The Rockaway Community Responds to Paint with Poetry

While I was in New York this Spring I had the pleasure of painting a Hearts of the World mural on Rockaway Beach Boulevard for Beautify Earth. This organization is bringing color and revitalization to the Rockaway Beach community, which was badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Residents of Rockaway were invited to paint in their own unique heart. Locals lined up on the sidewalk to wait for their turn to express themselves in paint. When they were finished filling their heart with their thoughts, emotions, passions and dreams, we pasted them up to the wall. 

A mother fills her heart with the prints of her children’s hands and feet.

The finished Hearts of the World Mural

I was really touched to receive this poem, written by long-time Rockaway resident Ed Broderick, Have a read:

Seaside  Garden

of

Hearts and Flowers

Open to all of natures powers

Endures kanes and showers

Accepts the chill of deepest snow

Glories in the summers glow

A pure rainbow may be born

After the curse of a SANDY storm

Bows may have many ends

All full of hopes dreams and bends

 Hundreds of us who have seen this

Pause Reflect and silently Wish 

For our Bow’s end to fulfill

Our needs by GOD’S Will

 Ed Broderick

Backflip into a life with passion Pt 1

What is your passion? Do you know it?
There was a time in my life where I completely lost sight of mine.

I want to share with you a bit of the bumpy road I took to living my passion, to show that it can be done and to provide encouragement and inspiration for anyone who wants to fuel the odyssey of discovering and living their dream.

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"Vida!" Chiapas, Mexico

As a child I delighted in creating things. I loved to paint, loved making sculptures, and illustrated adventure books. I drew everywhere, I left mysterious symbols inked onto the fences and trees in my yard, I drew on my little sister, I took sharpie markers to the hallways of my house, down the walls, into my parents room; my liberated line of expression swirling around their lampshades and down into the insides of their shoes. They quickly put a stop to my full, creative expression on our house, but graciously and encouragingly gave me free range of my bedroom, of which I covered every square inch in drawings. I loved to create. I lived to create.

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My room as a young teenager

Fast forward to my adult life after moving from Seattle to New York to experience boundless possibility in the big city… It was only seven years ago that I was very lost. I was treading water and doing what I could to stay afloat. I worked many dreadful jobs; I was a personal assistant for a business man’s personal assistant, a booker at a modeling agency which turned out to be a scam, I was a cocktail waitress at a sleazy vacuous club, and then a server at an upscale restaurant in SOHO with a permeating, toxic environment. I didn’t create anymore. I convinced myself that I had to do something more practical than art to make my living… but I was not living.

I fell into a deep depression. I felt devastatingly empty, scared and hopeless about the future and my mind was fogged with fear. Eventually I got fired from my waitressing job and a huge black cloud of doom descended upon me. ”What am I going to do with my life?” The frightened voice pressed me again, and again, ”What am I going do with my life?” In the back of my mind I could faintly hear my inner voice, asking to create, but the voice of fear was so powerful. I have to do something practical, I decided.

And so I enrolled in a Real Estate course. Every morning I headed to midtown and up to the 45th floor of some faceless building to sit in a blank room under fluorescent lights with thirty other people who were also trying to find their way in the world. The room had a disturbingly tense, competitive vibe; all the students against each other… already. Each day I left the class with my stomach in knots, sometimes on the verge of tears. I projected that room, that vibe, that occupation, onto the rest of my life and the black cloud expanded, denser than ever. I was in despair.

And then, I had a realization that changed my life forever…

(To be continued)

Backflip into a Life of Passion Pt 2

…(Continued)

And then, in the midst of nebulous fear, I had a pivotal moment of clarity. I had a thought that changed the rest of my life and it was this: I imagined myself as an old woman, looking back on my life, wondering… What if I had just tried to do exactly what I wanted to do?It sunk in…I realized then, that to not know the answer would be tragedy, an utter tragedy; A life un-lived.I realized in the same moment that if I tried, really tried, and failed…I could live with that.And so from that moment forward my only choice was to try to live my passion.This clarity and certainty gave me the determination that pushed me through fear and onto my path. I knew that since I was now going to try, I wanted to try with 110% of my being. I thought of the endeavor as a backflip. NO HESITATION. If you hesitate doing a backflip, you will never make it all the way around and you might even break your neck.

