Posts Tagged ‘Enough’

Questions of Enough

Posted on: September 27th, 2018 by jmbroekman No Comments
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What is Enough?

I have been working on some new work around issues of ENOUGH. When is enough, enough? What is enough? Will we ever understand there is more than enough? How do you define enough? These questions came up as I considered the path of migrants throughout history. It’s something I’ve been thinking about recently in light of an upcoming show. More on that in a minute.

In my mind many, if not most, of the ills we face as a species boil down to a question of enough. Today’s rise of the far right nationalist parties seems to grow out of the fear of not having enough; that what little you might have will be taken away by those who have even less. Migrants are almost always driven by not having enough – safety, food, clean water, shelter, economic opportunities etc. I can’t help but think that issues around enough are at the root of just about every problem we face in this increasingly polarized world.

When is enough, enough?

I have been thinking about this while creating a few artists’ books about it; specifically for IXNOS, an exhibition in response to the passage of migrants through the Greek Island of Lesvos. This exhibition is part of a statewide initiative: Making Migration Visible, which includes a major exhibition at the ICA at MECA exploring ideas about migration, mobility and displacement. It’s a topic that hits me at my core; and one I think I’ve been exploring in indirect ways for a long time.

These patterns of having or not having enough get passed down through the generations. For example, having survived the Holocaust, my mother understood what not having enough to eat felt like, and was thus, always afraid that we wouldn’t have enough food in the house. When, in high school, I started to do the grocery shopping, I would always shake my head as she put a can of tuna on the list when I could see we clearly still had two cans on the shelf. Now I get it. On a visceral level. In fact, I, too, am afraid of running out of food, and often have more than one can of tomatoes in the cupboard.

Good enough?

There is another manifestation of what enough means: when you add good as a prefix. Good enough. What’s good enough? Is good enough, enough? It’s an endless battle in my mind when it comes to my work. Not to mention my overall being. Making this book about enough was a great experience. It allowed me to put these thoughts out into the world in a compelling way; It was a way for me to continue grappling with them. And, the best part: I learned some great new tricks for making a flag book, which was a lot of plain old fun.

Ixnos:Traces

The exhibition runs from October 6 through the end of the year at the Glickman Library on the University of Southern Maine campus.

Lessons Learned on an Island

Posted on: October 30th, 2017 by jmbroekman No Comments
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Make art. It’s enough.

It has taken me almost a month to sit down and write this post. For each item that gets crossed off the to-do list, three more are added. One of the most beautiful parts about being out on the island: my list is so short as to be unnecessary. One of the lessons learned: make art. Full stop.

Lessons learned: Intention matters.

This year the lessons learned were a little different than last year. In 2016 I went to GCI with some personal goals in mind: I wanted to learn how to let go of my tight grip on everything, and lighten up. To that end, I worked in a personal book I’d started 5 years earlier about shifting narratives. It’s true what they say about intention. Looking back at the work from the last year, I can see that I did actually lighten up, and fought less with the work. This year I went with a plan to make a lot of garbage. To really explore printmaking with a beginner’s mind, and I did just that.

Lessons learned two: I still love making prints

My objectives were different this year since I had a press in my studio. I wanted to see if I really was still a printmaker at heart. Turns out I am. I woke up that part of my brain, and learned a lot about printmaking. I explored myriad new methods of making a print. Each process I tried, led me to some other way of approaching the plate, problem, or image. It was thrilling.

What is it about making prints that inspires this feeling of connectedness to the deepest recesses of my soul, that place where I am my most veracious self? I still don’t exactly consider myself a printmaker. I don’t make editions or use any traditional methods, and I wouldn’t even know the first thing about actually etching a plate. Yet, it was through printmaking that I reaffirmed a sense of myself that had been seemingly buried. It’s not that I don’t feel that sense of myself with painting. In fact, I longed to do more painting while I was on the island; but I was utterly compelled by making prints. And the work was much more integrated – drawing, and then using the drawings as imagery for the prints. It’s been forever – if I actually have ever done that.

