Saturday, December 22, 2012

It All Comes Down to Love...

"It All Came Down to Love" Crystal Neubauer

Last Tuesday night my thoughts turned to the number of terrible news events that have been occurring, the mass shooting against the children of Newtown serving to illustrate the belief that we are now entering into what the Bible calls the last days and that prophecy about increasing troubles, wars, violence, severe weather and falling away is beginning to be fulfilled. On a recent Saturday morning I had a conversation with two friends about how overwhelming it can be, how easy it is to succumb to the feeling of impending doom. I found myself questioning my purpose, whether there was time for something as frivolous as teaching art and whether God really was calling me to share my passion with young women to help them learn their own identity and figure out their own purpose in life. If we truly are in the last days does it really matter?

But then, as I drove, I had a thought-which I now feel strongly was Holy Spirit prompted- that the enemy is trying to steal our hope, the hope of the church, the hope of Gods people and the hope of all mankind. He is trying to make us feel as if it is too late to make a difference and that it is all down hill from here -the country is already going to hell in a hand basket- so we might as well give up.

And if we are strong enough not to give up, this very real enemy seeks to distract and divide us over relevant issues such as gun control and mental health. If He can keep us focused on the symptom we forget about the cause, and the only real solution. Is it a coincidence that these dark events have happened just before Christmas? That the news of the world is so dark and evil at this time is a stark reminder of the need for a Savior and, just as when Jesus was born, all the earth is poised and yearning for an answer to its troubles. The world is in desperate need of hope restored and rather then tucking our tail in defeat, God’s people need to be spreading the good news now more then ever.

Oh come, Oh come Emmanuel. Rejoice. Rejoice. Emmanuel shall come to thee. Rejoice!

Jesus is the Over Comer. He is the Light and Hope of the world. He is bigger, stronger and has already won this battle that rages. The enemy already has been defeated and he knows his time to wreak havoc is short. The victory was won at the cross and our focus needs to shift back from the evil we see in the world to the hope we have in Jesus. We are ineffective in our walk if we are caught up in all the bad we see around us. Not that we are to ignore it or pretend these things don't affect us. On the contrary, our emotions are real, these tragedies are tremendous. We should weep for those who are weeping, mourn for the lost and seek justice for the defenseless among us. Show compassion and empathy. Bring a cup of water to the thirsty.

And never forget our highest commandment is to love. Spread hope. Spread peace. Spread love. Love our neighbor.

Who is our neighbor? He is the wretched Samaritan lying in a heap at the side of the street in a tattered blanket begging for change. The woman who has made bad decisions about life and love, living with her 6th abuser because she doesn’t believe she deserves any better, cannot even fathom a way out. The well dressed businessman who appears to have it all. It is the spiritually blind. Those who live entirely different lifestyles and beliefs. We are called to stop and see them. To reach out in love and befriend, not in a superior high and lofty way, but from a humble stance, as equals, as brothers, as fellow travelers, understanding if not for the grace of God  and knowing we too have messy lives and cannot claim perfection.

But we can claim freedom. We can claim hope. We are to be a light. A city on a hill speaks of hope, a lighthouse guiding the way to a safe harbor.

The bible says to resist the enemy and he will flee – and what better way to resist the enemy? 

Do not lay down in defeat, or retreat in self-defense or feelings of helplessness. Rise up. Rise up church! Rise up! Overcome by the blood of the lamb and the word of your testimony. Spread hope. Spread love. Spread the good news! 

"And the angel said to them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people." Luke 2:10

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Rusty Wheels

I have written a thousand tiny blog posts in my mind, started a few of them for reals and then stopped again in the space between the last post and now. How do I even begin to write again after two+ months? I will not try to catch up with it all today, but simply attempt to begin again.

The act of motion to beget increased motion, to get these rusty wheels moving on the track again.

I have been far from inactive- I have returned to the life of full time day job and in the midst of this Christmas season find myself running to catch up - sharing a post by another blogger who recently interviewed me, Anca Gray, who will also be featured in Seth Apter's second book due to be released early in 2014. Anca writes graciously and poetically and I am taken aback at seeing through her eyes and words....

"power and fragility inhabit their shared space
in crystal neubauer's work. i discovered her collages,
mixed media paintings and encaustic pieces on etsy
a couple of years ago and i have been enraptured
with the visual feast and sheer poetry of her work
ever since.
equal parts the nature of the material 
and the sensitivity of the artist,
her work tucks unutterable prayers
between delicate layers
of vintage ephemera"... read rest of interview here

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Heading Back to the Classroom

"Selah!": 10" x 10" Collage comes in 20" x 20" shadowbox frame & mat
I am looking out the window of my studio as I type this, the words "Fall is in Bloom" entertaining my thoughts. The truth is that the vibrant colors of the trees and foliage are a result of the end of a life-cycle rather then the start of it, but the rich deep reds, yellows, and oranges dancing in the sun bring to mind an exhilaration to life this morning and what better image to send out with this newsletter today then the one I've titled "Selah!" which can be translated as "Pause and reflect on that". Indeed, the beauty I see outside causes me to pause and reflect even as I begin to look forward.

The past few weeks have found me busily working on samples and completing new work for publication and future workshops. I have recently been invited to return to a national retreat venue of which I am more then excited about, but not free to announce just yet, but I am able to share two dates I've also recently firmed up on the local level:

November 5th (a Monday) will find me in Lake Bluff Illinois speaking on finding purpose & meaning in your art, with hands on participation if time allows, for the "Artists on the Bluff" art league. The meeting is from 7-9pm and is open to the public, so come on out and join the group for a fun night if you are in the area!

