creative consulting for the art of life by Jason Jenn

creative consulting for the art of life by Jason Jenn

Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 Year in Review (as told by feet)

The key of a story is not all in the tale itself, but also in how it is told. I thought I'd add a little whimsy to the year that was 2010 by having my feet narrate for me -- well, at least provide visuals.

Just over a year ago a little accident cut into the two little toes of my left foot, sending me to the ER for stitches. I realized how much I had a bit of a foot fetish - or at least how much I enjoyed taking pictures of and making art with my feet. They gladly obliged my renewed obsession while I work toward putting together a new art & writing book* dedicated to the love of feet - and the places they've been.

*So I invite all readers and friends to email me pictures of their feet to include in a collage for the ongoing book project.

Once the toes healed, I pampered my feet with a pedicure in late January. February-May brought a series of events hosted at my loft the Pollination Pavilion, so my feet didn't need to move far for fun. I'll be discussing the value and art of hosting home events in upcoming blogs.

Valentine weekend brought the performance and art party "Love & P's" -- while in part an event to highlight Federico Hewson's Valentine Peace Project (more on that in another blog soon), guests could also make puppets thanks to King Daniel's lab and got to enjoy a variety of live performances. You can see a video of the festivities at this link:

My feet got loose to the rhythms of Alo & the Narcissist when he held his CD release event here on the first day of Spring. My feet were fancy free during the celebration of Gay May Day, which included a fun & fantastical fully staged production of Jack Smith's "Rehearsal for the Destruction of Atlantis" directed by Ian MacKinnon. My feet were happy to have been present in many of the monthly Queer Monday's events held at Highways Performance Space that Ian hosts.

My feet were really thrilled they got to dance in a several lovely performances with Nathalie Broizat including one of the coolest productions I've ever been in called "Encore L'Amour." This excellent show scored by the amazing music of Jean-Paul Monsché is currently seeking major funding so we can take it to the Festival d'Avignon in France come summer 2011 (again, more on that soon)! But watch the video edit of it here:

My feet did leave home though, for several travel experiences early on in the year - part work, part art making, part adventure. Trips to Vancouver for the Winter Olympics, NYC, Denver to see Sting, and Death Valley come to mind as particularly pleasurable to the feet.

In summer, my feet had to slow down a bit as I prepared myself for surgery. Thanks to a research study I participated in that took an MRI of my brain, I discovered I had a little tumor growing in my neck that needed to be removed. Fortunately it was benign and I recovered rather quickly - my feet got impatient waiting around.

During the summer my feet were able to help several friend renovate their home, including longtime art collaborator Sky. We did a major creative make-over of the original Harvard Hive space so she could take over the hosting of three more performance and art parties (and yes much more blogging about this to come). See video edits of that here:

The fall brought several more travels, most notably back to Iowa to officiate my sister's wedding (see blog Nov 26). The road trip there and back gave several more experiences for my feet to express their love for being out and about in the mountains of New Mexico and Utah.

The year came to a seemingly quick close after that. I started up this blog (thanks to web consultant Lee Wind for his guidance - see his site: I finished putting together my first book: a collection of song lyrics and artwork (again, more on that soon). Recent trips to Seattle and NYC were travel highlights for me; anywhere I could walk, walk, walk! Look back at past blogs and you'll see how my feet love to get attention...and seem to rule my thinking. I'm more than happy to oblige them. Many more journeys are afoot for 2011!

I hope you had happy feet in 2010. Best wishes to you for a fantastic 2011.
Send me pictures of your feet!


Monday, December 20, 2010

Gift Sharing

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Blessed Solstice, and all the many other splendid salutations out there! I thought it would be nice to share a seasonal gift with you: a bevy of beautiful images of the holiday window displays in NYC:

Such intricate works are rarely seen except at the posh stores like these in NYC along 5th, Park and Madison Ave, where all manner of designers and artists are hired to elevate their window images (and give reason for the extravagant expense of items inside). Displays like these propel window dressing to a high form of installation art, obviously taking months to plan and prepare their execution. Seeing them takes me back to my childhood and happy memories.

My family loved to visit “The House on the Rock”, a tourist attraction in Wisconsin. In addition to the original house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, are warehouses full of wonders, including a large assortment of antique mechanical jewelry store displays. We would spend hours pushing the buttons to activate and admire the little animated displays.

Taking photographs of my travels to share with family and friends also reminds me of cherished childhood times. I was definitely influenced by my mother, an avid documenter of family gatherings on her Super 8 motion camera. I loved watching the captured images flicker on the dining room wall to the hum of the projector’s motor and our laughter. I also looked forward to the slideshow presentations of exotic scuba diving vacations all over the world from my mother’s first cousin Russell. He’d set up a big projection screen at my grandparents’ farm. They were not events to be missed and I soaked up both the photos and his stories of those foreign worlds with wonder. I thank my mother and Russell for sharing their gifts and inspiring me along my path.