I wanted to make art… and so I made a decision to only do things that pertained to that in some kind of way; to do things that were creative to make a living. I started painting kids faces in Central Park. I made a sign and sat by the carousel and painted spidermen, butterflies, tigers and such. I could make my own schedule and got to paint. It was pretty great. But summer ended and the parks emptied and fear gripped me once again with a voice that asked “Maybe you need to just get a real job.” Remembering the old woman that I will one day be, I decided instead to approach the owner of Umbertos Clam House in Little Italy, whom I knew from my waitressing days, to propose to paint his windows for Christmas. He agreed, and while I was there painting elves and Santa drinking wine with a bowl of clam linguini, the owner of the Caffe Roma across the street came over and asked me to paint his windows next. I was so delighted!image

Caffe Roma, 2007, Little Italy

When you are on a path of passion… things lead to things, opportunities lead to more opportunities and a world of possibility that you could not have imagined before opens up to you. My window paintings spread down Mulberry street and soon I made a portfolio and went around town with it… building up a bevy of clients from Grand Street to the Bronx. Window painting turned into other opportunities for murals and signs. I had more work than I could do myself and so I started a business called Paint the Town and hired my friends to paint with me. I felt so tremendously happy.

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Painting the windows of Umbertos Clam House, 2008

But the path, as sparkling and uplifting as it can be at times, it not always easy. It can be quite unstable, especially in the beginning, and in fact sometimes it’s really hard. There are so many times over the years that the voice of fear still whispered sinisterly in my ear “Maybe you should get a real job.”

But I could never give up, I had to create to save my life. I just kept pushing steadily through ups and downs. I used my window and sign painting money to fuel my projects of passion and now I’m here, seven years later, making 100% of my living from creating and receiving more and more freedom and opportunity to do so. I am far from rich but creating feeds my soul and gives me a wealth that money could never purchase. 

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East Village, New York, 2011

imageThe cable car I painted in Valparaiso in National Geographic, 2011

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Painting a tap tap in Haiti

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Boats I painted in collaboration for FlutuArte, a project I created in Brazil in 2012 with fellow artist Maxine Nienow

I think it’s good to understand that passion doesn’t have to be the thing you do to make your living. It’s passion itself that is most important. Make room for it! It could make more sense for you to take up a job that is not necessarily your passion, but earns you a living and gives you the possibility to do what you love. As Kurt Vonnegut says it: ”Go into the arts, I’m not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”

I believe everyone on earth has a natural intrinsic passion for something and their own unique purpose. What would you do if you could do exactly what you wanted to do? Take money out of the equasion for a moment, what your parents want for you, your friends, society… What could you be happy doing your whole life? With your whole self?

What is your passion?

You can enter your path with just one step. And as much as you walk forward, your aspirations will move toward you. Many people have found the energy that comes to help you when you set your rudder in the direction of of your dreams. The great writer and philosopher Goethe said, ”What ever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” 

Go do your dance, Start off with a backflip~

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Seattle, Washington

Flying in Vienna

I am living in Vienna, just blocks from the legendary old-time amusement park Praterstern which makes for a lovely walk home through the fun.

Old school colorful glass bulbs blink on and off in sequence, casting their colored light across the empty grounds of Pratter amusement park. Orien and I walk past beautiful hand painted murals, tea cup rides, a haunted houses, claw machines, old fashioned punching bag games, An old witchy-lady fortune telling lady machine, a three story Magic Dreamland Funhouse with Michael Jackson’s eyes airbrushed onto the front of it, giant fiberglass figurines, as well as an enormous lucky piggy ATM.

Hovering above everything is Prater Tower standing high above us with a beautiful copper clock topping off its blinking, rotating arms.

And before I know it, we are swirling in the sky, dangling from swinging chairs, above the twinkling city of Vienna. Oh life!

The Secession Building, Vienna

We decided to make a visit to the Secession Building near the Noshmarket in Vienna to marvel the Nouveu architecture and to learn more about it. But the charge for culture in Vienna is not cheap. All museums we have found so far charge something around 10-15 Euro. (About $14 - $21 U.S.) We’re on a pretty tight budget and seeing that it was 9 Euro to enter…  We perused the gift shop for fun instead.
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Entrance to the Secession Building with lizards, snakes and gilded trees


But most of our time at the Secession building was spent on the back lawn with a bottle of Prosecco. The building has so many unique and elegant details. There are lizards, snakes, turtles, and owls on the building as well as many other gorgeous embellishments. It was almost completely destroyed in WWII.

