Amongst the “Thin Places”.

The last week and a half has been a time of deep thinking, creating and living in the “thin places” (places on earth where the Presence is so strong that they serve as portals between this world and another.) There are specific things that make my soul complete, things that I have seemed to move away from over the last few years.  My moments of “movement” as I have been calling them in Ethiopia and now Zimbabwe have taken me back into those “thin places” that I find while painting in my studio, writing in a small cafe, or spending time in creation.  Here are a few poems from those moments in the last week, accompanied by the places and people that have inspired my soul here in Africa.

Time has once again stood still,

here on the other side of the waters,

my thoughts are moving like the wind

in memory through the trees,

it feels like floating,

symbolic yet mysterious,

as it was once said,

“Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters”,

I disappear in thoughts of the beginning,

my eyes focused, follow the fog,

as it slowly walks amidst the reeds and grass with

no where to go but away,

I think of eternity being here, now,

I exhale…

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The clouds rest misty over the Ethiopian skies,

miles of green run wild through the vast open air,

the great wild exists beyond the hills,

what are the stories that have gone before me?

where are the souls that have left to early, my thoughts flow with the breeze,

I want to stay, I want to learn,

I want to read the faces and put pen to paper,

so that you can feel the beauty and the weight…

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Grew up with freedom and never knew a struggle,

other than mental or spiritual,

we truly are a reflection of everyone,

Yet circumstance and culture seem to change the colors and dreams,

we are skin, bone and water,

we breath by miracles and magic,

the wind still feels the same and tears still feel as wet,

our faces tell story or hide it, and I wonder,

I observe and I ask,

when is my time? how can I be? a

s the wings of the seraphim hold me,

my lungs show dust and my hands feel clay,

this is now, this is today, this is forever…

TyClark-1078

The walls are cracked and peeling,

feet worn down and hands full of story,

I feel the sun from the corner,

bringing warmth and color into space that breaths life,

this is perfection, a beauty rarely seen,

there is movement here,

a presence of the divine,

and my soul sways,

my heart gives,

my eternity echoes,

I feel, I know, I see…

TyClark-0976

Between the Dreaming and Coming True.

We are somewhere over Casablanca right now at 1:00am. I can not sleep, this is normal for me on a plane.  So I make a new play list on my ipod that consists of…

Bon Iver, Daughter, Hammock, Motopony, Jose Gonzalez, Active Child

…all in order to set my mind at ease.  I am surrounded by beautiful people that been captivating me with their stories. Stories of their Ethiopian heritage, the struggles of their culture, the differences in their tribes, and the corruption of their government that keeps the people in a constant struggle.  Children walk by me and smile and laugh every hour or so. One kid walked by straight into my stomach with a head butt laughing! I am already in love.

Somewhere over Casablanca

Somewhere over Casablanca

I am yet to meet a face that does not come with a smile, not a curtesy smile, but a smile in the truest of form.  My friend Yahvia (pronounced Yahweh) behind me is from Togo, he has liver cancer and does not have much time left.  He just had radiation treatment in Maryland, is heading to Togo to visit family and then going back to Maryland for more treatment. He must weigh 90 pounds, and carries one of the sweetest dispositions I have ever seen, especially while being in great pain on a 13 hour flight. I help him lean his chair back, because he does not have the strength to to do it himself.

My eyes are full of liquid on the verge of loosening, but I hold fast. He looks as if he was once a strong and steadfast, I see it in his eyes as his face tells me that he is holding fast as well.

My new friend Yahvia.

My new friend Yahvia.

Yahvia is alone, yet everyone around him is caring for him in ways that I never see at home.  My soul weeps at the way they are loving and serving him. I am in love.

I have felt this feeling before in Romiana during the fall of Communism, in Rwanda post genocide, in the underground church in China- why does oppression bring such strong love to the surface?  God moves strong in the midst of it, a place that he works magic thicker that anywhere else! I sit here with my elbows on the tray, resting the bridge of my nose between two fingers, massaging the small area between the eyebrows to relax.

A Gift from the Giving Keys

A Gift from the Giving Keys

I am in deep anticipation of the movement this week, the wind in the trees, the life in the city and the Divine Presence as Barbara Brown Taylor calls it.

My good friend Sarah who sent me a text message as I boarded yesterday, “ Paint with the colors the seraphim extend to you…whether in word or touch.” The movement has begun.

I can no longer hold back the liquid behind my eyes as I have turned around in my seat to help Yahvia open a few of his 12 medicine bottles, he is looking extremely worn down after 8 hours of sitting in an airplane.  He apologizes to me again for needed my help.

I tell him, “Yahvia, we are now friends, so I am here to help you.”

He answers very excited, “You speak french?!

I laugh and speak slower this time, “No, We are friends!”

His eyes bury deep into mine as he grabs my hand  with tears in his eyes, “You are my friend?”

