An Interview with Alex Little
BTCF – For those who don’t know or who have never experienced your extraordinary and one of a kind dance piece “7 CHAIRS”, can you share what it is?
ALEX – 7 Chairs was created 8 years ago when I was in recovery (still am) from my multiple Eating Disorders. The healing process was helping me so much in realizing that it was ok to share my feelings, thoughts, celebrations and hardships because I was not alone. I was not the only one. Others could relate! This was the cornerstone to healing for me (& still is). I wondered what it would be like to use the structure of a “group sharing & healing circle” with a group of dancers, using our own unique movement to narrate whatever it was we wanted to offer or share about ourselves/our life at present, in real time. Every rendition, process, performance of this movement piece is completely different from the prior time it was performed but its structure remains the same. As it turns out, although it is much different, this process continues feels very healing, cathartic, inspiring and empowering too!
BTCF – We’ve seen “7 CHAIRS” performed several times now, each time different, and each time there is not a dry eye in the house, it moves people to places that redefines their inner connection on multitude of levels no matter what one is going through. The piece is so rich and full of personal story as the dancers allow us to feel every movement and core of their being that it has such a tremendous and lasting affect as well as impact on people in such a beautiful way. This internal process of yours radiates in all you do as a person, creator, dancer, and teacher.
ALEX – When we all own our parts of the space; we begin connecting into ourselves and with one another. By acknowledging the power of others’ presence, we begin seeing and listening to one another and we, individually are more and more willing to be seen and heard. It’s all just the “Circle of life” – we are having conversations without words. We hold space for our, and each other’s journeys. For me, connection is a vibe or energy that is created in that time. I perceive it often to feel “risky and safe” all at once; and often it feels vulnerable & empowering. It will most certainly change moment to moment, class to class, performance to performance. We are all so different and the ways in which each one of us connect will look and feel different. After that, it happens just as it should for that time.
BTCF – What inspires you?
ALEX – Stories. Connection. Sharing information. Receiving information. Living my life in a creative “research lab”. Learning. Meeting new people and artists of all ages. Being inspired by these folks. Growing. Listening to, and telling stories through movement & the all the possibilities that creativity and the arts offer.
BTCF – Being a deep thinker and emotionally perceptive, as well as knowing the importance what “connection” means to you, what is the process you go through when you teach?
ALEX – As prepared as I am prior to classes, I also believe in being present and sensing the energy & feeling(s) in the room as best I can before and throughout and after the session. I often check in with the students prior to the start of class. And always throughout and at the end. This helps me a great deal in guiding the way I facilitate that session. I want to create and hold a space where in the students feel that their energy and emotion is cyclical (as it is) and in turn, their presence & humanity will empower the room. This is the bedrock for connection.
BTCF – How do you view an empty room – the space you teach in before it fills up with people?
ALEX – I see possibility. The beginning of a new experience. The space is often quiet. I see a sacred communal meeting ground. I see a research lab. A space to fill with journeys, with information, with mind, body, soul. Sometimes I feel anxiety. I always feel nervous. And excited.
BTCF – You have had great success as a dancer, teacher, choreographer. What does success mean to you and how would you explain it to young minds who look up to you?
ALEX – Success is simply showing up. Being vulnerable. Standing in my light, with honesty and integrity. Being of service to others. Being a part of the world. And not using my Eating Disorder behaviors or other addictions to get through, but instead leaning into life. Success is a one-day-at-a-time thing for me.
BTCF – You are very open about your eating disorder. Why is that important to you and what are your aspirations in sharing more with others and what message would you bring to them?
ALEX – Well there are two main reasons. One is because the minute I am hiding it is most likely going to be the minute I get active in it all over again. I don’t want to go there again. 20+ years was enough. Now I don’t parade around with it on my shirt or anything, but I do openly talk about it and I remain in lifetime recovery practices every week.
The other reason is because it’s a silent disease and I want to use my experience to lend a voice to this epidemic and be there for those in its clutches. This illness comes in multiple forms and isn’t spoken about much, and if it is, it’s identified in its extremes only. Eating disorders don’t always have a look to them. And it is not just about vanity. These two myths keep society in the dark about all of the nuances and varieties of this Mental Illness and Addiction. And the fact is, the disease is even more a mental illness than a vanity feat. It’s cunning, baffling, and powerful, it tells you “Keep quiet. Don’t tell anyone about this. You have to do life this way now, and on one will understand. You are the exception to the rule, so you must hide it.” The truth is there are people out there that do get it, have lived it and Thank God, have gotten out of its dark deathly clutch. Hopefully an antidote will be voices like mine and the light that is possibility and recovery.
