My Website Is Live!!!

It is finished! It is done! (Highly sacrilegious, I know, but I’m feeling a little like triumphant Jesus right now).

The official Arts website I’ve been designing for over two months is finally ready! I can’t wait for you all to see it, share it, and love it. I’m still blogging, but this is the site where I’ll be adding most of my new content from now on.

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Check it out: www.cSArtsHaven.com

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Rejection Letter #1

It’s been almost two months since I got my first R.L. from one of the Arts applications I submitted. Admittedly, I’ve been stalling about updating everyone with the results. More interesting, though? My video diary belting out a Barbra Streisand classic and tracking what I’ve been up to since I got the e-mail. Why is Babs being dragged into this? Because there’s nothing like a little drunken (yes, there was alcohol involved in the making of this video) ode to Nikki Arnstein to make me forget how sucky Rejection Letters can be! #PushOnThroughTheStruggle ~ cS, Constance SHERESE

August 20, 2014
Dear Applicant,
Thank you for your interest in the Critic-in-Residence Program. We received a number of outstanding applications and were only able to choose three finalists for this year’s inaugural program. The review committee has considered your request and regrets that we cannot invite you to participate at this time. 
We appreciate the effort you put into submitting your application and we highly encourage you to remain in touch with our organizations in the coming year. 
Sincerely,
Your Latest Motivation

Coming Through My Headphones: @Joyful_Sings!

I’m counting down to the 4th of July tomorrow … make that in less than an hour. I’m looking forward to some All-American barbecue, fireworks, quality time spent with family and friends,  & a celebration of our freedoms. But I’m also counting down to the iTunes release of @Joyful_Sings first single, “Deepest Fear”!

@Joyful_Sings aka Joy Conaway is one of those independent artists I really like because she has focus and direction in a way that most haven’t quite figured out yet. Joy knows her vocal strengths and she totally plays into them. She’s released about 12 covers and one original song on her Sound Cloud profile and my favorites all have the same tendencies even though they’re across different genres.

Joy’s voice has an ethereal, whispered quality to it that all of her fans love. Add that she’s brilliant at executing the ever challenging Self-Harmony and it’s hard not to enJOY as she asks of all her listeners. But don’t let her breathy signature sound fool you. Her range and power vocals are equally present as displayed in her penchant for covering Hayley Williams’ tracks. Those are some of my favorites, actually.

So you know I’m dying for more of her original content to see how she weaves in her own unique style. She’s proven that she has roots in such greats as Nina Simone (my imaginary auntie), Anita Baker, and Michael Jackson too, so what’s next?

Like any growing artist there is always room for improvement: Her self-harmonies are so amazing, I’m almost underwhelmed by her attempts at duets with other actual people – is that really a flaw though? And her enunciation in her original songs isn’t quite clear enough to follow the lyrics, but even that comes across as a typical production issue for someone trying to fund her own breakout.

cS Favorites:

There’s her original song “Finally”

Her cover of ZEDD & Hayley Williams “Stay the Night”

Beyoncés “XO” – Her best duet, I think.

Katy Perry Mashup – Flawless transitions!

A Thousand Years – There’s that heavenly vocal quality again!

The Only Exception – More Hayley …

Plain Gold Ring – I told you there was Nina! Daayyyuum, she did Auntie proud didn’t she?

and these live performance gems that really can’t be described …

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5SN-0n0-OuE

In a world where support for Indie artists is hard to come by, I’m jumping on the Team Joy bandwagon with both hands in the hair. I’ve only got one question: Is it midnight yet???? ~ cS, Constance SHERESE

 

Coming Through My Headphones: K. Flay

I’m back from my belated honeymoon and cranking out all the inspiration I got while in Greece. But I’m also getting back to my musical posts because there’s always something interesting pumping through my headphones. This week’s no different. I’m currently listening to music from new artist K. Flay (aka The Artist Formerly Known as Kristine Flaherty).

Listening to K. Flay’s album “Life As A Dog” my first thoughts were : Oh hell, the Lana Del Ray gravy train has officially rolled in. We all know the formula: Sultry, sex-pot voice. Lyrics clearly designed to piss off puritan mothers everywhere. The all American good-girl-gone-bad, chain-smoking image. And there’s no picture on the album cover, but I’m sure she’s got a doe-eyed baby face to contrast with her jaded tough-girl sound.

