July 26, 2012
Words & Art by Ellen Jong
I knew we’d crossed the river when the cartoon tools painted on the facade of the building greeting me waved their familiar welcome gaze. It was a Sunday tradition. Our first stop was to find parking and as soon as the car doors swung open my legs scurried me to the same place we went to every Sunday – a tiny dim sum spot in the alley in Chinatown. It was early 80’s and I was as tall as the orange vinyl covered stools. I climbed them to spin and eat my favorite shrimp cigars. After brunch we made the usual visits – the bookstore where my dad bought painting supplies for himself and where my sisters and I were left to run wild in its aisles. Down Mott St. I could smell the pancake balls from the woman in the box. I waited in line for my own bag. Next, down to the arcade which I was too scared to ever go into because of the huge clucking chicken that then, stood on the sidewalk at the entrance of the place; it was as big as me and laid plastic eggs stuffed w toys. The streets of Chinatown were a big playground, a maze of wonderment and of home. The streets, now 30 years old to me, are in me – the arcade is gone, the box has no scent of batter, the bookstore is lost in the mix but the alley… I am in the alley. I am the alley.
On view at The Little Chinatown Gallery, 46-48 Bowery
The alley runs between Bowery and Elizabeth St., below Canal St.
For one week only – July 25 – Aug 1, 2012
June 20, 2012
A tiger once told me: lose your ego, protect your body, and set your heart free.
June 6, 2012
So last nite I am standing at Allegra LaViola Gallery, lookinn at Ellen Jong’s photographs from her first solo show, The Invisible Line, and I am surrounded everywhere by the most intimate sort of images of her husband, who I know well enough to blush at first sight, second, third, fourth. I’m real happy for Miss Jong, cause she won the Academy Award, yup, you know, when she opened her Christmas gift she smiled to herself and said, Score!
Now I’ve seen these photographs for a minute or two, Miss Jong having first published them in a book called, Getting to Know My Husband’s Cock. And I was shocked, I tell you, shocked. My lil vanilla self scandalized, but you know that’s parta the giggle right. But last nite at the gallery, I had a revelation. Might be the juice cleanse doinn things to me. But I could see something in these images I neva saw before. This is a goood man. This is the kinda man I’d like in my land. The kinda man to let me do my thing and back me up to Kingdom Come.
April 10, 2012
On June 6, 2012, Allegra La Viola will open The Invisible Line, the first New York City solo show by Ellen Jong. The exhibition, which is curated by mr. and mrs. Olu, will feature photographs from Jong’s self-published monograph, Getting to Know My Husband’s Cock. It features 25 framed works, a mixed media installation, and will be accompanied by a Happening, which invites participation from one and all to cross their own Invisible Line.
The Invisible Line is the demarcation between fear and fearlessness. It is that thing that holds us back, or thrusts us forth into the great, wild, unknown space where possibility that makes every life so perfectly unique. To cross or not to cross, that is the question. But who could be an artist if they allowed fear to dictate their creative process?
As Jong observes, “There is an invisible line that lies between my body and my mind. It withholds my deepest beliefs, fears, curiosities and desires. It is there to protect me. It is there to tell others where I stand, what is mine and why I am. In falling in love, I lost sight of my invisible line and I let it go. Love breaks down walls and sets you free.”
For Jong, the creation of her monograph echoes the process of falling in love. She had to face her deepest fears and release them into the universe. The result was not just the success of having her work well received, it was the commitment every artist must make to themselves—to persevere by every means….
March 26, 2012
Eddie Brannan introduced me to Ellen Jong back in 2005. He told me she had a book she wanted to publish and would I be interested? Ohmagosh. Yeaa! With that introduction a beautiful friendship began, and I must say, rare is the person with whom I have collaborated that I can say holds such a shining place in my heart.
I have long been a champion of Miss Jong, and she of me. As we drew closer, I could see so many parallels between our lives. We have taken different paths, but we are going in the same direction. And once again our paths align, as she brings The Invisible Line to life this June at Allegra La Viola Gallery in New York.
As we talked, The Invisible Line began to make itself felt. It is the same line I have been crossing, though I call it the fire I walk through. The premise is elegant and essential to life. It is that we must cross the line cast by fear in order to grow, to live, to thrive. Life need not be mere survival. Life can be more than you ever dreamed, because every moment we are here, we create possibility.
I know this to be true, having lived so many lives by this time it is hard to imagine that still, I am young. I know this to be true because things I never imagined possible have become. The people I have known, have connected with, the unexpected being the constant, the dream becoming reality. This could only happen by facing fear with a big golden smile upon my face. And I now know facing fear is to take it on wherever the invisible line appears.
A common fear among artists is the fear of creation. I have been thinking of this lately, about how so many people never allow themselves to express the divine energy that is their birthright. The reasons (excuses) for this are numerous, but they hold no weight. They are chimeras, illusions, shadows of the fake.
One common fear is money. Who has it? Where will it come from? How to finance? How how ask? How to manifest our purpose with or without it?
Amazing that a piece of paper could hold such sway, but we will empower it to disempower us, unless we learn a better way. Kickstarter is one such way. It shows how technology can be used for the greater good. It provides the platform upon which we can introduce our dreams to the world. And here we can ask, without the residue of shame. Because why should there be shame in creating community among those who love and support creative energy?
