Xoterica 37: The Rebirth

Artemis Sere SS-SG-00035 Necromorphosis

“When one has reached maturity in the art, one will have a formless form. It is like ice dissolving in water. When one has no form, one can be all forms; when one has no style, he can fit in with any style.” (Bruce Lee)

Two years ago, I took a leap of faith in myself, jumped from the highest heights in my life to try something new, and crashed every area of my life. I sacrificed everything I owned (outside of my art) for the dream of becoming a Welding/Fabrication Artist and professional. I won't belabor the details of the journey - I've written plenty of content in this blog over the last two years on the subject. I was determined to see my #metalmorphosis through, until it killed me.

Two years ago, I awoke on the Monday morning following my professional departure into my adventure with excitement, anticipation, and a feeling of pure freedom. The potential was palpable; confidence in myself was at an all-time high, even if my mood was at an all-time low after my Dad's death.

Two years ago began a trail of bad luck, mistakes, learnings, and misfortunes that directed this adventurer toward depression, burned through all that I had amassed for the journey, stalled my life momentum, and trashed my map.

I'm now a day away from my professional rebirth with a new company called Deluxe, a new opportunity for greatness, and renewed stability that I haven't felt - literally - in years.

In order to make this change, another sacrifice will be required. "Sacrifice" is really a dramatic label for "focused reprioritization". Unfortunately, I have to shift my personal focus towards doing what I need to do to survive as a human and put art on the backburner. It is a sad acknowledgment that I failed at my #metalmorphosis, failed at launching my Seretic Studios business to the level of successful (or even survivable), and failed at making a living off my art.

Again.

The Shifting Sands of Serenity

Effective immediately, I am shutting down my #yearofSerenity content campaign. This Week 13 post will be my last coordinated experience from my #yearofSerenity content campaign that I mapped out for 2021.

That doesn't mean that I won't be sharing art throughout the year. That also doesn't mean that I'm abandoning the social media spaces that I returned to in 2020. I will still be around - sharing art and continuing to build out the legacy art experience that I'm developing on my website. I still plan on releasing "Echoprism Vol 2" later in 2021. I still hope to finish "Obscurious X: Ten Years of Darkness" this year.

I still have a lot of work to do, and am now getting a metric ton of more work.

I just can't make my art a priority in the face of my new job. This new job will take all the focus, attention, and capacity for learning and evolution that I can muster throughout the rest of the year. Re-entry into a vocation that I left two years ago means some re-education on the current trends in marketing and customer experience. It means putting in more time than less. It means putting my day job in the driver's seat, and working to find calm whenever I can find it - not using every hour I have to race at breakneck speed through 2021 and burning the candle at both ends.

I simply don't have enough time in the hourglass. Working 15-20 hours a week on my #yearofSerenity on top of the 40-50 that will be required for my new job would mean I'd be working around 70 hours a week. That means no days off. That means filling all of my free time with art time outside of breadwinner time.

That means no serenity.

And do you know what I miss the most? Painting and being artistically productive, not just sharing and being digitally effective. Working on developing my art craft. Producing new fine artworks, not just digital copies and remixes of works finished five to ten years ago. For every minute I spend building digital experiences, I lose a minute in creative development of what I care about most.

In the Name of Clicks

The sad truth of four months of running a daily #yearofSerenity campaign: the audience, apart from very specific people, has not engaged. Clickthroughs from social media properties to my website has generated a murmur of traffic, and gained me a small increase in audience, but apart from a passionate core, engagement has been minimal. Sales of "Echoprism Volume 1" remain dismal, and I've sold one print as a result of my clickthrough to DeviantArt. Most of the digital experiences that I've built for my Serenity Gallery have not seen more than 10-20 visits each. Social indicators on primary platforms echoes little growth and consumption, even from people that know me.

Vanity metrics such as impressions don't impress me. Views and impressions are necessary at the top of the funnel, but if few follow through your pre-determined experience path, then you've either built a poor experience or have underperforming content. The experience is the best it has been, stripped down and served for efficiency. The flow is the most consistent it has been in years. The messaging is the most focused it has ever been.

I have learned from two years of direct, focused exposure to my creations and then the sequenced promotion of what I've created.

