Thursday, January 16, 2020

Arrow and Pivot | Modern Kinetic Art | Mark Leary Designs

Mobiles: Pivot II, Arrow

 On directions
“But where am I supposed to go?” asked bird.
“Perhaps,” invited fox, “a better question might be ‘where am I now?’”

Thoughts while making
There’s a path on the side of my house. Nine oversized pavers mark the way. For 20 feet or so, you enjoy concrete-y goodness underfoot.

It’s a straight line. A sure shot. Makes you feel like you’re heading places, moving with purpose.

And then it just stops. Beyond that, get out your map, my friend, because you are on your own.

The idea had been simple: create a walkway from my side door to The Shed (aka my studio).

In the spring, grass between my toes is a delight. Yet, since Portland winters are wet, all that walking back and forth creates a slip-n-slide of mud and downtrodden grass.

So, this summer, I found the pavers, prepped the soil, got to work … and stopped woefully short, about halfway to my destination.

“I have plenty of time,” I told myself. “Plenty of time to wait to finish until [fill in the blank]: it’s cooler, it’s warmer, the ground is softer, I don’t have so many other things to do,” and on and on.

Big surprise: No other pavers have been laid.

For the first few weeks this winter, *every* time I made that trip - dozens of times a day - I was focused on what the path wasn’t rather than accepting what it was. I berated myself for not finishing, leaving it undone, failing.

How often do we struggle against what isn’t rather than embracing what is, inventing stories of lack and scarcity rather than seeing what is truly there?

I saw a brilliant @brianandreas illustration today that reads, “Try to remember it’s Always Whole, even Where you only see parts.”

In this case, that path has always been complete, always Whole. But I – focused on what parts I told myself weren’t there – was missing the opportunity to see what was: to slow down (so as not to slip), to pick my own path, and feel gratitude that I get to create art for others.

Together, these mobiles remind me of the many and varied paths we each tread every day and the opportunities that lay in every step.

Where’s one place you can gently shift your story from what’s “missing” to a gratitude for what is?


Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Blue Moon Rising in New Colors | Modern Art Mobile | Mark Leary Designs

 Mobiles: Blue Moon Rising x 3

On being naked
“There’s so much more to you,” whispered crow, “than I could have ever known.”

Thoughts while making
She was just standing there naked. Like it was totally normal. As if she woke up every day ready for 30 people to gawk at every exposed inch of her bare body. I can’t speak for the other 29 people in the room, but *I* was highly uncomfortable.

When I was 17, I took an Intro to Drawing class in college. There were your standard still lifes with vases and fruit. And there was also this: a nude figure drawing session.

In our very first class, the professor had noted the session, and for weeks I worried myself sick about that one class.

At that point, I’d never seen a naked body in person. I was afraid of what would “happen” to me, how I’d react. Eight years of parochial education didn’t give me confidence I could keep it together.

I remember walking to class that day, blood pumping to my head, the sounds, shapes, and colors of campus a blur.

And there she was. A silk robe. Flip flops. A cigarette. Mussed hair. Tired eyes. She was leaning against a wall outside the classroom, smoking. She wasn’t wearing a nametag that read “Nude Model,” but it was clear who she was.

I looked away quickly.

Moments later, she entered, disrobed. My first sketch might as well have been of a carrot. That’s how closely I did not look at her. But sketch after sketch, I began to take courage, to look more. And that’s when I began to see.

The lines of her. Wrinkles, bumps, bruises. Curves and angles. Folds and hair and sweat.

This was not the Playboy the neighbor tucked between the stacks of newspapers. This was not the Penthouse found in the forts behind our house. This was not even the scrambled cable signal from late-night TV.

This was the human body, in all its variety; every scar and vulnerability tattooed like a story I could never know.

These mobiles together sparked a memory of that moment, of the time when a teenage boy saw his first naked woman and learned the lesson that a body is just a body until the author chooses to share the stories that write its lines.

What word would describe the first time you saw a naked body?

Blue Modern Hanging Art Mobiles | Mark Leary Designs

On privilege
“But I don’t know if I can,” said blue bird.
“If you have the option of can or can’t,” explained crow, “then the question becomes will you or won’t you.”

Thoughts while making
 “Pick it up,” he yelled. “PICK.IT.UP!”

On the concrete in front of him was a collection of odds and ends. A small, blue plastic bottle of Bombay gin. Some loose change. A dirty blue plaid handkerchief and a bunch of crumpled papers.

He pointed directly at a nickel, looked at me directly in the eyes, and dared me, “Pick It UP!”

I’d heard him from a block away. Seen him running back and forth on the corner. I’d watched three groups of people cross to the other side of the street to avoid him.

