King of The Jungle

The King Is In The Castle

“Dust everywhere… and out of that emerged this beautiful boy with the bluest eyes I’d ever seen, holding his hand out to help me to my feet.” – Marie Lu, Legend.

We ate sushi and spaghetti for Thanksgiving last week with a giggly group of old and new friends in the remote Costa Rican surf/yoga mecca of Nosara, a place my wife and I hold deeply sacred. Sitting alone on my board the following morning, Black Friday, I stared into the vast blue and recalled the last time we visited – twelve years earlier – utterly broken and terrified we’d never have children. 

Nosara Thanksgiving 2018
Nosara Thanksgiving 2018
Our Sausalito, CA Houseboat 2006

Three miscarriages in one year had turned the lights out on our typically shiny, happy life. The third, at 19 weeks, shut our hearts down completely. All we wanted was kids. A few weeks before Christmas 2006, we opted to bury ourselves deep in Nosara’s jungle with hopes of healing. Sunlight dusted the sky our first morning, as Jodi slept, and I paddled into the warm, buttery ocean. I stared into that same Pacific void, taking deep circular breaths. And got magnificently lost in the ocean’s bounty for the next three hours, until my arms were spaghetti, and I came in to meet my wife for breakfast. Jodi sat immersed in Overcoming Life’s Disappointments by Harold Kushner, and she handed me a passage that read, “When we open our hearts to pain and suffering, we begin to heal, not because suffering is redemptive but because opening our hearts is.”

Tell Me Again, 70"x48" Acrylic, paper, antique maps, linen on panel 2005
Tell Me Again, 70″x48″ Acrylic, paper, antique maps, linen on panel 2006

When we returned to Sausalito, Jodi told me she was ready to try again but that this was the last time. If our fourth pregnancy did not work, she simply could not handle another attempt physically or emotionally. That was a tough pill to swallow, but I swallowed it in silence. 

The fourth pregnancy with Jodi on bedrest with her dog and manservant in our houseboat.
The fourth pregnancy – Jodi on houseboat bedrest with her dog and manservant.

Opening our hearts

Watching my squealing boys jump into the bean-shaped pool last weekend … and paddle out by my side into the forgiving surf … and engage smartly with interested adults, I felt music in me … a soulful bass line that thumped in my open heart. A rhythm born of both agony and ecstasy beneath a melody sung in the voices of children. My children. 

Before we ever met, Jodi and I dreamt of living abroad with our future families. We had no idea that the family part would be such a struggle. But that struggle produced in us both a hyper awareness, not intellectual but cellular. Akin to a blind person who one day gets to see. Every color, every shape, even the most mundane, becomes sanctified. One simply wants to keep one’s eyes open and see see see. 

Really Good Food - acrylic paint, 1950s Betty Crocker Cookbook on wood panel, 48x32” 2016
Really Good Food – acrylic paint, 1950s Betty Crocker Cookbook on wood panel, 48×32” 2016. Available.

Yes, the world is a mess, but my gratitude burns hotter than ever … for the privilege of fatherhood and the love of a fine woman. And living parents. And friends who keep me laughing. And the opportunity to live simply in unspoiled nature. And the ability to transform whimsy into works of art. Mine is a full belly that has known the pain of hunger. 

Art Basel 2018

Find my work at Pinta Art Fair during Art Basel Miami 2018

For the first time in a while, I won’t be attending Art Basel Miami this year (I’ll be surfing). But I invite you and your friends to find my paintings at the Pinta Fair in Wynwood. 

Gratitude not Attitude!

We’re All Pink Inside

A few months into dating my wife-to-be, we hit a rough patch and I thought I’d blown it. Utterly devastated, I wrote her a poem titled, Two Cups of Cacophony, expressing how complex people need time to understand and appreciate one another … because love is hard and takes work. Thankfully, she got the message and remains my anchor in the sunshine and the storm all these years later. 

We're All Pink Inside, Inkjet printed poem, latex paint, acrylic paint, graphite on canvas, 70x206” 2017
We’re All Pink Inside, Inkjet printed poem, latex paint, acrylic paint, graphite on canvas, 70×206” 2017

You’ll find the poem that saved my life embedded in my latest painting, We’re All Pink Inside, a reminder that within us all lies a pure pink vulnerability, the glue of human connectivity. And that within our peculiar species, there are no colors, no races … just a vast collection of animals, all pink inside, trying to be loved. 

Join us at our immersive installation, LUSH at Fancy Nasty Studios, featuring 10 multi-dimensional artists from across the globe, each riffing on utopia, an attempt to provide a fleeting moment of bliss in our pain-racked world. I’ll be there with all the artists on Friday, noon – 4pm.