“Yes, Yahvia we are now friends!”

He doesn’t let go and my heart is lost as I see his wedding ring and beginning to think of his wife, alone, waiting for his return and hoping for good news. I stand watching him finish his medications, he grabs my hand again, his grip is weak, he thanks me and I slide back around in my seat. I had no idea where my soul would lead today, between the dreaming and coming true, as Barbara Brown Taylor would say.  Tomorrow holds more and I will await the Divine Presence as it meets me on the road to Grunchire.  The reason that we are here.

My Gear for the day.

My Gear for the day.

To find out what we are doing in Ethiopia with orphan prevention, please visit: http://bit.ly/love_hope

In Flight Thoughts on Movement, Writing and Family.

My greatest moments in writing have always come while flying.  I can’t really put my finger on why. Maybe my soul falls into the the spell of the many different forms of movement involved physically and mentally that it is stirred to make words. I have written 3 books and countless prose over the 5 continents and 17 countries that I have spent time in. Flight amazes me, the same way a pencil moving across paper caused my soul to stir.  The ability to watch my thoughts come together in form and meaning is miraculous in it’s action…..I ramble.

Taken this evening as the sun painted the sky.

Taken this evening as the sun painted the sky.

Today I leave for 3 countries that I have never set foot upon.  Today my heart pounds in anticipation and my soul feels true movement. My senses are awake in the way they were created to be.  While “Sleeping at Lasts” Atlas EP’s plays in my headphones, my cells collide as if the world were being created…I begin to dream as Ryan sings…

“I’ll keep you safe,

try hard to concentrate,

hold out your hand,

can you feel the weight of it,

the whole world at your fingertips,

don’t be…don’t be afraid.”

I can feel the weight of it, the whole world at my fingertips.  I  try not to be afraid at the weight of it, but I am an artist and I understand that the whole world is meant to be seen. This is my role to play in this life and possibly the next.  I think of my family, the story behind generations, the webs and lines that connect every side, the years of love and loss, future and past. I think ahead to where my feet are taking me. Taking me to visit, love and listen to 150 families who may lose their children, 150 children who may lose their family, who may lose a son or daughter, a brother or sister, who would lose those stories that I hold so dear. Just like the millions around this sphere made out of water and dirt that we inhabit and take for greatness every minute of the day.  I pray that my eyes can see the story to paint, to share, to give to you so that you may care, may see, may feel the things that I do.  I pray I can show you in a way that you may not have seen or felt before.  

As my favorite writer of all time once wrote:

“There is no denying that the artist is someone who is full of questions, who cries them out in great angst, who discovers the rainbow answers in darkness, and then rushes to canvas or paper. An artist is someone who cannot rest, who can never rest as long as there is one suffering person in this world. Along with Plato’s divine madness there is also divine discontent, a longing to find the melody in the discords of chaos, the rhyme in the cacophony, the surprised smile in time of stress or strain.

It is not that what is not enough, for it is; it is that what is had been disarranged, and is crying out to be in place. Perhaps the artist longs to sleep well every night; to eat anything without indigestion; to feel no moral qualms; to turn off the television news and make a sandwich after seeing the devastation and death caused by famine and drought and earthquake and flood. But the artist cannot manage this normalcy. Vision keeps breaking through, and must find means of expression.”  Madeline L’Engle

Hellen Keller- 2012 6'x4.5'

Hellen Keller- 2012 6’x4.5′

(If you want to be a part of the story with me, please visit http://bit.ly/love_hope to see how you can help us support 150 kids so that they do not become orphans and are able to build a story with their families.)

If My Body Were Paper and Bones

“An artist’s only concern is to shoot for some kind of perfection, and on his own terms, not anyone else’s.” 
― J.D. SalingerFranny and Zooey

Today I started a new body of work that is titled “If my body were paper and bones”, all of the pieces will be painted on paper.  Before I began this new journey I created a playlist consisting of Max Richter, The Black Atlantic, The Helio Sequence, Peter Broedrick, Birdy, TV on The Radio, The Lighthouse and the Whaler, M83 and Sigur Ros to bring my ears to ease with the world.

I began to tape paper to a piece of plywood to create a flat surface so the paper doesn’t warp to bad and to create edges or a frame to the piece.  My head started to choose an ocean of color for my brushes, knives and fingers Peter Brodericks “I Am Piano” began to fill my studio (from the It’s Starts Here album) and I was immediatly wisked away to someplace else.  My imagination took hold of my senses and as I felt the paper I began to wonder about our bodies, our lives here on this earth.

We are merely flesh and bone.  Our bodies are broken, torn, weathered and fleeting.  My mind was picturing self as paper, a scultpure of paper and bones.  As Peter Broderick sang “I am Piano”, I played a flim in my head, (transformation):

…(as film flickers apear on the mental screen) my body is now paper, a figure mashed together with pulp that has dried over time, easy to tear, bending when wet, unrecovering from fold.  I moved with the sound and was pressured by the wind, soft and peeling at the edges.  Movement was difficult yet flawless, as momentum set in wrinkles from folds began to manifest across this figure, clean yet stained.  A journal written, yet erased, scratched out, but pages adding by the minute.

