Author Archives: elyasimukka

Who needs your story?

Take a look at Kindra’s message, I loved it, so you might too!

Key takeaways from her message here are 3 invaluable  points.

1.Tell SOME of your story

If your personal story is worth sharing at work, you can be 100% selective about how much or how little detail you include. Baring your soul and innermost self can be saved for that dear old diary, your sixteen year old self and your BFF. You can get your point across and still keep your deepest darkest secrets and insecurities to yourself.

2. Stories that last, will do just that.

We’ve discussed the sticky-ness or memorable quality of stories before and Kindra’s reminder to us that the stories we divulge can last and last. Once shared, our stories endure for the long haul, so it’s wise to be sure that you’re comfortable with what you’re about to share no matter how long it lasts or where it may spread.

3. Your story is needed.

Your story is a gift. Yes, a gift. Some people truly need to hear what you have to share about overcoming life’s challenges and difficulties. Choosing to share your story may be just a step to greatness that will help those you share it with achieve or realize part of their story.

BONUS! A major point, one not to be overlooked, is the very first point she makes. There’s rarely a strict yes or no as to if and when you share your story. Be fearless, taking a little time to reflect on whether you share your story by asking yourself a few questions first. You have the power to decide when and where to share your gift.

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Story Spreading: Why Stories Matter

Why Stories Matter

Stories matter. They matter a lot.  Ask a two-year-old, a historian, a grandpa, an artist, a marketer, or anyone at all to vouch for the value of the story and you will get it.

Why? Amongst other reasons, stories are, without question, a building block that is fundamental to our human experience and perceptions. We all use and respond to “story” naturally, it helps us retain information, and stories are tools for navigating life.

1. Stories are natural.

Humans share information in the form of stories and it is as natural as breathing, sleeping and language itself. It is part of being a self-aware & social being. People tell stories to spread messages, experiences, values, and so much more.

2. Stories are sticky.

We humans like stories. Whether shared through spoken word, images, written word or a social media Facebook post, a well told story has a clear message and a lot of interesting details bundled together that would be difficult to retell or recall otherwise. We take stories that resonate with us, and recall them for years to come. We pass along memorable stories. We think about them, memorize them, sing about them, and they stick with us.

3. Stories are relevant to our lived experience.

No one post can express the full value and usefulness of stories and storytelling. The general agreement in human development is that children around 3-5 years will understand and interpret stories. At any age, especially in the formative years before adulthood, stories are a necessary part to assign meaning in both imagined and real life experiences. It is said that from, “about three children can indicate fantasy or make-believe linguistics, produce coherent personal stories and fictional narrative with beginnings and endings.” The narration of stories is  the vantage point where we understand our own experience and communicate that to those around us.

You don’t get much more intimate than understanding your own lived experience by way of story, can I get an amen?!

POP CULTURE REFERENCE ALERT: You’ve heard of Humans of New York (HONY), yes? No? Well ,then get to googling it, quick!

They tell a good story. Here’s an article noting what HONY does well to share a compelling story.> 

Wellness Monday: What is Stealing Your Joy?

Photo Source

What is the thief of joy? Comparison.

Among other things, comparing yourself to others can be a thief of your joy, happiness, and contentment. However, comparison is an automatic behavior (source) so it is nearly impossible to quit completely. Fortunately comparison may be harnessed toward a healthier form than typical comparison. First, let’s unpack comparison.

In the field of psychology, comparison is studied as the term “social comparison” and Leon Festinger is an initial theorist. Festinger proposed “that individuals are motivated to gain accurate evaluations of themselves by examining their opinions and abilities in comparison to others” (source). In short, people compare themselves to others in order to know themselves. He also hypothesized that people are more likely to compare themselves to people who they recognize as similar to them. While this process is perfectly normal and seeming harmless, there are a few detrimental downsides. (As well as some upsides.)

There are two kinds of social comparison, upwards and downwards.

