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Posts Tagged ‘interact’

Take A Picture With Your Mind

In Creative Living, Nature on November 8, 2015 at 1:46 pm

By Heila Rogers


Photo by Deborah Briggs

My mom was a preschool, kindergarten or first grade teacher for years. When little kids would get wiggly while waiting in line for the bathrooms or lunch, she would tell them, “Okay boys and girls, I want you to listen. Put an elephant in your mind.” They’d all grow quiet and gape with their minds busy. She’d wait a moment, then say, “Now, make it pink!” And so on.

It’s no wonder I grew up having a big imagination. She was also our full-time mom/teacher for even more years.

I also remember her using the phrase above, when we were on one of many driving trips as a family.

We didn’t grow up with cell phones or personal cameras. (I remember my first insta-matic camera. It was the kind with detachable cube flashbulbs. Only 12 photos per roll of film.)

So if our film ran out or we didn’t have a camera, and were looking at something especially beautiful, something that we wanted to remember, my mom would say:

“Take a picture with your mind!”

And we would.

We’d gaze and notice detail. We’d commit to memory smells, colors and textures.

We’d let the beauty … speak to us.

Our traveling, viewing experience was enriched by this heightened interaction with our surroundings.

Don’t get me wrong, I love photos, email, and online sharing, etc. too.

But this thrill of interaction, of absorbing, might be the reason folks seem to be swinging back more toward “analog” nowadays.

Laurel - snowdonia

Snowdonia/ Photo by Laurel Greszler

To be able to touch, smell, and really BE in a place (and with people), instead of with our noses attached to screens too much while the world goes on around us, without us.

Not only can we connect with others more, when we look around more closely, but we feel more connected to beautiful scenery or something interesting in a museum. A pile of autumn leaves on the ground can enrich our spirit somehow.

Thanks, Mom.



Becoming a Life Artist

In Art, Creative Living on February 15, 2014 at 6:46 pm

By Heila Rogers

What if someone has a wonderful talent, and works to paint an amazing painting, mold a glorious sculpture, or write a magnificent, universal character?

Certainly that person as an artist is contributing greatly to society by adding beauty to it.

What if that same person cuts you off in traffic, exploits or curses others, or lies habitually?

What if someone else creates then in a different form? This one consisting of small gestures, or actions that make good grow in people’s hearts?

Someone say, who slows down without bitterness when they’re cut off in traffic, someone who strives to thank people and lift them up, someone who honors others with truths — like the one that they matter to the world?

Actually we all fall into both categories, I think. We’re all both creators and destroyers.

What I want to explore is how we can create in miniscule ways throughout each day. How we can all become better Life Artists. Weaving, or painting, or sculpting beauty and love  into and out of each day.

Although we all appreciate great art, don’t the small moments of kindness we’ve experienced in our own lives stand out more brightly? Can’t we recall moments of forgiveness, warmth, and sacrificial care more quickly than we can remember the best painting or movie we’ve ever seen?

So the question is, does Great Art – also consist of kindness, forgiveness and love?


Is beauty always a recipe that contains some measure of the above?

Back to the small acts and kindnesses.

I appreciate genuine smiles so much.

Even just “the dignity of notice” is something that is supremely valuable.

Watching the documentary, Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present made me think a lot about this kind of thing. Then I read an article about Fred Rogers of the PBS children’s show, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, that made me think even more about how to create, by loving people individually.

What the artist Marina did, for this performance art piece was sit in a chair for hours at a time in a museum and face the person who sat in a chair opposite her. All day long, she did only this. She didn’t eat or drink during that time. She spent the nights during the show, drinking and going to the bathroom.

Although her motives for doing what she did are perhaps not completely clear, it is evident that she operated on a plane where she was seeking to receive and communicate truth. She was also willing to be uncomfortable in the process.

That was it. She met their eyes, she communicated as much as she could without words. She tried to “listen” to them on a deep level. She tried to see them. Just the act of giving attention was powerful. No touching or speaking was allowed.

Someone commented:

“She is treating each person that she encounters with the same attention and the same respect and that is pretty shocking.”

Isn’t it sad, that it’s shocking? That to, “treat each person that we encounter with the same attention and the same respect” is so unusual?

She and the others involved in different live art pieces actually prepared heavily in different ways for their performances. For example, they practiced being still and slowing down their breathing. They confronted things within themselves, in anticipation of being in front of people and offering up something. They spent a lot of time in silence, thinking.

