The human gaze is not the closed, fixed view of a camera but is creative and constructive. Both the gaze that sees and the object that is seen construct themselves simultaneously in the one act of vision.
~ John O'Donohue, "Beauty"
Right now the photo above shows a piece of wet cloth on the hill of my driveway. Thanks for fall: no visitors; good weather. Outdoor art time.
When the fabric is mostly dry, I drape it over my wall:
Once dry, I take it inside.
It's still fabric. Dyed fabric. How I translate this material that I've manipulated in one way already into something more: that is the quest. I look for what adds up, intrigues even. I look for the shift into where it starts to pick up. To move. To take me towards that indefinable sense of "my art".
I was just reading Sebastion Smee's book: "The Art of Rivalry". In it he portrays the adversity and animosity that Manet's art met with in the 1800's - where the viewers questioned his art. To them it looked unfinished. A few decades later, his work was completely accepted, and Matisse was then mocked for his outrageous color and childish marks. Their vision was ahead of their time. It took time for viewers to create/to see those amazing artists had created.
I love reading about that, the pushing of boundaries. And the faith in one's own sight. The interaction between the one who creates and offers pieces for others to see, and the viewers who create with their own gaze.
Each time I launch into a new direction, I am feeling my way along. In this project, I want ambiguity. I want the cloth to maintain its fabric self - to perhaps look like "only silk" at first glance. And then, I want it to go further, to move into something comprehended otherwise. I want to see if I can ride further out on that edge where it's not all said and done, where the viewer might not "get it" at first. I want the piece to read in the way that pushes that edge of understanding, asks more of the audience, more of me, of what I call "my art."
To reiterate O'Donohue: the human gaze... is creative.
I was reading an article about how the internet breeds impatience. We get answers so fast; we get orders so quickly; we expect results NOW. I swear, the weeds in my garden must be linked up: they seem to be zipping up tall with that same speed.
I've been spending a LOT of time in the garden. Me against the encroaching weeds. I'll never win. But I'm determined. And that means, hours of pulling out what I don't want and claiming the space as mine - with mulch.
I come back inside. Worn out. And ready to sit and do my art. And what is so wonderful about my art? I can take all the time in the world.
I can drop into slow motion. Do any of you know how good that can feel? Just to drop in. No pressure. Just feeling hands, feeling fabric.
And this piece is the absolute slowest I can remember: I do a part; it needs re-doing. I put it together; it needs re-understanding. I add a layer; the colors in different light vary, need to be taken apart, re-dyed, re-positioned.
And yet, I'm loving it. I'm appreciating how much I enjoy each dilemma, each better solution. I'm noticing how much pleasure I get from the work itself, even when it's not instantly "successful".
And, I'm particularly glad that it's so nice and slow. It feeds me with its demand for calm attention. Soft focus.
Can this be: a moment of peace?
At different times, I think about what I might consider to be the, well - the ideal day. I think of this when my days are less than ideal, and I want that other image for reference - what, in fact, do I want so much? And, it's easy to think of it in a literal sense: where, with who, thinking what, etc.
But what I am noticing on this day that seems so sweet? It's simple. I know I'm in a blissful state when I become unaware of time.
On less good feeling days, I notice time: when I wake up, when I do this, when I do that... WHEN is omnipresent.
On this day - albeit it's a Sunday, so clocks are not as relevant for me - I was just in flow. The early light wake-up. The run that feels so easy in the warmer months. The plant store that opened for me because I hadn't noticed it wasn't time yet. The fabric dyeing in the morning shade. The day unfolding...
And, until now: no interaction with the internet. Where the hour/minute is always always always right. Since when does anyone want the right time, anyway? How much of human history was just a SENSE of time?
That's what I want again. And even looser than that. Obliviousness.
I should say - that's what feels good to me. When I know I'm feeling good.
When I get that - that's a good day.
My wish? That everyone have day(s) like this one. Ease.
Randy, the guy with the truck (what guy here is not with a truck?) has been promising me for weeks that he would deliver my mulch. I finally texted him: "when?" and it arrived the next day. He apologized; he'd been out working on an island for 3 weeks.
So now it's here. My mulch. Six yards of it. Do you know how much that is? I don't either. But now that it's here, I can tell you: it's a pile.
And the reason for the mulch? I admit straight out. It's for control.
It's how I deal with this expanse of garden that would turn into ( had already turned into) a bed of weeds. Pull out the ***** weeds, pile on the mulch and then - get the summer to relax. Or - that's the idea. Relax? I hope.
And it's that idea of control that is so so so alluring. Don't I want to control whatever I can? Don't I?
I know. The Buddhist recipe for happiness is giving up control. Admitting life is all about ongoing change. Being okay with that.
But! I say. After mulching please.
(As if this was really, actually control.)
These Japanese knotweed specimens are about 5" in length. Most of the stem is underground and will break off from the root with the slightest tug. And then the knot remains in the soil, so happily ready to go deeper and to regenerate upwards again - to proceed to become impossible to eradicate. The leaf, the stem, any part that is left behind can come back. If you see the plant full-grown, towering 10'- 15' tall, you know that it is that deep in the soil too. It's invasive.
I spent a morning surveying my property - anywhere the soil had been disturbed by human movement - and pulled up these little signs that got transmitted inadvertently. I don't want the knotweed on my land so I watch for it.
But the other day, I happened to be in the local health food store. As I was leaving, something caught my eye: on the shelf of herbal remedies, there sits "knotweed". Knotweed?
This morning, I looked it up on the internet. The invasive weed that is such a pest once it takes hold is actually medicinal. Knotweed carries cures for lyme disease, cardiovascular difficulties, Alzheimer's, inflammation... Wha-a-a-at? Is that mind-boggling? Can this plant that will take over and prove impossible to eradicate also be so beneficial to the body?
I see how I want to conveniently label something only evil. Only worthless. I want to feel that assured, that KNOWING. It's BAD. And then, I find out that this bad thing has a huge upside. Under different circumstances this plant is revered.
I wonder: could this be metaphorical?
Like, when I'm going through something tough; when life only seems lousy. When there's no upside. Then, lo and behold, time passes - days, months, maybe years - and I look back. What seemed so dark, so wrong is now re-evaluated. Seen in a new light. I now describe that same time as valuable.
Why can't life be simple, I wonder. Why can't I reach that "place" of peace and goodness and live there all the time? Why the darn journey: where bad is good/ with all that ongoing untangling. That knotweed.
What to do?
I recently attended a gathering in Maine. The eloquent speaker started out with a quote. I'm sure I was not alone in hearing her words describe our current world. In fact, she was quoting lines written almost 70 years ago. Same words. Same reality? That is where the surprise came in - how different are the two worlds?
I was at this event - a fundraiser for the environmental company my daughter works for - with Lucy, my childhood friend. We met not exactly 70 years ago but getting close. We see each other rarely, so the far distant past stays present for me when I am with her. It's like two worlds, side by side. Then and now.
After the event, I returned to the lake. No longer day in and day out in solitude, I am blessed with the company of my son, Samsun, and his girlfriend, Amanda. The weekend brought more visitors, magnetized to the promise of outdoors, quiet, sweet conversation. Ease. The winter world is erased. The summer world overlaps it. Replaces it.
Each person brings their own energy, their own particular perspective. Contribution. Flavor. Their own scene.
I sometimes feel as if, as an adult, I am just beginning to understand childhood stories: Alice in Wonderland, the Narnia secret closets/realms. As I watch my experience shift from relative aloneness and quiet of winter and I encounter the spaces of: my past deep friends, my close family, my new acquaintances, and sense: their world. Their worlds. The new rooms that we create together as we pass through the moments, the days.
Cheshire cat? Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee? "The time has come the walrus said..." Past and present. All present.
My art. It's own world. Any different?
I dug out my planters - buried in the garage so they wouldn't split from the freezing cold of winter. I popped the impatients into them: ready to celebrate another glorious season ahead.
The planters are back in place next to the water. I also put in 36 black-eyed susans along the rugged super sunny dry strip along the road up top. And spread lettuce seeds in my raised beds.
And now... soon the lake and surroundings will fill again with the people who come when it's warm. Trickles at first. Then crowds. They will see my planters, my black-eyed susans. And those who know me will share my lettuce.
I'm finding my way out of a seemingly endless winter, with my planters, new plants, and seeds. As I put one thing and the next in place, I feel as if I'm emerging. Emerging from the cave of winter into...
Some days I create so much that doesn't work. These pieces - no good. And I could have predicted, when I was cutting them, that they would not turn out well. I can tell.
If I'm off. If something is not right. If I'm trying but not present. Any or all of the above: it doesn't happen. My scissors show me how clear I am.
Some mornings I can't go wrong. Other times, I can "get by". And then, the last alternative - time to do something else:
Check for ticks on the pup (it's a bad year).
See if I can unearth the dining room table (in case someone wants to enjoy dinner).
See if I can unearth my art table (in case I want to move my art from the dining room table).
See if I can unearth my art storage area (in case I want to move the random items on my art table).
You can see where this is going.
This is my favorite tree. Okay. One of my favorite trees. It's name? Redbud.
Red? It's never red. Or my idea of red. It's not red in the bud, it's not red when it blooms. And I love it anyway. I love my redbud.
The tulips I put in last fall, they are full of color now too. And I'm recalling the colors I was imagining as I stuck the brown bulbs in the dark earth. Now that they are up - Hurray!- the yellows look yellow. The pinks - yes, pink. But the reds: are they red? Or rather, are they red enough?
Well... to me, not quite. They are not knock down vibrant red. Not stop me in my tracks red.
When I look for red, I want show stopper red.
I love my redbud tree. But say "red", I want red. RED.
I had one of those bucolic walks with my friend Jan this afternoon. Jan, who I just met - is it 3 (4?) years ago. We were in a yoga class - where we didn't really meet. We shared a space.
But once we met, on our first bucolic lakeside walk, it was as if I'd known her since childhood. As if I'd never NOT known her. It was instantly a deep friendship.
And yet, we see each other infrequently. We go stretches where one or the other is so busy we can't get together. Then we grab our moment, and it's as if nothing got in the way.
There's something in my Jan friendship that is also in my art. It's an experience of knowing. Knowing something that is already there. An essence. And yet, I need to find it. Take the time. Notice how it's changing, even as it's part of this ongoing stream.
To be treasured: these bucolic walks. For Jan. For knowing.
I hate to travel. Hate it. Before hand, I'm exhausted with dread.
And inevitably there is some major unexpected guffaw in the plans or the journey. This time - I was heading out to see my son, Samsun graduate - the plane was not at the runway. Two hours later it had still not left the other airport, was not en route. It arrived 45 minutes after that. And then, because it had not been in service (arrived empty) had to undergo a complete "security sweep". Another, was it 45 minutes? Just say, it was late.
That was just on the way there.
That was the macro - the larger picture.
Then there was the micro. Because the plane was so late, I was able to have this long conversation with this guy who programs airplanes. He flies all over the world solving software issues so that planes fly as they should. He had just returned from Brazil where a plane scheduled for 9 PM might normally leave at 3 AM.
Suffice it to say that the travels themselves were not exactly smooth. But the intimate parts of the trip: seeing Samsun, seeing where he had spent 2 years, seeing Amanda, meeting some of his friends, spending time with Ariella. Meeting a man from Algiers where Ariella will spend 10 months starting this fall. All of this: magical. Unforgettable. Micro.
Message to myself: forget the larger picture - that getting there and getting back part. The accomplishment.
Focus on the moments.
Same as art.
(which I totally love)
Why do the birds come flying north? Why do the animals get all frisky? Why do people jump on bicycles, drive more slowly, head up mountains? Why do bodies linger outside, lie on lawns, wander along the shore? Why do we hear laughter fill the air and smell yummy smells wafting by? Why do we go and on and on about whatever bounces into our minds and then be okay anyway okay anyway and even better than okay anyway even though at any other time we would NOT be but we are. Better than okay. Anyway.
You wanna know?
(you already knew)
Color. The flowers are blooming. Blooming color.
That's what happened. That's why I didn't write for a while. That's what's still happening.
With the help of wonderful Kristin, I updated my web-site front photos.
But mostly I just got buried in my art. With all this light and new energy and with all the 500 mittens and scarves and coats and boots and shovels that need to be put away and seeds that need to be put in and windows that need to be opened and fresh air that needs to be breathed and paths that need to be walked and new leaves that need to be swooned over and suddenly people all around that need this and that and sometimes the other and...
All I've been doing is my art.
I worked on it horizontally. Then hung it vertically. Oh dear. It totally needed redoing.
And all I wanted to do was that. Just art. Only art.
Let everything else slide.
Don't you hate it when someone is right? Especially if it's bad news? Especially.
Two days ago I was in the bicycle shop buying this really great used bicycle. It's finally warm enough to get outside and play. The great shop owner/seller, Slade, says, "Yeah, I've been doing all the outside fix-up I need to do now, because in two days... the bugs will be out."
It's two days later. You can't see them in the photo, but, yes: the mosquitoes have hatched. They are here. Until it gets much further into the summer, the outdoors is buggy. Bad news. Darn, he was right.
I have nothing more to say. My life is ruined. Don't you agree?
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
Some bad news is not so so so bad. Kind of innocent. Kind of bearable. Just bugs.
I compare it to the unwanted "mistakes" that happen when I'm making my art. Ahead of time, I have an idea of what I might want. Then, as I'm creating it -oops! - this happens, and then -oops! - that. As it goes along, some oops! need to be remedied. But other oops! turn out to be part of the piece: the contrast that somehow works as elements of the piece. In the right proportion, they can even enhance it.
No one wants the damn bugs.
No one expects to want any oops!
But they can (hopefully) prove how great the good stuff is, by contrast.
(And still and all. Why did Slade have to be right? Grrrrrrr.)
Do you know that gospel song?
(Edwin Hawkins feat. Shirley Miller - Oh Happy Day)
Can you NOT be moved by that song?
Can you not be affected totally affected by that song?
I'm not saying religious conversion, although that could surely do it. I'm saying: her conviction in the words, the beat, the music. It's felt.
And it takes me back. Way back to my childhood. In the south. At a time of segregation. Yes. I was born into that. And I was held/loved/sung to by beautiful dark-skinned women. To them I owe so much of who I am. So much of what I know about love. So much of what I love about music.
