The First Rule of Art Club…

Private Art is my new obsession. Remember, I’m an actress… the opportunity to create something strictly for myself, is tantalizing and fulfilling, and damn near naughty. I love it. Whatever I do within this realm, is for me – for my growth as a person – and nothing else. Ahhhh.

As a director and acting teacher, I have always preached to my actors that the “end” result of their performance is not apparent when the curtain falls; it is what you, the actors, the designers, technicians and audience members take with you when you leave the theatre. It is REALLY difficult to convince a theatre artist that performance alone isn’t the most important thing in the world. The best I believe I have managed to do, is convince an actor or two that this performance will probably make the next better. Harumph…

As a theatre Managing Director, I preached to our audiences, Board and committee Members (and anyone else who would listen) that we were supporting our own growth through the act of enabling the creation art. Frankly, I don’t think very many people took that idea seriously. Some nodded their heads, more rolled their eyes or simply voiced their tacit disagreement/disapproval/ennui. I obviously have not yet found a way to express this idea clearly and in a compelling fashion. Well, I’m not giving up, dammit!

When I research a character, hone my performance skills, craft a song, paint, sculpt, take a photograph or write a poem or story, I choose to grow as a person from the experience of the process of artistic creation. I learn about myself; I teach myself; I develop skills that you cannot see or hear or experience in that construct itself… only in me. I grow as an individual.

Now, you may grow as an individual as a result of experiencing my artistic product – my performance or piece – and that’s lovely. I really appreciate that idea, but that is not what this is about. I’ve spent most of my life trying to create something that will move you. I don’t mean to sound harsh here, but that’s enough for you – I want this for me. I’m putting the oxygen mask over my face first, as it were.

Okay, now imagine a room or a town or a Town Hall or a company or congregation, filled with individuals who purposefully grow and develop themselves through the act of artistic creation. Do you see it? I honestly believe we are all doing our best at any given time, most of the time. I don’t mean to belittle your best or that of the person next to you. What I’m suggesting is that our best can improve if we find a vehicle to facilitate activation of some different brain cells and a fresh point of view.

And now we’re back to my painting again. And please, insert your form of art in the place of “painting.” If you don’t have a form of art, decide on one, it won’t matter if you feel you can do it well or not, you don’t have to ever show it to anyone or even talk about it. In fact…

The first rule of our new art club: Do not talk about art club.

That’s the second rule too.

The third rule: Do not show, exhibit, print, frame, re-enact, record or otherwise raise up on a flagpole whatever artistic expression it is that you choose to bring to Art Club. Don’t talk about it, show it, share it or think for one moment that anyone but you will experience whatever you choose “it” to be. The thing itself is absolutely relevant, but only to you in this moment.

Back to my Private Art [painting] again. I’m not going to talk about it, but I will talk about the growth, pleasure and stimulation I receive as a result of it. I am learning patience and acceptance of my expression of process. I am learning to see the world around me without judgment or editing. I am learning that what I thought was true – that which I would have sworn was true… have committed hours and years to… have dressed and worked and said and done for the sake of… have begun and ended relationships because of… have hated and loved in the name of – has not been true and in fact, was only real, substantial and relevant to me, in my mind, in that moment.

That is what I’ve learned thus far from my “it.” Jeez, I can hardly wait for the next visit to Art Club!

I’m still a conventional artist. Hell, I’m posting this blog, right? This is not exactly the front page of the New York Times, but then again, it’s out there to be seen. My Private Art is separate from any piece or story I choose to share with the rest of the world – My Private art is what I bring to Art Club. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

I Knew It!

I hate it when people say “I knew it,” especially when what they knew was something unpleasant. Am I supposed to feel better because you’re so clairvoyant or observant or whatever?

And by the way, if you’re so doggone observant and wise, why didn’t you say something BEFORE it actually happened?

I feel better now that I’ve gotten that off my chest. Did you see that coming too?

Private Art

Months ago, I wrote that I had taken up acrylic painting for a hobby. I’m still doing it and I cannot tell you how much I enjoy it. I like to paint things that just appear in my head, like faces in swirls of color, as well as things that appear outside my window, like a willow tree that looks different and more intriguing to me every day.

That willow tree is especially amazing in the moonlight.

I have spent many a wee hour of the night and morning, flicking the light on and off – off so I can see the tree… on so I can see my brush touch the canvas – to paint that tree in the moonlight. I finally discovered that my Kindle light could be tucked into the top of the canvas, only too discover after the sun rose that the light didn’t offer me enough to actually paint what I saw. Rather, what I saw on the canvas didn’t look so good in the light of day.

Oh, that tree! I love painting that tree. The midnight blue sky that ends at the bumpy horizon. The green and yellow tree becomes black and gray. The hill upon which it sits becomes obsidian and slate. When I stare longer, I begin to see hints of green and a strange, rich burgundy. I love painting that tree.

