The new year has been born. The gregorian calendar new year that is. As many of you know I generally write a post at the end of the year summarizing the past events of the year and leading into the new. I have chosen to wait this time until the new year has dawned because, simply put, this year was fucking hard. To sum up 2015, utterly painfully gut wrenching, challenging, ego destroying, beautifully enlightening, intense, and full of awakening and coming to a place and feeling of real self worth like I have never known before.
2015 began with a move back to the East Coast, one that I publicized greatly, that I seemed to make a huge deal about and sort of base my entire being upon. It saw the supposed "end of an era" of living in California and a move into the resurrection of a nostalgic existence redefined by a very arrogant view of "inevitable success" that would become my reality left up to the wind as if I could do no wrong. It saw six months leading up to my huge move without much recovery, without much perspective, without much work inward, with really no moments of selflessness, and without much thought for what could happen.
Essentially blinded by my own sudden uphill climb into a life gaining attention and momentum in certain aspects, I began coasting and I ran headlong into the darkest moment I have ever had since before getting sober. I ran blindly with almost no real defense into what truly was the end of an era, and not at all the one I had planned on. Suffice to say, I was brought to my knees by my own fears, insecurities, unresolved issues, and arrogance and began the insanely hard process of addressing aspects of myself that were not working anymore, that simply put were cancerous which I had used as fuel to move forward for so long. The engines I thought that were "me" ceased to work so that a healthier "self" could be finally nudged to the surface, sometimes yanked, and replace them. While I now know this is what was happening, at the time I simply had no earthly idea as to why after this grand exit from California I was suddenly in the darkest place internally I had been stuck in for the past 5 years. I honestly thought I was losing my mind and that I was either going to drink or somehow go off the deep end.
The pain became so unbearable inside, while in Brooklyn on the 5th floor of an apartment building in Flatbush as an intense blizzard hit and acute bronchitis set in with my dear friend Katie who was also going through her own intense shit, and the darkest thoughts one can imagine cycled through my mind like a hamster wheel 24/7 leaving me sleepless and afraid to my core. I was truly lost and feeling my soul being ripped apart by the lack of work I had done on myself before leaving to embark on this geographical and spiritual journey. But it had to happen this way I now see. In what felt like an eternity (but was only a matter of weeks) the beauty of acceptance set in as I finally, in the most liberating and successful way (next to getting sober), "gave up".
I will never forget the clod of slushy ice that fell from an awning and hit me in the head on a rainy 33 degree day walking to the train feverish and coughing as I went to a job interview in none other than time square. I will never forget that moment where the powers that be, the voice of the universe simply allowed me to let go. And it all made sense, the test made sense. I had work to do, different work than I had thought. I had so much more inward training and work to do spiritually and psychologically. I needed to address my intentions, my motives, my goals, my outcomes, my needs, the needs of others, my place in things. So I packed it all up quickly and it was back to California. I simply knew with no fear and no fight and no more pain that I needed to be there, to dig deep and get right truly and fundamentally before forging out into a new geographical reality. I let the spirit in and suddenly my actions became sound and I was no longer fighting the tide, the tide was loving and liberating, and just a little bit, day by day, the edge began to wear down.
Now this is not to say that the pain just was gone. My insides still felt as if I had a war of angels and devils being fought inside, but it did not feel as if the darkside was winning any longer. It felt as if I knew finally that everything was going to be fine, I just had to hunker down and do the work and dig inside and truly unearth who the fuck I am and work to be of service and toward a life not ruled by negative ego to see that bright sun rise again over the ocean's waves. I felt as if I had been destroyed, ripped apart, left as a husk of a person, and still the bits that remained were being razed and chewed up and ground down and I realized I had to go with it. I got to work, quickly yet lived slowly, with an open eye for the things that brought healthy change in the state of hyper sensitivity that I awoke too and carried with me daily.
Life is one huge series of lessons, and I have to say at this point, humility truly is the best teacher sometimes. Humbled to the point of which I was willing to actually give up making art entirely simply to be sane and happy I began working hard in my recovery again, harder than I ever had to that point. I did as I was told, I took advice, I began working with others, I accepted my place in things, I accepted that this was reality and it is simply not about "me" and what I want, but about what I am here to do, how I can be useful beyond simply survival, how I can help others and live by principles and be of service to my surroundings and those who are going through life's torrent. I let go further and further and got back into a very healthy routine with a very different set of priorities than when I had moved at the end of 2014.