I adored these women to the point where my mother admitted to me - as an adult - that she was jealous. I would have been too. I can only feel lucky that I had day in day out, year in year out, time with them. When my parents would leave, I felt safer in the house with my caretaker. That's how deep it was.
So, yes. Gospel music goes into me. Right to my heart.
It's an indicator to me: how powerful expression can be.
Can you see the rain coming in on the right? Spring can be so dramatic. And so welcome.
Time. I wait and wait and cannot wait for the warm lift of spring. And now: it's here! It's that time.
And my feeling? It's like I've dropped down a rabbit hole. I'm here. The world is different. Or am I different?
Because there's that rabbit running around with his clock around his neck. Time. Time. Time.
Did you write your email yesterday? Did you write it the day before? Did you let someone ELSE interfere with your time???
And what is time and why is it so precious? Do the flowers need a clock? Does that beaver swimming past my dock know when he passed by?
The over-importance of time was grilled into me early. As a child, I would go riding with my father every morning. The night before, I would lay out my riding clothes. At 6 o'clock, my father would wake me up. I had fifteen minutes to be dressed (for summer, winter, rain or snow), to run through the dark to the lit barn and be on my horse by 6:15. Time mattered.
For years of my adult life, I lived in Brookline. In the city, any city, time is marked. I woke up even earlier to get outside in relatively quiet.
During those years, I would love to get away to the lake, to NH, just to feel what the natural rhythms of my body might be. And to realize the inherent strength that came from listening to that wisdom. And then, back to the city.
So, time. A belief. Such a strong belief for us humans. Does it always serve us?
That's the question.
(screens up: good)
Next Tuesday, my dear pup is getting spayed. A good thing. But for the week afterwards she is supposed to not run. NOT RUN? She's a puppy!
So today was wet. (she is also not supposed to get wet) I thought, let's start to "practice" being calmer. Let's not go for that walk we always go on. Let's slow down.
Well, she didn't know the meaning of slow down. And I felt off-kilter. I was like: "what do we do when we don't do that?" Slow down? How?
Here is this sweet pup that is now beautifully mirroring me. I have SO MUCH to do. So she expects SO MUCH to do.
I actually pressure myself less than I once did. I realized that the doing doing doing was not always beneficial. What mattered more was where the doing was coming from.
The doing. The art doing. Where DOES it comes from?
For me, it's like a deep melody. It's an uncovering of that song. When I access a thread, it pulls me in. Understanding: that perhaps comes later.
Some people claim fear as their lead. Not so for me. Fear takes me into my head and tangles me up in endless fruitless thinking. Totally counterproductive. It's taken me painful years to realize that my art sources from another wellspring.
So, quiet is a resource for me. Slowing down is not a bad thing. The hard part is: I LIKE to go fast.
It's going to a long seven days for me and my pup.
I've been raving about spring green lately. The green you see above is not that one, not the sharp new green that appears with the first leaves and grass. This is a subtler woods undergrowth hue; the kind of tone that you find on the forest floor. Pure comfort.
And it's also perhaps the most common green. It tends towards red, and even perhaps brown/grey. Lovely.
As you might guess, I'm a lover of gardens and woods. Therefore, I enjoy looking at garden magazines. Not just any garden magazine, but especially Gardens Illustrated, a British magazine,which, of course tends to emphasize the UK (gorgeous gardens). To balance that, I feel the need check out the American Fine Gardening.
Well, what I am noticing is this rather large discrepancy between how the British magazine exhibits the color green versus the American rendition. The British is subdued, what I see as realistic - as above. The American magazine by contrast seems to have photoshopped the greens to a crayon tint.
This way of shifting colors - while I enjoy it myself when playing with Instagram - sometimes seems unsettling to me. It's like, I just want to see the garden. Not that idea, that perfect idea someone might have of it.
I'm protective of reality. Or maybe the quieter end of reality. Not all bright and jazzed up.
When I look at photos of gardens, I want the jazzed up green only when nature is doing it. All by its thrilling self. No doctoring.
I want, as close as possible, to see the already gorgeous green of the original art.
One day later ~
Look at the reflections. This is what has been missing for so long. The sky, the light of the sky in the water.
As I'm pouring over this book on Caruncho, I understand now why water is so compelling in his gardens. He works in southern Europe away from the coast, often. No lakes around. And he adds pools of water to import that element of light multiplied.
As that light returns to this place, I can feel the joy it brings. The optical effect goes right into my body and seems to lift me up. And soon that feeling will be magnified by my response to the arrival of spring green here: so acidic and bright - those first shoots of grass and tiny leaves. Almost yellow. Then bright yellow-green.
Add to that the sounds, the awakening of the critters in the woods. I've seen already: a red fox, a small scurrying raccoon, a skunk. No bears yet. But lots of ducks and birds. I'm not the only one glad to feel the warmth.
But maybe I'm the only one as excited about seeing the light. The light magnified by water. The water mirroring the sunlit mountains. The sky.
The only one light hearted literally.
(ice turning grey as it melts)
Do you know that all-time famous quote: "Veni vidi vici"? Beginners Latin. Does anyone teach that anymore? Regardless, it means: "I came, I saw, I conquered." Supposedly those were Caesar's words on returning to Rome after conquering France.
Now, how many hundreds of years later, I say: " Veni vidi me vicit." (I came, I saw, I was conquered). Well, now that does not sound good, does it? Wait, wait, let me explain.
I left snowy cold New Hampshire. I drove two and a half hours to the coast of Maine. And there was green grass. That's all it took.
I recall years ago, I spent a fall living with a family in what is now Serbia (then Yugoslavia).They were not considered poor: they did gorgeous embroidery, made their own wine, and the house was impeccably clean. But they slept three to a bed (grandma at the head, the two teen girls at the foot) and the main foods were bread and milk. There was an outhouse and no refrigerator. For the months I was there, edibles were some shade of yellow or brown, except the purple cabbages. On the return trip, the train stopped in Switzerland. To this day, I recall the shock of going into the grocery store there.
I hadn't seen bright green in so long. It was startling. And likewise, when I saw it in the grass in Maine after months of outside color as white, more white, white and brown: it was glorious.
I was seduced instantly. Conquered. Veni vidi me vicit.
Color can have that effect.
These are left-over pieces of silk dyed for my last piece. It's hard to tell from how they are piled up that they are translucent. And in the piece that is slowly formulating, the whole point of it will be the translucency. Light.
I thought I was allowing this piece to organically taking shape. But I now realize that I have set certain criteria for myself: that the fabric I use must be the silk I've already prepared; that a certain size opening will recur, and that the piece play with the light on the cloth itself as well as what filters through.
That last piece is the most crucial. I need to make that work. What I want to find is close to what my lauded landscape designer Caruncho describes in this excerpt:
Light, the most sublime and mysterious of all the phenomena found in a garden, will emanate from (the) combination (of mineral, water and vegetable)... All these elements will combine to produce an expanding and contracting movement... It is the expansion and contraction of light in the garden that gives it life.
So, I'm working with, I want to say, mineral. But silk, made from the silk worm, how to classify? Perhaps I'll stay with mineral. If the piece is hung in a window when done, that brings in the vegetation and possibly the water. So what's left?
That vibration, that life that light brings.
The "sublime and mysterious".
Creating a garden. Creating art. What I want: to bring in light.
I'm forever checking out books on art, as you doubtless know by now. A while ago I found this tome put out by the Metropolitan Museum of Art called The Artist Project. It was entertaining to peruse. It shows the piece each artist chooses out of the whole museum and then that artist's explanation for why that was chosen.
I'm reading along. I'm informed here,. I learn something there. But in general, I recognized what they were saying.
And then came this one answer that caught me sideways. The artist Nayland Blake (new to me) was talking about this piece (from Mali) he had selected and why:
In a number of ways, this piece is a real challenge to the conventions around art that we have in the West (where) we're used to the idea that you have this (great) inspiration...That's not necessarily how it happens. This (art) is made in the same way a snowdrift is; it finds it (self) as a result of many forces (coming together).
Like a snowdrift?
But wait a minute: I somehow relate. I am intrigued by the idea of this gorgeous piece that is created out of nothing, and comes forth out of the air, water, and wind. By temperature and time.
But beyond that, as creators, isn't that who we are? Forces of nature? Creating this "stuff' we love as art out of bodies that are: yes, air, water, lot of wind, a certain amount of time. Add the heat. Or the chill.
I love it: the very essential connection to creating.
After I posted my blog a few days ago on Caruncho, I heard from a dear friend that I was defending masculine design. I thought, yes, I was sharing my appreciation for understanding it. But then I let the comment slide. Or so I thought.
But it's been hovering in the background as I've been noticing how I work and what works for me. For the last week, I've had an assignment to write 12 answers to a question that I'm mulling, each day a different question. So, I sit down with paper and pen. And I write. I write to produce an answer. My questions are about my art. The direction, future, next... etc.
I don't know, but was I looking for that geometric image? A solid design idea? A defined end point? What I'm realizing over the course of the week is that the answer(s) are not going to come from my writing. I'm not going to get an "a-ha!" product. Not by writing. Not in a straight line.
For me, the art has to be something that arrises, that unfolds. I can't make it happen. Or FIND it with words. Instead, I somehow I have to trust this crazy, unpredictable, unknowable, constantly unfolding process. A more feminine route, perhaps?
This whole masculine/feminine contrast reminds me of this experience I had a number of years ago. I had been living in Northampton, in the western part of Massachusetts. It's an artsy, dynamic town. Lots of projects happening all the time - and people shared everything: their process was as important or more important than the product. There were some wild, experimental performance and visual art to be seen. Finished was not the criteria. The topic of conversation in Northampton was: "What are you working on now?"
And then I moved to Boston. By contrast, the topic of conversation there was, "What have you done?" What do you have to show for yourself? Was it in a museum? That's what mattered. As for what you're working on: who cared.
Now, just to be fair, I kind of welcomed Boston at the time. Process can go on and on and on. It was fun to be reaching for that end product. That something to say, "I did that".
So yes, I appreciate both. I LOVED all that rough, wild, over-the-top art that was so extraordinary, regardless of whether it was "known" elsewhere. And I also love the idea of finishing something and putting it out there. The more feminine process part, the more masculine product part: both valuable.
I just say, thank goodness, I had the opportunity to experience that appreciation of process. In a world that is more like Boston than Northampton, in my mind, it's important to appreciate that - well, that uncharted territory where it all comes into being.
The title of this blog is copied from a review of the Cy Twombly show in NYC. It's so ironic that I should read about his art right after sharing my understanding of Caruncho. As much as the landscape designer is using clear geometric shapes in his work, you'd be hard pressed to find any in Twombly's scrambled lines. And Twombly is so familiar to me.
There is no defense of his use of line in the Twombly review. But what I have always loved about his art is how free he is to capture many different kinds of lines, many sensibilities. Drawn with sensitivity. With the human hand.
Somehow this brings up a memory of when I was a small child. I recall drawing at night on paper my architect father brought home - big expansive blank paper. And I noticed that he saved some of the drawings that my siblings made. In my mind, they were the "correct/good" drawings. They looked perfect to my eyes at the time. Years later, I looked again at a few that were framed. No. Not perfect. But yes, perfect. They caught the defining essence of the horse, or the bird.
What is that so often quoted saying of Picasso's? Something like, "It took me four years learn to draw (paint?) like Raphael and a lifetime to draw like a child". You get the gist. He's not talking geometry.
"What's in a line? Everything".
If someone had told me when I moved to New Hampshire that I would be here for five years (and counting..), I would not have believed them. I was planning on three months. But no.
My life has taken its own course. And - although I knew I loved the summers - I am now (do I admit?) kind of loving the winters too. Shocking. And little by little, I've gotten to know some extraordinary people who hide out up here. And had some heartwarming experiences.
Yes. The category that New Hampshire totally wins is: if you are ever in an emergency. I swear, every truck has a "fire dep't" sticker on it. Every person knows wilderness rescue, it seems. And, if you do something really dumb and catastrophic, there is someone to help you way more than is deserved.
I had one friend rescue me from a car mishap (which did in the rear of my car) at 7AM (!); drive me to a rental car an hour north of here - the closest to be found - so that I could then drive 3 hours south to Boston and make an 11 o'clock flight. Mission accomplished. I don't know if you followed all that. But - need someone to help? They are there.
SO, yesterday...dun-da-dun... I needed to send my darn art to DC. I go to the UPS store in the town 15 minutes away. They look at this odd jumble of fragile stuff and say, "Hmmmm. Leave it here and we'll get back to you with a quote." Turns out, they don't have boxes, they don't have a person skilled in packing. But they don't say no.
In time, they figure out how to do it, but it would take too long - since they need to get supplies. So, they give me names of people to call. I do. And then remember a place in a town in the other direction - who, when I call, is well able and equipped to do the job. A lot of driving later, I have the art in good hands. Meantime, the people I phoned? They all are ready and willing to help me figure out a way - ingenious ideas. But mostly, big generous hearts.
My art is on its way. Well packed. With a send off of many people willing to pitch in. Rescue me. Offer a loving hand.
I mentioned Fernando Caruncho in an earlier blog as the eminent landscape designer. I admit that the one element that I did not immediately relate to in his gardens was the use of many straight lines. I have been accustomed to Olmstead and other designers who mirror nature with their fluid curves.
But Caruncho's gardens are more philosophically based, and his argument for geometry is cogent:
From time immemorial geometry has been the rational and civilized way to express knowledge. It has been a status language, the language of those who, together with the priests and the kings, were in contact with the gods... What are the Tibetan mandalas, the Babylonian ziggurats, the Egyptian pyramids, or the Gothic cathedrals, but geometric expressions that relate the spirit of man to space?
Okay, that's powerful. I now see how his straight lines work for him. And for Japanese gardens. And for any artist, who often starts out with a geometric straight-edged surface on which to create his/her work.
Over the years, I have noticed the grid attempting to come into my work again and again. But when it appeared, I'd dismiss it. I had a bias against the straight line - too harsh, too unnatural.
But with Caruncho, I find such a strong argument that it's given me pause. "Expressing knowledge"? "In contact with gods"? With geometry?
I would not have guessed.
A kind friend asked me about the weather here now. The weather? Asking me? Small joke - I'm ALWAYS talking about the weather. I grew up on a farm. Riding horses, mowing hay, playing in the darn sandpile: weather mattered. So, yeah, now I have a pup. We're outside a lot. In the weather.
But there is also another kind of weather. We all recognize this one: what's brewing inside. Calm, not so calm, bloody not calm at all...
