Here and Now (Rest), Six Questions for Linda Lay, Tricia Hersey, TNT Traysikel, Killa Pink, Ben&Ben, Viv Albertine, Wuhan Punk (SMZB, Subs), M.I.A., and the Neptunes.
HERE AND NOW
For much of my life, I’ve been on “automatic” in terms of my impulse to multi-task, plugging on and on, without any significant breaks. Influences (not necessarily in this order) include my mom and dad’s work ethic, global imperialism and colonization—its role in turning the Philippines into a labor brokerage state for OFWs (overseas Filipino workers)—capitalism, and of course the current productivity “grind culture.”
By nature, my interests range widely, and I want to respect that. But I’m also thinking about ways in which I can be more conscious about resting and giving myself space to think deeply, or even to not think at all—maybe just dream. I’m thinking about ways to listen more closely to my body, because it’s telling me to slow down and be more deliberate about what I put my energies into.
I met Linda Lay at an art event in (I think) 2018; she was definitely dancing to the beat of a “different drum”—always a good sign to me. Check out Lindalay’s Newsletter on Substack. I like what she says about how interruptions and all the frustrating things in life can be brought into your art, and how you can work with what’s already there around you:
SIX QUESTIONS FOR LINDA LAY
1. Where did you grow up and how did that (or any other significant experience) influence your art?
You know, it took me years to realize how much the sand dunes and brown, red, and green ice plants—with and without the slick, neon flowers I grew up with—have influenced my work. The cypress trees, too. The vibrant, deep green that hangs around all year long. The beaches. The fog and the sage-green sage and moss that drips from the pokey-leaved oak trees have all influenced my aesthetic, in a big way.
Most of my growing up happened on the Monterey Peninsula, where the aforementioned natural things are and my family moved near them when I was five, but I was born in San Jose, in 1971. My dad, originally from Kentucky and having completed his four years in the Navy, came to San Jose just about when my mom did. My mom arrived in America from Chile in 1968 or 69, so both my parents didn’t have roots in California, at all. I arrived quickly—right at the point when they just came together and it was all very new. No one really knew each other, including me! I am the only one in the family from the state.
I’ve been exploring the situation I sprung from as an artist for as long as I can remember. While I can’t say it’s entirely what influences my work, I’ve been using this to maybe find my connection to people who express a sense of history, culture and the confidence that comes from being brought up with a feeling of being rooted to something.
My being born in the place where all this technology is developed and turned into video games and social/admin tools and how it’s all tied into greed and businesses housed in ugly, blocky buildings is somehow connected to my way of making, sharing, questioning and perceiving art. Something about the stories of the people who first started our world of modern technology excites me, but it’s probably that I am reminded of my dad and the mechanical things he thought were cool. I used to like to say that the microchip and I came from the same place, but I think it was actually made in Texas or something.
My mom said she chose to come to San Jose because she had an opportunity to hitch a ride from Chicago, which is where she first stayed upon her arrival to the United States, but it was the Dionne Warwick hit (written by Burt Bacharach) Do You Know the Way to San Jose that made it sound like a nice place, and it was in California- which is where Hollywood is, of course, and she thought she could become a housekeeper to the stars. The dream of Hollywood was in me, in that way, and made roots through the TV and pop culture I absorbed during the 70s and 80s. I had to be an artist in Los Angeles because of this, and I was that for a long time.
The question of "where" I grew up, and how it inspires what I do, is linked to these circumstantial things. Entering the world from working people who barely knew each other in a place that was the host of a relatively new industry is a part of it. Then, being surrounded by such natural beauty in an area that I planted myself within while my parents really didn’t care much about any of it, is another side of the coin. Add to it all, my connection to Hollywood’s staged presentation of California via television shows and movies like, Beach Blanket Bingo. I remember telling my mom that I wanted to visit California while watching the episode of Laverne and Shirley where they decide to move to Hollywood. When she told me we were already there, I was baffled.
2. What’s your creative process like?
I’m an intuitive maker and I don’t like to work in a rush. I need time, but sometimes deadlines are very good for me.
I get ideas from materials and supplies that will become what I make. Sometimes it’s a concept or seeing something I really connect with. When writing, it’s the same way. It’s an idea I don’t yet understand, but I can sense the parts and I have something to share. I jot a lot down on paper. I’m big on the notion of things being in the air and as artists and writers we work to access from this pool. What and how we make is uniquely our own but it comes from all this invisible stuff that everything is connected to. I make it sound mysterious, but I really get my hands dirty and being a "builder" of things is a big part of it all.
