canvas causing the colors to blend together in an even more interesting panorama.

Finally, in Round 4 we decided to limit our color scheme to blue and red and created a mirror image painting by splattering one half of the canvas and then folding it over. We ended up with a sort of artistic commentary on political (Democrats v. Republicans) and scholastic (BYU v. U. of U.) rivalry:

After all was said and done, we taped the four pieces to the wall so they could dry ... **

... and paused for a moment to appreciate the art (pondering? planning future projects? posing for a picture?):

During the night, as we got messy, made mistakes, and had an altogether brilliant time, I wondered why I had done so little visual art over the past few years. Now, it's true that law school doesn't lend itself to Art Jammin' nearly often enough ... but I realized (after some thought and a bit of conversation) that I actually began to let go of art back in eighth grade when it dawned on me that my very limited, "traditional" artistic talent was likely to pull down my GPA (pretty sure my lowest grade ever was in art class that year).

Now, that's not to say I don't like to get creative ... even law school lends itself to interesting & innovative outlets (just look at the "Death Concert" some of my friends put on). I think, though, that I hadn't done much visual art because I let that negative, eighth-grade response from my art teacher get me down.

Fortunately, though, on Friday, I rediscovered the joy of artistic creation. And what profound joy that is. As Pres. Uchtdorf told the sisters in a recent General Relief Society Meeting:

The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul. No matter our talents, education, backgrounds, or abilities, we each have an inherent wish to create something that did not exist before.

Everyone can create. You don’t need money, position, or influence in order to create something of substance or beauty.

... You might say, “I’m not the creative type." ... If that is how you feel, think again, and remember that you are spirit daughters [and sons] of the most creative Being in the universe. Isn’t it remarkable to think that your very spirits are fashioned by an endlessly creative and eternally compassionate God? Think about it—your spirit body is a masterpiece, created with a beauty, function, and capacity beyond imagination.

... What you create doesn’t have to be perfect. ... Don’t let the voice of critics paralyze you—whether that voice comes from the outside or the inside. ... The more you trust and rely upon the Spirit, the greater your capacity to create. That is your opportunity in this life and your destiny in the life to come.***

I for one am definitely going to let that inner me - that creative me - out far more often. Not just in painting or in writing (though I'm planning to do more of both), but also in the ways I interact with people; in the way I approach my calling; in everything I do. And hopefully, with a little practice, I'll begin to become more like my "endlessly creative" Father in Heaven.

* NOTE 1: The "canvas" was actually a bed sheet cut in four pieces ...

** NOTE 2: One of the best part's about Friday's art extravaganza is that the floor itself became a piece of art, combining the best of all four sessions and providing a rare glimpse at the artistic process ...

** NOTE 3: For a really inspiring Mormon Message based on this talk, click here.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Yeah, I could use some of that ...

Two of my very close friends, Shandy and Rachel, recently went on a Carribean cruise; my brother Mike and his wife, Dede, did the same.

Now, it might be the fact that I've been buried in Delaware snow for the last three weeks and, consequently, would happily trade my in my little brother for three days at the beach (sorry Tim ;), but after looking at all those absolutely fantastic photos (see below for samples imported from Dede's blog), I have decided that I will positively, definitely, absolutely, 100% for certain, surely go on a cruise sometime in the next two years.


Sunset from the boat.

The cleaning people actually make towel animals for your enjoyment! Every day!

Tulum ruins ... those Mayans sure did build 'em to last.

Mike & Dede before their first formal night (just like Prom ... but on a boat!).

Monday, February 15, 2010

China '06 Part II: "Of Walking Marriage and Novocaine Noodles"

During my first two-month stint in China, Josh and I traveled to numerous cities: Shanghai, Hangzhou, Nanchang, Anyuan, Lushan, Guilin, Yangshuo, Kunming, Lijiang, Chengdu, Leshan, Xian, Beijing, Dalian, and others.

All were amazing ... all expanded my view and vision of the world ... but my heart will always belong to Chengdu.