The Album, 'Life As A Dog', Comes Out Tomorrow June 24th

The Album, ‘Life As A Dog’, Comes Out Tomorrow June 24th

It’s a great formula, as they go. Don’t get it twisted, I love me some Lana and her raspy 60’s pop vocals – if not her necrophile tendencies. I’m a tried and true goody goody, so the bad girl sex-pot lyrics don’t exactly hit home for me, but it’s refreshing to see a young woman daring to question the status quo for what’s acceptable behavior. And K. Flay pulls it off as well as any other with songs like Everyone I Know, Wishing It Was You, Bad Things, Turn It Around, & the summer anthem Thicker Than Dust.

But let’s not lie to ourselves here – this is clearly part of a formula and nothing more. Right? Well, not exactly. I was pleasantly surprised to find a few key differences between K and her contemporaries. For one she prefers a little chronic with her flow instead of the typical menthol flavored ciggy. And speaking of flow – girlfriend’s got it! Not just the Eminem fast talking stream-of-consciousness flow that others have adopted either. Yeah, she channels Em’ well, but then she flips it and goes deeper a la Snoop Dogg, Dre, & an old school West Coast sound that I have a hard time brushing off as contrived.

Yes, she’s a Stanford graduate from suburban Illinois – and that isn’t exactly ‘Straight Outta Compton’ – but she isn’t claiming to be, so it’s all good. And with the addition of her own unique sound in the form of punk influences, 80’s video game background music, and a sarcastic, slightly self-deprecating social commentary reminiscent of Tina Fey – I’m not so sure this album is a formula after all. If it is, I’m falling for it hook, line, and sinker. Can we be ‘thicker than dust’ BFF’s?

K. Flay has a thing for saying she’s bad. Maybe. Maybe not. But if she’s good at being bad. I’m better at goin’ hard for the party. Oh, and did I mention this chick ain’t no baby-faced innocent after all. Check out the pictures and song breakdown below. I think this could work!

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Everyone I Know – It has that sarcastic, light-hearted melody and dark lyrics. The dark parts are maybe a little too dark? I believe her as Tina Fey playing a character, but otherwise I don’t know.

Make Me Fade – Chronic? Snoop? Roll down the windows and dip bounce to the down beat. Okay, I’m a believer!

Can’t Sleep – Sound all her own. Current. Still borrowed from the 80’s. Belongs in a vintage video game.

Wishing It Was You – “Sucking on a bottle of Jim Beam wishing it was you.”

Yeah, she said it. Did you hear it? Take a minute to soak in the smutty innuendo. Now share it with a friend. Electronic hip-hop sound.

Fever – First 40 seconds: Who am I listening to? Tegan & Sara? Next 40: Or is it Eminem? Back & forth in intervals. Then hallucinogenic drop beat to give meaning to the title. I’m feeling feverish alright.

Bad Things – Pure Slim Shady, cleaning out the skeletons in my closet, but for some reason I wanna dance.

I’m Good – I need a blunt.

Turn It Around – “Just because you sin, well that don’t make you a sinner.”

“What I gotta figure, if it hurts is it worth it? Know that I know better. Tomorrow I could turn it around.”

I love how she alternates between all-out rebellion and level-headed repentance. Isn’t that what we all go through at some point?

Thicker Than Dust – Requisite summer anthem. Alcohol, chanting, powerful, on top of the world.

“Me and my friends … thicker than dust. I need to keep my mind, my mind movin’ on up because it’s always going down, always going down … Nobody around got a husband. Nobody around got a wife to call … Waking up to go to sleep again … Naked girls, diamond rings … money’s over-rated, sex ain’t hard to find, we’re not in-love, since when is that a crime?”

Time For You – “You got drunk and said you love me, but I wouldn’t come inside. I’ve got options, trust me. Yeah I know other guys … ”

She starts off strong, but doesn’t stay that way for long. Soon enough there’s talk of commitment and I wanna tell her “Oh honey, this is not going to end well. What happened to ‘nobody around got a husband?'” It’s bitter and depressing, but I love the vulnerability.