January 26th (a Saturday) I will be returning to PerficalSense Studio to teach in my favorite medium - Collage! Combined with Encaustic wax, the possibilities are endless! Please consider joining us there for this one-day workshop if you are near the Evanston area.

My website will be updated shortly with these dates and more - meanwhile email or respond to this newsletter if you have questions.

Tomorrow is the last day to take advantage of my "First Fruits Offering"- pre-sale offering of gratitude and praise. If you haven't had a chance yet, be sure to head over to the website and get in on the deal.

Friday, September 28, 2012

If I can't travel the US at least my art can...

"A Clean Slate": 32" x 32" framed Collage
If you recognize this weeks image you may have caught the piece on display in December at the One of a Kind show in Chicago or you may have seen it here before. This week I am honored to share with you that "A Clean Slate" was selected for an outstanding traveling exhibit titled  "Touch, Annoint and Heal: God With Us". The exhibit is being sponsored by Christians In the Visual Arts organization and the selection process was tough as over 300 works were entered and juror Richard Cummings, an Associate Professor of Art at College of the Ozarks, was able to select only 30 pieces to travel with the show. This exhibit is scheduled to open December 2012 at Apostles Anglican Church in Lexington, Kentucky and will travel for at least one year throughout the country. I will update you on the locations of the show as I hear of them and hopefully you can catch it in your area!

This is the last week to take advantage of my "First Fruits Offering"- pre-sale offering of gratitude and praise. If you haven't had a chance yet, be sure to head over to the website and get in on the deal.

Monday, September 24, 2012

What Dreams May Come

 "I'll Take You There"   Mixed Media Collage by Crystal Neubauer
Recently I saw a link to a blog post pop up in my newsfeed on Facebook- it had something to do with our dreams not being just for us. I have to admit I did not read the blog post, just the title, and I am sorry to say I can't recall who posted it, so I can't give proper credit to the mention here (if you think you know please feel free to leave a link in the comments section), but the premise got me to thinking...
If our dreams are not for us, then who are they for? I thought of the motivation I get from my dream to get up each morning and enter my studio. To have that dream held out in front of me keeps me moving toward it, even when it seems to be so far away. No one else shares the exact vision of my dream, no one else can see it, or know the depths of the ache of it, so how can it not be just for me?

I started thinking of my wise counselor and how she shared with me that she began feeling a stirring toward counseling while working as a successful business woman with a lucrative salary. Outwardly it did not make sense for her to quit this stable career for the unknown and unrealized dream she held in her heart, but having that dream gave her the motivation to take the risk, not an easy thing to do as a single woman, to give up her secure job and go back to school in pursuit of that dream. I thought of how much I had benefited from her dream - not just as my very wise counselor but more along the lines of a "life coach" - and how far I've come toward realizing my own dreams because she pursued hers. She has a unique voice and giftedness, her dream is actually her calling and I am the better off for it. 
I also think of a neighbor who has pursued her dream - another calling really - who has impacted the neighborhood in a major way just reaching out and praying for and loving on others. Her dream for the neighborhood has helped her to persist for years and many lives have been changed because of her. And those changed lives have grown and spread into other communities and other states. One small action, one woman who had a dream to break the bondage and small thinking that impoverishment can create.

There are days when I am tempted to quit. Tempted to get the secure and stable "real job" and give up on pursing my dream.  And so what if I did? Who would it affect besides me? Isn't it just my dream?
As I settle in to my new studio space in a new community, I sense it is time to begin taking the next step and I have to admit I am stepping out there timidly and with trepidation. I feel vulnerable. There is a voice - that voice - whispering "who do you think you are?" and part of me agrees and believes it is true. I am nothing. I am nobody. I am not qualified. And what does it really matter anyway? 
But then I think what if it does matter? 
I will be opening my studio in a week or two to a few girls and women in the neighborhood - I've invited a few already and asked that they invite one or two as well. We will just hang out with some fun music and I will show them some collage and encaustic techniques and they will learn a bit about art, but it is my sincerest desire that they will also learn a bit about themselves and each other. About how much they are worth, what they are capable of, how much they are loved and how important they are.

As I hear that negative voice in my head trying to dissuade me, I again think of the post whose title I read the other day and I ask myself- and you - just who is this dream for anyway?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Exciting Stuff Going On...

"Tears For The Brokenhearted": 12" x 12" Collage and Acrylic on Canvas
Short of hanging some artwork and setting up a few easels, my new studio space is completely unpacked and fully functioning. It is a fresh airy space with two nice windows pulling in the early Autumn air and sounds of the water from the lake across the street. I am feeling tremendously blessed to have wound up in this home and in this community and anticipate eagerly opening my studio to the neighborhood as I continue to get settled in.

This week I get to share with you some exciting news. Many of you may be familiar Seth Apter who is a proliferate Mixed Media Artist and Author; Seth's blog "The Altered Page" features a wealth of mixed media news and spotlights mixed media artists from around the globe. In March Seth's first book "The Pulse of Mixed Media" was published by NorthLight Books and was such a hit they've asked him to do it again. And Seth has graciously invited me to be one of the "Spotlight Artists" for the book. I couldn't be more humbled! Many mixed media rock stars will be featured in this book and I am still pinching myself over being included in such a stellar group. Now that the studio is unpacked and ready to go I will be focusing my efforts on creating the art and answering the questions. I am so excited to be doing this in my new space. It just feels like it was meant to be this way.