BTCF – Who is the one person who gets Alex Little and why?
ALEX – My sister, Devon because she has grown up with me- and probably knows me better than I know myself! We are close, only 2 years apart, and we have been through a lot together to say the least. <3 BTCF – 7 Chairs is presently being created as an “experience”, one that participants will be able to learn and experience the process of it all and be able to take workshops from you. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
ALEX – Yes, from my personal experience that I found communal gatherings often activate or assist others in individual healing, the 7 Chairs Experience is a powerful, freeing, revealing creative process, which is both personal and communal. It will highlight through the art and movement, that there is healing in the service of both sharing and receiving which results in the realization that we are not alone.
Follow Alex on Instagram and Twitter @alex_little. Facebook – Alex Little
Contact us if you would like to sponsor a 7 Chairs live performance or tour!
MIKE COLLINS – SHOCKBOXX GALLERY March 18, 2019
An Interview with Mike Collins
Why did you want to become an artist? Many reasons or just one big one?
I don’t think of myself as an artist, but I get where you are going with the question. The beginning for me was back in the eighties with skateboarding. I had a group of guys that I ran around with and we started using paint pens and spray paint on ramps, shoes, skateboards, clothes, backpacks…anything really. There was a rush in that for me, and a way to lay down a mark that said, “This is me. I’m right here. I did that.” I was (still am) observant of crowds and how they moved and interacted. I’ve always felt a nervous energy around groups of people and wrestle with the struggle to simultaneously blend in and stand out. I think those early marks were doing just that. I found a way to say, “Oh, ok, this is what we are doing,” but to then stand out within that same scene by making a mark and saying, “I’m right here.” I think it’s the same thing, 35 years later. I show work in art shows and it’s a way to blend into a crowd and try and stand out at the same time.
Many of your pieces are quite large. Why?
I remember when I jumped up to painting 4×6 canvases and the challenge of the size really drew me in. I was doing abstract stuff and I’d just get lost in the space and would find some sort of trouble or mistake that would motivate me to really get deeper into the piece. That is where it started, but with the stuff I’m doing now, I’m working with unstretched canvas that I lay on the floor. I really like that the size is too big to just stand there and work. I love getting down on the floor and crawling around on the piece as I work. I’ll leave them on the floor and walk on them. I’m finding a freedom in the fact that the size allows for a loosening of detail. The larger format draws me into the process in a way that I get totally lost in this world I’m trying to create. This new stuff has me swept away every time I start to work.
There is a running theme in your pieces, one central character as well as another that seem to reappear. Can you tell us about that, why, and the meaning behind it all? Are they a part of a continued story or separate?
You must be talking about the girl in the pink dress. The first time I painted her was about seven or eight years ago. My mom had just died and I just couldn’t get myself to paint. I went back to try and work on a piece and I ended up painting these weird circles and started covering older work. Whatever I had been painting was over and gone and there just wasn’t anything coming out. I had this idea to make 12 pieces that were related to the album, “Wish,” by The Cure. This album was on heavy rotation when I got sober (in 1996), and it’s just always felt like home. So I start listening and wondering and finally I start making some stuff. The work was totally different from anything I’d done before. I had this idea to make a painting related to the song, “Open,” that communicates my experience with addiction. I really wanted to try and capture the relationship between the addiction and the addicted, and specifically, was looking to represent where I was at that exact moment in time. I was 16 years sober, had just lost my mom and had this absolute knowing that I didn’t feel like drinking, but that I was really shook…so I’m painting and all of a sudden I’m grabbing a thin brush and outlining this young girl in a pink dress. I’d never painted a human figure and at the time I recall thinking, “what the heck am I doing,” but I went with it. The piece ended up with the girl, a bird, a cage and some flowers…it’s raining and there are hash marks ticking off 16 years worth of days. So who is she and what does she symbolize…she symbolizes a part of me that I keep pretty close to the vest. She absolutely does not just symbolize an addict or an alcoholic. Initially she represented that, but has grown to represent so much more. She’s a fighter. She represents being knocked down but not out…she’s braver than me most all the time and I think I’m trying to follow her lead. I’ll leave it here: I feel the most risk and vulnerability when I put her pieces up.