LUSH Art Basel Visiting Hours
Thur Dec 7- Sat Dec 9, Noon-4pm

Artist Meet and Greet
Friday, Dec 8, Noon-4pm

Fancy Nasty Studios
6728 NE 4th Ave, Miami, FL 33138

For Freedoms, Acrylic, political posters, burlap, paper on canvas, 60×120” 2016

And while you’re out getting your art on, visit my work at Smith Davidson Gallery in Art Miami – could not be more tickled to see my massive flag painting make its American debut alongside works by Banksy, Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons and other of my subversive heroes. 

LA Times wrote, “Stuart Sheldon created one of the billboards, an American flag posing spiraled questions about freedom. To him, it’s about urging people “at a granular level” to start over, with less fear and more optimism.”

Love one another!

Fancy Nasty – Art Basel 2015

Fancy Nasty

Are You More Fancy Or More Nasty?

You’re not fooling anybody. We all know you’re BOTH!

Let’s celebrate the light and the dark in each of us.

Welcome to FANCY NASTY!

For Art Basel 2015, a renegade crew of multi-disciplinary artists have taken control of a huge, soon-to-be-demolished home in an affluent neighborhood in the heart of Miami’s art scene. 

Typoe
Typoe.

Knowing the whole thing will be bulldozed shortly after, each artist has approached the space with the unfettered swagger that typifies a city known as much for raunch as it is for glamour. Destruction is the sweaty lover of construction. And ephemerality befalls even our best laid plans. Miami is almost unrecognizable from just a few years ago. And the Miami you visit today, like the venue for this exhibition, will be gone by the time you return. 

If you’re coming to Art Basel, join us. If not, tell someone who is that they are sincerely welcome.

Artists: Stuart SheldonAutumn CaseyJessie LainoRandy Burman, Benji CospoliteHoxxohKEMO/MSGMichael Loveland, Brandon OpalkaAndrea NhuchLori Nozick, Gary Feinberg, Karen Starosta Gilinksi and more.

TWOONE & NOVE
TWOONE & NOVE.

Fancy Nasty is brought to you by Build Crew, a nonprofit dedicated to helping artists build, install and place public art. In collaboration with Primary ProjectsYour Fountainhead and Spoke, presenting artists NOVE, TWOONE, Mina Hamada, Zosen and Gustavo AmaralTasty adult beverages brought to you compliments of MEO.

Hoxxoh.

Art Basel Hours

Dec 3-5

12-5pm

5625 N Bayshore Drive (in Morningside)

Miami FL 33137

~~~

Closing Party during Art Basel

Saturday, Dec 5

7-11pm

Build Crew

“All I’m trying to do is survive and make good out of the dirty, nasty, unbelievable lifestyle that they gave me.”                Tupac Shakur

 

My Art Basel Shows 2014

meetinghouse

Dec 4-6, 5-8pm

Downtown Miami – The Historic Huntington Bldg

168 SE 1st Street, Penthouse

Miami Herald Pick of the Week leading up to Art Basel
Miami Herald Pick of the Week leading up to Art Basel

meetinghouse details below:

meetinghouse - Miami Herald PICK OF THE WEEK
 

 ~~~~~~

 

FREEDOM & Blackdove

Dec 3-7, 12-8pm

Wynwood – 48 NW 25th Street

 

48 NW 25th Street in Wynwood
48 NW 25th Street in Wynwood

 

Blackdove Opening - Wed
Blackdove show in Wynwood

Ready. Aim. Activate!

The first step in my larger work ever
The first step in The Best Books Ever Written, my largest work ever. See it at Art Basel!

I just finished my first book (for the fifth time). A Lonely Fool’s Masterpiece took 7 years and countless edits to complete, but it is really done. And it will be a New York Times bestseller.

I have already seen to that with my just-finished painting, The Best Books Ever Written, in which the most wonderful books of all time engulf the title page of my manuscript, infusing it with their magic and making it one of them. The Miami Herald just named it “Pick of the Week” leading up to Art Basel.

Miami Herald Pick of the Week leading up to Art Basel
Miami Herald Pick of the Week leading up to Art Basel

For those who don’t know me, this is my modus operandi. I paint the things that matter most to me into my life.

Now XVI - Smiles Undeniable as Warm Rain in the Tropics, acrylic & chalk on canvas w/ poetry, 40" x 30", 2002
Now XVI – Smiles Undeniable as Warm Rain in the Tropics, acrylic & chalk on canvas, 40″ x 30″, 2002

After a devastating divorce at 35, I hit rock bottom. I retreated to my art studio where, for two years, I imagined and obsessively painted the silhouette of the woman of my dreams. In each of these 35 works, she stands with arms raised, triumphant, curvaceous and confident, her outline composed entirely of the tiny painted word NOW.

Each letter no bigger than a baby's eyelash
Each letter no bigger than a baby’s eyelash

Soon after I finished this series, I met my wife, and the silhouette is exactly her body.

I’m not here preaching The Secret or anything hokey like that. I’m just saying that, for those things you desire most in the core of your being, it is ON YOU to manifest them. The world doesn’t give a damn about your dreams. Your action is all there is. For me, that action is art-making.