Get It Right – “Want you to know that I wanna be better, but it feels like it’s gonna take forever.”

K. Flay gets better with each track, and I don’t think it’s gonna take forever for her to get noticed. That’s it. Go cop the album tomorrow, folks! ~ cS, Constance SHERESE

Coming Through My Headphones: Pandora Premieres David Gray!

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I’m a music lover. Actually, make that a music stalker. A certified, constantly-updating-the-soundtrack-to-my-life, digging-through-old-crates-for-vintage-vinyls, bury-me-with-my-boom-box-headphones music stalker of clinical proportions. And with the rise of internet music sharing it’s become that much easier for me to feed my psychosis.

So, it goes without saying that I am also a Pandora lover. I’ve tried other services like iHeart, Slacker, and Spotify but they never seem to measure up. Maybe it’s that Pandora remains committed to it’s roots in the Music Genome Project as a way to create a unique listening experience for each user. With time, I really have come to feel as if my Pandora experience has evolved along with me. Now that Google Play Music, Amazon Cloud Player, and iTunes Match are revolutionizing music storage and accessibility in their own right, Pandora has once again had to redefine itself in order to keep up.

Yes, those are almost forty stations you see listed on my page!

Don’t worry. As usual, they’ve transitioned with ease and kept the best of what loyal listeners love. Just when I was beginning to think I’d created and fine tuned as many “stations” as I could ever possibly want or need, I started receiving emails from Pandora for something new: the ability to listen to select albums – tailored to my existing listening preferences – a week before their official release date! I had already been working on a way to share my eclectic music tastes with all of you – through a recurring “Coming Through My Headphones” series on the blog – when I received this as my motivation to stop “tweaking” the idea and get it out there!

So, here’s my review for one of the albums I’ve been listening to on Pandora Premieres over the past few weeks. I’ve actually heard great music from several artists: Rebelution, Cisco Adler, O.A.R., Danny Boone, David Gray, The Antlers, Nightmare on Wax, The Downtown Fiction, & Swollen Members. But if I’m going to do justice to each of their unique sounds, it’s better that I only review one or two of them at a time, so first up is David Gray. But keep an eye out for reviews on the others coming soon!

David Gray – Mutineers – Available June 17th

The obvious comparisons would place David Gray among the likes of Damien Rice, Glen Hansard, and Dave Matthews – all of whom are wonderful artists to be compared to – but I think Gray distinguishes himself on this album as a more diverse and expansive musician than just his folk-rock roots. How?

Well for starters, there’s a reason he chose Mutineers as the title track. Are those echoes of Robert Plant I hear??? I know. That’s a borderline sacrilegious statement. No one compares to the voice of Robert Plant. But listen closely and you’ve gotta admit the undertones are there. And what better way to set the tone for a connection between his British Folk roots and a broader sound that includes Rock, Hip Hop, Blues, and Gospel? Minus the Hip Hop influences, Led Zeppelin are one of the definitive bands known for blending multiple sounds seamlessly.

Mutineers starts off light, airy, innocent, and almost hopeful with the piano and keyboard intro.  Then around the 3:30 mark he kicks it up a notch with a manic drum beat. The drums have been there all along, but more controlled and measured. Now, they let loose in similar fashion to a Jimmy Page guitar solo that signals the oncoming ravenous-sex-god-refrain we’ve all been waiting for, and after an endless 25 second wait there it is… Do you hear it? In his throaty “Oooh, kick off your shoes, baby… Ohhh!” Yeah, I’m a groupie. And I’d kill to see this performed live. I can just imagine when the harmonica comes in a few moments later – the stomping feet, clapping hands, and joyful bandying.

It’s clearly no Stairway To Heaven, but that’s why it’s perfect. Gray isn’t going for a Zeppelin cover. With Mutineers, he’s going for classic David Gray taken to a new height – and after 11 studio albums he’s definitely procured a fine vintage all his own. If one song also happens to draw up memories of a certain legendary rock band/ lead singer … well, all I have to say is: “Does anybody remember laughter? … baby, Oooohhh! … just give it to me give it to me give it to me …. sugar, sugar …”

In contrast, Back In The World is my morning cup o’ joe. I don’t know about being back in the world again, but I definitely feel like I could take on the world with this song. And what’s with that beat-box upkick at the 2:30 mark? Suddenly, I wanna bust a few old school rhymes over this track.