And this spring has had its own kind of weather. Like the sunny warm days followed by wet snow: a real push-pull. One day it's: "Yay about this idea!" The next: "Hmmm, not-so-much." Have you felt that internal weather? April. Trying to bloom, if only the snow would stop snowing.
In all the frustration/impatience I've felt, I'm beginning to see some ideas that feel like they have real pull to them. And that the ungratifying time has been part of finding them. All fresh and new ... these ideas are too unformed to be ready for sharing.
Which kind of leaves you, the reader, with me in this early spring stage: acknowledging that most of what's gonna bloom is still below ground.
I just ordered seeds for this summer's garden. And then it snowed. You recognize that pattern, right? You do something because you're looking forward to that future wonderfulness. And then the tide keeps coming in, in the direction it's been coming. Not turning yet.
And just thinking of gardens and gardening, I went into the dreamscape offered by Sophie Walker's book on Japanese gardens. Those places that are so soothing. That, even some photo in a book is enough to fill you with such peace.
Therefore I was surprised to read:
In Japan, beauty and terror are inextricably linked. Japan's beautiful landscape provokes constant anxiety: angry active volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunamis and cyclones all threaten... Nature is beguiling and threatening, beautiful and horrific.
I had never thought about the context in which the Japanese gardens had been created. That the profound stillness that can be felt in the energy of those landscapes stands in stark contrast to the wildly unpredictable larger setting in which they're situated. Those long-lived gardens have endured centuries of tumultuous natural occurrences.
In a completely personal way, I see that as a metaphor for me and my art. I watch my mind move all over the map, full of ups and downs - that "tumultuous" mind is the environment for the art I create. This art that takes a lot of time. Slow. Rather meditative. A counterpoint.
Yes. Looking for the counterpoint. Time and again.
In garden seeds.
I'm in this funny kind of impatient space. I feel like it's familiar. I want "things" to happen faster: air to warm, flowers to bloom, etc.
But more than that. I feel like I want my whole insides to stretch wide open. Not literally. But actually - to feel all full of the space that I want to somehow create in my art.
What fascinates me is that the times when I don't have my next idea nailed down - when it's not specific in any way - when I can feel the open-endedness of it, then I am impatient. I want to know.
Sounds familiar, somehow.
And yet, this is where all the fruit is. When I'm lost. Playing. Putting stuff together. Pulling it apart. Piling it up. Beyond the - "done that".
And what's even more ridiculous is, that when I do define the next piece in some way, that more likely than not, that will only be the jumping off point. Not what I THINK I'm going to create. Sometimes, not even close.
Ah, such is the journey.
Every once in a while you read about someone who just flies above the radar. So exceptional. In his/her own category.
I chanced upon such an artist/architect in the April issue of The World of Interiors: I was struck by the work of Fernando Caruncho, who is considered, I learned, the greatest landscape designer of our times. I had no idea.
And, based on what I saw in this one article, I would agree.
However, what really struck me was HOW he works. And how he came into his career. Apparently, he was a philosophy student when he designed his first garden. And it's his philosophy which guides how he designs:
My obsession is with vibration of light,... and the correspondence between light, water and the green...Space changes the light continuously,... your perception of light changes continuously as you move through it.
His designs begin with the "dome of the sky" and he uses water elements to reflect it. The changing foliage completes the picture .
How unusual is this way of thinking about the garden? Starting with the sky? The surround. The "room" in which his art exists. And then bringing that surround into the art with reflective water. Doing all this while also playing with the elements that most gardeners consider their only focus: the plants that grow.
And he himself not starting off as a "designer" with years of school learning. But working with vibrations of light. Reflecting light. Changing light.
And lighting the way for me. For others. To be inspired to see the larger picture.
The sky that "domes" us all.
That frames all our art.
I love this passage in Zadie Smith's book, Feel Free, where she quotes Seneca (the Greek philosopher) : "We are in the habit of saying that it was not in our power to choose the parents who were allotted to us, that they were given to us by chance. But we can choose whose children we would like to be." Smith goes on to say: "Early on, I chose whose child I wanted to be: the child of the novel. Almost everything else was subjugated to this ruling passion."
Okay, so first of all, I had no idea that Greek philosophers offered this particular kind of wisdom. And secondly, I love where Zadie Smith takes it. I was thinking - YES - that is just a beautiful way to describe a calling.
I realize that in the reading that I do, in the many different directions that I surf, that I tend to tie it all back into my art. What I'm doing. Why I'm doing it.
I used to focus in over and over again on art and artists. What they showed or wrote, and anything written about them. Even now, when I see someone whose work grabs me, I look for more ways to get to know that person and his/her art.
But I also know that a lot of what I read or see will somehow feed back into how I'm creating my art, either in idea or technique.
This latest piece of mine was inspired by a Michael Singer lecture I heard. He's a scientist and a spiritual leader. In this lecture, he was pointing out how all religions were essentially dealing with where we came from. "And I can tell you the answer to that question," he said. He then proceeded to describe, in simplified version - for an hour - the precise chemical explanation of the big bang theory. I loved how clear he was even though I admit, afterwards, I could not repeat any of the specifics. But the fact that this keyboard I'm typing on, as well as the cells in my body all started from the same place... well, that I got. And that's crazy.
So, you see, those little doo-bobs hanging in several places in my piece? They represent a few of those random atoms, suspended, post the big bang. And the horses? From quite calm on the left to progressively faster across the piece: they stand for our not-so-still minds, billions of years later. Running away with us. Running wild.
Us children. Choosing whose children we would like to be. Yes.
I woke up this morning fit to be tied. My brain was goooooing. When I run into anything I can't solve emotionally, my brain is sure that if I THINK enough, I'll find my way. Rarely is that true.
The "stuff" that was coming up was about people. People close to me. I can be all wise about those I hardly know. But those that I really care about?
I ran into this great quote from Mary Gaitskill when talking about the huge messy mix of what love is:
Purity of (love) must live and breathe in the impure gardens of our confused, compromised... and broken hearts. Love itself is not selfish, devouring, or (unkind) but it suffers a terrible coexistence with those qualities, as well as with a host of other milder evils - say. resentment or misunderstanding or projection. These oppositions sometimes coexist so closely and so complexly that lovers cannot tell them apart.
I share this, because I see it in myself over and over. I want to blame. I want it to be black and white. I want to always feel good about the people I care so much about. I want to KNOW how to do that.
Thank goodness for the woods. For the pup - who can totally drive me nuts, too. And to art - which will always both upset and uplift.
A toast. To not knowing. To never knowing.
AND to loving, regardless.
I was viewing an excellent social media tutorial which started out with the assumption that everything on the web is contending for the viewer's ... attention. You guessed it. And how to "win" in this game.
It struck me. That word attention. And what I notice.
So, I'm walking along in the early evening. The rain is still raining but the sun is coming out. The snow is still here but the ground is beginning to breathe. AND - oh my goodness - what is that SOUND? It's the most mellifluous sound ever! So many song birds above me, around me, merging their songs in such sweet ecstasy. I haven't heard this kind of bird song in so long. What I hear is "Spring! Spring! Spring!" It's like the world belongs to those birds. And it does. When I tune in, it does.
And don't I want that to be the attention my art gets? Not in a battle. But in a discovery. A lift.
A bird song in the spring.
I don't know. Is Peaches orange? Hmmmm...
For the past couple of days, Victor was visiting and we were listening to classical music on WCRB - streaming it in. He had found the station for me; he listens to it all the time. He commented that he thought lately they were playing too many horns. And that he thinks of horns for jazz and not so much for classical.
Horns? I hadn't even noticed to separate them out. But I told him that I have a "thing" about whenever you hear spiritual music it's always the damn flute (yes, I hate it in spiritual music)(how unspiritual of me). So I got what he was saying.
And then I thought of how I had mentioned my use of orange in my latest art piece. But, truth be told, only when I thought of my father in retrospect was I THINKING, "OH, I'm using orange." No, the orange was actually just an instrument in the whole piece.
Yes, it's a color. But, it's a color interacting with the others. Part of the symphony.
When color is working, it moves the eye. The color is there to play off the color before, the color after; the color under, the one above. It's what makes the music. Not separate. Even those paintings that are solid color either have slight variation within, or are referential to the surroundings. Color - it's a hue. And also a journey.
On some level, you knew all this. Even if not consciously, you have felt the delight of being swept up by color. Carried away. Seduced.
By how it all comes together.
Quite by mistake, I published a post with NO writing. I left you wondering, no doubt, what that word meant? I had JUST discovered it today and was so excited to share it. I guess too excited!!!
It was in this essay in Zadie Smith's new book and it is in reference to music. The author was mourning the loss of complex tones on the internet because the first person to put out software was satisfied with this tinny sound. So that's what we get now, all the time. We have lost so much including the "soprano's coloratura". Can you resist loving that word???
I immediately applied it to the nuances of art that go missing as well. And also, get misrepresented. I used my iPhone to take the photo of a part of my piece (above). In real life, the horse on the right and left are the same color. The wall is white. And doo-bobs that hang in between are purple (yes), yellow (yes) and grey (!). I took the photo and then edited the color. I got close to some, not others.
But what I see in the photo is not accurate to the piece. It can't capture a lot of what's there, especially the depth. Thank goodness this piece will be hung in a space where it will be seen in actuality.
I recall not too long ago that I was lured to see a show by the internet photos. When I saw the art in person, it was so drab by comparison, that I was let down. But now I see how that impulse to "up" the color is everywhere.
I'm wishing for coloratura to be felt all over. I want that music with all it's depth and tone. I want the art with the whole range of color represented, honestly and with pride.
To be heard. To be seen and felt. Coloratura.
My wall fell down! The plow pushed the snow. And the frozen snow pushed the wall over.
It's not held with any fill. The wall is just the art of the stone wall builder. Truly an art. He'll come over and jigsaw puzzle it back into place. Some time when the snow melts.
Right now:it's snowing again. And my internal walls are falling over. "Enough snow already!" I say. Enough.
It's that kind of day. And I knew we'd get more snow. And I know I'll have days that are less wonderful than others.
But who wants to see their walls fall down?
This is when it's time for me to pull out the silk. Check out those dye colors. This is the time for building future - not walls - but perhaps, wall hangings?
Running for me is like crack. It feels so good, it's addictive. It's something I love, I crave. I get hooked on it.
Some people love to travel through the skies, overseas. My travel: the open road. Human speed. Out there, feeling the wind, the sun, the trees, the sky. And my breath. Breathing hard. Who doesn't love that?
I haven't run since last fall. How could I leave it for so long? Only in NH. Where the roads turn treacherous with snow and ice, and then get salted so heavily you would not want expose a puppy's paws.
But today, I had a taste. I went running. I didn't take Peaches, I admit. And there was still ice on the roads, yes. But, that was delicious - that run.
This intense love/addiction I have for running is equally true of my art. I can feel its effects when I haven't done it for a while. When I've been interrupted. When I'm not involved in the creative side.
And that has been happening a bit lately. I'm doing a lot of prep work. And researching ideas - some drawing, some looking at other work. And I can feel a certain amount of impatience building inside me.
I used to call it a bad mood. I'd wonder why I had to always start each new piece in such a rotten state of mind. But, now - and I'll see if I'm right - I think it's part of the "addiction", if I can use the term loosely. When I'm not deep in it, in the flow of my art, I'm at cross purposes. Missing that feeling. Missing the journey of the endeavor.
Missing the run.
Can you see it? Can you spot that white bloom? The crocus???
It sits at the foot of a four foot mound of snow. Melting snow. Outside feels so warm all of a sudden. But a bloom? After last week's cold? Snow?
Yay for spring, is what I say. May it slide right into summer. May it be green and warm and lush.
I think of how much I notice, how much I care about weather. How much I care about place. I know that others are quickly on an airplane if those matter don't suit. Out of here. Somewhere else. But I have a different perspective. For me, what I want is to be in one place over time. To relate to this piece of earth. Notice where I am, more and more. Go deeper.
And as an artist, that is, in my mind, the only way to relate to my work. I explore; that exploration leads me to another. And another. Wending my way inward. And then putting it out. Out in my art. Out into the world.
I encountered this beautiful passage from Willa Cather's My Antonia:
The earth was warm under me...I was something that lay under the sun and felt it, like the pumpkins, and I did not want to be anything more. I was entirely happy. Perhaps we feel like that when we die and become part of something entire, whether it is sun and air, or goodness and knowledge. At any rate, it is happiness to be dissolved into something complete and great.
Oh yes. In nature. And in art.
Can you see all those little branches at the top of the tree going all "sproingy", jumping up straight towards the sky?
And can you sort of see how this poor tree has been massacred by my too-dull cutting sheers? And that what look like "sproingy" things are really trees in the distance?
Well, that's how brutal pruning is. All the excited new growth that chose to zoom skyward last year? It's gone. The tree is cut way back, close, tight.
AND do you know what? That's what causes the tree to produce more fruit. That harsh treatment - that's what delivers the goods. Lots of peaches.
There's a message for art or life in here somewhere. Something obvious about getting down to basics and hard work or something like that. But I would never trust anyone that used pruning as a metaphor. Especially if they possibly did the tree in with the dull shears.
So let's go sideways and eschew hard work. Let's go with the romping dog. And the melting snow. And the mud everywhere. Let's go for the value of sloth.
Especially after the darn hard work left my wrist sore. And my mind too full of lists. And my house too full of - "insideness" from a winter tucked behind doors.
That sproingy tree? It's still sproinging. That's the apple tree. It's resting untouched now, as the idleness takes hold.
(i cloud, you cloud, water cloud...)
Certain advice just has a way of staying with you. You recognize it: "Yes. TRUTH." Never to be forgotten. Well, ideally.
As in the pity party (you recall?). So, this next piece of advice came during that same time period. I had now moved into the house that needed work. And was mothering four little ones. And working on my art.
The issue was that I lived so close to the school that I could see the teachers through the window. There at seven, teaching teaching teaching until two or three, leaving maybe at four, six, even seven. And me? Mothering and arting. Somehow, I was seeing the teaching as hugely more valuable than my endeavors. Even though I had once been a teacher, right now I was just a mother. Just an artist.
And then I met Leon. From Atlanta. A health practitioner. I told him what I did and then somehow it came out - where I live and that I'm not measuring up to those teachers.
Leon: "So you're not working as hard as them?" He's heard me. Yeah. "Not worth as much?"
