Never Goodbye; Hello World!

What Are You Waiting For? Pamela GoodeI’ve always been a believer in signs and wonders. Sure the signs are written in cryptic scribbles and wonders are all-too-often mirage-like. I know I saw this yesterday . . . didn’t I? Or was that the day I had three desserts for lunch? Nevertheless I work to recognize them, roll them around in my consciousness, and act … always the hard part. But the universe tends to take care of our reluctances and procrastination as well, usually by giving us first multiple signs, then several open doors, and finally a whack over the head. And honestly, don’t we sometimes need it?

In the early spring of 2006, my mother died after an all-too-brief and wholly-unexpected illness. She left me some money, also wholly unexpected, and over the next couple of weeks, a small studio in the arts district of Charlotte became available. It was a mess, and therefore a blank slate, and of course as it follows, completely irresistible. I had never considered running an art gallery, but there it was, and I happened to know all too well that mosaic art was often overlooked and in dire need of exposure. Ciel Gallery was born of an intersection of fate, opportunity, and need. Taking that unanticipated step, a step that had never once wandered around in my what-to-do-with-this-life wallowings, changed my life. And it changed me.

I’ve always reveled in behind the scenes work, creating in the low digit hours after midnight, wordsmithing the minutiae of contracts, or divining the exact intersection of visual and mental in graphic design. I’m the worker horse, never the face. Opening a business, and a cutting edge business at that, demanded more of me than I ever considered giving, and skills I would have been quite happy never to develop. But I did it, and it wasn’t as scary, in the end, as all that.

In 2008 I opened a gallery called Ciel, and I grew as a person and artist by leaps and bounds. In 2011, Ciel grew to include five partners and a brilliant new space, bringing in an all-star cast of visiting artists for workshops, hosting critically acclaimed exhibitions such as the Emma Biggs-curated Pattern Now, and coordinating the 52-artist mosaic mural Unfurled with Lin Schorr. I don’t care what others think about Ciel’s run — it knocks my socks off.

In true Pam fashion, I gave a lot of thought to the next step, but when it came, again it was universe-orchestrated. As of March 2014, Ciel Gallery + Mosaic Studio will become Ciel Gallery, A Fine Art Collective, with seven Member Partners, thirteen Member Artists, and a handful of consigners from North and South Carolina. Our new partner base is hugely talented in a variety of media, excited, generous, brimming with ideas, YOUNG and energetic.

Ciel Gallery Charlotte

Lease Signing Ciel #1; Guts and Glory Ciel #2; Lease Signing Ciel #3

I am thrilled and excited for a new venture. Of course it’s been bittersweet, and not without lingering moments of the unsettledness that bleeds from giving up your identity and wondering if there is a “next.” I know Ciel will thrive. I know the mosaic community now has ample opportunities for exhibition, and that I have had a part in that expansion. I know the Charlotte community and visitors will revel in greater access to local artists, and the art-hungry will thrill to offerings from new teachers. We’ll still feature mosaics of course, and we’ll still bring in visiting artists, but mosaic will no longer be isolated from other artforms. A good thing.

I worry about losing touch with the artists who’ve become close friends over the years, and who have, in so many ways, created Ciel right along with me. I feel angst about deserting a community that has made me who I am today, but at the same time, I’ve watched you all become superstars, and I’m excited to have new conversations about design and technique, or Gaudi and zellige instead of pixels and tracking numbers. And speaking of tracking numbers . . . NO MORE TRACKING NUMBERS! No more Box Room! No more trips to Office Depot for 50 more rolls of packing tape!

Instead of packing boxes and the daily details of gallery-running, I’m giddy at the idea of more art and more writing in my life. I’m thrilled with the growth of Mosaic Art Retreats and upcoming mosaic travel to Barcelona, Morocco, Costa Rica, France, Italy, and Greece. And over the moon with the beauty of Unfurled, my first and hopefully only-the-beginning collaborative public art project with Lin Schorr and 52 fabulous participating artists.

I’ll still be at the gallery weekly, still educating art lovers about the fabulous art of mosaics, still planning and hanging exhibitions and dreaming up new ways to infuse the universe with art. I’ll also be actually making art, spending time with my dad, cooking a bit, and maybe even jumping in the car for an impromptu visit to Asheville (or Creemore or Michigan or Sedona) with my guy.

So you’ll still know where to find me. What neither of us knows is exactly who I’ll be next time, because the universe may have a few more unexpected paths lying in wait. And I will walk them. With bells on.

Endless love to all who have supported Ciel (and me) through all our incarnations. Please stay with us for the rest of the ride. Paths diverge and reconnect. Never goodbye.

She’s Not Here

Photo and Sculpture by Micheal Pardue

On the beach and far from phones and computers, my thoughts turn like homing pigeons to laundry lists of tasks both real and imagined, and I wonder peevishly how long it will be so. How long before the wind shakes me silly and the sun evaporates every drop of logic until my cranium is hollow, bone dry and thirsty for folly and impulse?

