Thursday, February 28, 2013

Shiny and new

It's a new dawn
It's a new day
It's a new life
For me
And I'm feeling good.

And this old world is a new world
And a bold world
For me
And I'm feeling good.
-- Nina Simone, "Feeling Good"

Self portrait 2-28-13

I have been "spring cleaning" my life a little bit recently ... dragging some pretty heavy and ripe personal garbage to the curb. Definitely necessary. Very definitely difficult. But the lightness I'm feeling is too good to want to go back. And now that it's out there, I definitely don't want to drag that shit back up the psychological and emotional driveway. No way. Not when I'm feeling so shiny and new. I'm even sleeping better! And nothing burns off the cold depressing fog of a bleak February morning like a good night's sleep.

Also, I got a new latex rubber D.A. wig. I mean, why wouldn't I be feeling good?

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Dreidl, dreidl, dreidl, I made it out of clay

OK, it's not really a dreidl.
It's another face.
But I did make it out of clay.
And jiggle eyes.
And false eyelashes.

Polymer clay face with jiggle eyes and false eyelashes 2-27-13

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


Self portrait 2-26-13
I never heard of paperface
Until I moves to the West Coast
Where I found that to be smooth
I had to wear a paperface

That's alright
There's just one thing
How am I supposed to sing
With this thing in my way
With this thing...
In my face

Only hope to see
See what's underneath
Only hope to be

The me that's underneath.

-- Weezer, "Paperface" 

Monday, February 25, 2013


In a real dark night of the soul, 
it is always three o'clock in the morning, 
day after day.  
-- F. Scott Fitzgerald

... after day, after day, after day.

Self portrait 2-25-13     

Aaaaand, just when I thought I was getting a handle on my insomnia .... it's baaaaack.
Wide eyed and wide awake since 3 a.m.
Gonna be a long, long day.

Self portrait 2-25-13

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Keeping it real

Nothing fancy.
No tricks, bells or whistles.
Simply me.

Self portrait 2-24-13

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Respect the 'stache

 “Since I don't smoke, I decided to grow a mustache - it is better for the health.
However, I always carried a jewel-studded cigarette case in which, 
instead of tobacco, were carefully placed several mustaches, Adolphe Menjou style. 
I offered them politely to my friends: 'Mustache? Mustache? Mustache?' 
Nobody dared to touch them. 
This was my test regarding the sacred aspect of mustaches.”
-- Salvador Dali, Dali's Mustache 

I made another clay face.
Here he is, rocking the 'stache.
The 'stache is everything.

Polymer clay face with jiggle eyes and string 2-23-13
 And here he is wearing a little hat!

Polymer clay face with jiggle eyes, string and a hat 2-23-13

Friday, February 22, 2013

Night mares

“When she woke up crying for one of her nightmares, the Kolker would stay with her, 
brush her hair with his hands, collect her tears in thimbles for her to drink the next morning 
(The only way to overcome sadness is to consume it, he said), and more than that: 
once her eyes closed and she fell back asleep, he was left to bear the insomnia. 
There was a complete transfer, like a speeding billiard ball colliding with a resting one." 
-- Jonathan Safran Foer, Everything Is Illuminated
Night mares 2-22-13

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Making faces

Polymer clay face with jiggle eyes 2-20-13
I shaped this little face from a lump of polymer clay and a pair of jiggle eyes. He makes me pretty happy.
Playing with clay makes me pretty happy too.

I'm no sculptor, but give me a lump of clay and I travel to a happy place that goes all the way back to first grade. On the first day of school way back when I was a little kid, along with new crayons and fresh pencils, there was always a rectangular block of brand new, cellophane wrapped modeling clay on each student's desk. About the size of a Snickers bar.
Blue. Red. Green.
For my first grade teacher, Mrs. Wallace, I'm sure the clay was just an ingenious way to keep our little hands busy and our little mouths quiet while she read aloud to us or assisted other students.
For me, it was a handful of happy.