“I’m naked like a tree, it’s the only way to be

when I’m searchin’ for me, for Nelson Mandela Free

Starving for FRESH, DOPE

BEAUTY…

Back in this world that can’t see

Void of sight for the likes of WE

Me and my boy D. Gray

askin’ y’all whose to say?

whose to say how it goes

what do they really know?

Only way to be, naked like a tree yes, yes y’all

dancin’ in the leaves, Coltrane blurrin’ with crazy

Genius, Madness, Love

Love put a song in his heart y’all

Yeah some days it’s misery

but that’s the mystery

the creativity.

Every. day. Uh.”

Where are Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick when you need ’em? And what’s with that gospel choir finale? Okay, I’m done. Well, not really. If this is my morning pick me up I guess that means I’m just starting. But yea, expect this song to get a lot of play on repeat!

A few of my other favorites include: Last Summer which I can only describe as Miguel Bose Si Tu No Vuelves meets Guns N Roses Patience meets Michael Franti Firefly? Maybe it’s the acoustic guitar strum that reminds me of the Slash/Izzy Stradlin opening. There’s no denying the whistling as a shared trait between all three songs: Patience, Last Summer, and Si Tu No Vuelves – not to mention the aching violin strings in Last Summer and Si Tu No Vuelves. I’m probably reaching with that reference to Firefly, but what can I say, Pandora knows my heart! There’s got to be some shared acoustic sonority or something in there, because I swear I hear a connection!

Then there’s Snow In Vegas which has a slow start but a great pick up halfway through and shows off several stand out lyrics in lines like:

“Just when I was thinking we’d come about as far as this old road could take us,

time to pull on over baby, yeah just stop the car and it falls like snow in Vegas.

And we’ll leave that sign up on the door, so the hotel maid don’t wake us.

Now pigs can fly and I’ll command these breakers.

Any thing you want yeah, any thing at all

any little thing you’re needing, all you do is call.

Got my money where my mouth is, the sugar’s in the cane

If I had a million dollars, I’d blow it on champagne

We’re vain yeah and we’re greedy we’re selfish and we’re needy

but it’s just the way God made us.

Now pigs can fly and I’ll command these breakers.”

Cake And Eat It brings back that beloved gospel choir sound, this time in the form of an interlude reprise. And where Snow In Vegas highlighted Gray’s songwriting ability, Birds of The High Arctic shows off his vocal range a la Elton John and pure British Folk. Girl Like You is the most “out there” of the bunch offering up a synth borderline electronic sound. The tunnel effect “wind-oooohhs” add a ghost-like mysterious quality, and there goes that spunky gospel choir again in the “Yeahs” which cascades into what almost sounds like a free style jazz session wrap up.

Finally, I think Gulls might be my number one track. At the very least it’s my ahhhh factor. I’d been wanting to talk about this song since I started but I was trying to pace myself. So, of course, Gray placed it as the very last song on the album. Which is part of what makes it so great – that stretching. aching. building. well-paced waiting for what’s to come. It almost vibrates with each note. And if  other songs on the album alternated between highlighting vocal quality and lyrical ability, Gulls has it all packaged into one. Vocal quality. Lyrics. Musical Depth. Guitar build. Chills. Speaker warping. Everything.

This land belongs to the gulls. And the gulls to their cry.

And their cry to the wind. And the wind belongs to no one.

The wind belongs to no one

Toward the seed that God sowed

Oh baby, Try to recognize it in my mind. Try to snuff it out before it happens.

… (The writing’s on the writing’s on the writing’s on the wall) … “

Final verdict: Get the album. Now. Today. Well, not today since it’s not available until tomorrow, but you know what I mean. Just do it. You won’t regret it. A+, David Gray. A+!