I am still celebrating being back to work with my "First Fruits Offering"- a pre-sale offer to grab one of the first works to come from my new studio space at very low, and limited time only, prices as an offering of gratitude and praise. If you haven't had a chance to take advantage of this offer yet, be sure to head over to the website and get in on the deal and chances are your new work will be created along side the pieces I will be creating for Seth's book.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Invisible Fire

 Deep Calls To Deep    Mixed Media Collage by Crystal Neubauer
Just a few minutes late, I made my way to the back of the crowded room where I could observe the guest speaker without being noticed. I still wasn't sure what I was doing here, what brought me back to this small church meeting in a basement room each Sunday morning. It was a difficult time in my life and I needed more then the disconnect I had been feeling in my regular church home. It wasn't them, it was me. I felt God challenging me to know Him in a deeper way, but this place was outside of my comfort zone, and this morning in particular, filled with people, standing and sitting, who had come to see Todd White speak, it was even more so then usual. My day had started with an earnest private pleading with God to still the waters of my life and bring me peace. Bring me peace God. Please. Please. Please God. I was feeling fragile and I didn't want to be seen.

As I squeezed silently against the back wall, Todd, who had been facing the other side of the room, suddenly stopped mid-sentence and looked directly at me saying in a voice that carried above the crowd "God wants you to know you are entering into a season of peace"! Tears sprang to my eyes and before I could stop it my own small voice gasped "I prayed for that this morning!" There were appropriate praise murmurings all around, but they faded to a buzz as I stood amazed at the timing of this prophecy.

That afternoon a tree lost its limb smashing the rear window of my car in the driveway.

Today I am settling into a new home with only a few of my own belongings around. I can't help thinking this must be what it's like for families who have lost their homes to a fire. In some ways, I think, a fire might have been easier to sort it all out- the good from the bad- damaged belongings verses salvageable goods, and according to our insurance company would have meant our losses were covered.

Just over two months ago we moved to another home that my husband had agreed to renovate in exchange for lower rent. It was to be a time of sacrifice in which, if all went according to plan, we could begin to pay off debt and save our money to finally purchase our own home. But the house needed much more then the cosmetic work my husband had agreed to, a terrible musty odor permeated the air and no amount of cleaning could remove it.

By the time we realized how serious the problem was I was losing my hair, dealing with inexplicable dizzy spells while sitting in bed, and worsening skin and airborne allergy symptoms. Our precious kitty woke ill one day and continued to grow worse - the vet said her kidneys had shut down the day we had to put her to sleep- a result of the toxicity of the black mold spores unseen in the air.

In a sense it was an invisible fire. Thankfully many of our possessions –including my entire studio -were still in boxes stored in the garage, safe from the toxic air, but we had to throw away beds, dressers, rugs and other items which were at highest risk. Everything else went into storage, where we will slowly begin to decide one box, one item at a time, what we can attempt to clean and what else has to be thrown away.

A very wise counselor answered my fears one night in alarm as I lamented over what to do, not having any money or place to go, but knowing the situation was serious "Honey you just get in the car and GO! God will meet you there!" And there I was again; back three years ago in that season of begging God for peace to calm the waters that were threatening to flood my life. Without resources and with no permanent place to go - could I really trust Him to meet me in this?

Stepping back to the big picture, there is an array of core lies that God has been weeding out of my belief system for several years now- indeed through each one of these stormy seasons there have been blessings and breakthroughs- but still I wrestled with the big one. Will God really meet me in this?

Can I really trust God?

A lifetime of fears was at stake and God had lovingly hemmed me in. Bring me peace God. Please. Please. Please God. And that is exactly what He did. As I got into my car and drove away He was there to meet me. From the well timed large sale from my website the first day, to winding up renting a home fully furnished and stocked – a story I might share in more detail another day – God was meeting me in my need every step of the way and showing me just how much I could let go of control and trust Him.

It turns out the prophecy spoken to me three years ago was correct, I really was entering a season of peace – but as long as I had my eyes on the storms around me I was missing it.

Peace, you see, had nothing to do with my circumstances and everything to do with trusting a loving God.

Matthew 6:19 “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Dear Friends...

"Minute Book" Mixed Media Collage by Crystal Neubauer

I am opening up a need to you all and will do so by pasting a copy of a letter I posted to my Facebook wall below. Many of you have already written to ask how you can help aside from the prayers and several people have responded by making purchases of my art. This has been very humbling to have to say yes and to be direct about it, but if ever there was a time for me to do so this would be it. I still have several pieces of my work available on clearance here and many other pieces are available on my website here. If you are in the Chicago area and would like to see my work in person I have several pieces available through Randy Heller Design, she can be contacted here or you can visit her showroom at this location. If you are in the Scotsdale Arizona area Xanadu Gallery is now carrying my work and if you are unable to visit the showroom, those pieces are available at the website here. And finally, many people have written asking for my email address to write me privately. I am deeply touched. My email address is crystal_opf@comcast. com.

