A Unique Experiment . . .

Boobalala” breast print art by Anne Copeland

Before we talk about Halloween in another post, let’s look at how Boobalala came to be. I think it was my 65th birthday. I had seen this really fascinating and wonderful art exhibit at a gallery or museum somewhere. I think it was a museum because it was huge. This male artist whose name I unfortunately cannot remember was fascinated with things about his body, and also with taking everyday things and making them look very different in such a way that you could no longer recognize them for what they actually were. In one of his pieces, he laid in a bathtub while a friend slowly poured colored water over him, taking photos of each addition and what was still exposed. He cut up the photos into many parts and rearranged them in fascinating ways that made us wonder what we were looking at even though we had been told. I was fascinated with the exhibit because I have often thought of many natural things and wondered what they looked like from a different perspective. I remember specifically as a child how I used to lie flat in the grass and look through the blades of grass to try to understand what the ants and other bugs’ lives looked like from their perspective. It was almost like being Alice in Wonderland, for it was a truly different world, and I could absolutely lose myself in it.

At any rate, when my 65th birthday came about, I was wondering about such different ways of viewing things we encounter every day. Somehow this is the sequence of things and what happened on that day. I decided to put on some African music from a primitive tribe and I got naked. I began to dance to the music to try to get my mind in the minds of those peoples and what they were experiencing. And then suddenly my mind turned to art, and I decided to find out what my breasts looked like from another angle. So I got out a length of black cotton, painted my breasts with white paint, and made breast prints with these things. I was really surprised that if most people would never know what it was if I didn’t tell them.

Next I decided to try multi-color paint (these were acrylics that could wash off easily) so I got out some white cotton, and painted my breasts with several colors, once again pressing them against the cotton to make breast prints. Amazing! Though they still did not look at all like breasts, they made truly interesting prints.

One ended up a part of a quilt I made called “My Garden of Earthly Delights” and it was donated to the Autism organization since I worked with special needs children for many years and to this day I am a strong advocate for them. This picture is shown below.

“My Garden of Earthly Delights” by Anne Copeland.

Now I really wonder if any of you who didn’t know this story would honestly recognize these as breast prints, or perhaps think them as disgusting. The quilt went to a good cause and I was thrilled to donate it because I imagine that someone somewhere is enjoying this happy quilt with no clue as to its history.

Both these quilts had the same beginnings, with no thoughts of being a disgusting person trying to shock others. It was curiosity about what I am made of, and what it looks like. I have not yet done other parts of my body, but the day may come when I do. These same body parts heralded my change into a young woman, and later on they gave milk for my children at a time when few women were still feeding their babies in this most natural of ways. It is part of what I am made of as a human being, and it is an important and natural part of every woman. It is a good and healthy thing to re-examine things we take for granted every single day. I am glad I celebrated this fact in such an enjoyable and artful way. I actually made “My Garden of Earthly Delights” first, followed by “Boobalala.”

Perhaps this bit of experiment into another aspect of my world is not earth-shaking, but I am glad I did it. Our lives are made of many things we take for granted every single day. I think that studying these things can enhance our ability to see better the universe that we also take so much for granted. Perhaps in seeing things differently, we will somehow be able to re-examine our beliefs about everything that we encounter each and every day. Thank you and Happy Autumn.

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Talking About Art

Anne’s VERY early quilt of Pumpkins. The most innovative thing is that I used men’s shirts for the borders – WOW!!!

Is my pumpkin quilt art? Why isn’t is as valuable as as earlier work I made that had a higher value? I am known for my art now (this is fiction, not truth). I have won awards in big name exhibits and shows (also fiction).

I think you can see in the piece above some of the answers. But is this true of all art? Absolutely. Art can be and eventually is inconsistent in overall style or quality for most artists who have big names. They put their ALL into pieces for a time, and then perhaps they burned out, or because they already have big names, they could ease up a little and still command good prices. Not true. All artists, not just the big names, have times in their production when their work either changes styles, perhaps to a style that is less labor intensive, or perhaps they don’t produce as often as they were. It can happen in a lot of different scenarios. The thing is that if we are realistic and honest about it, not all art by an artist is the same quality nor does it necessarily command the same values. It is human nature. Now we may see great works of art and believe that a very famous artist DID produce the same quality all the time, but remember that many artists have had workers who worked with them on a particular painting or sculpture.

We have artists like Basquiat, and Andy Warhol and I am sure any of you can think of others. Perhaps you liked their rebellious response to fine art. Perhaps you see it as something new and refreshing. To be sure. But was it? I mean, Campbell Soup labels have been around since I was a child. So every time your mom bought a can, did you stop and think, “WOW! Now that’s art!!!” Both these artists had their names made by gallery owners and publicists who sold them to the public. It’s their job and they did it very well. Both the artists led colorful, unconventional lives. Now people in the art world often like this. It is the opposite of anything they might do or be in their own lives, and there is something about such lifestyles that attracts them to it. It’s kind like fashion. What attracts people to want to buy fashions worn by women with absolutely no facial expressions, who appear all to be suffering from anorexia, wearing, say sweaters with sleeves two feet longer than their arms as they walk rigidly down the runways? Are the people in the audience anything like this? Anything about this scenario remind you of “The Emperor’s New Clothes?”

