Been a Minute

My gallery recently emailed me that they needed an artist’s statement for a painting they sold to Fidelity. The corporation was finally installing the piece and wanted something for their files. I cobbled together from memory what the series focused on but ultimately I had to add content informed by my current situation:

A barcode is given to an item in a store that identifies its description and price. The notion of a permutation relates to the act of rearranging all the members of a set into different sequences. An antithesis to instant art, this work is a slow and methodical exercise in long-term patience. Are we to scan the bars to identify the price and thus reveal the story with a scanner? Just as the message might reveal itself, the panels can be placed, arranged, and hung in different configurations. Every time the piece is installed, a new painting exists. These pieces cannot not reveal their story but they can exist as evidence that the need for slow art will be required, needed, and valued not monetized. The viewer can relish the gift of color and the prospect of finding a new path or new future. Change is inevitable and when embraced removes the fear of the unknown and creates a pact to continue and to let go.

Permutations 3, 2015, 72″ x 96″, acrylic on birch panels SOLD to Fidelity

After composing this I realized how long it had been that I did any writing at all. So yes, it’s been a minute, or two, or ten. But every time I would sit down to compose a post, I felt I couldn’t write anything until it was truly over. by “it” I refer to my divorce. The trial is over but I can’t stop looking over my shoulder. Just knowing my ex and his family have been stalking, monitoring, and harassing me has prevented me from sharing any information of any kind. I’ve been afraid for myself and for my children. This paranoia was not unwarranted.

The divorce trial, which I never wanted and tried to settle at every turn, ended on my brother’s birthday, October 19, 2017. This date was not met with joy and a celebration seemed to be premature. Joking with my divorced friends we asked each other which date would we have embroidered on a pillow? Which date signified the end, our freedom? This is not my date. I knew my ex would not accept the judgement and my fear and anxiety of what he would do next weighed heavily. Then it happened. Less than 4 weeks later, my ex waited in his car on the corner of our street for our older daughter to pass him as she walked home from school. After dropping her friend a half a block away, she only has to cross the street to reach our apartment. As she crossed, her father emerged from his car and ambushed her on the sidewalk. I should preface their exchange by explaining that the permanent restraining order prohibits him from coming with 100 yards of my residence, car, our children’s schools and of course, myself. My daughter had not seen or even spoken to her father for a year and a half and he is only entitled to supervised visitations with a court monitor. Instead of asking how she was, he assaulted her with questions and a diatribe of self-pity. When she arrived home she looked like she had seen a ghost. She was devastated by the exchange and not only because she was hurt but that she may have revealed too much information. Just like the victims of the #MeToo movement she was trapped and tried her best to be polite and diffuse rather than confront and enrage. The very next day he showed up at her school during morning drop-off. Within five minutes the Police responded with sirens blaring but he left just before they arrived.

I will celebrate my divorce when I can stop looking over my shoulder, when I can stop scanning the street for his car, when I can put my child to bed at night without tears.

My ex will never create a path for himself to move on and be a good father to our two girls. His victim mentality and narcissistic behavior will never allow it. I write this post in real time. Today is November 16, 2017.

Today is November 17th, 2017.

I am exhausted and seething. My anger is only kept in check by the mundane chores of my every day. After finally opening the bill from my law firm, I gasped at the the $100,000 the trial cost me. But not really me, our children. It doesn’t mater that I tried to settle on October 3, 2017 because I made similar and and more generous offers on two previous occasions. My total bill now tops $300,000 over the last two and a half years of my divorce proceedings. But this alone didn’t really make me angry. I was free and it was a small price to pay. But today I’m angry. I’m angry that this man, this father, who has destroyed our daughter’s sense of autonomy and shattered her joy of independence. It is now my job to undo the damage and work really hard to restore her sense of safety and happiness. She told me through tears that all she wants in life is to be content. She doesn’t even need happiness all the time but that being content was a goal she thought she achieved before he ambushed her on our corner. I’m angry.

Today is Monday, November 27, 2017.