Upwards consists of seeking out people you perceive as similar, for comparison. In one respect, this is fortunate because this can prompt one to make life improvements to measure up to better models. Alternately it can cause you to discount yourself and lower your regard for your sense-of-self. For example, you may earn a 90 out of 100 on a test, yet you compare yourself to the person who earned 100, and feel that your performance is substandard. If you notice from the past example this can lead to feelings of inadequacy as well as fierce competitiveness. Further, upward comparison encourages uniformity and there is a tendency to conform to the comparison subject or group (especially as you consider the person or group to be similar to you).

Downwards comparison involves comparing oneself to those who seem dissimilar from you. In moderation it can help one to feel better about their self and situation. Yet some downward comparison is partly the source of a superior attitude that supports stereotyping and other destructive behaviors. Interestingly, this defensive strategy serves to help people, “dissociate themselves from perceived similarities and to make themselves feel better about their self or personal situation”(Source). In other words, you may realize you aren’t as bad off as others in more grim circumstances, so it boosts your sense-of-self.

Can people just one type of comparison for a better outcome? No, it is not that simple.

Only engaging in upward comparison encourages uniformity, sacrificing your authentic self to be like the rest, and you may wind up with lower self-regard. Conversely, downward comparison alone may cause you to have and inflated sense of self, and with such high self-regard there is no motivation to try self improvement. So, both types of comparison are important, but problematic. Luckily, it is possible to guide this automatic, and sometimes subliminal compulsion to compare toward a healthier end.

I propose, to first work to gain a general awareness of how you compare yourself currently. Next, make adjustments as necessary to compare yourself to yourself. This way you may evaluate your own efforts and circumstances relative to your past self, rather than in contrast to others.

Using social comparison to compare yourself with yourself (most of the time), will likely help you keep more of your joy, contentment and happiness in place. Ultimately, social comparison is something you already engage in, it is simply a matter of how you wish direct your comparisons.

Artist Profile

rachelwright-portrait

A mischievous face peeks around a small, forgotten looking metal door, and offers a cheerful greeting.  Rachel C. Wright welcomes me into the chilly interior of a giant warehouse in Portland’s Industrial area. Wright directs me to her studio space, weaving through a maze of walkways to Wright’s studio door. I open the door wide, only to push aside a handful of trial sculptural fetuses, which scrape across the concrete floor. Interesting introduction, I think to myself.

Rachel is mid-project, completing a utilitarian sculpture made of all recycled materials. It is a one of a kind dress. This is quite different from Wright’s usual figural sculptures that make up the bulk of her three-dimensional art.

Even though utilitarian objects aren’t a typical part of Wright’s practice, she is in line with her usual practice of appropriating traditionally feminine skills in her process. She tacks cardboard onto a bodice shape and later painstakingly hand-stitches, taking few shortcuts.

rachelwright-stats

Later, we reconnect over a coffee, in true Portland style, for an interview. I want to hear from Rachel Wright firsthand, in order to understand Wright’s labor-intensive process, motivations, influences, and general thoughts on art.

What’s your process?

I am a process-based artist, so my process is tedious, on purpose. At times I think the process is almost more important than the end result. I get tunnel vision when I work, and believe the time spent translates in the final art. For example, I spent 280 hours on the recycled dress sculpture I recently finished.

I also often work in soft materials and choose to hand-sew over using a machine.

Why sewing, when this is a traditionally feminine skill?

The female performance artists of the 60s influence me. Some artists reclaimed sewing. I also appropriate sewing, and find the act to be meditative. It is important to mention that I don’t sew to make utilitarian objects, usually. I sew to make sculpture, with feminist undertones. That is different from the traditional sense of sewing.

Why art?

Well, art wasn’t the only thing I was good at, but it was damn near close. [Wright smirks.] Art came easily to me, and I was able to advance in art. I loved my foundational first year in college, to understand color, composition, mediums, and other fundamentals. I was attracted to sculpture in the first year, and have focused on that since.

I chose art because I can ask myself, “What am I going to make next?” After that first year in school, I got past angst filled art. I developed my process, made questionable art, and then began asking that question, “What’s next? “ over and over.

