THE STARING MEN

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My shuttle bus driver was one-of-a-kind, cherry-on-top this morning


What airline was I using because he didn’t want me to be confused or get lost and he had the power to care for me and make sure that I would get to where I was going safely but how was my time in Phoenix and how long was I was here and what I had done and did it feel good?


He pressed me to talk to the man on my left who responded “I don’t think that’s possible” when I shyly said that I preferred not to ruin his focus on a productive morning while the guy to his left leaned forward four times to look at me and smile and find a way to insert himself into my conversation


And then, in a heartbeat, we pulled up to the curb and the doors opened and I stepped outside then I stepped inside and then suddenly the world was only me and them — the staring men


They were all there and they were everywhere

They where the men who perked up from their newspaper and looked down their nose to appreciate the shape my body made as I passed them by


They were the security guard at the entrance to Gates 1-11 who surveyed me as I approached, synchronized his head with my passing and who lingered too long on my departure 


They were the men who whispered a silent prayer for me to step into their line so they might slip the pass from my fingers, saying nothing worth saying in hopes to maybe just maybe elicit a smile, the imprint of my mouth tucked into their memory like a ticket in their pocket that they’ll pull out later and make love to alone on the dark


And that leaning guy from the bus that would find a seat close to me at our gate, but not too close because he knows enough not to look desperate, yet eagerly to come to my rescue when I removed my earbuds to ask a neighbor if our flight was boarding 


“It’s not and you’re okay,” he said and then asked where I was sitting to see if it was his lucky day (it wasn’t) then sadly said “don’t worry, go back to your music” and trust him and watch him and follow him onto the plane


That same leaning guy who’d search for my eyes as he cued for boarding to wave me toward him then laugh to pretend it was a casual, innuendo-free gesture so that there would be nothing to report but so that we might share one more moment because somehow he needed a little piece of me to make returning home to his wife more bearable


And the men on the plane, the first class men who have the most to offer and always stare the longest with the least inhibition because of what they would like to do and what they have the power to do and what they have been given the power to do


So many men, in so many rows, on my way to seat 28A


Like the ones with the headphones and black sweatshirts that burned a hole into the right side of my face as I made an artless shape with my mouth because I suddenly didn’t know what to do with my lips that would appear both pleasant and neutral 


The staring men, they were all there and they were everywhere and there was me and there was my walk down the aisle, splitting them in two

And I was a woman who’s spent a lifetime looking at men looking at women, a woman who knows her value not because I was so beautiful but because I knew that I was good and honest and kind and capable and that it made me far more powerful and potent than simply being a beautiful woman


I was a woman with a lifetime of these staring men and the expanding knowledge that it won’t last forever, I know, and so I meet their sidelong gaze head on, sometimes in defiance but also, in a way, with gratitude 

But the good and honest truth is that I would trade a lifetime of these men for the solid, eternal eyes of one good man, for a lover who had the desire to look and never look away

For a lover who asks me what I had done and did it feel good? A lover who says “I don't think that’s possible” when I tell him I don’t want to ruin his focus on a productive morning. A lover who leans forward to look at me and smile, who perks up to get a better view as I approach, who synchronizes with my passing and who lingers on my departure. To come to my rescue. To let me back to my music. Who tells me to trust him and watch him and follow him


For a lover who whispers a silent prayer to maybe just maybe elicit a smile then take me home to make love over and over


And because that lover is so beautiful, and because that lover is the only man I want but also the one man that wouldn’t be on that plane, I offered my own invocation to please let the man in 28B be gay because I was split in two, as always, wanting to be near the shape of a man with an affinity for woman


“Oh, I’m sorry” he said because he was gay and simply because I waited an extra half second in the aisle with my heavy bag


“I’m sorry,” he said because he knew what it was to be a woman trapped inside a man trapped inside a man’s world


“I’m sorry,” he said because he knew what it was to be a woman watching men watch women

THE BEAUTY OF SEDUCTION

 
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My work explores the potential for Mutually. Assured. Seduction.

I’ve flipped this sentence over in my mind so many times it feels like the pins and needles of a limb that’s fallen asleep — dull yet tingly under the weight of its distracted owner.

The phrase came one day lying on the floor after a hard workout. Since then, I’ve whispered it to myself as I lie awake at night. I’ve said it aloud, with purpose and velocity, to no one in particular. I’ve inspected it’s rhythm and resonance to feel how I feel as the words float out of my face’s lips and into the air.