As I approached, he kept yelling. I met his blue eyes and just smiled the kindest smile I could find. And then it happened.

For a perhaps a second, he was silent. He stood still. He seemed to clear his throat. Then, looking right at me, he said, “Fuck you.”

And this may be the best present I receive this holiday.

Walking around downtown Portland is a lesson in privilege, a primer on the turbulent and fickle economies of fortune. It’d be easy to oversimplify or create labels and boxes, and we each have our hardships, all carry our own burdens: But fuck me if I forget for a second how fortunate I am.

It’s a story, I know (and one told from a place of privilege), but what I told myself is this man wanted somebody to see him, hear him, stop for him, and simply do what he asked: pick it up. And I just smiled at him.

How many people in our lives, including one another, have this same need to be seen and heard? How many people, including ourselves, silently just want to be picked up for even just a moment?

Where is one place you can slow down, stop, see, listen, and “pick it up” for someone—or for yourself—today?

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

New Color Palette on Modern Hanging Art Mobile from Mark Leary Designs

Mobile: The Bakersfield (44” x 23”)

On paint
“If I could be any color,” said fox, “I’d be happy.”
“But that’s not a color,” explained crow.
“Oh, and grateful, too,” fox smiled.

Thoughts while making
They were yellow. Like my mom’s backyard daffodils. Like the scrambled eggs dad made on Saturday mornings. A no. 2 pencil. Hope.

Spread over 18 miles and dotting a monotonic landscape, each was nearly 20 feet tall, almost 30 feet in diameter. 1760 in total.

In the fall of 1991, I drove down from Oakland to meet my mom and younger brother on the Grapevine, the massive canyon that connects southern to central California.

As a kid, we’d driven that stretch both ways every summer. Going north from San Diego, looking out the passenger seat window, a feeling of leaving the world behind, ears popping with altitude, a hundred adventures waiting. Returning south at summer’s end, a mix of fear and excitement of what the new school year would hold.

Depending on the season, the Grapevine’s hills were painted anything from lime green to weathered brown. Yet if fortune (+ rain + sun) smiled, there was a riot of yellows, oranges, reds, purples, and blues.

Goldfields, tidytips, and phacelia. Fiddlenecks, monolopias, and lupines. Van Gogh, Miro, and Picasso. Klimt, Giacometti, and Rothko. Your world an orgy of colors dry brushed in three dimensions.

Ostensibly, we were meeting to see Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s “The Umbrella” art installation. Enormous parasols shading the rolling hills from a mild October sun. But, really, we were meeting to give and get hugs and say “I love you.”

As I was painting this mobile, its vivid colors reminding me of thoughts thunk as I looked out the car window as a kid, and that windy fall day, and gratitude for the connection that art enables between us all.

If you could hop in your car and go anywhere in your history today, where would it be and why?

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Black Beauty | Modern Hanging Art Mobile from Mark Leary Designs

 Mobile: Black Beauty (Approx. 24" wide x 28" tall)

On darkness
“But I can’t see,” cried bird.
“Then, close your eyes,” whispered fox, “and open your heart.”

Thoughts while making
Imagine: With the flick of your wrist, magic. Sparking light in a black night. A moment, bright and clear. A breath taken, a gleam in your eye, a dream illuminated. Offering hope under a starless sky.

Blend together one part phosphorus pentasulfide (P4S3), a little potassium chlorate (KClO3), and a bit of powdered glass. Swirl a small wooden stick in the mix. Then, strike it against the world.

When I was a kid, I loved everything about matches. And I still do. What else do we hold in that way, between thumb and forefinger? What else makes that sound, potential drawn across grit? Where else does time suspend, right before the ordinary ignites? A puff of smoke separating what was and the impossibility it has become.

The modern strike-anywhere match is a chemical marvel. Take your P4S3, add the heat generated when you scratch that tiny piece of wood or paper across a short inch of frictional surface, and the match sparks. KClO3 literally adds fuel to that fire, offering itself up—by way of oxidation—to allow the flame to burn bright.

Between those fingertips, creation held at the end of a matchstick, bringing that which was shadow to sight.

And here we are now. You, the match. The world, your “frictional surface.” With a flick of your intention, an explosion of possibility realized; igniting the ordinary, casting light on dark places.

And what it does it take? Not much. Applying yourself across that short inch: a kind smile, a soft hello, a listening ear, an extra thank you. Watching as your world illuminates around you, trusting your creative spark.

Where’s one place you can shine a little extra light this week?

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Passages | Hanging Art Mobile from Mark Leary Designs

Mobile: Passages (36” x 21”)

 On rites of passage
“But I’m scared,” said little bird.
“I know,” replied bear, “but we’ll be here on the other side.”

