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Allowing Discomfort


“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” -John A. Shedd

All creatures seek comfort. It can be argued that our basic survival instinct urges us to seek out those circumstances in which we feel most at ease. While this can be a source of contentment for a time, too much comfort very often leads to complacency. Discomfort drives us forward, pushing us to seek ever more innovative ways to adapt to our surroundings. Nothing is created within the bounds of solid comfort. An oyster creates a pearl only when irritated by invading grit. So too, we must allow the forces of discomfort to advance and seek to drive them back with our own creativity.

Kimberly Brooks recently mounted an exhibition titled Brazen. For this show, Brooks incorporated silver and gold leaf for the first time. Brazen is a meta-look at painting itself including works with paintings within paintings. Brooks formerly painted almost exclusively figures but has moved away from this toward more abstract work. This new way of working has allowed her to focus less on the technical aspects and rather to fall more fully into the paint itself. Brazen was created around the time of the recent presidential inauguration, a time of tectonic shift in the U.S. “I felt a little reckless and this word kept coming up in my mind,” Brooks says. The word was Brazen. This unique period of time allowed Brooks to try things she never has before. Brooks explored what it is to paint and the meaning of painting as she prepared for this exhibition. With this exhibition, Brooks satisfied a long-held interest in abstract work. Brooks also uses her work to make commentary about religion as in her works Angel Mother Goddess, based on an icon she once saw in the South of France and Gods and Mountains, which references both Old and New Testaments. In these new, more abstract works, Brooks does work with figures but does what she refers to as “disappearing them.”

Michelle Lai has been recently contemplating the question, what is my work? Lai is an interdisciplinary performance artist. She has been dancing and performing works for the last eight years involving poetry and the language of dance. More recently, Lai began incorporating live poetry into her work. Lai also dances with Body Weather Laboratory in Venice, California. Lai’s live poetry work began around her first trip to China. She embarked on a 90-day writing experiment, writing daily for the 30 days prior to her trip, the 30 days during her trip, and the 30 days following her trip. When she was finished, she took the writing to the dance studio and began extracting the poetic elements, incorporating it into performance using her body. For her live poetry, Lai uses a loop pedal in real time to record and loop her own voice. Her dances are largely improvised to suit the moment. Lai’s writing begins, “China is an indoor cat.” The work progresses from observing her roommate’s indoor cat, seemingly at home in the outdoor world she only observes, to Lai’s own experience going “home” to China, a place where she had never been. Lai’s work is not easily collected and, while her dance work is funded, her art is “supported,” says the artist. For Lai, the true meaning of her work is the practice itself.

A Few Words to Keep in your Pocket:

Discomfort is necessary in order to advance, allow it in and let it move you to action.

Additional interviews include P Elaine Sharpe.

Interviews are available on iTunes as podcasts, and for Android please click here. All weekly essay pieces in a shareable format are here. The full archive of interviews here.

Books to Read

What are you reading? Add your titles to our reading list here. Michelle Lai has recently been reading The Peregrine by J.A. Baker. User Nancy Doniger recently read The Emigrants by W.G. Sebald.

Opportunities / Open Calls

Elsewhere Studios in Paonia, Colorado is accepting submissions for a fully funded residency open to two artists. Residency lasts for two months during the summer of 2018. There is a $30 application fee, but residency is fully funded with a $500/month stipend plus $1000 materials. Deadline is November 15.



Weekly Edited Grant and Residency Deadlines – review the list here.






  1. Brainard,
    An interesting read… my fear is when i’m running out of stone to carve!
    Unless I’m purposely creating a specific collection of sculptures…ie: pointe ballet slippers, I’m approaching a new piece of carving stone with abstraction in mind!
    Looking at a rugged and misshapen stone with wonder of what the final sculpture will be!
    I am in a zone of myself and the stone for days, weeks and months…
    I’m drawn into a mode of experimentation, discovering how far I can push my creativity, finding a unique shape that speaks out from within itself, while respecting the stone’s qualities, such as it’s various colors, gradations of minerals in mind.
    Thank you for sharing…


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