This week only. Through April 19th.
All my dark lady original paintings – 50% off.
See that guy in the desert?
Ok. Not really. I honestly just liked the image.
My calendar, the one in my kitchen with the Hubble photos, the stars, and the big, red, fiery galaxy, says today is April something or other. The year 2020. It suggests today rests in the heart of spring. That, today being a weekday, I should be off at my corporate day-job, and that instead of sitting in the quiet gloom of my peaceful little house, I should be pounding my life away in a turbulent office, selling machines to men I’ve never met.
I’m here. At home. Working. Writing. Painting. Listening to the birds. Watching my cat, Bacon, scale the woodshed. Waiting for my son to thump down the stairs and ask for his morning breakfast of apples and Cocoa Pebbles.
I gotta say…
This isn’t how I expected this year to begin.
And honestly, I’m torn about how it’s going. Like a piece of paper. Right down the middle. Half a sheet wants the quarantine to end tomorrow (but not for life to return to normal.) The other half wants this situation, this peace, to last…forever.
I should probably explain.
Part I – The Day Job
You see…it’s like this. The corporate life I described, the selling of industrial machines…it’s been my life for twenty years now. Every day, I abandon (I mean, used to abandon) the comforts of my little house to journey across a major city, drop my son off at school, snare meals when I could, and park my butt in the same chair in the same office, doing the exact same work I’ve always done.
Soulless work, as it happens.
Machines. Metal. Money.
Easily performed from the comfort of my kitchen? Absolutely.
And so now I ponder…
All the years I’ve put in, all the hours in traffic, all the money thrown toward fuel, meals on the go, daycare, school…
All the time lost, the driving, the wear and tear on my trusty car, the exhaustion, the working all day just to collapse in a heap and do it all over the next day…
Because of Coronavirus, because of a disease which has disrupted the flow of everything, suddenly I’m awake. I’m alive. I’m breathing. I’m at home, doing my work in a pool of sunshine, dressed comfortably, glancing out the window at a car I haven’t had to refuel in a month, peering over at my son as he merrily reads his first Tolkien novel – The Hobbit.
Again…this is not what I expected.
As I sit here, basking in soft music, I ask myself – what have I been doing all these years? Why, if I could’ve been doing this work at home (I could have…and been far more productive than while in a distant office) have I garbage-canned two decades of life? Why have any of us, with our wifi, laptop computers, and cell phones, played this absurd game?
I don’t have the answers.
But I do know this:
Now, instead of arriving home after dark every night, a hungry child in tow, an empty bank account, my gas tank on ‘E’, and my shoulders sagging…
To be fair, I’ve always painted. Always. On weekends. During holidays. I took entire vacation weeks, not to leave the house for a sandy beach, but to lock myself indoors and make art. Or write books. Or both.
And now, I paint every day. Without losing hours to a daily commute, I’m free to step away from my corporate work at day’s end and immediately begin creating. Suddenly, what was once weekend adventuring has become my primary source of everything. Income. Happiness. Stress relief. Freedom. I’ve regained a huge chunk of my life. I feel alive.
…because of Coronavirus.
Yes, that same thing which has killed tens of thousands, that disease which fills the supermarkets with Coronazombies, has somehow become a boon to me. And that’s a little messed up, isn’t it? That I should experience a renaissance while thousands of others are struggling. That I should be at peace while my neighbors just up the street can’t pay their mortgage.
A better man might feel guilty. He might look at himself in the mirror and say, “Your peace of mind comes at the price of others’ pain.”
But I don’t have it in me. I can’t feel guilt for no longer wanting to participate in the corporate merry-go-round of work-sleep-work. If I could (and I may yet find a way) I would give a portion of my pay to those who actually need to go into work. To the builders. The makers. The laborers. They should make more. And maybe when this is over, they will. But for me, who can literally do my work while loincloth-clad and sitting atop a grassy hill in the middle of nowhere, I question the whole point of offices. Of cubicles. Of traffic. Of executives flying across the world every day…when the meeting could’ve just been an email.
And I’m grateful to, at least for the moment, have escaped it.
I’m just sorry it took a pandemic to make this possible.
Part II – Love Distance Love
In case I made it seem like it’s all strawberries and cream, allow me to elucidate.