He looked me straight in the eye and offered these words: "This is what you need to say to yourself every time you think those thoughts: FUCK THE PURITANS." With emphasis.
His advice. It's stayed with me. And I pass it on.
In case you ever compare. In case you ever think you don't measure up. In case you have those Puritans living in your mind, too.
Whenever I get interrupted, my first response is, "Oh no!" But inevitably, I'm glad afterwards. And I never can guess why.
When I was hanging my show in DC, there was a fire in the building. "RONK RONK RONK" - that penetrating sound. I think: "Is this a joke?" No. We all, all in this huge building, have to take the stairs down and exit. Now I'm thinking,"What about my art?" Good grief. So, we head out and stand in the wind and pouring rain. And there I get to meet some of the fascinating people who work in the space that the gallery is the entrance to; the people who will be walking past my art, perhaps with many other Washingtonians, in the next few months.
And they are - yes, fascinating. They spend their days dealing with nuclear safety, preserving the oceans ... big matters. And this is my chance to chat with them. Thanks to the interruption.
Then, at the end of this week - a dental issue came up for me. Suddenly, I need to take time away for a trip to Boston. Not planned. What I got was - yes, a visit with my dentist - but then, I end up bumping into friend after friend. Chance encounters in the neighborhood that I spent 33 years of my life. Sweet hugs.
So, as I turned in my driveway, back up here in NH, I had this image: of me in this teeny-tiny pond. Great for focus, for my art. But out there in the "big world"/big pond, there are so many more fish. It can feel good to spend time in that big pond. With others.
So lucky - I was - to be interrupted.
... we put things in words and don't much notice how they have altered that bit of the world for us forever. (Susan Rethorst, A Choreographic Mind).
Susan Rethorst is talking about dance. But she could as well have been referring to art. I used to have a piece of art that said: "Art is for when you have something to say and words can't say it." Something liked that.
But then art school, especially - blame, blame - art grad school comes along. Academia is all about words. And now, I understand that many of the major museums in London have lengthy explanatory plaques as well. The danger is that the words narrow the experience of the art.
Words don't merely give voice to whatever we are seeing, they alter it and determine how we see (the art)...
Susan Rethorst expresses a concern I share with her. That art is so much more than any description of it. That words interfere with the whole experience and valid personal interaction that each viewer might have with the art, including - and importantly - responses that are not verbal.
I just hung my work in the gallery in DC. I included a three sentence verbal description, as was requested. I wonder, now, if I had waited a week or two or three, the range of responses that might have arisen? What would have come into the space of not-knowing that I closed down, just in those three sentences?
It's something that matters to me: that the art stay open to as many ideas and responses as it invites. I know some viewers want a "way in". But I wonder if I'm helping them? Or getting in their way?
Title of show: 13.8 Billion Years Ago
13.8 billion years ago was the Big Bang. So much time has passed and we are as restless as ever. We may seek calm, but, as the Buddhists say, "our wild horse mind" still runs away with many of us:
Stimson Gallery, DC. Until mid July.
Do you know how, every once in a while, something catches you, really catches you sideways/unexpectedly, and you react? Just react! You are in full reaction mode. Gotcha.
Well, this happened yesterday and it caught me off-guard. I was so surprised, I didn't say anything at the time. I just witnessed the conversation and witnessed that, man, inside I was REACTING!
It was simple. One person mentioned trouble getting a good night's sleep. (i.e. not waking up as rested as usual). I'm thinking someone will mention that it's spring and that the body has been through many seasons since fresh vegetables, that the body is more acidic. Something along those lines. But no, the suggestion is: to use an app. An app!
So, that's where I went sideways. I really have a hard time accepting the computer as solution to so much. And, I admit, here I am using one. But remember music? I mentioned that the first app that was engineered is the one that has determined what most consider "music" now... Okay, I'm going off course. Underlying my discomfort is using something that is binary, that is numbers, that measures - that we use now to measure and determine so much of how we think and live - to go into the soft and squishy sides of our lives, too.
I recall when I was in 8th grade, visiting the Smithsonian Museum in DC. My "boyfriend" at the time wanted to be a doctor, so we chose the medical museum where we walked by jars and jars of preserved body parts. Liver after liver after liver. All normal. All so different. Our squishy insides. None like the next.
I think of that whenever I read: this is what you "should" eat. This is how you "should" exercise. This is what good sleep is. Says who?
Taking that into art, the one goal an artist has is to be different. To be him or herself. To make art that is true to himself/herself. That is that art that others - the others who are different from the artist, with different insides and different everything else - are going to love or hate or anything in between. All different.
(lotta ice, lotta snow, lotta wind)
I, that is, "I", want to follow up on that discussion of the first person that excited me so much in reading Zadie Smith. I think of my dear friend, Leigh, when I write this, because she mentions over and over that what she wants to offer, through her art, is freedom. And Zadie Smith articulates a description of that permission, permission for such freedom, which she received from others. Which so influenced her work. Which opened the doors for her.
Again, to see if I can pass on this idea that moved me?
Zadie Smith proposes that when we think of an artist or writer - someone we don't know personally - we tend to see that person as that art, or as that person in the novel. (ex. Rothko painting = Rothko; "I", Portnoy = Philip Roth). She has nailed me there; of course that's how I think. She then goes on to propose: because of the "I", whom we assume is also the writer/artist, they capture us. We believe those artists. Those writers. And then - they can offer worlds which are ahead of ours, more spacious, more inclusive, more... well, more open.
In her words:
(The writer) had written things down that seem unsayable, impossible, and in taking that freedom for himself... passed that freedom down.
I am aware... that remarkable acts of art-making - bold, perverse, unbeholden, free - have had the side effect of changing the weather in a country, in a people, in a certain historical moment, and finally in me, conferring freedoms for which I now am very grateful.
Whew! Who can more eloquently argue for the power of art? "Conferring freedoms".
So, yes, I head down to DC tomorrow to the Stimson Gallery. Leaving the white landscape behind temporarily. In order to hang some of my art, "my art" - to offer to viewers in the capitol.
(very faint tree shadow)
I create art. And then I do things to support creating my art. And one thing I love to do is get out into the beautiful woods of NH.
NH woods are like no other. Because there is so much granite - that both makes the high mountains but also the many boulders strewn everywhere - there is this sense of open space amongst the trees. A sense of air and light. The trees themselves grow tall and majestic, and the rocks are jagged statements of art in themselves, offering random moments of delight.
At this time of year, with all the snow, everything is softened. The sharp edges are nowhere to be found. And the sounds are muffled. So still. All is covered, waiting for the melt, waiting to burst into color and sound and and fluttering leaves.
But along with that, with the spring, will come the smell of the woods again. That opening of the earth, the aromas of damp soil and plant life. That intoxicating effect those molecules have on our senses.
I refer again to David George Haskell:
"Western science hasn't stooped to take seriously the possibility that the forest, or lack of it, might be part of our being. Yet forest lovers know very well that trees affect our mind. The Japanese have named this knowledge and turned it into a practice, shinrin-yoku, or bathing in forest air."
A snow bath now. And a truly sensual bathing to come. Forest nourishment.
(cleaning up all the hooks, re-stringing them on new elastic)
I was talking to my online group today about Thupten Jinpa's book, the Fearless Heart, in which he talks about compassion. He notes that in the western culture, the whole basis that we as humans understand ourselves and our government, etc, is based on Darwin: dog-eat-dog, the strong survive. But in Tibet, untouched by such definition, the human sense of self and relationship is based on compassion: we are in loving relationship with self, others, the world.
One part of his in-depth discussion lightly touches on the vagus nerve - which is one way scientists can measure change in the body based on compassion training or meditation. What I didn't realize is what this nerve correlates with. It's sometimes euphemistically called the "cuddle nerve" since it is nurtured initially by the mother holding the infant. But it goes on to regulate heart, digestion, and immune function as well as anxiety. Meditation directly affects this nerve that runs up through your neck between head and abdomen.
So, I felt this huge ah-ha when reading this. I'm sure that I have been affecting my darn vagus nerve with meditation. I won't bore you with retelling the struggles that got me to be so scheduled - to get myself to consistently slow down and be still. But it's wild to kind of understand why/ how it can be so therapeutic.
Cuddling yourself. Yes. Easy on the vagus nerve.
I'm so flipped out excited about Zadie Smith that I'm sure I won't do her justice. But this essay is indebted to her: on how powerful the first person is. I found her essay so rich that I want to come back to it again and again. But today, I want to share this piece:
It sounds very silly but through twenty years of (writing) I almost forgot what the first person was for....But the moment I started writing in the first person... I saw how this form uses something so fundamental, which we use every day talking to our children and partners and friends and enemies, in almost all our human interactions: the latent power of the anecdote, of testimony, of confession, of witness.
"Once upon a when? where? who?" (=the most basic set-up)
Compare that to: Something happened to me today. The reality effect is so strong, immediate.
AND then she goes on to say, in her work, she uses the "I" just to capture the reader. She writes novels. The "I" doesn't need to be true. But because that "I" is so strong, the reader believes in her:
You have the reader where you want them, in the palm of your hand, and the whole battle of fiction - to make them believe - feels more possible than ever.
So, I find this all so affirming. I find that really, on some level, my art (and I'm guessing everyone's) is really autobiographical. It's all about the "I", even perhaps that "I" from childhood, or deep down. In Zadie Smith's case, she said she wrote a whole book that led up to a fist fight between two teen-age girls and she realized that that fight had actually occurred in her own life and this whole piece of writing was to resolve that.
My "upset" came much earlier, based on my youngest three years when I couldn't see well. As a result, there is this kind of overarching wonder about what it is to see clearly. I must have seen blurs for much of my first three years. And then - sudden clarity. So that moment keeps getting triggered: that - a circle can look like that? a circle in a circle - like that? A horse, like that?
Seeking. Seeking. Seeking.
Because I can't recall the not-seeing part, but only the moment of suddenly being able to see clearly - there's a bit of a mystery. Almost like I can be fine before seeing. Just touching the cloth. Just the touch.
So I start with luscious cloth. Touch it. Feel it.
And, eventually, after all the dyeing and art making, see it. That circle. Those circles. Those circles and horses.
That's what happened to me - this many, many todays.
You recall way back when - when you were in school and you were looking forward to recess? Or the end of the school day? And then, you realize, man, I have another class? You know, that kind of structure that you felt stuck in. Well, that's the way this weather (more snow) feels like to me. Enough already!
But that's BORING.
As Zadie Smith (I do love her) so aptly wrote:
In the end, people don't want to hear about dogs and babies and feeling your way into (your art) ... people want to hear about you...
No dogs??? No babies??? (no weather???)
I suddenly have nothing to say. Isn't that funny? I share my life in art all the time in my musings. But the bright light of the question (hear about me?) makes me want to hide.
And yet, it's the depth of my caring about art that motivates me to write. It's what burns in me, what fuels all that I create. That caring for art is the force for the deepest happiness for me. It's not "who I am", but it's what drives that who that I am.
Are you confused yet?
Just keep listening. Stay tuned, as they say. It's winter still, my dog's asleep, and my babies? I still love them.
This, this ongoing epistle is that ever evolving story of what GOT me today. Yes. The me that comes through in my writing about:
Me and my art.
We made it to March. Did you remember to say, "Rabbit Rabbit" before anything else???? Congratulations! You now guaranteed yourself good luck for the next 31 days. Who knows what would have happened if you forgot!
Advice? You want to remember advice. But superstition. You MUST remember.
"Come in the same door you go out." "Get out of the right side of the bed." "Walk on the same side of the tree." "If you spill salt, take a few grains with left hand and throw it over your right shoulder." "Don't breathe while driving past a graveyard." On and on.
And so, when my father - whose advice, I recall as mainly superstition - declared that orange was the color non grata, it was an order. Orange was nowhere to be found: in my childhood house, childhood clothing.
And where is orange to be found now? I notice: as a key color in the work of art I'm creating. Flaming across the piece. Flying in the face of all that was "known" to be true.
Known to be true.
Years ago, before moving into a house with my husband and four children (when they were small), I contacted Tom, an interior designer. This friend with a fancy house had recommended him. Tom came by, took one look at the house and told me, "You don't need me. You need all the guys who do work behind the walls."
BUT dear Tom's wisdom did not end there. Oh no. From Tom I gained the beautiful permission to throw your own pity party. You heard right. Pity party.
Having a bad day? Feeling blue and unappreciated? Feeling crummy but you know you shouldn't?
Go ahead. Feel sorry for yourself. Sure there are people a lot worse off. Sure you've had worse days (maybe). Sure you know this is WRONG.
GO AHEAD. Do it anyway. Bask in your own self-pity.
I'd phone Tom and tell him about some woe or another. He'd ask, "Did you have a pity party? You really don't want to pass up the chance, you know." Right?
Not a great photo, this one. It's of an embroidery I did a while ago. Each of the girls is thinking about something different. Focussing here there and everywhere. That's me.
I'm in my end of work on a piece phase. Lots of details. Glueing (yes glueing) in an attempt to hold the pieces on their hangers. Delicate. Many pieces. Don't mess up. Not now. Keep your head on straight.
Don't think that you are on this blue ball that's riding through space that is tiny compared to the trillions of other not-blue not-balls out there. Don't think that you are related to lichens somehow, but they cover half the earth and you don't. Don't think about the fact that birds can see two more kinds of color than we do and that we lost ours because we lived in caves for so long. Don't think about how fast mosses turn green the minute the snow melts around them and then you have to wait for so long to see green anywhere else. SO LONG!!!
Yeah. Just pay attention. Be the girl in front, for Pete's sake.
Get the glue on.
Peaches loved this cold winter. Now it's warming up a bit : she's found a mound of snow to stay cool. Me? I'm happy to be a bit warmer.
I look at my pup and think she and I are so different. For example, we are out walking on some trail - no one is around. Peaches is all over the place, bounding this way and that. Then one day, we run into some other people. With dogs. Peaches freezes. What? After that, she walks on the trail, right behind me. Takes two steps, looks back : is there anyone else coming? Oh my god, she's sooooo cautious. Next day, we go back. "I remember," she communicates to me as she walks behind me, just in case.
How many walks later? She's bounding again. And then, we meet more people. And dogs. Well, she's slowly, slowly getting better. Less afraid.
And me? I think, what a pup! But then, maybe she could say, what a person! if she could see how I'm that way, too. Just creeping along with caution, sure that there is SOMETHING to worry about.
