Tea Takes Time

Three hundred teacups allow me to use my time wisely, constructively.
When I work quietly and hidden, my slow busy hands distill reason with clarity.

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Every teacup is secured to its saucer. Felted circles cut in small, medium, large, and extra large are securely attached to the bottom of each saucer.

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Each teacup has a very strong hook, placed precisely and doubly secure,
concealed under the felt.

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All the trunks, sturdy and clean, provide the storage for the teacups
which are neatly wrapped inside protective covers.

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Now I get to finish writing all the wishes,
great prayers for all of us typed on tags with an old typewriter.

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Perfect timing. I am ready to live in the light now.
Why rush this part, when, for over 6 years, this is what I have been longing for?
I will reside in this state for at least a year.
After which, I will have to attach each tag to a cup.
I wish to make that a ceremony of sorts.

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Thanks to all of you who offered your teacups. They are in good hands.
One day, I don’t know how or where, they will have a coming out party.
I don’t know the future of Reading Tea Leaves (2010-2017),
yet it is in my heart to know.
Warmth, Lee

What Saves Me

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I love I Ching. The practice has shaped my life and art, singlehandedly saving me from danger.

I Ching, literally meaning “The Book of Change,” predicts the future by taking complicated situations and translating them using the ever-changing properties of the four seasons melded with wisdom about the ebb and flow of social and personal relationships. It is a sequence of 64 philosophical commentaries arranged in the “Book of Changes.” The influential passages are astonishing and simple at once.

When I was first learning how to use the manual I searched daily for guidance in making decisions and answers on how to be. The I Ching does not judge “good” from “bad.” There is no death card. Everything is of equal value in the motion of transition, the constant rotation of rejuvenation and decline. I Ching is how I learned patience. Why I move slowly in life. And why I have embraced long-term projects in my studio practice.

I don’t refer to the classic text of I Ching as much as I did when I was younger. The words of wisdom have taught me how to navigate life with the proper amount of caution. Like the wheelbarrow that adjusts on a single point, I adjust in every given moment, choosing a direction that attempts to align with the cosmic order. I Ching introduces both marvel and acceptance in life. In it I find everything needed to peer into a palm of water taken out of a moving stream, making perfect sense of its randomness. Now, I only consult the cherished wisdom when my heart and mind become confused, when I feel weight in light and fear in sound.

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Consulting I Ching feels like going before ancient elders to petition for wisdom in an effort to relieve the distraction of doubt. I have to remind myself not to revert to a childish display, attempting to manipulate the findings into the things I wish to hear, urgently reaching for what I think I need. Pleas made with wailing tears, a dramatic gesture, the surrender of cherished items, and ceremonial vows and bows used to retain an unflattering habit, must be curbed. I don’t want to abuse their offerings, so my inquiry is made with precision and my mantra is to listen and accept.

In 2014 I became deeply conflicted with a dream to retreat and the difficulty of letting go. Last summer, I sought understanding and hoped for answers. My first consultation revealed commentary 36, Censorship. At first glance, one could easily assume that “Censorship” is unjust silencing. Included in the text, however, are words from Lao Tzu, an Eastern philosopher of the 6th century BC [I have changed He/himself to She/herself]:

She does not show herself; therefore she is luminous
She does not define herself; therefore she is distinct
She does not assert herself; therefore she succeeds
She does not boast of her work; therefore it endures for long
It is precisely because she does not compete that the world cannot compete with her.

With this passage, I am told repeatedly to refrain from engagement. “Censorship” gives me permission to step into a mode that I have longed for, even threatened to enact, but perhaps feared. Lao Tzu instructs that residing in solitude can actually protect against the stagnation of conformation.

My retreat has been slow moving, requiring a few added twists of fate to clear the path. A change of location appeared on my horizon, one that came about as magically and forebodingly as the tree that springs forth from a rocky cliff. Only recently has the world outside begun to disappear as I drift away like a glacier calving and I am able to see the sky and find crisp air.

Retreat is not a permanent state or a goodbye. Retreat is a moment in time through which I can wholeheartedly explore a personal world, relying on steadfastness without determination and contemplation without conceit. It makes sense that it took a full season to maneuver myself into place.

My retreating saves me. Like a winter blanketing of snow, my integrity will be protected and used as the nurturing ingredient to create.

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Images
“The Book of Changes” – an ancient Chinese treasure examines the meaning of human affairs
Digital artwork
The house on the forest preserve

Bridge In The Clouds

It always happens. A young artist working alongside me in my studio will ask me about the meanness of other artists. They wonder about my encounters. They want to know how I have handled them.

