I was born in the city—New York, Manhattan, The Big Apple—filled with the fast-paced dreaming of artists and musicians, Wall Street money, high fashion, big science, yummy food, Broadway musicals and everything light, dark, in between and beyond. As a kid, the nighttime noise of the city was my lullaby and I would lay awake in my bed listening to the sounds. I would stare up at the vast white ceiling above me, imagining pathways filled with vibrant swirling colors that I could follow deep into the dream time.
Manhattan was wondrous to my little kid eyes and I would take it all in, watching the city go by as I stared out the windows of the public bus on my way to school. I had to catch the cross-town bus at a stop by Central Park and the old wall and hexagon like stone tiles that made up the sidewalk surrounding the park mesmerized me. I would wait at the bus stop, running my fingers across the bumpy textured wall, staring at the tiles, their shapes burning into my mind. Each individual worn edge, none the same; created by millions of feet over a hundred years all fit perfectly together. There was a deep black of what once were grout lines between them and the different shades of gray reflecting against the dark brown of the wall and the benches where I would sit and wait. I memorized those lines; each tile was a mandala to me, some sort of graphic meditation while I waited for the bus to arrive.
Manhattan was wondrous to my little kid eyes and I would take it all in, watching the city go by as I stared out the windows of the public bus on my way to school.
Just as I became a teenager, my family left Manhattan and moved to a small beach town on Long Island. There, the shapes and sounds of nature revealed something else. The sound of the city was gone and I remember wishing I had recorded it because I couldn’t sleep. There was a deafening quiet, not a silence, just quiet, and off in the distance I could hear the waves of the ocean hitting the shore. I would spend hours looking up at the sky, staring into the space between the clouds.
That place of in-between was just as amazing to me as the puffy floating white that filled the sunlit sky. I would calculate the spaces from the sun to those floating masses, imagining there were rainbow bridges and entire civilizations existing within the white. All I had to do was find the gate and go through it and I would be there, floating on the clouds looking down at the Earth below.
At night the stars aligned to show pathways to the moon and into the clear dark of the night sky beyond. I could see shapes and lines that built the layers of blue and the deep black velvet air that filled the space of in-between. It all fit together, circular lines and dots that made up the colors that layered each other and wove the fabric of everything I could see in the world.
It was the combination of those worlds, the desperation of New York on the edge and the quiet of the beach that collided in my personality. Somewhere along the way that little kid became a lost tapestry made up of something between a hippie flower child psychedelic punk rock metal EDM chick and a meditator with the ability to paint.
I could see shapes and lines that built the layers of blue and the deep black velvet air that filled the space of in-between. It all fit together, circular lines and dots that made up the colors that layered each other and wove the fabric of everything I could see in the world.
Fast forward to 2013 and I’m in the gym in a small town in Florida, an old fishing village near orange groves and cattle ranches. Victorian architecture meets 1970’s strip malls, and the heavy tropical heat along with the intense blue of the ocean and old sprawling banyan trees made it magical and mystical. The gym was in one of those random and really unattractive strip malls, porous drop ceiling and all. I hate those ceilings and in all my artistic wanderings I have never known what to do with them, nothing can help and every time I walk into a space that flaunts those hideous tiles I cringe at the stupidity of the designers who made them.
Fucking idiots, I’d think to myself.
I wasn’t the only one who didn’t know what to do with those ceilings and here, in the heat of the South Florida summer, the owner of the gym didn’t know what to do with that ceiling either. “I think I’m going to have people paint them, would you paint one?” he asked. “Yeah sure” the words floated out of my mouth. I hadn’t worked in a while, artistic blocks had plagued my paint, and I teetered on the edge of misery having lost the ability to recognize myself in the mirror. Maybe I’d snap out of it by doing something random. He loaded the tile into my car and I made my way home.
I threw the tile on my worktable and there it sat. Its dry dull white surface taking up space in my house, I’d walk past it, I’d look at it and I’d walk away from it. I saw nothing. Nothing appeared. It was lifeless, a nonentity, with nothing that showed me who it might be, what it wanted to become and why it had arrived in my home. And so we danced, that tile and me. Around and around, I’d look at it, stare it down, try to see into it, past the lifeless dull surface and into the atoms that made it manifest into reality.
It’s just like me I thought. I don’t know what I’m doing either.
And so I tossed aside the paint and brought out the inks, and it was going to take layers of ink to take something transparent and deepen it into something mysterious and fun.
It was that quiet, the quiet of not knowing what was going on that reminded me of moving to the beach. A flood of memories, of black lines in the sidewalk, the smell of New York City, riding the bus to school, the orange Peter Max clock my Mom had in the kitchen of our apartment, snow in the winter in the city, and the striped velvety wallpaper my Grandfather hung up for us when I was really small. The quiet of my house was the quiet of the ceiling tile and all those nights I stared up at the white above my bed while trying to fall asleep.
I know what it is, I said to myself. It’s not paint, it doesn’t want paint, it’s all about ink, it’s all about lines and pathways and gates into the other worlds. It’s the stone tile on the sidewalks surrounding Central Park, the deep unknowing of a little girl who was waiting for something. And so I tossed aside the paint and brought out the inks, and it was going to take layers of ink to take something transparent and deepen it into something mysterious and fun. It has to be fun I thought, and to me knowing the way through the gate to the rainbow bridge where the other worlds lived on fluffy clouds; now that was fun.
“Why are your ceiling tile decals so popular?” someone recently asked me. “I don’t know,” I answered, “maybe they tap a memory that we are all connected to and we all just smile big in the swirly trippiness.”
Want a little of this “swirly trippiness” in your world? Keep an eye on my website for wall decals and posters of these “Pulse” series drawings.
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