I think that every person needs something like this, to be able to give to others in any way. We need strength from outside ourselves.

Another thing about this particular performance art was that everyone was watching the whole thing. People came to the museum to see the exhibit, which was two people sitting across from one another in silence.

Another aspect of note about it was that people practically hurt each other rushing into the museum, trying to compete to be the ones to sit in the empty chair.

My favorite moment is when two young kids replicate the performance and are cross-legged, sitting on the floor right there facing one another, staring. Of course they would copy the adults, but they also create something new of their own in that moment.

We can create in this way.

In contrast to the above, but with some of the same elements, check out the following private moment behind closed doors.

This excerpt is from a wonderful article written by Tom Junod in Esquire magazine, and it’s a story about Mr. Rogers and his minister whom he asks a favor of, and then includes the journalist in the interaction.

Mr. Rogers began creating the moment he met this journalist. He began looking at him and really listening. He tried to really see his life. He cared about him and expressed that. He also was simply himself in the process of interaction. Doing what he did in his own particular way, even when that could’ve been seen as geeky or peculiar. The article is entitled, “Can You Say … Hero?”

The below example to me, is an amazing one of the quiet art of living. Of being a life artist. Attuned to others and oneself, free in the knowledge of one’s value, and that one has the ear of God. After getting to know both the journalist and the minister, Fred Rogers was in a room with just the two of them, behind a closed door. They all touched.

The next afternoon, I [writer Tom Junod] went to [Fred Rogers’] office in Pittsburgh. He was sitting on a couch, under a framed rendering of the Greek word for grace and a biblical phrase written in Hebrew that means “I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine.” A woman was with him, sitting in a big chair. Her name was Deb. She was very pretty. She had a long face and a dark blush to her skin. She had curls in her hair and stars at the centers of her eyes. She was a minister at Fred Rogers’s church. She spent much of her time tending to the sick and the dying. Fred Rogers loved her very much, and so, out of nowhere, he smiled and put his hand over hers. “Will you be with me when I die?” he asked her, and when she said yes, he said, “Oh, thank you, my dear.” Then, with his hand still over hers and his eyes looking straight into hers, he said, “Deb, do you know what a great prayer you are? Do you know that about yourself? Your prayers are just wonderful.” Then he looked at me. I was sitting in a small chair by the door, and he said, “Tom, would you close the door, please?” I closed the door and sat back down. “Thanks, my dear,” he said to me, then turned back to Deb. “Now, Deb, I’d like to ask you a favor,” he said. “Would you lead us? Would you lead us in prayer?”

Deb stiffened for a second, and she let out a breath, and her color got deeper. “Oh, I don’t know, Fred,” she said. “I don’t know if I want to put on a performance….”

Fred never stopped looking at her or let go of her hand. “It’s not a performance. It’s just a meeting of friends,” he said. He moved his hand from her wrist to her palm and extended his other hand to me. I took it and then put my hand around her free hand. His hand was warm, hers was cool, and we bowed our heads, and closed our eyes, and I heard Deb’s voice calling out for the grace of God. What is grace? I’m not certain; all I know is that my heart felt like a spike, and then, in that room, it opened and felt like an umbrella. I had never prayed like that before, ever. I had always been a great prayer, a powerful one, but only fitfully, only out of guilt, only when fear and desperation drove me to it…and it hit me, right then, with my eyes closed, that this was the moment Fred Rogers—Mister Rogers—had been leading me to from the moment he answered the door of his apartment in his bathrobe and asked me about Old Rabbit. Once upon a time, you see, I lost something, and prayed to get it back, but when I lost it the second time, I didn’t, and now this was it, the missing word, the unuttered promise, the prayer I’d been waiting to say a very long time.

“Thank you, God,” Mister Rogers said.

No one else saw or experienced this moment, even though we’re all now getting a chance to read about it. The moment itself however, was experienced between only those present. It was made possible by brushstroke after brushstroke, so to speak, of friendliness, of building trust and mutual enjoyment, of kind words and attentive actions and time spent together.


By Tom Junod – “Can You Say … Hero?”

Originally appeared in the November 1998 Esquire. Find the complete article here.

