Monday, February 28, 2022

Mothers

Sang Young Park

Sang Young Park, Love int the Big City


When I was nineteen, I won a literary prize given out by a college newspaper. ... so I wrote about a woman in her fifties who'd always had an inferiority complex about her education, who went on to get two bachelor's degrees at an online university and threw everything she had into her son's education; it was the only story I could write at that time, and the judges declared it the winner ... Umma heard the news ... got a copy of the paper, and read the story. Then she cried for four days straight. I could hear her sobs and lamentations through her bedroom door. "I can't believe I hurt you so much, I can't believe I exploited you like that!" "Umma, for God's sake, fiction is just fiction! It's all made up!" She refused to listen to me and from then on avoided anything I wrote ... 

- - -

Umma looked as hard and beautiful as ever as she gazed into the sunset. As I watched her, it suddenly occurred to me that she may indeed have read every one of my published stories and writings. Not that this would've changed anything, really. She spoke in a sentimental voice.

- I used to feel that I'd been given the whole world when I held you. 

 - - -

Umma was now lying on the grass and staring up at the sky. She looked incredibly calm. At peace. I wondered if that ninety-nine-pound, fifty-eight-year-old woman staring at the fading firmament was feeling the same way I was feeling. That my life could not be summed up like the neat columns of numbers on a chart, that it could swerve in an unpredictable direction at any time. That the person I thought I knew best just because we had blood ties could actually be the most mysterious and unknown. That there were times in life when you just have to stop holding on. And that was why the only thing I could do now was to cease all thinking, to simply watch her as she smiled and attached meanings to silly things like the rising and setting of the sun. All I could do was await her death.

Sang Young Park, Love in the Big City, A Bite of Rockfish, Taste the Universe

Anton Hur - Translator from Korean to English

The traffic began getting bad at Hannam-dong. I hopped out in front of the CJ Building and ran the rest of the way to G—.

* * *

I screamed when I first read those two sentences, in pure delight of recognition. What club-going gay in Seoul hasn’t done this: ridden a taxi into Itaewon, abandoned the taxi at this exact bottleneck in Hannam-dong, and ran the rest of the way to G—? As a Korean gay man in Seoul just a little bit older than Sang Young himself, I can even tell you the letters obscured by the em-dash in G—. ...

Of all the sentences in this book, some were relatively easy to translate, while many presented a plethora of conundrums and points of discussion that could easily fill the limit I’ve been given for this note. But the sentences I most wanted to discuss were these two. They took hardly any time to translate, but I spent a few minutes fretting that no one would know how thrilling it was to see them in a novel, this wink to All the Gays of Seoul.

Because until I read these sentences—nay, until I read Sang Young Park—I had no idea how much I’d subconsciously craved for someone to put my experience of my world in my time into print, to give my brief life here and now the sacred consecration of literature.

 https://lithub.com/to-all-the-gays-of-seoul-on-translating-sang-young-park/

Edgar Gomez

Edgar Gomez, High Risk Homosexual
Photo Credit: Joseph Osborne


I Dedicated My Book to My Mother, But I Can’t Tell Her I Wrote It

Electric Lit, January 13, 2022

I want to tell her: I wrote about our lives, Mom, and yes, there are some things in this book you might not like, but there is also so much tenderness, like how after you kicked down my door that day and I thought you would kill me for being gay, you climbed into my bed and told me you loved me, te quiero, perdóname.

I want to say: I didn’t write this book to hurt you. I wrote it because I didn’t know what else to do with my hurt. I wrote it because I love you, too. La quiero más. Perdóneme. 

https://electricliterature.com/i-dedicated-my-book-to-my-mother-but-i-cant-tell-her-i-wrote-it/


Brandon Taylor

Brandon Taylor, All About My Mother
Photo Credit: Bill Adams

The first thing that my father said to me when my mother died was that she had loved me. And at the time, I thought, what a ridiculous thing to say. Not because her love was evident to me—it was not and is not, really, an evident thing—but because he thought it meant so much to me and I felt at the time that it didn’t. I scoffed and made a joke and he said it again, She loved you. You know that, right? She loved you.