And so, largely inspired by that wonderful city, I present Part II: "Of Walking Marriage and Novocaine Noodles" (Originally written June 5, 2006):
Good morning my loved ones and etc.,

As Josh and I were traveling on the sleeper train from Kunming to Chengdu (in the Sichuan Province), we decided to calculate the amount of time we will have spent traveling (via train, plane, automobile and bus) when this trip is said and done - it was an astounding figure. But before I tell you, go ahead and make some guesses. No, really, I'll wait (if you get within three hours, then you should treat yourself to a cookie, or some fried eel).

O.k., here it is ... after we land at SLC on Saturday, June 24, we will have been traveling for a total of 187 hours (not including all the inner city bus, taxi and subway traveling that we do). For those non-math geniuses out there, that's more than an entire week of traveling - 7.79 days to be exact. Fortunately, on each trip, we usually would have been sleeping for 8 hours anyway, so it's not as bad as it sounds. Plus, riding trains is a blast (especially when the other passengers try to teach you their convoluted card games - which are actually very fun).

Speaking of games, Josh and I learned how to play Ma-jiang the other day. It's actually surprisingly fun - kind of like rummy with little tiles instead of cards. At nearly every park in China in the evening, hundreds of little old aunties and uncles get together to play the game (either that or Chinese chess, which is also amazingly fun).

Because I don't have a ton of time today, this week's installment of Chinese culture corner will just be a hodge-podge conglomeration (does anyone know how to spell that correctly?) of a few interesting observations I've had and stories I've heard over the past week or so. Don't expect rhyme or reason, but their might be method to my madness.

Here in Sichuan, there is a minority people called the Mosuo. They live near a lake about eight hours north of Chengdu. The people have a custom which they call "Walking Marriage," which resembles actual marriage the same way a dung beetle resembles a dove. Basically, men or women will go to different houses, sleep with the person in that house and leave the next morning hoping that the female half of their equation is pregnant. No one gets married, and during their lifetime, each person will have sexual relations with dozens of different people. Basically, it's a system for creating bastard children and eliminating the family unit - hmmmm, seems questionable to me.*

Sichuan is known throughout China for their spicy foods. They have a special powder here which they add to their food that acts like novocaine, numbing the lips and mouth. It's not anything near as bad as going to the dentist (which I hear is what happens to people in the seventh circle of Chinese hell), and the slight numbing sensation actually feels kind of cool. The food here has been spectacular and, I must hasten to add, cheap.

Speaking of cheap is really synonymous with speaking of China. The country thrives on illegal books and DVD's that are sold in legitimate stores and malls in every city (the other thing common to all cities is a statue of Mao Zedong, the former head tyrant of China). The fake books and DVD's seem so much like the real ones, that it's nearly impossible to know which are which without seeing the price. Copyright infringment is rampant and the government does almost nothing to stop it - bad news for artists, good news for poor college students.

The family unit in China is very different than in the states. Despite the one child rule, once you get out of the major cities, most families actually have two or more children (especially in the rural areas). Extended family members in China are almost as close to each other as immediate family members are in the states. Children revere their parents and are expected to do everything they can to take care of them when they get older. Instead of old folk homes, grandparents will come and live with one of their children and continue to maintain an active lifestyle, going out into the shops and using some of the extremely strange exercise equipment they have in every park in China (the equipment seems like the result of a couple Chinese engineers looking at pictures of American exercise equipment, and then making something that looked similar but that had no functional value. I love these parks).

Well, my time is nearly up and Josh and I want to go check out a few places before meeting up with some expats we met at church the other day (they're taking us out for Sichuan hot pot, which is supposed to be liquid fire). I hope you are all having a great summer. Drop me a line if you get a moment and let me know what's going on in your life (or lack thereof).

Lots of love from the giant American panda,


P.S. If all ya'll have any questions about this place, let me know and I'll either find the answer, or make something up.
* NOTE: As with most things in life, the idea of a "walking marriage" is far less black and white than my 24-year-old-self realized. I cannot be the one to judge a people so unique as the Mosuo ... nor should I.