The ocean is tricolor today: aqua near the sand, then teal, with a thin navy stripe that hugs the horizon. How do I move from the frothy edges to the navy depths? Why am I stuck in minutiae?

I’m willing to wait, but I’m anxious. Maybe eager is the better word, but anxiety lurks. I love the deep. I live for the deep as much as life allows, and in this instant when life is handing me an unexpected gift of time and sand and sea, I struggle to be here now.

If I tilt my head just so, I feel the heat of the sun on my left cheek and a sea-cooled breeze against my right, and it charms me to learn that two divergent climates can co-exist on my one small head. I think two lives are spent here as well.

In truth, the voice that pulls at me is not minutiae, and therein lies the rub.

I could stretch myself flat in the sun by the sea quite joyously for every day of the years I have left, until my brain is so bereft of new stimuli that I begin to grow worlds in its place, and I sometimes wonder if that is precisely the life I was made for. Egos crushed like periwinkle shells into smears of yellow or purple against the sand, hair blown wild into a wooly nest for puffins, with skin the color of night, the texture of winds, quite pockmarked with stars and story.

Instead, the sun teases the too-well-known out of us for only moments at a time, until some trivial matter demands our attention and we leap, almost grateful for permission to return to the safety of the familiar, that easy cloak (tired, worn) that fits so effortlessly even though we meant to trade up so many resolutions ago.

The truth is that I’m experiencing a major life-shift, and I don’t yet understand how to walk it. Given the hours to stare into nothingness, understanding will come, but the days that have filled and will fill out this year have not been slated for me; my diligent attention is called for elsewhere and I am honored to give it. One day there will be time and presence to spare, and I will surely miss today. And so for now, I’ll try to make peace with not letting go.

What Are You Waiting For Blog

Know Thy Selves

Our Bodies, Our SelvesRemember when it was all the rage to sit on the floor of the campus gym sans pants, whip out your compact, and examine your vagina? No weewees, no woohoos, no girliebits; we were hot to call a vagina a vagina, and we were determined to get up close and personal enough to be on a first name basis. Our Bodies, Our Selves was the handbook, although I seem to remember the 70’s bearing a rather unbalanced focus on the Bodies half of the equation. Frankly, it was a whole lot easier to find a group of women ready to shed their clothes for Enlightenment than to find one who actually carried (or owned) an actual compact. Makeup was for sissy girls.

Women 1970's via ourbodiesourselves.orgWe were a Gung Ho sort, and even if we read our Sartre naked in the bathtub with a guy we’d met at the falafel house only an hour earlier, we were hungry to know it all, do it all, feel it all, read it all, live it all, conquer it all, save the world, free women from centuries of silence, get it out there, and live it real. We were ready and primed to Make Life Our Bitch. We all looked like Ali McGraw, and we were determined to be taken as seriously as Gloria Steinem. We brought womanhood, for a time, from darkness into light, and it all started with a fierce determination to know ourselves, vaginas and all.

When did we lose touch?

A year ago today I sat in my kitchen with a close friend that I see only twice a year. She was waiting for test results from a biopsy, which would be positive. I had cancer too but didn’t know it — didn’t suspect — and wouldn’t until much later that spring. When did we move from living our lives armed with mirrors and books and knowledge and experimentation to living our lives with long and mostly irrelevant To Do lists, blindfolded against our innermost secrets? When did answers become written in water, and taking care of Our Selves become a second fiddle melody? When did we move from Knowing to Not Knowing, because Knowing has become so damn hard?

Contrary to popular belief, Our Bodies Our Selves was not about sexual liberation, even though most of us seemed to read it that way. In fact, it was about women learning to care for their own health. Forty-ish years later, we pretty much take care of others instead.

We march; we speak out; we advocate for free mammograms; we rally; we sit with each other and shave our heads in sisterhood; we refuse to be talked down to; we have each other’s backs. But we still never quite know what’s inside us at any given moment — a sobering reminder to seize the day.

Cousin Cousine 1975In many ways, 18 was bliss, wasn’t it? Knowing our bodies was largely a pursuit of pleasure: learning to kiss, trying exotic new tastes from multicultural gems near college campuses, teaching our muscles to scale mountains on weekends with adventurous new friends, getting silly with markers or grimacing under tattoo needles. At 56, knowing my body means something else entirely, and mostly what it means is discovering how much of what I’ve learned to love is now on the list of things that I’m forced to un-love (exotic tastes and climbing mountains high on the list). Making peace with the woohoo was a hell of a lot easier than making peace with organs that mutate in silence, and oh, how much more fun!

And so these later days reprise that urge to know, deep down; to feel, deep down; to live, deep down. If there is no magic mirror to show me what monsters lurk inside or to predict which cures will simply kill me another way on another day, I need to be in tune enough with my spirit to hear the longings of the body I yearn to heal: feed me; love me; take me out dancing; sing me a song; let me spend the afternoon painting my body with daisies and then giggle loud and long enough to wake the neighbors; or linger in a field of wildflowers way past time for dinner. Feed me a daily moment of bliss. Or three.

