Existential Anxiety, Marcel Marceau, Anne Frank by Diana Rivera

“In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery and death.” – Anne Frank

“In silence and movement you can show the reflection of people.” – Marcel Marceau

In what ways does art provide meaning to existence? How does it enhance the meaningless with which we grapple? I have been immersed in the work of existentialist thought (Yalom and May, to name a few) and have become intimate with the question: What does it mean to be human when living at the edge of existence? I dare say all of us are at the edge of that existence at any given moment even when the conditions may appear disguised by success, comforts, vanity, and exhausted by anxiety.


Artists are at the edge of existence and constantly grapple with the fine line between meaning and meaningless, having and releasing, letting go and letting be. Artists experience rates of anxiety that appear higher than others because they explore such emotions in their work. Artists may face the depths of the unknown in ways that are acceptable because only in art making can such experiences find voice, and express harmony or dissonance.

One antidote for anxiety could be curiosity in the face of conflict and the unknown. Recently, I have been developing some new curriculum regarding personal transformation during WW II  through the arts and it focuses on the work of mime-artist, Marcel Marceau and Anne Frank. I have been struck by both their stories. 

Marcel Marceau, formerly known as Marcel Mangel, created fake identity cards in order to avoid the German enforced labor draft. He ended up joining a ring for smuggling Jewish children out of France and into Switzerland. “I went disguised as a Boy Scout leader and took 24 Jewish kids, also in scout uniforms, through the forests to the border, where someone else would take them into Switzerland.” He did this journey three times and saved more than 70 children. His work in mime was an exploration of identity loss, the unacknowledged voice, the drama of silence, and the ways the physical form can create stories that touch the heart and incite the mind.

Anne Frank…What can I share of this young woman’s life that you may not already know?  Would her full biography convince you of her talent? Anne Frank’s life serves as a symbol of bravery, writing in close quarters with her family who lived underground in Amsterdam during WWII. Without interaction from the outside world for two years, she went deep inside herself to find worlds of thoughts and emotions and she journaled about them. She left her and her future audience to question how we can live more deeply by being grateful and in touch with the beauty every moment could offer.

At the edge of existence, wherein the unknown is localized, there is great potential for risk and transformation. Like Marceau and Frank, once the individual accepts certain realities of existence (loneliness, misery, death) and decides to fall into the challenges of existence, then something else takes over. The intensity of potential, inner wisdom and the unknown, mixed with the spirit of the here-and-now, could be the alchemy which makes life worthy of living, even if that moment is fleeting. 

I say this with compassion as many are held back from involving oneself in the challenges of life with a sense of curiosity, desire for risk, and openness for transformation. And, why? How come so many talented artists, for example, can’t write themselves into the narrative of their life?Although not an answer to the entirety of the topic, but a response to the question at best, is that anxiety is a restricted hand that grips into the central nervous system of pain. It tightens its hold, whispering requests of refrain, fear, and other worries that demoralize the human spirit. It can shed one of any hope or desire to soar well-beyond human belief. 

Marceau and Frank are reminders of what it means to be human beyond imagination and should counter the ways anxiety constrict the soul.  If not them, then who? Who in your life – artist or not – replaces the nagging finger tips, the sweaty palm, the passive fist?

Published in: on October 13, 2014 at 8:22 am  Leave a Comment  
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I Have Tried: Peter Broderick and These Walls of Mine by Diana Rivera

I got walls in me. People watching in Los Angeles, I see that guy strolling his child with a cup of Starbuck’s and flip-flops. He got his in him. That woman in Hollywood with the silky long hair flip-curled to the exact angle as Kim Kardashian, she got hers in her. What am I talking about? Humans possess walls in them.

In psychology, these walls may be referred to as schema, which is a personal, social and cultural construct. They are the building blocks to why we believe what we believe, do what we do, pursue what we pursue. It happens consciously and unconsciously. It’s the why, the what and the how that could describe our personal experiences.  It may boil down into the feelings of devotion said man feels to stroll his kid, desire to spend 1.5 hours flip-curling hair, or why I felt compelled to write about a late night purchase of Erased Tapes Records artist, Peter Broderick, and his new album, “These Walls of Mine.” Peter got his walls in him too, and knowing that broke something open in me.

Harsh schemas are crappy. I’m talking about the ones that creep you out, inhibit you, over think you, prevent you, make you hate you. Most creative people I know despise them, and often use their work to battle them out. In the back of my head, I wonder, do we ever overcome? Is it just a subtle hush for the moment so that we can produce something?