- - -

Her name is Mary Jean Speigner. She died young. She worked jobs so hard that the heels of her feet were cracked and gray. She dipped Skoal and spat it into Natural Light cans. She watched every soap opera religiously. Her favorite fish was whitey. She didn’t eat salt. She didn’t eat sugar. She fried her chicken black. She checked her blood sugar in the morning and in the afternoon, her blood purple-red as she pressed it flat on the test slips. She had a tremor in her left hand. She had a pert nose and hooded, dark eyes. Her favorite color was green. Her favorite show was 90210. She loved Hugh Grant. She loved to laugh. Her favorite music was blues. She had a terrible singing voice but loved to sing. A man raped her when she was young, and nobody said anything about it. Nobody did anything about it. She saw him every day. She drank every day. Sometimes, she didn’t eat because her stomach hurt so bad that she wanted to cry. But she didn’t cry. She never cried. Just once. When her sister called her an ugly liar when they were full-grown. She went home and cried on the bed for hours. She hated bugs. Her voice was raspy. She hated to be touched. She hated to be spoken to like she was stupid. She hated secrets. She never told the truth. She danced all the time. She slept late. She stayed up late. She had trouble sleeping. She was afraid to hear about the dreams of other people; it was like a screeching sound to her, to hear about what other people had dreamed. She could make a joke out of anything. She loved to tell stories. She believed in magic. Nobody stood up for her so she had to stand up for herself, and after a while, she got tired of standing.

I wish I had gotten to know her better.

I think we would have been great friends.

I wish I had tried harder. Sooner.

This isn’t enough. It’ll never be enough.

But I have to stop for now.



Saturday, February 26, 2022

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Intimate Space

Larry Wolf, Intimate Space (2019)

Felix Gonzalez-Torres

Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Untitled (1991)
Third Avenue and East 137th Street, Bronx, NY. 
... In 1992 ... [Felix Gonzalez-Torres] exhibited, on twenty-four billboards around New York City, a photograph of an unmade double bed with two pillows bearing what appear to be the impressions of a couple's heads.

"Untitled" (1991) is striking because it makes such an intimate domestic scene so public. ... The all-white image of recent intimacy is soft and inviting, but it takes on a darker shade once we realize that 1991 was the year that Gonzalez-Torres's partner, Ross Laycock, died of AIDS after a long illness. At least retrospectively, then, the piece functions as a memorial, both celebrating their loving relationship and commemorating it. 

Yet this reading may tie the image too closely to autobiography, for the work also has a distinctly political edge. It is a protest and provocation that intervened in what was at the time a highly charged situation. The intimacy of the image and the publicity of its exhibition were particularly transgressive in the context of the hysterical reaction in the United States to the AIDS epidemic, which provoked fierce conservative attacks on homosexuality. 

If the work is viewed as a memorial, it is illuminating to observe how it inverts, point by point, the form of medieval tomb sculpture. Those monuments, made of enduring materials like bronze or marble and sheltered in the sacred space of a church, show royal or aristocratic couples lying in effigy side by side, their heads resting on hard pillows. "Untitled" seems to evoke these tombs but exchanges their features for the ephemerality, profanity, and democracy of the commercial billboard. More over, the couple in Gonzalez-Torres's posters is indicated only negatively, not by statuary but by the impressions left behind on pillows. 

Viewed now, in retrospect, the emptiness of the bed foretells the artist's own tragic death only five years later, in 1996.

from Photography Trace and Trauma - Margaret Iversen (2017)

Contextual Notes

I made the above photograph in 2019 as part of a self-portrait project, showing our bed after my husband and I had been reading in the morning. At the foot of the bed is a book of David Wojnarowicz's Rimbaud in New York photographs. Wojnarowicz made a mask from a photograph of Arthur Rimbaud, the French poet, and made portraits of himself and others wearing that mask in iconic New York locations. 