I don’t exactly know where it came from but I’ve become so attached to the words that I can no longer feel their boundaries. Where do I begin, where do they end? I want to know.

Of this, I am certain: I am obsessed with seduction — as an idea, an act, an object, a promise, a threat, and a game.

Somewhere along the way, I began to recognize that my time in the studio (and my life?) can be reduced, quite plainly, to an exercise in seduction. And while it’s not exclusive to creatives, I’m sure it’s a common tie that binds making anything at all. I’m getting to something, scouring scientific papers trying to work it out:

The “art of pleasure” requires a careful plan of behavior, which has communicative relevance, and simultaneously must be able to elicit an emotional response. If it can provoke not only an interest, but also attraction, then it can create or increase a feeling of desire or need.

To seduce, to attract, to be led along, quite simply, “somewhere else.” Heart over mind and conversely, or, better still, passion bound with knowing one another… Sensual involvement.

And of it’s inherent reciprocal nature …if the seductive game is to be effective then it must involve a degree of flexibility that of being able to harmonize and synchronize with the partner. Every move must be carried out and evaluated according to the partner’s response.

What are we if we aren’t slow dancing, intensely, with another human?

Even if I am convinced that I’m making art for myself — producing the kinds of things I want to exist in the world — it’s impossible to deny the fact that I’m still making this for you too, whoever you are.

And what turns you on and how can I make you desire and need what I have? And isn’t what I have, in essence, what I am, ultimately, turning myself inside out and putting myself on display as the object of desire? And is what I have to offer intoxicating enough to create a meaningful connection to you without betraying what is real and honest in me?

The realization that the work I create is a mutual exchange with you — that I desire your quickening pulse and a shift in your face as your eyes dilate. That I want the surface of you to come alive, to reverberate, to know that you are receiving my signal. That I need you at all…

A friend recently gave me a book written in celebration of the desert, understanding that I’ve recently developed a torrid fascination with the desert or, more specifically, the idea of myself in the desert. I want to thrive here. I want to shrivel up in the white hot light of here. I want to make the loudest noises here and I want to make no noise at all here. The book is aptly named, “Because It Is So Beautiful” and speaks to the love of place, or topophilia. (Note: I make a part-time job of looking words up and the double meaning of torrid was an accident but then there really are no accidents, are there? See for yourself.)

So now when I ask myself why I am doing any of this, especially when it’s hard to do and there are so many other worthy, worthwhile things that come naturally to me, the answer is and will be, forever and ever, because it is so beautiful.

Because when a certain mark or shape or brush stroke exits my body and lands on a surface and the sight of it makes me weak… When a pool of pigment is so lucid that I can hardly believe the power to orchestrate its arrangement was ever in me at all… That it’s possible that there is beauty sliding around inside of me — that my guts and liver and blood could be so beautiful.

And, what’s more, that even if the marks and shapes and strokes fail to resonate, my white, hot, burning desire for them remains. And the seduction of that, too, is beautiful and that is all and that is everything. In turn, Siri Hustvedt offers “A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women:”

“Searching, meeting, seduction, rejection, and retreat evokes ongoing rhythmic narrative of our undying physical need for other human beings, a need that is forever impeded by obstacles, both internal and external... reminiscent of dreams, and by their nature dreams are more emotional than waking life... often erotic and destructive pulse of human desire...”

I temporarily lean on this as a statement for my work — an undying physical need for other human beings, akin to an erotic dream and potentially destructive, that I’m attempting to process through multiple prisms: Manipulation. Order. Control. Progress. Self-Improvement. Desire. Attachment. Work. Survival.

Each of these touchstones is a sidelong glance accompanied by a distinct, but related, body of work. Work that I intend to mount and exhibit at the end of the year, sink or swim. An audacious goal, I am relying on the depth and intensity of a lifetime practice and deference for making to get me there. Focus and grit with a dash of hustle. Combined with a newly discovered connection to materials from the natural world: Just pick up a stone and let your body make a mark with it because it is so beautiful.

And I’m beginning to recognize these impulses for the proverbial ‘carvings on the cave wall’ that they are. That scratching of “I Was Here,” no better or different than running my nails down your back.

Yet, what I could possibly have to say is of far less significance than the fact that I’m right here, right now, standing before you to say it. That I didn’t let the immensity of the wall, or the darkness of the cave, frighten me back into a corner. Instead, I was seduced into the white hot sun, the earth in my hands, to make my mark.