Yeah. The OR NOT place. That's where I want to live. Man, look at her when she is fully alive, present, exploring. Seeing this. Running there. Whooopeee - do! Loving this world.
That dog. Okay, not so strange after all. She and me. We just gotta let go of "those people and dogs" in our heads. And then, run riot!
(Peaches: Not more cloth prep. Sheesh!)
The longer time I spend making art, the nuttier the journey can seem. For example, some of the ways that I think I need to prepare my cloth. Ridiculous.
To back up a bit, I was (again!) listening as I was driving down the snowy country road, and they were talking about making the movie, Frozen. I guess the first attempt in the studio was really bad. And, to get to the final one, there was a process full of dead ends and mistakes. The gist of it all was the value of mistakes.
I know that one well. Even so, it's sometimes amazing to hear - because the result can seem so effortless. And, often, when I'm seeming to waste time, I forget that it's all part of the darn process.
So, in this piece I've been working on, there was a point where I needed to make the cut pieces. I knew I had cloth prepared with the soy milk application. What I didn't consider ahead of time was that I had prepped the fabric months ago - maybe six?
Over time, the soy on cloth stiffens. It becomes like a board. I pulled it out and thought to myself, "Oh no. It's old. Probably too old." I wasn't sure the dye would penetrate.
As luck would have it, the dye took really well. AND for the purposes of this piece, the stiff cloth was just what I wanted since it held the cutout horse shapes so much better than the more usual draping silk. It was a fortunate mistake.
The long process that I use to prepare my cloth just got lengthened. By months. Crazy. (And I already was bitching and moaning as some of you know well.)
Peaches the pup? She's just chasing ants. We live in the woods. Spring arrives, everything comes to life. The darn ants - they are always ahead of the curve.
I don't know why I have the pup adorning a piece I titled "slowly". Momentarily she's still. But slowly? That's rarely her style of movement.
By contrast, it's my pace of producing art. I take a lot of time. Lot of time.
In the latest Art in America, there's an article called "Slow Painting". They suggest the slow speed can be an act of resistance against our fast world. At times, I've considered if that was why I take so long. But I don't think I can honestly claim that as the reason. It's my process: the time it takes to prep and dye. Over and over to get that particular color. And shape (if there are designs). And finally, frame or hang.
I admit, I do, at times, find myself impatient. I'm hanging the piece on the 5 hangers now. I thought it would be quick putting everything together. Not so much. I'm working on the one white wall I have - and it's in a narrow hallway, so I can't get a camera back far enough to show photos of the parts as they come together.
In line with the pace all along, the revealing will be slow as well. I see the photographer on March 13. Wait. Wait. Wait. Someday, you'll get to see this work of art: this mysteriously slow piece.
I woke up today all hot and bothered. Not a bit like the image above with its delicate details of snow blowing across the ice. More like - it's been too long not doing art.
Two days and I'm bent out of shape... I was listening while riding in the car, and they were talking about biological disruptions: those that are productive and those that are not. The productive ones - in rain forests and coral reefs - are when there are minor disturbances. In the ocean: a storm, in the rain forest a tree falling. Those disruptions actually help. They give an opening to biodiversity/new "ideas" as they recover . In contrast, A tsunami or logging do the reverse - they are too large an impact and nature takes a long time to come back, often with fewer species.
So, no, two days is not a tsunami. But yes, my insides are going: DO SOMETHING. Yeah. Time away can build up that head wind to come back against and get going.
Right now I'm putting the piece together. It's not the time when I'm birthing the work. But as I see it become coherent, I'm onto "what's next" anyway. I'm wondering, if next time I took this and did that... ?
An opening. Sun coming in. What will arise?
Part of the landscape's mind - it's memories, connections, rhythms - is...held in human consciousness ~ David George Haskell's, The Songs of Trees.
When I found this place on Squam Lake 30 years ago, I fell in love with the old boathouse. It was on, really on, the lake. What I didn't seem to notice at the time was - well - many things. For one: the boathouse was 100 years old. Therefore partly rotten. etc. Lots of stuff about the house passed right by me. And, incidentally, there were other buildings - two or three, depending on how you want to see them. All were suffering.
Utterly disregarded was the land itself. The garden. The trees. The woods. Okay, the garden. I did enjoy peaches the first year. (yay for peaches).
Gradually, over time, all this has changed.
But two years ago, a huge tree fell down. Loud bang. shaking earth. It missed a building by inches. The arborists came by: six or seven trees of that size were ready to tumble. I was concerned for the buildings, so all came down. Big beautiful old oaks.
Now - a year or so later, I've discovered a number of books, brilliant books about trees. They are nominally about trees. But not too deep in the subtext is how connected trees are to each other. And how connected we are to trees - not just for oxygen, but the microscopic world that underlies so much of living matter.
It's an understanding I didn't have when I saw the trees as threatening. Threatening to my buildings. The new paradigm is not me v. them, it's Us. Trees/humans here for each other.
I now notice trees more than I ever have. And appreciate them. And want them to live out their lives. I see more and more how they are influenced by all that I /we as people do - now, then, going forward. So connected.
How much I care. How much I care about trees. What's that famous line: how can there be a poem lovely as a tree?
Yes. Trees are beautiful. And trees are here to keep us breathing.
Come to think of it, we say that about art as well, right?
I was up on a ladder using this new kind of suction cup thing to unscrew a light bulb. I finally noticed I'd disconnected the bulb part from the socket. I phoned my fix-it friend and he advised me to use needle nose plyers. They worked. And I thought to myself, "How many dumb artists does it take to unscrew a light bulb?"
But then, I remembered that the path to joy is to re-frame that bad stuff more positively. So ... second go: "How many amazingly talented artists does it take....." I don't know. Did that ring true? Talented? Amazing?
When I was a child, all I wanted to draw was a horse. I wanted the horse to be perfect. I wanted AMAZING. "Dad, how's this look?" Always it needed correction. (I thought to myself, I'm not so talented). He'd sketch these rectangular and triangular shapes to show me how the torso related to the shoulders to the hips, etc.
And so I began to notice, when I saw horses depicted in art or as motifs in furnishings how well they were done. I became the critic. The one judging amazing and talented. Oh yeah. It would drive me nuts to see how terrible so many attempts were.
Now, years and years later, I could care less. Well, maybe a little. What happened to amazing and talented?
As the pope doesn't say: "Fuck it!" Who cares how exactly a horse looks? Where is such a perfect beast? What was I after?
Back to that blessed light bulb. Shall we try to reframe that question one last time? Okay:
So how many artists who ... don't-give-a-damn does it take... ?
But we all know, artists do give a damn. It's just knowing what to give that damn about. Right?
I was up hiking in the - well, cold- early morning. I came across this gorgeous view of Squam Lake in winter. In summer, would there be a view?
Thanks Peaches for getting me up there.
Yeah, I thought I knew this area. It turns out that in winter you look for footprints. You look for snow shoe marks. You look for cross country tracks. And you find secrets. This place is so much more beautiful than I had realized.
And here I am sharing this beauty with you. Because it feeds me. I come in, refreshed and then full of ideas for my art: this project, the next.
Yes, my journey. Sharing it. As I go along, I notice not just the compelling outdoors, but also how a certain book impacts me. And how the ups and downs of my work itself inform me. And I let you know. I write to you from up here on this frozen lake in New Hampshire about making color, making shapes, making my way day in day out. Making art.
And it's to you, my readers, I send this valentine. I do it for for love. And for you to receive that love.
Happy Valentine's Day!
Clean up that dirty river. MHS. Make Shit Happen. That was the name of a group started by Shoemaker in the 1970's to clean up the Platte River in Denver. MHS targeted industry that was dumping waste. And now, how many years later: you can swim in that river that runs right through the city. Amazing.
Yeah. MSH. I have my own target for the phrase: get my art work done.
Usually I mesh it with other tasks that need doing. Time for that. And time for art.
But now: it's - move it! Make it happen. 15 minutes after 15 after 15. Hour on hour.
Did the blog get written today? Maybe not. Did the laundry get done? It can wait. Did I remember to breathe???
The answers: I was just doing that one thing. Art. MSH.
The Olympics are coming soon and I happened to be perusing an article on the skeleton. I had never heard of the sport. From what I understand, the participants ride these sleds down this ice track going up to 90 miles an hour. Horrifying. But what interested me most was that the most minute action can influence the direction of that speeding sled:
"Even when I just use my eyes", says Tannenbaum,"that tiny movement can alter the direction. Where you look, you go." (New York Times mag., Feb. 4)
It's the eyes that matter. When you hear something your ears don't move. When you smell, your nose stays in place. Your eyes: they move. They direct. And the body follows.
When I was under three years old, I did not have muscular control over my eyes. They wandered. In the photo taken before my eye operation, the musculature on my face was flaccid. Limp. Within a year after the operation when my eyes were now in sync and focusing, my face now showed the attention. I looked alert. My eyes had gained connection to my body.
Eye-body coordination. Eye-hand coordination. Eyes leading us on. Totally.
Small wonder we are so affected by art.
The other night I was trying to find a certain show on TV (me? I never watch TV). But I ended up watching another show that I had heard about. It was very funny. But what I noticed was how casual it was. How easy-going. Not like the many decades ago of TV that I recall, which was more - well - more formal, more scripted. This show was wonderfully messier. Delightfully so. I felt relaxed watching it. The women on the show were easygoing, impromptu. They could have been talking to me. Like best friends. They just had lights shining on them.
By chance, this morning, I was reading Linda Nochlin's essay in which she - 30 years later - revisits her essay, "Where are all the Great Female Artists?" It's now 2001 when she's writing - and think how much has changed since then(!) But one of the first matters she addresses is the definition of "great". Great as in genius. Great as in Michelangelo. As in - well, male for most of art history - but also: great as in perfect.
However, with the shift that has happened in so much art since the 1970's, inclusive of art made outside Europe and the US, the criteria for recognition has shifted from "great" to "significant". And in the art itself, there is admission of mess. Not just the messy human body, but in the confusing world that surrounds us. Furthermore, this has affected all genders, succeeding in freeing not just female artists.
I would not have tied all this together. I would not have attributed the changes that I was noticing on the show I watched to changes that have been brewing in art - at least with that clarity. Of the female/feminist influence resulting in a more relaxed, inclusive show. And that show as a signifier for broader truths.
I found this bookmark from the Wordery Bookstore with this great quote: You can't buy happiness but you can buy books. Yeah!!!
AND, I thought: You can't buy happiness but you can buy art. Right?
As an artist, I know that if a certain amount of time goes by and I haven't been doing my work, I can feel not right. I can feel out of balance. I know I'm off. And when I return, the art pulls me back to center. I feel - well - happier.
And in that state of mind, I create what I create. I'm fed by the activity. That energy must, by association, imbue the work I do..
I have read about artists of varied temperaments, who create work in all sorts of mindsets: rage, despair, curiosity, meditation. In the process of doing the art, the energy can resolve itself. And this resolution is inherent in the art. Great beauty is created. At least in optimal circumstances.
Isn't that why anyone seeks art? Art of any kind? Always we are searching. In this ever-moving self that we inhabit, we look for clues, for answers, for our way forward. We, well, look for happiness.
In books, yes ... and in art.
(trial hanging a few pieces of fabric)
I'm getting near to the point I can put the pieces in place for this wall hanging I've been working on for so long. It's got me all on edge. Partly because, even now, when I mess up, I need to go back to square one. Like the child's board game Shutes and Ladders, that sends you so far back for landing on the wrong square.
I'm required to NOT be absent minded. A tall order for me. I know that.
I heard something recently quoting Lao Tzu and the middle way. He points out that all energy is like a mountain stream: you overfill it and it's all over the place; you don't have enough water and there's no stream. You want the middle way. You want to hear the song made by the babbling, gentle, easy flow.
Finding that place has been key for me through this whole project. And the minute I'm off my game, blam! It's obvious. Back to square one.
The reason this project is such a challenge for me is because of the materials I've chosen: they're largely translucent. I can't hide anything. I either like each piece of fabric or I eliminate it.
And those that I decide I like? They're not perfect. They are also not unbearable. Hopefully - somewhere in the middle, somehow part of that stream.
Possibly singing that song.
Can you make out the orange kite sail that is speeding this skater along? It is seriously cold out there. And windy. He needs to love what he's doing.
But just 10 minutes away, there is this huge pond skating event. There are hundreds of men and women playing and watching ice hockey all day - and it's well below zero. Not accounting for wind chill.
Me? I'm feeling the cold. I was out walking Peaches and within a few minutes it felt like my coat was useless. The cold is bitter. It hurts. I'm back inside with my pup and my art. Happy that I have a warm fire burning.
And then thinking: this is my world. But for those playing hockey? The ice is excellent this year. They play hockey for years, they get a team together, practice with them, plan to travel, drive from near and really far, lug huge amounts of gear, spend several days at the tournament ... they are INTO pond hockey. It's their world.
And that kite sailor. Lots of equipment. Lots of commitment. His world.
It's uplifting to see others take advantage of conditions that are so adverse for me. Conditions that daunt me, suit them. And I get to see that: to witness their joy out there in that cold.
And for me. I'm inside looking out. Surrounded by piles of warm colors.
I was trying to capture the crystalline formations on the surface of the newly formed ice in this photo. And then there is my dock rope. Not so natural, I would think.
But then, I just was reading in D. G. Haskell's The Songs of Trees:
The belief that nature is an Other, a separate realm defiled by the unnatural mark of humans, is a denial of our own wild being.
Wow. That totally got me. I think of myself as someone kind of aware of duality. Not so much, evidently. I surely have carried this reverence for nature. NATURE. Out there. Something I need.
Surely not something I (or any people) are. Woops! Hmmmm...
So... I am/we are nature. We are all WILD BEINGS.
I'll take that.
And the sweet truth of it: the sun, the trees, the water, the rope, my window, my self,
("I choose this chair - not that one you spilled dye on!")
I just got back from a trip to the city - always rejuvenating. Lots of talking, laughing, lots of people. So good.
I always like to listen to CDs on the long drive and, on the way home, I heard an idea that excited me. It was about what a huge influence choice can be about getting something done. Instead of: I have this huge project to do (groan, groan), or this long list of stuff to accomplish (again: groan, groan), it's do I want to start with my favorite part or leave that to last?, Or, shall I work in this room or that? It doesn't even matter what the question is, it's the choice that gets things going. The brain loves choice.