~ Constance SHERESE, cS

Festival Freak

I’m lying in bed live streaming the first day of Coachella on YouTube and counting down the days until Lolla. Yes, I’ve officially joined the ranks of Festival Freaks everywhere.
Spring has taken her sweet time to arrive, and we practically had to get a restraining order just to break up with Old Man Winter, but now that sunny days are here again festival fever has me feeling better than ever. I’m going to my first music festival this summer in Chicago… that’s right, me & the hubby will be the resident old people at Lollapalooza 2014! I’m already checking out all the bands and my current favorites for Friday are Broken Bells. Lorde would be the obvious choice, but there’s something about BB’s storytelling ability that really draws me in.
Outkast on Saturday is everything I’m living for, even though part of my heart broke at the thought that I won’t be at their first reunion tonight in Cali. And Sundays line up is still anybody’s game as far as favorites go. But more on all things Music later. Time to get back to my Coachella stalking. Ms Mr just wrapped up their indie punk-hip-hop-inspired set (???), and the voice of Bastille front man, Dan Smith, is my fountain of youth it seems – bringing out my inner 16 year old. Let the squeals of girlish delight commence!

FlashBackFriday: The Prequel

Hey All!

So if you read my TBT post yesterday, you were directed to this #FlashBackFriday “Prequel” for a more in-depth-stream-of-consciousness accounting of how I came up with my new CultSTATUS logo. If you just happened to check out this post – and you’re wondering what the heck I’m talking about when I mention yesterday’s TBT post – don’t worry, I give a full accounting of the original story below. Check it out!

When I started this blog, three years ago, one of my first thoughts was that I needed to find an image to best represent my core message for CultSTATUS. I quickly fell in love with Veer and several other websites for their endless array of stock art, designs, and fonts. I spent hours, days, and weeks searching for the perfect logo to introduce CultSTATUS to the world. I was like Jason on his quest for the Golden Fleece. There’s still a folder, somewhere on my computer, filled with several hundred brave soldiers, er … pictures that didn’t survive the battle. I found rabbits to go along with the ones scampering around in my head. I considered sketches of music, music notes, and musicians. I even toyed with the idea of using Hieroglyphics or Sanskrit lettering to add the ‘Culture’ in CultSTATUS. There was inspiration, in vibrant living color, as far as the eye could see – or my mind could dream.

In the end, I chose the picture of a dancer in mid-leap which has been our official profile picture on Facebook ever since. I love this picture. It spans just a moment in time, but offers up so much potential for all the moments that come before and after The Dancer’s leap. It is that potential which grabbed me the most. I wanted to express, with CultSTATUS, all the possibilities that are out there for committed artists. The Dancer has shared that message perfectly for the past three years. And yet. I’m sure you know where this is going. I’m thinking it might be time to let Her die in favor of a new Heroine. Why? Well, now would be a good time to take that ThrowBack trip down memory lane. Not just  a three year trip, though. More like thirteen years.

I was seventeen and a Senior in High School. It was late Fall or early Winter in New York and my dreamers heart was gearing up for the makings of one of my favorite memories. I was walking to the front of my apartment building with my parents and two sisters. It was after ten o’clock at night and bitter cold. For some reason, the thought occurred to me that I should stop in the middle of the street and look up at the clear night sky. I don’t know why I felt this urge. I despise the cold. I’ve always dreaded Winter weather; and I never, under any circumstances, stop walking to check out the scenery while I’m in the cold. Maybe it was because my father had recently bought a small telescope as a hobby? I guess that’s possible, but it sounds like a weak explanation to my own ears.

What I saw in that night sky isn’t very surprising. I saw stars. But what caught me off guard was that I could see lots of them. And I could see them clearly. Living in the smog infested city, I wasn’t used to seeing so many stars all at once. I paused a few seconds longer so my eyes could really focus. I wondered if I might be able to decipher any patterns up there. The big dipper and little dipper constellations were supposed to be pretty easy to find, right? Sure enough, when I took my time, I could see order in the glittering chaos. There were three stars in close succession to each other, angled on a slant, and they were anchored above and below by two more stars at each end.