Joseph Campbell, the renowned mythologist and author, outlined the importance of sharing gifts as a common thread in all cultures and a key part of the Hero’s Journey. We all have personal Hero’s Journey’s to undergo, and as we move through life and overcome our various challenges, there are lessons learned and gifts received. Whether we choose to keep those treasures private or share it with others is up to us. We must weigh the price of sharing gifts; sometimes the gift or lesson isn’t well received by society or comes at great sacrifice. We can only discover by offering up the treasure, and seeing what happens next.

While the capitalistic machinery and businesses across the world need us to fuel the economy by shopping and spending, I hope that we all find time to share some more personal gifts with each other too – gifts that don’t come with a price tag or end up filling the trash cans with waste after the flurry of unwrapping is over, but gifts from our own personal journeys – that just may inspire others in ways we can never really know.

Blissings and love to all!


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Walk: Make Art Whatever the Weather & Artist Profile: Yozmit

Here's a photo to emphasize that taking art walks is a necessity no matter how cold it is outside!

When it comes to inspiring urban environments to walk among, New York City ranks high and mighty. It's a city of numerous stimulating sights and sounds. It can be flourishing and pulsating, gritty and intense, vibrant and exhilarating, and at times overwhelming! This past week I was happy to trade in the t-shirts of Los Angeles for the bundled up layers of the Big Apple. I love the ease of moving around a city built for pedestrians, and even though my cheeks got rosy and my fingers numb at times, I was thrilled to be exercising my feet, and in the process my brain (see last week's post about the neurological benefits of regular walks).

Even though I saw shows (a few Broadway, an edgy alternative dance and an intimate cabaret) and art exhibitions, nothing quite thrills me like taking long walks in the NYC streets. And after feasting upon images of all sorts for several days, I ended my trip by meeting up with some fellow artist friends for a couple of photo shoots. This week, I focus my attention on Yozmit Mukta Avalokita, a very multi-talented gender-transcendent artist, fashion designer, performer, musician, and spiritualist.

Yo and I met several years ago in Rachel Rosenthal workshops. We've performed and collaborated in several pieces together. When I first moved to MacArthur Park in Los Angeles, Yo was my neighbor and welcomed me to the 'hood by taking me on my first walk through the park (which I have subsequently documented diligently during many a dog walk) and to lunch at Mama's Hot Tamales (a fixture of the community). His home for the past several years is NYC. I visited her in spring while she was involved in the performance recreations of Marina Abramovic's "The Artist is Present" exhibition at MOMA and it was great to visit once more this month.

I wanted to mark the occasion by taking photos of Yo for part of a new series I'm working on pairing up artist friends with digitally manipulated flowers that expresses part of their artistic personality (you'll see examples in time - these pictured here are pre-process). When Yo choose the lotus blossom, I thought shooting Yo underwater would be great. In asking Yo if he knew of anywhere we could do that, he declared Central Park. I was thinking a tub or an indoor pool. Somehow the freezing temperatures didn't seem to phase her, but I didn't want to risk her catching pneumonia.

She assured me that meeting up in the park and seeing what happened was the best way to go. I liked and trusted her approach. It didn't take long for us to find the perfect spot - a section of a pond near the southeast corner was covered with a thin layer of ice. So Yo stripped above the chest and laid out partially on the ice.

Because the process of making art is a very spiritual one for Yo, he mentioned that after the initial shock of cold, it didn't seem to bother him very much - it was a matter of mental discipline to ignore it.  A little crowd gathered around us, shocked that someone would brave the elements like she was.

After the shoot we continued our reunion by strolling around the park and talking about the importance of walking in the artistic process. We discussed spontaneity and being open to the surprises of nature - how surrendering our minds allows for an experience of transcendence. At times we took notice of the placement of leaves on the ground or little birds foraging for food. At one point Yo was elated to come upon an arrangement of tree branches that reminded her of the exact image she had in a dream the night before and showed me her sketch of it in her journal.

During our time together I definitely got the sense that Yozmit's spiritual and artistic growth is combining in beautiful ways. I got to hear an early track of upcoming music that combines pop/dance sensibility with spirituality. The lotus blossom's roots in the murky depths and beautiful flowering bloom above the water is the perfect representation for her.

"Walking is something very ordinary, but something very special, like the present"
- Yozmit

Yozmit is currently doing a series of "walks" - part performance, part meditative art pieces in which she dresses up in her self-designed and made costume/fashions and moves through various locations. To see more of Yozmit's art, ranging from the shocking to the spiritual - go to:

Yozmit in full regalia during one of her performance/meditative walks in Bedstuy, Brooklyn recently.
Photo by Jonathan Balthaser

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Natural Resources 2: The Walk of Life

I thought I would continue sharing some pictures from a wonderful afternoon spent walking along Puget Sound in Seattle in early November. I like to capture still photographs and videos of the environment to study and remind me of the beauty of the natural resources. Those images can stand on their own, come in handy as components in the future in any number of ways through collage or art pieces, or serve to inspire a completely different work. The key is going on an artist’s expedition/walk and opening up to the surroundings.