As a friend of mine suggested over Twitter recently, what I'm doing isn't "good enough". It's not good enough to generate clicks. It's not good enough to expand audience without promotional investment. It's not good enough to sell product (enough to survive off of).

It's simply not "good enough".

As a core believer in "Art for Art's Sake", I shouldn't be so affected by what's "good enough". In a different time for artists, simply expressing your ability and talent was "good enough". If you were "good enough", you surfaced into artistic survival quickly. Now, everyone that can turn a pixel can be "good enough" and be competition for someone that is truly fixed on art that can be created by hand and brush or other implement. NFTs are now the rage for digital art, and a crazy amount of money is thrown around for pixel manipulation. While I too appreciate digital art, I don't "feel" it like I do tangible, textured, expressive pieces that capture your breath and imagination.

And so, the question of "am I good enough?" became rooted in my subconscious. Like a cockroach with thick teeth and an insatiable appetite for confidence, it gnawed at me daily, with each underperforming share, every grand piece that fell on a social media audience disconnected from my efforts.

The answers were right in front of me; once upon a time, I could command over a hundred likes on Instagram for an abstract piece. Once upon a time, I could rely on a circle of engaged and supportive Twitter friends to share my content. Once upon a time, I spent a hundreds of dollars a month to share my art with a Facebook audience to gain connections that seldom engage.

Once upon a time, I had patience with the game.

13

And so I collapse the #metalmorphosis and Seretic Studios dreams back into its impatient, nifty gamebox, and accept a similar professional road as my primary focus, use my talents and skills for a game that I have better odds at.

Is anyone really good enough when the social feeds work against you? When it really is a popularity contest that can turn on you at any moment? I have 10,000 "Likes" on my page on Facebook, but only 60 people regularly watching. I have 37,000 "Followers" on Twitter, but have an average of 100 views per post - unless engagement happens, which is relatively rare (apart from a few friends - thank you, RT!). I talk about these misgivings of metrics quite a bit, but they are telling. They do tell you whether or not you are "good enough" to meet certain goals, to do certain things, to reach certain heights.

I can't grow a business off of ether, just as plants don't grow without sun or water. I produced art products, made them available as seeds to a new artistic future for me, and the blooms were mostly ignored.

I'm not a bitter, angry flower. I accomplished a lot over the last couple of years, and have become stronger as an artist, creator, and marketer through failure. But I'm not done, and I'm not giving up or going away.

I still believe in the buildout of these fine art landing pages, and know they will benefit me down the road as I get past the "legacy" phase of my gallery and start introducing new pieces via this experience process. I will aim to do that throughout 2021 with my new works in order to provide experience consistency. If you're interested in what I shared during the first part of 2021, check out my #yearofSerenity page for all of the summaries. I will continue to build on the Serenity Gallery, and may release an update of the "best-of my additions" throughout the year.

I also want to get back to growing, expressing, and expanding as an artist. Doing what I do best without the guilt of not doing good enough for someone else's (or to a bottom line's) standards. Appreciating the great art that I have created without the disappointment of the clicks. Engaging with other artists that I admire, and reciprocating with those that engage with me.

I don't create art for an audience; I create art for myself and invite the audience to participate and engage. Since the latter didn't happen, I will return to creating art for myself and focusing less on the invitation.

As much as this seems like whining about my path, this isn't. This is acceptance. This is growth. This is redirection. This is rebirth.

This is the #metalmorphosis giving the world a more beautiful, brighter being through the power of the figurative flame.

I have the best years of my art ahead of me. I may now be more limited in my free time to devote to art, but I've developed a personal, professional, and digital framework for my expression, an experience template for years and products to come.

Serenity is about finding calm and balance in your life, not creating a circular tempest of chaos, stress, and lies.

Practice what you preach, right? Seems like a good theme for even this atheist on Easter Sunday.

#xoterica #yearofserenity

Xoterica 36: The Breathless

Artemis Sere SS-SG-00345 The Vibrant Noose

“As you think, so shall you become.” (Bruce Lee)

At one o'clock this morning I stopped breathing. For how long, I don't know. I awoke howling for air sometime later with a sore throat and body shaken from the episode.

At the time of this writing, I still ache and am still shaken by the fight with my own body.