"Dear Friends - A little over a month
ago my family moved into a rental that my husband agreed to renovate for
the landlord in exchange for low rent. It sounded like a good way to be
able to pay off some old debt and get our feet on the ground during
continued cutbacks at his job. Unfortunately we discovered that the
house is infested with mold. I have become ill from the exposure and had
to leave a few days ago and one of our
dear cats fell ill as well, this weekend she went into renal failure
and we had to make the heart wrenching decision to have her put to

We will be packing and putting all of our belongings in
storage in the next few days and will each be staying with family or
friends until we figure out where we can go from here (as of last Wednesday I have been staying at various family and friends homes). It has been an
extremely emotionally and financially devastating experience, putting a
strain on the marriage and is very frightening to think of the health
ramifications we may be dealing with still.
I am reaching out to you
to ask for prayers to cover our circumstances. Already since taking
action to deal with the issue God has been providing and I am just
looking to Him each moment to help me to make the wisest decisions for
the next. This community has always been extremely supportive and kind
and I greatly appreciate this. Thank-you."

Thursday, August 02, 2012

On Anne Lamott and the Epiphany of Friendship

"The beams of our house are cedars" : 10" x 10" Collage comes in 20" x 20" shadowbox frame &mat 

 I've been processing a pretty major decision in my life and this morning I think I've had something of an epiphany. Funny how these moments strike - they feel like they are something out of the blue- the Aha! of it- but in actuality they are a sort of symphony that has been slowly building to this climatic moment and only in retrospect am I able to see it. The "epiphany" brings with it a sort of clarity - as a veil has just been lifted and I am able to see all the underneath parts of the decision making process and the moments that have led to this moment.

I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. I do have to guard against wasting time, but on the love side is being able to glean from people who inspire me. One of my favorite authors is Anne Lamott, who writes lengthy status updates on a fairly regular basis. Little snippets of her life, her views on world events and oftentimes advice to aspiring writers. I love her "voice", her wit, and her overall sense of confidence, which she somehow exudes even when she is pointing out her flaws. In other words, she's a real person and I aspire to be like her. To so unashamedly live from that place of confidence, without concern that not everybody shares my point of view or gets my sense of humor- or sees my jiggly parts.

A few days ago Anne posted this advice to her aspiring writer fans: "I just tweeted something that might be helpful to you writerly types out there, which is that I get mentally arthritic when I "try" to write, or take myself too seriously, and breathe down my own neck. And when I notice that this stuckness, I switch over to pretending that I am just writing my story/memory as a letter to my very dear younger brother. It totally takes the pressure off. It's just my brother, not Mitchiko Kakutani. He is always interested in what matters to me, and is non-judgmental, with a great sense of humor. I thought, Hey, everyone could pretend to write their stories or tell their memories in a letter to my younger brother. So get to work! His name is Stevo."

 Something about that description of Stevo stuck with me and this morning I thought of it as I found myself processing the decision I spoke of earlier. I realized I was blessed to have a few "Stevo's" in my life in the form of friendships. A few very dear friends who love me and accept me in the same non-judgemental way that Anne speaks about her brother. One friend in particular has listened to me wrestle with my life again and again, always in a safe and loving way, totally accepting me just as I am and believing the best for me, even when I am at my worst. And it was a question this friend spoke to me at the start of the wrestling over this particular decision that wound up being the catalyst for this epiphany: "But do you want to do it?"  - not a pep talk on pushing through, or a lofty sermon about handing it over to God, no glossing over of the issue at hand, or some sort of chastisement about my fears or indecision or a shame inducing lecture on responsibilities and not everything being about me. No, a total warm encouraging accepting question "Do you want to....?" 

Do i want's kind of a loaded question. Do we really wrestle over things that we are certain we want to do? Sometimes. Yes.

And so the slow building musical score to my life built its way to the part where the drums of self-condemnation are beating loudly in my ears just before the release of the epiphany. A gentle moment of clarity where I am able to see the fears to which I am in bondage and the number of ways I have given away my power because of those fears.

But the clarity was not in the knowledge of, or acknowledgment of, my fears alone. No, it came in the form of releasing myself from the shame of having those fears in the first place. They are there and they are a part of me, part of my Limbic System with scientific names like Amygdala and Basal Ganglia which have written my emotional auto-pilot gut reactions long before my conscious memories were formed. And in that small, but monumental moment of truth - I see that the only way to overcome them is not by pretending they don't exist or by shaming myself in a faux demonstration of bravery, but simply to befriend them and accept them. To befriend and accept me. Just as Anne's brother Stevo accepts her and just as my dear friends accept me; without judgement for the fears, but with every bit of confidence that as I press into them I will eventually find my way.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Patricia Baldwin Seggebruch: Four Boys

There seems to be a movement developing - as I am once again bringing to you a guest author who is writing on the topic of being vulnerable. The author of my last guest post, Jan Avellana introduced me to this quote by Frederick Buechner from his book Telling Secrets -- writes "What we hunger for perhaps more than anything else is to be known in our full humanness, and yet that is often just what we also fear more than anything else. It is important to tell at least from time to time the secret of who we truly and fully are . . . because otherwise we run the risk of losing track of who we truly and fully are and little by little come to accept instead the highly edited version which we put forth in hope that the world will find it more acceptable than the real thing. It is important to tell our secrets too because it makes it easier . . . for other people to tell us a secret or two of their own . . . ”

And so without further ado, I introduce to you my friend Patricia Baldwin Seggebruch, the author of two bestselling books on Encaustic Wax Painting and the brainchild behind EncaustiKits and EncaustiCamp, here today to share vulnerably from her heart the story of four boys.... 