I began reading Margaret Iversen's Photography Trace and Trauma this week in preparation for a reading group that starts next month (Exploring Death, Grief and Trauma, led by Kean O'Brien at Latitude). Iversen's description of Felix Gonzales-Torres' Untitled 1991 reminded me of the photo that I created three years ago. I did not consciously remember Gonzales-Torres' photograph when I created mine, though it's certainly possible I had seen it in the past. In keeping with Iversen's text, that image could well have left a trace in my unconscious and influenced the image I created.

It is fascinating that evidence of a prior presence can speak powerfully about its absence in the present. 

Monday, February 21, 2022

A Strong Reaction

Larry Wolf, Maxi - Why Such A Strong Reaction! (2022)


The details don't matter but my reaction does. A friend asked whether my artwork is inspired by my mother. 

I felt a huge surge of anger, a fight-to-the-death need to defend my art as my own, to defend my independence, to defend my agency, to defend my life. Not of by or for my mother. Hell NO!

It was a momentary flash. I noticed it. He noticed it. Yikes!


Who or what am I protecting? What does that have to do with my mother? 

There's some ancient personal shit here... about being my own person... and who knows what else... I know... buried... by me... once upon a time. 

Time to do some excavating and some composting. Definitely something valuable here.



Sunday, February 20, 2022

Saturday, February 19, 2022

View

Larry Wolf, View (2022)

Larry Wolf, View (2022)

Larry Wolf, View (2022)


Friday, February 18, 2022

Thursday, February 17, 2022

A Sketchbook

The first off the shelf

Larry Wolf, Maxi's Sketchbook (2022)


... beginning

Larry Wolf, Maxi's Sketchbook - Front Matter (2022)

"You use a glass mirror to see your face; you use works of art to see your soul." 

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Here to 85

I came across a video from psychologist Meg Jay - imagine your 15-years-from-now self. Who will you be then? How might you nurture those aspects now?

Katey Wolf, A Distant Planet (2022)
I'll be 85 in 15 years. Both my father and mother were very much themselves in the world until 85 and then things changed, their late 80s were a struggle with and acceptance of decline and imminent death. Their last few years were important times of closure, of blessing. And they were rough. At/near 90 they were gone.

Now is a time of reflection and planning for me. Setting intentions. What inner seeds to nurture? What future me would I like to be? How will I live full on with that vision and then have a safety net for the final phase? Will it happen in a ICU (surprisingly early for my Uncle Marvin)? Or gradually at assisted living (like my Uncle Jerry, approaching 100)?

Inner Seeds

Artist. Husband. Gay. Male. Buddhist. Jewish. Elder.

These are the identities that recur. They embed others, like activist or monk, that are ways of being. There are others - White, Retired, Technologist, Executive, American - that weave in and out of privilege and circumstance. When I write about some of these, I get stuck in a loop. What am I attached to? What am I running from? What am I letting go of? What new growth might be encouraged? 

Yesterday a friend said that now, in his late thirties, he is discovering who he is. I feel the same way at seventy. Who am I? Who is the "I" before these recurring loops? What does being look like now? Mastery? Is art making a calling or a hobby? ... No decision needed. See what unfolds.  

Vision

Independently interdependent - health, mobility, mental agility to retain agency. To live in a place of physical and emotional safety. To live in relationship with others who's love embraces me but don't bind.

To be expressive as an artist, making drawings, painting, photographs, writing. Creating objects in the world which spark joy, wisdom, conversation, that emerge from the fullness of life's challenges and celebrations.

Full On Now

This blog. My zines. As Shaila says, my calling cards. And beyond that, the substance, the created work and the human being.

Nurturing the artist who is emerging, in community with other artists, nurturing the projects that artist is creating, a place for those projects in the world, an engagement with the world (people, places, ideas, ideals, ...) that the projects are part of, that I am part of. 

This artist who is me. Who creates in images and words. Who is in the muck of the world and the ivory tower of the studio. Who has lived fully and is living fully.