BUT, I won’t show it to you. In fact, I am no longer showing any of my paintings to anyone. I’m giddy and filled with the torrid temptation to break my own rule at the thought of it. I have been showing off my paintings to friends and family. I have a small group of loved ones, to whom I send periodic cell phone pics of my paintings, so they can watch them evolve (one of my favorite aspects of the painting is the evolution, but then again, I’m a theatre person at heart). Even those folks don’t get to see the paintings any more.

Ahhh, the mere idea of art, just for the sake of art, just for the sake of me creating that art, makes me squeeze my knees together in delicious anticipation. You see, I am an actress; I have spent most of my life learning to hone a form of art specifically for audience consumption. I fall in love with my characters as I read the script and analyze my every motivation in the quiet of my home, knowing that the way in which I present my art must be digested by unnamed floating faces in the dark of the theatre. It’s like stripping naked and dancing in an apartment on a crowded boulevard at night, with no shades on the windows. But I just want to dance. How different my dance would be if I knew no one was looking…

This idea of the tawdry voyeurism of the theatre became most known to me when I began to direct. My shows were such delicate tapestries of story-telling. My casts, designers, technicians and I created such intricate finery. I dreaded the disruption in balance those strangers would bring. Those people in the auditorium were Johns with fists full of cash, paying to dally with my precious lovelies.

Yeah, that sounds really dramatic, I know. What’s your point? We ARE talking about the theatre, after all. What? Did you expect me to sound dry and pragmatic about this?

Okay… I wrote a profound and never before seen algorithm on the chalkboard and then invited strangers off the street to press their faces against it.

Got it?

So anyway, now I’m painting and I finally have my precious, private, tangible expressions of emotion – my emotion – and I’m not sharing them with anyone. PRIVATE ART. This is like singing in the shower at the top of my lungs. Not because I’m rehearsing or honing my chords for anything… just singing for the joy of creating an expression of my immediacy.

My immediacy…

Just Use It!

Oh hell, I dug my cherished Chanel Coco perfume bottle from the bottom of my jewelry box (where I keep the best stuff, of course), removed the topper and breathed in the aroma… of rubbing alcohol mixed with rotten bell peppers. 

I believe in using the good china, glasses and linens to celebrate even the most trite of occasions, if not every day.  I wear my good, matching underwear often enough that it’s nothing special and I use that expensive pen to write grocery lists, BUT, when it comes to toiletries, I become some sort of weird hoarder with the cosmetic equivalent of Auschwitz syndrome.  (and I already know I’m going to hell of even using that analogy – I couldn’t help myself)

Hello, my name is Donna [hi Donna] and I am afraid to use my own cosmetics.

What a loser!  Seriously?  Sometimes the perfume, designer mascara or incredibly expensive shampoo/conditioner combo is a frickin SAMPLE and I don’t want to use it… why?  ‘Cause this isn’t a special enough occasion to use the tiny Aveda bottles I got the last time we stayed at a Kimpton Hotel.  I know, right?

That’s been my secret for decades – publicly, I adore myself.  “Make way for Queen Donna” and all that, but in private, in the bathroom no less, I keep the good stuff capped and tucked away for whatever occasion I may someday deem special enough to open it.  Like…. meeting the real Queen, perhaps.  I’ve had luxurious vacations, meet-the-family visits, black-tie events, first days at work, last days at work, awards galas, graduations, opening nights and anniversaries that have NOT tempted me to break the seal of the La Fleur moisturizing oil I got ON SALE last Christmas.

So, when I smelled that rotten Chanel, I realized something awful: this shit goes to waste if you don’t use it.  Those divine scents and slickery textures will rot like a forgotten Easter egg cleverly hidden behind the couch if you don’t USE THEM!

SO, last Saturday, I did something amazing.  I used everything possible I had been hoarding all this time, even thuse things that were in the bottom of my jewelry box.  I shampooed, conditioned, moisturized, styled, made-up, moisturized some more and perfumed with the best my cosmetic case had to offer.  I was drunk in scents  and textures that made me feel as rich as a Hilton and a Marcos, all rolled into one.  I took my time.  I savored and I ADORED myself with goodies collected over years of denial and sensory starvation.

(okay, I probably went a little too far on that last sentence – I totally treat myself pretty darn well all the time.  No one starving here)

Anywho, ya know what?  I recommend it.  In fact, I did it again on Monday.  Today is Tuesday…. I drank my coffee, ate my breakfast, worked out, then got in the shower and brought out the big guns.  All those little and big bottles of lovelies I’ve been denying myself came out were used up and tossed in the trash, never to be hoarded again. 

Sure, my skin feels fan-frickin-tastic and I smell like the Greek Goddess Aphrodite visiting Oz on holiday, but the best part?  I have made room for more toiletries and I cannot WAIT to treat myself to my future!