And then there was one~

Vulnerable:  tender, precious.
These words come to mind and more when I think of being vulnerable.  Oftentimes connoting negative imagery, on the contrary vulnerable has proven to be my greatest ally.

Four boys.
Giving birth to and raising one child catapults you into a place of vulnerability-your heart tears open wide- your senses go on a keen alert; perhaps likened only to the alert necessary to keep oneself alive in a battle ravaged war zone…
for the next eighteen years your hearing, seeing, smelling, even tasting and touching are all hair-triggered to the being that just tore your heart away and at the same time filled it full.
I have four boys.
four red headed, left handed, brilliantly wonderful boys. Men now, I must admit, since they tower over my 5'6^" frame by more than a head each....
'Have four boys': I read that again and wonder on what it means. How it is defined. For to have, implies I hold them, possess them, am with them.
I don't.
I don't have each and every 'finish your breakfast' 'don't forget to brush your teeth' 'have a great day I love you' days. I don’t have them all under my roof.
They are 2200 miles across this great US. Land locked in the center of the mitten state.
My boys.
It wasn't always this way. I married their father fully intending to 'till death do us part' never part. Raised Catholic, conservatively protected, 'always stay together no matter what' family history; I was trained to live no other way.
And then we failed. Marriage crashed. Trust departed. Love, exposed never existing love, vanished of possibility and we were no longer together. Parted.: Yet not yet 'until death'.

Four boys.
Amicably; that's what we called our efforts to remain centered around raising the boys; amicably communicating.
And so we left the decision of whom to live with up to each individual child. For a year I continued as mom of four; everything I had ever known and been still intact and all appearances of carrying on properly fortified.
Until Daniel left.
I put him on a plane with a stilted, hard-fought smile that came crushing down as I hit the passenger seat of my ride home.
Conner went next; but not so painfully.
 Taking off at eighteen to find his wings he returned to the fold three months later; growing into his leaving in stages until finally flying at twenty.
Brian was close behind.
Just shy of his sixteenth birthday.  I'd begun to play the game in my head that Daniel had gone off to boarding school; and so took up the same mind game with Brian’s departure.
So much too soon before I was ready to release them from my fold.
So vulnerable.
But in this vulnerable, real. In this vulnerable, pieced back together. In this vulnerable, throwing away the super glue and no longer furiously trying to hold the pieces together. In this vulnerable, realizing I had the super glue inside of me all along.
This didn’t make it easy. It didn’t make it make sense. It didn’t ward off the demons of judgment telling me ‘what kind of mother are you?! That your children would leave?!’
But it made it possible.
And that was enough.
To wake up to. To begin again to. To open my eyes to.
Four boys.

Daniel's departure had prepared me for the reality of living this new way; his growing potential for success, thriving in his 'only child' status under his father's roof had proven hugely positive.
And so despite being newly sickened by my second child's early departure, I was nonetheless a bit more emboldened to trust it was a good thing. And,
Patrick remains.
At sixteen now himself, he steps into the next stages of life firmly determined to finish under my roof. I am grateful, yet also recognize the immense value of the long distance mothering I've been gifted in my others' departures.
Vulnerable to trusting my boys to a world I don’t trust. Vulnerable to trusting them to trust who I am. Vulnerable to trusting them to still let me be mom; without being able to make them dinner, and kiss them goodnight, and watch out the window as they walk up the road with their backpack slung low…
So vulnerable. Yet, so empowered.
Giving birth once, twice, thrice then four times proved to not be the real picture of vulnerable after all.
Their before their time leaving did.

Because life turned.
And from vulnerable: weak, defenseless, exposed, came vulnerable: tender, precious.
I am momma.
I am confidant.
I am counselor.
I am encourager.
And I am believer.
Their leaving has given me space to give birth to more, while birthing in them more.
More than their next meal or homework assignment or chore.
More than their clean clothes, brushed teeth or washed hands.

I couldn't have, in my worst nightmares, have seen their early departures from my fold, but in my wildest dreams, couldn't either have foreseen the beautiful growth of confidence, opportunity and courageousness that was gifted not only to them in this independent decision, but in myself as well. Stepping into motherhood in a whole new way and becoming an inspiration and hero to my boys.
I have four boys.
And it is so vulnerable.
And it is good.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Jan Avellana on Safe Community

I'm practicing the art of asking forgiveness over permission today by borrowing my friend Jan Avellana's recent blog post on being a safe person and practicing safe community. It's only 4:30 am in Hawaii as I post this, so I tell myself Jan would rather I steal her post then call her to ask to use it at such an ungodly hour!

Jan say's the vulnerability I displayed in my last post inspired her to step out and practice a little vulnerability of her own by writing this post. I'm pretty honored to have my words effect another person in this way, especially someone whom I admire and love as much as I do Jan!

Once you finish reading, i hope you will take a moment to leave Jan a comment and let her know how her post spoke to you. And if you have a blog post that leaves you feeling vulnerable be sure to leave me a comment too! And so without further ado (and Jan when you wake up this morning and find this in your inbox, I hope you will forgive me....

(Jan enjoying summer near her home in Hawaii)

True story: A woman at my old workplace would go out of her way to be super-duper friendly to me. She’d stop me in the street as she drove by, rolling down her car window to wave to me, to chat at the stoplight, even. I let my guard down and let her in. My weirdo-radar (apparently an obsolete model) gave me no indication that I should keep my distance from her. So, I didn’t. After a few months of this easy-breezy-chatty-friendship, I found out that she and another woman I hardly knew were spreading rumors about me that were totally untrue.

