It’s Such a Perfect Day*

Perfect Day?

Behold the Perfect Moment / Perfect Family / Perfect Life*

In this recent photo, a gorgeous family camps on a faraway beach in paradise, savoring the sunset in front of their beloved yellow VW bus. Aaron’s the only man Adrienne ever had, and she loves him at this sun-kissed instant just as she did when they met as teens 25 years ago. He tattooed their vast life adventures across his lithe body and muscular arms with which he pulls his flaxen-haired squad in close. Together, they read, surf, cook, laugh and explore magical places: Thailand, Rome, Yellowstone. The world is theirs to conquer.

Now, let’s take a closer look. Just hours before this pic was taken, Aaron spent the morning at the hospital in excruciating pain, prodded and poked in his belly, where cancer raged. Thinking he might expire that very day, he told his wife, “I’d rather die camping than bubble-wrapped in a hospital bed.” So they geared up and drove. This photo does not show Adrienne’s panic attack en route to this beach. Nor the Fentanyl patches on Aaron’s back. And how, just minutes before, she got the VW miserably stuck in the sand, nearly sabotaging the excursion. As that glorious sun set behind them, their universe was totally unraveling. 

The truth is rarely evident to our naked eye. 

Local vibes

Jodi and I came to Cost Rica for an ex-pat “Bucket List Year” with our children. This wildly successful experience showed us a simpler way to be, to raise kids, to spend our days. It shifted our priorities so deeply that we remain for a second year and have started construction on a home. While our future remains a beautiful mystery, we are in for the wild ride … and invite you to join us.

Tropical Thanksgiving
Earth Day
Jodi’s surf team places 2nd … out of 2 teams!

Our life looks pretty peachy in pics and on social media these days: sunsets, fitness, waterfalls and giggling kids. But, let’s be clear … bounteous as our circumstances are, I often wake feeling lost and untethered lately … unsure and unclear on my next move … as a dad, as a creative, as an American. Thing is … self doubt does not photograph as well as me surfing with my kids.

Work in progress

Parenting two complex, ever-clashing kids is rough and getting rougher, particularly negotiating the ADHD minefields of our youngest. Are my intuitive fathering choices in this complicated moment wrong, too angry and judgmental … even psychologically damaging to the kids and their longterm view of me? Are we misguided to invest in a dream sanctuary immersed in natural splendor far from the bustle … just to fill it with two kids who fight viciously and constantly? Hardly pura vida. Thank god for Jodi’s level head and constant reassurance.

PAMM Artist Talk and For Freedoms Town Hall Nov 7, 2019. 
For Freedoms Town Hall to a packed house.

And then there’s the massive question of purpose.

Being north of fifty and far removed, literally and figuratively, from all our lifelong reference points, Jodi and I constantly reflect on whether we are doing enough for the world (we are not). And what crisis to focus our energies on (there are so many). I recently presented an Artist Talk and For Freedoms Town Hall to a diverse packed house at the Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM). Fellow artist, Zoe Buckman, and I explored How Success is Measured in Activist Art vis-à-vis our practices. The evening then pivoted to a Town Hall discussion that quickly became very emotionally charged and highlighted painful racial fissures in the local community. Afterward, I received very conflicting messages: general praise from the white audience and disappointment from the black audience. To me, this dichotomy exemplifies the racial disconnect between well-meaning liberal citizens. And it reveals a blind spot in my attempt to be of greater service as a connector and champion of societal fairness. I am grateful for this wakeup call, because one of my priorities, as I enter this next phase of life, is discovering how a middle-aged, middle-class, white guy can best add value to these critical conversations.

Please watch the PAMM video, and share your feedback – start at 35:00 to miss all the lengthy intros. Or, start at 14:40 to hear Zoe Buckman’s wonderful talk before mine. 

Aaron Surfboard

Aaron & Adrienne – an exemplary love story.

In today’s Insta-world, we often work overtime to make our lives appear golden … viewed with a tad of envy, even. The tricky part is that much of what we see is, in fact, exactly as it appears. In the photos above, what you actually see is an extraordinary 25 year fairy tale starring four people who cherish and love their lives and lean into one another to savor and suffer all that life has to offer. You see a seasoned couple whose flame still burns hot and who prefer to stay home, drink wine and crack each other up instead of going out on the town. And you see two wonderful boys, raised to be adventurous gentlemen by fearless parents who understand that time is precious and the cameras are rolling.   

