Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Year in Review - 2013

Still the brain is central to all things in my life. What a surprise. While I read about the heart, the voice, the light, the tribe, the foundation, my true awareness circles around the brain. It has been nearly two years since I had surgery to remove the benign meningioma that was supposedly to blame for my ever-gray-day headaches and the partial aphasic seizures I was having. It has been two years since I began inculcating my body to accept that it would be on anti-seizure medications that leave me a bit foggy, and always in need of more sleep. It's been two years since the door was opened to painting and drawing as an alternative to writing for my vocation. It's been two years since I really began appreciating the little, independent details in a life - the ability to get around, to stay awake, to write and speak, to remember, to HEAR, to SEE, to FEEL what is real. I am ever grateful simply to be alive and to have love surrounding me so that I can make my way through the coming challenges. It feels like an opportunity to become more honest in life and true to myself that I lucked into and have to take advantage of always.

Rest Assured, by Vivi Sojorhn (c) 2013

I have learned a lot in 2013. I suppose mainly it is that I have real limits and that to respect myself, I have to accept this. The last year was a flurry of trying again to do everything I wanted to do. I even published a magazine on-line for six months. I was consumed with work, with finding my work. I didn't find it. I found instead that spreading myself over so many goals undid everything, including my feeling of well-being that was so fragile to begin with having survived brain surgery.

I leave 2013 with a list of over ten things I would love to accomplish, knowing that I have to choose JUST ONE OF THEM to work on at a time. Heavy sigh of release on my breath! I have never chosen to do just one thing in my entire life. This is completely new. I really don't know if I can be so focused. But, knowing all that I know about the state of my being, I know that if I hope to finish anything at all, it has to be a chosen, single focus - my health. It begins with my physical health and so before anything else gets started I am overhauling my schedule, our apartment, art and all, and my body with exercise and mindful things I tend to revolt against, like meditation and nutritious diet. Gasp. Once I feel I have a handle on the things within and around me, then I will look back at the list and see if there really is anything there for me.

How will I know that I am healthy? How will I be satisfied that I've done everything I can to make our space work for everyone (as that is actually not having oil pastels everywhere, and papers flying off the walls) and that it is time to move onto another thing on the list? How will I know that I'm what I am and have a foundation? Well...it starts with putting away Christmas 2013, small as it is, and it ends with having the feeling that I understand what I can really do in a day. Believe it or not, I'm still not sure. I'm not sure what is medication, and what is just not moving enough. I'm not sure what my power source is anymore. So it is time to find out.

A Little Fire, by Vivi Sojorhn (c) 2013

Meanwhile, I hope that the right next step surfaces out of the many possibilities. When I can sustain small projects to finish, when I can let go of the unnecessary, when I can walk my talk all things become possible again. I think I didn't give myself enough time to heal from surgery before diving into being productive, and my family has paid for that. So, it is time to focus just on healing with no other goal because I am blessed truly with FULL SUPPORT to do only that task, and in fact, have been implored to focus only on that. I'm dangerously gratified by the excitement around a piece of my artwork, or magazine, so that I can stop there and forget to figure out how to sell it. It isn't fair to my kids or my husband upon whom I am entirely dependent still. What I hope is that by the end of 2014, I will be independent and even supportive of the coming needs of my family --  a college student, a high school student, two dogs, a wonderful husband and aging parents. They are dependent on me being as fully here as I can be. There is no going back to being who I once was, but finding out who I can be is an oath for the year that I commit to with somber and serious will.

Somehow the flitting Monarch Butterfly, that seems to wander from flower to flower, through the shadow and sunlight aimlessly, through rebellious winds and wet storms, makes the journey to the land of its creation to begin a new cycle.  That's the kind of strength I'm looking for within, a compass that guides me to trust my first mind and to carry through to the finish.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Big Shift - Part Three, Conclusions Leading to Solutions

Understandably, there is a backlash for calling anything a failure in this PC world we live in, but I would protest and say if a creation cannot deliver something solid that really helps its creators move forward and grow then it is a failure and to not acknowledge that is to turn away from its lessons. The point of The Arts was always to support the artists who participated. I did, of course, have a vision where it would have 10,000 subscribers and we would divide each momth's revenue between the costs of providing the platform, of putting the magazine together, and the work that made it an online experience that was valued. Almost like a gallery, was my concept. We never got close in six months. No matter how many likes (Over 9000 reached and 356 likes on the first day of publishing for The Arts | Birth), without substantial progress in subscriber rates, it was going to not meet the goal. It failed. I'm learning. The platform failed. I'm learning.