I’m a lot like a dog when she is about to settle into a pillow, before I start working. You know, how dogs will circle their cushion before sitting down and napping? I have to push around the materials that I gather around me. I have notes or whatever else I need. I nest, I play music. When it comes to some fiber things, I can bring my supplies wherever I am and work on parts. In Los Angeles I used to work while commuting on the subway and buses (when I was able to find a seat). I'd fill my backpack with everything I needed, then the project-in-process sat on my lap and I crocheted, knitted or embroidered.
When I paint I like to stand at my easel. Almost like a dance partner. When I make films it’s different, but creating my “set” is a big deal, and that feels like painting.
I like my work area to feel like a magical cave or something, with words and saturated colors and many textures—materials and tools. I suppose I got a lot of influence from Hollywood’s notion of the wizard or some other kind of spell-caster. I recently realized that there is a LOT of the show, Gilligan’s Island in my workspaces, which is really silly for me to admit, but it’s true.
Over the years I’ve moved so much and lived in so many spaces that were not my own that I’m very good at setting up “camp,” wherever I am. My desire for that ability started in the Nineties after reading a magazine article where the actress Ashley Judd was interviewed by her peer, Salma Hayek. Hayek mentioned how Judd would create a warm sense of home and personality no matter what hotel room she was in, by bringing things like homemade quilts and changing the lighting with a scarf thrown over a lamp. I felt the value of that, then. It’s taken years but I’m now secure in my ability to create spaces that represent who I am, both in the homes I live in and share with others, and in places where I work.
3. What puts a damper on your creativity? What do you do—if anything—to remedy that?
That’s an interesting question because I believe deeply that the “dampering” is part of the game. It’s my challenge to work with what stops or frustrates me.
I have an internal brat that gets truly set off when I feel like I’m getting somewhere and I’m interrupted by life things: work, family, schedules, appointments . . . But I am learning to set boundaries or be okay leaning into the unexpected, because I’m getting better at trusting the purposefulness of the interruptions.
It’s a pretty big deal for me to have reached this stage in my life where I am able to take care of mundane things. It took me a while! A lot of the good stuff, like sitting outside on my quiet patio just listening to birds and watching the wind blow clouds past me in a blue sky happens because I’m allowing myself to be taken away from a lot of what I would rather be doing. Meaning, I have those things because I work for money and I make compromises, and those moments fuel my art and writing.
I want spontaneous moments of creation that connect to the same energy I get when working on something intently. I have a few projects going at once so each one can fit into different situations I find myself in. I am trying to become not only a more efficient human machine but also someone who can weave the “real stuff” into ANY parts of my making—on demand. I think of this bit from David Foster Wallace’s famous commencement speech, This is Water:
. . . if you really learn how to pay attention, then you will know there are other options. It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer-hell type situation [or in our case, an interruption to creation] as not only meaningful, but sacred, on fire with the same force that made the stars: love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down. Not that that mystical stuff is necessarily true. The only thing that’s capital-T True is that you get to decide how you’re gonna try to see it.
4. Does age factor into your creative process, and if yes, how?
Yes. I don’t know why it took me so long to get to this place where I am able to keep going on something or make the changes that feel “right,” when I work, but it did. When I see things I did ten years ago it’s so clear how my colors and shapes were missing the mark. Age has made a difference, and I think the years of teaching art to so many different kinds of people has added to that confidence or awareness. It’s all linked with time.
I was thirty-two when I went to art college and back then my work was rather strong, but it lacked maturity. By the time I was done with my MFA, my work, in my opinion, was just so weak. I guess I had to shake off a lot of myself in order to learn, and I wasn’t able to “plop” securely back into my vision and aesthetic while getting better at some life things.
I’m answering this question as though you asked if “time” factors into my creative process, but I see how I had to get to this age to be who I am as an artist. I wish I could have accessed this version of my creative process a lot earlier, but I had perceptions of myself that took a while to break away from.
There is a strange thing that I’m noticing, that I’m able to do and be now, that comes from memories I have as a child, of wanting to create a world so distinctly my own, out of things that are already here. Not searching for more, but using what’s put in front of me and transforming it. It fits into the realm of waste-reduction, which I am far from a master of, and the idea of the “remix” is a part of it too. Listen to M.I.A. and Diplo’s mixtape EP, Piracy Funds Terrorism Volume 1 from 2004 and although I’m using physical materials and not sound, you might get a sense of what I mean. It’s becoming clearer though, and it’s cool to realize I could see this as an artistic “mission,” of sorts. A message from my young self to who I am now.
5. What are you working on, currently, and what’s inspiring it?
I have this body of mostly fiber art “portraits” of monsters and other liminal creatures. They are tapestry-like things that I created on big, highly decorated frames. I also have a weaving that’s almost done, and it’s made with scraps of materials that were given to me, or were old clothes or supplies in my classroom that may have been thrown out. I am making this for a community weaving event the Arts Council of Monterey is hosting at the Artichoke Festival, that I’m going to be a part of.