My daughter walked one block to school by herself and then called me sobbing. She said she did not want to walk (even with our neighbor, her classmate) for fear of her father showing up at her school again. Shame on him. Shame on a father behaving as if he is the only one who matters. As if the stresses of starting high school aren’t enough, this poor 14 year old child is being harassed by a man who won’t follow the court’s orders, pities himself without giving a thought to his children, and blames everyone but himself.

Today is Thursday, November 30, 2017.

As mundane and plain as today was supposed to be, it manifested into something quite different. I entered the courtroom expecting to sign the judgment in my divorce case. My ex refused to sign, stormed out in the middle of the proceedings, and headed straight to our older daughter’s school to try and gain entry. This is a man who does not think rules, judgments, court orders, or the law apply to him. It doesn’t occur to him that his bullying tactics will no longer facilitate getting what he wants. Putting hexes on me, ambushing his children in the street, stomping his feet; the desperate torture only themselves. I will not be scared, silenced, bullied or pushed. My direction is only up.

Today is December 2, 2017

And because it is the Holiday season and this blog is about my life but more importantly supposed to be about my art, I leave you with this beautiful little “Gift Edit” curated by my Gallery, Galleri Urbane:

 

Just a Piece of Paper

Recent surgery to remove pre-cancerous growths from my cervix is the perfect metaphor for my life of the last two years. I screamed and cried the entire procedure helpless to make it stop. Though I knew the end was in sight, the immediate moment of pain felt like torture. I was held prisoner on the operating table. I could not afford the more expensive version of this surgery which included anesthesia and a wiped memory. Even though my medical history told the story of pain meds falling short of their intended potency, I risked the chance of feeling yet another procedure.  While not immune to the pain of being held a virtual captive during the summer of 2015, I knew it would be over. I didn’t know it would take another two years. With a trial date set for Mid-October, I have three more months of captivity. I didn’t blog last month as the monetary strain renders me unable to buy linen to continue painting. The facts of my divorce can only be labeled as stranger than fiction. My wide-eyed listeners, mouths agape in a dumbfounded expression, cannot believe what has transpired. If it wasn’t all true, I would be talked down from a literary edge.

So life and health and surviving have pre-empted art. Not being able to paint forces me to think about what I really want to create next. A new painting series, more sculpture, and starting a new business have been processing. I’m focused on healing my mind and body and figuring out how this will translate into a new series of work. Spending so many years suppressing my true self, I was unable to help family and forced to cut off ties of long-standing friendships. But now I know and can refuse the company of men who are mean to me. I can recognize the signs and reject the perfect package hidden behind a scrim. I am able to see the signs and be aware of the red flags. This gift was hard earned.

Reading other blogs about how parents couldn’t drag their kids out of bed in the morning or others making decisions about what grad school to attend make me wonder about how I arrived to this point in my life. I don’t have these “normal” problems. I worry if my ex is in Spain right now, breaking into the apartment, changing the locks and kicking out my tenants. I worry about that the remaining painting he spared last summer from the trash:

Distortion 1, 2012, acrylic on canvas, 72 1/2″ x 60″

The one too big to drag outside unnoticed, too big to put in the dumpster, too beautiful to destroy. These people married the “right” person, a person who has a job and friends, a person who doesn’t bully or control. These people have a nice home, are buying vacation homes, taking their kids out of school to travel the world for a year. This picture of harmony, however imperfect, in reality is my greatest envy. My daily worries include how am I going to get by if I lose that rental income my ex has threatened is taken away? How am I going to pay my legal bills so my law firm won’t drop me before trial? How am I going to work more hours in spite of being a full-time single mom with two jobs already? I certainly don’t want to minimize the stress and anxiety that sleepy child brings to his or her parents but I long for the day when those are my problems. I long for the normal, the boring, the mundane. Until then my biggest worry is how my ex treats a court order. It’s just a piece of paper after all.

