Thursday, September 29, 2005

el 20 de septiembre
I had been feeling so undisciplined, but ana changes how I understand this concept of discipline. She talks about how discipline is a way of walking through the world, that I am incredibly committed to a particular way of being in the world, of my vision of the world and that this is a kind of discipline. This is really true and especially important for artists to understand I think. The way we experience the world is a totally different language.

el 20
I finally made a piece that I really like. It is a breakthrough. And I realize that I dreamed the piece when I first arrived.

el 21
as artists, we are really vessels. I realize the importance of allowing the work to flow through me—it doesn’t really need to stay with me for long—each piece is one in hundreds, a story, a song, a memory, a rock in the river, they have a life of their own.

each piece must move like the river. One idea, a thread, a stitch, a pencil line takes you to another piece, explains something more, opens you. Open close open close open open open.

el 23
it rained--the ants outside of my studio gather pale yellow flowers and leave them in piles around the entrances to their tunnels.

el 24, sábado
ví un búho encima del río, a small white owl flying over in the night. I haven’t seen an owl for a long time—death, birth, spiritual protection, guides. My work continues to change from what I thought it would be. It is so much about the river right now. me encanta este río. It’s so incredible, magical, greenish gold almost. I feel so connected to the river now, to the land here. We feel each other, we know things about each other. And I feel myself breathing the fragility of other people, don’t we?—we see everything and reveal everything about ourselves in every moment.

I have realized the significance of walking on our paths, of doing what we are called to do, or following our passions in life even when it seems impractical, even in the face of fear. When we don’t take responsibility for our power, our gifts, we affect other people, we involve them in our fears either intentionally or unintentionally. It’s really a huge responsibility to assume your own power. especially in those moments when you know the world does not share your vision, does not understand, does not even speak one word of your language. I feel this in my work sometimes but I also remember the power of speaking. That we affect each other, that we touch each other. even when I am struggling to speak, to explain myself in Spanish, I know that that act is beautiful, lovely, alive, powerful (and often funny) We have a huge capacity to give love even when we don’t fully understand where the other person is coming from or what they are saying.

el 26
talking with the paper, cutting out, putting in, somehow I am able to stitch these small bundles back into. the paper holds the sculpture.

el 29 de septiembre
my performance will finally happen next week. So I am thinking a lot about something Ana said to me this summer: “If you want to talk about universality, forget European humanism, let’s talk about the way people relate to land.” This was in the context of talking about the Taino Indians, the Taino mythology, creation stories, history. So the Taino’s tied stones together to stop the rain and opened them to bring the rain. People in the countryside still do this. Most cultures—with connection to land—have rain spells. There is this deep way of calling forth the rain that occurs all over the world, it is ingrained, gestural, cellular. People talk about cellular memory—and really this is more than something physical, biological. It’s a kind of spiritual communication I think, a way of exchanging information at a very deep level—and you have to be completely embodied to feel this connection, to hear. I will begin my performance with oshun, the body, our first homeland. gender, sex, desire, jealousy, love. everything, every word has a body, homeland, birthplace.

el 29
the rains have arrived. heavy pounding. They make mud of the red earth outside of my studio—I have wrapped a large sculpture with thread, rope, canvas. Stones. I cover everything in the red earth. it stains my hands. Camilo—another artist in residence—says, ‘it’s so african’—I wonder if I will find this red earth in nigeria as well.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