As far as the monster portraits are concerned, I think the inspiration comes from the materials and the drive I have to put my tendencies and interests to a kind of test. The monsters are there because it’s a subject I can re-imagine and change. They’ve always made their way into my work, so now we are a sort of team. As far as the weaving, it’s following my internal drives to create form in a confident and substantial way. To try and connect with the same intuitive energy that a tree or a rock or a dragon fly’s wings are formed. I’ll never reach the perfection of nature, of course, but it’s super fun to pretend.
6. What’s your favorite imperfection?
My ability to be distracted. It’s always such an interesting ride to try and get back to what it is I’m doing, and I find that the distractions actually feed new ideas or concepts into my work. Oftentimes, they allow me to see things in ways that others might not. I don’t view my distractibility as an imperfection, really, but I see this behavior or tendency is what keeps me from fitting into certain job-roles that might need me to access and share information in clearer and more efficient ways. I teach teens and the issue of their distraction is one I am in the middle of, a lot. I try to use my art class as a way to help them channel this energy through creative work.
Linda Lay is an artist, writer, and teacher who recently returned to the Monterey Peninsula after studying and working in the midwest and Los Angeles. Linda Lay’s work ranges from fiber arts, paintings, short digital films and written projects. Her work is often autobiographical, humorous, crafty, colorful and performative. She’s exhibited in Los Angeles, Brooklyn, Kansas City and Ohio as well as in San Francisco and the Monterey Bay area. Her art and writings have been featured in the Monterey County Weekly, the L.A. Weekly, Purple Diary, Vice, Paper Magazine and the Los Angeles Times.
Created by Tricia Hersey, The Nap Ministry is a resource for rest and relaxation. Even her breakfast is restful:
I found this post on Substack: On Snack Tips for Writers, featuring swoony sentences like this from Lerato Umah-Shaylor’s, Cook with Lerato:
I typically pine for that super-seeded sourdough toasted in extra virgin avocado oil, smeared with moringa cream cheese and roasted garlic, topped with roasted red pepper, golden sunny-side-up eggs, furikake (Japanese sesame and nori and shiso [seaweed] seasoning), chili, and more avocado oil to finish.
Discover the TNT Traysikel in San Francisco’s Soma Pilipinas neighborhood, by Paolo Asuncion, Mike Arcega, and Rachel Lastimosa:
Camron’s “Killa Pink and chromophobia,” from Elspeth Michael’s “The Drip” (a newsletter on “the sweet, gooey intersection of hip-hop and art history” newsletter.
When I divorced my ex in my 50s, I was listening to a lot of sad, soulful songs. But I realized that I had gotten into a musical rut. I was listening to the same things over and over again (blues, R&B, 70s-80s rock and pop, and even country) maybe because my then-spouse was listening to those things, or maybe because it was “my generation,” etc. Nothing wrong with those sounds, but at some point I woke up to the fact that a lot of interesting music had just passed right by me. I’ve been making up for that ever since by exposing myself to a lot of different genres and sounds—as I hope my “Soundings” section reveals.
Sometimes you just need to rest – “Magpahinga” by Ben&Ben:
Now for the less restful stuff:
Content warning: Since I started having a presence on instances in Mastodon.org, I’ve gotten used to things like issuing content warnings for folks who are sensitive, and writing short descriptions of images for the sight-impaired. Some of the videos below deal with sensitive topics like war and violence, and contain swear words:
Thanks to Linda Lay for mentioning to me Viv Albertine and the Slits, and Albertine’s autobiographical book, “To Throw Away Unopened.” And here is Albertine singing solo:
Wuhan’s punk scene through the eyes of its seminal punk band, SMZB. I think it’s a really interesting documentary on Wuhan’s underground music scene. The section on the creation of the female punk band the SUBS (also from Wuhan, but now based in Beijing) starts at about 28:30.
Short documentary on the SUBS (acronym meaning “can’t be killed”), featuring lead singer Kang Mao:
Rapper Mathangi "Maya" Arulpragasam MBE is known as M.I.A. and is the first person of South Asian descent to be nominated for an Academy Award and Grammy Award in the same year. Here is “Borders”:
Pitchfork article on Filipino American songwriter/producer Chad Hugo. The legendary producing duo, The Neptunes, comprised of Chad Hugo and Pharrell Williams, will be formally inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame on Thursday. "Hugo is also currently deep-diving into jazz which he grew up playing. He says he wants to be a constant learner of music — the same type of attitude that has led him to one of songwriting’s most exclusive clubs." Hugo has received an honorary doctorate from the Berklee College of Music.
It’s 11:07 as I write this. Time to wrap this baby up. See you next Saturday . . .
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