There’s a girl, you see.
And she lives 770 miles away.
It’s how life goes, isn’t it? For every see there’s a saw. For every up, a down. In this case, for as fortunate as I’ve been to awaken to a better life because of the quarantine, I’ve been unlucky in this crucial way.
I have no way of seeing the love of my life.
For many reasons, it’s impossible right now. Her city and mine have enforced rigorous lockdowns. We both have children who need us to stay put. While I’m locked away in artistic hermitude with my one son, she’s virtually imprisoned with her entire family, seven people, in a small rural household.
In the best of times, long-distance love is hard. Actually, hard isn’t the word. I prefer the term ‘routinely heartbreaking.’ The one person I want to see more than any other (my son notwithstanding) is the one person I can’t get to. Folks online wisecrack that their marriages might not endure the quarantine, that they might go insane spending all day with their spouse, their kids, their domestic life…and here I am, wishing I could just have a few hours, a few days, a quick break in the fabric of Corona-tude in which to hold hands with my love.
So for all my pontificating about how legendarily wonderful it is to have escaped corporate servitude, I’m torn. Like paper. In half.
With the pandemic, I’m free to live, to breathe, to exist outside the wasteful and traffic-riddled rituals of office life.
But with the quarantine, I can’t do the one thing I most desire.
I can’t look her in the eyes. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not likely for a long, long while.
I used to joke with her that we were like a military couple. One of us would get a moment’s leave from our batallion and use it to spend a few days with the other. But now it feels like a war has broken out, and that the best we can do is to write each other letters from distant battlefields. Words on a page, photos on a phone…they’re quite lovely, yet hardly a substitute for a moonlit walk, a kiss, or a shared meal.
First-world problems, right? That’s what I tell myself. People are out there struggling to pay their bills, mourning the loss of loved ones, and dying…and I’m sitting here in shorts, working from the most pleasant office in the world, soaking up the morning sun.
But even so…
…this strange balance of good fortune and heart-rending separation…
…I won’t say it’s easy.
Part III – Artistic Liberation
Ultimately, all this time alone might be accidentally ideal.
If I can’t yet see my girl, and if corporate life doesn’t have to be its typically grueling thing for the moment, I have but one choice…
More than ever before.
It’s been three weeks so far. Three weeks of isolation from everyone in the world except an eight-year old boy (who, much to my amazement, is a quiet, thoughtful bookworm.)
Three weeks of artistic hermitude.
And it promises to last a while longer.
While the world ruminates, and while everyone who’s not me craves a swift return to normal societal life (‘Why?’ I would ask) I’ve essentially started an art commune. In my kitchen and garage. For one. Paintings are flying off my brush, and flying off my walls. Thank goodness for art-lovers, collectors, and people who support local business. With their support, I’ve reached a joyous place.
I get to create.
I get to support myself with my creations.
I get to improve my craft, and enjoy the sort of peace I haven’t felt since…ever.
When corporate life reboots (And being the capitalistic nature of America, it will) I won’t have to go back. I’ll have a choice. With the strange set of circumstances surrounding Coronavirus, and the partial crumbling of yesteryear’s surprisingly fragile economy, I’ve been impossibly fortunate. I’m as grateful as one human can be. I also feel a sense of great responsibility, not to rest on my laurels and soak up the freedom, but to work harder than ever. To paint more. To write better books. To educate my son without indoctrinating him. To make no waste. To leave a tiny footprint (carbon or otherwise) on the world.
To both thrive and honor this existence.
Yes, maybe I am the guy in the desert. Maybe I really am striding alone atop a sandy dune.
But it’s ok.
Despite everything, I count myself as one of the luckiest guys in the universe.
However, if anyone wants to kidnap my girl and bring her to me, the first ten paintings are free…
Stay safe out there.
Join my one-man art commune here.
I’m J Edward.
I paint. A lot. Maybe too much. Honestly, these days, it’s all I do. If I’m not painting, I’m preparing canvasses. If I’m not prepping, I’m conceptualizing new trees, new landscapes, new ways to end the world.
All day. Every day. And most of the nights, too.
Yes. It’s true. I have no social life. I live in a colorful hole, and I’m fine with it.