Owl details on the side of the building

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The Secession Building after WWII

In the side lawn of the Secession building is a very interesting sculpture of Marcus Antonius, supporter of Julius Caesar and lover of Cleopatra, in a lion drawn chariot. He sits there, very fat, smug and arrogant. The chains around the lions necks dig into their skin and a female lion nuzzles the side of his chariot. Looking it up later I found photos of the statue with two gilded lion cubs underneath the other lions. They turned out to be an add-on by an unknown artist and were removed soon after, restoring the statue to its original state.

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Mark Anthony sculpture with golden lion cub “add-ons”

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The stature restored to its original state

We ended the evening with a tipsy bike ride home to the second district, being careful to avoid the cops. Drinking and biking, or rather, BUI’s are a thing in Vienna. 

A Good, Full Life

I grew up on an island.

The day I turned 18, as a message to myself (and my mother) that i was now free, I went to the tattoo parlor and got inked with one of those tacky Chinese character designs. I still have that dreadful tattoo, but I don’t regret it for a moment. Along with getting permanently marked with a design that is soooo 90’s, I made a very strong intention that day. The meaning behind symbol I chose was “A good, full life.” (At least I hope that’s what it actually means). But regardless, I made a very powerful pact within myself to live life to its very fullest, to make the most of the miraculous gift of life.

Soon after I knew I had to leave the predictable comfort of Camano Island, Washington. I was scared to go but horrified to stay because I knew my small town was hungry for lives and could eat mine in the blink of an eye. So I sold my stuff and left for New York with my dog and a bag of things. 

I loved New York, the medley of street smells, the hustle, the endless variety of people from all over the world. I sensed a boundless possibility there. And it was just different. So very opposite from my small town. I absorbed the culture like a sponge and explored the city, feeling ever so alive. But after a few years of working as a waitress and scrambling to pay rent, I felt myself wrapped up in the routine of survival. I fell into the daily grind and it was the same common thing over and over again. I found myself depressed and itching for a shake-up to bring me back into the fullness of life.

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A goat chillin’ on a car in Chor Bazarre, a bustling street market outside of Mumbai

I bought a ticket to India. India seemed like the place that could provide the greatest perspective shift, I felt that India could shake me up. I arrived to the black and white striped curbs of Mumbai and fell in love with the colorful chaos of the bustling city. I loved to see the different ways in which people lived and to also find where we all connect as humans. How things are different, yet the same. I ventured cautiously into one of the “slums” and walking down the narrow paths I found women and children looking back at me shyly and then moments later warmly welcoming me in. I found amongst the corrugated shacks a community with such connection, togetherness and they offered me mutual respect. I went back to New York full of gratitude.image

Sunrise boat ride through the canals of Kerala in Southern India

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Brightly dressed women in Kumarakom, Southern India

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We ran into these beautifully adorned cows along the beach in Karwar, India

After this I did whatever I could to travel. I would work determinedly, painting mural after mural to save up enough money to get to the next disparate place that I could think of. I went to China. I dropped in without any research or guidebook. It kicked my ass. With no understanding of the language or the culture I was lost, physically, and soon emotionally. I remember wandering the streets of Beijing with way too much stuff including my bag of clothes, another one full of paint, plus 40 wooden Hearts of the World panels (before I realized that trying to do a world wide art project on heavy masonite panels was a fools game). I broke down no less than three times on that trip and nearly had to sleep on the streets of Beijing. China taught me a lot about patience.image

Sleepover on the Great Wall of China with  a dozen fellow travelers. (So many wonderful experiences in China amongst the challenging). 


Since then, I have been to many places and each time I venture from the hustle of New York, I am rewarded with new colors, sights, and insights, nuggets of wisdom and callouses of learning, more know-how, more capability, less or no money, greater understanding, more compassion, more patience, more friends, and more stories…

And now I know well, that whenever I feel that dulling monotony creeping into my life, it’s time to get up and go.

Where do you want to go?

The Refreshing Virtues of Venediger Au Park

Before coming to Vienna, I had the presupposition that it would be uptight, much more so than New York. And to be fair, there certainly are things about Vienna that are… For example, Vienna is very clean in comparison to NYC. The Viennese seem to be obsessed with polishing glass, they seem to love clean, white walls, and leaves are swept up as soon as they hit the ground. Another example is the rules for bicycling (or perhaps just the reinforcement of the rules) are considerably more uptight (I’ve already been pulled over four times for things like riding the wrong way down a one way street, compared to only once in my ten years in NYC).