It's not the first time sleeping breathless has happened. Over the last few years, it has become more frequent. Every few months I seem to have an episode where I awake from a dead sleep gasping for air. I think it has to do with stress and anxiety, a reflection of my troubled days, but I don't know.

My Mom has sleep apnea, and I never had issues with it until the last few years. I suspect a severe asthmatic attack in 2016 that sent me to the ER triggered it, threw my breathing all out of whack, but I don't know for sure.

Could be age. Could be atmosphere. Could be diet. Could be lack of fresh air. Could be the stress and anxiety of the present day. Could be a mix of all triggers that stop my breathing at night until some mechanism in my body awakens me to get the lungs moving again.

I never know when I've stopped breathing. I don’t know I'm out until I'm yanked out of dreamy state gasping for air.

The reality is that I may not have made it last night, may not have awoken in time, may not have got oxygen back in my lungs in time. Nothing poetic about that. Brutal honesty.

Today, I could be dead today from asphyxiation. Thankfully, I'm not, but I can't shake the dread of standing near the exit door.

The truth is that I feel dead for other reasons. My inability to find a job with my skills and experience  has been devastating. Too  messages of "Thank you for applying, but you weren't selected. We'll keep your resume on file, and let you know if any other opportunities come up." 

Don't you know who I once was? Who I am? Don't you see?

Obviously not.

And I suppose I'm losing sight of who that person was as well as my golden years feel further away. I take regular shots to the gut and the ego with every desperate attempt to end this employment drought. Where once I felt confident walking into an interview, I now never know what will happen. I tell my story, sell my abilities, spin the plates like the best of them, but can't seem to make the connection. Who I am is not obviously good enough.

This helpless failure takes my breath away.

Once, breathing (and living) was easy, uncompromised, and the least of my worries. Across thirteen years of chronic colitis, I never had issues with breathing. No matter how down and stressed I became, I never was challenged for air.

While I struggled to sleep during that time, as my system woke me up every few hours to vacate, my lungs were iron. Asthmatic issues didn't enter my life until after my 2016 accident, and sleep apnea has become a lasting side effect.

Another case of destroying myself in the name of art: my 2016 accident was as a result of working with resins without adequate PPE. Art safety wasn't a priority to me, or at least I didn't know how important safety was for certain types of art. Any art that exudes dangerous and unhealthy fumes should be taken seriously. Word of wisdom for you.

I suspect that event permanently damaged my lungs in ways. Likewise, my passion for art and prioritization of it in my path permanently damaged my life in ways.

Blessing or curse, my commitment to art has not come without painful consequences and unhealthy sacrifices. I used art to breathe passion into my life, and art has left me breathless. It has exchanged oxygen for output, hope for focus, and humanity for utility.

In attempting to try something different, to become a different person and artist, I exited for a different atmosphere and experience, exiling my successes to a distant land lost to my history.

In attempting to return to familiar spaces, I exiled myself to an unfamiliar present. I do what I was trained, and the audience no longer listens. I play the game as designed, and feel further from useful and valuable in time, an extravagant pet trained for certain tricks but not worth the circus.

Conventional advice suggests that I should seek medical attention. With a serious condition such as sleep apnea, Doctors should be involved and treatment should be administered. As I'm sure you can understand, that's a complicated endeavor when you don't have insurance - or the money to spare to put into fixing what's broken. For a decade, I was flush with financial benefits and opportunities that kept me from crucial and critical outcomes.

Those support systems no longer exist for me. The system I'm connected to now squeezes the oxygen out of you, then teases you with air that you can't afford, with solutions and answers beyond your grasp. I won't take handouts, and I won't burn all that I have to get help.

But I will get help, when circumstances are better and right.

I want to work. I want to be part of a productive system where I'm receiving adequate benefits and appreciating the fruits of my labor. I want to contribute and know what it's like to be protected again. I don't want to grasp and gasp on the edge of oblivion.

I'm constantly holding what little breath I have for the time that I can live again. I live my life wracked with worry these days. I get by with what little resources I can muster. I survive more than I thrive.

I know someday I'll breathe full and clear again, but that time isn't now. At present, the vibrant noose is strangling my dreams and squeezing the life out of me.