For the last two years, life has been good to me. I’ve found myself able to make a living almost purely via art. It’s a dreamlike state, and surely one I never thought I’d reach. Yet here I am, up to my elbows in Mars Black and Unbleached Titanium, knee-deep in stacks of pristine canvasses gleaned from the shelves of the local Michael’s craft store. My house is a museum, almost every square inch of my walls covered up by images of trees, ships, towers, and strange, surrealistic objects.
It’s a good life.
But there is one thing.
One little dilemma.
A small something about which my collectors have reached out and tapped me on my shoulder.
I never sign my work.
The other day, a nice lady who’d just purchased several originals and prints sent me a message. She was very polite. Very reasonable. “I was disappointed,” she said. “None of the pieces were signed.”
She explained her distress at length, and I tried (and hopefully succeeded) in politely and honestly explaining myself.
“I never sign them,” I said. “It’s about the art, not the artist.”
“It’s just a thing with me.”
She never did reply. As of today, I’m not sure whether she understood. Or appreciated my view. Or whether she quietly fumed and plotted never again to buy from me.
Frankly, I get it.
Truth is…original art isn’t quite like any other consumer purchase. It’s just not. Sure, a signed Spiderman # 1 comic might fetch a high price, but it’s not the only Spiderman # 1, and it’s probably not the only signed one, either. Paintings, especially canvas paintings properly varnished and cared for, have a long, long shelf (or wall) life, and tend to endure the ages better than other items, given that they are rarely touched, typically only viewed.
What I’m really getting at is…
…what my point is…
…my art will outlive me.
Being of only modest talent and ambition, I’m never going to be the next Van Gogh or H.R. Giger or Zdzislaw Beksinki. And yet, I’ve still created things, unique things, in which my beloved patrons have placed much faith. These objects, well cared for, might sit upon their walls, their children’s walls, for many decades to come. With any luck, I’ll be long gone before they start to decay, and the slow entropy of the years wears down their color.
And finally, on that day, the person who created them (me) will no longer be recognized as their creator. These creations will become creator-less. Orphans, if you will, haunting the walls of people who haven’t the faintest idea who I am…or who I was. They’ll become free, in a way. Unbound to me.
If I sit on my couch and dwell on it, I realize something:
Most artists are not okay with this arrangement.
I suppose, not signing a painting (or a sculpture, or any hand-crafted item) is a little like having a child and giving it no last name. It’s maybe a bit like having a favorite pet, then forgetting it once it passes on. To some collectors and artists, it might even be considered arrogant. I’ve been called as much by a few buyers. And on the same subject, I’ve been asked, “Why? Why don’t you sign them? Don’t you want to be remembered?”
The short answer is…
…way deep down…
I don’t care about being remembered.
And while it may challenge the prevailing wisdom of signing one’s art with a flourish (or at least subtly inking the back of the canvas) I know I’m not the only one. To me, the art really is all about the art. My part, creating it, is my joy, my passion, and oftentimes my suffering. But after I’m done, after each piece ends up on someone else’s wall, it becomes no longer mine to claim. My part in the story ends with each painting that leaves my walls, and a fresh story begins in the dwelling of its new owner.
To me, my reasoning feels genuine. Simple. Honest.
These created things spend mere moments in my hands, and possibly lifetimes in the presence of others.
And truly, art belongs to everyone. What I see and feel as I create in each piece has no bearing on what its owner will feel.
So perhaps, in the end, my true signature is…
…no signature at all.
We’ll leave it at that.
Wind, water, music, Edgar Allan Poe, Sylvia Plath…
J Edward Neill and H.R. Reiter choose a wide variety of themes, styles, and famous poets, and splash several poems in each theme throughout this elegant poetry book.
Hecatomb – ‘heka’tom/ (noun) – An extensive loss of life for some cause.
The name of my terrifying novella.
In a drowned village, on a dark shore, in a city of white stones, an ancient evil stalks.
It has no name, no face, and no desire but to see the death of everything…
Down through the ages it exists, sleepless and void, a relic from the world before humanity.
One dead. Every night. Forever.
Until nothing remains.
MARCH 16TH – MARCH 26TH
BUY TWO OR MORE ORIGINAL CANVAS PAINTINGS, GET 50% OFF YOUR ENTIRE ART ORDER
No one loves you like I do.