It succeeded, too! The Arts supported many artists and helped them have more faith in their own work! It provided a graceful exhibit of a broad group of creations around a central theme each month. It delivered on its promise to be both entertaining and inspiring. It provided artists and writers with a new platform, a new way to see how their work could be seen, collaborated with and more. It represented a FAITH that the art, writing, music, film MATTER. It was a HUGE SUCCESS. As a whole project it is, was magnificent.

Possibly this talk of changing gears all sounds paranoid and terribly selfish. The truth is I will continue to promote the creative work of others, as much as I will continue to create and share my work, but I am taking a break for a bit to figure out how and what I want to share in 2014. It feels like the only reasonable thing to do at this moment for my own sense of self-trust.  It feels terribly lonely! Like I’ve just dropped thirty years of technology out of my life for some self-involved motive. Like I'm going into hibernation, and maybe rest will come first after all. I seem to be craving connection to the material world again for the first time in possibly years. I want my artwork and poetry to rest in your hands, on your walls, and not just on your laptops.

"Winter 1," by Vivi Sojorhn on Fresh Paint, 2013

In truth, I’ve never valued my creativity very highly. That is one of my flaws. I’ve always given it away. So the Internet was the best appendage of that flaw that could have come along. Whether it was poetry, scripts, drawings, paintings, singing…whatever I could create…I just shoved it out of the door of my heart. In part, I think because I, like any creative, have been hoping for discovery, for a mentor to come along and give me guidance. Reaching the ripe age of 50 in 2014, though, letting go of that concept seems to be quite rational. Besides this practice meant that I also tended to shove unfinished work out for approval, and that is like a bunch of self-loathing and neediness in a package to be honest.

Winter Backdrop, by Vivi Sojorhn on Fresh Paint, 2013
In fact, I do have mentors, though they aren't aware of it, and really often they are my peers, but I watch how they protect their time and their work and am in awe. Still, they ably share their skills and vision without laying it all out there. For instance, Mark Younkle, who was kind enough to let me share his regular morning Facebook posts as a repeating column in The Arts, How To Dive Deep. Here is an artist who has shared such a limited amount of his work on-line that he delays in creating a blog or website, but in a pithy paragraph, one or two pieces in a collection of artwork, a portrait of himself among his artwork, he makes me HUNGRY to read more and see more. To him, this doesn't seem to be so much a plan as simply the way he is, and he is not a shy man in social media, but he's a self-respecting artist. He also is generous in sharing work that he likes by other artists and composers. All of that reveals an artist and person that many have the desire to know and follow.

To learn to keep my creativity close to my heart until it is ready is my next practice. To work, to do the work, of overcoming my incredible inner resistance against succeeding is my next practice. To transform my domestication and accept my big life is my next practice. Pure and simple. Oh my. Am I saying this? Am I really going to do this?  I cannot tell you how frightening it is to me. Finding a sustainable pace without checking to see if I'm all right. I'm all right. I'm all right.

I’m going to keep my work, my writing and my art to myself until it is ready to be seen. When The Arts Redux comes back it will be with a long-term plan that is sustainable by my own energy levels, by a hefty amount of contributors who are hungry to be seen but willing to hold off sharing until someone is willing to pay a subscription to see it, and a PLATFORM that is as reliable as it can be (like at least three years of stability guaranteed!) I’ll find out how to do all that before heading out onto the waters.