I believe one must always put their money where their mouth is. I have poured money into people into whom I believe, never asking in return for anything, because that would be cheap. I am hypersensitized to cheapness and greed. I have seen it in my own character and it was the first vice I sought to erase. And so I began, supporting artists. Because this is America, a capitalist society. I believe we vote with our money, and where we put it can help other people thrive. And there is nothing greater than to be among the flourishing, to feel the energy that comes from being a part of something bigger than yourself, of supporting the provocative, the beautiful, the compelling, all that which is original thought.
Those who say nothing is original are those who have quit their own lives. Everything is original. Every moment we are on this earth is unlike any other, and in these moments, we create ourselves anew. And in order to do this, we must cross The Invisible Line.
March 4, 2012
For two days, hot tears have fallen from my eyes. It is like this, letting go, freeing myself of the demons that have haunted my soul. Tears fall in a baptism of sorts, holy water from the Holy Spirit, cleansing me of the dark forces that have stolen my life, of living death without being dead. Tears fall to set me free, to force me to let go of the lies I believe, of letting me be with what is most ugly in myself and in others. Tears fall to remind me that I am human, fallible, flawed, but most of all—full of hope, of infinite possibility, of knowing that it is only the truth that shall set me free.
In the past two days the most amazing thing has happened. I discovered what the word “friend” truly means. I always thought myself a good friend, only to find out that many of the people I had taken as friends were anything but. Wolves in sheep’s clothing for so long, they had taken themselves for sheep, but the trail of blood suggests otherwise.
But don’t get me wrong. Wolves have their rightful place. Nature designed them to thin the herd. They belong amongst themselves, in a pack. They hold together and feast upon others, and that is what gives them life. But me, I am a sheep. I eat things green and have fluffy hair. I prefer to be docile, I prefer to be calm. I know that when I am not, it is only because I am in the presence of a wolf. I am unconsciously highly alarmed.
But back to the sheep, back to where I belong. This is a metaphor, so I don’t want to string it along. I do not mean to suggest that I am a sheep in the sense of a follower, though I do take God, the Tao, and Nature as my guiding force. I trust in energies larger than me because I am an animal and I am ruled by biology, chemistry, physics, and beyond that—the mysterious.
Spirituality is something I have begun to discover, something I have begun to investigate, on my own and with people who are receptive to greatness. To be receptive to greatness means to be humble for it is only in the state of humility that we can grow. To think we have all the answers, to think that as we are is all that there is, is to be a member of the living dead. For there is no life where there is no growth, there is only self importance blocking out all hope. And having, once upon a time, been filled with this, for having been a sheep in wolves’ clothing, I know for myself that this is not living as it is meant to be, but quitting life long before you die.
Ahh, but none of that. Not today. The tears are gone and I am okay. Not okay meaning healed , not okay meaning that the pain is gone, but okay as in, I accept everything as it is, for what it is. I accept that I did not listen to the words that were howled with the anger of a thousand wolves. The Walls Stay. Sheep Be Gone.
I accept what could never be. I accept that I deluded myself into dreaming of love because I believed that no one would choose to suffer at their own hand. But I was wrong. And for that I pay. I failed myself as only I could fail. I lead myself to believe lies rather than walking away. But this has served its purpose, a greater one than I could ever imagine for it has only been a matter of three months, but everything has changed. I am not the person I was before, and I see this in the air I breathe.
This morning I rediscovered something about who I am. I am a collaborator, I believe in connection. My girl, Miss Jong, she has her first solo New York City exhibition coming this June. And we met the other day to discuss the project. And while I first met her under one context, that is as an author in my imprint, my imprint is gone but we are still here, both of us growing, expanding, reaching beyond who we once were.
In speaking with Miss Jong I was reminded of who I am, for it is she that said the words I quote more often than not. Two years ago, she said to me, “Your gift is articulating other people’s ideas.” I love that. I love her precision with words, her ability to say exactly who I am and for me to embrace it to the fullest. Because she has reminded me of what makes me human—of our need to connect intimately, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually.
What we need—as animals—is to be part of a loving community. What we need—as artists—is to build a community based on our truths. Miss Jong has an exhibition and I have this blog. What I write, the images I publish, the quotes I discover, the artists I revere—this is my interpretation of myself and I speak for no one else. No longer am I fraught with having a legacy, of leaving a mark after death—because death is no longer a fear. Life, life is what is scary. And this is what it takes to face down my fears: speaking my truth, finding my voice and using it. To sing, to scream, to giggle, to hum, to moan, to growl, to laugh, to sob.
Emotion is the core to all human connection. What makes us go beyond our boundaries is trusting ourselves in order grow and expand and move towards other people. I know this is true for me, and I take some of my more deeply ingrained psychological truths as universal.
But I also accept that though I am right for me, I am not you. You know your truth. Let go and find the place where you can go deeper into yourself. What is beautiful is that we all work in complementary mediums. My skill with words serves your ideas. Your skill with ideas serves my words. This is what I love most about collaboration. Discovering myself in the space between us.