In fact, I’ve several nicknames for you—
Beef chunk ambrosia
Salty, buttered rump of heaven.
All of these and more.
It’s like I said—
No one loves you like I do.
When I first met you
as a young lad
I didn’t fully understand you.
Why would they leave your bone in?
Why are you a little burned on the outside,
and a little undercooked in your fleshy center?
Why would they give a six-year old
a Ginsu knife?
You tasted as if a live cow
had strutted up to me
and begged me to eat it.
Which I did.
Some people cook you better than others—
That restaurant I used to haunt
That annoying guy with the green, egg-like grill
whose house I visit for only the one reason.
the one time he did it right.
But none of them revere you
like I do.
A dash of salt.
A blob of butter.
White charcoals, hotter than Chernobyl.
It’s pretty much a religious experience,
You should’ve seen my face
when I ate your cousin the other day.
Most midlife crises
begin with flashy cars
and a new therapist.
But he and I,
we sat alone in the dark,
and I made stupid faces,
while he just
raised my cholesterol.
I’d die for him.
And for you.
I mean, it’s probably too late already,
given the number of Angus I’ve sacrificed
to my sacred fork.
I think the neighbor hates me.
He stands on his deck, watching me worship you
as if you were some woman he coveted,
some woman I just grilled
over a five-hundred degree flame.
He lurked a while, gazing at me
like a starved wolf, who is also balding.
I hope he was looking at you, not me.
When I’m alone, which is almost always,
I daydream of you.
You don’t talk much.
You just sizzle seductively.
Is that even a thing?
When we embrace, every vegan
in a ten-mile radius
It’s a shame, really.
I’m sure they were good people.
But nothing like you, my friend.
You, who loves me in a way
which makes me embrace arterial hardening
like a hug from an old friend
who just happens to be delicious.
See more (not nearly as ridiculous) words here.
J Edward Neill
Enter here for a chance to win one of 100 copies of The Fall of Castle Carrick!
In the stillness, in the moment our lips meet,
we turn to sunshine.
Our fingers, woven, are knitted with one another
like trees in ancient soil.
The rhythm of your heart drums a furious pace,
echoing inside me.
And I fall deeper.
You are wordless, but never quiet.
Like coals, heated in the nil space between our bodies,
we turn to fire, but never ash.
And then you climb, a hot wind upon the aching mountain
of my desire.
And I surrender.
In these places, no one knows our names.
No one sees our faces.
Our eyes are heavy-lidded, our breaths broken only
to kiss, and to kiss again.
We wander from dream to dream, a reverent carousel moved by the hurricane of our love.
I call to you, crying out your name.
You clutch, you pull me closer.
Like a starved fire, you catch and burn and consume me.
We turn to sunlight again, delivered through all darkness,
sent to this place as if born in the very same star.
And I surrender.
And I fall deeper.
J Edward Neill
For more poetry, go here.
Here’s the fourth entry in a series of blogs from writer, rider, and environmentalist explorer, Michael Kristensen. He’s a native Dane riding through South America, exploring opportunities and cultural challenges to sustainable environmental practices.
His Facebook page is here.
The original blog appears here.
Every week (possibly more often) Michael will be riding through South America, remarking on his experiences, and blogging at length. We at Tessera Guild will follow him every step of the way. This week marks the fourth leg of his journey. His third week is here.
Please note: these blog entries are direct from Michael. No editing. No proofing. As raw as any blog you’ll see.
“When you talk you only repeat what you already know, when you listen you might have a chance to learn something new”
The above is one of my favorite quotes, the truth in that is so simple, but yet so hard to live. Whom shall speak and who shall listen, which person is the messenger of truth, and truth from which perspective, which truth is being reflected and how is it communicated?
My meeting with people has shown me another way, I have been frustrated because my plan didn’t play out the way I had expected. I wanted to visit projects and write about them, about people’s initiatives, their great projects and how people can inspire each other to do better for this planet we live on. Let’s say the people I have met have opened a door to another dimension…hmmm maybe just another perspective. It’s about communication. If we only manage to communicate to our peers and repeat what we collectively already know, are we then communicating or just nodding heads? Does the message come through?