I applaud any artists’ efforts as an ongoing experiment in support. Last night, when I listened closely to Peter Broderick’s new album, “These Walls of Mine,” I didn’t applaud at first. I was subtly creeped into a new set of walls. They were his, at first, and then they were mine. I was listening to this incredibly talented artist battle out those eery moments where music and walls hit. You should listen to the album here on soundcloud.

The lyrics to Broderick’s song, “I’ve Tried,” blew open something for me, the “I’ve Tried” wall. This one I occasionally say and then loop it with excuse, excuse, excuse for why I tried, and perhaps, failed. He articulated something in his breath and lyrics that I have felt about the nature of having tried. With his whispered voice and quiet violin, he shares, “In this game of hearts, the only card is you. In this song of love, the only voice is you. And in this voice of you, every sound must be true.”

Broderick raps out about the pre-verbal experience of desire and trying new things out in, “These Walls of Mine I and II.” He consoles himself and therefore, me, when he reads: “There’s a lot of things without a word to describe them. Even when you bring them inside, where you work on your pride, you could stare at each other for hours, only to realize you’re not even sure if the other’s really there. If you really wanna try and do something new, it’s ok if there are leaks, but there has to be a few new peaks. And when the whole things drops, you can take it back to the top.”

By the end of the listen, I explored every hole in the wall he was willing to share. I saw my own in them, bright and green, shining through. By the end, my silence was my applause.

Aesthete-Spy and Diana Vreeland by Diana Rivera

As an ongoing practice in creativity, I investigate the world with magnified eyes. I have been using my iPhone as a lens to capture the rare moments where something strikes me as evidence of creativity, that is, symbols of the imagination unfettered by logic, stamped in the visual landscape. I click on that moment as I attempt to seize that picture. I then allow these photos to guide me to the heart of the matter, linking me to the multi-sensory world around us. In the end, it’s about linking me to you and us to us–all beings and senses combined–and its especially the case when I transform into an aesthete-spy. An aesthete-spy observes you. We connect without you knowing. Or, do you?

aes·thete or es·thete (n):

1. One who cultivates an unusually high sensitivity to beauty, as in art or nature.

2. One whose pursuit and admiration of beauty is regarded as excessive or affected.

The heart of the matter is what we hunt for, long for, allure to. Often times it is without logical reason. The matter may be the frame of the portrait, the color schema, the patterns, angles and/or textures of what you see, hear, smell or feel. It’s what may be missing, yet to be unfolded or has always been right in front of you. This is why we rely on artists and aesthete-spies to magnify, follow and document the trends sunk deep into the matter. In a way, we are like Diana, the Roman goddess of the hunt. Clues are our prey.

I recently saw the documentary on another aesthetic huntress, Diana Vreeland. The film is called “Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel” and it is worth a watch. She was a noted columnist and editor of Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue magazine. The film presents an important depiction of this iconic woman. She was a wife, a mother, a socialite, a creative professional and an aesthete-spy. She was attuned to the physique and mystique congruent with being a femme of her epoch. It seems that the basis of her success was providing a visual landscape that transcended the matter of magazine and transported women to faraway lands. Check out her editorial here.

Diana Vreeland explained, “I think part of my success as an editor came from never worrying about a fact, a cause, an atmosphere. It was me—projecting to the public. That was my job. I think I always had a perfectly clear view of what was possible for the public. Give ‘em what they never knew they wanted.”

For the professional aesthete-spy (and those in the making), Vreeland provides us a critical clue: How do we attune to the world around us in order to find those clues? How do those clues give us insight that will connect us to our audience and give them “what they never knew they wanted”?

I am learning this lesson myself. The title of the film (“Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel”) gives me, another aesthete-spy named Diana, a sense of what a clue may be. Let your eyes travel because they must. When they do, follow and document, relentlessly.

Being an Artist, Being Twenty-Something Years Old and the Roaring 1920s by Diana Rivera

“Chance is the one thing you can’t buy. You have to pay for it and you have to pay for it with your life, spending a lot of time, you pay for it with time, not the wasting of time but the spending of time.” –Robert Doisneau

There are always access points on the grid of life. Being a certain age within a certain social epoch, pursuing an artistic field, can create its own implosion, explosion or erosion of creativity, stamina, confidence. The state of your life depends on how you access those points. Your attitude matched with your talent and risk-taking are the axial lines. The space between is the interplay of chance and time.

I’m in my thirties fostering my creative, personal and professional life. It feels and simply is different from when I was in my twenties. At this point, I am reaping the benefit, to some extent, of my artistic and educational pursuits. Then, I often stepped out onto the ledge of chance, sometimes even foolishly, and dove into the pool of experience, heart first. Reflecting back, I see how chance was a product of reducing innate desires into actions that were sometimes foreign to my everyday behavioral program.