Now like I said – at seventeen years old, I wasn’t very familiar with the night sky or astronomy, but I was one heck of a Pop culture aficionado! The three stars angled on a slant immediately made me think of the popular Will Smith movie, Men In Black, and all of its’ references to Orion’s Belt. I took one last glance and then rushed to catch up with my family who were inside the building already. When we got upstairs, I told my dad what I thought I’d found. He agreed with my first thought that it was probably just the big dipper. That was the only constellation either of us had ever heard anyone talk about as being so easy to spot in the city sky. We decided to use his telescope software to check our theory, just in case. When my father typed our location into the computer and brought up an image of what should be visible in the sky that night, I got a big surprise. It really was Orion and his Belt. I had found and accurately identified a constellation all on my own!

The rush of excitement I felt in that moment was addictive. I was hooked. Every chance I got, after that night, I could be found standing in the middle of the street looking up at the sky searching for Orion. My parents noticed the habit and decided it would be the perfect graduation present. They researched one of those National Star Registry services and placed an order to have one of the stars in the Orion constellation registered in my name. That’s right, there’s a star in the upper section of Orion’s humerus bone that belongs to Yours Truly – Constance Sherese!

I’ve loved stars ever since.

Flash forward three years and I was a Junior in college… well, more like a Lower Sophomore. I was struggling with my Business Management degree because I spent all my time drawing sketches in the campus radio station instead of going to class. But, I digress. Tattoos were quickly becoming all the rage for me and my friends and, although I was a total chicken, I was completely obsessed with the idea of getting one. But it had to be something cool. Something original. And something meaningful for me on a personal level (if only so I wouldn’t have to hear my mother say ‘I told you so’ ten years later when I hated it). Side note: Are these criteria starting to sound a little familiar to you? Hmmm.

Right away, I thought of getting a star tattooed discreetly on my neck. But all the people I saw with star tattoos seemed to have those tacky “triangle-cut-out-kindergarten-stencil-star-of-david” stars. No offense to all the deep spiritual meaning behind the Star of David, but I had been picturing something more realistic like the stars I had seen in the night sky when I spotted Orion. Think: “glittery-thin-pointed-light-radiating-star-of-bethlehem” stars. I asked around and “They” all said that what I wanted wasn’t possible. They claimed the cut-out stars were the only thing a tattoo artist could draw on my skin and I needed to stop being so picky. It was 2004 and apparently tattoo “artists” hadn’t fully honed their craft yet? I decided to let some time pass before I made such a big commitment. Yes, I chickened out.

Well, a few years passed and I had flunked out of college. I was lacking direction and looking for something or someone to occupy my time. Falling “in-love” with an old flame from High School seemed to fit the bill. Once again, my mother warned that I would regret it. But this time I refused to let any time pass. Where had playing it safe gotten me? No degree in the “safe” Business field. No career in the “unreliable” Artistic field. This guy was The One and I wasn’t about to let another golden moment pass me by. I packed my bags and moved to Atlanta to be with the man I loved. Yes, I moved to a new city for a boy.

I got to this great city and, as you can probably guess, he changed his mind. Decided I wasn’t what he wanted. And stopped returning my phone calls. I was devastated. I had finally taken a risk – stepped out on a limb… no, jumped off a freaking cliff – and the bastard had changed his mind! I could only imagine what my mother would say. But I’m very much like my mother. Especially when it comes to her stubborn streak. I cried, listened to sad love songs a la Jill Scott, Sara Bareilles, Corinne Bailey Rae, and Sinead O’connor, and wallowed in self pity for months. But I didn’t leave. I refused to leave. Getting on a plane and going home with my tail between my legs just wasn’t an option. In part, because I’m stubborn, but more so because I couldn’t quite convince myself that jumping off a cliff had been the wrong decision.

Jumping off that cliff had been the most free I’d felt in a long time. The boy was a jerk, yes. But maybe that jerk was supposed to play a role in something bigger for me. Maybe he wasn’t the something to occupy my time, but the someone to lead me to The Something that would define my time. I couldn’t explain it, but my head was buzzing with images and ideas – they hadn’t introduced themselves yet as The Rabbits – reminiscent of the classic struggle between Right and Wrong, Good and Bad. I thought of the biblical story of the fallen angels who gave up heaven to pursue Love – or Lust, depending on how you look at it. I thought of the Dr. Faustus play I had acted in during one of my last semesters at college. Why did there always have to be a choice? Why were things always so black and white? Where was the “vibrant living” color?