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First, I tell them it is not just artists. All people are capable of unkindness and these unnecessary situations can occur in a full spectrum of fields. Second, I tell them I don’t handle it. When someone directs meanness toward me I don’t touch it. I tell the young artist that I remain very still next to the apparent wasp nest. The fiery sparks flying forth will change to floating embers, quickly burn out, and fall to the ground. The residue of someone’s heated vision does not belong to me.

What is mine are my feelings, and those are quite valuable possessions. My feelings have everything to do with me and are a contributing force in my art. In these situations I remain calm. I collect my introspection, as if preserved in a jar, for future examination and use. I would never spew them out across a distance solely directed at one! I cherish and admire my emotions enough to stretch them out in more magnificent ways that give lasting power to them by reaching more than a few!

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Your best interest is not on everyone’s mind (even when you are in view and in a puddle of blue)

One way to transform someone’s meanness is to see it as a studio supply that you would not normally access. The experience offers you rare and raw material that can add purity and texture to that which you create. These elemental ingredients can’t be made up and should not be wasted.

To the young artist I say: What belongs to you is your art, your story, a wild character with tooth, a maverick brushstroke, some conceptual bravado and truth. All these things stem from experiences of all kinds that shake hands inside of you.

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The mean person most likely has less internal introductions occurring, which too easily can translate into a summary of a situation or assumptions concerning an individual. Let them have their path to their worldview. You have your art that needs your attention, your time, and your own evaluation of your most intimate emotions.

For the person that is rude, perhaps even vicious, we can have empathy. They may be scared by memory of war, living with unrealized dreams, angry from incurable boredom, or fighting to maintain a facade of superiority. It’s really quite heartbreaking.

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In the long-run, not engaging in a low point saves everyone at once. The high road you take may become recognizable to others in the future due to the memory you helped shape. That bridge in the clouds that you glide upon grows clear with each walk. If you are serious about making art, you will have to practice walking up there, quietly. In time, distasteful acts pass through you depositing that which is useful, glistening jewels mined from within that shine through in a new chapter of a book, a poem, a painting, a work of art.

IMAGES
From the Life On Hold series  ©2009 
From the Wonderscape series  ©2004
Retablos #3 Brat
Digital art @2014

The course of action

Following the inspiration of the moment with complete abandon takes practice and courage.

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This just happened:  Excitement builds from the feelings of accomplishment, like walking from a narrow stone alleyway into a brilliant sunbath. Without caution, I create a huge workload and stretch my capacity beyond its limit. My eyes become colorful pinwheels reflecting all that I have taken on and all I wish to do, including areas that are new to me. My ears are like open flowers taking in the sound of my own voice. I tune out all danger signs in order to work diligently on all that I think is right. That may sound confusing, but, I’m used to it.

I never sense the change in attitude approaching.

Out of nowhere, things come to a sudden stop and I become stuck in a place of not knowing a single thing. It’s that messy stage of creativity. All that was once orderly and clear becomes sloppy, attention to detail is impaired and coherent explanations of my idea disintegrate. The diagram explains it somewhat.

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The number of times I travel to left field, and the duration of the visit, have changed throughout the years. I’m becoming more conscious of the whole episode. I’ve had to learn that it is highly efficient, rather than a waste of time.

I’ve grown to welcome this dramatic change of perception.  It is the most fertile part of strengthening a concept. Discomfort and fear have been replaced by calm and fascination. My experimentation is bold and sweeping so I quickly learn what I can and cannot do.

The true experience is a necessity for defining what my art truly is. In the end, the process cannot be verbalized completely, it is the final art that holds the story within it.

Images
My digital self portrait 
My quick sketch

The anatomy of an idea

Ideas do not need destinations. They do need imagination so that the mind can fly without a blueprint. Drive is valuable to give life to the idea.

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An idea can exist in a sketchbook, as a model, or in pieces packed away in a chest. I work under this guise. It is important for me to work through the details of all the aspects and see the idea through to completion, whether physical or not.  I even set into motion as if the idea will be realized and I suppose this is a trick of the mind that I have mastered. I make models, explore materials, gather items together, and write about it.

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My time as an artist is spent on the process of creating a final work of art. I seem to employ less energy when it comes time to finding a place for it to be exhibited. I tend to see it as a job for the future. I have plans for an easy assemblage, if someone were to take it on. My attitude is not one of defeat, rather I am filled with so many ideas that the studio atmosphere is one of triage. I want to do it all.