Taking long walks that allow an artist to clear the mind, gain from the environment and receive inspiration are key ingredients in a myriad of creative consulting methods. Julia Cameron’s The Artist Way considers regular walks one of the three basics. It is a theme I’ve heard echoed by many mentors and read in many books on the subject. I have certainly found immense value in them and will continue to explore the theme in various ways during future blogs. And now, science agrees to the great benefit of walking!

Various scientific studies* have shown a good walk is not just good for the body, but excellent for the health of the brain in building connectivity between brain circuits. Apparently there are several distinct brain circuits, one of them called the Default Mode Network (DMN), which dominates all brain activity when people are least engaged with the outside world, which includes the act of passively observing and daydreaming. Having greater connectivity enhances a myriad of brain functions and can help stave off the decline that comes with aging. While the studies focus on how important it is for aerobic/brisk walking once a week for a full year to see results, I would postulate that taking walks with a creatively-focused agenda can do wonders as well. 

Creative walks keep the mind curious and engaged! Walks are also excellent for problem solving and stress reduction. There’s a history of great minds gaining key inspirations when they went out walking. The act of movement and shift of location and energy resources likely shift our thinking as well, allowing whatever challenging puzzles are on the mind to take on new arrangements and solutions.

Some recommendations:
Employ a variety of approaches to your walking experience. At times you can keep it brisk for exercise and other moments slowing down to carefully observe the natural resources around you. Take in the big and small views. Keep a curious mind and make a game of your walking experience.
DON’T answer your phone; talking to someone else keeps you disconnected from the world around you and you’ll immediately lose those brain benefits. DO take along any or all of the following: a camera to build up your own personal library of image, a little sketch book or notepad along with you in case you need to draw or write something down, a tape recorder to record your voice or song. 

Each walk offers up a new batch of features and a new way to connect patterns of the outside world that can enhance your inside world’s neuro-circuitry. Each walk will offer up a little treasure to savor.

So I know it might be funny talking about the importance of walking during the wintertime for the northern climates, but come on, what are you doing still sitting there?
Go give your brain a walk!

* for specific details and study info read this article:

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Natural Resources 1: Ephemeral Connection

On a recent trip to Seattle, I found myself alone with a free afternoon to wander along Puget Sound toward the Olympic Sculpture Park, armed with my camera and a notebook. After several days of sunshine, the cloudy sky and occasional drizzling rain that has come to stereotype the region lay overhead -- and I loved it! Feeling stimulated by the sculpture, the crisp breeze, the water, the trees, and rocks around me, I took the opportunity to connect with the surrounding environment for a few hours inspired by one of my favorite contemporary artists, Andy Goldsworthy. The pictures in this blog are from some of the simple works I created from that experience.

Goldsworthy is a site-specific sculptor and photographer who utilizes natural materials gathered from their surrounding environment to form stunning works of temporary or permanent art. His approach to making art is sort of a revelation in these modern times. He reminds us of our connection to Nature and how available Its resources are, and have been to us all along, without the need of processing or artificial refinement (other than some simple arranging). If you haven't seen the documentary "Rivers and Tides" yet, do yourself a favor and watch it immediately. His philosophy and approach towards making art is simply sublime.

His works also urge us to accept the ephemeral state of our lives (a key element of Your ReBegin). His art often exists for just a brief window of time, which he captures by camera, before Nature reclaim Its materials.

"Each work grows, stays, decays – integral parts of a cycle which the photograph shows at its heights, marking the moment when the work is most alive. There is an intensity about a work at its peak that I hope is expressed in the image. Process and decay are implicit." - AG

Goldsworthy will work in a region for days/weeks/months learning to understand the environment well and has spent years mastering his craft. But we can learn to take his method and philosophy, applying it to all manner of shorter time spans for creative exercises. Perhaps you can make regular expeditions in your own neighborhood or explore a new area for just a few minutes.

I consider these photographs like sketches, and my process that afternoon like a little workout for my creative muscles that brought me in closer communion with nature. I tried to balance enough time to delve into the process and not feel rushed, yet be brisk enough to keep moving and never linger too long in one place or one piece (hence sketches).

Such expeditions are a matter of "listening" to your surroundings and creating with and for nature, rather than imposing upon it. You get to discover the natural resources around you and work with whatever your environment offers you. As with normal photography you have the beauty of nature to frame, but add in your response to working with the surrounding materials, and what you get is something like photographing your dialogue with Nature. 

The ReBegin logo made from litter and pebbles

More to come!

Flourish of orange leaves on log viewed at a distance