We the urban climate-change warriors, yes us Westerns. Look at us! We tell the rest of the world what they must do the change the path we have guided them toward, the path of consumerism. We tell the farmers in Asia that they must stop using pesticides (which we have sold them and promoted) we tell them to grow organic, we tell the fishermen in Brazil to stop overfishing and not to pollute the water with their fishing gear while we trawl our own waters with enormous fishing boats. We the Westerns communicate that from our over-electrified cozy homes filled with stuff, “hygge” and Christmas decorations, while we tend our newly constructed urban gardens and Instagram it. Who are we to tell them anything, maybe we should start to listen instead? Why on earth would they listen to us, when we talk from that perspective?
We have everything they are told to strive for, what’s the argument for them not to get the same as us , we are so overwhelmingly rich on materialistic goods it’s sickening, do we feel hollow and need to find purpose in something, find a battleground for our bad consciousness? Can we start to live like they do, with less?
It’s not that we don’t have some of the answers, because we do, but what does that matter if we can’t communicate it? And more importantly if we don’t want to live it! The fishermen and the farmers that LIVE with nature they might also have some of the answers, but we have been so busy alienate them and make them our enemies, they have become criminals in the public eye, the farmers are polluting the soils and streams, even the oceans, with their pesticides and fertilizers. The fishermen have overfished the oceans without respect for the very element they live off. We tell the Ranchers in Argentina that their cows fart to much and it is killing the planet! Why would they listen to us the urban climate-change warriors, when we are communicating from that perspective?
Then there’s the fight among the different fractions, vegetarians against meat-eaters, vegans against everybody, political left against right, deniers against science (sorry had to do that) the middle-aged gray men against Greta Thunberg, governments against indigenous people, feminists against men. When do we stop fighting each other and start working together toward sustainable solutions we all can agree upon?
I met Ashley and her Husband Pat, on their farm in Uruguay, the couple originally from Chicago has done what most people just talk about, they moved away from the urban gardeners to live a more sustainable life on a farm. A life much more tough but also much more giving. I interviewed them to get their perspective, and to understand what had made them move away from the “easy” life of urban Chicago, to a remote spot in the back hills of Uruguay.
It was actually very easy to make that decision was their reply, they wanted to present another set of values to their two young daughters, than it was possible in the US. The hard part was to get acceptance from the family, and to get them to understand that a simple life on a farm added more value to their life than being part of the rat race at “home”. Ashley with a PhD in environmental sustainability, is well aware that she must fit in and be humble, she tells me that she spend most of her time listening to the farmers in the region, than trying to teach them how to grow their crops or treat their lands. She has a huge deal of respect for the farmers and are well aware that they have most of the answers, not her.
We had a great talk about how to communicate with the stakeholders, how important it is that we communicate by looking at the problem-task-issue-challenge from outside in, meaning that we the stakeholders stand shoulder by shoulder on the perimeter looking in, trying to find solutions together and most importantly we start by finding common ground.
Ashley and Pat have started the https://www.facebook.com/RizomaFieldSchool/ here in their own words(mission) : we hope to educate a network of individuals who can hack, subvert, create, resist and share strategies across contexts. Join us in envisioning and creating a world that can be continually better for all its inhabitants.
They have students coming to study from all over the world, the studies at totally hands on sustainable farming. Ashley has a theory saying that you can only learn so much from books at the University, the real knowledge will be imprinted in the students consciousness by being there and actually do the work, get your hands dirty and see the results of your hard work.
My next encounter with great minds in Uruguay was when I met the wonderful people of the South American Institute for Resilience and Sustainability Studies (SARAS) http://saras-institute.org/ in their own words (mission) SARAS are designed to generate critical insights allowing South America to build sustainable futures. It seeks integration across a broad range of innovative approaches, combining disciplinary domains (social, natural and exact sciences), different sources of knowledge, and art-science interactions.
I was extremely privileged to be invited in, I came uninvited to a conference they held, I was welcomed in to participate in the conference which was about how to make the food industry in S.A more sustainable. there were scientists from all the South American countries and people from as far away as Sweden, Holland, Germany and the USA.