Passages is part of my ONE Series, a collection of 1-of-1 bespoke fine art mobiles. Each design in the series is totally unique and will not be reproduced. Your ONE Series mobile is handcrafted in Portland, OR, and comes with a Certificate of Authenticity. Grab Passages while it's still available.
Thoughts while making
Her name was Anastasia. She spoke slowly, her words distinct and clear. I sat there as she asked me a seemingly endless list of questions, ticking boxes on her computer with my answers.

“Anemia? Arthritis? Asthma?”
“Hernia? Heart disease? Headaches?”
“Skin rashes? Sinus trouble? Shortness of breath?”

How many times had she asked these very same questions, a medical history conflating systems with symptoms, psychology with STDs?

She’d called it a “rite of passage,” and as I was chirping off the string of yeses and nos, I was struck with how few actual rites of passage we have during the bulk of our lives.

Sure, we frontload with “coming of age” rituals. And, yes, we have graduations and weddings, and even retirement parties. But what about the rest of life? Where are all the other markers like Colonoscopia, Menopausism, Crowsfeetasia, and Hairlosseoum?

As we grow older, where do we turn for help to make sense of aging, meaning, and death in the very real ways these show up for each of us every day? Outside of checkboxes on a medical intake form, where are our prescribed rites of passage – that move us from feeling *alone* to *allin* this together?

I am not the first man to lose his hair or have a colonoscopy. I’m not the first person to hit “midlife” with questions, doubts, and fears. Yet we are often left to feel like it’s up to us to figure all this stuff out, isn’t it?

Generations have experienced all of life’s parts and pieces. And there’s wisdom embedded in their experiences, deep, vital, beautiful wisdom to wrap us up, to comfort us, to help carry us forward, integrated & incorporated. But how?

Perhaps it starts with a simple “I’ve been there,” “I’ve felt that, too,” “I’m afraid of the same thing,” “I don’t know what to do,” “Can you help me?”

As I was making this mobile + thinking about my colonoscopy yesterday, I began wondering what I could do to better mark rites of passage in the year ahead. I’m looking forward to it.

If you could create one new rite of passage, what would it be?

Thursday, January 2, 2020

The Wham | Modern Hanging Art Mobile

The Wham (36" x 23")
Am I Blue (22" x 15")

On the new year
“Can’t I just focus on today?” asked rabbit. “A whole year seems like a lot.”
Bear smiled. “I think you’re beginning to understand,” she said.

Thoughts while making

After the sweet taste of Martinelli’s was gone, and the acrid smell of confetti poppers had dissipated, and all the pots and pans and wooden spatulas we’d banged to scare away the evil spirits were safely back in the cupboards, and Dick Clark had counted us down, we’d tuck into our beds “to sleep, perchance to dream.”

As a kid, New Year’s was staying up late, waking up to the Rose Parade, endless sheets of Chex mix baking in the oven, and bowl games. I don’t remember thinking about another trip around the sun, time being marked, opportunities for resets and reimaginings, or even resolutions. The idea of intentions was decades away.

In high school, I’d drive to a cliff overlooking La Jolla Shores. I’d light a single candle. Review the year. Decide whether – on balance – the past justified stepping into the future or off the edge. It was admittedly moody and appropriately 80s with a soundtrack of The Cure and Joy Division thrown in for good measure.

While I’ve left the teen dramatics long behind, I’m still not convinced by the “new” year. On the one hand, it feels like an arbitrary date plunked down in the dark of winter; one that is filled with expectations, one that doesn’t care where you may actually be in your own trip. “Celebrate me,” it demands. “Judge yourself,” it whispers.

On the other hand, it’s a unifier, an opportunity. “Come together,” it invites. “Because we’re all in this,” it explains. “And time does not stop: you too will pass,” it says frankly. “So how can I help you become?” it gently asks. I prefer this hand. And, in the end, it’s just a day. There are many others.

What can I do to help you become?

Monday, December 9, 2019

New Hanging Art Mobiles from Mark Leary Designs

Mobiles: Phoenix Red, Level Change II, Papilionem

On telling the truth
“Be careful,” said little bird. “That’s my heart.”

Thoughts while making
I remember the flickering neon glow on their faces. Those bright reds + greens, yellows + blues punctuating the moment.

Imagine yourself in the backseat of your parents’ car. You’re 16. It’s 6pm on a Monday. You’re parked in a strip mall outside a mechanic shop. And your folks are turned around in their seats looking at you, nowhere to hide, and as one say, “Why don’t you tell us what *really* happened.”