But that’s when my Pop culture trivia skills kicked in again and I thought of the 1998 movie City of Angels. The acting was terrible, Nicholas Cage was worse, and the ending made me want to throw my shoe at the television screen. But I addoooorrree all things Meg Ryan and you already know what a sucker I am for cheesy romances. So the movie was easy to pluck from my mental reserves. I thought about the concept that there was still a purpose to Nicholas Cage’s “falling”, even if Meg Ryan didn’t live to be that purpose. Then I remembered that the story of Dr. Faustus has many versions also. We performed an adaptation of Christopher Marlowe’s play, but my professor had talked about another version that actually provided a happy ending for the deal-making-doctor. The Wolfgang von Goethe play imagined more than just a Yes or No choice. It imagined a deeply layered and human story line that gave Faustus the freedom to explore his loves and passions without fear of punishment.

Suddenly I knew what my meaningful tattoo would be. It had been at least three years since I seriously thought about it, but I knew without a doubt what I wanted. I pictured an angel. At once, both falling and rising from heaven. She was stretching out one arm. Reaching upward. There were undertones of the Michelangelo masterpiece “The Birth of Adam”. But she wasn’t reaching towards God. She was reaching out for… Love. I decided to “personify” Love as love-birds. Tons of them. Fluttering in disarray all around My Angel. She would be giving up heaven to chase after love. It would be painful. Her wings would be burned off as she entered the earth’s atmosphere. It would be her punishment. How would I depict heaven? A massive star above/below her feet. But it couldn’t just be about the lost Love. Not the loss of some boy as my love, anyway. It had to be about the loss of so many of my True Loves. My passion for art and music and dance and creativity. It had to be about the joy in jumping off a cliff to win back those Loves. And now… love-birds seemed too easy also. Too one dimensional. I’d make them tiny hearts with golden wings. And I’d have My Angel wearing a ballerina skirt. She would be en pointe and in the middle of a classic pirouette. There would be Dance in this love story. There would be a happy ending too. Those winged-heart love-birds would still be in disarray all around My Angel. But like the night I first saw Orion, there would be order in the chaos for anyone who took the time to let their eyes focus. When looked at from just the right angle, the heavenly star and love birds would be connected to form a crucifix and rosary beads that were wrapped around My Angel. She wouldn’t be choosing Love instead of God. She would be reborn through God because of her Love!

Can’t you just picture it? Don’t worry, no one else could either. I discovered this a few months later when I went back to New York for a visit. It was late 2007, I’d noticed that people were starting to get more detailed tattoos, and I thought my problems were solved. I could definitely find someone to draw my Star of Bethlehem now! I spent an afternoon hanging out with one of my BFF’s, Lourdes, and decided to share my design. Her first question was: “So, what are you Catholic now?” Her second question was: “And where exactly are you getting this tattoo on your body? That’s a lot of detail to fit into a single drawing!”

In New York, I like to say that everyone is Catholic and no one is Catholic. There are rosary beads, statues of Mary, and ‘Bless This House’ stickers as far as the eye can see, but very few people are the truly in-your-face Catholics depicted on T.V. So, it really hadn’t occurred to me that my design would come across as deeply “religious.” I was not Catholic. And my intent with the rosary beads and references to God had simply been to create a general hint at the concept of two distinct choices in life. The Good, Right, “Expected” choice versus the Bad, Wrong, “Self-Satisfying” choice. A struggle that seemed to be at the root of all my commitment issues.

As for her question about where I would put the tattoo, that did give me pause. But only for a moment. I quickly decided it would look best on the inside of my left wrist. Still somewhat discreet, but perfect to add the illusion of rosary beads wrapped – not just around My Angel – but also around my wrist. I brushed off my friends’ concerns and continued with my plan. I would find a tattoo artist, tell him my idea, and have my permanent testament to this growing-up experience.