Thinking about my twenty-something-year-old comrades who may be stepping out of art school today, I realize they are looking to make their mark professionally and creatively. They’ve come to the ledge of chance to view the pool below them impacted with social pressures, limited job prospects, lack of artistic space and expensive lifestyles in major art cities around the world. There is every reason why impatience and an aversion to chance would set in, make you retrace steps, run far away.

Being a twenty-something-year-old-artist made me think of being an artist in the vaudeville of the 192os. I see an inevitable parallel and more than just numerical.

Before the great depression hit in 1929, the 1920s offered a time of artistic chance. Actors, dancers, singers and musicians flocked to New York City and dove onto the stages to present their short acts to robust crowds of strangers. The idea of making it seemed whimsically tangible. If you could get viewers to drop to their knees in laughter, or split them in two with tears, you may have had a chance at making great money as a repeat performer. It was the most popular form of entertainment, and one of the only ways to make money as an artist–why wouldn’t you take a chance?

I could say the same thing to my twenty-something-year-old colleagues now. Everything is a 1920s Vaudeville. Dive into the access point of present tense and play with chance. As the popular American actor, James Cagney said, “Everything I know I learned in vaudeville.”

Unfortunately, people can be relentlessly practical. If you follow the history of Vaudeville, you know that many of the famous performance houses closed as a result of the depression. I could go down the road of explanation that artists were left broke and limited with resources. Many had to return home to work menial jobs to simply make money so, ultimately, don’t take a chance. To say that would be a mammoth waste of time. If creative people, including artists, scientists and inventors, believed that there was no need for chance then, all that human potential would have never been explored and we wouldn’t have twenty-something-year-olds banking on social media sites like Facebook and Spotify.

There are huge opportunities now, that weren’t present in the 1920s. Creative people have the ability to work on-line and off-line, to flourish rich connections between colleagues, and to change culture. Even if you believe that you are young, and are looking to find your way, it seems all too obvious. Go to the ledge, dive into chance, strike a change! The difference between chance and change is only one letter away, one access point apart.

The Walking Shoes of Quotes

Below is an assemblage of quotes that have provided me walking shoes for the creative endeavors I take on. I hope that it will offer you inspiration for the ongoing journey inherent in creative process:

“As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.” ~~Henry David Thoreau

‎”The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”–Albert Einstein

“We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations.” ~~Anaïs Nin

‎”Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”~~Anais Nin

‎”The core of creation is to summon an image and the power to work with the image.”~~Anais Nin

‎”Art must suppress violence, and only art can do so”~~Leo Tolstoy

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”~~Steve Jobs, 2005

An old Hasidic proverb: “Give people a fact or an idea and you enlighten their minds; give them a story and you touch their souls.”

“I’ve realised that to try and slot myself into that world is to diminish what I have to offer. And I do have something to offer but it’s just in a different dialect, a different language.”~~Michael Stipe

“Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.” ~~ Carl Jung

‎”Our duty is to proceed as if limits to our ability did not exist. We are collaborators in creation.”~~Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

‎”Artists give the world something they didn’t know was missing…”~~Daniel Pink

Published in: on May 9, 2012 at 12:56 am  Comments (1)  

The 2012 of Creativity: Parisian Back Streets to the Imagination and Yann Tiersen by Diana Rivera

I have never met anyone with a developed sensitivity for films that abhorred the film Amelie. Sure there are people with gripes, but down right hate. No way. You’d have to be somehow cold-blooded, or at least luke warm, to not appreciate the capricious main character played by Audrey Tautou, the luminous Parisian cafes, and the mystical synchronicities in which I long 2012 to be etched. The realist may challenge idealism, stripping the essence out of belief as it slowly slips out of one’s powerful grip.

The Parisian streets of Amelie’s creative world are powerful routes into the cognitive road maps of the imagination. If they were, they would be composed by Yann Tiersen, the music composer to Amelie. I have personally fallen in and out of love, composed artistic and academic projects, serenaded by this soundtrack. I don’t think I stand alone in my interest–it’s a spectacular album.

Lately, I have been driving on a Yann Tiersen loop station to no clear end in sight. His other album, Dust Lane, has taken me momentarily out of Amelie’s Paris into other back lanes of the imagination: the desolate desert roads to let go to what you cling, and bizarre bridge crossings where longing and the ferocity of the future crash into subtle waves in the river. He makes it okay to ask: “what the hell am I doing with my life?”