Feeling the Music

In Music, Poetry on September 19, 2013 at 1:01 am
frosty alaska

Photo by Jill Molloy

First Movement

Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 4 in D
began with a flourish up and down my spine,
fifteen years old and never held before
by bright strings spilling over my father’s head,

pipe in hand, eyes smoky black, jowled
appreciator of the things of man, ex-commie
turned cabby turned lawyer at the end,
how could he sit so still with that tug in

the air, I fell to the green rug with my fist
against my chest, I couldn’t help grinning
around the hurt, a funny kind of halo spun
my head, I still had to live in Maryland but

outside that room all Saturday morning shivered,
a great gold crystal just about to burst.

By Mark Smith-Soto


Photo by Roger Brown

Used with permission (c) 2003, University of Florida Press, Our Lives Are Rivers


In Art on January 30, 2013 at 4:26 pm

There’s something very compelling about sculpture that says come inside and be part of this—engage at some physical level. Art is good at intimacy.”      — Anish Kapoor

By Heila Rogers

People create art for different reasons. To work through feelings, to communicate strong beliefs, to document beauty, or because they feel compelled.

We’re motivated to leave our mark, or to get attention.

Thinking about all of this, I found it fascinating to encounter works by Anish Kapoor.

I was captivated in Chicago, by his sculpture “Cloud Gate.”

It’s his most well-known work, unofficially called “The Bean,” and looks like a completely reflective, one-story drop of mercury. It’s enthralling.

Watch the video below of someone as he approaches the sculpture.

In a large park setting in the middle of downtown Chicago, people walk up to it, touch it, and photograph themselves and their infinite reflections. It’s irresistible. People of all ages forget they’re not alone, gaze into its surface and slowly spin in a circle. It being in public is part of its appeal.

Watch the un-selfconscious interactions in this video:

People approach it wondering, camera’s at the ready. They reach out and touch the smooth, cold surface causing their reflections to appear to reach out and touch back.

Viewers walk underneath, look up and see millions of “themselves” reflected in the curved, shining surface.


Photo by Heila Rogers
Underneath “The Bean”
Chicago, Illinois

One interacts with all art in some way.

Gazing at a painting can stir thoughts and emotions, or simply cause appreciation of technique. Certain music can bring tears or stir memories.

Kapoor’s sculptures got me thinking though. Is it a different kind of interaction, when Kapoor creates a sculpture that intentionally, physically draws in a viewer? A unique kind of sculpture that’s not just permissible to touch, but one where touching it is an integral “part” of it.

Could the meeting, interacting and blending mean that the people then by definition, are a part of the art?

In Atlanta’s High Art museum, Kapoor’s “Light Scoops” are installed into the ceiling of an exhibit room. Natural light from the sky outside flows through round openings shaped like ice cream scoops with their bottoms sliced off. Fuzzy shadows outline each opening.


Photo by Heila Rogers
Light Scoops / Anish Kapoor
High Museum of Art, Atlanta

Another of his works, this one at floor level, is a person-sized, purplish gray bulge. As if a giant punched a wall of slime and it hardened.

Photo by Heila Rogers/High Museum of Art, Atlanta

Photo by Heila Rogers/High Museum of Art, Atlanta

Photo by Heila Rogers/High Museum of Art, Atlanta

Photo by Heila Rogers/High Museum of Art, Atlanta

The cavity beckons. We know it’s just a void but there’s a pull to look inside. I was compelled to walk around and also check out the back. It almost feels alive. Yet it’s certainly not. Something about the shape and the size, and how it’s made seems to speak.

In the late 1980s and 1990s, [Kapoor] was acclaimed for his explorations of matter and non-matter, specifically evoking the void in both freestanding sculptural works and ambitious installations. Many of his sculptures seem to recede into the distance, disappear into the ground or distort the space around them … many … have carved apertures and cavities, often alluding to, and playing with dualities (earth-sky, matter-spirit, lightness-darkness, visible-invisible, conscious-unconscious, male-female and body-mind).”

Another sculpture – an upright, mirrored dish, taller than a person, and made of many small, mirrored triangles, has a mesmerizing audio element. If you stand in front of it and speak softly into the center, your voice is magnified and vibrates across the room. Meanwhile, it splits your image into many shattered, unrecognizable pieces.


Photo by Heila Rogers
“Untitled” by Anish Kapoor
Atlanta – High Museum of Art

William Furlong said about one of his works:

… drawn into it, somehow one is drawn into oneself … because of this endless blackness that one is facing.”

This kind of interaction is unique, and I admire the way it engages.