I attended a minimalist painter’s exhibit many years ago. The comments of the audience taught me all I needed to know, plus my eyes confirmed what I saw. People were commenting on the brilliance of this painter, and how it took him six months of being alone in his studio to create a single line painting – that’s right, a single line on an entire canvas. Some art collectors really don’t know that much about what they are collecting. They collect pieces because someone tells them those pieces are valuable and will continue to increase in value. And like some people who want to be part of the “in crowd,” they pick up ideas here and there form others or from galleries, whose success is based on the sales they can get from their exhibits, and they know well who will bring people out and whose works will sit there. They have to constantly try to bring in new works of a type that are different from what people are used to seeing. And they also know that if the pieces have higher prices on all of them and the represent the work of one or perhaps two painters or sculptors at best, they will likely sell better in communities that are “art savvy” because people will respect that if they are looking for something to invest in.

Around Christmas, I will put up a photo of a piece I created years ago and then took it all apart even though it had been accepted into a good venue. The truth was that I didn’t accept it because I considered it was not as good as other pieces I had created earlier, or pieces by other artists that were accepted. Today when I look back on that piece, I often feel sad because it was what my mind was thinking of in terms of creativity at the time, and it said what I wanted it to say in the way I wanted it to.

Respect your creativity at any given point in your life. Comparing it to other pieces is not a healthy activity. You need to respect the fact that you had the courage to get out materials and create something at that moment. You are not a failure because a piece of art or a piece of writing doesn’t measure up to other pieces you or others have created. The only failure is the failure to even try at all. Go ahead. Be brave. Show off your worst writing example or your worst painting or sculpture. Don’t look at your art in terms of awards, money or other superfluous things. Make creativity your joy just the way a baby feels joy at discovering its hands. Maybe someday those hands will create great paintings, or perhaps play incredible sonatas, but for now, be ok where you are and with what you have done. It is all good, even the simple little pumpkin quilt.

Welcoming Autumn

Moon Goddesses by Anne Copeland
We really don't know a specific hour or date,
but suddenly we know it is the time.
It is the witching hour
when all the goddesses of old come out
to dance beneath and around the moon.
The moon, pregnant with the bounty of harvest time,
Welcomes us to share in the joy
Knowing that all our tribe
Will not know hunger through the winter months
And so we dance once again
Not knowing what the next harvest season will bring,
But knowing we are in the here and now.
And so we dance once again.

What would Your Ideal Presidential Candidate Look Like?

Vintage Phrenology Head Model

I have a challenge for you, but there are rules that absolutely have to followed or you will be removed from this post.

I would like you to describe your ideal (not any living or real person but your ideal) president. You cannot use names of any existing or dead president or other living or dead person, but just qualities you think would make a fantastic president. No swearing, no mentioning of any political party. What we are looking for here is the makings of an ideal president. In this post, you get to create your ideal hero for our country.

So now I will give you an example of my own to help you know exactly what we are looking for.

My ideal for a president would be a person of integrity, and a person who would care more about principles than money and who would serve this country even without a salary. This person would put first the health, welfare and safety of the people of the United States. The person would actually get out into communities throughout the United States and see them for what they are and what they are not, and looks for ways to help the States try to fix those issues. My ideal president would meet with the Department of Justice, the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, the Department of Defense, and this president would encourage all of these important institutions to come up with a list of the issues we face, and what might be done to help resolve them not only for the United States, but for other countries as well. My ideal president would act always first and foremost to protect the Constitution of the United States. My ideal president would encourage young people (teens in high schools and younger) to form groups to come up with ideas to help solve the issues that are faced in this country and would have these young people meet in national events to present their ideas. The young people would be encouraged to serve on continuing committees that would provide input to the president to help put their ideas into action.

OK, I have shown you how I would write such an assignment, and I expect yours to be in keeping with positive ideas of your own, no characters or specific problems mentioned (we already know all of those), but how the president might serve in an honorable and successful way.

I think this might prove very interesting for us all, and I look forward to hearing your views from your perspectives such as being disabled, being homeless or low-income and what you would hope that an ideal president might work to resolve. Thank you one and all very kindly.

Pumpkin, Pumpkin: Folklore, History, Planting Hints and Good Eating

Courtesy Amazon.com

Pumpkins are magical. They herald in the autumn; they fulfill our needs to create art related to the season and to celebrate it. We fill them with light to welcome others to our homes, and to provide the way from home to home as we gather treats for the season. We have all kinds of celebrations for them from competitions for the largest or best pumpkin to the best decorated pumpkins to pie baking and pie eating competitions. We listen in awe to their amazing history and laugh at their folklore. We begin to invite friends and relatives to luscious dinners featuring this wonderful orange treat. Pumpkins warm our hearts as the autumn begins to bring the chill air. We invite you into the welcoming pages of this book, and to fill your souls with all the good things you remember, and your stomachs with the most delightful pumpkin treats.

