Archive for August, 2010

Tweaking the Writer’s Block with Nostalgic Bits of Psychology and Art

Posted in On Being an Artist with tags , , , on August 16, 2010 by Kimberly Cooper Nichols

I’ve been finishing a novel that I started four years ago and have been seriously in the throes of writer’s block recently. I think it has to do with the fact that I have to write at least three articles a week for my income and by the time my week is over I have already spent so much brain power churning out the non-fiction that it’s hard to get motivated for the fiction. Last week I decided to trick myself and pull out all of the published fiction I have written in my lifetime to hopefully electrocute my synapses back into action. One piece that I found thrilled me to the core, a piece I had completely forgotten about until I found it at the bottom of a moving box.

A few years back I was in a project called Ab Ovo, curated by San Francisco-based artist Steven Hull. He paired a number of contemporary, emerging artists with a number of contemporary, emerging fiction writers. I was chosen as one of the writers and was paired with Lamar Peterson,  an illustrative painter whose work I completely admire. The concept was fascinating. Hull had a bunch of famous artists take the old fashioned hardcore MPSS personality test, then he sent us the results without telling us who the artists were. Then we took the results, reviewed them and created a short story about that artist but as  CHILD based on the test results. It as wild and challenging and fun.

My story was called Boy in a Butterfly Garden, about the son of a nervous, hypochondriac who escapes into the desert for solace with the milkweeds, teddy bear cholla and shape-shifting clouds. When I was done, I sent my story to Lamar who illustrated it in the ways that he saw fit. It was interesting because none of us were allowed to know who each other were until after the project was completed, and we could give no explanations or directions to one another.

I was super pleased when the book came out and we were able to finally discover our collaborators. The show traveled from Steven Wolfe Gallery in San Francisco to the Santa Monica Hangar in Los Angeles but we were all given hardbound books of the fiction and the drawings to keep as souvenirs. After finding this last night, my itch to create imaginary people, situations and words has been reignited. Sometimes all it takes is a short visit to the ghosts of projects past…


Posted in On Being an Artist with tags , , on August 13, 2010 by Kimberly Cooper Nichols

Sneak peek of photo elements in a new series of mine called 80DK that revolves around eighties decadence and the rush of mall culture and consumerism that fueled its flames. I became interested in this idea when I became increasingly aware of the strip malls and storefronts all throughout Southern California that have stood vacant and empty for the past decade no longer throbbing hubs of teenage label-lovers or their credit card yuppie carrying parents. I remember hanging around malls, not because I wanted to buy things, but because they were the only places to go to socialize with my prepubescent friends. And I recall the sense of pathos that surrounded my time there as a young black haired punk girl not interested in the Ton Sur Ton jumpsuits or looking like Olivia Newton John, and the fact that even then, I found some vast vacancy in the world of beckoning mannequins. Enjoyed working on this series and turning my memories into a ghost town of young, frozen solid, hungry girls searching in the wrong places for their sense of identity and satisfaction.

Things That Scare Me : Living Room

Posted in On Being an Artist with tags , , on August 10, 2010 by Kimberly Cooper Nichols

Living Room, Photograph by Kimberly Nichols

Bizarre Integrative Feelings In The Air Tonight

Posted in On Being an Artist with tags , , , , , on August 7, 2010 by Kimberly Cooper Nichols

There’s a bizarre serenity in the air. Desert Hot Springs. Not far enough in to feel afraid, or to really reflect on the anxiety-ridden trails of childhood, but enough to appreciate being at the top of a hill with two artist soul mates visiting from Austria, ensconced in a beautiful home with a zen garden and natural wood tubs and a host who is Katherine the Great, white haired, wild eyed, chain smoking and alive and a-thrive within her home with high wood beam ceilings that are covered every square inch in her lush oil paintings and assemblages.

I walk outside at nine at night, cocktail in hand, high off the conversations with Hans over his upcoming book that I am writing about his social sculptural project called the Rolling Stone, hours after a woman-to-woman conversation with his life partner about the integrity in being able to make solid decisions rather than just waiting for what life blindly throws at you in the form of inconsequential consequence and armed for tomorrow with my art partner Ryan and a full day of art-attack-itis ahead, and I am blissful. Walking down the street which means walking down a very steep hill, away from our host’s sculptural Buddha gardens full of wasps and bees in friendly fashion who only sting and bite once disturbed in their nests, and I see lights dotted all across the horizon. Peaceful, sedate lights, beckoning of people in their homes, nodding towards bed.

And twenty years ago, I would have been on this same street in a sari with my hippie friend Beth, walking to the grocery store at midnight, hitchhiking for money from strangers to buy hot tamales and good and plentys at the store with the meth freaks and motorheads, unaware that we should have really been scared, immersion being the great equalizer.

And the moon is so beautiful tonight as I turn off my tape recorder, things properly documented for prosperity and my eyes on the road ahead. Beautiful, glistening, beckoning road.

Things That Scare Me

Posted in On Being an Artist with tags , , , on August 4, 2010 by Kimberly Cooper Nichols

Joe’s Boxers, Photo by Kimberly Nichols

Ever since I was a little girl I have been intrigued by things that scare me. I used to keep a scrapbook of current newspaper clippings when I was around ten. All the newspaper clippings were of current events that had to do with violence, terror, or confusing psychological pathos that I totally didn’t understand but knew raised a level of anxiety in my premature head. When I sat at a baseball game and watched Reggie Jackson get into a fight with a member of an opposing team, I felt a fear in my belly and clipped out the image of the “punch” moment the next day to glue into my scrapbook. I also obsessed over the McDonalds massacre in the eighties. I guess having the newspaper clippings contained in my own private notebook gave me some semblance of false subliminal control by which I could trick myself into believing I was safe, that these were now just images in my book, and I controlled them. Ever since that time I have been fascinated with things unexplainable that leave me feeling a little uneasy. Nothing to do with morbidity or the macabre, but more of a light shining from my eyes onto a situation totally incomprehensible to my own logical mind, the mere fact of facing these images, these feelings, and these events, gave me a sense of freedom and distance from them. When I evolved as an artist and started to find my own influences in life and art, Cindy Sherman was one of my iconic artistic mentors. Not only because of the obvious psychological portraiture of women in her work that has become a main impetus in mine, but also the relativity I found in her specific series titled Porn Series, wherein she placed body parts and warped prosthetic limbs into surreal and bizarre still lifes that she then photographed: again capturing her own sense of awe, mystery and anxiety surrounding certain feelings and images into a cathartic symmetry and frame by creating it within her own controlled artwork. Mastery of emotions through the explorations of that which befuddles, confounds and ultimately scares us.

I have started my own collection of photographic images that are found in places that can only be described as “stumbled upon”. Images that, immediately upon viewing, and because of their seeming juxtaposition within their environment that can only be described as completely out of context and visually jarring. Images that instantly cause the upheaval of my stomach into a lump that rises to my throat begging questions such as “What is that doing there?”, “Who is the person that put that there?”, “What was that person doing?” and then an imperceptible shiver down my spine that lets me know I don’t really want to know. A new, mature, visual documentary of the unexplained and slightly queasy.