What do all the black x’s represent in your work and the various ways you use them?
Sometimes the x’s change colors and they are expressed quite often, what do they mean? Is there a story you can share?
The X’s cover stuff up, they mark where the treasure lies, they remind me that some things are poisonous, sometimes they just balance things out, other times they represent the things we cannot say, or where the body is buried. I keep bringing them forward into my new work because they bring a thread of the past into the present.
What does your art mean to you? How is it healing?
The work I create most often marks an emotional place and time in my existence. It’s really no different today than it was back when I made marks on my skateboards, I’m just saying, “I’m right here and this is who I am.” The healing part of feeling driven to put it out there is the risk.
There is a multitude of expression and movement in your work, it’s very alive and primal. What is your internal process you go through before you approach a piece? Is it different every time?
Your question makes me think about how much I admire dancers. I am in no way at risk of becoming a dancer. I think they are so brave in their willingness to share that expression and movement in its most raw form. I feel the same way about singers and guitar players. There is something so awesome about watching a human just lay it on the line and communicate so vulnerably in that way. I dig that you see expression, movement and something primal in my work, because that gives me a clue that my process is coming through in the finished product.
Somebody once said to me that they imagined it to be peaceful to paint and my response was, “when I’m feeling happy or peaceful, the last thing in the world I’d feel like doing is picking up a paintbrush.” I think agitation is my internal process before I start a piece. I’m usually pretty wound up and grinding on something when the urge to paint comes on and so I’ll get in the studio and put on, “Plainsong,” by The Cure. I put it on repeat and will sometimes jump right in, or other times I might wind up just moving stuff around and spending a long time waiting, but once I start laying down marks, I’ll get swept away. Once that happens I stop the song from repeating…it’s be a little to obsessive to just keep it looping.
What is your inspiration?
Oh man…my inspiration comes from all sorts of places. Sometimes it’s a word, or a phrase, or a lyric, or a dream, or a nightmare…I’ll get something stuck in my head on a loop and won’t be able to let go. That’s where the ideas come from. The inspiration to get them out and onto a canvas always comes from agitation.
You are also a therapist as well as an artist, how did that come about?
Art didn’t have anything to do with me becoming a therapist. Addiction gets all the credit for that one! I got sober in 1996 and the process of figuring that out, and then of –not only- changing and growing in my own life, but watching other people change and grow, caused me to head back to school. I knew that my long-term solution was going to be to create meaning out of my struggle with addiction. I think that’s what binds me with the work you do with Breaking the Chains…that I’ve been able to use my experience to work to understand how those of us in recovery are all related.
How do you think art aides in healing areas of one’s life who suffers from addiction?
Creating art connects us to the parts of our being that are younger than words, or that have experiences that cannot be spoken. I think that creativity allows us to express ourselves to the world and that is where the healing happens…not so much in what the world does with what we say, but that we find a way to say it, regardless.
As a creative soul, is art an important part to your healing?
Creating gives me an outlet for whatever gets stuck and starts spinning inside my head and in my body. I think that is an important part of keeping my sanity, which must then be a part of my healing, or recovery, right?
Breaking The Chains Foundation is art-based using various forms of art as healing tools for those suffering eating disorders, disordered eating, negative body image and underlying or co-occurring issues. How important is art to you in your own healing and why?
When I first got sober, I was pretty numb to anything that was going on inside my body. I think that’s probably common for the people you work with at Breaking The Chains, too. The solution I’ve found that keeps me moving forward was to learn how to make peace with those parts of myself that I was trying to keep hidden. I think creating is a way to express the hidden and the unspoken. The freedom from all that –for me- is to put it out there and just ride the tail of the tiger. This is going to sound so corny but I’m saying it…remember that therapist character on Saturday Night Live….Stewart Smalley? Stewart was the guy that would have his clients stare in a mirror and say, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggonit, people like me.” Well…that’s the deal right there. That’s the secret. If I find a way to put myself into the world authentically, the chances are I’ll have that Stewart Smalley experience and realize that I’m ok. I think creating work and putting it into the world sets me up to chase that down.
What types of mediums do you work on? Why?