I knew what had “really” happened. I was there. I crashed the car, and I didn’t just sorta bump the curb like I’d told them. I knew this. And now – thanks to the mechanic who informed them of the laws of physics – they did, too.

Where does trust have to go off the rails such that we decide the truth isn’t good enough, isn’t safe enough? How is the idea that one mistake will make us unlovable – to ourselves and others – born?

It had been a Friday night. I’d gotten new car speakers. They were duct taped to the floor. LL Cool J along with my friends and I were moving too fast. I hit the brakes going down a steep hill, skidded out, slammed into a guard rail, and folded the better half of Corolla up under itself. I sat there as my parents looked at me and waited. A hundred cars passing in front of me with countless stories I’d never know unfolding in rush hour traffic slowly going everywhere and nowhere.

And I was scared.

I told them (mostly) what had happened. I paid for the repairs, and I didn’t die.

This swirl of mobile colors reminded me of those flashing strip mall signs and that time where I realized that telling the truth is more about loving yourself than anything else.

Do you remember a teenage lie you told to your parents?

#mobile #mcmdesign #hangingsculpture #sculpture #minimalism #kunst #forartssake #popart #mystory #abstractart #abstraction #art #arte #arts #artsy #artist #artwork #artlife #artlover #artnerd #artporn #artoftheday #artofvisuals #modernart #contemporaryart

Sunday, December 1, 2019

New Modern Mobile | Mark Leary Designs

Mobile: Papilionem (27" wide by 12" tall)

On creating
“But I can’t do that,” mouse said. 
“You already are,” replied fox, “so why not make it great?”

Thoughts while making
“But I’m not creative,” she said.

It was the very first day facilitating my very first workshop with @writearoundpdx. For the next 10 weeks, I would be working with a dozen teens. The plan was we’d write together, share together, and build community together. I did not think the plan included this. I was wrong.

“But I’m not an artist.” How many times have you heard someone say this? How many times have you yourself said something similar? I’ve heard it more times than I can remember. “I can’t write to save my life.” “I can’t even draw stick figures.” “I’m not musical.” “I don’t know how to cook.” “I wouldn’t even know where to begin."

Where in life were we first told you couldn’t, shouldn’t, aren’t and will never be? Where in our culture did we box up creativity and artistry as something you either have or don’t, reserving it for anybody except ourselves?

I looked at the teen sitting across from me: Black nails, a vintage jacket, boots without laces, one earbud in. “Who picked out your clothes this morning?” I asked. “Who chose that nail color?” She knew where I was headed, yet she walked right into it: “But clothing isn’t like writing,” she said. “It isn’t creative, like being an artist.”

But isn’t it?

To create: to bring (something) into existence; to cause something to happen as a result of one’s actions. Every choice we make – creation, creativity. Every step we take – art, artistry. Life a canvas. Expression our paints. Each breath bringing something that never was before into being.

Over the course of the next 10 weeks, I got to see this young woman recover, discover, emerge, grow, and own her creative self. The pride, the courage, the confidence, beautiful.

To see life and everyday choices—the way we walk, talk, think, share, and body ourselves into the world—as artistry, can you imagine a world like this? Creativity in the most primary sense.

What is one type of artistry you’ve wanted to try, but – for whatever reason – haven’t yet?

Monday, November 11, 2019

A Medley of Modern Art Mobiles by Mark Leary

Mobiles: Mint Chip, Daisy, and Red Bubblicious

On thievery
“Is it still stealing,” asked crow, “if I just want to take away your pain?” 
Red mouse wasn’t sure, so she just hugged the big black bird and cried.

Thoughts while making
So, yes, I stole it. I was only seven, but when I put it in my pocket, I knew what I was doing.

When I was a kid, we often piled into the car and headed to Thrifty’s. We went for the ice cream. If we were lucky, it’d be a double scoop. . Butter Pecan, Chocolate Malted Krunch, Coconut Pineapple, Pistachio Nut, Rocky Road, and Mint Chip (namesake of one of the mobiles here).

There were those cones that melted in your mouth, flat-topped scoops, wax paper “napkins,” and lots of smiles.

I’m not sure why I was wandering the aisles, nor why I decided a house plant hydrometer was worth pilfering. But there it was, and it was so easy to slip into my pocket. . Less easy was explaining to my mom why I had stolen it when my older brother ratted me out at home. Minutes later, I was in the front seat of our Ford Fairmont station wagon, headed back to Thrifty’s.

The manager was wearing a plaid shirt and a blue vest with a plastic nametag. He had kind eyes. He took me back to the scene of the crime, got down on one knee, and started gently talking about the importance of making good choices and the consequences of our actions.