I was speechless. Really. The fact that someone can even conjure up something sinister about my life (whose highlight is going to the 7-11 for some spicy tuna sushi) is pretty exciting—oh, I mean really, very sad. My first reaction was to defend myself to “everyone”, to show them my resume, let them talk to my pastor and best friends who could vouch and attest for me that I am indeed a non-evil-entity and someone who can be trusted not to eat the very last piece of chocolate in the box because she thinks so of others more highly than herself. Truly. Kindof. My next reaction (and this sickens me to say) was to be extra nice to this woman! As in, there is something wrong with me and if I were just nicer then she will take back everything she said and I would be okay again. As in, more truthfully, I didn’t have the courage to confront her and ask, “What the hell are you talking about woman? (continue reading...)

Monday, July 16, 2012

Identity Theft

"Identity Theft" by Crystal Neubauer  36" x 24" Encaustic and Mixed Media on Panel

A spin off from my "Clean Slate" series, titled "Identity Theft", explores the errant messages we women receive which diminish our sense of true identity and self-worth. The right side, done in encaustic and ink, depicts a woman whose bare body is exposed for all to see, but her face is obscured as an illustration of the emphasis society places on the shape of a woman's body over that of her mind, heart, or accomplishments.

The left side is created to resemble a worn chalk board. The viewer can write words that have obscured her own identity and sense of worth and then erase them in a cathartic-like exercise.

I have written and erased many words. There are the obvious derogatory words designed to silence, degrade, or reduce to one-dimension: "Bitch", "Slut", "MILF". But even words as seemingly innocuous as "she's such a nice girl" can be hurtful when the heart of the message means she doesn't challenge the system or upset the status-quo. "Leave the tough stuff to the men-folk little woman", "Just don't you worry your pretty little head about it", "Nice christian girls don't. . ." Nice christian girls don't write words like bitch and slut in their blog posts! What will people think? and after all, who does she think she is anyway?

I've written words many of us can identify with as women- we are either too thin or too fat, we are too loud or too quiet, we can somehow simultaneously feel as if we are too much and not enough. Yet when we set off to discover our authentic selves and find what we were truly designed and called to be, we may face opposition in the most surprising places. Sometimes it comes from those who fear that the change in us will force them to face their own shortcomings, but often the opposition comes from within. Change is hard work and usually results in things looking worse long before anything gets better. 

 The current state of my studio - July 2012- a story for another day

I've been on this path to self-recovery and self-discovery for a few years now. I've written some, and shied away from sharing other parts of the journey. I confessed at the end of May how my desire to seek a higher level of professionalism in my work as an artist made me leery of writing as authentically and openly as I once had. And somewhere along the way to finding my voice in my daily life I lost my voice online. 

In my real life I had to make tough choices, say hard things to people I cared about, and draw a few lines in the sand. Life got really messy. I stopped sharing these things because I didn't know how it would end. I thought in order to share my testimony the story had to be complete, neatly wrapped up with a bow and a happily ever after. That nice christian girl syndrome again, how could I point you to the glory of God if my testimony didn't end the way a nice christian girls should?
Now to set the record straight, I am not now, nor have I ever been, a "nice christian girl".

But I wanted to be. I tried to be. I thought I was supposed to be. I did things like cut my hair short and bought cute sweater sets and even wore a string of faux pearls a time or two. 

I knew there were changes that needed to take place, but I didn't understand what they were. I saw other people with lives that were more functional then mine and I thought if I emulated their behavior on the outside I would achieve what I was looking for on the inside. But that's not what God had in mind for me. 

What he had in mind for me was a complete shaking and tearing down of the old unstable foundation. Everything that was not right or true had to be torn away. What He had in mind for me was complete liberation from the lies that kept me bound to the past. The ones that whispered "Who do you think you are?" every time I tried to break free. The ones that made me frantic about finding my worth in the eyes and arms of others. The ones designed to steal my identity

What God had in mind for me was a radical life changing encounter with Jesus. 

And lest you be mistaken, this Jesus is no one-hit wonder. An encounter of that magnitude isn't here today and gone tomorrow. It is a life-long-earth-shattering-mess-making-years-long-walking-through-the-desert journey. My testimony isn't stagnant. It is a flowing-never-ending story. It is shocking and tantalizing and filled with the realness of a crazy-mixed-up-broken-and-put-back-together life. And it isn't just for my benefit that He started this tearing away and rebuilding process. I've been doing Him a disservice by hiding it, so I've confessed that to Him and now I'm confessing it to you, and I am recommitting to talking about it here for anyone to see. A light on a hill of sorts. Raw and real and vulnerable. 

Just like He created me. Just like He created you.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

New Gallery and New Work

Refresh Me With Apples:10" x 10" Collage comes in 20" x 20" shadowbox frame &mat 

I'm happy to announce I have new gallery representation in Scottsdale Arizona at Xanadu Gallery where several of my new works will be available, including the one shown above. If you are visiting the area stop in for a visit and enjoy a taste of fine art in the desert or take a virtual tour of the gallery online.

I have also updated my website with many new works and made several of these pieces available with free shipping there. Along with the original collage works, I now have several works available as fine art Giclee numbered and signed limited edition prints at my Etsy site.