Prior Rounds

In 2006, 7, 8, at what felt like a similar juncture, a life coach asked similar questions and we began to explore ways for me to be at 55 thinking about the future I wanted to grow into. I studied coaching. I trained to be a coach. And then I came to a choice point, to dive deeper into coaching and develop it as the way I spent my time, engaged with the world, earned my living.  And from that, to move into being an elder. I felt very much on the brink of a leap into unknown waters, a cliff diver.

Then events in the world created an irresistible opportunity to be a member of the Federal Health Information Technology Policy Committee. From 2009 to 2017, that was my defining role, defining activity. After eight years, that had run its course. 

In 2017 I started to reestablish a path of nurturing others, as a Buddhist meditation instructor, as a co-active coach. The year began by staffing a month-long retreat and leading weekend retreat programs. I was about to staff a meditation instructor training program. I was about to staff two coach training weekends. 

Those plans were derailed by a call that my mother was in the hospital with a heart attack and being scheduled for cardiac bypass surgery. Within a few days, my father was in the hospital with complications from lung cancer. Their simultaneous health crises were ironic - that my parents were still deeply connected after more than forty years of acrimonious divorce. 

In that time of personal uncertainty, I took on work as a senior executive in a healthcare software company followed by a year or so of freelance consulting, creating a kind of stability following my father's death and during my mother's slow recovery.

In early 2020 I completed a final consulting project shortly before the pandemic. I had already turned on Social Security, shifting my income from newly earned to relying on entitlements and investments. A next phase was underway.

As An Artist

During the summer of 2018, inspired by David duChemin's Soul of the Camera, I dusted off an old digital camera, found photo editing software and signed up for photography classes at Lillstreet, a local art center. I mostly made self-portraits. Who am I? How am I in the world? What is performative? What is revealed?

As the pandemic shifted classes to on-line, I took a zine making class. Something about that form spoke to me: a soapbox for proclaiming my identities, an art form to explore sequences and repetitions, an answer to the question of what to do with the photographs, images and words bouncing around my mind. In a time of social isolation, I sought the community of zine makers, a rag tag tribe of self published individuals, swapping ideas, swapping zines, through the mails, at bookstores and zine shops. 

Some projects getting attention

a group show at Hyde Park Art Center of the SIP (Sequences, Iterations, Permutations) participants, curated by Jasper Goodrich

a contemporary drawing class at Lillstreet with Karen Dana Cohen

a next round of zines 

an archive of my mother's artwork, her sketchbooks, her apartment and all the ephemera that fills it

As An Elder

What is it to hold space for the next generations? How do I honor the history, personal and cultural, that got me/us to here and now? How is this a different way for me to be? What might I do differently now? In what context might I be "an elder" to others? What is it to be an elder?

Gently

Holding others gently, without grasping, even more gently than offering a hand, offering presence, offering conversation. No guidance. No answers. Allowing, observing, being present for their wisdom as it emerges. Without bias or judgment. Simply being with them, as I so often wished others would be present for me, without shaping me in their image. Neither cheering me along nor sobbing as I stumble. Just being present.

Holding myself gently as this body falls apart, in small ways now, in greater ways at some unknown point. How will I be in relationship with others? With Eric, my husband? With Katey and Frani, my sisters? With Alex and Daniel, teenage nephews who are rapidly growing? With other relatives, near and distant? With various friends, acquaintances, service workers, healthcare providers, and on and on? 

Engaging

Daily rituals, making coffee and steel cut oats, writing, walking, washing dishes, cooking meals. Other rituals emerging, like drawing or painting. Some that come and go, like formal meditation, like physical exercises, yoga. 

Taking on projects, like zine making. Offerings, like a monthly contemplative photography gathering. Reading. Buying and borrowing more books than I will ever read. Soaking in the worlds of those books. A rich soup to feed me.

How do I sustain an art practice over the next decade or more?

