Pressure

I have been conscious of stress ever since I was a kid when they used to call it “pressure.” It took years for my therapists to educate me to call “pressure” “stress,” instead. 
 
But it’s still “pressure” that has always had a strong physical effect on me. It feels like: 
 

• like something pressing on my chest and restricting my movement; or
• like something pushing against my forehead holding me back; or
• like something squeezing my insides and paralyzing me; or
• like something holding my muscles in a long, silent ache.

 
Once I learned the modern word for pressure, I realized it does not come from the outside nearly as powerfully as it does from the inside. And the longer I pursued what I wanted out of life no matter what anybody said and no matter how impossible the voice of pragmatism told me it would be to attain it, the more I became aware of when and how I do it to myself. 
 
In 2001, I had to be hospitalized because I couldn’t control my suicidal thoughts. It was clear to me as I recovered that the constant internal pressure that I was in the habit of keeping myself under would continue to lay traps – worse and worse traps – as I got older if I didn’t let up on the pressure. 
 
I mean it, I really got it. I did not learn this in the hospital – I learned it because I never wanted to have to go back.
 
Now that I am almost a month into retirement and am getting into the habit of not having somebody else’s deadline to meet every day, I realize that “de-stressing” must have been a gradual and continuing process for  a habit for me. And that if I had not been workBlogpost draft – still working on it. 
 
Epiphany. I have been conscious of stress ever since I was a kid when they used to call it pressure. It took years for my therapists to educate me to call “pressure” “stress,” instead. But it’s still pressure and it’s power has always had a strong physical effect on me – like something pressing on my chest and restricting my movement; like something pushing against my forehead holding me back; like something squeezing my insides and paralyzing me; like something holding my muscles in a long silent ache.
 
Once I learned the modern word for pressure, I realized it does not come from the outside nearly as powerfully as it does from the inside. And the longer I pursued what I wanted out of life no matter what anybody said or how impossible the pragmatist in me told me it was going to be to attain it, the more I became aware of when and how I do it to myself. In 2001, I had to be hospitalized because I couldn’t control my suicidal thoughts. It was clear to me as I recovered that the constant internal pressure that I was in the habit of keeping myself under would continue to lay traps, worse and worse traps, as I got older if I didn’t let up. 
 
I mean it, I really got it. I did not learn this in the hospital – I learned it because I never wanted to have to go back.
 
Now that I am almost a month into retirement and am getting into the habit of not having somebody else’s deadline to meet every day, I realize that “de-stressing” must have been a habit of mine for quite a long time without my being aware of it. I realize that if I had not been working on managing my own stress since I got out of the hospital 15 years ago, I would still be tight as a rubber band and probably go to dayjob until the day I died because – because of whatever was always so damned urgent. Something was always urgent. 
 
Everything is urgent and nothing is. I am thinking about this while I wait for the image to appear on my brain that will show me how to stage the area right outside the room where one of the characters in THE BLUE LADY (my current project) is dying. This area outside his sickroom is where his caregiver spends a good part of her day. While I wait for the image to emerge, I go online and check my stats and look for something cool that one of my FB friends hopefully has posted, and watch “Cries and Whispers” (one of the inspirations for my movie) in half hour increments. Suddenly, I am acutely aware that something extremely unpleasant is missing. That is, I am not waiting for any news about my work to arrive in my artist’s Gmail inbox. What a load off my mind that has been for probably 7 or 8 months, NOT waiting for a curator or judge or selection committee to get back to me.
 
I will have to enter THE BLUE LADY in some qualifying competition in order for it to have an IMDb page for the sake of better visibility on Amazon (where I will upload it as soon as it’s done); but I have no intention of shopping it around – that makes me feel like something evil is squeezing my insides. 
 
I have been curated since I was in my twenties. I think that’s enough of that for me. I have been selling art since I was in my thirties. So, for a long time, I have been in the habit of understanding that most people don’t care about my work, some people really hate it and just enough people really like it. That’s my expectations, that’s realistic, and that’s no pressure.
 