Friday, June 22, 2012

EncaustiCamp: Come To The Table

Feeling uninspired? Dry? Disconnected? Then Come. Come to EncaustiCamp this year and relax. Don’t worry about the short time in which you have to prepare, just pack your bag and come. Shorts, sandals, and T will suffice. It is, after all, summer camp. 

Not the summer camp of your youth, where arts and crafts consisted of Popsicle sticks and red & green yarn. No, this is summer camp for grown-ups. For real artists. For you. 

Come. Find yourself welcomed by talented artist instructors, competent at teaching all levels of skill. 

Too late to pick up your supplies? Don’t let that stop you. Just notify your instructors and hear them say “Come”. Find all that you need waiting for you to try. Your instructor will teach you – Safety? Yes, you will glean from their vast experience how to approach the pallet, the tools, the wax, with understanding and respect – but more, they will teach you that you are allowed to try! With deliberate intent to follow your intuition. To give way to the voice that is uniquely your own. To craft the wax to represent who you are and what you have to say. 

Come make friends. Join the party. Watch a movie. Take a field trip. Yes, just like the summer camp of your youth in which life long friendships are forged. 

The all inclusive, no barriers between the experienced and the inexperienced, all are welcomed to the table here, camp for artists and friends. Come. Share a meal. Share an idea. Share a laugh. Relax. Breathe. 

Come dine at the feast that is EncaustiCamp.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Half Price Summer Kick Off Sale!

There is so much to celebrate on the home front recently and this week only I am sharing the excitement with a Summer Kick-Off Sale in my Etsy shop. This is your chance to pick up my fine art limited edition giclee prints at Wholesale prices! Check it out here and Be sure to pass the word!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Honest Truth About Sharing The Honest Truth - Or The Vulnerability of Being Authentic - Or I Seem To Have Gotten Lost On The Way To Being Me

6" x 6" "Utterings" Prayer Collage by Crystal Neubauer

I am having a really hard time starting this post. Partly, I think, because it has been 2 1/2 months since I last posted and my writing wheels are rusty. And Partly, I think, because it has been over 5 months since I actually wrote anything authentic or vulnerable about myself and not just a factoid about my work or my next show or workshop.

I have this sense that I want to speak from the heart and be real and allow myself to be vulnerable with you again, I just don't know where to start or even what to say.

And the honest truth is, I'm scared of what you might think. Yes, there it is. I'm scared and I am afraid that you will judge me.

You see, this blog used to be a place where I not only shared pictures of my art and talked about my work, but also a place where I could share my life experiences and my thoughts on faith. And sometimes I shared those experiences and thoughts in a way that might not be as polished as I would like. And sometimes maybe, especially in the beginning, I shared from a place that may have been a little too raw and open - with less discretion then I might have now. Sometimes I re-read some of my old posts and I cringe. and I have to admit, I've thought about taking some of them down.

And along about the time that my work began to get accepted into finer art shows and a few people began to express interest in carrying my work in their shops and galleries, I started to worry that maybe the things I shared so publicly would hurt me.

I was excited at the direction my work was taking and I wanted more of it, and so without realizing what I was doing, I started to hide the real me.

Just as I had begun to find my authentic voice, I conscientiously made the decision to stop using it online- it was so unprofessional and so messy.

I thought in order to succeed in the world of fine art I needed to present a finer version of myself. Because, you know, if my work was going to be hanging in galleries then I needed to be the kind of girl who was comfortable in said galleries. And maybe the kind who can sip wine and talk about politics and the human condition with my head tipped just so. While wearing something stylishly suitable of course.

And I certainly didn't need to be airing my dirty laundry in public.

I needed to have it all together. Or at least look like I do.

But the truth is I don't have it all together. And while I do enjoy a good glass of wine, I honestly don't know anything about selecting it. And as far as that stylishly suitable outfit? It just never seems to fit me that suitably. And even though I do have opinions about politics and the human condition, I feel kind of stupid when I open my mouth and try to express them in front of other people. Especially when my opinion is challenged because what I have just said is against the belief system of the crowd-which somehow is nearly always the case for me. Depending on the circle I find myself in, I am either the fruity religious one who is far too conservative and naive in her thinking, or I am deemed too loose and liberal minded and in need of a good course in sound theology.

I do seem to always be just a few steps out of sync with the norm and it is easy to want to hide that from you. And yet, I know it is time to write again and risk being messy and misunderstood and laughed at, or determined to be unprofessional or unrighteous in the expressing of my opinions., otherwise I fear that I may lose track of who I truly am. And right now I can think of no better way to explain it then by leaving you with the words of Frederick Buechner (which a very dear friend recently passed along to me):
“What we hunger for perhaps more than anything else is to be known in our full humanness, and yet that is often just what we also fear more than anything else. It is important to tell at least from time to time the secret of who we truly and fully are…because otherwise we run the risk of losing track of who we truly and fully are and little by little come to accept instead the highly edited version which we put forth in hope that the world will find it more acceptable than the real thing. It is important to tell our secrets too because it makes it easier…for other people to tell us a secret or two of their own…”

Friday, March 02, 2012

Let There Be Light on Opening Night

 "Let There Be Light"  30" x 12" collage, acrylic, graphite, ink and chalk on canvas  by Crystal Neubauer

I spent yesterday at Perfical Sense Studio hanging my work for the two woman show with fellow artist Bridgette Guerzon Mills and everything looks great.