A little over a year later, I was back in the Tri-State area to visit my other bestie, Reisa. She was looking for her first apartment and we decided to commemorate the weekend by getting tattoos together. She got a scorpion on her shoulder and I thought I would finally get My Angel. But, once again, I was deemed ahead of my time. Drawing a heavily stylized star was no problem these days, but no way could my artist get so much detail on the tiny space that was my inner wrist. Especially without so much as a sketch to guide him. I still thought I could just walk in, tell him what I wanted, and receive an immediate spark of recognition in his eyes as my reward.

I settled on an equally meaningful script phrase tattooed on my front right hip bone. Inspired by the Ziggy Marley album of the same name, I still love my ‘Love Is My Religion’ tattoo to this day. But I hadn’t given up on My Angel just yet. I went back to Atlanta and recruited the help of one of my girlfriends with a background in Graphic Design. I thought she would be just the right person to sketch my idea. Within a few days, this too had flopped.

Her sketches were beautiful, but she had drawn an angel with faerie wings when I’d imagined a more gothic style. Her angel was in profile, while I had envisioned My Angel either facing forward or away from the viewer all together. Her angel was flat-footed where My Angel was supposed to be en pointe. And all this, before we’d even begun to discuss the more intricate details like references to The Birth of Adam or the winged-heart love-birds that did/didn’t look like rosary beads. I thought maybe I could save the endeavor if I drew a small rough draft of what I had in mind and then let her take over from there.

What I discovered was something that’s probably been screaming at all of you throughout this entire post. I discovered that my “rough draft” sketch was good. Really good, in fact. But, of course, it would be. I spent all my time in college drawing sketches and wishing I’d followed my dream to pursue a career in the Arts. I didn’t have a degree in Graphic Design, but I had the same natural talent and an advantage in that the Angel was my personal vision. How did I expect anyone to draw something that only I could truly see?

I spent the next six months perfecting My Angel with revision after revision. Once again, I was Jason on his noble quest. When I finally had something I felt was worthy of turning over to a tattoo artist, it had been over two years since the idea first came to me. It was late 2009 – early 2010, the economy was sinking lower with each day, I was out of a job, and sadly I didn’t have a spare three hundred bucks lying around to pay for my finished concept. I thought I would just put it off until I could “catch my breath” financially. But catching my breath would take another few years. Somehow, more important responsibilities just kept popping up and I never found my way back to it.

Of course, my highly original concept became not-so-original with the passing of time; and suddenly several of the very same friends that I had approached for help with my drawing, were now getting self-designed tattoos on the inside of their own wrists. I had let the moment slip past me all over again and I didn’t know what I should have done differently, but clearly I was falling back into old habits. Worst of all, was the feeling that even if I got my tattoo at this point, I would just come off as a band-wagon follower of the trend now that everyone was doing it. I let some more time pass to decide if I even wanted Her anymore.

Flash forward to the present, and I’ve been in the midst of my own personal quarter-life-crisis part deux (I had the first melt down, right on schedule, as I approached my 25th birthday). Now, leading up to my 30th birthday, many of the same recriminations and self doubts have been resurfacing. But this time around I’d like to think I’ve learned a few things, albeit a slow learning. For one thing, there’s all that talk I did earlier about the possibilities waiting out there for committed artists. It would seem that I need to follow my own advice. Instead of worrying about what other people will think, or measuring my accomplishments by some precise timeline, I just need to be committed to the process and open to the potential for what might be.

With that in mind, I’ve begun to re-imagine My Angel as more than just a tattoo. Maybe it’s not that I have commitment issues. Maybe I don’t need to be worried that I did something wrong or somehow let the moment pass me by. Maybe there was just more to the process and I couldn’t fully see Her true potential yet. She was never meant to be a tattoo for me alone. She needed to be more than just My Angel. She needed to be shared with the world.

So it is my honor to unveil the new and permanent CultSTATUS logo: The cS Angel. The thought has occurred to me to turn Her into a full “Welcome to Your World” mural with even more layers and dimensions (I could really have some fun toying with all the possibilities for a mural!) So yes, I may engage in some artistic “tweaking” down the road, but for the most part this is it. And is it just me, or is she not that far off in her looks from our first logo, The Dancer? Maybe that Heroine didn’t have to die after all. Maybe she’s just been reborn in a better, fuller form! ~ cScS Angel With Signature

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