Fare thee well, amigo.

Thank you, Adrienne, for allowing me to share your story of devotion and loss. Your journey with Aaron illustrates the power of life’s deepest connections and complex illusions. I cannot for a minute understand your current pain, but I will tell you that your radical courage and fierce honesty are what Jodi and I hope to infuse into our new home on a hilltop overlooking the Costa Rican sea where Aaron’s ashes roll with the waves. We aim to create a place where all can be vulnerable and safe. Where children and friends, old and new, explore ideas and nature. And work together to fix what’s broken in ourselves and our world. No illusions. No masks. Just room to exhale, contemplate, cry, laugh and escape. 

Our CR slice of Pura Vida
Our slice of Pura Vida

In his book, In Love With The World, Buddhist monk, Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, writes, “We are all transformed through love and loss, through relationships, work, kindness, and tragedy. But we get scared of change, because when we identify with a pattern of behavior, giving it up can feel like death itself.” For Jodi and me, as our patterns of behavior continue to change radically, I welcome this ego “death” and the annihilation of the labels that construct my identity: artist, activist, entrepreneur. Though I imagine this “death” is part of what is making me feel lost. Still, I embrace it, because I am not those labels. Nor are you your labels. We are just people doing our best to find light in a dark world. 

Zoe Buckman and I interview one another in a recent Cultured Magazine piece.

Finally, check out this insightful piece in Cultured Magazine, where Zoe Buckman and I interview one another about the evolution of our practices and life goals. This article is honest and unadorned, and I’m proud of it, for that is what I aspire to be. 

 

*No such thing

Anger Issues?

Studio footprints 2

“What are anger issues, Daddy?”

My ever-perceptive 6-yr-old asked me this on the ride to school a few days ago, having somehow heard the term mentioned in his classroom.

A week earlier, just 2 days after the conclusion of an absolutely mental Art Basel, this very boy stood barefoot and shirtless in my studio, hands gloved in hunter-green watercolor paint, splotches on his shorts, inner arms and legs, one patch in the middle of his back. Home sick from school, I had to bring him with me, and in twenty minutes a bus with eleven collectors, one of whom had been paying serious attention to my career for over a decade, was due to arrive for a studio visit.

I gazed at the mess as the boy stared up at me, fingers spread as the paint dried between them. Tiny green footprints scattered from a seeping puddle in the middle of the floor beside a large rectangle of cardboard covered entirely in swirls of this same muddy green. Beside the cardboard lay a dozen squeezed tubes of watercolor paint, each with its cap off, wounded soldiers in my son’s apparent victory with his verdant imagination.

Bodhi

I shut my eyes and started shaking like a broken toy. Turned from him and literally stomped my feet and made an aggressive growling sound. “No No Noooooo,” I yelled to the concrete floor. When I turned back, my boy stood crying. Crestfallen.

“You didn’t tell me any rules, Daddy. You didn’t tell me what to do!” 

I pride myself on being a self-taught painter who lets it flow and trusts the arc of the sun to choose the palette each day. More gut. Less mind. 

The label on the dunce cap reads ARTIST in this masterpiece by French genius MTO. Photo courtesy of Walter Michot, Miami Herald Staff
The label on the dunce cap reads ARTIST in this masterpiece by French genius MTO. Photo courtesy of Walter Michot, Miami Herald Staff

My son felt green today and let it flow with the palms of his hands and the soles of his feet. And in response I chose to trample the flames of his passion, frightening him with a clenched body and sharp-edged raised voice. 

Yes, I was sleep deprived, hungover and emotionally thrashed from a week running around playing the art game. Yes, my ego wanted to sell more at the fairs. Yes, I wanted my studio to appear appropriately shop-worn and smart for the any-minute guests. But his only crime was doing exactly what I gave him permission to do. “I want to paint, Daddy.” I handed him the paper and the paints and showed him where to go about his creative machinations in the next room, as I hung works and swept up and dove deeper into my own fatigue.

Bodhi Paper boy

What does this one look like he wondered, opening one then another of the paint tubes. He brushed at first, then opted for his hands, because finger-painting is awesome. And footprints even awesomer. And eventually he tried every color in the box. Why not, Daddy said I could paint. And who says you can’t have it all? I guess I did when I started yelling at the air. 