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Here is one of my installation ideas. The origin of the idea was huge. Since I was a kid, I loved overwhelming amounts of fantastic in-your-face multiples where the sheer magnitude captures the force of my longing.

This installation is about a quiet glowing heart, one that thrives because I am experiencing the relationships that are the focal point in a participatory projects like this.

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READING TEA LEAVES

Three hundred unique teacups and saucers create a tea party where viewers read tea leaves foretelling a bright future. Reading Tea Leaves is a delicate installation that uses the power of language to create a new reality.

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Teacups cascade down the wall, slowly protruding outwards and upwards, inviting the viewer closer. Each cup is lined in gold and has flecks of luminous gold leaf deposits. The golden remnants are messages that need to be deciphered. The teacups are nests that hold promise and nurture possibility.

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What I see in the teacups I record on a card. The poetic messages that I find call us to our higher selves, our angelic nature. Reading the words gives material substance to these positive ideas.

Attached to each teacup are small manilla tags secured with a wire. The stiffness of the wire becomes sculptural, reaching outward. The tagging mimics the feel of an auction house sale, something old being inventoried, or an estate sale collectable discovery. The script on each note contains a message, a location, a time, indicating a far reaching principle.

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The messages appeal to the senses, often referencing sound, sight, touch, smell and taste. Individual delight is achieved by using the word “you”, as in “You are” and “You have.” The art is visually stunning and presented in a feminine manner that instills gentle commands to cultivate new beginnings.

Tea is prevalent in most cultures and considered a daily ritual. Gestures of hospitality, elaborate ceremonies, and medicinal properties conjure a comforting, wakeful tranquility. More robust meanings of altering reality, such as the historical Boston Tea Party, the fanciful stance of Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, and the optimism found in the custom of afternoon Tea, also permeate the installation.

The illuminated teacups are reflections of the past that beckon us forward, encouraging a personal heroism by strengthening a positive self-perception and our capability to contribute to an enlightened world. The viewer is guided into portals that arouse an internal instrument, our inner voices. This tea party is a large social gathering, one offering the community sustenance for a heartfelt outlook.

Reading Tea Leaves is a work in progress that can adapt to a spacious or confined room, one wall to four (and easily divided evenly among them 300, 150, 100, and 75.)

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The teacups and saucers are melded together securely and hang on concealed tiny hooks. Attached to the back of saucer are varied length dowels (painted white) that tip the saucers outward from the wall and slowly turning them upward.

Existing gallery lighting is suitable or specialized and dramatic light can work. Miniature pin lights and magnifying glasses will be on hand for those in need of assistance in reading the messages or for those drawn to the experience of investigation.

An audio track, of a tea party with whispering, can be included in the space or as an audio component accessed online. A slideshow of closeup shots of the words within the cups will available to be mobile users attending the exhibit.

The teacups have been collected from family, friends, new cyber pals and thrift stores since 2010. View the collection of teacups in my archive.

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 My original vision was 1000s of teacups and that still remains true today. In my art I must confront the reality of my world and where and how I am positioned in making things happen.

Out of this world

Two paintings sold, two different people, two days apart. A rare happening that will most likely only occur once in my life. Both paintings were placed side by side in my studio as I prepared to wrap and move them. The most important thing about this random pairing is that it allowed me to compare two worlds held apart by a decade.

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One is an earlier work, a painting kept drenched in wet paint as I chased the subject matter about, naming the items as I coaxed them into place. The other, more recent and taking years to finish, is mostly wet paint applied onto dry paint as gestural marks layered in short sentences to slowly tell a longer story.

The first one, “How Markers Appear,” is from a time when I was longing to be found. I sought to land on a plateau where I could experience a pause from internal restlessness. Up to that point, my journey had been riddled with bread crumbs that had gone missing. The painting indicates how I had recognized something useful outside of myself. I had found clues to a place to experience an ounce of contentment.

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The second painting depicts a settling in, a quiet discovery that made we want to bust out in dance. The title “We Planted an Acre of Wheat and Celebrated Through The Night” indicates that I had found something for real, yet still exercised restraint. It expresses the wonderment of daily life, simplicity, and the exuberance of naming my true needs.

One painting coaxes out a possible remedy; The other tests one’s footing. I followed the markers and headed somewhere. Today, I have just now arrived somewhere.

Images
How Markers Appear ©2002 69″ x77″ oil on canvas
We grew an acre of wheat and danced through the night with joy ©2010-2012 74″ x 66″ oil on canvas