I finally parked in a sonic dome with Yann Tiersen’s album, L’Absente. The album catapults the romance of courage back into the driver’s seat of the heart. For me, the song “Les Jour Tristes” is an ode to the creative artist who longs for the synchronicities and mysteries of life and art, yet balances the practicalities of the every day like bringing home the bacon, being courageous in the face of other people’s expectations or judgements, etc.

Here are the lyrics and the song:

It’s hard, hard not to sit on your hands
And bury your head in the sand
Hard not to make other plans
And claim that you’ve done all you can, all along
And life must go on
It’s hard, hard to stand up for what’s right
And bring home the bacon each night
Hard not to break down and cry
When every idea that you’ve tried has been wrong
But you must carry on

It’s hard but you know it’s worth the fight
‘Cause you know you’ve got the truth on your side
When the accusations fly, hold tight
Don’t be afraid of what they’ll say
Who cares what cowards think, anyway
They will understand one day, one day

It’s hard, hard when you’re here all alone
And everyone else has gone home
Harder to know right from wrong
When all objectivities gone
And its gone
But you still carry on
‘Cause you, you are the only one left
And you’ve got to clean up the mess
You know you’ll end like the rest
Bitter and twisted, unless
You stay strong and you carry on

It’s hard but you know it’s worth the fight
‘Cause you know you’ve got the truth on your side
When the accusations fly, hold tight
Don’t be afraid of what they’ll say
Who cares what cowards think, anyway
They will understand one day, one day

Yann Tiersen has led me through an emotional journey through music this season, and has taught me something fundamental to my resolution behind 2012. It is hard to believe in your artistry when there are accusations that hold you back. But, don’t be afraid of carrying on. Your art builds the streets, alleys, roads, bridges and freeways that drive others to feel, think and be. It is worth the battle, and there will be a major pay-off: sharing. Contributing. Offering your greatest passion to a world that could be otherwise stripped of beauty or meaning without you. It won’t be in the fantastical ways of Amelie. It will be in your signature form, led by the pulse of the Parisian streets, the dust lanes of resolution, the fortifying gates of courage.

Occupy Wall Street + Steve Jobs = a Wake-up Call for Creativity by Diana Rivera

“No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It is life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.” –Steve Jobs

Right now matters. I often feel that way, but a surge has overcome me, the sound of which is a child crying and I am its parent. Right now matters. We are the matter. Have you heard the same cry these days waking you from a deep slumber?

Everyone seems looped in to the conversation of #Occupy Wall street and its reigning umbrella organization, Occupy Together. If you haven’t, it concerns every part of our collective future, please do. It may mean different things to you than it does for me, but I have a good feeling that as the collective mind may be concerned, we are all considering the future of our collective world. Here on this blog, dedicated to the passion, process and productivity of creative artists and professionals I ask, where does creativity fit in all of this? Or rather, how is this not about creativity?

It is at once sadly ironic that this week such an iconic innovator of our time, Steve Jobs, has passed in the wake of the international movement. Tapping on the keys of my MacBook Pro thoughts on the occupation while texting on my iphone to friends on wall street, this is a result of Job’s innovations and how protests of this nature are made possible through the advanced, creative technology he and others designed.

As I gaze into the eyes of the bull, sharpened by the smoke ring, the sound of the cry is made more symbolic with the fall of this innovator. It represents the passing of a torch, and that torch is creativity and innovation. My hope is that it’s not passed on to one or few, but to many so that these many can be the next creative innovators to solve the greatest challenges of our collective humanity, particularly the ones put into question by protestors. That the passing could be a rite of passage for them, where the innovators may wake from their slumber of unconscious self-absorption to question the world from the perspective of Steve Jobs, yet with the focus of a bull and balance of a dancer. It may come from the encampments in NYC, the readers of this blog, children at home bored restless and waiting for their imagination to be tickled feisty into excitement for the possibilities before us. May it be all of them.

Creativity is this. It is the design of the matter, the fabric of the innovators, the ring of hope circling the very posture of the pose. We are the creative occupation because we are what matters and how it matters is what we should creatively design. As Steve Jobs said, “Design is not just how it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” How the design of our times will work for all, not just a few, requires the awakened heart and mind of creativity.

To be a creative artist is synonymous with change-maker. Sometimes we do that in our community, in our studios, in our imagination and now we’ll do it on Wall street.

Hedy Lamarr: Patent Beauty, Patent Invention by Diana Rivera

“I have not been that wise. Health I took for granted.

Love I have demanded, perhaps too much and too often.

As for money, I have only realized it’s true worth

when I didn’t have it.”