The art started coming by itself, or rather through me in a way it had not in some time. I was once again a conduit to express the unseen intangible aspects of growth and change and realization and fear and working through pain (as an indicator for change) that we all go through. I became incapable of deciding what I was going to make, what image I was going to craft, what technic I was going to use as my hands literally made work before my eyes from the most intuitive and deeply, honestly, communicative place I have experienced in years. I tried to force myself to revisit conventions and found them being ripped apart in a liberating performance of discovery and being in the present as I could feel myself becoming this new person. I simply became a channel for what needed to be said and shared. It became the most healing and cathartic work and experience I have ever had. I finally began to be freed of so many limitations of "self" and "ego" that I had placed upon myself so that I could be destroyed in order to be reborn. I mean this with all my heart, this experience took me to my limit and then allowed me to break through to an existence and level of gratitude I have never quite known before.
This was not just a sudden moment though where the year became easy by any stretch of the imagination. This was just the catalyst to begin letting the path of growth and change move forward, to let go of myself in order to let my energy develop. And thus the year took shape. A new apartment, a new studio, and a long hard road of work and acceptance to walk through. Interestingly enough, the highs of this year have been as intense in good ways as the lows were in hard ways. Part of it is that I feel I was reduced to this simple foundation again much like when I got sober, but in a deeper way. In a way where the devices that still ran me from the "old me" when I got sober finally ceased to work. In the way in which we find ourselves forced to change when we actually get what we want and it is killing us and we need to make a shift in understanding our path, that was and is my journey.
I succeeded in making two wonderful bodies of work that were a process of paring down, saying more with less. They challenged and overcame a sense of what I thought I needed to do to make art. This action showed me a new foundation to build from, deep in process and in the practice of "losing the image" in order to truly see what is beyond what our eyes and surface thoughts tell us and make us judge and want. I met amazing new people, including someone who has grabbed my heart and nurtured it as I have nurtured theirs and we find new things out about ourselves through one another in a dance of beautiful truth and eroticism and humor and deep honesty and growth as we grow together and bring others into our energy. This wouldn't have been possible without the intense and painful reality of what I went through in the beginning of the year and I know that. My armor and my sense of direction have been stripped down and I realized that I am just the person I am and that is beautiful and that is okay. This in turn allows me to truly see my friends and lovers and my art making with honest open eyes and love who they are at their raw core of being. Suddenly my inner strength and real love and acceptance of self worth and search for purpose beyond this abstract world humans have built has put me in places and moments that have become so incredibly powerful.
I had a solo show in Chelsea, NYC with long time friend and brother Joseph Gross. While in New York I spent an entire day and night with someone so close to my heart talking sharing about our growth, about the world, about intimacy and perversion, about psychic voyages, about love, and of course about food while eating at Yakitori Taisho. I did those exact things another night with another friend very near to my heart at Oh Taisho. I walked with an old flame and long time friend on the high line and across the city. At the opening to "From Here" at Joseph Gross Gallery I was so fortunate to have people I have known since the age of 17 to those I just met this year come and have deep discussions and loud laughs and hugs and all be so stoked to be able to come together again and be growing and finding our ways. I walked the city with a very dear friend as well the next day and got to the spend days with my brother Pete catching up and meeting our brother Charlie's newborn little Roscoe.
I even went to Dublin, Ireland to see my partner, this person I have found this wild cosmic and intensely bright connection with. I experienced a whole new culture and sense of time and explored ancient aspects of civilization. We laughed we loved we walked we explored minds, hearts, and flesh, we rolled around we kissed we ate delicious things we held each other closely, we absolutely made the most out of every second we had together.
I reconnected with my cousin, whom I had not seen for 24 years. who is a brilliant writer while on my first trip ever to Denver, CO for a solo show with Black Book Gallery. We went to Casa Bonita (see South Park). And on the same trip saw my newborn nephew and my sister and brother in law and my father even showed up. I traveled to LA and back a couple times. I went to shows, I went on dates, I explored a bit more kink in my life, I went swimming, I ate all sorts of foods, I let go of my conception of myself and also moved with a bit more caution yet also with a bit more hunger for experiencing more than just career advances and notches in my belt of life. I got to know Oakland and SF a bit more as well. I went to Harbin one last time with my partner before it burned down. I finally found a studio in a place with many other artists rather than in my own little world as I have been for years.