I first published this book in 1986, believe it or not. Publishing was different back then. In case any of you ever get discouraged trying to publish your books, don’t. I went through (no kidding) some 600 publishers in the U.S. and overseas. Everyone pretty much liked it, but they didn’t publish specialized cookbooks so much then, or they were afraid it was too seasonal . I kept careful notes of every letter I sent to a publisher. That was how we did it back then. And if they showed an interest, we had to send them a manuscript to review. It was a ridiculously long process, and expensive too. But in the end result, none of them turned down the book for any personal reason (i.e. you can’t write).

Finally I took a second job to get the book printed, exchanging my work as editor of a small community newspaper in Long Beach, California. I worked at my regular job by day and then went to work after I got off my other job to get the paper out every week, and working all weekend. When I had earned enough to have my book printed (5,000 copies), I took the covers and all the pages, and I held a collating party with friends, who helped me collate it after a potluck dinner in a part of the Old Fort MacArthur, where we had an old barracks building we had rented as a gallery.  There we exhibited the work of some potters my former significant discovered. The building overlooked the ocean in San Pedro, CA. It was an incredible time to be in that town. I had rented a comb binding machine and so we took care of everything, and of course I gave each person who helped me to get it all together a signed copy.

That was just the beginning of the work. I had to schlup the book around to bookstores. Some of them paid me up front and then would get their money back with sales. Others insisted on taking the book on consignment, which meant me driving back to their stores each month to see if they had made sales. And those people put the books out where they wanted them, and that was not where they would get the best viewing and perhaps sales. This was common in those days.

My book was not high priced; I don’t remember what it was, but I remember that by today’s standards it was cheap. And they were more obliged to the big name publishers. So pricing and where your book ended up on the shelves were other things that made selling a genuine challenge. The comb binding was ok. A number of cookbooks were sold that way, but the problem was that without printing on the outside edge, if the book was on the shelf among other books, it would be overlooked. Libraries would not take it because of that. It would be easy to take it out of the library without checking it out legally, and also people would sometimes overlook it because they ignored something with no printing on the spine.

I had a Library of Congress Number besides the ISBN, which is all many self-published  books have these days it seems. Anyway, it would end up in their Books in Print, and that did bring a number of orders. The problem with that was that I had to get them ready to ship, pay for postage, and mail them out for the price of the book plus shipping. That part would have been ok if I had not had to get them ready to mail and get them to the post office each time. So again, it was ending up costing me money to get my own book out.

I can’t remember what the Internet was like, but I had no one to help me promote the book. I definitely do not remember blogs. So I did what I could, and between giving away books to people who were friends and selling what I could, and soon they were all gone. I have one old and really battered copy, but it is a good memory of another time and place and how things used to be.

Life is a joy now related to the books we write and publish. I think the “Print on Demand” publishers have much to help worthwhile authors to get their books out there and in a way that is not environmentally a challenge in that we don’t have to worry about remaindered books. I don’t know if book pirating is still an issue as it was way back when. Seems to me from some of the movies I have seen that countries like China and other parts of Asia have some pretty good writers and producers of film these days, and there seems to be a big market for them now too, so pirating may have slowed down.

Thank you one and all who have been so supportive. It is wonderful the way the bloggers help to support each others’ efforts in publishing. Never give up. Keep writing. Everything today is geared to helping you to succeed. I want to thank my good friends, Leonore Dvorkin of DLD Books.com who does editing, and David Dvorkin, who made my beautiful cover and got the book into print, and handled all the technical chores. And I also want to thank my friend Patty Fletcher, who seemingly never sleeps while she helps us all to get publicity for our books as she works with David and Leonore. They helped my friend, Barbara Williamson and me with our last book, Artful Alchemy: Physically Challenged Fiber Artists Creating. I love the way the book business is today. It is a true community involvement, and you never have to feel alone the way I did years ago as I did what I could for my book.

Success Is Not Always a Formula for Happiness

Anne’s Art Quilt on Virginia Woolf
Winter Rain (to Virginia Woolf) from Lynda McKinney Lambert's book: Star Signs: New and Selected Poems
Recent memories
Solitary warnings
and time together.
Copies?
There are no copies.
Hair dyed the reddest red.
I should make a note
And send it to myself.
Success and failure
are a soup not right
in someone else's house.
I'll write about what I know
Tuck it in a book
by Elizabeth Barret Browning.
There's no plot
There is no conversation
as she walked into the ocean
to express a story--
avery big house
slowly falling apart
bare trees celebrate
the winter rain.
We are going for a walk
when the first snow falls.
It is impossible to tell about a conflict--
trees, winter's breeze, and survival.