A few years ago I took a for real ceramics class in a for real ceramics studio, with for real pottery wheels, extruders, vats of  glazes, kilns and everything. We learned hand building techniques, meaning we didn't get to use the potter's wheels. Instead, we created pieces by simply molding and coiling and pressing and carving the clay with our fingers and a few simple tools. And in this class, each student received a 25 pound brick of pottery clay. Heaven!

We met twice a week from 8 to 11:30 a.m. Often I stayed and kept working through lunch. Why eat when you can play with clay? The hours seemed like minutes. It felt like flying. And the flying took me all the way back to first grade where I was fully immersed, absorbed, lost, happy -- my mind swept clean of everything except for the shape emerging in my hands.

I don't have a kiln, or access to one, so polymer clay is a perfect material for me. I mostly use it to make foundations for Papier Mache masks.

And for immediate transport to my happy place.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Be vewy, vewy qwiet

mug [muhg]
1. a drinking cup, usually cylindrical in shape, having a handle, and often of a heavy substance, as earthenware.
2. the quantity it holds.
3. Slang.
     a. the face.
     b. the mouth.
     c. an exaggerated facial expression; grimace, as in acting.

The Elmer Fudd coffee mug on my work desk is all face. He doesn't have any arms to carry a rifle with. So he just hold my pens and pencils. No more buwwets? Sowwy, fewwas, but I'm a vegetawian.

Elmer Fudd mug 2-19-13

Monday, February 18, 2013

The face in my cake

“You cannot go on being a good egg forever. You must either hatch or rot." -- C.S. Lewis

Egg face 2-18-13
Or ... get whisked and baked into a Funfetti cake! Which is exactly what happened to these three eggs, which formed a smiley face in the bottom of my generations-old enameled mixing bowl. I love the matrix of scratch lines, like pencil sketch marks, all round its inside. They are marks made by me, my mother, my grandmother, my great grandmother. With forks, whisks, electric beaters ... we've all added our lines to the stories this bowl could tell.

As for the eggs, they come to me weekly from a friendly acquaintance who keeps chickens, because she grew up on a farm and likes having chickens around. But she doesn't like eggs. So she gives them away.

Lucky me!

She even plants a garden just for the chickens, so they eat nothing but fresh grown goodness. They are happy, happy, free range chickens. No wonder their eggs made a smiley face!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Under my skin

"Her feelings she hides
Her dreams she can't find
She's losing her mind
She's falling behind
She can't find her place
She's losing her faith
She's falling from grace
She's all over the place."
-- Avril LaVigne, Under My Skin

Self portrait 2-17-13

Saturday, February 16, 2013

May the Face be with you

C-3P0 2-16-13
There are days when it feels like my protective shell has been peeled back and I am stripped bare. The sensation is raw, like exposed nerves under an onslaught of weightless invisible air that turns suddenly and unbearably harsh. I try to cover up, to turn away, to somehow shield my fragile, hyper-sensitive self from the sharp edges of discomfort, to mask the pain. But a mask is terribly insufficient protection for a whole self under siege, a self that needs to be properly and tightly swaddled, re-wrapped, bound up, tucked in and held snugly together.

Friday, February 15, 2013

The 15th of February

Self portrait 2-15-13
"I just want to see her smile again. 
I just want her to know that I don't care about the scars." 
-- The Joker, The Dark Knight

Self portrait 2-15-13

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Who are you?

Evey: Who are you?
V. : Who? Who is but the form following the function of what and what I am is a man in a mask.
Evey: Well I can see that.
V. : Of course you can, I’m not questioning your powers of observation, I’m merely remarking upon the paradox of asking a masked man who he is.
Evey: Oh, right.
 -- Steve Moore, V for Vendetta

Joe with mask 2-14-13
Joe with mask (2) 2-14-13

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Takin' it lying down

Street face 2-13-13
Winter in Cleveland is rough -- snow, salt, plow trucks. It takes some serious chutzpah to slog through it. You can't take a Cleveland winter lying down. Or can you?