I have finally become more in tune with the idea of a life meant to be explored rather than a line of events that lead to a known result and a selfish as well as small view of what success means. It is as if life has opened up into the realization that no one thing makes or breaks a person, no one moment in life defines us for all of it, there is nothing that we do, no level we get to that suddenly we can say "I did it, boom thats it it's all gravy from here". That does not exist. Living in that concept drove me as far as it could, and while I am grateful that it did get me to a certain checkpoint in life, it is also a figment of my alcoholic mind. Life is four dimensional, maybe more dimensional. It is as tangible and firm as it is elusive and unexplainable.
Life is about loving others, about doing the best we can every day, even if somedays that means doing very little and resting and healing making sure we are healthy within so that we can once again go forth and truly be a part of the world and let our vision explode and become a part of the fabric of time. I took more time to tell people I love them this year, I made myself slow down so that I did not fall flat, I have begun to learn what it means to move forward into something sustainable rather than explosively into the ether without caring how I affect myself and others. I began to learn to love myself as well.
There were beach adventures, there were AA meetings, there were great meals with great minds with incredible conversations. My super close friend and art ally Terry Addison moved back to the bay. A lot of my friends had babies and tied the knot and families were created and bonds strengthened. Some people died as well and others were lost in the fabric of time. Cities changed, people changed, and the world continues to spin. I learned this year that I truly can feel deeply, that my life is going to go amazing places as long as I let it and stay in a forward state of being, and it may not be within the architecture that I thought that had to be. 2015 has been one of the hardest years of my life, and equally the most enlightening and filled with a sense of awakening like I have never known.
Last night, New Years Eve, saw a free ticket to see The Flaming Lips. Amazing! I was able to share New Years in Ireland via the internet with the person I am so deeply connected to on her time. I was able to eat a delicious meal with someone I have become quite honestly very good friends with due to the realities of this being the hard year that is has been, and after were able to go our friends' new home and see others that we are connected to. I was able to see the new year change with my best friend and his amazing wife (also a dear friend) and I was able to take a deep breath as the balloons dropped and the lights exploded and the youngsters enjoyed their drugs and detaching from reality as I used to when I was their age and I just got be so incredibly happy to be alive.
This year brought a constant ebb and flow of hardship and awakening. It was a none stop hold on tight journey through the extremely raw experience of having to let go of what we think we know and are and let who we really are come to light as we try to hold on to certain aspects until they are too painful and destructive and inevitably find pure energy and happiness in the lessons life teaches us and the realizations we exist in as new and old faces and feelings become the present. When I breathed in the first breath of 2016 I finally, finally felt balanced.
2016 has already started off in a way that makes me feel that this past year was one of the most important foundation laying experiences of my life. That shit had to happen that way and no other. My mind is much more clear, yet much less fixated on specific results. I have a vision of where I want to go, I have some projects in the works, some projects in the planning stages, some recent successes under my belt and a firm and true belief that I am worth working hard toward my visions of what I hope life to become. And that is to say, I feel that I finally do love myself more than I have ever really known in the past, in a real way, not in a way based on my perception of what others think about me or want from me. A real true belief that I am worth loving and that I am still here for a reason. It has taken a lot to get here, and I have to say 2016 seems like it is going to unfold beautifully, no doubt with hardships and victories as it should, but I feel like some of the greatest actions I will have ever taken or begun are starting here. Without having had this year throw me off of the course I had really tried to force myself into and be in turn forced to let the universe channel through me into my work find myself on the path I am meant to be on the work that will be coming out in 2016 simply will not have been possible. I mean this to say that I am insanely grateful because I am in tune with my voice in a way I never fathomed I would be. It is one of the hugest blessings all said and done that I have ever been granted. The rawest most honest art and lives come from intense pain and change and the new found awakenings that they become, and I feel that the catalyst has occurred and the foundation laid. I guess one could say lift off, but I feel more like it is a consistent stride toward positive and amazing things. Thank you for being part of it all.
-John Felix Arnold III 01/01/2016