Tag Archives: artist

Give Your Gift Before You Go

This New Year’s morning, my man and I were talking about the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. And about how I have enough decades behind me now to weigh and measure. I’ve been here long enough to attend births, to steward some into their own becoming, and be with others at the doorway to their deaths. Now is my time to bring my experience to the midpoint and say:  It’s a short distance between one and the other.

You can bring birth here
You can bring death here
To this midpoint
To this center, this moment
Which contains all

We artists have a natural urge, a hunger even, to throw ourselves into the world with abandon. We’re inclined to embrace without first needing to understand. Our very pursuit of art is the way IN toward the understanding we seek.

Without our yearning, who would we be? Without our curiosity and wonder, why would we care? Without our sense of abundance and absence, how would we know where to go? We’ve gifted ourselves the gamut of emotions from bliss all the way to regret so that when the music plays, we can move.

Since birth we’ve had placed at our feet infinite treasures. From the first blink of consciousness up to this moment, who we are is a wealth. It doesn’t matter what, it matters that. We’re the totality, the beginning and the end, the first word and the last. Whatever you come across, it’s treasure and there’s more than enough.

There is enough.

Take any experience at all…take a negative one: a betrayal, a theft, a broken bone. The one who sees only the experience suffers many times. The one who sees the gift in the experience suffers only once. The victim is resigned. The maker sees the bounty and gets busy. Experience is a treasure trove. It’s fodder for the craft. We know this.

Make your life your work of art. You’re at the helm, master of brush and baton, mistress of ink and film and marley.  Play with what you’ve lived. Use it with abandon. Draw it back, pull it forward…recreate it. Be selfish, be reckless, be courageous. Be honorable, be humbled, be happy.

If in life you’re an artist, you’re an artist of life. At irregular intervals you stop to consider your time, your distance to events and people, and you begin again. You make anew what you were taught and given, and what you learned and received.

Share what you’ve lived and lay it bare for us. Create a new way for us, a new world of possibility for yourself and for us. When you open, we open. When we discover, you discover. When you are, all can become. This is art. This is also wisdom.

Give to your life the voice of its author.
Your life is your gift.
Give your gift before you go.
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The Seed Within

Within us all there is a seed of resplendent life force. We artists feel it especially. This seed lies in its casing, a hard exterior shell. 

We have to let the flowering take place. For an artist this is always a necessity…this having to bloom. We cannot help it. We can hinder it, prevent it, stifle it, go another way. It does not go away. It is patient. It waits for us. And then, when we allow it… even then we cannot help it. It grows itself.

Resistance to it comes from the mind and through the body. It does not come through the heart. The heart may race with fear as easily as with exuberance. The two are the same when fear feels exuberant and exuberance, fearsome. Both originate in thought, in mind. And we resist. We resist feeling fear and we resist feeling exuberance.

My life in art has been a long path of getting out of the way of the flowering. Of not putting up walls and other defenses. Of becoming increasingly trusting. Of listening. I have thrown myself into the stream and sometimes I have floated and sometimes I have been hurled into rocks and I have come close to drowning more than once. Here my mind, my ego, has come to be a necessary ally. And I have survived, with the seed intact. And this seed has grown and begot new seeds. And that’s what it means to live as an artist. To sow the seeds of our destiny and see the path we must follow.  Like Hansel & Gretel and their breadcrumbs, only with better results. 

At whatever time you awaken to the seed that stirs within you, that is where you start….whether you’re a child or a very big grown-up. No matter how old you are or how you look or who you’ve been or what you’ve done. Or haven’t been and haven’t done. Start there. Begin to listen.

The other voices in your head will be there too. They will have you wait until some certain time, or some other thing happens first or is achieved – when I turn 21, when I quit my job, when I quit my marriage, as soon as the kids are gone, as soon as I lose 50 pounds, as soon as my father dies, as soon as I have a million on account – are stories. Set the story straight. Start where you are. Become the one who begins at last.

Everything comes from nothing. You have an inspiration, your intuition tells you something, turn in. Listen to that something, attune to it. It is the stirring of your seed.

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It needs your attuning and that’s really all it needs. Just your attention. Attune to it, believe in it, and watch what happens next. You are given things…clues, ideas, instrumental people, energy. Soon the seed becomes a root and a stem and a branch and a bud. The flowering happens naturally. Our job is to cultivate the seed, to make fertile the earth and to water it all the way into budding with our love and our belief. We can let others love it and believe it for us first, before we do. It’s all the same to the seed.

No flower asks for permission to bloom. It blooms in its own time. Claiming our birthright as artists is like making a pact with nature. Our responsibility is to the seed. Nature takes care of the rest. Our true nature.

If you are reading this posting, then something has likely already stirred in you. Your soul has been aroused from its deep sleep, or perhaps from a recent nap. Long ago or just this morning. It has called you to art. What will you do now?

A new year is an impressive time. It always feels pregnant to me. All of us people on earth who count the years, and that’s most of us, are focussed on this turning. And we feel it collectively, that focus. All those intentions and all that dreaming. Very potent.

Some things will stick. Some seeds will pop out of their shells. Some won’t.

Don’t set yourself up too broadly, too vigorously, hang up too many hooks around yourself. Pick a thing that is your heart’s desire and feed that. Just one essential thing. What is it you dream of most nights? What have you known about for as long as you can remember? What inkling have you had time and time again…

Here in the northern hemisphere it’s winter and all the seeds are dormant in the earth.

Any day is New Years day, all the live long year.


As Artist

My art is an art of nuance. I use my body to channel air through space, my intelligence to communicate what someone has composed lyrically and musically, and my spirit to set it free. I like to chuckle, choke, whisper, sigh, growl, breathe and moan. I like to sit, stand, bend, twist, and face the audience with my back.

Homage to Yvette

I am a painter, a scene-maker. I want my audience to see a scene unfold through me. I use tools I’ve brought from vocal studies and theater, using a singing voice as well as a “Sprechstimme,” (speaking voice) to turn songs into “un drame condense,” a mini-drama. Going first by words and then by melody, and using a broad palette of expressions, I seek to bring color to my songs and thereby to illuminate my subject, the atmosphere, and the age.

I am a choreographer. I use gesture to accentuate an idea, a line or a word. My sensuality is expressed gesturally. I am a masquerader. I love to dress the part. I am also an exhibitionist; the most essential Karen Kohler exists before a receptive and open audience.

I am a thief. I don’t borrow something; I steal it and put my own signature on it. There will only ever be one Lotte Lenya, Marlene Dietrich, Fred Astaire. Imitation may be the highest form of flattery, but I leave it to the men, the male impersonators, to transform themselves into these ladies. I am an evoker, I honor those who have come before by giving myself fully to what I appropriate. The mentors and muses whom I’ve heard and watched, from whom I’ve stolen and whose humanity and style have influenced my own are, most notably: Lenya, Dietrich, Astaire, Yvette Guilbert, Bessie Smith, Anita O’Day, Elis Regina, Ella Fitzgerald and Connee Boswell.

I am a preservationist. From the moment I came upon the songs of early 20th century Europe – inventive, fresh, daring, lyrical, ironic, dark, sexy – I was hooked. I became committed to the preservation of this music, to the authentic re-interpretation of these lyrics, in my own time. Toward that end, I am a passionate singer.

I am a bridge. Born in Germany, raised in the U.S. and now a dual citizen, I know that I am uniquely suited to this art form. I have made my own journey across time and place, as have my songs.


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