I stepped over this little dude (literally) lying flat on his back next to the crosswalk on Euclid Avenue on the campus of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, where I am currently in rehearsal for a play. I don't know who made him, who decided to place him there in a traffic lane, kitty-corner to the storm drain among the dropped cigarette butts. He is made of tape, I think.

Street face 2-13-13
I walked over him for a few days (every time I crossed Euclid to get to the Starbucks on the other side), and grew very fond of his anguished little face. I started crossing at that crosswalk on purpose, like a good luck ritual, just so I could see if he was still there. Hoping he was. Hoping nobody had peeled him from the tarmac. So far, he's still there. Pretty tenacious little dude.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

He ain't heavy ... He's my monkey.

Woe is me
Well I been dyin'
Got to get that monkey off my back.
The fortune teller looked into my eyeballs
The wrinkles on her face about to crack
She said you best believe it, you ain't goin' nowhere
Unless you get that monkey off your back.
-- Aerosmith, "Monkey On My Back"

Monkey on my back 2-12-13

Monday, February 11, 2013


All Gone bowl 2-11-13
 This is the All Gone bowl, and it's all mine.

It wasn't always. Growing up, I had to share it with my sisters. It was the only dish of its kind in Grandma's cupboard, so we had to take turns using it whenever more than one of us stayed overnight at her little brick house on Shoemaker Drive. We all coveted the All Gone bowl for ice cream, for cereal, for potato chips, for Cheetos.

I am a middle child, second of four, and rarely Grandma's "chosen one." It was easy to feel chronically overlooked with cuter little sisters and a more beguiling older one always pulling focus. But getting the All Gone bowl made me feel a little bit special somehow, a little less invisible, even if I only got it because it was technically my turn.

When the bowl was full, I knew for certain that the smiling clown was down there, waiting underneath the whatever-it-was I had to eat all of in order to reveal his funny face. When I tipped the bowl to drain the last dregs of milk and sugar, by golly there he'd be. Every time. Looking back at me from close up. Face to face. Eye to eye. 

"I see you."
"I see you, too."

When Grandma sold her house and moved to an assisted living apartment, my sisters and I each got a box of  her stuff to either keep or relinquish to the garage sale. I kept the clay honey pot with the beehive-shaped dipper and sculpted bear on its lid. I kept the smiling wooden orange egg timer hourglass. And I kept the All Gone bowl.

I'm fairly certain the contents of the boxes were purely arbitrary.
My mother just divvied stuff up at random.
Getting the All Gone bowl was nothing but dumb luck.
And I'll take dumb luck over no luck every day of the week.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

A long night this morning

"Am I sleeping? Have I slept at all? This is insomnia." 
 -- Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

Self portrait 2-10-13

Saturday, February 9, 2013


One of my fellas.
Okay, it's me.
With a beard.

Self portrait 2-9-13

Self portrait 2-9-13

Friday, February 8, 2013

A good impression

This face was a happy accident.

Face in Paperclay 2-8-13

I was goofing around, searching for an idea, squishing a kneaded eraser in one hand and holding a plastic Princess Leia figure in the other. I smushed Leia's face into the eraser, and it made a pretty good impression. Curious, I swapped out the eraser for a blob of Paperclay and smushed Leia's face into that. It made an even better impression.

Then I shot a few frames and the light and shadows played this wonderful little trick. What was, in reality, a hollow, face-shaped indentation appeared to bulge in 3D from the surface of the clay in a most ethereal, lunar, planetary way.

I want to go to this planet.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Vise versa

Vise. Vice.

One is a tool that holds tightly onto a problem, allowing me to work on it.
One is a problem that holds tightly onto me, allowing me to wreck myself.

Gotta love a good homonym.

Vise versa 2-7-13

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

I fall to pieces

Self portrait 2-6-13
Mistakes happen. Sure, I could (and do) tear myself up over my mistakes. But if I've learned anything from my artistic disasters it is that staying there, all torn up over what went wrong, kills my creativity like nobody's business. Shuts. It. Down.