My friends, you may only get a peek into my workshop now and then! Just smidgens of content leaked out on purpose. I’ve been saying it for months now, but I feel like last week shoved me into acknowledging that this is what I must do for myself for no other reason than to show faith in my work and the arts survival. I’m going to have to find a release valve somehow or “I’m a little teapot, short and stout…” will become my theme song! Perhaps, I can record only my progress through this big shift. This is a new practice for me and  acknowledging the value of my own work here on blogspot with bits and pieces might be the thing. I don’t even know that for sure at the moment.

"The Cold Crowd," by Vivi Sojorhn on Fresh Paint, 2013
It feels like a big shift to me. It may look small or obvious to you. It feels like maybe I’m taking myself a little bit more seriously. I hope I can handle the pressure. Only time will tell. I hope other creative people are inspired this year to take their work seriously enough to protect and limit exposure. Because the Internet is turning out to be a rather cold place at times after all. To understand the economics of art is no different than anything else - it is supply and demand, and we only have control of how our supply will be allowed to flow.. We have to support each other's privacy. I keep thinking of an International Artist's Guild to register work at least and find arbiters for indiscretions and outright theft on the Internet and beyond. Imagine an artists' labor union to set a standard expectation for beginners, and to support each other through hard times. A retirement home for artists! Har! We have to begin having faith that the work itself is important enough to hold close, even if we only do it for ourselves. And, if you already do, carry on! I am positive I will have more to say on this issue as time passes. But, I guess what I'm saying is to take your work seriously. What you have to say whether through music, image or writing is valuable if people are looking at it.

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Big Shift - Part Two, The Invisibility Cloak of the Artist

I have to admit, as I did along the way to some of the artists I’m close to, that almost as soon as I began The Arts, I wondered if I had just distracted myself out of doing my own work. Indeed I more or less stopped doing pastel work. I stopped writing blogs, obviously. Not a single new poem was written. I started some stories but never finished them. But, I also have to admit that the reason for this can also be linked with pure self-doubt.

It is almost as if I were shouting, "Quick! Look over there!"

"Center Fold for Death" painting by Bo Gorzelak Pedersen
Rather than, "Please! Look over here! Buy my work!"

"Perfection" by Vivi Sojorhn on Fresh Paint, 2013
I had realized that I didn’t have the funds or space to support getting the pastel work to market. I had fallen into a funk about all of my ideas (portraits, inexpensive self-framing, and even reprinting) to make my artwork viable. Writing was, is, difficult partly because of the brain surgery nearly two years ago now, and partly because writing is … difficult. I wanted out. I wanted to do something that was not about me, and I wanted it badly. I still managed some satisfying art pieces on my handy Fresh Paint app, but the prints of this work did not take off as I’d hoped they might. I appreciate the many “likes” and words of support for this kind of artwork, but I can only consider it some kind of school. It is time for me to create work for sale. I have a daughter headed for college in a year and a half, and her brother not far behind!

Then in the last few weeks I had the experience of a fork in the road created by sharing this digital work on social media that excited me and then dropped the bottom out from beneath me. One person got excited about a little drawing I'd done on a phone app called Notebook, and asked if he could play with it and manipulate some different pieces from the one. To that I said, “Yes! Of course! Let’s see it!”

Winter by Phone App, 2013 (c) Vivi Sojorhn
My favorite embellishment, Altered Winter 2, Richard Christopher

The other person liked another digital painting, copied it and manipulated it digitally and then took credit for painting it originally five years ago! I was really surprised that another artist would do that. I don’t know why. I know about Muddy Waters, but still.

Autumn, 2013 (c) Vivi Sojorhn on Fresh Paint

I was, of course, glad he liked it, that he was inspired to do more, but that he did not give credit or respect me enough to ask permission really got me thinking about sharing my work on social media so openly.  This and losing The Arts, drove home to me that if I share my thoughts and words, my aspirations and ideas, my projects and creations openly then I am completely open to being left in the dust by my own creativity.  