#xoterica

“As you think, so shall you become.” (Bruce Lee)

At one o'clock this morning I stopped breathing. For how long, I don't know. I awoke howling for air sometime later with a sore throat and body shaken from the episode.

At the time of this writing, I still ache and am still shaken by the fight with my own body.

It's not the first time sleeping breathless has happened. Over the last few years, it has become more frequent. Every few months I seem to have an episode where I awake from a dead sleep gasping for air. I think it has to do with stress and anxiety, a reflection of my troubled days, but I don't know.

My Mom has sleep apnea, and I never had issues with it until the last few years. I suspect a severe asthmatic attack in 2016 that sent me to the ER triggered it, threw my breathing all out of whack, but I don't know for sure.

Could be age. Could be atmosphere. Could be diet. Could be lack of fresh air. Could be the stress and anxiety of the present day. Could be a mix of all triggers that stop my breathing at night until some mechanism in my body awakens me to get the lungs moving again.

I never know when I've stopped breathing. I don’t know I'm out until I'm yanked out of dreamy state gasping for air.

The reality is that I may not have made it last night, may not have awoken in time, may not have got oxygen back in my lungs in time. Nothing poetic about that. Brutal honesty.

Today, I could be dead today from asphyxiation. Thankfully, I'm not, but I can't shake the dread of standing near the exit door.

The truth is that I feel dead for other reasons. My inability to find a job with my skills and experience  has been devastating. Too  messages of "Thank you for applying, but you weren't selected. We'll keep your resume on file, and let you know if any other opportunities come up." 

Don't you know who I once was? Who I am? Don't you see?

Obviously not.

And I suppose I'm losing sight of who that person was as well as my golden years feel further away. I take regular shots to the gut and the ego with every desperate attempt to end this employment drought. Where once I felt confident walking into an interview, I now never know what will happen. I tell my story, sell my abilities, spin the plates like the best of them, but can't seem to make the connection. Who I am is not obviously good enough.

This helpless failure takes my breath away.

Once, breathing (and living) was easy, uncompromised, and the least of my worries. Across thirteen years of chronic colitis, I never had issues with breathing. No matter how down and stressed I became, I never was challenged for air.

While I struggled to sleep during that time, as my system woke me up every few hours to vacate, my lungs were iron. Asthmatic issues didn't enter my life until after my 2016 accident, and sleep apnea has become a lasting side effect.

Another case of destroying myself in the name of art: my 2016 accident was as a result of working with resins without adequate PPE. Art safety wasn't a priority to me, or at least I didn't know how important safety was for certain types of art. Any art that exudes dangerous and unhealthy fumes should be taken seriously. Word of wisdom for you.

I suspect that event permanently damaged my lungs in ways. Likewise, my passion for art and prioritization of it in my path permanently damaged my life in ways.

Blessing or curse, my commitment to art has not come without painful consequences and unhealthy sacrifices. I used art to breathe passion into my life, and art has left me breathless. It has exchanged oxygen for output, hope for focus, and humanity for utility.

In attempting to try something different, to become a different person and artist, I exited for a different atmosphere and experience, exiling my successes to a distant land lost to my history.

In attempting to return to familiar spaces, I exiled myself to an unfamiliar present. I do what I was trained, and the audience no longer listens. I play the game as designed, and feel further from useful and valuable in time, an extravagant pet trained for certain tricks but not worth the circus.

Conventional advice suggests that I should seek medical attention. With a serious condition such as sleep apnea, Doctors should be involved and treatment should be administered. As I'm sure you can understand, that's a complicated endeavor when you don't have insurance - or the money to spare to put into fixing what's broken. For a decade, I was flush with financial benefits and opportunities that kept me from crucial and critical outcomes.

Those support systems no longer exist for me. The system I'm connected to now squeezes the oxygen out of you, then teases you with air that you can't afford, with solutions and answers beyond your grasp. I won't take handouts, and I won't burn all that I have to get help.

But I will get help, when circumstances are better and right.

I want to work. I want to be part of a productive system where I'm receiving adequate benefits and appreciating the fruits of my labor. I want to contribute and know what it's like to be protected again. I don't want to grasp and gasp on the edge of oblivion.

