As we enter a new decade with the start of the year 2020, I have been thinking a lot about the tradition of creating resolutions.  I have also been thinking about the meaning of resolutions.  I have also noticed that resolve plays into one keeping ones resolutions.

Both words, Resolution and Resolve, come from the Latin base resolvere which means to loosen or release.  According to the Oxford Dictionary the word Resolution is a noun that has the following definitions: a firm decision to do or not do something; the quality of being determined or resolute; and the act of solving a problem, dispute, or contentious matter.  Also according to the Oxford Dictionary the word Resolve, when used as a verb, is defined as to settle or find a solution to a problem, dispute, or contentious matter or to firmly decide on a course of action.  When the word Resolve is used as a noun it is defined as a firm determination to do something.

Ironically the Latin base meaning to loosen or release is so far for the the firm and determined language of the modern words Resolve and Resolution.  Maybe that’s why it is so hard to keep some of the resolutions that we give to ourselves…. we know that deep down in their Latin base it is only loosely given and possibly it is a way to release ourselves from a commitment we didn’t want to make.

I have never been one to make a lot of resolutions before the new year.  I have a set of guides that I lay out for myself that deal with my art, writing and creativity.  These are extremely helpful and yet loose enough to not overwhelm me creatively.  Most years, I am able to reach most of these gentle goals.  For example, three years ago, my goal was to write one Haiku poem a month.  I successfully completed the goal and through that process fell in love with the simple yet challenging beauty of writing Haiku poetry.

Some of my friends have had some very fun and creative resolutions.  One friend tried eating a new food or dish once a month for an entire year.  I remember her telling me about different things that she was trying.  Some she recommend and others she said she would not eat again.

Another friend gave herself a reading challenge that included a certain number of books but also certain types.  If I am remembering correctly she had to read so many non-fiction books, biographies, autobiographies and much more.  She shared some of the books that she was reading because of this challenge to herself.  It was fun to hear about how exciting this process was for her and the new and exciting things she was learning.

I had heard an interview on NPR in the late 1990’s about a photographer who was living in a very remote area (I think it was above the Arctic Circle) for a year.  He had limited film reserves and had to develop his own pictures.  Because of severe weather conditions, there could be weeks where supplies for food would be hard enough to get, let alone the film and chemicals to develop the film.  He challenged himself to only taking one picture a day for the entire year that he was there.  When asked how did he know when to take a picture each day.  The photographer said that at first he didn’t know and there were some terrible first shots.  But then he got into this rhythm of carrying his camera, when he some something interesting he would take a picture.  Once the picture for that day was taken, that was it.  I remember him saying that he developed all the rolls of film and there were 365 photos and not all of them were good or even turned out.  He said that the experience changed his life and the way he approached his photography.

If the numerous advertisements on every form of media is any indication, weight loss and gym memberships are at the basis of many new resolutions.  Do not get me wrong.  Positive and healthy goals for ones health and wellness is a good thing.  But hearing and seeing those ads, I wonder if the focus is all external and superficial.

That may be one of the reasons why I loved the goals about different kinds of books, trying new foods, taking one photo a day and yes, the Haiku poetry writing challenge.  Not only did they provide a challenge, but they also provided a positive change to the individuals who participated in them.  These Resolutions are growth experiences.  Life changing experiences.

My challenge for you is to find Resolutions that challenge more than your physical body.  My hope is your Resolve will provide experiences, in the Latin base traditions of the words.  That loosen constraints and release you from things holding you back.  I hope you choose resolutions that challenge you creatively, provide growth, opportunities for exploration and amazing life changing experiences.

Taking Flight

In July of 2017, I was invited to do an installation piece for the Urban Art Project in 2018.  I accepted and asked for the February to May time frame for my installation piece.

I knew that I wanted to do a piece inspired by Japan.  I thought about the things that come to mind when one thinks of Japan: Mount Fuji, Shinto gates, Samurai’s and origami.  I had this vision of creating a stylized version of Mount Fuji out of poster board, a Shinto gate made from foam core board and folding a 1,000 Origami Cranes.

So I started with the cranes.  I had some origami paper and a book with directions for folding a crane.  The book instructions were confusing to say the least.  (And I am not going to disclose how many sheets of origami paper I completely destroyed trying to follow the written instructions.)  So I pulled out my trusty laptop and googled folding origami cranes.  I found a very instructive video on U-Tube made by a German gentleman that helped me figure out where I was going wrong in my folding.  Finally I had completed my first crane.

1st crane

My first crane

Folding the next fifty cranes, was challenging.  I would mess up.  Do a step before I should.  I had to keep going back to the directions and the video.  But soon I was pleasantly surprised to find that I had folded one hundred cranes.  And then I was at two hundred and fifty.  Next thing you know, I had folded five hundred.

It was at this point that I was very tired of folding the paper that I had.  I emailed my friend Kate in Japan asking her for more origami paper.  She sent me a wonderful assortment that re-energized and invigorated my crane folding.  Thank you Kate, so much for sending me all of the beautiful paper.  It really made a HUGE difference.