I seem to remember that this was a tool that my daughter used when she was working with particularly challenged young students: "Red pencil or blue?"
And some days, with certain tasks, someone should be asking me that. Yeah. Choose your pencil.
little paper or big paper?
small story or epic?
smidgen dream or HUGE?
Which paper, which story, which dream,
So, yeah. I'll start with the red pencil. No, I mean the red dye ~
Peaches is after something. Determined. "I'll get it!"
My dear friend, Robbie, sent me a beautiful book a while ago: Enduring Grace. It's by Carol Lee Flinders, an author who was already known her as a "food warrior", writing one of the most well-known vegetarian cookbooks. Introducing this treatise on early Christian women mystics, she talks about another hunger - that hunger of the soul... "the wilder, more insistent hunger".
I thought of that notion of hunger as a driving force today when I was reading about the death of Linda Nochlin. Linda Nochlin was most famous for her article "Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?" which came out in 1973 in Artnews magazine and rocked the art world in the US (and elsewhere, I'm guessing). She was erudite, scholarly, dynamic. And the topic was a burning one.
And now, when I'm reading about her as a person, she sounds so fun: getting to know her while smoking a joint in Paris? (!)
But, the way that I was introduced to her was via "required reading". Homework. School. I'm sad to see now how that detracted from my appreciation for Nochlin.
Instead, I found Ann Truitt. On my own. She was my private find. And she answered a hunger in me. She talked about her life and her art/ her grown children and grandchildren mixed pages with how she found time for her work, other artists, her shows. Her questions.
She was the inspiration for my writing. I wanted to offer my own version of a journal - as a balance to the academic perspective. For those hungry for simple "nourishment" along the way.
Day to day stuff. Mixed with deeper stuff. For those seekers...
Abhor. That was one of my father's favorite words. He'd pronounce it with emphasis on many of those long horse back rides we did together. It was at those times that he would unload his negative thoughts. Of which there were many. He did not hold back.
In the south at that time, the polite person smiled. Agreed. Was polite.
On the horseback rides, he could let me know his truth: "I loathe (another favorite word) that person. Just worthless. Useless. everything that came out of their mouth was drivel..."
He did not hold back. And nothing I said mattered. After all, I had been labelled "gullible". I rarely saw as he did. But it did affect me.
It's like a sense that there is always this dark underside that I'm not seeing. And that underside mattered more, since, basically, it meant the person (or thing) was no good. It's odd how I thought for so long that it was NOT something I carried inside me. It was him. Not me.
But this odd thing has been happening. When I moved to NH now 4 years ago, I was, for the first time living alone. I was not at all at ease with this. I was REALLY not at ease with it. It all came to a head last year when I started working with my online art group. Without realizing what I'd done, I'd joined into a conversation that was routine - just as the rides with my father had been. But this time, the conversation was positive. Do you see the set up coming?
Deep down, my world was getting flipped. My conversations - the ongoing ones now - were no longer about "abhor". And I became unwell. I had physical manifestations of acute pain all last spring. And some long crummy illness this past fall. The pain of not feeling well let me stay kind of in the place of "the world really does kind of stink."
But now... oh no. I'm not feeling unwell. Pinch myself. I'm not feeling unhappy. Double pinch. I'm liking my life here, I love doing my art, I love writing my blog.
I'm oddly disconcerted: I don't recognize my world right now.
Pouring rain? On ice? On snow?
But enough about the weather.
Nor being perfect, I mean.
Who said it would be. Ever? I remember when I spent a week on this utterly gorgeous mountain top above the Sonoma Valley in California and the weather was... yes... perfect. I thought to myself: I could never live here. It's like having dessert all the time.
But there are moments when I HAVE felt as if everything was perfect. And would always be that way: when my first child was born, she was perfect. She was always going to be perfect. Everyone who came by to see her told me that, too. Until a good friend surprised me with these words: "You are a mother now. This is the beginning of mistake after mistake."
Mistake after mistake? Shocking words. But anyone who has been a parent will vouch: so true. And to be told then, to take the "perfection" out of the equation right away, what a gift she offered me.
Those words. Those words should preface every art piece I make. It's not going to be perfect. And there's the beauty. That's why I love art.
I love that human, imperfect touch.
Dun-da-dunnnnnnnn. Footprints. A monster for sure!
My plan was to never get married. I was going to be an art monster instead. Women almost never become art monsters because art monsters only concern themselves with art, never mundane things. Nabokov didn't even fold his own umbrella.(from Jenny Offill, Department of Speculation)
Here's to the later-in-life art monster. The one who doesn't even notice the lack of table space for a meal. Or the time of day/day of week/month of year. Take that back. It's January. Even art monsters can figure that one out.
And here's to my art monster friends, some of whom are married, who have children (or not), whose lives are more than full. Yet, monsters they are. I give them full honors, the title: a-r-t m-o-n-s-t-e-r!
And other friends whose life is an art form in itself. Let's not be too narrow in our definition. And shall we allow more genders in too? Art monsters galore?
Art monsters galore.
(a log sitter)
I was captured by this excerpt from Jenny Ofill's novel, Department of Speculation. I can see her four year old little girl in front of me. And I love that child's wisdom:
Someone has given my daughter a doctor's kit. Carefully, she takes her own temperature, places the pressure cuff around her arm..."Would you like to be a doctor when you grow up?" I ask her. She looks at me oddly. "I'm already a doctor," she says.
Already. But am I already an artist? Wow. That question. I thought of how I resisted that term/title for so long. An artist. What did it take to earn that name?
And that's where I've stood. Earning it. Versus, as the sweet child is noting, being the darn thing. Being the darn artist.
Okay, so now. Every piece I make is still reaching. Still reaching for the art I want to create. Maybe, okay, maybe I can be that artist.
Maybe I always was that artist.
Even at age four.
Sometimes a couple of lines in a book will make me laugh outright:
You agree it will do for meantime.
The first thirty six year of meantime just flew by while you were meaning to find (... the solution)
from: First Buy a Field, by Rosamund Young. This beautiful book is a gift to me from my environmentalist-minded daughter, Nika. And yes, when you are setting up an organic farm, when you are dealing with soil formation, that number of years is nothing. It's astounding how long it took to create the gorgeous soil that we so prize.
I grew up on a farm. My mother cared deeply about organic soil years before it was a thing. I ate her okra and peas and seaweed bread - and let it be her peculiarity. I did little other than collect and carry compost out to the "graveyard", the walled in area that my parents told us they'd be buried. That seemed far away then. That time would never come.
I appreciate my mother's caring for the earth now in a way that I didn't firsthand. But I also love that what she saw was the bigger picture. She traveled to Scotland and New Zealand, all over Canada and this country to promote organic farming. She understood that time does matter. Especially - the long time.
And that we are all interconnected. The soil, the farms, the trees, the air, the people. Nothing is not affected by everything else.
So, I tell myself: it's okay to take a moment. To let the pup wait. To have to do that art over. It's tiny. All of it is tiny.
And it all matters.
If you entered the room I'm working in right now, you would go - what happened? It's - well - not tidy. I'm what you might call "organizationally challenged".
But NOT in my art. I mean the art itself. This piece especially.
Oh man, I spent the whole day assembling the most complicated section. I lay the pieces as they would hang and, oh my god, the edges were NOT as they should be. They need to be JUST SO.
Take that fabric away. Dye some more. Get it right: that opening and that edge and that edge - I had to see it that way to know that it's not what I want.
In the end, there will be discrepancy. That's the nature of the silk. I love silk for that reason. And I will love that discrepancy.
I'm SO particular in my art.
You'd think it'd spill over into my daily life. But no: it seems to be only in the service of what matters more to me. Or, is my art just this wild aberration?
I'm testing to see if I think the velcro attachments (loosely pinned for first look) will work. I think they do! That means I can attach, and later disattach my silks. I need them to lie flat when transported.
Whew! I am so relieved.
In fact, so relieved that I spent a ton of time just being giddy. Like a kid spinning in circles. I took time to learn how to crack open a coconut! (it took me a while) But Yay! Yay? Yes, I love love love coconut and now I can eat them fresh. So yummy.
The story behind my celebration:
That velcro. It was my latest idea for hanging my work. I'd driven 45 minutes to Concord, 45 minutes back. And then doubted the idea. I put the new purchase away, trying to conjure another idea that wasn't - well - velcro.
But then, today, I tried it. "It won't do", was the voice inside my head. But would it work? I was surprised. Pleasantly.
The practical side to art is its own challenge. Like many things, when it's done well, it looks as if it never was an issue. That's what I'm after: that effortless look.
Oh art. There's the idea and then there's how to make it work. Yeah both.
(reads: THIS CHICK HAS HAD IT)
What female person can resist this? I couldn't. I ordered it off Etsy a while ago. I couldn't wait to serve food on it... have the words revealed in the course of the meal.
When it arrived in this smidgen box, I had my clue: it was NOT the size I'd seen in my mind. It was... a little different. Tiny.
It now holds my dish cleaning scrubber. Just as apt. But quicker to reveal the message.
Today I was with the pup, walking in "Paula's snow" that she just happen to blow over this way from Canada. Thanks Paula! (harumph). And okay, okay, yes it was really beautiful in the woods. It was. Every dark line had a white coating. Edibly delicious.
Then, as I came into the open field I noticed a cluster of THAT weed. I want to say that **** ( choice word) weed! I hate it. It's tall and juts out with these branches that end in this bulging bunch of berries that has no finesse at all. UGLY.
BUT today, with that snow (remember? Paula's snow?) - the weed looked - well, a little different. The berry bunch, with snow on top? It was sumptuous!
So, yes. I thought to myself as I headed back home: if perchance this art that I'm creating does NOT turn out. If it sucks. I mean SUCKS.
I can just ask Paula to: "SEND SNOW!"
I ordered this amaryllis November 20. Red for the holidays. When it hadn't budged/was still only a fat bulb on December 31, I emailed the company. They said: give it more time. And sure enough, a few days ago a bud peaked out of the soil. This morning, the bud was touching the base of the plant. Now look! It makes me so happy watching it grow. And grow.
This afternoon, I took my pup for a walk with my friend Jan. She has this nice long dirt road near her. Long. Dirt. She suggested I let Peaches off the leash. It was so fun, walking with Jan and watching the pup run and run. And run.
Right now, in my art, I'm spending many days getting my fabric ready to assemble into the final project design. Numerous 15" pieces of cloth. It's something I particularly enjoy: putting color on cloth. Not all the time that the prep takes. But the dyeing itself. All the dyeing.
("what happened to the beautiful snow?")
I just got back from overnight visiting Nika and Scott - and Ariella, who had come up for the weekend to see them and to ski. They invited me to ski too, but I figured that I could get art done on both days if I planned well. But that I couldn't do that if I skied. The DC project, a wall hanging, takes time.
What I didn't account for was that the time away was actually productive art wise. As I was in the car for two and a half plus hours each way (stopping for the pup), I came up with an idea for the design that is much better than the one I had in mind before the trip. Much better.
In the car, I even was saying to myself, "Whew! Good thing I took off when I did!" If I'm recalling correctly, it was Carl Jung who remarked on how key "away" time is for creativity. That when the mind is not ON the project, ideas and solutions arise.
And yet, I'm always surprised.
Red. Stop sign red. Stop.
I should have stopped before I started today. Just a litany of woes, it was. One thing after another.
Losing one of those ice spikes you put on your shoe. Walking in way too cold wind. Gently backing into another car - so lousy.
AND, to top it all off: my darn dyes were not going on in the usual smooth way. My energy was OFF. It was affecting everything.
Just one of those days...
But no. I'm not stopping. Not me.
Ready to burn again tomorrow.
I was trying to show you the rain drops falling on the water. And on the ice. And on the snow. Making slop. A mire.
That's what this time of year is for, I tell you. It's like those epic struggle parts of the children's book where the hero/heroine has to traverse lousy conditions and hardship to gain... yes, STRENGTH, and fortitude to become a better person. A winner at the end.
But right now, the mire. The alone time. The short days/dark. The tunnel of trials. Right?
Well, that's if you only look outside. That's if the weather and the surroundings are everything. That's if you don't have some nice wet bright colors happening inside. Indoors.
And it's only color at this point. Just color. And yet look at the lift it offers.
Art. Shall I call it: "my sword"? And perhaps, once complete, a sword for others.
(coming home late)
Yesterday, in my online art group, we were talking about how to determine which ways to participate in social media. The gist of it was to go for what you are good at/enjoy. Not what stresses you and depletes you.
So, fortuitously, I ran into this paragraph in Dalio's book today, speaking of the physiology of the brain:
From conversations with experts... I learned that many of our mental differences are physiological. Just as our physical attributed determine the limits of what were are able to do physically - some people are tall and others are short... - our brains are innately different... As with our bodies, some parts of our brain cannot be materially affected by external circumstances (like the skeleton is not changed much by working out)...
Soon after, Dalio meets with the Dalai Lama and asks if he thinks spirituality and physiology are linked and the Dalai Lama did not hesitate to agree. I know that the Dalai Lama has worked closely with neuroscientists. But I was still surprised that he would agree right away.
So, yes, how do I participate in social media? I write my blog. But is that even social media? Hmmmmmmm. Really, I'm that short person standing on the sidelines of the basketball court of technology. Happy to watch the game.
And do my art. Not even low tech. No tech.
I was passing a sign in a nearby town: BEHIND THIS SNOWBANK IS A GREAT STORE.
Well, thanks to the sun outside, you can't see my interior "snowbank" very well. I could have a sign that read: BEHIND THIS CONFUSION IS A GREAT IDEA. Hopefully someday art. And wouldn't it be great if it was great! But meantime, yeah, a lot of stuff all over the place
I have lots of dyeing going on. Cloth here. Cloth there. Cloth behind and in front of me.
Frames crashing over on my unsuspecting pup. When she goes to fetch a toy now, she makes a very circuitous route. My frames really bang when they fall.
In creating art, each piece is quite different for me. In the last large wall-hanging I created it sequentially, left to right. This one, I'm doing like a large puzzle. I first am preparing all the pieces. Then I'll assemble it.
The question is : Out of all the chaos, will it come together? Will there be anything "great" behind the snowbank???
That's the wild part.
Peaches has been bouncing around in the snow. Can you tell? A little sticking to her?
Just like me. When I go NEAR my dyes, they find a way to add themselves to my skin. Blue fingers? Did you somehow use that hand to touch your nose? And did you brush too close to the art with the edge of whatever you're wearing?