In the end, I’m talking about myself. And thinking about making nothing, which I see as a void. But then that’s something, even though it really is nothing.”      — Anish Kapoor

Sources: Modern Painters, Nov. 2008, Sarah Kent, Mr. Big Stuff/BOMB Magazine, Spring 1990, Anish Kapoor/

Be the Art

In Art, Life in Society on November 4, 2012 at 10:18 am

Photo by Lewis McNeel
“Graft,” by Roxy Paine
National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden
Washington, D.C.

By Bekah McNeel

“Be the art!” I shout, and two grown-up, educated, professional women (plus I, myself) immediately strike the above pose.

This is a tradition among us. We who travel together, and find ourselves needing to commemorate the moment we saw an amazing piece of art. We decided we didn’t want our pictures with the most inspiring, redolent works of creativity to look uninspired and indolent. We started at the Eiffel Tower when, as my best friend Lee and I looked around we saw tourist after tourist in the same pose with the same back drop. So I flipped her onto my back and we matched the energy and audacity of the tower built to represent the age of Science and Industry and the spirit of France at its centennial birthday party: the 1889 World’s Fair.

That stroke of brilliance soon led to deliberate interaction with art and architecture that, in our opinion was true to the spirit of art. Boldness. Iconoclasm. Embodiment.

This is a contrast to the way I usually look at art, which is quietly.

I’ve heard it said that art museums are the sacred spaces of our day. It’s true in many ways. More than libraries or churches, in our age, the stark white walls and hushed halls of galleries serve as shrines to impenetrable icons deliberately distributed across the wallspace. Philosophy is smeared onto canvas and carved out of stone. Serious people go to museums, the devout. Creative people go to museums, the mystics. Pretentious people go to museums, the Pharisees.

Wherever I first heard museums compared to sacred spaces, it was definitely in the context of a lament. Something to the effect that our godless culture has exchanged God for paint and prayers for wire sculpture. However, I see this reverence as a sign that our culture has not yet completely lost its concept of God. The fact that we can study and be taken in by the ineffable is proof that we hunger for something beyond the finite number of our molecules. So I’m a fan of quiet art museums.

It was in a quiet art museum that I discovered, I mean really discovered, grace. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art was my haven in college. I went to escape the scrutiny, intensity, and conformity of my tiny Christian college. I loved the anonymity of being in the city, and the feeling of being in the massive courtyards, one among many. I went to a Diane Arbus exhibit. It was deliciously brazen, like the way scotch tastes. Around me many people were trying to say intelligent things about the series of photos of wrinkly, paunchy nudists and transvestites. They were trying to be either blasé or profound. When faced with the sagging breasts and dimpled belly of a particular subject, I was glad I was alone, and not having to make some comment to validate my discernment (either to the art crowd or the Christian college crowd).  And I found that I could look at it and see the beauty. I didn’t have to make a list of the flaws before I reveled in the goodness. In fact, if I wanted to just walk away without a list of sins committed by the great photographer, that was okay too. I loved Jesus just as much when I left. Maybe more.

I don’t think you have to be able to find grace at a Diane Arbus exhibit. I don’t think you have to like modern art at all. Years later I would visit the Byzantine Fresco Chapel at the Menil Collection in Houston, where the space is designed to evoke the sacred origins of the art. It was dark, cold, and quiet, an atmosphere all the more potent by the fact that we had stumbled in out of the 3pm August sunshine. We, my architect husband Lewis and I, sat in awe for a long time. A very long time. We were alone and we were worshipful.

Down the street at the Rothko Chapel, we witnessed another version of the modern sacred space, again this time deliberate. The Rothko Chapel welcomes guests to choose from a table of sacred texts, and to use the space for prayer and meditation.

Inside the Basilica, Old Town Quito, Ecuador

Photo by Roger Brown
Inside the Basilica
Old Town Quito, Ecuador

So the question arises: why violate this sacred space? Why transgress the unspoken pact that I the patron have made with the artists and curators to take the art as Mary took the Annunciation and ponder it quietly in my heart?

Because of slides. In 2006 Carston Höller installed spiraling tube slides in the London’s Tate Modern. They carried sliders from each of the four storied floors to the ground floor. Patrons of the museum donned helmets and rode in potato sacks and often squealed as they sped down the slide.