Also my friend Deb bought me a book of Tokidoki Origami paper.  It was so different than any of the other paper I received.  Deb really helped keep me motivated and I mean more than the paper.  She would ask me how many cranes have you folded now?  I didn’t want to tell her that I hadn’t folded any since we last talked and that was a powerful motivational tool.  Thank you Deb for the fun paper and keeping me on track.  You helped me a lot.


500 cranes

It was at this point that I thought I should probably find out the history behind folding a thousand origami cranes.  Japanese legend promises that anyone who folds a thousand origami cranes will be granted a wish.  Cranes are considered to be a mystical or holy creature.  They are believed to be symbols of good health, longevity, truth and fidelity.  The elegant crane is considered to live a thousand years.  If you fold a thousand cranes, you fold a crane for each year of the cranes life.

It became very clear after folding 800 cranes that the installation site was not large enough for my original vision.  1,000 origami cranes take a lot more space than I initially imagined.  I decided that my installation piece needed to focus on the cranes and the cranes alone.

Somewhere after crane 500, I got into this rhythm of folding.  Mountain fold.  Valley fold.  Line up the corners.  Turn it over.  Reverse fold.  Leave a thin space.  You don’t even think about the directions.  You just fold.  Each sheet of paper becomes an intimate friend who is in the shape of a crane when completed.


Lining up cranes to be threaded together

Folding a 1,000 cranes is just the first step.  Once they are folded the cranes have to be strung together.  Traditionally the cranes are strung together in sets of 40.  I strung some of the cranes in this method.  Others I would string together using tiny glass beads to keep spaces between the cranes so you can see each bird independently.

Once all of the cranes were strung together, I had to prepare and install the cranes in the site.  To say that the space is small, is kind of an understatement.  It is also very narrow.


The space empty and adding cranes.

While in Kyoto, Japan, I visited Nijo Castle.  The castle had gates to enter different sections of the castle.  These gates have beautiful enamel work of flowers, butterflies and cranes.  After touring the castle, while standing in a Buddhist garden, a crane flew over the castle and landed in a tree in front of me.  It was a magical experience, worthy of the elegant crane, and one that I will not forget.


Detail of gate leading into inner courtyard of Nijo Castle

The challenge of folding 1,000 origami cranes seemed natural to me.  I wanted to do a piece inspired by Japan.  Cranes remind me of Japan, my travels there and how empowering that experience was for me.  Now that I have folded a thousand cranes, I am ready for my next challenge, creative or otherwise.  That is, in part, why I called the installation piece, “Taking Flight.”


Looking from the door of the installation site, through some of my cranes to the street.

The opening reception with all of the artists who participated in the February through May, 2018, Urban Art Project is Monday, February 19th from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. at 315 First Avenue South, Great Falls, Montana.  I would like to personally invite all of my friends, family and the blogging community (who are included in the friends part too).


The completed piece “Taking Flight”

The Opening Reception is not the end of the “Taking Flight” installation piece’s story.  After this show is over and I take it down, strands of cranes are going to be sent all over the world to friends and family.  The installation piece will be taking flight on it’s own to bring well wishes of health and happiness to those I love.

“That’s Art?!?”

A friend and I were viewing an installation piece.  As we were walking away, a young man in his teens said to what I think was his mother, “That’s art?  Really?  I don’t get it?  Why would someone call that art?”  The mother responded, “There is no accounting for some people’s taste.”

The quote “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” originated in 3rd century Greece and is as true today as it was then.  People see things in different ways.  But that statement doesn’t just extend to art.  It can be said about literature, music, architecture, fashion, design of utilitarian objects, food, etc.

It comes down to perception.  Something that I perceive as beautiful… interesting… euphonic… classical…. elegant…. functional… tasty…. etc. others may find disturbing… boring… loud… vulgar… disgusting… etc.  As exciting as it is to find others who enjoy similar art, music, food, etc., it would be a very boring world if we all liked the same things.  I personally think that the differences are sometimes more interesting than the similarities.

This past spring, I reconnected with an old friend.  When he found out that I was an artist, he told me that he didn’t know much about art but he knew what he liked.  I think that we are innately drawn to certain things.  As many of my friends and family know, I gravitate towards color, especially deep reds and rusty oranges.  My brother loves spicy foods.  One of my friends is into all things French.  Another loves birds.

In my level 2 creativity class we look at the work from professional artist’s in the PBS Art 21 Series.  I require my students to read Seth Godin’s blog from June 26, 2013 entitled “You don’t have to like new art, but it helps to understand it” before we look at any of the artist’s work.  I want to make it very clear to my students that I don’t expect them to like everything that they see; but, that they have to respect the time and energy it took to create the artwork.  And as Seth Godin says so eloquently in the blog, “Denigrating art you don’t understand doesn’t hurt the art–it reveals something about your willingness to learn.”

And this brings me back to the original story I started with.  There were many installations at this site.  Of all of them, that particular one was my least favorite.  It did not speak to me.  However, I appreciated the time, energy and creativity it took to make this piece of art.  Although it did not speak to me, I know that it will speak to someone else.  Because we are all different and we are all drawn to different things.

This experience helped to remind me that when we are talking about art or the things we find beautiful or not so beautiful, our ability to appreciate the differences and the work that went into the object, speaks volumes about us and our willingness to learn.

What do you find beautiful?