Because I was here.

Because I am here.

And so are you.

And together we are so, so beautiful.

IF WORDS COULD DIE

 
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I had a dream that “synonym” died.

The kind of rolling reverie you have as your body slides toward sleep.

I woke to the thought, “What if words could die?,” feeling the kind of sadness you feel when your dreams reveal the melancholy of your life. 

But synonym didn’t die as much as it fell, or sank, an unfertilized egg dropping from the womb — essential — then useless and no longer welcome. Crestfallen for being only a half-word. The kind of word that knew its limitations. Iterative, derivative, referential…

What if words could die?

Like, what if they hung on just long enough to be necessary and needed but, eventually, everything that was propping them up — and being propped up by them — no longer existed, or mattered, or both.

What if words could die?

Would the shape of them still make a sound if someone was lamenting how much they were missed? Like if someone said, “Remember when people used to say synonym?” though I imagine it would sound much different then because people would be using all sorts of newer, better words to talk to one another.

I wonder if people will still talk to one another?

 

 

Miracle Women

 
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Once upon a time, I co-created a retreat to celebrate the women who craft, champion and enrich our world through the magic of cacao. The retreat was called Mujeres Milagros, miracle women, and it was a living dream.

It started, as dreams do, with travel. A fateful podcast interview with Lauren of WKND Chocolate would result in joining her on my first trip to origin. During our 10 days together, we traveled from Ecuador’s Andean foothills to coastal Esmeraldas, in cacao-filled rainforests by day, discussing the transformational gifts of the godly fruit by night.

A couple months later, we talked about the potential for gathering women from across the industry and around the world — IRL — with chocolate sommelier, Sophia, of Projet Chocolat.

By September, after months of animated conversations, the three of us would be standing at the doors of a historic hacienda. That first year, we humbly welcomed a collection of women who shared our love of chocolate and, more importantly, a desire for something more transcendent than working for work’s sake.

 
 

I have to confess my fear of collaborating in a female-only space yet, after only a few days together, I was on fire with inspiration. Post-retreat, I retired to a tiny casita outside Santa Fe, NM, feeling more connected to my self and my desires than ever before.

Over the next three weeks I found wonder in everything — I drew pictures of my food, wrote poetry for the first time in years and laughed and cried without reservation or regret as I painted from dawn to dusk.

 
 

The second year, I returned to the desert to find a new batch of women brimming with a similar spirit. We opened ourselves up to one another, vulnerable yet emboldened by the delicate act of bonding.

Before these gatherings, I thought I understood the virtues of creating a plan and taking action but it was in those moments that I truly discovered the power of clarity and it’s ability to manifest the improbable.

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Last year’s retreat celebrated the “art of chocolate,” a prescient theme in hindsight, as this post is about the things that must come to an end in order to continue creating.

What began as an open, honest conversation with a new friend in a new country completely transformed my world. And yes, this is a rather long way of saying that I won’t be returning to co-host. As for that dream, I am confident that it will continue to transform the miracle women that gather — gifting them the clarity to find, and the courage to take, their own, true path.

My treasured time in the desert taught me, again and again, that my desires are simple and sincere: more time and energy for my personal art practice. And though cacao may not always be in the foreground of that practice, my life and work will remain centered around the many gifts that it has revealed to me.

The Lab

A selection of drawings and paintings is currently on display at The Lab, the newest creative hub in Charlotte, NC’s funky Plaza Midwood neighborhood. The work is on view through the new year and can also be purchased through the drawing and painting sections of my online shop.

 

 

Nov 2, 2018 – Jan 9, 2019

BY APPOINTMENT ONLY   /  1600 Fulton Ave, Ste 120, CLT

 

 
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Top: I Melt Back Into Waves, Above: Installation view, Below: Sacred + Alone

An excerpt from my New Mexico series, the work continues to explore a real and persistent preoccupation with desire, order, progress and work.
 
 
 

Above: Sending and Receiving

The Test

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After playing with the mineral, plant and insect pigments from the Sacred Valley region of Peru, it was time for me to find, forage or fix my own natural sources.

Though the resulting watercolor set was as lively as any painter could hope for, the restrained palette in my studio these days urged me to see what I could coax into being, firsthand.

 
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Above: Surprising “chocolate rose” color from avocados, Below: Acorn tips + rust = a silvery grey ink

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After several weeks of deep internet dives plus a plethora of ink, dye and foraging books, the good news was that much of what I needed could easily be found in our kitchen, backyard or surrounding neighborhood. The bad? Well, it hurts my head and heart to imagine how I could have missed the obvious inclination to craft my own inks and paints?