I’ve often thought about this man. He didn’t go to work that day thinking he was going to have counsel a 7-year-old shoplifter. But there he was, no anger, no threats; taking the time to get down on my level, literally + figuratively, to offer guidance, kindness, and wisdom.

It took all of five minutes of his day, but it’s stuck with me for decades how present he was. Such a lesson to remember the opportunities we have every day to offer those we meet our attention, a safe place, a supportive word.

What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream?

#mobile #mcmdesign #hangingsculpture #sculpture #minimalism #kunst #forartssake #popart #mystory #abstractart #abstraction #art #arte #arts #artsy #artist #artwork #artlife #artlover #artnerd #artoftheday #artofvisuals #modernart

Monday, October 7, 2019

Blue Moon Rising | Modern Kinetic Mobile Headed to the UK Gets A Color Makeover

Mobile: Blue Moon Rising, Dronfield Edition (Approx. 16" wide x 20" tall)

On heart
“Should I follow it?” asked bear. 
“Only you can know,” said wolf as she howled at the moon. “But I say yes.”

Thoughts while making
The street was not well lit, and there was no sign, but I finally found the place. It was literally a hole-in-the-wall. A metal door with a window and a ripped screen. I checked the address again, took a deep breath, and then turned the knob.

Inside the dimly lit room was a beat-up butcher’s table, a bottle of whiskey, and a burly guy holding a couple of big knives.

Standing there, hands on hips, he looked at me in a way that made me feel like I wanted to be anywhere else. . Then he cracked a smile and said, “You ready to make some bacon?”

That was four years ago today. Working with two 20 pound slabs of sub-primal pork, I learned how to make bacon on that night with one of those very sharp knives … while drinking whiskey. For the record, I would suggest that the two do not go together.

When I first moved to Portland, I committed myself to doing one new thing every day. It was my way of trying to stay #accountable to the decision I’d made when I left Bend. A decision to break patterns that weren’t serving me and face fears. It was a decision to act as if I understood life is not forever, to follow my heart, and to show up.

I did not, however, expect that a bacon-making session was going to turn into an existential experience, that we would talk late into the night about what we really wanted in life, more than anything else, that passion, and the willingness to turn left and left again and left again to make it a reality.

As I left with a sack of bacon slung over my shoulder, I remember looking up at the night sky. Right there, low and white between two trees, sat a crescent moon. And I felt lucky to be alive.

Knowing we will not be forever, what’s one new thing you want to try today?

#mobile #mcmdesign #hangingsculpture #sculpture #minimalism #kunst #forartssake #popart #stories #abstractart #abstraction #art #arte #arts #artsy #artist #artwork #artlife #artlover #artnerd #artporn #artoftheday #artofvisuals #modernarts

Saturday, October 5, 2019

The Wham | New Modern Hanging Art Mobile by Mark Leary

Mobile: The Wham (42” wide x 22” tall)

On dreams
“I dreamt it,” explained rabbit. “So I know it’s real.”

Thoughts while making
In a 40-year study that surveyed 50,000 college kids, researcher Calvin S. Hall determined that the most common feeling people report having in their dreams is anxiety, followed closely by anger, sadness, and fear.

I came across this study this morning as I was reading about Dmitri Mendeleev, the guy who invented the periodic table. He says, “I saw in a dream a table where all the elements fell into place as required.”

Did you know that, over the course of your life, you’ll likely have over a hundred thousand dreams? If anxiety is the key theme, think about how many times that means you’ll dream about waking up late, being naked in public, and trying to scream but having no voice. And much harder things.

Think about your little brain during sleep, and how hard it’s working to process all the information it’s a received over the course of the day: Stress, doubt, hurt, fear, loneliness. All just so we can wake up to more of it.

In Hawaiian, the word for dream can be translated as "soul sleep.” Imagine that for a moment. Fluffing the pillows, pulling up the covers, tucking in the deepest part of you; kissing it on the forehead and giving it a safe, warm, quiet place to retreat.

This mobile is about to be on its way to soon-to-be new parents. It’ll spin overhead as their baby sleeps, wakes, poops, cries, laughs, grows, clings to, and – yes – dreams. It will be a pop of color, a bright background to the deep, resonant comfort and protection that is a parents’ love.

As I put the finishing touches on it this morning, I’m thinking about what we can do for each other – in the waking world – to create opportunities for such comfort and love, a place “where all the elements fall into place,” so our dreams don’t have to do so much heavy lifting, where we can protect, support, and lift up the dreams of the newest members of our human tribe, as well as each others’.

What’s one thing you can do today that will help ease the stress of or brighten a moment for another?