What is questionable art? 

It is art you wouldn’t want to show anyone, but you do anyway. While the questions of whether art is bad, good or questionable is relative, I believe it is about taking risks and seeking feedback with your art. I seek feedback from people I respect, professors and peers.

Even the best artists make questionable art. It happens. They seek feedback from critics, art experts, and the public.

Name your top 3 influences, famous or not. 

My top three are Magdalena Abakanowicz, Louise Bourgeois, and Ledelle Moe.

I identify with female artists that work in sculpture with figural subjects. I also respect women who “make it” in the art world because there are so few in comparison to male artists.

Abakanowicz is known for hand-stitched, burlap figures with the H/holocaust as a main theme. Louise Bourgeois is a giant figure in the feminist art scene of the last century. A main theme in her oeuvre is family matters, like me. Moe is a former professor and works in monumental, concrete sculpture. She is a mentor and supports me in so many ways. She offers direct, honest feedback.

Tell me a favorite art memory.

I lent a hand to a peer and friend, May Wilson, to help cast dead animals. The report of a fresh road kill animal off the Jersey Turnpike was the first experience.

The animal needed to be as fresh as possible, so we drove in the middle of the night, picked up the stinking animal after spraying it with a poly spray, and spent the rest of the night problem solving how to cast it before it decomposed.

It was nasty in the moment, but such a memorable experience.

What else should people know about you and your art?

I am not the stereotypical artist, living a bohemian lifestyle. I am living in a suburban area, working diligently, and raising a family with my husband. I believe in myself and in making art. If I can do this, so can others. I hope people understand that belief in themselves and their capabilities will lead the way to achieving their goals too.

In terms of art, my art is part of a timeline that is evolving. I explore the limits of human strength always. So far, in the timeline I have explored family matters: birthing children, breastfeeding, maintaining relationships, overcoming dysfunction, and breaking the cycle of abuse.

To some, my art’s meaning is mysterious and I have received feedback that it is too mysterious. However, my work is actually hyper-personal and I don’t mind if it comes off as mysterious. Art making is therapeutic for me. Art is empowering. I will consider myself a successful artist if I consistently produce art for the rest of my life, regardless of how popular or visible my art is to the world.

Rachel C. Wright is an artist. She continues to make art after college and plans to do so for life. She is a parent of two children, married, and makes time in the studio to steadily evolve her art. She is determined to keep up her art practice.

Check out Rachel C. Wright online to follow her artistic evolution. See updates, new art, and learn of upcoming shows.

Wellness Monday: Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself

IMG_0120Let’s talk about assumptions. I like to call today’s tip, “check yourself, before you wreck yourself” because too often our assumptions, or the things we take for granted as true in life without proof, may in fact be true or false.

We are responsible to keep our assumptions in check because this helps us be our best possible self and have optimum life experiences. Watch the video below for a funny allegory that demonstrates the need for checking our assumptions.

(Please forgive the quality of the video, and focus instead on the content because it’s worth it!)

As you may have noticed, the character from the story assumes something as truth, but later finds out their entire perceptions was off. Sometimes, it is easy to forget that our lived experiences (aka life) are also perceived by us, through our biases, filters, and assumptions. We aren’t living in a vacuum and what we assume is true, may not indeed be truth.

Checking our own assumptions can be infinitely freeing. Staying open to possible realities, rather than sticking with your assumptions, help you participate in life’s moments and be fully present. This is especially true if you are in the habit of thinking about worst-case-scenarios. If that is the case, this is a great first step toward a happier life experience.

Wellness Monday: Bee Style Healthcare

Honey Bee (Apis mellifera)

In a TED talk, Vikram Patel reveals a drastically different approach to healthcare than the current status quo. Patel outlines how common mental health illnesses like depression are among the leading causes of disability that contribute to larger health needs on a global scale. He suggests a human-centered approach using ordinary people.