So, my lovely, sentient youngest child … anger issues are the residual stink left when a dad squelches his boy’s beauty and never bothers to own it.

King-of-Nothing
The King of Nothing, Acrylic, corrugated cardboard, paper, tape, oil crayon on canvas, 48×36″ 2005

Lucky for us both, I saw the error of my ways in the sheen of your tears. And, later that day, I explained to you how wrong I was. How sorry I was. How sad I was that I gave you the idea that it was not ok to make a mess in the studio, when that’s one of the best reasons to have a studio in the first place. And I told you again that night and again the next day, because … what anger issues remain from my complicated youth shall end with me and not be passed on to your gleaming beautiful heart.

You, my exquisite mess-maker. My teacher. My canvas. 

Let’s go paint!

Winning

 

The Little Prince and the Big Boss

Prince

“Prince was no taller than me, yet he was larger than life. He had his own style,” my 5’2″ wife told our boys on the drive to school last week. “He’d even wear shoes with high heels.” Our 8-yr-old leaned forward from the back seat and giggled, “Why would he do that?” Without missing a beat, his 6-yr-old brother chimed, “I know … because he was the boss of himself!”

Are you the boss of yourself?

Prince was born different. Hyper-musical. Uber-sexual. Unquestionably self-confident. 

We’re all born different. Question is, whatcha gonna do with your different?

IMG_1095Prince activated his different to the tune of 39 studio albums, 5 soundtracks, 4 live albums, 5 compilations, 17 video albums and 12 EPs. He told The New York Times in 1996 that he couldn’t stop writing music and had a backlog of thousands of songs. I never saw him in concert, which hurts. But I played his 1996, 3-disc masterpiece, Emancipation, on an endless loop for months. “I have a writing addiction,” Prince said. We should all be so afflicted. 

“Can you imagine what I would do if I could do all I can?” Prince once said. I enter my studio each day with the echo of this quote in my head.

Work in progress, acrylic, book covers, paper on canvas, 60×60?
Work in progress, acrylic, book covers, paper on canvas, 60×60″

Prince did the work. He showed up every day. Channeled the magic. And gave us ass-shaking grooves atop fanciful lyrics that touched the poet in all of us:

Starfish and coffee
Maple syrup and jam
Butterscotch clouds, a tangerine
A side order of ham

Prince died at 57. In a recent NYT article, Thinking Beyond Money in Retirement, retirees deconstruct what they’d do if money was no issue and they had only a short time left to live. They asked themselves, “What have I missed? Who did I not get to be? What is it that can make me a better person?” In other words, now that I’m the boss of myself, what will I do?

Bodhi

My 6-yr-old is clearly the boss of himself, as evidenced by his insight above. For those of us somewhat older than 6, I suggest we heed Prince’s sage advice, “Act your age, not your shoe size.” And start making some moves. As Prince said, “You can always tell when the groove is working or not.”  

Come lounge on my comfy studio couch.
Come lounge on my comfy new studio couch.

I just moved into a new studio space in the Little River section of Miami, where I’m happy to report the groove is working. I sincerely hope you’ll drop by to say hello and shoot the breeze. No appointment necessary – 6728 NE 4th Av, Miami FL 33138. Get over here!

photo by blumango studios
photo by blumango studios

Perhaps we’ll even party like it’s 1999. 

 

Let’s Dance!

Ziggy Stardust

“So, what do you do,” an attractive woman asked me at a party in Colorado years ago. 
“I’m a filmmaker,” I said, taking a swig of Fat Tire. I’d just produced a TV commercial, my first, for the magazine where I worked. 
When she stepped away a few minutes later, a friend sitting nearby said, “So now you’re a filmmaker, huh?” His snide tone cut me.

In the ten years prior, I’d been a stockbroker, a film student, a production assistant, a chauffeur and an ad salesman. Was I a filmmaker? I certainly dreamed to be. Did I get paid for my commercial? No.

Recently, I heard a wise man say, “We tend to grow into the labels we place on ourselves.” 