Present in the world, as it is, and as it might be. Living in the moment and seeing the structures and the outcomes they produce. It's not only about being nice, but about repair, about justice, about healing. About being with the heart break, the heart opening, the yearning, the frustration, the rage and the redemption.

and now... as an elder...

honoring others perspectives, their ways of thinking, of being

engaging with people at the edges ... 

my queer compatriots who declare our thorny presence

the Jews who seek a direct relationship with adonai (not an anthropomorphic god but a non-dual sacred presence) and a healing of the world which does not make being a Jew one of the chosen people (arrogant and often fascist)

the Buddhists who are living as awake and fallible humans, seeking the sangha that enlightens together,

the environmentalists who are taking action now to nurture the earth and rebalance our relationship with it, at scale

the many waves of people who have lived on these lands, the indigenous, the colonists, the slaves, the slave holders and profiteers, the global capitalists, entrepreneurs of all shapes and sizes, warriors protecting all manner of beings and things, seekers of truth and freedom 

Safe

This is what I know from my years in healthcare, from being part of my parents aging. Am I willing to act?

Do the things I love, that are the reason to get out of bed, to get out into the world. Keep those loves flourishing. They are the engine and the fuel which makes everything possible.

Remain active in mind and body. Both are essential. The literal steps taken today make it possible to keep taking steps in the future. Losing mobility is a downward spiral. Some days I make my goal of 40 active minutes and 7500 steps. Not every day. Hmmm. My doc says I need to work up a sweat and significantly elevate my heart rate. Hmmmm hmmmm hmmmm.

Define my personal boundary for invasive procedures, whether diagnostic or treatment. At some point the risks of action are greater than the risks of inaction. False positives. Side effects. At 75? At 80? At 85? Not that far away.

Protect the brain - through activity, through nourishment. Beware the effects of anesthesia - they continue for months or years. And also beware of intoxicants. But... 

Ensure that the activities of daily living, from social relationships to eating, bathing, toileting, can be addressed day to day, every day. As abilities and circumstances change, address the changes early when there are more options and more innate resilience.

Establish a relationship with palliative and hospice care before there is a crisis.  One of my grandmothers died in her sleep at 84 after a day which included a yoga class - a rare miracle. Prepare the ground for the miracle, they don't happen by themselves. And prepare for life when there are no miracles other than those of daily live as a human being in an ever changing cosmos.

Resting. Breathing. Savoring a cup of warm water. Feeling the keys as I write these words.

Larry Wolf, Living Room (2022)

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Two Sides

Larry Wolf, Journal Entry (2022)

Larry Wolf, Journal Entry (2022)


Saturday, February 12, 2022

Fantastic Man

Larry Wolf, Ocean Vuong Fantastic Man (2022)

Fantastic Man #34 Among Writers

PHENOMENONS (Adventures in word world) 

PAUL MENDEZ (The debutant)

Interview by JASON OKUNDAYE

Photography by TOM ORDOYNO

THE AUTHOR AT HOME (Samuel R. Delany, in situ) 

Portraits by ETHAN JAMES GREEN

BEHROUZ BOOCHANI (Exile writes way to freedom) 

Interview by JINA KHAYYER

Photography by NICOLE BRANNEN 

TOGETHERNESS (Robert Giard's particular voices)

Portraits by ROBERT GIARD (one of the portraits is of Samuel R. Delany 1987)

Essay by VINCE ALETTI

OCEAN VUONG (Has just finished his best work yet)

Interview by E. ALEX JUNG

Photography by COLLIER SCHORR

A WRITER DRESSES UP (Abdellah Taïa, in fashion) 

Photography by MARK PECKMEZIAN

PHYSICALITY (Printed matter with Wolfgang Tillmans) 

NEIL TENNANT (Editor turned Pet Shop Boy) 

Interview by OLIVIA LAING

Photography by ALASDAIR McLELLAN

MARIEKE LUCAS RIJNEVELD (Dazzling Dutch author) 