But last night when my boyfriend Orien and I took a walk in the Second District and stumbled upon a playground park, open at night, full of potentially dangerous climbing structures, I was surprised. image

The tower (Photo via Wikepedia)

A place like this would not exist in today’s NY. In NY they close and lock the parks at night. The park, called Venediger Au Park was not only open after dark, it was filled with obscured places to hang out, like mini towers with long slides and hammocks. It even had a zip-line and a legitimately perilous ropes course with many of its hurdles high above the ground. It was an amazing discovery.image

The zip-line among other play things (Photo via www.wien.gv.at)


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The ropes course (photo via Photo via www.wien.gv.at)

We took a stab at the fairly difficult climbing course and flew down the zip-line. All the while people were hanging out, drinking and carrying on around us. It was a beautiful sight.

Venediger Au Park is very easy to reach by public transport, you can take the U-Bahn line U2 to Prater Stern. Enjoy

A Vulgar Display of Power in Vienna

Vienna, Austria

Today I woke up to a great commotion outside my window. I leaned out to take a peek and my eyes widened and my brow furrowed to see paddy wagons lined up down the block. Hundreds of cops were walking around or standing post at the entrance to several streets. What was happening?

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(photo via Revolution-News.com)

I went down to learn more and walking past the double-wide row of police vehicles, entered a mob of people who were barricaded out by two rows of the hugest riot cops I have ever seen. The cops were all men appearing to stand between six ft and six ft five. They were padded to the nines with riot armor. 

We spotted Rolland, the owner of the restaurant across the street and asked him what was up. “They are evicting the anarchist pizza squat.” He said.


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The hand painted Pizza Anarchia sign

Pizza Anarchia has existed in the second district of Vienna for the last two years. It is the last squat in Vienna and has been run by a group of anarchists. The building operated mainly as a residence, but every Sunday, they hosted the “People’s Kitchen,” giving out food and drinks for a free donation. Every Tuesday they had “Filme under der Hand” (Underhand Movies) and showed political films, documentaries and rare movies. They had a free shop with clothes and other useful things and they also organized a street party called “What you want” as well as monthly demonstrations against prison society, racism, and rent hikes with the slogan, “The damn rent is too high.”

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(photos via derstandard.at)

They were invited in by the landlord, who thought he would use them to scare away his existing tenants so that he could renovate and increase the rents. Little did he know, the punks would stay long after time he gave them. They took over the place and refused to budge.

“They offered us to move into the house for six months in November 2011 with the hidden agenda that we will kick out the old tenants. The bottom line is, that we stayed, and are now fighting together with the old tenants (which are now in fact comrades of us) against the landlords.”      - Pizza Anarchia

So the city responded and evicted the last squat in Vienna with a vulgar display of power that included 1,700 cops, a helicopter, tank and water cannon. The whole operation cost 500,000 Euro.

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(photos via derstandard.at)

I am sad to see this place go and disappointed that I didn’t make a visit there before they were evicted. They may have been there unfairly, but the landlords shady motives for inviting them in doesn’t give me much pity for him.

And rents are too damn high… in Vienna…in NY and pretty much everywhere.

As my boyfriend Orien says, “Thanks, now things are just slightly more boring.”

Rathaus, Vienna

Vienna is full of surprises.

On our way home one night Orien and I bicycled past a garden and heard the waves of an incredibly enchanting soprano voice of a woman singing opera. We circled around the block, following the sound and then we saw it, across the street, they were projecting a film onto the front of a giant, gothic building with a giant clocktower. Pulled in by the siren, we parked our bicycles and entered the barrage of night market stands and people and made our way to the back, where finally we could see the source of the voice, a beautiful woman fallen on the floor in a most dramatic way.

Later I found out this place is called Rathaus, a name I’ve seen before as a stop on the subway. Rathaus is the City Hall of Vienna.

Something I’ve noticed about Vienna is that they make great use of outdoor space. You can drink outside here, so people want to be out, enjoying the streets, the canal, the parks and the river. It’s not uncommon to find a club or venue in the middle of a park here. I really like that about Vienna.