Patel’s approach is to enable average community members to effect positive changes in their community, rather than the current model where limited mental health care providers are available, particularly in developing nations. While the approach is powerful where there are few mental healthcare providers among large populations, Patel envisions the possibilities in any nation.

I compare this behavior, of equipping larger groups of everyday people within the community to treat the most common types of mental illness, to the integrated functions of a honey bee population where bees assist and point to larger resources in the environment.

Honey bees are known for their complex social behaviors.  Not one or a few, but the majority of honey bees act in a distinct way that benefits the larger bee community. What do they do?They take action.

Like many other insects, honey bees use odors and chemical releases to communicate, but they are distinct because they also use visible actions. Antennae movements and dancing convey information on the type of resources available in the environment and their quality to other bees. Similarly, many people may be taught to treat the most common mental illnesses, a task shift to enable many willing people for good, while allowing health care providers to act as mentors.

Following Patel’s approach, it is beneficial to train groups of community members to help treat the most common mental health issues. Places with limited healthcare professionals could shift their priorities to reach the maximum amount of people by mentoring and training others to replicate the psychotherapy and behavioral therapies to treat the most common mental health challenges such as depression. This creates greater access to resources in the environment for positive mental health.

Patel and others have implemented this approach and the results are significant. Watch this compelling video for more.

Lastly, Patel defines this approach using the acronym SUNDAR, which mean “attractive” in Hindi. The acronym stands for:

Simplify the message of medicine

UNpack the treatment

Deliver healthcare to where the people are, using whoever is available

Affordable and available resources

Reallocation of specialists to train and supervise

This approach is attractive, to be sure. Following the honey bee model, any willing honey bee can point to resources, and this ability isn’t limited. So too, are ordinary people able to treat common illnesses to promote positive mental health changes. If the bees can do it, so can we humans.

Patel’s healthcare proposal is different from the current model, yet it seems replicable. In other words, this approach could be a sustainable model in any society, no matter the scarcity of mental healthcare professionals.

Join me, to explore this healthcare task shift proposal further as I follow Patel’s journey via his online presence.

Visual Wednesday: First Thursday in September

 

Fortunately, First Thursday this past week fell on another pleasantly mild weather day in Portland. Next month I anticipate excessive amounts of overflowing puddles and zippered waterproof raincoats to be worn in true Oregon form. No umbrellas allowed. We shall see once the tumultuous fall weather arrives.

Weather aside, First Thursday was refreshing for other reasons. My highlight was the exclusive show at the Daily in the Pearl District featuring George Perrou. A prolific artist in Portland and the larger area, Perrou’s paintings are featured in the Daily as part of a collaboration with Amy Caplan of Caplan Art Designs based in Portland, Oregon. In the space, Caplan displays various Perrou paintings in his unique style that lends a vibrant mood to the Daily space.

Each canvas boasts flatly painted backgrounds, and compositions of high-contrast lines and shapes. Subjects range from purely abstract, while other paintings are abstractions of otherworldly landscapes. Watch this video for an in-depth look at the artist’s process.

Perrou refers to his “Retro Modern” style as derived from a range of influences such as mid-century industrial design palettes (think green ovens and pink toasters) and productions by Hanna-Barbera cartoons, as well as artists like Joan Miro, Wassily Kandinsky, and Alexander Calder. While he doesn’t operate on the same theoretical basis as the aforementioned artists, it is refreshing to view paintings that echo the lighthearted approach of the painter George Perrou.

The following images are a side by side comparison of Four Flowers by George Perrou (left image source) and Catalan Landscape (The Hunter) by Joan Miro (right image source). George Perrou’s paintings will be on view for the next few weeks of September at the Daily located here. Give the paintings a look and brave the puddles if the weather is soggy because it is worth it.

 

On another note, I plan to review a different event in the Portland area next month in an effort to switch it up a little. Presently, it’s a question to review the ever-quirky, and mostly low-brow art event Last Thursday off Alberta Avenue, or the east side’s First Friday event.

Any recommendations for another art event in the area?