This Month’s Music: Sylvan Esso

Solo Together

Exactly two years ago this month, I told my husband I wanted to separate. The title of my solo exhibition at Galleri Urbane, Cluster Fail, is a play on humorous slang. Cluster fuck is a colloquial term that people use to describe a difficult time, moment or situation. By giving levity to chaos and tragedy, we can mitigate the pain of the situation and chuckle at the absurdity. This was the working title for my first paintings post-separation. Not wanting to trivialize the tragic nature of recent life events, I kept the Cluster and added Fail. This described the failure of the system to protect myself and my girls form my ex as well as the failure I felt trying to shield my children from trauma.

The opening was well attended and it was a thrill to meet some of my collectors. Also thrilling was receiving three press mentions. The first one was leading up to the event:

Then I was listed as one of the top art events to see the weekend my exhibition opened by the Dallas Observer:

Marion Wesson – Cluster Fail (pictured at top)

Galleri Urbane
2277 Monitor St.
Artist talk 4:30-5:30 p.m. Saturday

“Marion Wesson created the upholstered works in Cluster Fail during the aftermath of an abusive relationship. The first piece is based on a night she called police to her home. “I based the fabric design on the violent outburst of when my ex grabbed me while screaming and yelling in front of our children,” she says. When she made her story public it elicited an outpouring of support she had not anticipated from other women. Determined to help others in her situation, she partnered with a former Rhode Island School of Design classmate, who helped her illustrate the fabrics. The designs are inspired by true stories of women who have survived abuse. Admission is free.”

The latest press mention came from Culture Map Dallas:

“Cluster Fall,” Marion Wesson at Galleri Urbane
Opening reception: May 13, 6-8:30 pm
Exhibition dates: May 13-June 17

“Los Angeles-based artist Marion Wesson’s installations of brightly upholstered chairs and complementary canvases resemble nothing so much as domestic tableaus. Their inspiration, however, is much darker. 

Based on the things she went through in the aftermath of a tumultuous relationship, the shapes she captures (including a hand grabbing a wrist and a woman curved in a fetal position), are totems of domestic violence transformed into pretty patterns. 

Through her own personal trials, Wesson came in contact with other women who share similar histories, and she collaborated with them on the prints that ultimately inspired her paintings. In a time when the rights of women are being slowly eroded, Wesson’s bravery in sharing the difficult but sometimes positive changes that come from escaping oppression is an essential act.”

Before my opening reception on May 13th at Galleri Urbane, I gave a talk about my work. I thought I had prepared for my talk. I spent a couple of weeks writing, then making flash cards, then reading and re-reading the flash cards (I was even planning to transcribe the talk to this blog). When it came time for the presentation, I felt like I froze as I abandoned the prepared words. The emotionality of the work took over and I even broke down a couple of times. Allowing myself to cry alone seemed acceptable but in public? I talked about things I didn’t expect and felt empty pockets of omission. Emotion catches me off guard these days. I think I’ve passed the time of mourning 20 years of my life. Instead the haunting continues and the regret and pain linger.

After my talk I met a very interesting woman who was transcribing a sort of impromptu interview then posting it on Instagram. It was through this informal chat that I realized the connection between my ex ripping up my paper calendar in a vengeful rage and the title of the painting we were discussing (Cluster Compendium). Though obvious to her, I hadn’t consciously made the connection.

I have spent many hours, days, and weeks crying. Crying for my children, myself, a broken heart. Are these tears a wasted practice in self-pity or a cathartic necessity? I’m finding and embracing love from a kind man in lieu of another bully. I refuse to revert back to attracting relationships that hurt. I have given in to being loved by kindness instead of settling for fleeting glimpses of happiness. I no longer have to search for a happy meaning in mistreatment. I will never waver in my conviction for happiness. I put joy in my purse as I drive carpool. I put joy in my pocket as I take my children to the park. I feel joy at 5 am as I make school lunches. Joy, you put your arm around me, you whisper affirmations, and help me sleep at night.

This Month’s Music: Fenech-Soler

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#badasssingleworkingartistmom

Now that my solo show is officially completed, I can focus my attention on making new art. And my first piece is a commission. As I prepare to make this painting, I have first created a color sketch. I will send this mini version of the painting and palette to the clients for their approval:

Color Sketch, acrylic on birch panels, 20″ x 10″

The pieces for my show at Galleri Urbane opening on May 13, 2017 were picked up for the art shuttle to Dallas. Here are some pictures of the shippers:

It was a thrill to see my work being loaded on the truck. This has been a dream a long time in the making but really it’s the years of hard work that have led to this show.