I'm constantly holding what little breath I have for the time that I can live again. I live my life wracked with worry these days. I get by with what little resources I can muster. I survive more than I thrive.

I know someday I'll breathe full and clear again, but that time isn't now. At present, the vibrant noose is strangling my dreams and squeezing the life out of me.

#xoterica

Xoterica 35: The (Great Good) Talent Show

Artemis Sere Xoterica 35 The Great Good Talent Show

“We are told that talent creates its own opportunities. Yet it sometimes seems that intense desire creates not only its own opportunities but its own talents as well.” (Bruce Lee)

I can't tell you how many times I've been told by people I love and respect that I'm talented.

During my job search over the last year, it has become a common descriptor for me. I'm humbled to be considered talented and truly am thankful for such a gracious compliment, but I've discovered that talent really doesn't guarantee anything but madness.

People tell me "not to worry, it'll work out" during my troubled times, shake their head in wonder at my struggle, but most of these people have never truly lived on the edge of the cliff, tip-toed on the border of oblivion. In less poetic terms, they've never had to fight to survive, never had to pick themselves up after multiple tragic falls, never had to rebuild stability. Over and over again.

Talented humans shouldn't have to fight to survive. It's a real tragedy of the human condition that we appreciate celebrity more than talent. A celebrity doesn't need talent to survive, just a pleasing frame or persona or angle.

Like unrequited love, talent seldom leads to what the blessed hope or expect. As with unrequited love, talent "is a one-sided experience that can leave us feeling pain, grief, and shame." Talent may get you to the doorway of success, but luck offers the handshake that brings you through the threshold.  Paradoxically, the more talent a person amasses, the less human they seem to the masses. The more unique an individual is, the less like the flock they are.

The Way of the Wizard

Talent is the energy that separates the mundane from the magical. We celebrate certain magicians for their wizardly ways, but most talent is met with apathy or antipathy. Talent is expressed in many different ways - physical, mental, professional, creative, a mix of all … However, translating talent to measurable momentum and survival resources is easy when you're in the spotlight or limelight, but feels like circular madness when you're not.

In fact, when you're consistently told that you're talented but are unable to use that talent to turn the applause sign on in your life, what good is it?

Talent becomes an exercise in cognitive dissonance: you're told that you're awesome, but not awesome enough to be a person that is embraced, shared, or lifted as a necessary talent. You're told to believe in yourself, believe in your talent, exercise your abilities and expand the limits of yourself, but when you do that you can stretch yourself into someone unfamiliar to the world.

I read a recent article that talked about how important friends are to the success of an Artist. It makes total sense to me, and is validated by the metrics of my life. By follower counts, I have grown a social media following close to 50,000 for my Art and art brand over a decade. By engagement counts, I have a social media following of 50 on good days, mostly made up of people I've met in person.

The Great Good People

Talent is grandly taken for granted in our digital age.

We've lost our great good places and tangible ways to appreciate the creators amongst us in the era of covid. Sensations are created overnight based on trends and tribes. Now, many people are able to oversell their talent and capabilities with social media or digital technologies. The deep-fake, digital evolution has given everyone a platform upon which to fight for attention.

If the cage fight were a balanced match, I'd feel better about my odds, but it's less about the talent now than the stage itself.  Consider,

Elisa Lam spent years on Tumblr and killed herself in a water tank on the top of an L.A. hotel. She's a Tumblr sensation because of her attention to reflective content and "deep thoughts".

Amanda Gorman read a poem full of timely poignant words during the Inauguration of Joe Biden and instantly became an internet star, signed to model agencies, and a feature at the Super Bowl. Evidently, the "Youth Poet Laureate" title was created for her. I don't remember Maya Angleou getting such treatment. I revered Angelou in college, and she deserved her platform.

Is Gorman talented? Sure.

Is Gorman special? No. She is just a creator who was gifted special platforms and audiences. As a Harvard grad, there was no way for her to fail. Her success and celebrity were guaranteed based on her  platforms.

When I was a writer at a state school fighting for attention and dreaming of getting published by a Publishing House, I wasn't offered special platform, title, or treatment. Why is that?

It wasn't for lack of trying, just as it isn't now. It is about the popularity contest, the heart of the great good show, where impressions and clicks matter more than integrity and quality.

