Art

Meditation 1 by Akira Ohiso

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During meditation, a memory of Alex surfaced that I have not thought about for decades.  We were bike riding at Caumsett State Park in Huntington, NY.   On summer days before the internet and smart phones, Caumsett was a destination my friends frequented to escape the provincial environs of Port Washington.  We were in the first few years after high school when those of us who were unsure of our futures took classes at local colleges (for transfer credits one day), while loitering around town on weekends. 

It was a sort of rapproachment with my parents after years where my peers took priority.   I got along better with my parents as I finally had state-sanctioned independence.  My parents let me be in many respects as I tried to make my way in the world.  As a Gen Xer, the loitering around would go into my mid-twenties.  I was directionless and reactive so I would often, impulsively, drop one thing to try something else.  But, as Douglas Copeland said, “There is no shame in impulse.”  

Odd jobs, stints in college, dead-end bands and too much depressive partying is not a recipe for success even in an unconventional way.  Even writers and artists work every day.  While some of my more mature (with a hard T) classmates were on to masters programs and starter homes, I idled, indecisively, to the sounds of Nirvana, Ace of Base and Celine Dion (if we are talking 1994).

I rationalized my anger and jealousy.  Douglas Copeland succinctly expressed my feelings at the time:

 “When someone tells you they’ve just bought a house, they might as well tell you they no longer have a personality. You can immediately assume so many things: that they’re locked into jobs they hate; that they’re broke; that they spend every night watching videos; that they’re fifteen pounds overweight; that they no longer listen to new ideas. It’s profoundly depressing. ”

“Depressing” is living in you parents attic surround by dusty posters of high school idols.  

I was also incapable of holding down romantic relationships.  I had girlfriends, but I always found a reason to walk away.  I let so many good relationships go because I did not understand myself.  I was mixed-race, but my public identity was to be white and fit in.  As long as my skin wasn’t brown or black, I got a pass in the hierarchy of racism.  Yellow trumps black in this case. 

I also carried generational trauma.  My mother survived an alcoholic and abusive father.  My father was a child of World War 2 Japan.  I’m only beginning to understand how their experiences imprinted on my life. 

***

Today, Ellie told me a story she heard from her hair stylist.  She took her dog to the dog park at Golden Gardens.  Her dog was not leashed and when she opened the car door in the parking lot the dog darted into a wooded area near a homeless camp.  She thought nothing of it and her dog eventually caught up with her and they entered the dog park.  Soon her dog started acting confused and drowsy and had some difficulty breathing. 

She rushed her dog to the vet where tests revealed he had high levels of opioids in his blood.  Her dog wandered over an area where people where going to the bathroom. The human feces contained opioid remnant that the dog ingested accidentally.  Her dog was treated with Narcan.  She reported the incident to a local animal program who stated they received  several similar complaints.  The unintended consequences of addiction create vertical trauma for our canine companions.

It’s been almost twelve years since Alex passed away unexpectedly in his sleep.  

Studio Without Walls by Akira Ohiso

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I’ve been wanting to get back to a regular writing routine for some time now, but, my excuse is that life got in the way.  My discipline as a writer is not up to par with my art.  I work on art everyday mostly sitting on the couch with my iPad.  It’s not very romantic, but I think of Hemingway standing at a chest-high typewriter propped on a bookshelf in his room. Whatever works to facilitate the work. 

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At this point in my career, I don’t have the finances or space for a studio, but, because I work digitally, space is not required. 

I have been moving away from my representational drawings of Seattle and towards a collage and mixed-media vocabulary.  When I had a studio space in the Catskills, I was using this vocabulary on canvas and wood panels. 

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Lately, I have been returning to exploring these styles using digital art applications.  Because I work at a rapid pace and often in a stream-of-consciousness style, the ability to find visual media and get results quickly supports my process.  The internet is an effective tool in this regard.  It’s quicksilver, a digitized me thumbing through printed matter with no discretion.  Anything and everything can be cut and pasted into a new context. 

My work is prolific so I often don’t think about what I create until I stop for the day.  When I think about my work beforehand or have a pre-conceived plan, the work often is for commercial purposes.  Commercial often means constraints about messaging.  The most honest work comes through an unplanned exploratory process where accidents and serendipity play a role.

Perhaps it’s related to my social work background where talk therapy is about open-ended questions and the space to allow exploration and new insights to develop about self.

I remember lonely nights in my late teens and early twenties writing perplexed Bic-Pen entries in my black and white mottled composition book.  I had stacks of journals in my attic bedroom that were tossed when my parents sold the house a few years ago. 

I will never know everything that was expressed in those journals, but I do remember the identity-confused timber.  It’s hard for me to know the person I was back then because I had no identity.  Without the tools and knowledge to understand my biracial existence, I simply reacted in a white world.  I assimilated and denied any identity I was aware of.  I was a cipher, a void, an Akira-shaped hole.