Like Peaches, I wear my surroundings. It's the dead of winter in nowhere NH, so who cares? But a couple of years ago when I was visiting a friend in Portugal and we were packing up, we crossed paths with a young woman. She was wearing bangles, a gorgeous long skirt, nice boots. In the conversation, she said she had just returned from India where she had discovered her "divine feminine". Her divine feminine? I LOVED that. What a wonderful reason to dress accordingly.
So, yes, I began the experiment last summer. I put aside my slacks and junk clothes and ... wore skirts, dresses... paid attention. In fact, it was a load of fun. I do love skirts. And dresses.
My "divine" clothing lasted until - maybe late November. The weather had its way. Pants are just plain warmer. I mean pants on top of pants on top of pants. It's been cold. Cold for a long time.
But also, my skirts... they started to wear my art. They did. They drape so beautifully, and I am always squatting down to floor level to do my dyeing. Aaah well.
The divine feminine lives on, however. Spring will come. I will not be dyeing every minute. And did I mention that I have plans to actually show my art?
Yeah. Art show(s) coming up. And to celebrate the occasions, what might I be wearing? No, no. Not my art smudged clothing! Guess again!
Yes, yes. Whoosh! Whirl! Love that swishy skirt.
Yeah! Shovel that snow! You love it!
In fact, oddly, I DO love shoveling snow. I like it because I can make shapes/path/ clear spaces. It's artistically satisfying to me. You see, in the photo, the pile the snowplow made. That's not my work, excuse me. Look at the much more refined path to the door, please. I claim that.
But really, aside from the love of shaping the world of snow, I admit to just loving physical movement. The cold weather has been so so cold that it's not good to be outside for long. Today, it got above zero (fahrenheit) so Peaches and I decided to explore the mountain trail nearby. Okay, it was tough going. I should have brought snow shoes. But no, I decided to wear boots. Unwise. Each step was work. Oooof! Deep again. The pup patiently followed as I slogged along.
Would anyone else want to do this? I LOVED it! Outside. In the sun and snow. Moving. SO great. I sometimes think I should have been a wall builder, lifting stones all day. Instead, I work with the most delicate materials. And with how light shines through them.
But even with the soft cloth, my work is about movement. I'm inviting the viewer to enter my world. And to move through it.
Without the deep snow. And the slogging. Just the dream.
Three days ago the forecast for yesterday was "snow showers". Which basically means little or no accumulation. Nothing to measure.
The day before: 3- 5 inches...
The day of the snowstorm: oh dear, I can't recall. More. And a wide range for measuring.
And sure enough - the wide range part was right. The wind was blowing so strong it was a loud, loud roar last night: wind and snow combined. This morning, I went out when it was still dark (not too wise) and was one minute walking where the wind had blown it clear (nothing to measure) and the next, fell right into this deep drift that I couldn't see because white is white before there is shadow. Oh man - I was covered in snow. No way to measure...
Once back inside after lotta lotta shoveling, I sat down to, yes, measure my art. What goes where. How wide. Etc.
And to contemplate what truly cannot me measured. Continuing on yesterday's theme. Thank you for another quote, Mr. Dalio:
All great (businessmen) have bad patches: losing faith in them at such times is as common a mistake as getting enamored of them when they do well. Because most people are more emotional than logical: they tend to overreact to short-term results...I find this just as true of relationships...
True friends are the opposite. I got a lot out of my bad times, not just because they gave me mistakes to learn from but also they helped me to find out who my real friends were - the friends who would be with me through thick and thin.
It's snowing. It's cold. And my dear Peaches is recovering from her romp outdoors. She loves the snow. And I do love her.
When she's not passed out, she's wide awake to all that's around her. And that wakes me up. Not quite to the extent of my young ones with their lively presence. But I can still interact with them, even when they are all over the map. Plus, I have a lively, warm and wonderful internet art group. And others that I care for deeply and interact with from afar.
And that matters.
In this business book I'm reading that's written by Ray Dalio, at the very start, he focusses on this:
In thinking about the relative importance of great relationships and money, it was clear that relationships were more important because there is no amount of money I would take in exchange for a meaningful relationship, because there is nothing I could buy with money that would be more valuable...for me, meaningful work and meaningful relationships were and still are my primary goals and everything I did was for them. Making money was an incidental consequence of that.
Wow. How's that for speaking truth?
I'm up here. Doing my art. In the middle of nowhere. And close to so many.
I keep the dock out all winter - a choice I'm questioning this winter. I have an ice eater - a small fan that moves under water to prevent freezing around the dock. But this year the temperatures are consistently so much lower and the winds so prevalent that Fred had to help me cut the ice away from the dock before the next storm, coming tomorrow.
Weather. I recall a wonderful Japanese art teacher who would comment on bad weather days: "Can you all feel it? It's showing up in all your art." We were doing watercolor at the time, so any movement of the hand and brush were left in evidence.
Up til then I'd never thought of weather as an influence, especially on my art. In fact, I tell people now that the winter months that keep my indoors for such long stretches are the best environment for me to get art done.
That said, I admit that today - with the big storm coming tomorrow - I feel off. I don't look forward to tons of shoveling. But I know that when the snow comes and the shoveling is waiting to be done, I'll be fine.
So, yes, external weather can be this THING to focus on and blame and talk about endlessly (that's me). But it's the internal weather that matters most. It's that bad attitude that can really get in the way of my art. That's the real killer.
I guess I have to let go of blaming the snow. I guess I need to find the warmth, the darn sunshine - or whatever - in my darn art.
Clearly ... I'm not there yet.
Open territory. Nothing in your way. You are running freely. On the side, viewers watch - what is that moving so fast?
The photo shows the space. The space the lone wolf ran across. Down the middle of the empty, sunny, open ice. BEAUTIFUL. Owning the world.
That wolf. That wolf is my wish for you this year. 2018. You: running freely. You shunning the old, worn, slow path. You heading so directly, so easily, so naturally towards that ambition of yours. Hungry. Knowing. Finding the straight path, no impediments.
And, on the side, are your friends, your supporters, your admirers. In awe. In admiration. In support. Cheering you on.
2018. It's going to be a great year.
It's getting near the moment, the "instant", when we all notice time. The year changes numbers. At an exact moment.
In Isaacson's book on Leonardo da Vinci, he mentions the correlation the da Vinci makes between art and time: that the dot, the point, has no dimension. But when it moves, it creates a line. Similarly, the instant has no before or after. But accumulation of instances creates time.
All those uncountable instances that created 2017! And in one immeasurable one, we have a new year. And that instant passes. More come.
I love how mathematical the understanding is. That flow comes out of something that cannot be measured. Yet, we use that unmeasurable instant/point to mark space and time.
I think of the many many snowflakes - tiny "points" that land so innocently on the landscape. More than a line, they become a mass. A mass of white.
I don't think of points when spreading wet dye on my cloth - that cloth that sits to dry in front of the white backdrop of snow (in photo above).
But I do think of the odd moment when I decided, "this is the exact color I want". Not the one I had attempted earlier. Exactly this one.
Exact point? Exact moment? Exact color? Exact anything?
Sunrise. A few minutes later, the pink is no longer pink. But it's so gradual, you miss it. Slow motion.
A number of years ago, I started an art blog. Almost immediately I was apologizing for how little there was to report: definitely not enough art happening day-to-day to maintain interest, I realized. Art is slow for me. I take months on projects. And day by day the change is incremental.
The process incorporates many tiny decisions which are all influenced by how I feel, mistakes I make, realizations that occur. The warp and weft of life. Playing into my work.
And then there are the interruptions - like in the last while with family that I deeply love. They're fuel for my soul. And that feeds my art. But ... the evidence comes later. Slower.
Incremental changes all add up. They become the art I produce. They change the color of the sky.
It was almost dark. Almost. I wanted the camera to catch pitch dark. Nothing. But when it really was black nothing, the camera would not click. No photo of nothing.
As pertains to nothing, I was reading this great African myth:
This farmer would milk his cow every day and get his milk happily. At some point, there stopped being any milk. Day after day. So one night he waits up to watch to see what's happening. Sure enough, in the dark, these star maidens descended from the heavens and proceeded to fill their baskets with the milk from his cow. He rushed out and managed to capture one of the maidens. She agreed to stay and to even become his wife on the one condition: that he never look in her basket. He agrees and they are very happy together. All is well. And then one day when she is out in the field, he looks in her basket. There's nothing there. Nothing. When she gets back he tells her. He said to her, I don't understand why you told me not to look in your basket when it's empty! She tells him, "Now, I have to go. But I just want to say that I'm leaving, not because you went against your word and looked in my basket, but because when you did so, you saw nothing." And she left.
So, here at this time when there is so much going on with STUFF. Trees, gifts, lists, plans. Stuff.
How about nothing?
Do you see that triangular shape just outside my house? That, dear viewer, is a raccoon. Just happened by to check out whether there was access during these very cold times.
And a few days ago, on the new snow, there were tracks the beavers left from pulling small saplings they had chewed down to the - then - water.
And there is the mink I see every so often. The foxes that traipse across the snow-covered lake. All of these secondary to the sometimes bears.
I should be focussed on the outdoors even more than I am. What do I miss with my eyes on my art all the time? I would have missed the raccoon if Samsun hadn't sighted him.
Always, choices. What to focus on. What you miss when you aren't looking. And then... what you accomplish BECAUSE you aren't looking.
It's night now. Focus on the indoors only. Art time. Only art time.
There was a smidgen bit of snow last night. Just to add interest to the lake. Looks so pretty now, doesn't it?
Don't worry, on Tuesday is will be ruined. For one day, it will be warm enough for the precipitation to be rain. Then cold again. Ice on our perfect snow.
And all day today, because I need to clear anywhere anyone walks because - ice is coming - I spent hours shoveling. Hours that I might have been doing art.
Last night I was at a gathering. I was talking to Victor's girlfriend - they're both in law school. She told me that one thing she loved about him was that - when things were tough (as they are wont to be in law school) - his response to her was always: "that sucks". She was telling me how good it felt to hear that versus someone telling her how to make herself better.
I first heard about "that sucks" from my daughter, Ariella, when she shared with me what she had written down to her then boyfriend to let him know what she needed to hear when she was down and out. NOT all his many ideas for how she could solve the lousy situation. What she wanted to hear was - yes - "that sucks".
I shared this wisdom with this kind man in my life. He is beyond good at solving all kinds of issues. But emotional stuff when it hits - remedies are not always the solution. So now, when the not-great day comes along and I share all the unhappiness, he is so ready with his "that sucks". It's so unlike him that it totally cracks me up.
Which is why I think it works so well. It's like a tight muscle - that crummy stuff I'm carrying. By not arguing with me, going in the same direction, the muscle has nothing to fight. Relief.
It snowed a few days ago. Beautiful powder snow, about a foot of it. And then it turned cold. So the lake just now is freezing. Clear ice.
It's so rare that the ice isn't covered in snow. But this was a coordinated effort on the part of the universe for maximal beauty: soft snow on the ground and smooth ice on the lake. For a short while.
I want that kind of organization in my life.
Today I had the day with no pup (off getting to know other pups at doggie day care). What a difference for me! I was able to do a lot that she finds way too interesting: prepping cloth on frames that are full of things that she loves to nip and pull.
Basically, I was working on set-up. And I was organizing. The fabric that needs this here, the dyes put back in order over there. It makes a difference when I'm doing my work. And it gets disassembled also when I'm doing that same work.
I kind of hate the tediousness of "taking care of things". But, I tell you, when you CAN'T get to it at all, it suddenly takes on a different slant. I was glad to get some of it done. Appreciative of the opening.
Little things. Like the few days when the lake is clear before the next snow. They can be unexpectedly sweet.
I live in a beautiful area. And there is no one around. No one. I take Peaches out to a mountain trail and I make a trail in the deep snow. The next day - only our footsteps still.
Peaches was NOT impressed. She recalled yesterday when we slogged along, each step was work - me lifting each leg and her bouncing from one boot print to the the next. At the start of the trail today, she turned around and went back. I'm not coming. I remember!
But today, we were walking (at least partly) on yesterday's path. As I stepped slightly to the side so she could see the indent in the snow ahead of her, her reluctance vanished. She was like: freedom! And took off, full speed ahead, a cloud of snow and dog. The fun term for this excited and wildly enthusiastic pace is "the zoomies".
Meantime, I followed, not much faster than before. But relishing the delight in the pup. Delight.
Okay, so isn't this like my art process, a bit? I come up with this idea - this darn peak I want to reach. And then, I need to get there. Step by darn step. And, if I have to re-create any part of the process - the steps are there already for me. Once the path is made - oh yeah, then I can scoot. Scoot along. Maybe not with the abandon of the pup.
But isn't that what pets are for? I may be living far from other people. But I have the embodiment of joy alongside.
And that can be said - at times - about my art, as well.
9 AM photo. Twice shoveled already - the wind is just blowing that snow across the walls and onto the stairs. A-a-a-a-h winter.
As I read in D. G. Haskell's "The Songs of Trees" : The smallest viable genetic unit of microbial life in the ocean is the networked community. This arrangement is efficient, allowing each part of the network to focus on what it does best, but it is vulnerable to disruptions in communications...
I realize, with great appreciation, that I am part of a beautiful networked community. Many, in fact. The most obvious is my dear family. The next is my many sweet friends. But the one that I am referring to at this moment is my art community, my online art community that I joined in the fall of last year.
I had no idea what to expect and I admit to great trepidation. The meetings were for two hours every Wednesday. Two hours? Talking to strangers? And who were these people anyway? I was definitely NOT going to like them. And I was - like any artist - going to be skeptical of anyone else's art (isn't that how the art world functions?).
So, in our first meeting, one person was a writer. Relief. Not an artist. The other? What if I hated her work? (likely, I thought).
Listen to me.
And then there was the leader, Martin. What did he have in mind? I was attracted because of his emails - full of wisdom and marketing. I kept finding truth in them. And now - was this group he'd started going to help me find truth in my ability to do more art, or more drastically, put it out in the world?
So, yes, that happened. That did happen.
But what I am realizing today is that something more significant happened. I became part of a network. I realized that - I who live in the middle of nowhere and who am having a weather-induced day indoors (mostly) - that I am part of this community that is there regardless. Always there for me. Paula, Robbie, Leigh, Katrina, much less Martin. I feel so deeply supported.