“For Carsten Höller, the experience of sliding is best summed up in a phrase by the French writer Roger Caillois as a ‘voluptuous panic upon an otherwise lucid mind’. The slides are impressive sculptures in their own right, and you don’t have to hurtle down them to appreciate this artwork. What interests Höller, however, is both the visual spectacle of watching people sliding and the ‘inner spectacle’ experienced by the sliders themselves, the state of simultaneous delight and anxiety that you enter as you descend.”

I happened to live in a flat behind the Tate Modern for the entire length of the exhibition, and passed the entrance on my way to classes. I made use of the slides often enough, as there is no admission fee to the Tate. Standing under the silver spirals was stunning. The sort of thing that makes you feel the need to say something profound. But instead of musing about the form, a cascading shriek reminds you of the function.

It was unconscious, because the “Be the art!” movement was not premeditated or in any way serious, but the irreverence of people hurtling down playground equipment inside a bastion of London culture shifted my thinking. Throughout history, art has transgressed social norms and values. Art has poked fun at things we consider important. Surely there is a place for some tomfoolery in the consumption of art.

lotus denver botanical gardens

Photo by Roger Brown
Lotus Flower
Denver Botanic Gardens

If we are free to interact with art not as something austere and high-minded, but instead respond with honesty and enjoyment, even in the form of silliness and play, maybe more people would enjoy it. Perhaps if we were less worried about the appropriate response, and just responded, we would get more out of interactions with art.

On a recent trip to New York, Lewis and I visited two major artistic venues: the Whitney and the Lincoln Center.

At the Whitney, we were taken by a piece of video art that seemed generally pleasing until we realized it was produced in 1926. Oskar Fischinger’s Space Light Art: A film environment was so far ahead of its time it seemed impossible. But it was also playful. Fischinger was enamored with the potential of the new medium to intoxicate the viewer. In the dark of the room we geeked out and surrendered ourselves to the mesmerizing pulse of color and shape on the wall in front of us.

Later, we went to see the New York Ballet. Surrounded by little gray haired ladies who were no doubt responsible for the existence of the New York Ballet, we watched a modern selection of dances, including a particularly affective pas de deux. When we walked out, Lewis turned to me and said, “That was soft porn.” I was tempted to argue with him about the nature of sensuality in art until I realized that he was getting it more than I was. Yes, that was what they were getting at, sex. It was sensual almost to the point of eroticism. Rather than being so consumed with being at the ballet Lewis was interacting with it. And he needed a breath of fresh air.

He had the same reaction to Marilyn Monroe by the way, the first time he saw her in a motion picture. When she sauntered up the stairs in “The Seven Year Itch,” Lewis cried out, “That’s obscene!”  Lewis gets art, perhaps inherently. He feels what it’s going for. That was part of why I fell in love with him. Before him, there was Chagall.

jelly fish

Photo by Roger Brown
Jelly Fish
Monterey Aquarium

I fell in love with Marc Chagall at age seven. My grandmother took me to San Antonio’s museum of modern art, The McNay. There was Dream Village, all colors and broad strokes. With a dancing cow. I loved it then and I love it now. As I mentioned, in college I sought refuge in art museums. After a particularly restorative visit to the Getty, I was looking through the bookstore while waiting for the tram. I found a book that used Marc Chagall’s lithographs Daphnis and Chloe to illustrate the 1956 Paul Turner translation of the myth by the same name. I had no excuse to spend museum prices on a book, but I bought it on the spot. After college I took a trip across Europe to, as my mother put it, see what condition my condition was in.  I found myself at the Albertina in Vienna where Chagall’s illuminated Scriptures were on display. The intersection of the playful style that had delighted me as a child and the sacred text that shaped my life was a near ecstatic experience at a time when I was most in need of one. And even after that, my indie music hound sister gave me a song by the Weepies. Their soulful sound spoke to my heart during a phase of longing, and as I searched for more of their music, I came across their song “Painting by Chagall.”  Over time a dreamy, playful, Chagall motif developed in my times of contemplation and awakening.

Chagall is, to me, an example of the many roles that art can play in our lives. His bold use of color, simplified forms, and dreamscapes are at times exuberant and playful, at times iconic, and at times heartbreaking. He also channeled genuine religious experience, which like stained glass windows and illuminated texts of old, remind us that art has always interacted with the Sacred. Like religion, I think that art must be robust in its place in our lives. In art we can engage not only our more high-minded sensibilities of expression and communication, but also our sexuality, our sense of humor, and, yes, our reverence for the ineffable.

The Basilica and part of Quito

Photo by Roger Brown
The Basilica & part of Quito