The original inception for the chair installation began the night I called the police during a domestic violence incident in my home. I based the fabric design on the violent outburst of when my ex grabbed me while screaming and yelling in front of our children. Making my story public brought out words of sympathy and an understanding from other women I had not anticipated. And this began the journey to design fabric for other women. My fabric was illustrated with the help of a RISD classmate:


Fabric Design Cluster Collapse (Marion)

A few of these women shared their own abuse with me and agreed to tell their stories as an addition to my own. One woman called “Abby” and I designed a fabric with a photograph of a tree rendered in a mirror image to create a repeated pattern. While she ended a 20 year relationship with her husband who raged against her and her children with brutish behavior, she wanted to go back to her initial abuse as a child suffered at the hands of her adopted brother. Due to her extreme athleticism, she was able to escape her brother by climbing a giant tree, now felled, outside her childhood home. In going back to her abuse before her marriage, she establishes the roots of that abuse and how it endured through her subsequent relationships. The chairs explore the idea that the pattern of abuse and succumbing to bullies begins in childhood for some victims and once established, is very hard to break. Abuse victims are unfamiliar with a pattern of a loving and supportive relationships and have been programmed to appease the bullies instead of standing up to them.

Fabric Design for Cluster Collapse (Abby)

The second victim I worked with had to break from a man she really loved who was made ill by alcoholism. She asked that her name not be revealed and so she is identified by the letter “Y”. Describing a loving man made mad by drinking, she found herself standing between her husband and their three children as this tornado of rage spiraled out of control. We settled on imagery which included this tornado and the liquor bottles he used to consume. This fabric design was then rendered in a 50’s style of imagery as an ironic juxtaposition between the happy, gay iconic imagery of fun parties and summer nights filled with martinis and poodles against the dark reality of extreme illness. She asked that I upholster the fabric on chairs that looked awkward and uncomfortable to sit on. This fabric was also a collaboration with a RISD classmate, now RISD professor, Forrest Curl.

Fabric Design for Cluster Collapse (“Y”)

The last set of chairs is about a woman called “Melanie” who was violently sexually abused by her former boyfriend. What she described initially as consensual sex play, turned into a violent pattern of appeasement. She asked that the fabric be composed with red and black and upholstered on wing back chairs.

Fabric Design for Cluster Collapse (Melanie)

After many years of healing and therapy and now in a happy, healthy marriage to another man, I became the model to tell her story of pain. We discussed using photographic image of a woman naked, curled up in a ball. A fetal-like pose was the best way she felt she could convey her attempt to comfort herself after each episode of abuse. She imagined she could curl up in one of the chairs with the sides shielding her. This fabric was designed with help, talent and skill of photographer Ted Thornton.

Fabric Design for Cluster Collapse (Mealnie)

My last post was a message to my stalkers. Usually there is one view of my blog a day from my ex’s family in Macedonia. But my last post generated a flurry of hits like roaches scattering at the flick of a light switch. These were people I considered family. To the woman whose son I gave $75,000 to buy and open his own make-up store, I received an email telling me I was going to hell. This after she told me she was going to wash my feet in gratitude for everything I had done for her and her son. Her son, my ex’s nephew, was so overwhelmed by my generosity that he cried as he thanked me and wanted to name the store “Marion”. My thought was how could I not help my nephew after I saw that his only job was selling gum and cigarettes out of an open kiosk in the snow? But I’m glad that store still stands. And it will always stand as a reminder that I am not the horrible person my ex has convinced his family I am. My ex’s sister was right about something: I have been to hell and now I’m living in a purgatory of my ex’s making. The roaches may never go away but I know where they hide and I’m not afraid of bugs.

