Sitting with Pain

Photo by Haley Kean

Most of us don’t know what to do with our own pain and rarely do me know how to support others in their pain and grief.  Pain is not to be ignored. It is not to be consoled with platitudes that somehow all will pass.

Pain is pain. It only asks that you sit with it.

There is a lot of pain out there in this nanosecond of earth’s history. Pandemics, starvations, genocides, climate change, conflicts, deaths, fear, inequality, oppression, and huge losses of income surround us. Uncertainty hangs in the air.

My inbox and social media messages are full of it. My mind wants to fix it and I know I cannot.  The coffers of my limited income or my non-profit charity cannot solve the life-threatening problems facing even the people I know, not to mention those that I will never know.

I try. Often, I fail. I create art in the hopes that it will be purchased and I will have money to feed the dire needs of those in my tiny sphere.  I listen to grief daily and balance it with laughter and cheer.  I say too much or I say the wrong thing.  I have to remind myself daily that my task is not to erase the pain of another but to sit with the pain with them.

Sitting with our personal pain or that of another is radical. It doesn’t allow us hackneyed sayings or the banality of sentimental Hallmark cards. It doesn’t give a damn about inspirational posters or Facebook posts. 

Yes. I will continue to do whatever I can to feed, shelter, and assist those that cross my path.  Yes. I will continue to work at partnering with others who recognize the pain and do not ignore it. And yes, I will continue to create whatever I can to balance the pain with art in all of its forms. 

Art remains a powerful tool to let us gaze at someone else’s mind and discover the places where we are the same and the even richer places where we are different.

Sit with pain. Create. Savor what others create. It allows pain to experience the comfort of a mate. We all need mates, even if we never know their names.

 

Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life - and travel - leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks - on your body or on your heart - are beautiful. Often, though, they hurt.

Anthony Bourdain, The Nasty Bits: Collected Varietal Cuts, Usable Trim, Scraps, and Bones

Jinx Davis is an actress, artist, and entrepreneur. During the Covid pandemic, she created hundreds of paintings that she turned into printable art to help support the Living Arts Corporation.

Irony, Mystery & the Collective Unconscious

Which of these paintings sold for $5.71 million?

On June 27, 2019, I posted this to my Facebook page. Painting still remains a mystery to me.
 
One of these paintings just sold for £4.5 million ($5.71 million). The other was just painted a few hours ago as part of my personal therapy and playtime. I don’t think when I paint. I just paint for hours on end and get very, very dirty. I love it…and I do it solely for my own enjoyment.
 
I am feeling a bit weird. Either I am in sync some strange way or I just unconsciously plagiarized, albeit rather poorly, an artist I have never heard about.
Yesterday and today I painted eight paintings after purchasing a lot of frames and old paintings from a local business closing down. I typically paint over whatever I buy since it is the cheapest way for me to play with paint. I made a huge mess and just finished cleaning up at 11:35 p.m., exhausted. I sat down with a drink and caught up with the news. The New York Times had an article about Sotheby’s Postwar London sale that had occurred on June 26, 2019. Scrolling down, I found a painting that was uncannily like one that was drying in my kitchen.
 
“The big surprise of the evening was a rare 1946 abstract on canvas by the influential German artist Otto Wols, the likes of which had not been on the market for a while—hence the hefty £400,000 to £600,000 estimate. In fact, this painting, Green Stripe Black Red, had come to auction back in 1984, when it sold for what was then a record of £132,000. Tonight’s work was pursued by Berlin dealer Heinrich zu Hohenlohe and a tenacious Japanese bidder before selling to a German phone bidder for £4.5 million ($5.71 million), shattering the artist’s 11-year-old auction record of £2.6 million.” – New York Times
 
I looked him up:
Wols was a German artist best known for his involvement in the Tachisme movement of abstract painters in France. Wols’ paintings featured drips and scratches in defiance of the aesthetics and art theory of his day. His work is seen as a predecessor to the later Lyrical Abstraction movement. Born Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze on May 27, 1913, in Berlin, Germany, he grew up in a wealthy family who were patrons of the arts. He eventually settled in Paris after traveling abroad, studying photography and painting with various teachers. In Paris, he befriended Fernand Léger and Max Ernst and began exhibiting his work for the first time. Though largely unrecognized during his lifetime, Wols’ work has found appreciation with contemporary audiences and is today found in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Tate Gallery in London, The Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, among others. Otto Wols died from food poisoning on September 1, 1951, in Paris, France at the age of 38.
 
The painting on the left is by Otto Wols and sold for 5.71 million dollars. The painting on the right is by Jinx Davis and was painted on an old hodge-podge framed canvas and given away to a friend. 
 
Art teaches us to live with mysteries. What value does art hold? How do we determine value? Do our images emerge collectively? How would an expert in art history critique the two paintings? Did I imitate without ever seeing a Wols painting? Do humans share a vast visual library of images? Ah…

Jinx Davis is an actress, artist, and entrepreneur. During the Covid pandemic, she created hundreds of paintings that she turned into printable art to help support the Living Arts Corporation.