THE BLUE LADY, Outtake


Kill your darlings or they will ruin your project

Still, Missy, The Blue Lady

I will shoot dress rehearsals of Missy’s today as my production of THE BLUE LADY begins. I went to a lot of trouble so that Missy’s makeup would include a Caucasian nose. But when I tested the nose with makeup yesterday, I discovered that I can’t use Missy’s nose as the skin texture on the nose is much too rough to match my skin. 

I could put off production and search for another nose, it’s true. But what best serves the project as a whole? I have witnessed other people’s projects not be completed because of too much energy and, usually, too much money, spent on one aspect or function or detail. In most cases, that one particular aspect or function or detail was a “darling” and not the core or heart of the project. It’s not rocket science: kill your darlings or they will ruin your project. 

The core medium of my multimedia art form is acting. I feel confident that my acting is true to Missy’s character. That is what my choices have to be based on in the case of this project. I consulted an expert yesterday and have decided that pale makeup plus blush for fair skin will do for Missy’s face. 

What I can do

Publicity photo for JUMP, directed by Michael Lewis

 The first thing was choosing to fall through the trap door, which was bound to happen anyway because I had already made up my mind that I was willing to fail. 


When, like I was, you are born with the gift for knowing the limits of your talents (except writing, which took until now for me to realize in me is a skill not a talent – there’s a difference), when you instinctively know your limitations, you grow up with the anxiety that you will run out of what you can do and that you will be found out and in the end, you will be a disappointment.


However, I was not born with the gift for knowing sooner or later there should be a trap door, which is different from just not having the facility for doing something, for example, not grasping perspective in drawing or just not having any pitch at all – which is why I have hit the wall four times as a writer (ages 17, 27, 52 and 57). That is a long story and not what this essay (or, as it turned out, my life) is about, and I’m over it anyway. 

I was not born with a gift for knowing that if you do not come to a trap door as an artist, a door in the floor of consciousness and self-control through which, if he is lucky, one falls into terrifying depthlessness and never catches one’s breath again until he accepts that if he wants to be good at what he wants so badly to do, he will have to be willing to risk failing and most certainly, falling into the unknown over and over again. 

Simply stated, if you do not come to a trap door, whether you ultimately choose to fall through it or not, there is probably a limit to your ability to grow in whatever you are doing. 

I did not come to a trap door as a sculptor, and because I know and can accept my limitations, I would have been content to keep doing variations on the same theme until I died. I did come to a trap door as a painter and simply couldn’t go there. Long story that I’m still trying to unravel except for the common knowledge that every sculptor wants to be a painter, anyway. 

My trap door was where trap doors are supposed to be, on stage (LITERALLY on stage one night at Brava! for Women in the Arts in 1994, when I still totally sucked as an actor and never thought I would be any good). I am still falling, figuratively speaking, through the same trap door and bumping into characters and stories, so many that I will not live long enough to do anything about most of them.

Simply stated, if you are lucky as an artist, you fall through a trap door into something that makes you look good. 

  

NEW ARTIST’S STATEMENT

This video showing three different reactions to someone screaming in pain in another part of the house is from an early draft of my current project, THE BLUE LADY.


In my work as an artist, I do not care about re-creating the world either as I see it or as I think it should be or as what’s wrong with or as it would ideally be. Realism is just not engaging to a person with a pragmatic personality like mine. Realism makes me say “so what?”

I care about experience.

Not even the smartest human is omniscient. Nor can he get inside another creature’s or plant’s experience and feel, know and learn it as that creature or plant does. All that anyone can feel, know or learn in that respect is his own experience.

This is so potentially interesting because each human, each creature, each plant is a discrete package with unique experiences. We are so isolated and shut in with our own individual systems of physical function that it really is ridiculous and redundant to say “there is nothing new under the sun.” Of course there is. The only thing that’s not new is the recycled stardust that we’re all made of.

So, I am not interested in reflecting reality, in reflecting the obvious. I am not jaded, cynical, disillusioned or even remotely bored. I don’t even know from personal experience what “ennui” is – my brain has always refused to do that for more than two minutes.

I want to make creatures who, if they were real life, mostly would be different than me. I am interested in having each of those creatures’ experiences within a set of imaginary circumstances and showing the world what those experiences “are.”

Still, THE BLUE LADY: LaLi

Still, THE BLUE LADY Storyboard 1