P.S. Dedicated to Carol, Susan, the MoHos, Jeanne Beanie, Carol H, the Duke Forestry School, my Love, my family

10 Things I Learned Antiquing in Virginia

SistersSisters spontaneously dress alike, no matter how many years intervene.

Champage Cage ChairsProsecco goes with everything.

Horse in the WoodsRun while you can.

Diamond Painted FloorDesign your own path, and make it sing.

Mirrors and Old BarnReflect your true self.

Stress-FreeWhen you hear yourself mention back pain, nausea, headaches and a cramped jaw all in the same sentence, and your sister hands you a doggie Xanax, take it.

Hugs are GoodHug more.

Paint PatinaThe patina of age is a beautiful thing.

Watch Your HeadDon’t stress.

Virginia Highway 29And always take the road less traveled.

A Word for the Journey

Star Provisions AtlantaBlasphemy, to be sure, but Thanksgiving has never been my favorite holiday. Of course the food rocks — nothing twitters my tastebuds like turkey and cranberries, and I can’t wait to get a nibble of my sister’s 2012 dessert: Sugar Cream Pie (thank you Indiana Quakers!). Pretty leaves crunch and crackle, the crisp air is set to a tolerable chill, apples abound and the smell of mulled cider is blissful. Group cooking (if you’re lucky), family (if you’re lucky/unlucky), hugs, smiles both genuine and forced, too much TV and the lure of deep sofas and downy throws round out the day. And then there’s the thanks-giving, which is lovely and meaningful, though for me more of a personal exercise than a group-share. I never show my heart in group-share. Sometimes I don’t even show my heart to myself.

A friend asked me yesterday if I’m living the life I want to live. Now that’s some hefty food for thought.

2012 has been a year of surprises for me — some good, some not. Today I’m thankful to be alive, to be loved, to have options, to have the ability to change.

I don’t consider myself a risk-taker. Others do, but they’re wrong. I’ve been able to do some Big Things with my life because I’ve thought and researched and dreamed and imagined and researched and thought and tested until I’ve found ways to make Big Leaps comfortable for a Small Step girl. In other words, I’ve discovered, or created, the exact formula that allows me to grow in a certain instance. Did traveling overseas alone for the first time at 41 free me from fear? No. Did opening a gallery alone at 53 free me? No. There are still oodles of things I can’t or won’t do, but the difference is that now I understand that there’s a way to be comfortable with the new and to thrive — I just have to find it. It’s like having children; you learn as you go.

And so as I think of this year of dancing with cancer, my family, my art, the gallery, the future and my own unknowing, I’m wondering: am I living the life I want to live? Am I growing into me?

For the most part, yes, absolutely. But there are always passions on hold, dreams that slip up to me in the darkness and tug on my nightshirt: “Is it my turn yet?” I think I’m getting a little old to keep saying, “Shhhhhh, not quite yet.”

And so my word for the rest of this journey was gifted by the photograph above, snapped eighteen months ago in Atlanta at Star Provisions. It’s time to stop maintaining and get back to growing. It’s time to get uncomfortable with comfort and snuggle up to surprise. It’s time to get dreaming again and researching that special alchemy that handholds reluctance into reality. It’s time to crawl into my heart and ramble around, and then to crawl back out and trample the shell, burst at the seams, strain towards the light. Time to Grow. And Grow some more.

Back to Center

Mossy Rock

I’ve always been pretty much of a rock — at least on the outside. This is perhaps more calculated than natural, since holding steady comes more easily when you don’t give in to drama. I’ve rarely been a shrieker, if you don’t count the child who likes to jump out of closets, or a flinger, if you overlook that carton of Chinese food that sailed across the kitchen. And after all, that was only once. I used to be a door slammer, but someone-I-can’t-quite-remember guilted that out of me. So yeah, pretty much of a rock.

Lately I feel less rockish and more like, oh . . . seaweed maybe. Stringy, riding whatever wave heads this way, unable to keep all of my tendrils pointed in the same direction, but still afloat, still green, still vital. It’s a nice image I think, and serves me well in uncharted waters, but lately I feel the need for a little more control. For feet, if you will. Feet to plant, to walk, to run. Feet that allow me to choose a path.

This isn’t altogether surprising, of course.

It’s a funny thing about finding your feet, your heart, your center. I sometimes feel like I am least myself when I’m in my “element” (read home/job/loves/routines/chosenactivities). I tend to fall into patterns of behavior that work in Situation A or Dilemma B. Don’t we all? I find that I most closely resemble myself, my center, when I am far from home in novel situations with strangers and unfamiliar sights and sounds. I am most myself when I have to look, to see, to hear, to discern, to think in new ways about new concepts, to grow.

Essentially, I have a yearning to get lost. Scrape some moss off. Let some sun in. Let that wild hair reign a bit.