Archive for September, 2012

Starlight, Starbright, Wish I May, Wish I Might …

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on September 25, 2012 by Kimberly Cooper Nichols

from a study for “Stardust,” from The Fool, Kimberly Nichols, copyright 2012

Thoughts on the relationship between art and science…

This was a question asked of artist Bill McDowell about his Ashes in the Night Sky works that were beautifully articulated galaxies of stars made entirely of ashes. In a write up on the work in the Morning News, the reporter stated that the medium of ashes created a tangible connection to notions of death and what lies beyond our atmosphere. His answer was that art and science both embrace doubt and uncertainty.

I asked my friends to give me their own interpretations of the relationship between art and science and received the following responses:

You cannot live without either.

Life is richer when both co-exist.

Intelligence, insight, universal understanding.

Love lies between fact and faith.

After love and faith comes poetry.

And one friend recalled her father telling her about creation by explaining, “We are all made of stardust.”

The intersection of art and science has been winding its way into my own work, stemming from that very precious sentiment that we are all connected by cosmic substance and in fact, masters of our own creation. Choosing what to create is elemental to our individual journeys.

When the Fool encounters the Magician on the road, the Magician unfurls the Fool’s sack upon a table and the Fool is amazed to see all the contents of that which he has been carrying: swords and items of conflict, pentacles and tokens of hard work, passion and the pink hot hearts of love, and other mementos of other directions. He is told that he has the power to choose any of these items as a badge of identity, of which to hold proud and to let inform his own road. And he realizes that he has had these items all along, but that now he is ready to stand by his choices, with new found strength and unbridled wisdom.

At this juncture, I choose love.

Catharsis

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on September 15, 2012 by Kimberly Cooper Nichols

IMAGE: “Catharsis” by Kimberly Nichols, copyright 2012

In 2011, filmmaker Adam Haynes and I set out to collaborate on a short piece surrounding the concept of intense human experience. I was given eight words and told to expound upon them from my memory bank and to write freely without editing or fear of critique. In the end, I realized that each memory chosen could be connected, by dots to present a peripheral framing of my overall psychological, physical and spiritual narrative. In performing this exercise, and in the pursuant act of sharing it (naked in front of strangers), the psyche could then experience a cohesive sense of catharsis.

My performance essay that became the blueprint of the script can be found in this month’s Newtopia Magazine here.

Letters from the Dead

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on September 10, 2012 by Kimberly Cooper Nichols

Old postal car at the train graveyard, from a study for “The Fool”, Kimberly Nichols

On my road as an artist, I have been traveling for a long time in a place of curiosity. I am not one of those MFA-school bred wonders who had the luxury of being simultaneously schooled and allowed to roam and wander through luscious studio days and hours of critique towards pinpointing an exact medium and voice. It’s been thirty-something years of trial and error, self-teaching and raw, unbridled passion that I would never trade.

I started to draw the girls when I was around ten and by the time I was fourteen my mother stopped trying to banish me from scrawling portraits and figures all over the walls in my bedroom, knowing it was a lost cause. They became little autobiographies of me and ways that I could attempt to understand my place in this world. In my late twenties and early thirties I took this spotlight off of me and started turning my fascinations to psychology and the inner workings of influence, geography, trauma, and environment on a human existence, my art turning into conceptual stabs at the lives of women in general. Today, this has flushed out even more fully, natural in the course of directional evolution, to make me inherently hungry to understand our total human experience, not bound by the limitations of gender and to see how our individual lives can be connected by the shared commonalities in just plain being alive.

I was very lucky as a child to have three built in mentors in my grandparents.

My grandmother Jeanne Doucette Cooper was a traditional landscape and still life painter who worked in oils. By the time she passed away, her garage/studio boasted one beautiful work in progress on a canvas and a household of walls covered every square inch with years worth of light pastel paintings; an intimidating repertoire from the woman who so painstakingly tried to teach me the color wheel and the way of the oils when I would have nothing of it. I was prone to cut things apart and put them together in abstract ways; or to slather quick drying acrylics on top of board as a base for collage. I can only imagine how much patience it took for her to deal with me when we would make houses out of milk cartons at her kitchen table for Christmas nativity scenes and mine would always be slathered with the not-so-warm-and-fuzzy holiday cheer colors of black and grey.

Her husband, my late grandfather Bruce Cooper was my knight in shining armor who worked as a prison guard by day but would spend hours in the garage on weekends creating beautiful works of art out of stained glass jewelry; a hobby he taught himself and in which he became quite talented. I spent a decade of my teens falling asleep to the ballerina spinning around in one of his stained glass jewelry boxes to the tune “The Entertainer” by Scott Joplin from my early favorite movie “The Sting.” He was the one who told me that I saw the world in my very own way and never to forget that or to let someone else tell me how I should see it their way. I never have to this day.