"Cry Me a River," by Vivi Sojorhn on Fresh Paint, 2013
I wrote extensively about my concerns for the creative community throughout The Arts, but probably my last article is the sum up. Entitled "Internet Stillbirth" I express a rather dark opinion, and yet here I am again, sharing my images and thoughts. Tomorrow's part three piece is a further decision that I've made for my own sanity.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Big Shift - Part One, The Success and The Failure

Ann Jacoby's Cover  Art for "Birth,"
December Issue of 
It’s been four months since I did a piece of writing for the Kosmic Egg Projects blog. I was busy, of my own volition, pursuing a concept I had about publishing and the arts. Is there really any way to explain something that caught my heart and dragged me in, except to say that it did just that? Once I started, no matter my growing concerns, I could not stop. I could not stop because I’d promised many people I admire and respect that I would do it, and I felt that this magazine on-line, and potentially a phone app of easy reach, would be a great way to share that respect I have for their work and give a new audience a chance to consider it. I couldn’t stop because I thrived on the person-to-person aspect of the project even if it were just short chats on social media and an email with some jpegs attached. I felt less lonely, less wandering than I had for a few years since my health gave me a challenge two or three. I couldn’t stop because I had a vision that went beyond the monthly periodical towards other types of publishing, and so I guess you could say it was HOPE.

Fionn Wilson's Cover Art for "Flesh"
November Issue of The Arts
Sean Woodward's Cover Art for "Death"
October Issue of The Arts
The magazine was part of a Beta Test for a developing platform called Periodical. There were no promises, but I plowed forward with the assumption that all good things rise to the top. It is with some embarrassment then, that I have to say The Arts failed to deliver whatever the developers needed to further fund their effort. My subscriptions over the course of six months ranged between 2 and 12. Yep. For $2.99 a month, my subscribers accepted that the first six issues of the magazine would be free, and supported my endeavor anyway. You may think, well, you get what you pay for, but really all along I knew that this magazine would be a very slow climb to find that sexy, enticing message that attracts a readership. 

Gwen Thelen's Cover Art for "Remember"
September issue of The Arts 
Deborah Morris' Cover Art for "Heart"
August Issue of The Arts
There are dozens of publications on the arts already, and I was looking for that unique angle that would catch the reader’s hearts as creating a curated monthly arts exhibit caught me. I broke all kinds of editorial rules. I had short articles, not long ones. I put links in each article that could lead a reader away from the magazine. I revisited the same artists more than once with the idea that at the end of the year we would have a one-off magazine about each one. And, also with the idea that I could link the articles together over time, so that even though the article itself was short, a reader could find out a lot about each artist, see more of their work.  I tried to embed audio links into early issues hoping that while a reader scrolled through the magazine, a musical accompaniment could set a tone, but the platform couldn’t sustain it. I put videos in articles, or as articles. I made images more important than editorial as often as I could.  Unless the piece of creation was writing – poetry, prose, critiques – in which case I collaborated those pieces with visual art that supported or contrasted the words. I used my own work to fill in the gaps if I had run out of time to ask for more artists to participate and also to share my own work where possible. Obviously, I played around with those six months with the idea that the magazine was under development, too, and that we’d have time to find our groove.
John Mckie's Cover Art for "Atoms & Electrons"
July Issue of The Arts

https://thearts.periodical.co/ (here you can see it for a few weeks at least - the fledgling little magazine that arose out of many desires)

With the free platform gone, so goes The Arts. I’m not even sure at this point how I will preserve each issue. I will do my best, friends, and link the safety net here in the coming month. I want to apologize to all of the artists who eagerly contributed their work to the magazine. The heart of it is that as artists we all want to be seen as often and as deeply as we can in a world that seems to already be saturated with the work. 

Tomorrow I will explore this adventure of being seen as an artist, or being invisible as a creative person in the new world.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Gold Star for Me

You'd think because I chose to change my name and I'm making a splash about it, that I'd remember to actually introduce myself as Vivi Sojorhn. I'd say in actuality that I'm up to about a third of the time getting it right and I mentally give myself a gold star just for saying my own name these days. That's got to be a good way to start. Gold star every time I say, "My name is Vivi Sojorhn." It makes me smile.

