what kind of artist are you.

artwork by Kate Holden
Are you thinking?
Then you are creating.
Are you breathing?
Then you are creating.
Are you waking even when your skin feels too heavy or grey to move on?
Then you are creating.
Are you filling pages with your handwriting?
Then you are a writer.
Are you painting without worry of where the lines will go?
Then you are an artist.
Are you sharing your work with others?
Then you are creating.
Are you exhaling images from your lungs?
Then you are an artist.

You don’t need to know where all this paint or ink or music is going. Just get it down. Just clutter the air with the noise of your art. Archive your mind. Share the etchings of your brainstem. Give away some words to encourage anothers’. This is all art.

almost as if nothing had happened

“nobody can say you’re not free.”   –ai weiwei

dear ai weiwei,

I traveled toward your photographs in search of the key, which must have fallen out of my pocket years ago, in order to unlock the gates guarding my body. This fortress of solitude is invisible and yet, echoes darkly and loudly against the ones in search of a way in. I spent one morning last week, trying to get to know my body again, using only my fingers. Do you know what it’s like to taste the culture of cloud dust. A swarm of stratocumulus rolled their low grey mist over me one day and I wondered how you might approach the magic of air soot. In silence, you tell me to pray. Hand me an image of you and Ginsberg at a bar somewhere in a village in New York City. Your beards matched, though his claimed grey (much like these clouds) and yours dedicated itself to black. I am having a difficult time committing to my body. You give away your nude in order to challenge the boundaries of governmental restrictions. I have given away my nude, but got locked out somehow. Can you offer me a way back in to my self.


where the poems hide.

You are no plagiarist of dusk./ Nothing in the sky equals itself.          —Kazim Ali

beneath bonecage, behind mother tongue.

“everyone keeps rubbing their exoskeletons into you and. you kiss openly on mouths borrowed on Friday evenings, but.”

swinging armpit hair and she called my smell prophylactic.

that exit off new jersey.

mornings and mournings.

di prima. bukowski. gottlieb. sexton. rumi. rumi. hafiz. cisneros. the forests frozen inside remix’d notebook of dissinger.

hunger strikes and binges.

purge of lightening and bald spots of hipbones.

the weep of marriage in me and broken beneath cracked summer heels.

and in the water.

and in this stolen garden in boerum hill.

mix tapes.

red dresses.

spun webs of spiders and fathers.

“how can you not notice this as a sign as please kiss me now.”

hallelujah (all versions)


christopher park.

“oh, just place that over there by the mold and wait and channel the frisk of queer nudity.”

in thickest dreadlock crafted before storm called sandy.

sparks of her fingers calming the shake of your lips.

drug busts and sober.

midnight snack of fingers and batteries.

thirst of drunk brain and polyamorous couple climbing their way in.


and ocean.

and music MAker.

and that man who smiled at the LOVE scribbled into notepad on a Sunday in cafe on Bowery.

yellow tablecloth.

banjo ukelele.

table setting of historically intricate women woven by 1970’s political protest.

mapplethorpe’s bullwhip.

that boy in my bed.

prescription saved in wallet from April (ignored and dim).


bookshelves and breath count


leaf walks and braided limbs in autumn under yellow branches.

acorns which hop.

mothers who rash and remember.

humans who hunger for thought.

the poetics of vandals

They are removing this. Someone somewhere decided that hands are convicts in need of a punishing. All that paint that got fired from cocked fingertips will be erased. Sometimes buildings are protected like bodies, but someone always gets in. Call it a rummage. Call it a bomb threat. Call it infiltration of societal disintegration. At some point, skin gets written on like tagged windows or carved benches. On arms, pronounce the nicknames of suspicious life. On thighs, there are syllables that should have been forgotten but in all these scribbles, stories allow room for the movement. So move.



it figures

At a figure drawing class, I sit amongst artists with sketch pads or pieces of handed out computer paper, staring at a man dressed in spandex and stillness. I try not to look down as I draw; this is my technique. But also, I am keeping track of the minimal times he blinks. I fear his eyes will go dry and freeze open. I worry as he begins to shake, holding an awkward pose picked out for him by the skinny artist/facilitator.

About an hour into these poses—some 5 minutes long, some 20—-I begin to take his clothes off. I do not realize I am doing this until I look down and notice that the nipples protruding out from beneath his polyurethane skin is surrounded by nude flesh on my paper. I write lines to offer contour to his chest and belly and then continue down.

Before I realize, his muscular thighs spread apart and a penis grows from the tip of my #2 pencil.

When the pose is over, I glance at the man beside me with a sketch far different from mine.

“I guess we see what is also inside us,” I say to him.

Later on, this male model turns into a female on my page. Or maybe he is still a male, but this time I draw his muscular shape surrounding a vagina. Perhaps I am out of my element. I work with words not images. But his body was speaking in many ways and all I did was exchange letters for stretched out lines and curves.

I didn’t need to draw what was in front me. The others were doing it well enough. What I needed to do was look beyond his poses. I’m not an artist; I’m an interpreter.

when the words forget to come, scrape body against some graffiti

Sometimes, NYC subways travel above ground and when this happens, the darkness of tunnels is replaced by stretched out buildings, rooftops and the carefully sprayed graffiti tags dying buildings from brick to illumination.

As I travel from Brooklyn to Manhattan to Long Island City, my hazel takes in one of my favorite sites: the protected art of graffiti masters called 5 Pointz. Colors climbing into their brightest hues. The aliases of brilliant spray painters. Rappers immortalized. Women wearing…their nude or flaunted curvature. Poetry. Lyrics. This is art in its finest moments because it is alive on these buildings.

Graffiti is controversial, but it is where Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring began. Find them now at MOMA or fancy gallery in Chelsea.

It spans continents and socio-economic classes, and graffiti’s history is just as exquisite as its imagery: born in prehistoric cave paintings. Some languages even grew inside the womb of graffiti. Through this art, we have knowledge of other cultures and traditions. It’s how we have documented war and memorials.

So, when I am trapped inside cylindrical transporter called subway train and I am searching for words to suck on because I just finished reading another book and I have no snacks left in my backpack, I look up for a moment and breathe in the fumes of this art.

This is when the words exhale.

sunday times

Keith Haring

Stand too close to a Keith Haring and wait for the swallow.Build a bridge with question marks and flaps of skin.Pray in Italian and see if it means more. Engage in a conversation about the representation of darkness on bodies. Eat a slice of cake made out of despair and nude bodies. French kiss Rodin statue too tall to reach and challenge its boundaries. Walk inside the worry of a wound. Search for the missing head of Cybele. Unfold kneebone. Climb on top of painted reflection, push out push out push out subliminal skeleton. Present table top with split ends and empty bowls. Say a prayer before bingeing on nothingness. Place various historical women’s vaginas on hand-embroidered place settings and decide which ones look most appetizing. Reimagine religion through tar and plastic bags. Call out muse against the magnified hole built into front door reimagined in a painting. Find out where meat comes from, then lick up the trail of blood left from the source. Coat body in chalk/ Stand on head/ Wait for the ache of brain swallow. Place art and sin in alphabetized columns. Organize filth. Request a receipt when purchasing animals, artifacts and love. Remove baby from cartoon-drawn woman’s pixelated womb. Dare the body to promote silence.

photo by Chiharu Shiota.