I created Batch as a portal for exploring other ecosystems and cultures in hopes of discovering some new and weird things about their connection to my own life / body / planet. And I am proud of the work that I’ve produced over these last couple years — especially after decades of a stagnating personal practice — and I can clearly see my trajectory ascending… There is much to be grateful for.

So what took so long?

Above: Copper + vinegar + salt + oxygen + time

 

 

As I commit to a life of intention, one that treads lightly upon the Earth and chooses not to harm any creatures in the process, I’ve begun pulling on the proverbial string that Muir so eloquently reminds us, is tied to everything else in the Universe.

Over the last couple years, I have repeatedly challenged myself by asking “What’s enough"?” and “Why not now?” This has brought a clarity into my practice, making it ever more apparent that I am engaged in a very ‘journey vs destination’ pursuit.

For me, the acts of attention and tending, often the nature of deconstruction, are paramount to the act of making.

Crafting and curating my own materials — ink, paint, paper — is not only in service of the art but, in many ways, is the art. A proposition that shone so brightly, the very elegance of it’s simplicity was too bright to recognize.

With this newfound awareness, I quiet my mind. I am eternally reminded that Mother Nature said it first and said it best. Humble AF.

My job now is to listen, with diligence, and share, with generosity, all that I am learning…

 

 
 
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Sacred Color

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After communing in the desert with the joyous Jyl Marie (of The Yoga of Chocolate) during the magical Mujeres Milagros “Women in Chocolate” retreat, I was delighted to receive several unexpected gifts from her over the course of the following months.

One delivery in particular held a string of tiny bags filled with what I assumed were some type of ground pigments?

Indeed, mineral, plant and insect pigments (sorry, bugs, I’m going to assume you had already passed) — found and foraged — around the Sacred Valley region of Peru.

 
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{ Above: Same pigment before & after grinding }

Unbeknownst to me at the time — but apparently not to Jyl’s fully cultivated, super senses — this inevitable set of vibrant pigments would provide the impetus for making my very own inks and paints.

 
 
 

 

These days, I walk about with pseudo-science books in hand and a renewed fascination for all things Mother Nature. You have my permission to imagine me as a middle school chemistry nerd with a dash of tomb raider.

My fully cultivated sense of curiosity and perseverance (thanks, cacao!) intact, I’m slowly working on batches of ink and paints inspired by, and of, the land upon which I roam.

As always, stay tuned for test Batch updates as my art studio is transformed via all things alchemy…

 

 
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Re-Treat

 
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When we started making chocolate four years ago it seemed as though I never had enough. I pined for more hours in the day, more room to experiment and more courage to make mistakes. Like anyone who devotes their life to a creative endeavor knows, such a discipline can be as isolating as it is rewarding.

But of all the things in short supply, what I really needed most was perspective.

When Sophia, Lauren and I first conceived of Mujeres Milagros, our motivation was simple — step away from the demands of our daily lives and gather with like-minded “women in chocolate” in a serene, supportive space. We had no way of knowing if the idea would resonate but we dared to imagine. Worst case scenario, the three of us would relax at a private hacienda outside Santa Fe, watching the sun rise and fall over a mystical mountain range while commiserating over a stash of decadent craft bars.

 

 

Mindful conversations, intentional bonding, nurturing food.

 

 

More mantra than mission statement it was, ultimately, a selfish motivation — a connection we desired for ourselves, intimate in both scale and intention. What resulted, however, was nothing less than a magnificent confluence.

One by one, the most perfect women walked through the massive antique Puebla doors and swiftly into our hearts. They were real — these brilliant women — and they not only shared our passion for cacao but a desire for something more transcendent than working for work’s sake.

Over the next few days, we laughed and cried and shared many, many bars as we reconnected with the reasons we all fell in love with cacao in the first place. And, after only a few remarkable days, the retreat had easily become one of the sweetest things I’ve had the pleasure of bringing into the world via Batch.

As we approach another year of making, I’m still unclear as to the kind of impact I might have on craft chocolate as a maker. I am abundantly confident, however, that this little sweet spot we’ve created in the desert has the magic to transform the women who graciously walk a similar path. 

This year’s retreat will “celebrate the art of chocolate” with a healthy balance of playful and meaningful.

For me, finally, enough.