–Hedy Lamar

Hedy Lamarr (1913-2000) is a Hollywood starlet in a luminescent observatory. She has been waiting for the exact moment to enter spotlight most likely to be reckoned with by you, by me, by the millions of others that’ll discover and muse over her. She planned it this way. Hedy was stunning, and her beauty was glorified at the exact aesthetic time to capture that quintessential black and white starlet look incorporating jewels, deep red lipsticks, silks and fur.

Hedy was an Austrian native, married six times, divorced, rose to fame. Somehow it reads like another starlet’s life, yet it would be simplistic to clump her along with everyone else because she is not like anyone else. Although Hedy is famous for her beauty, her style and her films, to me she is famous as a creative, collaborative inventor.

What you may know is that growing up in Vienna, she was introduced to the piano by her mother and mentor, Max Reinhardt. Her background in music and the future learnings from her first husband, a munitions manufacturer who did research on control systems, led to a major discovery.  After her divorce to him, once she had come to Hollywood, the U.S. went to war with Germany in World War II. She was determined to help the effort and she began to collaborate with her musician friend, George Antheil.

Hedy was constellar in her thought process. Together with George, they united her second-hand learnings of music, the german weapon systems, and his expertise with player pianos to devise a new invention. They created a frequency hopping system, which would protect U.S. radio-guided torpedoes in the Second World War from being intercepted by the Nazis. “However, the US Naval Department would not take an idea proposed by a beautiful actress and a musician seriously, even when that idea had the support of the newly established National Inventors Council. Hedy was encouraged to support the war effort by selling kisses to promote the sale of war bonds, and she did so very successfully.” (Crammond, p. 523).

Although Hedy and George patented their idea, it wasn’t used in U.S. ships until 20 years later after the expiration of the patent.

How are beautiful actress’ of Hedy’s era understood? In the broadest way, they are adored for beauty, not innovation. In the most creative way, they could be seen as prismatic as the diamonds they wore, not just a pearl on a pillow.

Conscious or not, legacy-driven or not, Hedy planned a beautiful room of innovation to greet her in. Close enough to the spotlight where she was personally driven to, the observatory hosts a constellar vision of what passion (in her case political), learnings from previous relationships and artistic experiences can be when in concert with another.

Points to ponder:

  • What is a gift you have that might appear to be a secret to others?
  • How might that gift be part of a larger, constellar vision of the world?

Crammond, B. (2011).  Women and Creativity. In M. A. Runco  &  S. R. Pritzker,  (Eds.), The  encyclopedia of Creativity, 2nd ed., Vol. 2. (pp. 521-524). San Diego: Academic Press.

The Echo Park of Ganesha and Creativepreneurs by Diana Rivera

Every period in humanity has a power source they are connected to. By that I mean the engine of the vehicle, the mega watt electric tower, or as Shakespeare said,  “the bigger light.” Artists can feel it happening in their blood, their bones and some times a work of art can even show proof of that power as it eloquently typifies the times.

Observing the status of the mega-verse we live in with high-speed travel, milisecond-sent-to-your-box techno-media outlets and the tweets of the twitter, we are the flapping wings of a hummingbird. Arriving to the edge of the wing is fantastic when you are ready to fall unto the lap of Ganesha, the deity elephant.

I was at a cafe in Echo Park, Los Angeles, contemplating the edge of humanity as I sourced the right name for the audience I serve. This was the perfect neighborhood to do it in as it has become a haven for the creative professional in LA, still looking for a raw, yet hip-to-the-beat, community-spirited place in what could be streets of superficiality.

I came up with Creativepreneuer. This is you: the individual, the friend, the family member, the entreprenuer, the creator, the artist who envisions and shapes our times through your creative passions, products, projects, etc. You, the creativeprenuer, are getting it done, and sometimes faster than the speed of light.

As I stumbled from the cafe, I saw Ganesha, the elephant, painted on a garage door. Ganesha is a deity of the Hindu pantheon. He represents the removal of obstacles and is a patron of the arts. It stood bold and beautiful, up against the light, fearless.

I thought of you, I thought of me, I thought of the small artisans who have opened up shop on that small street trying to make it in today’s economy. We, the creativepreneuer, step out of one’s comfort zone as a daily meditation, fall off the wings of what-is to worship what-could-be and answer to the higher creative source as a daily prayer.

To be the creativepreneuer of our time, we must overcome the tangible and intangible obstacles around us. As the elephant on the garage door reminded me, many obstacles crawl their way back, far from Ganesha’s view, to be dealt with again, and again, and then again. It takes courage to deal with every one of them.

I felt something deep in my heart, a gift from Ganesha in Echo Park that day: the creativepreneuer is someone I honor without obstacle. I serve you in my writing and my programs. I am here at this period of humanity to support you and the power source that brought Ganesha to a garage door opening.