This Month’s Music: Little Dragon

Good PR

The first gallery that ever represented me back in 1998 was called Cruz L.A. It was a lovely space in Venice, California and I had my first real solo exhibition with them. And in the process, I became good friends with James Ferrera, partner in the gallery as well as their PR writer. All these years later, I have collaborated with that dear friend to come up with a press release for my upcoming show at Galleri Urbane:

Exhibition Dates: May 13 – June 17, 2017

Opening Reception: May 13, 6:00 – 8:00 PM, artist talk at 4:30 PM
Gallery 2

Marion Wesson

Cluster Fail

This May, Galleri Urbane will host esteemed multimedia artist Marion Wesson for her first solo exhibition with the gallery. Cluster Fail debuts in response to Wesson’s deeply personal experience over 2016. Navigating stages of collusion, panic, rationalization, isolation and retaliation, her new work transcribes a miasma of feeling into a piercing visual narrative of collapse and sustenance.

Wesson’s Cluster series involves work created in the aftermath of a tumultuous relationship, during a time of difficult but positive change. Each piece tells a unique story of abuse and self-awareness. “I came to the conclusion that the paintings had to work in concert with the sculpture,” Wesson says, “and that a cohesive collection that told a story was paramount.” Her Cluster work urges conversation through a simple diorama of chairs, chosen by the subject, meant to represent both support and dialogue.  They are upholstered in fabric designed by Wesson that incorporates mundane objects as powerful symbols of oppression.  Each conversation area is intricately tied to a Cluster series painting that hangs above, imploring the viewer to participate rather than just observe. The artist will host an artist talk to begin the conversation as a prelude to the reception.

Marion Wesson received her BFA in Painting from the Rhode Island School of Design.  Her work has been featured in both solo and group exhibitions in the United States and Spain, where she was Artist in Residence at Sporting Club Russafa in Valencia.  She was awarded the prestigious James D. Phelan Award in Printmaking by the San Francisco Foundation.  Wesson’s work has been highlighted in Art Hound, Artweek, Buzz Weekly, L.A. Weekly and Venice Magazine and is included in the Fidelity, Tailwater and Twitter Corporate Collections.  Marion Wesson is a fifth generation Californian.  She currently resides in Los Angeles, CA with her two children.

Another requirement for presenting work in a gallery is crafting an artist statement. I combed through all my writings as I have laid them out over months of blog posts, thoughts, and ideas. The rich but sad content of the last almost two years of my life has been distilled into a short paragraph summing up this body of work:

My recent paintings are messages of my own pain rendered it in a composition most resembling the repetition and patterns of the fabrics I’m designing for the chair installation, Cluster Collapse. The Cluster Compendium paintings are deeply personal and frank renderings of all the times I had to submit to having to do things against my wishes, with or for my ex-husband. Each shape I paint I take back my identity and reclaim the helplessness and unhappiness I endured for many years. It was easier to keep the peace and give in to his demands than to fight against him. I was, after all, his wife and he made it a point to remind me of that when he wasn’t getting his way. It is not easy for me to admit any of this. I feel embarrassed and degraded. Forcing a dialogue about domestic violence, this body of work is about my failure to keep a healthy weight, my failure to protect my children from trauma, and the failure of the system to protect all three of us. But the power of my story and the stories from the women I’m collaborating with have guided my new work with a forceful purpose. It is a compendium or record of days and weeks and months and years of unhappiness. By exploring failures I hope to render my best efforts to keep it together and hold my life intact. But the explosion of events out of my control do not denote failure, they are and were the reality. I must wake up and endure. It is the truth among lies, the pain extracted from life, and my attempt to make beautiful the ugly ways of bullies.

The best part about preparing for this show is the friends who have rallied support behind me including noted photographer, Ted Thornton. Ted was the creative mind behind my studio portrait and photographed all the work for the exhibition. Here he is hard at work:

I have felt very alone for the last two years and having friends like James and Ted have helped guide me through the muck.