What is your action?

My new wife and I built our lives in an enchanted floating houseboat world just beyond the Golden Gate Bridge and immediately set our sights on a child. We got pregnant quickly and all seemed ideal. Then, unexpectedly, we miscarried.  We got pregnant again. And again, out of the blue, we miscarried. Eventually, three miscarriages that first year introduced the sickening fear that parental joy, our most sacred goal, might elude us forever.

Bounce, acrylic and antique Betty Crocker Cookbook recipes on panel, 40"x60, 2007, Stuart Sheldon
BOUNCE, acrylic and antique Betty Crocker Cookbook recipes on panel, 40″x60″ 2007, Stuart Sheldon

When Jodi got pregnant a fourth time, with nowhere else to turn, I began a series of paintings called BOUNCE, as in bouncing baby, designed exclusively to storm God’s office and demand our child.

Within months, with Jodi sick and on bed rest, and amidst the worst storm in 50 years, our beautiful son, Kai, arrived. Early … but safe and perfect. Gratitude, the mother of all virtues, overtook us both … and it still dominates our lives.

In a lecture a few weeks ago at University of Miami on The Art of Reinvention, I told a roomful of 20-yr-olds that success is about being proactive and not reactive. Far too many of us are waiting for things to happen to us. Hopefully, things will work out, we tell ourselves. Instead, we must disrupt and engage. Be clever and memorable. And take chances. These are the actions that place our finger on the scales to give us an edge.

The hard part is not doing what you want but knowing what you want.

What is your BIG goal?

Think hard about exactly what it is that you desire. And then, do something focused only on that goal! For me, it’s time to find a publisher, which means hustling to find an agent. I have formally activated the search with this new painting and the series that follows. And I trust the universe will deliver. You are all invited to my book signings wherever they may be in the future.

But first, come to the show for The Best Books Ever Written during ART BASEL.

Join me at the opening THIS FRIDAY NOV 21, 6pm-10pm. And the ART BASEL opening, THUR DEC 4, 5-8pm.

I am thrilled to be part of a wonderful new art collective called meetinghouse, a group of talented makers devoted to the process of creation as much as to the product that emerges. 

And speaking of the process:

No Is the New Yes

Best Books Ever Written - new piece installed yesterday for Art Basel.
Best Books Ever Written – new piece installed yesterday for Art Basel.

Last week, I pulled up to the pickup area to grab my boys after school. As I stopped and rolled down my window, a mom standing next to my car arched her brows and said, “You’re not wearing a shirt!”

Not one for flashing my body at the elementary school, I glanced down at my sparsely-haired chest and, slightly embarrassed, said, “I was in my studio and realized at the last minute … Oh no, I need to pick up the kids … So I rushed over. Guess I forgot to put it on.”

I used to be a notorious “accepter” of every invitation to do just about anything: classes, parties, meals, charities, boards-of-directors. I spread myself so thin you could see right through me. The net effect of too much YES was constant scurrying around, stress, sub-par performance and dissatisfaction with even the things I truly cared about. The proverbial “headache” when, at the end of a long day, it’s time to make love.

Is it just me or, in our hyper-connected universe, is it harder to concentrate now more than ever?

image courtesy coldsummerdays.deviantart.com
image courtesy coldsummerdays.deviantart.com

Where was I … Oh yeah, distractions. I know, success is all about being a positive team player.

But it’s time to SAY NO!!!

As Seth Godin says, “If you believe that you must keep your promises, overdeliver and treat every commitment as though it’s an opportunity for a transformation, the only way you can do this is to turn down most opportunities.” Don’t worry about offending the person asking. They’ll be just fine. A bit of “selfishness” is not only OK but required.

We need to say NO not only to others but to OURSELVES.

I’m far too often slave to focus deficit (read laziness) – checking email, scrolling Facebook, snacking. The primary loser in this game is me, especially since I have large legacy-building projects at hand. The painting above demanded the better part of three labor-intensive weeks holed up in my studio alone. Don’t get me wrong, I love the process. But I absolutely had to overcome my acute distractibility and shut the world out to get the end result that was important to me and my career. 

Nobel Prize

Most of us are good at a few things and very good at even fewer. Up your game in the areas that matter to YOU by steering clear of the areas that matter most to others … but NOT to you.

“No, I can’t help you move Saturday. No I can’t meet with you, no I can’t sell it to you at this price, no I can’t come to your party, no I can’t advise your company, no I can’t help you. I’m sorry, but no, I can’t. Not if I want to do the very things that people value me most for.”

This is not about a totally self-serving disregard for those who need you. Quite the opposite. Your community benefits more profoundly if you find a balance that serves YOU … so that you can most effectively serve that community.

image courtesy www.lifehack.org
image courtesy www.lifehack.org

We’d all give the shirts off our backs to activate our superpowers and make our dreams comes true. Don’t waste YOUR time. Or you’ll end up wasting everyone’s.