Interesting enough was one of the most important topics “communication” how to involve the stakeholders, farmers, fishermen, ranchers, manufacturers, scientists, producers ect. In a productive and constructive dialog across interests and try not to end up in a polarized political discussion, as they said their most important tribute was building bridges between the stakeholders, SARAS are trying hard to be the epicenter of knowledge sharing. I interviewed a small group of 7 persons, trying to get their opinion about the challenges we face regarding sustainable food in the future and how to deal with it.
The institute are planning a sustainable conference to be held in Uruguay2020, where every possible stakeholder from the food industry are invited and will have a voice. Hopefully some of the answers will be found at this at this event.
The good: All the amazing and super friendly people I have met, its been an amazing experience, even though I kind of know that meeting people with a smile and always communicate in eyelevel in a humble way, mostly result in a smile and compassion right back at you, it’s been overwhelming how welcoming people have been. I mostly stay in private homes found through Airbnb, and without exception have that been wonderful. I have had so many good experiences with people it will require a blog of its own to tell about it, but here is a few outstanding meetings. When I got robbed in La Plata a wonderful young teacher found some of my possessions laying on the street, among that my Green card, some other important documents and some of my clothes, he went through the trouble finding me writing me an email telling me he found the stuff and took time off work to come meet me and deliver it back to me, I tried to compensate him by offering him money, which he refused all he wanted was a picture of me and my bike and a big hug. In Rio we met some outstanding people as well my host Sergio what an amazing man, his outstanding hospitality he totally went beyond what can be expected, our friend Lily and their friends which gave us the most mesmerizing New years evening on the beach of Copacabana, with food drinks and they spend an hour at 3 in the morning finding us a ride back to the hotel, just wonderful people. I spend 5 days in Brazil without any cash because I was in the por part of the far south, people I met gave me credit for food late at night without a worry about me coming back to them the next day to pay up, I still couldn’t change money or find an ATM that would take my credit cards, so they found a guy that accepted my US $, the time I took a ferry and to my big surprise found out that they didn’t accept Visa cards, (we had already taken off) the ticket guy laughed told me to go to a bank when we arrived on the other bank, I did but they didn’t accept visa either, I waited 2 hours for the ferry to return, when they did I offered him US $ which he told me had no value to him , he told me it was a free trip from him smiled and went on with his business. They all did it with a smile and hugs not a bad word or any frustration, they wen out of their ways to help me out. As I wrote I can go on and on with these great encounters.
One more amazing thing is how the Brazilians are cleaning, everywhere I went, gas stations, Restaurants, homes even the beaches are spotless. Copacabana beach is the cleanest beach of that size I have ever been at. Good job guys 😊
The bad (Surprise) wauw the language barrier in Brazil has been far more extreme than I ever expected, hardly nobody speaks English at least not outside Sao Paulo and Rio D J. and they hardly ever speak Spanish either. I had trained my Spanish for a month hoping I could use it in Brazil but NO, and now after spending 5 weeks in Brazil returning to Spanish speaking countries, I have to relearn my Spanish once more very frustrating 😊 honestly it have been hard not to communicate with hardly anybody without google translate for 5 weeks, and my sustainability studies has suffered from that, that’s partly why I have been waiting to blog until I was back in Paraguay and Argentina. Another surprise has been how good the Brazilian drivers are, being on a motorcycle you really pay attention to other drivers, I must say that Brazilian drivers are very cautious and give room for MC¨s thanks guys for a wonderful road experience, I cant recall one bad incident in 5 weeks and traveling more than 3000 miles.
The Ugly hardly nobody has anything to say about sustainability, recycling is horrible, there is on obvious plan for climate change, and very few sustainability projects. The entire Florianopolis area is one of the most beautiful places on earth, but does not have a sewer system or use septic tanks, raw sewerage is being let in to the streams and out in the bay and ocean. I met with a professor that wrote her PhD about sustainability in the area, and it was horrific reading, not even the natives want to change and talk about sustainability, they want the short term benefits from selling parts of their lands to foreigners or expand their houses to be able to earn a few bucks by renting it out. The professor I talked to had given up, she tried to have the government listen to her and do something about the issues, but they had no interest in change, just looking for fast cash selling land to developers.
Beer prices are pretty good domestic beer 1,5 $ for a liter in the stores, 2,5 $ for a liter in bars , imports are 30% more expensive.