I guess it is fitting that my show opens the very month two years ago that I summoned the courage to leave my husband. When my gallery offered me the show in the midst of my divorce, I wasn’t sure I would be able to pull it together. But mostly, how was I supposed to pull myself together while in and out of court, simultaneously take care of my girls, work side jobs, and make work for the show? All this while trying not to go broke under the weight of the legal bills my ex has forced me to incur. I have spent the equivalent of a college fund for one of my daughters. Because of this I’ve had to explain to my girls that we may have to sell our house instead of move back in as they wish. I’ve had to talk up our great UC public college system as an alternative to a private university out of state I will not be able to afford. These enormous life decisions should not be on the shoulders of children. But I’ve had to explain to them, well, prepare them, for the realities of the future. I don’t want to instill worry and fear in my children but rather resilience and self-reliance. These lessons will carry them through to young adulthood. They know that I am with them, support them, and will always be there for them in every way.

This month’s music: José James

 

Deadlines

I try to be diligent about writing at least once a month. There are times when we feel overwhelmed by our lives. I wake up every day at 5am in the dark; I make lunches and shuttle children to school. By 8 am I have already worked for 3 hours. My day doesn’t stop until 8:30 pm when the kids are in bed. This kind of day would be trying enough if I also didn’t have to go to court once a month and sometimes more. This is part of the reason I did not post my blog last month. Yes, I am overworked, overtired and stressed out. But these adjectives are not unique to my circumstances. All my friends lead similar lives. The difference is that every word I put down, every thought, every feeling, every event in my life is being watched. I am being virtually stalked through my blog and any other social media outlets as well as google searches. My words are then printed out as they follow me to court. While I’m not sure how my ex plans to use my writing against me (and he has tried), it’s knowing that he relentlessly stalks me on-line that is unnerving. And knowing that he has nothing to do all day but stalk me is even more disconcerting. Endless motions are filed in court to get money from me. All I do is work and he has the nerve to ask for part of my rental income, my catering income, my art income and anything else he can get his hands on. He does not work and pays nothing toward the care of our children. I find comfort that he has not managed to collude with anyone in my destruction. In fact, the opposite has occurred. I am surrounded by love and friends and support while he is alone and angry and vengeful. I will never allow for hate and rage to overcome good sense as he has.

As the deadline approaches for my solo show in Dallas at Galleri Urbane, my sense of panic has waned and now I feel a calm resolve to make it to the finish line. I’m hesitant to reveal too many images before the show opens this Spring but here are a few teaser shots:

The paintings and the sculpture are all part of an integral installation. When all the pieces are installed together, hopefully the work will be defined by a cohesion of pattern and meaning.

It’s always great to hear from happy clients. Here is my youngest from Philadelphia, Charlie, with his new animal painting:

charliephiladelphia

My grandmother’s exhibition in Washington DC was a great affair attended by hundreds. Originally curated by Amy De La Haye for the London College of Fashion, the show later traveled to Milan, and finally landed stateside at American University’s Katzen Art Center. Even though the show is officially titled Coco Chanel: A New Portrait by Marion Pike, Paris 1967-1971, the family has dubbed it Cuckoo and Coco. My grandmother had this amazing ability to capture the likeness of her subjects. The portraits she painted didn’t just resemble the sitter, they captured the essence of her subject’s personality. One subject she could never quite get was myself. I saw my grandmother every year she came to live with us and work in her Los Angeles studio that my mother and father built for her as an addition to our family home. Every visit she would have me sit for her. Baffled by how difficult I was to capture, she tried again and again but the portraits never looked like me. My favorite is of me as a little girl not more than three years old with a long paint brush held to paper as I’m sitting on the floor of her studio.

I was thrilled to be able to take my own two children to see their great-grandmother’s exhibition and celebrate my daughter’s 9th birthday all on the same weekend. Here is a slideshow of the exhibition.

marionpikekatzen

I usually find joy in writing. I look at it as another art form and finding creativity in everything I do is very important to me. So for this reason I impose an arbitrary deadline of a once a month blog post. Even though the last year and a half has given me new found strengths, it has also been debilitating. And sometimes processing everything in my life prevents me from producing. During my nightly pep talk I repeat my mantra: you will get through this, you will get through this, you will get through this.

This Month’s Music: Oceaán