Lessons learned three: I am an artist at my core

I was reminded in September, of the lesson I first learned while doing an independent study in lithography at the Art Institute of Boston several decades ago. Making art is not optional for me. Given the kind of space – both physical and mental – that a residency affords, I saw with the same kind of clarity, how utterly vital this is to who I am and my well being. Making art is what I am meant to be doing. It was why I was put here on the planet. It is the only thing that really makes any sense to me.

I am indeed an artist. Not that most people who know me, ever had any doubt. Nor do I, usually. But there are times when I feel like I should be doing more to make this world a better place. That’s what I’m doing by making art. Trying to make this world a better place. If I can create something that makes even one person smile, or take a deep restorative breath, or see the world in a different way, then I’ve done my job. And I’ve done it well.

Where the work resides

While I was on GCI in September, the work came at me from so deeply within, that there seemed to be no end to it. Maybe one of the most important lessons learned – as I struggled to resolve some technical issues with printmaking during my first week on the island – was that if I give myself over to the processes, they will show me the way.

And I learned that sometimes you just need to add a little linseed oil to the ink to keep it from sticking to the paper to the point of destruction. I’m sure there are some applicable life lessons in that one if I think about it!

On Being an Artist – Part 2

Posted on: August 17th, 2016 by jmbroekman 6 Comments
The beginning of a new book of collages
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Thoughts on being an artist in this always-connected-digital world

This is a continuation of the most recent post in which I lamented that being an artist isn’t always as easy at it looks. Has being an artist become even more complicated in this always-connected-digital universe?

You could argue that the digital age makes being an artist easier, rather than more difficult. There are so many ways to reach your audience. Yet, there is something about putting work “out there” whether here on this blog, on FaceBook, or Instragram, that keeps a questioning eye peering over my shoulder. For those of us who lean sharply toward the side of self-doubt, this social media landscape often feeds our worst internal demons. I almost always hesitate before hitting the “post” button, questioning myself and my motivation, before sending whatever it is out into cyberspace. Are you sure that’s ready for prime time?

I am told, however, that as an artist not connecting is not an option. And if there is one lesson that being an artist teaches, it’s that you have to look fear right in the eye, and do whatever it is anyway. So in I jump with both feet and allow the crazy current to carry me where it will. On the plus side, I’ve gotten a ton of positive feedback, and discovered a mess of really talented and inspiring artists out there. In the end, I like being able to stay in touch and share my work with all of you, near and far.

On being an artist – and finding time to disconnect

Courageous acts as an artist also include sending out applications (for grants, shows and residencies). As my grandmother always said “No you’ve got, yes you can get“, which I wrote about here. With that in mind, I applied for a residency at the Heliker-Lahotan Foundation. To my great delight, they invited me to spend September on Great Cranberry Island!

I am looking forward to working with abandon; letting my curiosity take me where it will, without expectation of what the work should be; slowing way down to live inside the work, and giving that little voice of doubt over my shoulder a vacation. This time away, I am confident, will propel my work forward for many years to come. Can you tell how excited I am about this opportunity?

Summer at it’s best

Posted on: August 12th, 2015 by jmbroekman No Comments
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Ahhhhh Summer

The season that flees too fast, making us savor every moment of it. Last week we went “upta camp” as they say in these parts. It was a little piece of heaven on earth. Exploring in kayaks, swimming, and wandering around the woods completely unplugged – no cell phone, no computer, no screens; and camping lanterns for light when the sun went down. I was happily reintroduced to a part of myself that had gone missing for a while.

When we got home, I decided to try my hand at fermenting some vegetables: cucumbers, cabbage, carrots and kohlrabi. The jars are bubbling as I understand they should, and cucumbers are starting to smell just like pickles! Looking forward to biting into that first one, and feeling oh so grateful for all this season brings.

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01.14.13

Posted on: January 14th, 2013 by jmbroekman No Comments

Day 8 (left); and Day 9 (right)

0107-230high01-08-13: Day 7

I have been walking in the woods in the morning and noticing the myriad shades of grey – more than 50 (and no, I have not read that book; nor am I planning to). The color of the winter sky – both early in the morning and late in the afternoon is forever intriguing and filling my thoughts as I am in the studio.

01.12.13 – Day 13

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Show up. Pay attention. Suspend judgement. Let go of the outcome.