el 1 de septiembre.
Alone on my first night here on the island so I begin with my brother Fela to open the space (Suffa, suffa, suffa, suffa, suffa, suffer for what? Now your fault be that!). My arrival at the airport was beautiful, I always love the clapping and praying and perfume spraying that happens when the airplane touches down in santo domingo. That transition from earth to sky to earth is always a bit difficult and scary and something to be thankful for. En estilo dominicano, we deplane directly on the tarmac…this is how famous people arrive, isn’t it? I have a big, cheesy grin on my face, like when I moved to new york and was in love with the skyscrapers. We are all laughing, as we walk down the stairs and see the guagua waiting in the distance. This is better than I could have imagined. We are loading all this luggage into the guagua that will take us to the terminal. “Me quedo aqui,” a woman jokes. Everything about my arrival is fabulous, it’s warm, sunny and I happily sip my shot of Brugal on my way to the customs agent. After that I go to meet my driver—who will be carrying a sign with my name on it—I always thought that would be the most embarrassing thing in the world. And somehow I am the first one out with my luggage and there is a huge mass of people on either side of me waiting to meet their people. At first I think, ‘oh, shit, everyone is starring at me’, but then I get over myself and smile my cheesiest and find the huge ‘Wura Ogunji’ sign in the distance.

I have a ton of visions on the drive from the airport. I see watermelons on the street and machetes stuck into the pavement and the ocean seems to come right up to the edge of the road. I see men emerge from bushes and wonder if they are ghosts. And someone says, ‘this horse walks on water.’ We drive by so many places where the river meets the ocean. I have to make offerings.

My apartment is filled with students’ artwork. They are amazing illustrators. I hope to be this good one day. Their hands understand light. Charcoal drawings are very much sketches for paintings—they are beautiful, though I am pulled to the line of drawings—tentative and certain at the same time. Lines of drawings are so truthful, complete, like desire.

The fridge is stocked with food—the basics that I will need until I find my way into La Romana to go shopping. Ham, cheese, butter, bread, hatuey crackers and of course fresh pineapple, two kinds of melon, fresh oranges, coffee, azucar. Day 5 of eating fried ham and cheese sandwiches—they’re so tasty here--and I hear Ana’s voice reminding me not to eat sandwiches every day.

As I get older I like people more. We are so fragile and powerful, to discover our power, our paths, is our life’s work, isn’t it?

el 2 de septiembre
I move into my studio today. It’s perfect. There’s a sitting area in front and a cactus with beautiful redmagenta sabras. It feels so good to be here, to be out of new york and I am remembering what it was like living here before. Culture really settles into our bones—so that when we are living in new york it is so difficult to even imagine being somewhere else fully. How can we remember fully when so much that we know about the world happens through our bodies. Our bodies store everything we know about this world. That why dance and sex are so important. Such a large part of knowing the world is about being intimate, connecting with other people. I keep thinking about how the body is our first homeland.

I am working on a performance piece about this. Recipe for homeland. Something like that. I will perform it in a couple of weeks for a class here. For a second I feel totally nervous, but then I remember that voice and movement are more powerful than fear. And necessary. I keep thinking about this question: how do we make ourselves vulnerable as artists, throughout the artistic process? this is critical, allows for openings in the work.

el 8 de septiembre
when I am drawing, I am never drawing feet, hands, face, a body. It is a language that is only spoken with the pencil, the eye, the paper. That is what I am speaking in the moment. and it requires so much of the eye. So much discipline and hand strength, it’s so hard for me.

el 9 de septiembre
i am realizing that my bad days may reveal beauty. this morning I woke up late, bumped my head, broke a plate. It’s almost like my body is fighting what I know I have to do—I come to my studio, procrastinate and finally I make myself draw. i have to make endless sketches in order to bring forth beautiful lines. And today everything I am doing is out of compulsion. Trying all these new ways of working, completely changing an image I had planned for days and finally I poke holes in the paper—not knowing if I will fill these with thread or if they will be a grand mistake, a wasted piece of paper. or maybe magic.

el 10 de septiembre
estoy mas interesado en como la gente experiencen (?) la trabajo mas que como ellos lo leen.

el 10 de septiembre
it’s evening now. El sábado. the rain smells lovely, frogs are beginning to sing, the air is cooled for a minute. too bad the mosquitos love my sangre so much.

el 12 de septiembre
i drink my first refajo. (beer and coca cola)

Monday, August 29, 2005

Red Dress by Wura-Natasha Ogunji