Learning by Doing: Summer Edition

The best way to describe my life right now is dense. Busy doesn’t quite capture the feeling, but dense. Different projects at different stages. I’m doing the types of things that fulfill me and sometimes over-fill me, things that I wish I had more time and space to think about more deeply and properly process. … Continue reading Learning by Doing: Summer Edition

Politics and the Environment: The Good, Bad, Complicated, and Promising

The Good Fact #1: The Clean Air Act was passed in 1970 with a unanimous vote from the Senate and only one nay vote from the House. This is just one example of successful environmental efforts that crossed party lines. Fact #2: The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) was established during Richard Nixon’s (R) presidency. Fact #3: George H.W. … Continue reading Politics and the Environment: The Good, Bad, Complicated, and Promising

Geometry, Community, and Identity: What do you see?

I had the honor of presenting at TEDx Madison at the end of 2016. My talk is officially online, and I’m excited to finally be able to share it. The talk focuses on the integral and vital role of creativity, to our survival and wellbeing. For those of you who have seen the talk, you may … Continue reading Geometry, Community, and Identity: What do you see?

Two worlds in tandem: moving from the past to the present

February 8, 2017, would have been my dad’s 66th birthday. He has been gone for nearly 8 years. I have been thinking a lot lately about things that come in twos. Things set in opposition that are necessary parts of a whole. Left versus right, male versus female, north versus south, conservative versus liberal. Things … Continue reading Two worlds in tandem: moving from the past to the present

Thoughts following the Women’s March

Our future generations will remember that on January 21st, 2017, 2.9 million people joined the Women’s March for peace and equal rights in an environment where we have been incited to take up the tools of war. This is the largest march in US history and regardless of outside efforts to disrupt the movement, the … Continue reading Thoughts following the Women’s March

What does it mean to be In Unison?

It is two days after Martin Luther King Day and two days before the 45th Presidential Inauguration. We began the week by honoring the memory of a man who emerged from and spoke for the crowd, and who fell, though he spoke of hope. We will end the week by officiating a man chosen by the … Continue reading What does it mean to be In Unison?

Art Residency at the Madison Bubbler

When I first learned that Wisconsinites called water fountains “bubblers” I laughed and thought it was ridiculous. Now, after more than six years of living in Wisconsin, I’ll be the artist-in-residence in the Bubbler program at Madison’s Central Public Library, and that whimsical, little word will be on my C.V. until the end of time, because … Continue reading Art Residency at the Madison Bubbler

The benefits of keeping a journal: paper time machines and thoughts from the soul

I keep a hand-written journal, to log the often boring, redundant, silly, serious, terrible, hopeful, vulnerable thoughts that I have. My current journal is handmade and has a sister that I gave to one of my best friends back in 2009. Since she and I have never gotten to see each other much, I decided … Continue reading The benefits of keeping a journal: paper time machines and thoughts from the soul

“Only a fool trips on what’s behind him”

“Only a fool trips on what’s behind him.” I had a thrilling, amazing, tumultuous, nerve-wracking, at times unpredictable, unforgettable, educational, creative, and fulfilling 2016. Full of growing pains and gains, a few ugly cries, a lot of swearing, and a lot of laughter. I celebrated two years outside of the “corporate world” and of working … Continue reading “Only a fool trips on what’s behind him”

Today, we wear white

When I was a kid, my parents pounded into my head how lucky I am to have been born in the US. My mom, especially, emphasized how lucky as a girl I am to be here. But this luck was never separate from the acknowledgment that good fortune can go to waste, and living in … Continue reading Today, we wear white

In Pursuit of Purpose

I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes for meaningful work. People often think that finding meaning is the same as finding happiness. More accurately, it’s about being willing to face the hardship and sadness. To do something meaningful is often doing whatever you can to set others free of what troubles them, to find … Continue reading In Pursuit of Purpose

Our Stories Share the Same Roots: A Community Mural Project

It’s been a really good summer, in many ways. Full of laughter and play. Weekend trips. Camping. Outdoor excursions and inside jokes. Crackling fires. Summer pies. At the same time, it has been an emotionally tumultuous year–for lots of us, I imagine. Maybe election years are always this way, and there’s a lot at stake with … Continue reading Our Stories Share the Same Roots: A Community Mural Project

What God Looks Like

My mother once told me the story of a cartoon she saw in a newspaper some years ago, which explained God. In the cartoon, God is a faceless, featureless oval on a table. People come to see and give thanks for all that God has done. They see that God has nothing, no way to see or feel or hear or think. So out … Continue reading What God Looks Like

Our Relationship with Power: Why It Matters & What We Can Learn

Did you miss my show at Arts + Literature Laboratory? Here’s a recap of why I chose to focus on power and a video of the story I told at the reception. Jenie Gao | Our Relationship with Power, video by Midwest Story Lab One of the long-term themes in my artwork is relationships, between people, between nature … Continue reading Our Relationship with Power: Why It Matters & What We Can Learn

Lessons of departure: the heart and mind of a rural town in a tourists’ economy

Lanesboro Arts Center is beautiful. The space is bright, open, welcoming, and full of activity. They regularly host artists and writers to use the space as a getaway to focus on projects, as well as workshops and seminars for the community. When the directors offered to show my work there, they also kindly took the time to … Continue reading Lessons of departure: the heart and mind of a rural town in a tourists’ economy

A welcome interruption: a letter for busy people

We are a culture in transit, both for the joy and the agony of it. Our long work commutes depress us, while ideas of travel and escape excite us. In one of the great contradictions of the human condition, we talk about the journey being more important than the destination, despite what we might think … Continue reading A welcome interruption: a letter for busy people

Rules are made to be…

I’m a lover of paradox, for those who didn’t know, especially the man-made ones. In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, you need a parking permit to keep your car on the street at night. You can only park on one side of the street at night and you have to switch sides each day. During the day you can … Continue reading Rules are made to be…

Art and Leadership: the power and purpose of creativity

I recently wrote an article called “The Myth of the Starving Artist—and what it can teach us about job security.” In it, I discuss how society’s attitude towards art parallels how people feel across industries about their jobs and companies. We’re in a culture that devalues creativity and values pursuing a paycheck over the purpose … Continue reading Art and Leadership: the power and purpose of creativity

The love affair of art & politics-and the culture they create

The chase. The game. Love it or hate it, love it and hate it. Choose to play, choose not to play. There’s no getting away from it. Our existence depends on relationships and our fulfillment on how well we play with others. Today, I’d like to invite you to play a game of make believe. Let’s … Continue reading The love affair of art & politics-and the culture they create

How to comfort your mother and still be true to yourself

My mom, like most parents, worries about my happiness and wellbeing, which means she spends a lot of time thinking about me being unhappy and unwell. Funny how that works, right? She worries about me being alone and unfulfilled. It’s one of her favorite topics to analyze and rehash. I appreciate the intent, and when we … Continue reading How to comfort your mother and still be true to yourself