I am also learning that forward momentum resumes, often at dizzying and intoxicating speed, when I sift through the mess and use the pieces of mistake -- the torn up bits -- to explore how I might re-assemble, re-purpose or re-imagine the "what went wrong" into something that is "just right."

During last year's 365 days project, I was sewing a leather corset, and my sewing machine kept jamming. In my frustration over my Viking "Huskystar" hungrily chewing up my leather, I literally tore the machine to pieces. Killed it. Smashed, unscrewed, hammered and pried off every last bit of the thing until all I had was a pile of steaming sewing machine guts and a picked-clean carcass. I felt much better. A few days later, after the smoke had cleared and I'd settled down, I pushed up my sleeves, reached into the mess and made this mask:

Sewing machine mask 4-22-12
So much cooler than a sewing machine.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Fighting my demons

Sometimes I wrestle with my demons.
Sometimes we just snuggle.

Fighting my demons 2-5-13
I suppose there are people who don't have to constantly watch their backs and look over their shoulders for a potential ambush from their cadre of personal demons.
I am not one of those people.

I have demons-a-plenty. Insecurity. Fear. Self pity. Addictions. The Past. Failure. Doubt. Shame. Guilt. Anxiety. Rage. They circle me constantly, like cheetahs camouflaged in the tall grass. Stalking. Watching. And I'm just a weak gazelle hanging out a little too close to the edge of the herd.
Sometimes I escape. And sometimes the cheetah sinks its claws in deep and strangles me with a bite to the neck. But even if I do slip free, I know another strike is coming. Because the cheetah is a hungry, hungry cat.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Wide awake. Again.

"I've always envied people who sleep easily. 
Their brains must be cleaner, 
the floorboards of the skull well swept, 
all the little monsters closed up 
in a steamer trunk at the foot of the bed." 
--David Benioff, City of Thieves

The nights are long and lonely 2-4-13

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Face off

Meet the Helmeted Sheep.

Helmeted sheep 2-3-13
Football is kind of a big deal at my house. We dig it. Somewhere along the way we acquired four of these little foam rubber sheep (from our local hospital's sleep lab, I think). And somewhere else along the way we bought them a complete set of NFL mini helmets. So on any given Sunday (or Thursday, or Monday) the sheep suit up in opposing team helmets and face off in front of the flat screen. After the game, the losing sheep gets knocked onto its side and the victorious sheep stands on top of it -- menacingly, tauntingly -- for the rest of the week. So don't let their sweet little faces fool you. They are fiercely competitive. I'd even go so far as to call them bloodthirsty.

Helmeted sheep 2-3-13
In honor of Superbowl Sunday, the sheep are rocking their respective Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco '49ers team helmets. Personally, I don't really care who wins. In keeping with my self-destructive tendencies, I'm an Eagles fan.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Cum on Feel the Noize

Self portrait 2-2-13

There are days when I take perfectly fine, serviceable, focused, nicely lit, clear photos of myself. But when I scroll back through the images, I realize they don't really capture the me that is me on that particular day. At all. Until I distort them.
Distortion is typically something to be avoided. If my pictures come out of the camera blurry or grainy, it's because I made a mistake. I goofed. I chose the wrong setting. I didn't light my subject right. I moved. I jiggled the camera. Distortion is unwanted noise or interference that gets in the way of the image's clarity.

But not always.

Sometimes it is the exactly the distortion, the noise, the intentional warping/exaggerating/twisting/spinning/bending of the image, that makes it suddenly clear. A distorted image, for me anyway, can be the more accurate artistic expression  because it breaks open an emotional quality, an atmosphere, a state of mind, a feeling, an idea, that is otherwise locked. Noise gets attention, or draws attention, in a way that I find satisfying and useful -- especially when the distortion, ironically, results in a more accurate communication of what's truest.

Friday, February 1, 2013

One of the boys

Tapping my inner cool dude.
Wait, what? Everybody doesn't have a latex rubber crewcut wig?
That's a real shame.
Cuz everybody should.

Self portrait 2-1-13