I'm Back with an Art Update: Show Up Again & Again
I went back to Minnesota to celebrate my father; now, I'm changing my narrative.
Vlog: Art Update
Good morning, family, comrades, and neighbors. It's Jason Wyman here, and it’s been a minute since I came to you with an update. And that is because my life has been incredibly hectic and stressful over the last month or so. And I'm finally able to come up for a little bit of air.
As you know, at the beginning of June, I had an incredible performance called Overjoyed with Marie Queerdo (and Keith) that was created or co-created with San Francisco-based performance artist, Midori for Emergence, which is a conference for Emerging Arts Professionals Network at SOMArts Cultural Center here in San Francisco. It was my first live performance since COVID and it was delightfully joyous, as the title implied, as well as incredibly stressful for a myriad of different reasons, a lot of which had to do with the fact that it was the first live performance that I've been in since COVID and the anxieties that surrounded me around that.
The following weekend was my birthday, and I celebrated right here in my backyard with a whole bunch of chosen family, breaking bread, sharing stories. It was wonderful. Again, it was also the first time I've really gathered with family in my homes since COVID.
I'm incredibly grateful that I had the opportunity to break that bread and just share that space with chosen family because the following weekend, I buried my father. If you followed any of my blog, you know, that my dad battled cancer and that he died the day after Christmas in 2020. And that I said goodbye to him over a screen. John and I were able to finally go to Minnesota, and I was the emcee, technical person, and stage manager for my father's celebration of life that my mother helped craft that happened on a baseball diamond. We even had an opening pitch, and we had a variety of incredibly beautiful moments during that service and ceremony.
I also was the one that was holding my father's urn as we went to the place he's now buried. And I was the one that held it as all of my siblings and my mom and all of his siblings said goodbye to him. I laid his urn into the ground.
The next day, my mom had collected stories about my dad and all of the siblings and my granny came over to mom's house, and we hung out, and it rained off and on. And we lit a fire amidst that rain, and I help tend that fire so that at the end of the evening, before everyone left and a moment when the sky stopped crying, we were able to burn the memories shared by others about my dad.
All in all, it was an incredible trip home, but it was also an incredibly emotional trip. And I just didn't feel the capacity to communicate everything to a broader audience. So much of my life has been lived in the opened by choice. And I love that choice, actually. I love being able to share in this way, through my art and through media and through storytelling. I also didn't know, and still don't know, what this story is that is unfolding. And it is hard for me to unpack and untether and unfold the story as it is occurring. And so I just needed a little bit of space for myself.
I was also madly creating during this time. Actually, I've been madly creating this entire time, and I'm excited because one of the things that's bringing me up for air after all of this grief is the fact that I have Art Camp coming up in August. And I have been able to jump back into the co-creative process with artists that I love, adore, and cherish.
Art Camp is four days of creative, professional, and personal development that is all happening by Zoom. One of the things that we are doing is we are creating experiences and activities. I’m working with 10 different artists across the country to create experiences and activities that act as portals, actual—not just virtual portals— but act as actually physical portals that connect across space and time. This last week has been really focused on making those portals physical and material, that part of Art Camp—and part of literally bridging this physical divide, this virtual divide, you know, we have the virtual connection, but how do we bridge the virtual connection into physicality?—is actually making things with shared materials. So we're going to be doing a lot of that during Art Camp, and diving back into that has been such a, such an experience of healing because it isn't about just me—yes, my grief is fully present in everything that I am doing. I am also able to sit with others and create with others.
One thing my dad really taught me—and I am forever indebted to him and it was seen at his celebration of life—is how crucial chosen family is, not just how crucial family of blood is. I've always considered that family of choice was a legacy that was gifted to me by my queer community. It is a narrative that I have told myself over and over and over again, that one of the most beautiful things about being queer is that I get to choose who my family is. I don't just have a family of blood. While I love my family of blood immensely, my family of choice is how I've healed. It’s how I continue to heal, and it is how I continue to create the alchemy of transforming all of the fucked up shit that we go through in life into something that is more than just our trauma, just my trauma.
In watching a Judy Grahn video this morning about how we need to start changing some of our origin stories, it really dawned on me that the origin of my understanding of family of choice starts with my dad. There were a lot of people that loved him, and as much as I can be frustrated, as much as I can get angry over the fact that sometimes he chose his friends over his family, at the end of his life looking out at all of the people there attending his celebration of his life, I was able not just to see friends. I was able to see a much wider community of chosen family, family that was his for 40 some years (Note: My dad was 68 when he died. In the moment of recording this, I made a quick calculation of about 40 years of chosen family, though it was probably much longer.)
That wasn't buried. That's still lives. My dad still lives. He lives in my chosen family, which includes my blood family. [inaudible],
I'm so grateful to all of you for watching, for listening, and, really, I want to put forward a challenge for all of you. I want to challenge you to really, truly discern who your chosen family is and to show up for them. To show up again and again and again and again. Sometimes there's going to be great distance between those agains—there was a distance of five to six years between two of those agains between me and my dad. But we showed up again and again and again and again and again. And what I can say about that is at the end of his life, nothing was left unsaid because we just continued to show up.
I love y'all.
Image description: A selfie of John and me in the dugout before my father’s celebration of life. John is wearing black. I am wearing patterns in black and white; under my eyes, I am wearing black and gold glitter eyeliner.
Judy Grahn on New Origin Stories with D’Vorah Grenn
This is the video I mentioned in my Art Update. When I woke up early Sunday morning, I searched for videos of Grahn on YouTube. I wanted to wisdom of an elder spoken to me. Unsure exactly which video to select, I settled on this one because my dear family member Crystal Mason was over on Friday, and we spoke at length about changing our narratives and telling new origin stories. This video in which Grahn shares why origin stories are crucial to our cosmology seems especially crucial in this time and space. Enjoy.
New Name for the Blog: Jason Wyman Is Queerly Complex
So….you may (or may not) have noticed that the url is new! It is now www.jasonwymanisqueerlycomplex.com. That’s because the Queerly Complex url is going to be used for a new venture. YAY! I’m not quite ready to reveal exactly what it is, but…I’ve been working on it with John, and it’ll definitely to titillate. Here’s a peek just for you.
Image description: a large poster of simple white chalk-like drawings of icons, symbols, monsters, and objects on a black background. Some of the drawings include: a weeping and drooling cloud, my dad’s pocket watch, an eye where the eyelashes form a triangle, an almost-ouroboros, a guillotine, a hatchet, a middle finger, a lava lamp, wind chimes, a stag, a dancing monkey, a bleeding heart, various things with stars and moons and the sun, and quite a number of abstract symbology.