I guess this is what it's truly like to be a self-publishing, self-sufficient, self-centered artist in the digital age: I have enough time for a small circle of friends and a content calendar that speaks to a mostly apathetic audience, but since I have to plan, create, and share  experiences outside of the lines of a normal human life, this is the best I get.

Talent for another time, if I make it that long.

The Tightrope

I realize the odds are against me. I don't have children or a large extended family, don't have a protected class or status, don't come from affluence or a place of great stability. I don't hold popular positions in this Christian nation, or in any place where trust is put in God first (and not the talents of humanity). My views are fervently opposed by millions in America. In order to truly gain attention now, I have to be partially vilified.

Be the antagonist. Lurk and snipe. Shout my stands from the tallest platform.

But I have chosen not to walk that tightrope, be that person.

Now, our political lines affect our lives more than ever - what we consume, what we endorse, what we share. What was once boycotting of products and experiences has been rebranded as "cancel culture". My way of canceling people nowadays isn't to get in their face with my opinion; my method is to unfollow. But from this point forward, everyone will have a "blacklist" of cultural creators or experiences that don't align with their personal beliefs or stances.

And they will be chastised by some, celebrated by others. I know I dwell on some lists, and have my own list of artists I don't support due to their personal or political leanings.

Such is the case of Gina Carano, an American actress who was fired from the Disney show "The Mandalorian" for inappropriate and insensitive comments in social media. Depending on which side of the argument you fall, she is either an example or a martyr. Regardless of her level of "talent", the stage has decided her path of success. I'll boycott Carano's future projects because I think her message was deeply divisive and insensitive.

But she'll power forward anyway, and people will follow her, celebrate her "talent".

I don't think she deserves to be an embraced artist. But because she took a stand, the ignorant will line up to support her. Just as the ignorant fell in line in the 80s and fought against certain types of styles of art.

Fuck the PMRC.

And fuck Nazism and white power and privilege.

I think every "American" needs to spend a month in Germany and Poland in some sort of culture exchange. That month would involve touring beautiful Feudal towers called castles that once protected and dominated the populous, and will involve hitting every single site of Nazi atrocity that can be visited - Eagle's Nest, Auschwitz, Dachau, just to name a few. Visit Berlin and see the remnants of a divided time. See what remains of the violence that once cleaved a country in two.

I saw it in person when I was a kid. The walls. The wires. The turrets and bombfields that forcefully separated a country.

Some culture, such as Nazi culture, deserves to be canceled. Visual and written propaganda was the backbone of a successful Nazi run. Very talented people in Germany created amazing works of art to sell the Nazi way of life, and the German people fell prey to the wizardry of Adolf Hitler, the talented artist and creator. In no way is that absolution of Adolf Hitler and his diabolical approach to humanity; it is an observation that before we knew Hitler as we do now, he was a talented, productive, brilliant artist.

Along the way, something triggered his talent in a malevolent direction.

Inside the Electric Circus

These days, the talent show is overwhelmed by automated propaganda machines and feed manipulation engines. No strategy matters if people don't see your content. The reach of my content is limited based on the resources I put into spreading my message. The engagement of my content is restricted based on the political or personal leanings of the beholder. The sharing of my content is abysmal based on the placement of my content in the feeds of my audience, by the sheer chance of attention.

That isn't to say I don't have a core circle of people that appreciate my work. To them, I offer my love and complete gratitude. They are the reason that my artistic focus and brand have survived for 14 years; they are the reason that I continue to communicate my works and share myself with the public. The reality is that my stage is much smaller than I view it to be, and my talent is as obscure as the art I create.

Sometimes good, sometimes great, sometimes forgettable.

This year will not determine what I do with my talent in the future, but it will determine how I move forward with supporting the machines that work against me and if I continue to be an "outward artist" or "artrovert". The expression of my talent seems mostly wasted on the mechanics of marketing and audience engagement. This art is bigger than a couple of clicks to a website, and the metrics only serve to remind me how unpopular I am in the great talent show.

If luck is my only way to a bigger stage and show, then I'd prefer to focus my magic on the works I create than the experience of the audience.

The circus of madness really isn't worth it.

#xoterica