Interview by GERT JONKERS

Photography by CASPER KOFI

STUDY OF A WRITER (Brontez Purnell gets naked) 

Photography by PAUL MPAGI SEPUYA

JON RONSON (Chronicler of odd individuals) 

Interview by CHRIS HEATH

Photography by DANIEL TRESE

UTOPIA (At the home of Edward Carpenter)

Photography by KUBA RYNIEWICZ

Writer in Residence JEREMY ATHERTON LIN 


Fantastic Man purchased at Quimby's, 1854 W. North Ave, Chicago, IL 60622 

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Maxi Mini Zines

Larry Wolf, Maxi Mini Zines 2021 from Originals to Mechanical Reproduction (2022)


Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Monday, February 7, 2022

Life Goes On

Larry Wolf, A Sacred Space at Katey's (2022)

Time with the living... I spent a week at my mom's apartment... two days at either end with my sister ...

Larry Wolf, Mom's Spot in the Kitchen (2021)

... mom spent most of COVID here.. a big swivel chair in the kitchen with a small side table for tea and art materials, a view out the windows into the woods and the many birds gathered at the multiple bird feeders. Katey and her family are feeling the loss profoundly. And struggling to engage in the activities of living... school, their own medical appointments, the people and activities that nurture them. Grief is a powerful thing.

I've been on the road for two weeks.. it time for me to be home... leaving here for there this morning... so many loose ends... so many to be continues... who knows what's next... how to even be fully here in the moment... wherever here is... whatever the moment.

COVID and the whole pandemic sucks.. deaths, illness, inequities, ... and no end in sight.. Was there ever an end in sight for all that needs to be healed in the world? 

Tikkun olam is an ancient practice. The generation after generation after generation of brutal conquest, and, somehow, also, the deep human connections.. the nurturing of life, the honoring of the past, the hope, the yearning for peace justice wholeness...

Another Mother 1966

It's taken me all these years to begin to acknowledge my expectation that it would be all made better in my lifetime... that racism was ended in the 50s and 60s, that antisemitism ended with the liberation of the concentration camps, that homophobia ended with Stonewall, that poverty ended with the Great Society, ... and that I would have a personal roll to play.. the space race of the 50s and 60s.. the revamping of the school curriculum to emphasize science and math... the Camelot of the Kennedy years and the string of assassinations, JFK, MLK Jr, RFK, the Vietnam War, the burning in the cities, Kent State, ... , student protests, Gay Liberation.

Utopia. Dystopia. Daily life. Systemic injustice. Systemic wealth. Personal kindness.

The child of leaves home, abandons responsibility, forsakes comfort, wanders in the wilderness, seeking personal salvation and awakening as a bodhisattva warrior... or as a poet... or a painter... or...  a manifestation of gentle strength, a next cycle of making sense, of making whole, of seeing and feeling and being in the flow of life... teaching... building community... alone... together...

Larry Wolf,
Oatmeal (2022)
Being present. Holding space. Timeless.

Lost and found. Found and lost. Moment to moment. Breath to breath. A pot of oatmeal. The day continues.

"Make good trouble" John Lewis


Sunday, February 6, 2022

Saturday, February 5, 2022

In A Book

Larry Wolf, Maxi Drawing on a Bag from the Met Museum Found in a Book (2022)

Friday, February 4, 2022

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Open Heart

Terrie Hancock Mangat, Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe - Detail (2014)


Larry Wolf, New Arrival at
Maxi's from Taos (2014)

Larry Wolf, Maxi's Kitchen (2022)



Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Sketchbooks at Rest

Larry Wolf, Maxi's Sketchbook Shelf (2022)


Larry Wolf, Maxi's Sketchbook Shelf (2022)


Larry Wolf, Maxi's Sketchbook Drawer (2022)


Larry Wolf, Maxi's Sketchbook Shelf (2022)


Larry Wolf, Maxi's Sketchbook Cabinet (2022)

and one more place

Larry Wolf, Maxi's Sketchbook Art Supply Cart (2022)