Two Months in the Jungle

Moments after the car honked and we kissed the kids goodbye for another school day, backpacks on their shoulders, I heard excited voices outside and opened the door. In the bright Costa Rican sunlight stood my soft-spoken/board shorts/no shirt/six-pack-abs/carpool-driving neighbor holding his flipflop and swatting repeatedly at the back of Kai’s red uniform shirt. He then bends over, raises the flipflop like a hammer and smashes something on the ground with a crack. Scorpion! Welcome to the jungle.

Squad!
Squad!
Homemade BBQ
Homemade BBQ
That's how you serve bananas. This way the birds, butterflies and humans call enjoy.
That’s how you serve bananas – the birds, butterflies and humans can all enjoy.

It’s different here. We live on the edge of one of the world’s five Blue Zones, unique places where, for some inexplicable reason, many people live to 100. One can go days without shoes or shirt. Makeup does not exist. Nary a manmade light mars night’s sublime emptiness. We four arrived with five rollie suitcases which was three too many.

Nature does not play here. She rules. And conquers. One must surrender. Become her lover. Enjoy the ride. Or perish. Last week, both boys experienced gut-wrenching hold-downs in the surf, after which they told me they actually thought they were going to die. Not what a dad wants to hear, but the most effective way to learn respect for the elements in which you live and play. The rain, when it comes, comes hard. Fierce poundings in which swarms of small black bugs magically enter our home and cover the ceiling in the evenings, only to magically disappear the next morning. 

Wild monkey!
Wild monkey!

Grommet!

Shut up and dance!
Shut up and dance!

Our most compelling new reality is the repositioning of time. I’m not a particularly early riser yet, since day one I’ve awoken with the sun around 5:30, rested and ready. These early misty mornings begin alone on the veranda behind binoculars, scanning the layered distance for movement in the trees: monkeys, yellow/blue/red birds, pizotes (raccoon meets anteater). I still feel compelled to read the bitter U.S. news in the morning, but less and less of it. Daytime hours fill themselves like tide pools: surf, yoga, art projects, writing, reading, cooking, homework. The kids hit it hard at class each day as do my wife and I at Spanish school (past tense irregular verbs … que dificil!). I run my business affairs with a phone and a laptop. Darkness falls 5:30ish, when we eat dinner. Rich sleep takes our youngest soon after 8. The rest of us before ten.

Mi vida!
Mi vida!
Homework with a view.

We are not on vacation. In fact, September and October have been milestone months in my career. As part of the For Freedoms 50 State Initiative, “the largest creative collaboration in U.S. history,” I’m proud to be employing creativity in an attempt to inspire solutions to our existential problems. This collective effort has been covered on CNN, Vanity Fair, the NYT and many more. Read more about my project here.
 

 

Art World Ballers!
Fine company: David Byrne, Gordon Parks, Hank Willis Thomas … 

An integral aspect of this effort is its widespread activation – a nationwide network of over 300 artists and 200 institutional partners producing public art installations and local community dialogues that inject nuanced, artistic thinking into public discourse. My For Freedoms Billboard sits on I-95 in Miami, geared to urge voters to find candidates who support reasonable gun safety policy to make America a less militant & violent place. The New Tropic really captured the essence of the workI urge you to join this epic collaboration – donate a dollar just to say you were part of something that just might change the game. 

A friend asked me if I ever saw myself living in a remote corner of the world. Short answer is no. I’d say I’m more a city boy. My wife too. Yet, we’re both enjoying being utterly and gloriously disconnected from the life we left just 2 hours, 17 minutes northeast by plane. No night time sirens here. Just the buzzes and chirps of cicadas and geckos and god knows what else. And our kids, who can already surf and who run out the door to play with the lovely children just next door, have never been happier, more joyous, more their best selves. Just finished lunch of fresh mahi caught yesterday by aforementioned scorpion-slaying carpool neighbor. I’m not missing home yet. In fact, in the new digital dystopia, I’m trying to get a handle on what home means.

Stay tuned… 

Find it. It's out there!
Find it. It’s out there!

 

Artist March June 14th

We each have a song inside. We just need a bit of courage to sing it.

I co-founded the Worldwide Artist March because, in our so-called post-truth society, talk is cheap (read worthless). So how do we penetrate the minds of the masses and move the needle toward our common decency? Enter the creatives! 

Believe it or not, that means YOU.

On June 14th, Flag Day and Trump’s birthday, we’re asking you to perform any small action – make a poster, write a poem, song, dance, etc.

Take a photo/video, tag it #artistmarch and post it. Bonus points if you Tweet @realDonaldTrump. Let the world know what you want from your leaders and your country. Be clever or serious or both. Just be real. Spit your truth.

You can also join one of the many actual marches taking place across America (Miami, Boston, Kansas City, etc).

We even have a march at Mar-a-Lago. Let’s make enough noise that the powers that be cannot avoid hearing it. Info at artistmarch.org and artistmarch@gmail.com. 

I just returned from an exhibition in Berlin, where I showed new flag paintings and the installation, How Was School Today (which debuted at Macaya Gallery last Fall). In this reflection on the Sandy Hook shooting massacre, I obliterated twenty first-grade chairs with an AR-15 and set them up as a normal classroom, complete with a video and spent bullet casing littering the floor. My aim was to fly under the radar of politics and reach people in their hearts.

Even the local monks were engaged.

A few things struck me about the hundreds of German responses I witnessed:

  1. Unlike we weapon-crazy Americans, gun violence is extremely rare in Germany. Despite the WWII caricatures, most had never held a bullet, let alone known anyone ever shot. The idea of this classroom shooting was simply not in their realm of possibility. And they rightly viewed our culture of ongoing mass shootings as utterly barbaric.
  2. Germans are not only well educated (everyone spoke superb English) but also well-informed about events outside their borders. Every single person expressed shock, dismay and disappointment at America’s current choices. Trump is considered a classless joke. Nobody there understands what we are doing and why re the environment, institutional racism, healthcare and on and on. And this was before Trump’s dumbfounding Twitter tirade against Merkel this past weekend.
  3. The country which propagated one of the most malignant and inhuman propaganda narratives in history now owns their dark past without reservation. Monuments to the Holocaust and other atrocities are central. By being forthright about their mistakes, this once hyper-militant nation has evolved into a peace-loving and humane society willing to tackle intractable issues like immigration like dignified adults. Which begs the question – When are we Americans going to again be the leaders the world wants us to be?
The Success of the Voter Fraud Myth, 96x96" 2016
The Success of the Voter Fraud Myth, 96×96″ 2016

Let’s oil the rusty levers of our democracy!

It starts with our votes and voices and actions. So PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE stand up and say something on June 14th. Do something. Be something that means something. And keep it going beyond that day.

Part of my Berlin installation included pre-addressed postcards to US Senators. I asked the enthusiastic audience to write something thoughtful and actionable to US leaders. A great many European voices will be heard in the halls of the US Senate, each offering heartfelt advice on how to actually make America great again.

Germany evolved from fascism and Nazism to the leading democracy on Earth in 75 years.

Let’s hope it doesn’t take us that long to reclaim that title.