No one shaped-shifted more or better than David Bowie. He was Ziggy Stardust … because he said so. And a huge swath of the world thought him batshit crazy for it. But he never flinched. Very few of us take the idea of persona as far as Bowie, and even fewer have the courage to withstand being mocked for our choices. Yet, at some point, we must each ask ourselves the question – What am I? And then we must publicly affirm it … whatever it is … without hiding behind the fear that perhaps our self description is inaccurate.

No one else gets to define you. So make that definition count.  

All the Information You Need is Right Here. Mixed media, 2015
All the Information You Need is Right Here. Mixed media, 2015, Stuart Sheldon

“Fake it till you make it,” is another way to put it. A mantra I’ve somehow succeeded by.

The moment I sold my first painting for $250, I was a professional artist, as far as I was concerned. Why? Because I said so. And because that is who I always wanted to be. Could I pay the rent? Hell no. But I’d crossed a threshold and decided to make it more than just a cute moment.

First painting I ever sold. Rocks, acrylic and paper on wood, 14x11" 2001
First painting I ever sold. Rocks, acrylic on wood, 14×11″ 2001

The haters and skeptics will always project onto you their own fear and unwillingness to live their truths. They don’t, nor will they ever, have the backbone to put their passion first. I was thirty-eight when I sold that first painting, ten years into my creative odyssey. James Michener wrote his first book at forty. 

“For years and years I roamed, I gazed a gazeless stare.” David Bowie, from ‘The Man Who Sold the World’ (1970)

I too gazed a gazeless stare for years … out the window of the penthouse where I sold stocks and bonds. I didn’t have the guts, like Bowie, to hang it out there as an artist at the time. That fear cut a deep wound. But wounds heal. Now, twenty five years later, my fears of being who I truly am have evolved into fears of being excellent at who I truly am … a very material distinction.

Run Boy

I want my children to not only dream big but chase their big dreams. Catching them is secondary. It’s the chase that builds the muscles … in our hearts and minds. Sometimes, we do catch them. My butterfly net is full right now. And I’m giggling with amazement. 

I’m delighted to share with you this stunning write-up from The New Tropic Magazine, chronicling my best work to date.

The New Tropic's glowing review of Fancy Nasty

Thank you, David Bowie, for a lifetime of ruthless courage and left-field genius. You showed us all how it’s done for 50 years non-stop!

Bowie & Iman

Now, it’s OUR TIME to shine, people. 

This is YOUR year!
This is YOUR year!

And …….. ACTION!

 

Share Everything

 

Winning

Since I was a boy, I’ve dreamt all my friends would buy houses in cool places, and we’d ultimately just share one big, life-long, world-wide party. Call it recreational socialism.

That dream has come true. But why limit it to just friends? Thanks to an app on the Internet machine, you can exchange homes with over 65,000 people in 150+ countries. It’s basically online dating with houses … only your chances of getting lucky are much higher. Oh, and its FREE. 

View from our dining room. Did I mention FREE?
View from our dining room in Provence this summer. Did I mention FREE?

I’m sorry if this sounds like a paid advertisement for HomeExchange.com, but it’s one of those earth-shaking paradigm shifts that the Internet has allowed. I did it this summer with my family, and staying at a home versus a hotel totally alters the experience of a place.

On top of the enormous savings, you do things that locals do and hotel guests do not.

Our kids ran in a 1k race on Bastille Day, and I almost cried as our youngest approached the finish line with a look of red-faced desperation. The boys built daily ant worlds in the luscious garden. We hit farmer’s markets and cooked scrumptious local fare. Took overnight trips in the region. No guests to avoid in elevators or overhear grunting through thin walls. You sprawl recklessly and nap with a book on your chest … because the place is yours. All for a simple $10/month fee.

Local 1K race
Proud first-time 1K race finishers

But, how can I stand to have strangers in my home?

If you can’t get past that, this is simply not for you. For me it’s no biggie. Not much to steal in our place, and we locked off a room. We have friends with an extraordinary home that have done this 18 times. If they’re not sweating it with their palace, I’m good with our modest abode. And, by the time you’re committing to exchange homes, you’ve gotten to know your counterpart pretty well via email, phone and photos. 

There’s karma at play here; you’re in their home too, after all.  

Wanderlust is an affliction from which many of us will never be cured. If you suffer from it, the economics just got a whole lot better.