All kinds of things have come up mentally about this change, including a partial aphasic seizure in which all words tangled themselves for a very short while in my brain. No need to wring your hands about it, as it hardly slowed me down more than an afternoon. This is part of my recovering from having the benign meningioma removed from my head in February of 2012. This made me think that really the reason I have changed my name is BECAUSE I CAN. I can choose to change my name, to paint a painting on my computer, to start a magazine, to laugh with my kids and kiss my husband, and do whatever I want to do BECAUSE I CAN. I am alive and count myself lucky.

Learning to Look Up, Digitally Painted 2013, by Vivi Sojorhn
Dislodging oneself from the rules that go with a name is profound, and different from expectations, OF COURSE. You may have noticed I tend to assume I can handle big stuff happening, and it turns out to be true. Apparently, when dying, Lord Alfred Tennyson said, "I have opened it," and from this perspective of having visited the Valley of Death in many of my experiences of the last several years, I sort of feel that changing my name has brought me closest to understanding what he may have meant by that. I feel that I've passed through a new door that is so subtle it is barely noticeable but so vastly different on the other side that I am in awe.

Sweet Surrender, Digitally Painted 2013, by Vivi Sojorhn
I find myself mourning for "Amanda" and feeling a part of me that is worn out and needing a good long rest, and is finally getting it. There is some deep part of me that is allowed to be quiet. I can't explain it now more than that I feel lifted often, though not all the time. I feel that I am more powerful in very specific ways that I did not guess at before I made the decision. Decisiveness being a primary strength. In that I've taken to walking quicker, to exercising less doubt, and, perhaps, to being a little bit or a lot more practical by response. I am the same person, and I am relieved to fully allow change. There is no clear beginning or end on this journey, only sweet surrender.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Name Change...Post Script

So I was walking my dog, Lucille, (who started out as Lucy but there were too many Lucy's at the pound), Lulu, Luciloo, Lulubelle, Lucille Diana...thinking about my name Vivi Sojorhn and if "Amanda" really can ever be gone and this is the image I got:

Amanda, the name of origin, with various last names is the piece of sand in the oyster of this life.

Abrasive to me for whatever reason, but causing a life unfolding to this point where "Vivianne *Vivi* Sojorhn" is the magical sheen, the opalescent pearl.

I forgot to mention that Pearl and Pearle were on my list of names that didn't make it. Maybe this will be my middle name after all.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Name Change: Part 4, Finally Choosing

Lady of the Lake, 2012 (c) A. M. Johnson
How did I finally land on “Vivianne Sojorhn” with a proper nickname of “Vivi”? It is so very different from my given name, my married names and all of the names I’ve auditioned before. It sounds foreign. There is nobody on Google sharing it. I had no problem getting a URL, or a gmail address for it. 

Vishnu and Ananta
About six weeks ago I started with names that sounded a lot more like my given name, “Ananda,” “Ananta,” “ Amandala,” and the list goes on. I liked the meanings and sound of the names. Ananda, for instance, was Buddha’s closest disciple, and known for his deep memory, and the name means “bliss” and is rather androgynous; though, more boys have it than girls. It also, I was told by a friend who knows, belongs to an incredible musician, the nephew of Ravi Shankar, Ananda Shankar. “Ananta” relates perfectly to my identity with Kosmic Egg Projects as it is the Cosmic Serpent that Vishnu dreams up the entire universe while riding. I really got attached to that name for a while, not that I am Hindu myself, but because one of my favorite books for the last decade has been “The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge”. However, I felt like I was in a hall of mirrors with names that were close to “Amanda” to the point where I found myself feeling that “Amanda” was a close as it was going to get. I would forever be drifting on “almost” no matter what I chose.

“Why not stay with Johnson?” I have been asked more than once as if I must be changing that name because I may leave. It is not for that reason at all. Johnson has been a very safe name for me. I have felt taken care of like never before by that name. During all of my health crises it has been a chrysalis in which I licked my wounds. It is clear to me now though that I feel like I’m hiding behind my husband by his name. My wings need more space for my own journey. I need to stand on my own roots.