(Back to now)

If we were paper and bone could we tear off a sheet when we needed to start over, or would we continue to try and create something beautiful out of the mess?

This is my mind.  This is my world.

An Ocean and Peril Steer me Away

There Seems To Be Rain

To View this body of work please visit http://www.samo4prez.com or http://www.etsy.com/shop/samo4prez?section_id=12457081

The Night Feeding Me.

“Art is the elimination of the unnecessary.” Picasso

I just walked into the studio tonight, Sept 11th, with a mild Austin heat already causing me to sweat upon entering.  An hour prior to the perspiration I was creating a playlist on Spotify, as I always do (no always on Spotify), creating a play list to paint to that is.  This late evening holds the sounds of The Helio Sequence, Rogue Wave, Pinback, El Ten Eleven, Faded Paper Figures, Say Hi To Your Mom, Boy & Bear, and We Are Augustines.  Of course I took a few self-portrait pics and studio shots for instagram posts at some point tonight or tomorrow morning and now I am encompassed by paint, string, canvas, brushes, pallet knives, paint rags, pictures of Andy Warhol and Jean Michel basquiat (that hang in my studio), a show flyer for William Catling from 9-30-1997 that always inspires and encourages me while I create.  William Catling was a professor of mine who had been a major inspiration to myself as an artist and aspiring to be one.

What lies ahead for tonight I do not know.  I have three pieces to finish, two on wood and one on canvas. My color pallet for the last few weeks has consistently been addicted to gold, blue’s, grey, black, white and a mild pink.  I can not seem to escape what these colors seem to be doing to me in a mentally arousing mix of hues.  I have moved forward from my stencil work that has brought me mild success over the last few years and felt led to take a few risks entering back into abstract forms, strokes and flow.  Leaving all things figurative behind.  I have felt the urge or the need to move this way for the last year, but with success in one style comes fear and a lack of change.  I truly belive that as an artist in any medium if you do not take risks you will never grow as an artist.  I also believe this to be true about life, but that is another story, for another blog, another conversation.  Tonight I paint.
“A Good artist has less time than ideas. ”  Martin Kippenberger

Degas, Woody Allen and my Humble Studio in Austin.

“My art, what do you want me to say about it?  Do you think you can explain the merits of a picture to those who do not see them?…I can find the best and clearest words to explain my meaning, and I have spoken them to the most intelligent people about art, and they have not understood; but among people who understand, words are not necessary, you say humph, he, ha and everything has been said.”  Edgar Degas

photo: Daniel Davis

I recently watched Woody Allens “Midnight in Paris” for the first time (and after a long wait).  It was everything I hoped it would be and more.  I have been in a massive state of creation lately with a new body of work and it was a perfect film to offer me a bit of reflection on a few of my artistic hero’s.  I am always looking for films that can coincide with a “creative binge”, films like ones that Julian Schnabel,  Jean-Pierre JeunetWes AndersonMichel Gondry, or Charlie Kaufman/Spike Jonze would create.  Woody did not disappoint me.  So often I become like Gil and completely disappear when I enter my Paris (my studio).  I often find myself in moments where I am discussing art with my dead peers, sitting for a moment in my pink studio chair and talking to Andy, Jean-Michel, Franz, Rothko, Cy , Degas or many others whose books line my bookshelves’.  I get what Edgar is saying in the quote at the beginning of this post.  The greatest moments for me while painting are when am talking with my artist peers and moments where words don’t need to be spoken.  A look, a nod or a snear, a laugh or a grunt speak volumes and encourage the moment where the brush meets the canvas.

So as I continue to master my craft as a painter, I look forward to the silent moments I spend with my hero’s and search the quiet for answers and guidance as I move with the rhythm and dreams of one day becoming like them.

Bon Iver, David Ramirez, Penny & Sparrow, Nico Stai and Seryn.

I wanted to share some music and video of a few artists who are inspiring my work in the last few months.  A few are friends, all are peers and some I hope to interview or meet down the road for my Hypervocal column “Engaging Culture”.  I have watched each of these videos multiple times in the last few weeks throughout my day of creating all sorts of random things.  So, I hope that you enjoy them in your visual modus operandi.  If you are in Austin for SXSW on March 9th, I would like to invite you out to our show.  The poster is below and Seryn, the last video on this short list is headlining.  Hope you will visit our little town and have a pint on me!

     Bon Iver at AIR Studios.

     David Ramirez: Stick Around

     Penny and Sparrow: Creature

     Nico Stai: The Skies Over Your Head

     Seryn

Our SXSW poster that I created for the event.