The type of medium I choose to work on is driven by what I’m trying to accomplish. Right now I’m working on used drop cloth. I like the way it feels, and how the stains and marks create a foundation to build upon. When I begin a drop cloth piece, I always start on the floor. I like to be able to get down and crawl around while I’m laying the foundation. It’s totally conducive to making a mess and really getting lost in the piece. As are as materials go, I’ve really been digging starting out with charcoal and other mediums that are going to smear and get pulled into the paint. I’ve been having fun with different types of paint, too. I used to use the same brand of Acrylic for everything and had every color on had before I’d begin, but for this latest series that will make up, “The Funeral Party,” I’ve had fun limiting myself to what is laying around the studio. It’s been fun to make due with what’s on hand, or to mix latex, oil, crayons, fishing line, or whatever I can scrounge up to try and tell the story.
What types of tools do you work with and why?
I mostly use Wooster Pro house brushes. I have an assortment of sizes but for most pieces I’ll wind up using the same one for the whole thing.
Your work is so colorful, do you create your own colors?
No, I don’t mix my own colors. I’ve learned that certain colors work better (for me) from certain brands, or one brand might have a different texture than another. I love the blues from Golden Acrylic, and I love the way Nova Color (which is made in Los Angeles) flows.
What is your favorite piece you ever created and why?
I have a sunset painting from around 2006 that is my favorite. The reason why is because that’s the piece that set the whole thing off. I had really just started painting again and I was trying to paint these sunsets that were so inspiring. I rattled off 3 or 4 pieces that were just flat out awful and was so frustrated. I called my friend, Robb Havassy (he’s a great artist) and asked him for some pointers and he said, “dude…don’t paint what you saw, paint what you felt.” That was it…I had this little pile of wet paint and a piece of cardboard and I tried what he said and there it was!
How do you think your work inspires others? Do you have a story you can share?
I hope that my work inspires people to get in the game and go for it.
You have a show coming up on March 23rd, The Funeral Party at your Hermosa Gallery, Shockboxx. Can you tell us about it? What do you want people to know the most about it and why?
The Funeral Party is my first solo show. I’m excited to have these pieces together and to let the story unfold. I’ve been working hard on this one and have built a world around the girl, the bird and the cage. I’ve got some new characters inserted into their story and I can feel them living and breathing now. I know the title might suggest that this is the end of something, and while that’s probably true, it is also just the beginning for where this world I’ve created might take us.
8/18/18 Creative Teens in Motion
An interview with: Marlowe Peyton
What is your favorite creative outlet? If you have more then one, please share favorites and why. Art and music are my two favorite creative outlets. In art, you can do anything! It allows you to take ideas directly out of your head and make them a real physical thing with infinite possibilities, that’s one of the things that makes it really enjoyable for me. With music, I love to create songs because it’s something other people can enjoy and since I’m a singer, I can sing my own music as well. For me, melodies are exciting to create and lyrics are a really good way for me to vent my feelings. If putting my thoughts and feelings into art and music allows other people to relate to my pain and maybe in some small way help them with theirs, then I’ve created something that is good.
How do you feel when you express yourself creatively? I feel like a weight has been lifted off my chest and put into a piece of art, and lets me better understand what I’m feeling. When you’re writing lyrics you have to think about the emotions you’re trying to express and give those feelings words. This forces you to examine your thoughts from a different perspective and makes you take a step back to examine what you’re feeling. When I go back and listen to my songs or look at the art I created from these deep intense emotions, I can see how I’ve improved and how far I have come.
What would you tell another young girl like yourself how creativity can bring forth positive feelings and can do the soul and body some good? What I think I would like to say to other young girls is that you will certainly have a lot of heavy uncomfortable emotions in the course of your life and you need to make them into something tangible. Art is the way to do that whether it’s painting, dance, or music. Taking those emotions and using them to create things makes it easier to deal with those feelings and gives you a different way of looking at them. I’ve found that being productive and using creativity as an outlet for uncomfortable feelings can make you feel better about your life.
You got a new haircut and color recently. What was that like? Can you walk us through the process?At first, I was super nervous and wasn’t sure if I would regret cutting all my hair off. I thought about it probably for way too long, but now I know that this is exactly the hair I was supposed to have and I feel so much happier. From the beginning, I knew that if I was going to cut my hair off that I wanted to donate it to help someone else. There were places that accept donations of hair for people with hair loss from cancer and makes wigs for them. The hair has to be a certain length and my mom and my hairdresser Curt Darling found out all the requirements. When I got to Curt’s salon he sectioned off my hair for the donation and then he let me make the first cut which was really empowering! When I donated it to Locks of Love I did it in honor of my acting coach Cheryl Faye who is currently battling cancer.