For a last name, giving in to the idea that “Mojo” was not going to win over those closest to me in a respectable way, I fell upon “Journey” almost right away. I figured that whatever I put in front of “Journey” would be descriptive of how I feel about life itself. “Blissful,” “Dreaming,” “Kosmic,” etc all worked in front of “Journey,” but something about it was, well, too on-the-nose. Being a writer has given me the opportunity to name many characters along the way and I really do not like when a character’s name is so on-the-nose that knowing the name is knowing the entire story. It is a personal glitch that I could not abide by after a few weeks. I like a little more mystery and a little more personal detail than “Journey” could give me.

Holy Journey, Oil Pastels, 2012 (c) A.M. Johnson

Letting go of “Journey” reminded me of how many characters I’ve named, and I went searching in all of the names I’ve used in scripts and stories. I even looked at names that were high on the list for my kids’ names before they were landed. Elenore is one of my favorite names, and all of the derivatives - Noura, Norah, Lenore, Ella. Then there was Stella, after my great-great aunt and idol, Stella Starr and the Congo Parade. Names of characters I loved like Esme, Morgan, Codi, and writers I love, Barbara, Virginia, and Willa became possible. I looked at my grandmother’s names, Babette and Mary Kathryn (to be honest there are many Mary Kathryn’s now in my mother’s family and that, in truth, made the decision negative). As I went deeper into names of characters I began to think also of how to make sure it would be my name and not just a character’s name. I didn’t want to go back to a nom de plume. 

My answer was to take one or two letters from my birth names and put them in the names that I chose to audition. I also looked at what numbers were related to the names (a system used by the Kabalarians became essential) and how they added up to complement my own number 7. Things became very complex. You may have notice I’ve not done as much artwork in the last month or so. It is really because I’ve been playing an incredible puzzle called, Finding My Own Name, that includes meaning, known characteristics, numerology and pure inspiration. I guess it makes me feel the name has gone through a sort of gestation period to equal this surrender. I bow my head to my discovery.
On Our Way, 2012 (c) A.M. Johnson
The name "Vivienne" means “alive,” and that was most certainly me. After all I have been challenged with in the past, I still struggle everyday to be awake and living as fully as I can, but I won’t give up. I get the feisty feeling that what must be done will be done. As my own father described me recently as being “bad ass,” finally, this made me laugh. Even if my original name didn’t quite land me in that persona, I managed to make it to this point. Frankly, I had fallen in love with Vivienne, but it was missing something.

I started to blend in letters from my name “Amanda”, “Vivimene,” “Vivan,” “Emneiviv” and finally landed on “Vivianne” which seemed perfectly natural. “Anne” means grace, or graceful, and I loved that combination “Living gracefully,” “Graceful living,” as it is something I aim for (often doing pratfalls along the way, but I laugh!). I really also wanted to keep the “Vivi” part because I always wanted a nickname I felt great about, something easy, and what could be more lively than “Vivi”? Vivianne still needed a last name. 

I started shuffling the letters and adding one or two from my maiden name, as I had with “Vivianne”.I did not even try to bring the “M” in as the temptation towards Mojo, was gone. I used the “R” and the “S” and then I realized that the “S” was already in “Johnson”. So I narrowed down to the “R”. It came like this: first Roshjon, then Oshrojn, then Shojorn, and finally Sojorhn. I tried switching the “R” and the “H” to Sojohrn, but you can see that now the “R” and the “N” look like an “M,” so I dropped that. Of course, I loved Sojorhn as soon as I came upon it because it related loosely, not too on-the-nose now, to journey. 

Arcanum Two, Oil Pastels, 2013 (c) Vivi Sojorhn
Finally, someone asked me how it feels to change my name to Vivianne “Vivi” Sojorhn.

This is how it feels to me as I remember that I am Vivi Sojorhn now. I am no longer standing on the edge of reason. I have jumped. I cannot worry if it will work out because it must. How I move my wings or find my new bridge depends on how I serve the name, not how it serves me. As you know me as Vivi, Vivi shall be known and so I shall do my very best and that is all that is possible now. It is both thrilling and frightening and there is no turning back.

I am Vivi Sojorhn