Art & Design Journal

Foiled Again

The Tree of Life
Pieces from the pen and ink on etching paper composition called “The Life Tree”, by Miguel Arboleda, 1992

It’s the morning of the 26th and I’ve been up all night, unable to sleep. After lying in the dark listening to the voices in my head I finally decided to just get up and battle the demons with the light of my desk lamp and the reach of the computer screen, where at least I can talk back. I was hoping to get through this holiday season with some measure of stillness in my heart, but I guess the holidays always shake loose some of the frayed ends.

Aside from the usual wrestling with relationships, one particular incident from the last three weeks kept surfacing: the exchange I had with someone who had been in charge of an art exhibition I did 12 years ago, but whom I hadn’t heard from since the exhibition. Suddenly, out of the blue, he contacted me three weeks ago, informing me of the final showing of my pieces that I had left at the hosting hall, a reception for all the artists, and the upcoming auction of my artwork. I was furious; though I had left the artwork there, I had never been informed about the necessity to remove them or they would become the property of the art house. Now they were going to be sold, for money, even though they had never been purchased from me or even approved for ownership.

I wrote to the guy in charge and told him that I would not allow my artwork to be sold. He sent back this (excerpt) note:

“Regarding the images called life-tree I have to inform you that they are
the property of the OAG. One of my request 11 years ago was to clean them
out of the OAG, you and also A. did not responded to that request, later
they have been technically disposed.

“Regarding collections, internationally their is no need to inform artist if
you have an in-house show, the OAG exhibition space is the property of the
OAG and we can present our collection whenever we like.

“Don’t waste time, be happy that we did not destroyed your work, and I hope
to see you at the auction on the 16th of March 2005 at the OAG.”

I would understand if I had been contacted about the possibility of clearing the artwork out, but since I had never received any notice from him I don’t see how, legally, he can claim that my artwork belongs to the art house. What makes me even more angry is that the whole art exhibition was not an officially sponsored event; it was just a friendly showing between the man in question and another friend. He had offered the space for free.

I don’t know. Maybe I’m a buffoon for letting myself get duped two times in one year, but I’m tired of feeling helpless while work that I did gets used for profit by others. Then again, since the work was hurriedly done in the first place and I wasn’t very happy with it, maybe if I did the entire composition again, but this time with more detail and care, I might come out of the whole disappointment in so-called “friends” with a feeling of accomplishment.

Would any artists are there have any legal advice on this?

So ironic… the art piece is about the destruction of the earth and about the loneliness of human beings in their commercialized world. Seems no one ever gets the point.

Art & Design Art of Living Musings


Wall of Clouds
Wall of clouds to the south, Shizuoka, Japan, 1995

It’s one of those momentous times in life when all the strings of the doily of life converge. Big decisions have to be made, whether I want to or not, and while I stand here in the clearing all the snow around looks fresh and untouched. Whichever way I go there will be new tracks. I love being the one to stamp into the new snow, but all the same it’s not a little scary. And not without its sorrow.

Since I was a boy beyond memory two main themes always reiterated themselves into the architecture of my thoughts and feelings: nature and art. The earliest light of my consciousness recurs with images of leaves and insects and the smell of soil. Most of my happiest memories occurred in places surrounded by trees or hills or living things. The sounds of wind and water infused the music in my mind, like a green concert hall, the orchestra still warming up. Whenever I wavered, when the fragility and uncertainty and cruelty of human interaction shook my connection to this ephemeral and ever-changing boat that I call myself I could always step outside and go for a walk. There was a reciprocative duality there that felt like one; the world and me. There was never any doubt in it.

Art has always done the same for me. Writing and books; painting and drawing; photography; singing, writing lyrics, playing guitar and violin, and listening to all the world’s musicians, from crickets to Peter Gabriel and Kiri Te Kanawa; movies and animation; cooking; gardening; pottery; architecture and interior design… Somehow all these activities defined the passage of time and effort for me.

Merely acting out the steps necessary for survival, without appreciation for the merit in every aspect of the things around you or of what you actually do, never seemed to quite fulfill the promise of waking each morning. People who tell me they get bored confound me… how can you get bored if you have imagination? Isn’t it the mind that defines the color of perception? And isn’t that just what art is, the painting in of the details? Art, for me, polishes the roughness in the old block. It is with imagination that you learn to see and by seeing you unfurl the wings within your daily grind.

I have the opportunity to once and for all combine the these two guides to my life. To not shunt onto another track out of self-doubt and fear. Writing, drawing, photography, wildlife, conservation, a lifestyle as close to nature as I can hope to make it. But I’m not sure how to go about doing it. Do I stay here in Japan? Try Australia or New Zealand? Go back to Europe? Or the States or Canada? Do I teach? Do I go back to university (perhaps to study biogeography or wildlife management or some such)?

The first step has already been taken. I finished writing a book two years ago, but it has yet to find a publisher. It was the first major accomplishment of the promises I made to myself when I was younger: to live according to the right vibrations.

A lot of this seems shrouded in clouds these days; I am not as sure of who I am as I was long ago, but I know what I miss most, and missing something that you love for too long requires the sacrifices and determination of a lover. And I want to be a lover of life.