What are you working on now? Currently, I am working on producing my first music video for the release of my next song called “Corrosion.”
We hear you have some amazing news and will be going to Las Vegas. Can you tell us a little bit about that? My first animated project “Parker Bubblegum” has been accepted into the 2018 AOF Film Festival. It’s a project I started when I was 12 and I have a lot of amazing voice actors involved in it. I’m so honored and very excited to have “Parker Bubblegum” be part of the festival this year.
What do you think of when someone says eating disorder? How does that affect you? I feel like I can’t truly understand what people with eating disorders are going through since I have never had one, but I can relate. I understand that it seems necessary to them to use food and that it spirals down quickly. Spiraling down is something that I can personally relate to and I know how hard that is, but I also know that if you have people around you that support you and care about you, then you can push through it, even if it’s super difficult.
Encouraging young teens to pursue their artistic passion? Some people may not like the things that you create but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it, and it doesn’t mean it’s bad. Expressing your emotions through art may mean it’s not going to be pretty or comfortable for other people to listen to or see, especially if you’re in a sad period, but that’s exactly why you have to do it. Also, remember to keep going, keep improving, and I promise it will pay off.
I think its time that we all have a conversation about something a little…uncomfortable. Something that has such a stigma attached to it, that people all over the world are suffering and DON’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT. I’m talking about eating disorders. Now, I know what you’re thinking… “OMG Jillian, do you have an eating disorder”?! While I may not suffer the way so many young people do, I absolutely believe we’re all effected by this terrible disease one way or another. And the fact that so many people are ashamed to have a conversation about it has to end.
I don’t consider myself to have a bad relationship with food, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t had my fair share of struggles with body image and self-love. I’m really happy that my industry (entertainment) is moving toward a more “body positive” way of thinking, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have the occasional day where I just feel like crap. Maybe I ate too many tacos the night before, or maybe it’s that time of month and I’m feeling extra bloated and sad, or MAYBE I just don’t like what I see in the mirror that day. We’ve all been there, right? It happens. For some of us, those feelings are far more severe and life threatening than others, and because I want every young person to wake up feeling like a damn queen every day, I got involved with Breaking The Chains.
To read the entire blog post please visit www.jillianrosereed.net
Actress/Producer/BTCF Celebrity Spokesperson – Jillian Rose Reed
Hello Breaking The Chains Family!
I’m so happy to be writing my first blog for this amazing foundation, and I’m so happy you’re here sharing this experience with us! Now, you may be wondering “What exactly IS Breaking The Chains?!” That’s where I come in!!! Let’s break it down. I’m here, along with some of my good friends to change the face of eating disorders. For too many years, eating disorders have been looked at as a clinical and shameful disease that no one wanted to talk about… and we aren’t cool with that. If you’re anything like me, you probably know someone, have known someone, or have personally struggled with body image issues or an eating disorder of some sort and you probably know that it’s not the easiest thing in the world to talk about. Listening to stats and science about a disease that is so individualized can be monotonous and there may seem like there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. Well, we want to shake things up!
What would happen if someone suffering from an eating disorder looked at treatment in a different way? What if we could do something NO ONE HAS DONE YET?! What if we can encourage healing through music… And art… And image… And POSITIVITY! Crazy right?! Well, not really.. Sounds pretty awesome to me! So that’s what we’re doing here at Breaking the Chains. We want those struggling to find hope in a new way. T o look at an eating disorder from the inside. Because ultimately.. It’s about what you feel … Not what you look like. And we hope that by creating a safe, positive platform, we can stand together…As one.. And help you beat this. Because if you want to, then you absolutely can!
Maybe you’re thinking “why should I get involved? I’ve never suffered from an eating disorder!”. Well, neither have I! When I got involved with Breaking The Chains Foundation, it was because I wanted to be a positive light in someone else’s life. As a woman in the entertainment industry, body image is something that is focused on way too often. Although I’ve never personally suffered from this disease, I know people who have. I’m doing this for them. And if you need help, I’m doing this for you. I’m here to talk, to listen, to encourage, and to love you. And if you haven’t suffered, I encourage you to join me in saving the life of someone else.
Breaking The Chains Foundation wants to change the face of eating disorders, but we can’t do it alone. So come on board with us, and let’s change this disease one beautiful soul at a time.
Jillian rose Reed