I will admit I have a bit of TED talk problem. It’s related to the treadmill. I prefer to walk outside, but sometimes its cold and dark up here.  While our treadmill is located in the Man Cave–also known as the least aesthetically pleasing room in the house–I do walk on it. I walk, and I watch my Ipad. If I am lucky, the TED talk I choose will give me something to mentally gnaw on for the day.

Last week, I watched Shea Hembrey: How I Became 100 Artists

Hembrey traveled through Europe looking at the major biennials and found them lacking. He decided to create his own biennial incorporating what he felt was missing. For Hembrey, amazing art possesses these three things.


Hearing him say this was REALLY exciting for me.

Yes. That’s what it is about–head, heart, and hands. I’m thinking, he has got it. He is right.

The head presents interesting intellectual and conceptual ideas. The heart is all about passion and soul. And the hands are, of course, the makers of exquisite things.

He set out on a two year journey to embody 100 different artists who made 100 different works of art for his biennial. In the TED talk, he presents many of the artists’ work. Each artist (who is actually Shea) has their own take on what is art. Hembrey’s work is wildly creative and inventive and original.

I love this one by “artist” Nel Reynold. It is a 22 foot long mirror creating a sky hole in the ground.

Shea Hembrey

Hembrey is a skilled painter. This piece is done with a single hair brush.

Shea Hembrey

He is also very funny. This piece created by an “artist collective” called the Silver Dobermans is a cultural critique on how we are an over-coddled nation.

Another of Hembrey’s “artists” is Hazel Clasin. Clasin is an anthropologist who created a make believe culture. This is one of the founders of the culture who in real life is Hembrey’s Aunt.

Shea HembreyAt this point, he laughs at the notion of a fake artist making a fake culture and then making fake art within that culture.

All of this is amazing on a certain level. WOW. He made 100 works of art by channelling 100 different artists who reside within himself.

And all of this is disappointing.

I was really hoping to see HEAD, HEART, and HANDS.

But Hemprey’s work for this biennial was rarely about the heart and almost never about the hands.

I’ve pondered this all week. Why did that happen?

Here’s what I think.

Western society values science and the mind and probably money more than anything else. In some ways, I suppose we are hardwired for that. The HEAD does all of our thinking, so of course they THINK their work is the most important. The HEART is too kind to put up a fight, and the HANDS are too busy making to complain. So the HEAD struts into the middle of the stage and stays there.

It does not help that our academic art programs have bought the HEAD’s sale pitch.

It is my birthday today.

My birthday wish is that we all have a busy year creating wonderful things with our HANDS.

That our HEARTS are open and brave enough to share these things with the world.

And through these actions, our HEADS begin to understand that it really does take all three parts of ourselves to live well, to make art, to be a source of positive change.

McCarthy Solstice by Maria ShellIt is not an easy task. But when we succeed it is a wonderful thing.

This entry was published on January 15, 2014 at 1:57 PM. It’s filed under Thoughts and Opinions and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

20 thoughts on “HEAD HEART HANDS

  1. Have a beaut of a birthday my Capricorn friend. I love everything about what you just said! Valerie

  2. Have a great birthday!

  3. Hi Maria… so many happy wishes as you round out this day… you have become a major inspiration in my world of art, and for that I am very thankful. You have been a wonderful gift to many of us…enjoy what is left of your special day.
    Bethany in Kingston, ON

  4. Happy Birthday! Have a fabulous day! I really enjoy your thoughtful posts.

  5. Maria..Read Tolstoy’s “essays on Art and what is Art”(not too sure about the title.It’s been quite a few years since I read it. Made a lot of sense then..don’t know if I would still think so.Happy Birthday

  6. Ellie G on said:

    Happy Birthday! What a nice, thoughtful writing! Quilting is all about heads, hearts and hands….love the thought!

  7. Angela levy on said:

    Happy birthday. I know you are so happy we are no longer the same age! Angie

  8. Fugget Hemprey and his ilk. Just keep on keeping on. Every artist contemplates what art is and you have found it for YOU. What feedback you get is what keeps you going just like a scientist, engineer or mathematician who follows their craft long enough to make it rewarding. The rest is just rhetoric and gobbledy- gook and saps energy and passion because it belongs to another, takes up what time we have to create and robs us of precious moments of enjoyment. The rest of ’em go into politics for the power and what it can do otherwise for them. We are talking about apples and oranges here.

    • Carole- I get what you are saying, but what I was trying to say is that while I like Hemprey’s work, I don’t think he reached his stated goal of incorporating Head, Heart, and Hands into the pieces. And at the same time, I think quilt making might be a clear path to creating work that does fulfill his goal. I am always glad to see you stop by. Thank you!

  9. Jan Glines on said:

    Well said, Maria. Thank you. My hands are tickling my heart to pump oxygen to my brain – lets get quilting!

  10. Lois Cleal on said:

    Happy Birthday Maria I hope you have a fabulous and creative day. I think Head, Heart and Hands perfectly sums up thoughful quilting.
    Regards Lois

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