My Grandmother Milly Moen Dykstra, who is still alive and well in Iowa with her bee stung fuchsia lips and black beehive, is the one who I resemble the most out of my entire family and the one who taught me about the twitch. While I was growing up, she had a fully-equipped ceramics studio in the basement of her multi-story Victorian style home and I would spend every visit with her downstairs making molds, glazing figurines, and scraping seams off hot baked owls, ashtrays and mugs. I would get up in the morning and start to twitch because I couldn’t keep my mind on anything else but getting downstairs to choose the day’s project and paint colors. She would say, “That’s the twitch of the artist and it never goes away.”

Today, my art work still never fails to start with a twitch, followed by an emotion of pure bliss that is impossible to shake, just like it did all those years ago at home when I was cutting people out of magazines and prancing them around like paper dolls in the make believe dramas I would create for them. The itch is then followed by sleepless weeks and months of obsessing over the proper way to explore and present my vision. Over the years this has come out in many forms, from painting to photography to performance to mixed media and of late, my leanings have been pondering the primal, innocent and vulnerable connotations of the arts and crafts movement with woodworking and the exploration of pyrography in a nostalgic yet contemporary vein.

For the past two months as I have been in the beginning stages of new work, and concurrently needing to breathe and enjoy the process of discovery that has come along with the challenges in it, I have been experiencing a very interesting phenomena. It started with a dream of a vast universe in oils, lush stroke work covering an entire blackened field where my brush upon canvas started to uncover some interesting tricks; tricks that have never been known to me. It followed a few days later with another dream where I was presented with some large pieces in a gallery that consisted of a strange new version of what could only be derived from the annals of religious stained glass. Last week, the two forms melded onto one blank slate in another dream; a perfect blend of techniques that I could have never thought of in my waking life. And two nights ago it culminated in a step-by-step instructional lesson in my sleeping mind of how I could put all of this together in my waking life. Jumping from bed each time to hurriedly write down each memory, I couldn’t help but feel the presence of something else at work with me. Perhaps, Jeanne and Bruce are in collusion somewhere out there in the great holographic field of consciousness sending me juicy tidbits in forms that only the subconscious level can attain.  I welcome it to continue as it’s certainly perpetuated my twitch along with the presence of a singular and wiry strand of kinky, grey-silver hair that now resides on my head as if shot straight out volcano style from the nether regions of my brain.

The Fool: Hobo Ego

Posted in Uncategorized on September 7, 2012 by Kimberly Cooper Nichols

from a study for “Unto,” from “The Fool”

I feel like I have been in an odd sort of limbo for the past 12 months. A year ago, I extracted myself from life as I knew it to venture out into the wild, blue yonder as an artist and writer. I had been showing my work for over ten years and had even published a book of literary short fiction but I had always done these things side by side with making a living and raising a child. This time I was leaping into the void without any guarantee and I knew with every grain of my being that it was the vital element in finding the fruition of my most core existence. Leaving a successful professional career and my comfort zone were the biggest ego f**ks of my life. It was a big swan dive into the vast and black unknown. The phone stopped ringing. The invitations stopped coming. I put myself into intentional hermit-hood and steeped in the blanket of silence that settled all around me. Little by little, shards of light started to perforate the veil around me, not automatically, but driven by time, contemplation, discovery and a true archaeology of the soul. A rebirth borne from darkness that could not be foretold in words, advice, instruction or guidance, but had to be felt and simply lived through with the blindest of faith and authentic conviction. And in the end, things started to happen: my face started changing, my flesh started molding, my roots started to ground, my solar plexus alchemized into steel, my voice started to sing, my skin started to fit, all fear fled my brow and in the end, I even found true love.

I endured a sort of baptism by fire in my role of emotional hobo, hobbling from place to place with nothing but my past in one small sack on my back; a room full of possessions – only the utmost necessary, and an intention to create.

I felt a little like the Fool in the first card of the major arcane of the tarot; wide-eyed and full of wonder, innocent and wandering, resplendent in raw vulnerability and the newfound ability to be naked in front of strangers free of pride. This precious little fool ended up coming to me in dreams and inevitably is what inspired the current work I am busy creating based around the concepts of becoming empty-handed in order to be poured fully, a hearty cup of magical new life and love. Over and over again, the process continues like a wheel that rolls …

From the Anand Sahib:

There is nothing more to seek and nothing more to gain. A blessed person who has ever tasted this Bliss once, will never run after material happiness in finite and perishable objects. All wanderings of the mind cease.