Turn off and tune out

And speaking of travel…
You’re invited to my
Current and Upcoming Art Exhibitions

Dallas Solo Show Opening Sep 2015
Dallas Solo Show 

September 12 – Oct 17, 2015

Dallas, TX
Solo Show

ilume Gallerie
4123 cedar springs suite 107 | dallas tx 75219
214.507.7369

September 18 – Nov 1, 2015

Hollywood, FL
Art & Culture Center of Hollywood Juried Biennial
1650 Harrison St | Hollywood, FL 33020
954. 921. 3274

 —

September 26 – Dec 31

San Francisco, CA
The San Francisco Writer’s Grotto
By appointment – stuart@stuartsheldon.com
490 2nd Street, 2nd Floor
San Francisco, CA 94107

September – Art Basel

Miami, FL (Wynwood)
Black. White. Group Show
Curated by Kathryn Mikesell of Your Fountainhead
Call for Appointment 305.776.8198
65 NW 24th St.
Miami, FL

October 24

Miami, FL
Locust Projects’ Smash and Grab
3852 North Miami Avenue, Miami, FL, 33127
305-576-8570

December – Art Basel

Miami, FL
Group Show Opening Nov 20 & 21

Redonkulous Top Secret Art Basel Madness
Watch this space!

Recent Commission installed
Recent Commission installed – the 10 favorite books of each family member, woven into a literary family history. 

The Tyranny of a Blank Canvas

Blank Canvas

To Begin, Begin.
                    Wordsworth

Few things intimidate us like a blank slate waiting for what one of my writing heroes, Annie Lamott, calls the unavoidable “shitty first draft.” For most of us, it’s far easier to edit than to fabricate. Thus, it’s critical to get marks on the paper ASAP. 

I’ve just finished four months of head-down, sleeves-rolled-up intensity in my studio, cranking out all new works for a Bay Area solo show in May. The canvases are currently traversing America in an 18-wheeler. I’m happy to say that most of these works poured out of me like lemonade from a wide-mouthed pitcher. But one piece, the final one, proved a bit more thorny.

Best Books Ever Written - Grownups Are Overrated, acrylic, children's book covers, paper, oil crayon on canvas, 60"x60", 2015
Best Books Ever Written – Grownups Are Overrated, acrylic, children’s book covers, paper, oil crayon on canvas, 60″x60″, 2015

I finished it two Sundays ago, a bright orange hurricane of children’s book covers. It remained elusive and unresolved right up until the moment I glued the final strip (Where The Wild Things Are). So happens, 30 minutes later, I hosted a sneak preview of the show in my studio. As is typically the case, this one “difficult” painting seemed to cause the most stir and excitement. Go figure.

Life really is the journey and not the destination (what with the destination being death and all). And so, I thought it’d be interesting to share the evolution of this one painting.

Underpainting
Day 1 – Underpainting

Really not much more than a sensation, some kind of swirling thingy contracting or expanding.

Day 2
Day 2

Day 2 got kinda crazy (read ugly) with the addition of color and the first collage elements. Hey, no bad ideas, right?

Day 3
Day 3

Day 3 was just a straight-up mess … but it felt so good. Boys love mud; that never changes.

Day 4
Day 4

Day 4 was about reining it in and defining the mood, all while masking the yummy stuff beneath. For me, much of the thrill stems from the juicy goods that nobody sees or ever knows about – the tattoo just below the bikini line.

Day 5
Day 5

Day 5 – the pathway begins. Folks ask if I know where these paths are headed. NO I do not. Hearkening back to Day 1, I felt a swirliness coming on, but not much more direction than that.

Day 6
Day 6

Twissssty. Turrrrrny. Looooooopy.

Day 7
Day 7

Now, we’re getting somewhere. Any day you get to see Harry the Dirty Dog, Curious George Rides a Bike and Goodnight Moon all at once … is a good day.

Day 10
Day 10. And done!

The eagle eventually landed on something that a collector referred to as a “thought bubble.” I like that.

My BEST BOOKS EVER WRITTEN Bay Area Solo Show Opens May 9 & 10 in Sausalito.
Style A Gallery
30C Princess Street in Sausalito, California.
Show closes May 31, 2015. 

For more info, visit the FB Event Page or the invite page on my website.

Next
Next … time to reload and start the next barrage for a June group show in Miami!