I am more excited then ever after seeing my work hanging next to Bridgette's. I've been a fan of her work for years and always appreciated the serenity of it, noting the similar aesthetics that we each seem to be drawn to in our own style, but after seeing it all hung together yesterday we were each struck even more with the similarities. With Bridgette working strictly in Encaustic Wax and me solely with collage and acrylic, we managed to create two individual body's of work for this show that looked as if we had collaborated and planned side by side.

If you are in the Chicagoland area (Evanston to be exact) I hope you will stop by the opening of "Meditations: Looking In, Reflecting Out" tomorrow night - Saturday March 3, 2012 from 4pm - 7 the atmosphere will be eclectic fun and casual. Have a glass of wine, meet the artists, view the art. A good time will be had by all!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

It All Came Down To Love

This week finds me working hard to finish up the body of work for my upcoming two woman sale and exhibit with fellow artist Bridget Guerzon Mills. Creating a body of work with a deadline like this can be a lot of work at times. Often it feels as if more time is spent at tasks such as framing, photographing and editing said photos then is spent creating in the studio. Long days and many hours are dedicated but in the end, it is well worth it. It all comes down to love.
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, February 10, 2012

Two Woman Show

It Is Well: 24" x 24" collage mounted & matted in 32" x 32" frame

"Bridgette Guerzon Mills and Crystal Neubauer come together to present mixed media works that speak to the need for stillness and reflection in a busy and hectic world.  Crystal is inspired by what has been discarded and deemed valueless to illustrate her inner reflections through collage, while Bridgette's encaustic and mixed media work is a dialogue of the natural world outside reaching into her spirit.  Both artists' work can be seen as meditations, looking in and reflecting out.

Please join us at PerficalSense Studio for the artist reception of Meditations: Looking in Reflecting out.  
1123 Florence Avenue
Evanston, Illinois 60202. 
Saturday March 3, from 4 - 7pm.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Will You Be Ready When The Horses Come For You?

 “Will You Be Ready When The Horses Come For You?”  by Crystal Neubauer

My recent work time in the studio found me attending to this piece for the "100 Artist Show: Art of Communication" opening at the Mary Lou Zeek Gallery in Salem, Oregon the first weekend in February and running through March 3. The show features 100 artists who were invited to participate in partnerships of 2 artists each. After writing handwritten letters to their partnering artist, each artist was assigned to create, in their own medium, a piece inspired by their partners words. 
As I read the explanation from my partnered artist, Patricia Giraud's letter of her own work as an artist: “the horse became my totem around which I consider the principles of relationship, challenge, generosity and stewardship.” a song began playing on the radio in my studio called “Horses” by Margaret Becker. The lyrics read in part:

"Last night I dreamed of horses
Coming for my soul
Taking me to places
I wasn't ready yet to go

Last night I dreamed of silence
The silence that I keep
All the things I could've said
Well, they stole away my sleep

I need to remember
The horses will come
I need to remember
How quickly they run

I want no regrets
When the horses come for me
I cannot forget
That the horses come for me"

I view this type of serendipitous moment in the studio as divinely led and knew that the theme of the piece I would be creating for the show would center around the horse imagery Patricia described in her letter.

Patricia writes that she has been delving into issues of self and home, thus the bits of mesh and textured material in the upper portion of the collage above the ghost like images of the horses in the bottom portion are meant to impress upon the subconscious of the viewer as if looking through a kitchen window, curtains blowing in the breeze. The bits used here are multiple components from the spines of old books.  The use of book spines in my work always symbolizes inner strength. Just as the books strength comes from the structure of the spine hidden inside, so our own strength is often hidden within.

Patricia's own handwriting can be seen on the right and left sides of the bottom half of the collage, as I have used her letter and the envelope that it was mailed in as part of the composition, along with miscellaneous bits of antique letters and envelopes, English and Japanese, a sort of passing of a memory from one generation to the next.

Patricia is a very talented print artist, whose entry and explanation of what inspired her art from my letter can be viewed here. I love the piece she created and find myself selfishly wishing this partnership were a true art swap so that I could claim it as my own, but am well pleased that the show is actually a silent auction that will be raising funds for an art education program. You can read all about it at the Mary Lou Zeek Gallery website here.  

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Reel Life - From Chicago is My Kind of Town Series: 6" x 18" digital collage with acrylic and found materials

We've been experiencing an unusually warm winter so far in the Chicago area, but the snow is on the way. No matter what the weather is, there is always an exciting vibe in the city. It is indeed My Kind of Town.

This week finds me dropping off several pieces from my Chicago series, along with my collage work, to Sacred Art, a popular and trendy little alternative gallery on Lincoln avenue that features emerging and established artists in a laid back environment. Be sure to stop by if you're in the area.

I am also excited to announce that I am now carrying Giclee Fine Art Prints of some of my favorite collage works in my Etsy shop. There are currently four designs to choose from.

And finally, this Sunday I am teaching Intuitive Collage and Encaustic Basics at Perfical Sense Studio in Evanston and there are still a few spaces available if you are looking for a fun way to spend the day.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Image Of The Week: Minute Book

Minute Book: Mixed Media Collage by Crystal Neubauer

A new year brings a sense of expectancy, new beginnings, second chances and continued growth, yet we long to hang on to the memories of the year that has passed and honor the places we've been. Not "out with the old, in with the new" as tradition would say, but "out of the old, I am made new".