The Democratization of Art Has Arrived

Randi Jane Davis paints street art on the hospital wall outside of Tribe Art Gallery Cambodia

I have visited far more art galleries than I could ever count. Some were stuffy with a privileged and arrogant attitude while others were celebratory and welcoming. Regardless of where or what kind of a gallery it was I always heard a friend or stranger express similar frustration.

“I’m tired of seeing art I love and knowing I will never be able to afford it.”

I get it. I have never been able to afford it either. The only art I ever purchased were prints made from artists I knew and wanted to support and 2 originals. Typically, I paid between $150-$250 for the prints of the originals and I knew that the artists would typically get only a small percentage.  I lived and worked surrounded by wonderful art and sculpture – but only because they were gifted to me, loaned to my gallery/theatre or business for display, or exchanged for services such as building websites. Most people do not get such gifts.

Appreciating art and feeling unable to surround ourselves with it is a real pain point for many of us. It plays on class issues and accentuates social boundaries. There is an emotional cost for feeling left out and feeling unseen.

There is a profound and universal need for art in our lives that has been recognized since humanity began. People who have never experienced the invitation to feel a part of the world of art are frequently defensive and overly critical of art.  You’ve heard them:

My kid could paint that.

What the hell is that supposed to look like?

I could buy a new car for the price of that crap!

As someone who has been in the art world for over 70 years, I get a sense of the emotional cost of living with those pain points when I think about what’s at stake for the people I want to serve. While I am all in for galleries that support and nurture artists and all in for artists making a good living, I am also all in for making art available to those who cannot afford it.

Technology and the internet have made this possible with printable art. It is radical. It is democratization. It has arrived at a time when we need art in our lives more than ever before.

I empathize with my customers. We’re in the same boat.

P.S – I have never been in a culture more artistically inviting than Cambodia. Most galleries and art shows welcome all with personal enthusiasm. Economic and social boundaries melt (if only for a short while) and art in all its forms is celebrated with energy and collective communion. Kudos to the art spaces in Cambodia.

Jinx Davis is an actress, artist, and entrepreneur. During the Covid pandemic, she created hundreds of paintings that she turned into printable art to help support the Living Arts Corporation.

Taking First Steps

Taking First Steps

Photography by Yang Miao

My year-old grandson took his first solo steps this week. My son sent me the video. The child is standing and leaning on the couch next to his mother’s legs. The father is standing by a door and calls, “Come here, Buddy. Come here”. The toddler laughs, turns, and suddenly starts walking towards his father. He makes 6 or 7 steps before he falls and is scooped up by a beaming Dad.

Children don’t plan to start walking. Plans are great but they won’t get us walking. We learn by starting. We take that first step.

Across the decades of my life, I have been many things: a one-room school teacher; a pineapple picker; an actress, a children’s librarian; a pro se litigant winning 26 federal and district court cases (including patent infringement); made many solo journeys across the nation to understand my culture and create theater pieces; a radio producer; a shop owner; a kindergarten teacher; a storyteller in over 500 schools; a restaurant owner; a performance artist; a theater director; a cocktail waitress; a serial entrepreneur; a roofer; a director of a charity; a website designer, etc., etc. I had little or no plans to do any of the jobs and projects I undertook.

I am not bragging. Just like a toddler, we build on our experiences and survival instincts, not our plans. We take our first steps because life demands it. 

Yes, I have plans for what I would like my art for charity website to become.  Yet, I know something far more important than my plans:

We learn by doing. Doing demands effort.

Jinx Davis is an actress, artist, and entrepreneur. During the Covid pandemic, she created hundreds of paintings that she turned into printable art to help support the Living Arts Corporation.

When It Matters We Find A Way

Sothy Than and his son Coca

Covid has been particularly hard on Cambodia and many of my friends lost their small businesses or jobs and have no income. Medical care, housing, and even food is scarce.

One friend was in dire need of his medication but had no money to buy more. He is a young man who returned to his parent’s rural village when the economy collapsed. I thought it would be simple to send him enough money for the meds through my Cambodian bank app. I was very wrong.

Where there’s a will there’s a way is a proverb that means if someone is determined to do something, he will find a way to accomplish it regardless of obstacles. The sentiment of this phrase was first published in 1640, in the work Jacula Prudentusm written by George Herbert: “To him that will, ways are not wanting.” By the 1820s the phrase had been altered to where there’s a will there’s a way. 

The bank refused to give me access to my account since I had not used it for 90 days and required that I come to a bank branch in person. This was impossible since I was on another continent so I tried every which way to get it to him. It took 4 days and the involvement of 4 people from 3 different countries. We were all in different time zones, too. We managed to get the medicine to him by going through a labyrinth of sidesteps and hours of our time (I will spare you the ridiculous obstacles). Finally, our mutual friend Sothy Than picked up the money from an app service, purchased the medicine, and made sure it was delivered. We breathed again.

Seeing how we have adapted to the pandemic restrictions is proof of how innovative and resilient we are. None of us could have predicted how difficult life would be before the pandemic descended upon the world.

Perhaps none of us could have predicted the surprising ability for us to acclimate in service of the collective good.

This is also why I have created art and this website.

Jinx Davis is an actress, artist, and entrepreneur. During the Covid pandemic, she created hundreds of paintings that she turned into printable art to help support the Living Arts Corporation.

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