It didn't happen overnight. I had head-aches for months during the meetings. And I'm not even aware of when it became something that I welcomed versus dreaded. But, if any select few could shift my deep inner self, these were the ones to do it. These are the ones.
I may miss our meeting tomorrow - because of the snow*. Disruption. I feel it.
(*to drive to pick up my son)
I took this photo earlier in the day. Peaches looks so innocent here. And she is. She just needs to go outside now and again. It can seem like now and now. And again and again. Do you hear a hint of self-pity in there?
So it's pitch black dark out tonight and getting colder all the time. I take her out all full of obligation and I look up. The STARS! They are so clear. And I remember my friend telling me this is the time of meteor showers. This night and the next few.
I look up at those - how far away stars? How many of them? How many miles and years are they away from me?
And I then reflect on my art. That concern I have with getting the it "right". It matters to me. That color. That line. That shape.
Yes, I see now, how tiny it all is in the context of that universe.
As I walk my dog outside, again.
I have a ridiculous story to tell.
I don't know if you've been noticing this ongoing saga of my not wonderful health humming in the background... I've been dealing with it since the weather turned cold.
That's a clue.
I did kind of run myself into the ground. No question. But I seemed to NOT be able to rebound. Except, I would tend to feel better in the warmer times when I was outside more.
The other day, for some random reason, my dear carpenter friend, Fred, recommended I get an air cleaner. Okay, good idea, I thought. Why not?
I ordered one. This HUGE box came. I called Fred, "How big is this thing supposed to be?" I forget his answer; I was sure this was too big. I promptly set up a return. But my computer was out of commission so I couldn't print the label that day.
Meantime, I ordered the smaller version air cleaner. It arrived. It was the SAME size. (I later learned, they had mistakenly sent me the same one). Fred asked"Did you even take the first one out of the box?" Are you kidding? No, of course not. That huge box? I then opened it up and inside was the right one. Not so big as it seemed from all the packaging.
I plugged it in yesterday and...
I usually can't say that one thing, just ONE thing made the difference in how I feel. But, yes, this one thing really has made the difference. I'm struck by that difference.
My energy is back. My chest isn't tight. I can breathe. My eyes aren't runny. I'm not using 50 tissues in a day.
And now, what to do with this energy??? I had thought it was a past tense me. That person that had energy.
Water. No ice. No snow. It's before all that. It's the blank canvas.
I'm reading a book now on Christianity. I know - I'm surprised too. I see myself more likely reading Buddhism, maybe something from the Koran to understand that better, or ... perhaps the spiritual in art. But I was raised Christian. I went to an all girls Episcopalian southern high school. Chapel every morning, albeit the people who spoke were from every church in town. I even had a class in religion to look at all (?) the religions in the world. I recall the upshot was that I learned they were very similar in the deepest sense. That was a time when there was less in the news about faith as a divisive element.
Regardless, I am actually struck by what I'm learning as I read. And in particular about the concept of emptiness. Did you even think such an idea could be found in Christianity? If I'm understanding correctly, the crucifixion created that emptiness. That emptiness then allowed for the possibility for the "creation"/resurrection to occur - which, essentially provides all the meaning for the religion.
So... I'm not going off on a religious tangent here. Just - that excited me! I know it's a topic not to be taken lightly for a variety of reasons. But I love how that process - that emptiness that opens up the space for something meaningful to arise.
I look at my open water. Calm lake. Blank canvas...
I made a mistake when I was cutting out this horse shape yesterday. I proceeded to throw it away. In the night, it occurred to me that it might not be "good", but it could possibly be true.
Such a key distinction. Not good or bad, but true or not. That idea has repercussions through so much of how I've made decisions in my life.
As a "good" girl, what mattered was not truth. Truth? No, appearance. Good appearance. That's the good girl.
And going further, in art. Good? Good for so long was what was narrowly defined as something that was considered sacrosanct in the long evolution of mostly male, mostly Caucasian art. That is all being challenged and redefined now in the global internet art world.
As a child, the one focus of my art was the horse. Drawing the horse. I never seemed to be able to draw that "good" horse.
Take away good. Put in true. It changes everything.
Poor pup has to hang out on the bear. Nothing more to do when there's art being created. Oh well.
I can feel my energy slowly coming back. I am re-entering the art making - not just the art dreaming. And it feels good to me, if not my pup.
Meantime, I was thinking about why I had such a time being still, not "performing", not making my art. And the image which kept coming to mind was this incident that happened when I was in fourth grade. That year. I was not at school. I was home - doing what I love to do: riding. I was on my pony, Sugarlump, who had once been a circus pony so her back was wide enough for a person to stand on, facing forward. She was solid, trustworthy. I rode her for years of my childhood. But on this day, I was going over a jump. I don't recall why, but I fell forward onto her neck with my left arm askew and in between. In that instant came pain. Pain that would not go away.
My father's words: "People in our family do not break bones." He put one of his white cloth napkins around my arm and I wore it to school for 2 days. The pain was unremitting. Finally on day 3, my mother took me in and the x-ray showed a broken arm. Only then did I cry.
There are times when pain isn't real. Then there are times when it is. And it's taken me some time to learn that - yes, sometimes - pay attention.
And isn't it just such a blessing when it passes? Don't you want everyone to feel that kind of lift, but skip the pain? Why not?
Let the art do that, right? No pain. Just lift.
Four o'clock in the afternoon. This must be December. The light - there's not much of it at this time of year. Thank goodness for lightbulbs.
In the book on Walter Hopps, he is ruminating on why the light bulb as subject matter comes up so frequently in modern art and realized that - since the invention of that same light bulb - most artists work indoors or at night. Thus the reverence for the source of illumination.
Walter Hopps covers his deep understanding of many artists, but I was particularly moved by what he shared about Robert Rauschenberg. Rauschenberg, one of the most well-known and prolific artists during the last half of the 20th century was born in Texas to a very poor family. His father insisted that he sleep on the porch until he was ten. Once inside, he created a wall with milk cartons and began collecting items of interest and images that he cut out. Later in life, he was doing very much the same in his home setting: but the items would be artwork by famous artist friends given as gifts side by side with stones or other odd items he'd picked up. He created art easily, and just as easily put it out into the world. And in return, the world compensated with generous remuneration. What amazes me is that he could come from such stark circumstances but never put his focus on the money value of things - in childhood or as an adult. He was constantly creating huge bodies of work but rarely were they in his studio - they were out in the world. His art moved. It sold. But, for him, his financial success was a by-product. Not important when he lacked it and not important when he gained it.
It was the art. All about the art. Creating.
All about the light.
I straight out admit, I was not born for the digital age. I am not good at doing two things at once. When I travel, I do not blog. I leave home, come back and remember - oh yeah, I have a computer!
I was made embarrassingly aware of my one-track-mindedness when I was doing Pilates classes a number of years ago. Over time, I knew the others whose workouts overlapped with mine and I was eager to engage in conversation. Again and again, the instructor would catch me doing free form movement. "You can't exercise and talk!" she'd remind me, as I tried to figure out where I was in my routine. Such a surprise to me. Always.
And yes, I did just travel. I drove to Maine to participate in a fundraiser my daughter helped organize, and, as a bonus, met with one of my closest friends from childhood. She joined me at the gathering; the acoustics were terrible for conversation, but to see her face and spend a few moments with her were still precious.
Just talking. Or trying to. And no other agenda. Doing just one thing. So sweet.
And now I'm back. And blogging. One thing.
However, I'm also now realizing that what was a shortcoming for Pilates is perhaps a boon to my art. Whereas I needed to know where I was in a strict routine, in art: I need to capture the feeling. And the mind can sometimes get in my way with that.
I am now remembering the art teacher - the one who recommended doing art while talking on the phone - also saying that, if you wear glasses, take them off. It was a similar idea: to create the art from that space of blur. And later, to also view the piece without the details. Viewing with the fog. In fog you get the gist. The gist can tell a lot.
So, no, I may never be good at doing two things at once. But sometimes, what is considered a handicap can be a blessing. Sometimes the art comes through with greater strength, greater clarity when the mind is less in charge.
Do two things? Maybe I can. Maybe not exercise routine and talking. Maybe not travel and blogging.
But... talk(or listen) and art? It may be what works for me. Really works.
Okay, so I'm having fun. When I use scissors to "draw", I am guaranteed that it's going to be way off. And that just seems to be exactly what I want. Exactly inexact. Yes.
As I've mentioned, I'm having such a good time reading about the curator, Walter Hopps. I love that he was deep friends with so many artists and can share what they were like as people. I love how he was close to artists who range from seriously disturbed to those that loved elegance and beauty in their lives and their art.
Among his many friends over the years was the inimitable Marcel DuChamp. At one point he described a dialogue with DuChamp in which someone asked him what he considered to be his greatest accomplishment. Duchamp's reply: "Learning to manage my time."
Now that, to me, is brilliant. Brilliant. As I deal with the complexity of my life, I realize: to do my art, the time set aside is the most essential component. Time. First and foremost.
The trick, though, is that I can find the time in unexpected ways. Years ago, in art school, a teacher I respected highly recommended drawing when we are talking on the phone. When the mind is not engaged directly, some of the most interesting work can emerge, he suggested.
So, this morning, as I was online with my art group, I doodled. And, lo and behold, what emerged was intriguing to me. The drawings were rough. The touch was unaffected. I like that look. No premeditation. I took them straight to the cutouts.
So, yes, time is essential. I agree DuChamp. And finding time to discover the imperfect: invaluable.
Not much happening here. The fun, it came. Now, quiet again.
Friends, family, dogs, food, music, laughing. This group, each year slightly shifts. But it's core is revisited year in year out. To get together and give thanks. Amongst those that you are so thankful to know and love.
When the first family members and/or guests arrive, it's like the first ripples in a pond. It's not just me by myself anymore. Not just quiet. It takes a minute or three to adjust to this new world.
But by the time the jammed house has emptied out, I can't recall that disconcerted feeling. I'm riding the waves. And loving it.
I happened to be reading this book on Walter Hopps, this reknowned art curator who greatly influenced the reception of pop art, abstract impressionism and other movements at the end of the last century. He not only loved art and artists but he also cared deeply about both. I mention him here because his life was so wild, yet he shares it with such nonchalance.
For example, he is putting up a show for which the artist does not want to attend. He goes to great length to drive out and find this man. He, Walter, is high on amphetamines. The artist is totally drunk.. But Walter is determined to get him to the opening. At one point, Walter comments that the road seems kind of rough. The artist takes the steering wheel and redirects the car. He says to Walter, "Yeah, we were just driving across people's lawns for 2 blocks..."
Okay, so it's not about art, per se. But it's about friendship and commitment to the art scene. AND, it's just part of the story. No big deal.
He brings it all in. The artists. The art. The story.
Not much happening...
I look across the lake this morning and see: No Mountains! I could be...in Saskatchewan. Or Siberia. I could be...
Choices. Here's one for you:
Know that if you didn't choose to be and artist - You would have certainly entertained world domination or mass murder or sainthood. Laura Owens
Oh wow. Don't you love the possibilities?
I was out taking the pup for a walk this morning at the foot of one of those invisible mountains. It's an area that had been stripped of its topsoil so that the sand underneath could be harvested for use on the roads in winter. The stretch where human destruction had occurred always looked like an eyesore to me.
But... is it the time that has passed? Is it how nature left alone comes back in such ways that, no matter what, it's compelling? Instead of the usual unpleasant experience, I saw it differently this morning. The lichens were glowing bright red along fallen tree trunks. The verdant green moss was iridescent in the soft cloudy light. The aspens were emitting this sweet smell that reminds me of the mountains of Colorado. I was wrapped in this gentle mist full of so much that called to me: "Savor this, savor that". Was this even the same trail?
So, I know this seems to be slipping away from world domination, but in kind of an odd way, it's not. I was skipping over this space, this part of the trail, as unimportant, not valuable to me. In fact, it turns out: not so much. Today, I got delight/joy/uplift.
These moments where I'm fed by what surrounds me: that's world domination. Do you kind of see what I mean? I get the world I want.
So, maybe, just maybe ... when my art is going well, maybe that's happening then too...?
Not saying much about mass murder here. Or sainthood. But art? World domination?... good choices.
I'm in the midst of this process that looks like it's going nowhere. No product yet. I'm doing experimenting or, perhaps, skill building. My plan it to use cut silk shapes in the final piece. At this point I'm determining how this soft draping material can or can't hold a shape. Kind of like the Japanese calligraphy of the "perfectly imperfect" circle where there is much time spent in practice - I need to try a few times before making the final cut.
I'm curious to know how this project will turn out. At the same time, I'm aware that I'm approaching it with a different energy. I'm going slower these days than I have in the past where I held myself to a high standard of fast-fast-fast. Driving in that left lane. All the time.
But, thanks to the brilliant suggestion of Martin Stellar, I'm now learning not only to stop midday (in great need of a nap), but to check in on more frequent intervals to lie down. Take ten. Relax before I'm done in.
Gracious. Who would have thought that could make such a difference? Not left lane me. I am surprised.
Lots lots lots to learn about the value of slowing down. And seeing how these shards of cut cloth in my art can gently and easily come together and hold a shape.
We got some snow yesterday. White on the trees and then... not. The relatively warm lake water causes melting along its borders, underlining the bright dusting above. Warm and cool: delineation.
What a literal example of it! But really, isn't that how we move through life: warm - I love it. Cool - not so much (except, if, in fact it is "cool", right?) My grandfather, a doctor, used to say all medicine was really about warm and cool.
And life. And art. Dear Mr. Monet, now in his eighties in the part of the book I'm enjoying, has hit a rough/cool spell. He's stopped. Can't do his art and is moaning and groaning.
His good friend, though, recognizes this state: that Monet's art was bound up with these sorts of complaints, and with a tortured state of perpetual self-doubt. He goes on to say: "If you are happy you would not be a true artist since it's necessary for your reach to exceed your grasp..."
I do love that reason for the self-doubt. His definition of the "true artist" is such that it includes facing difficulty. The cool.
But what this wise friend recommends to Monet is... finding : "rage ... because it stirs up the blood".
As I've mentioned, I just had a rather bad "cold". Now that I'm improving, I'm warming up again. Regaining energy, the "fire" inside to do my art.
It's seems so simple, right? Cool and warm. Still or movement. No art.
Dark trees next to light.
Here comes the cold weather. Like a donkey with its heels dug in, I'm saying, "Noooooo!". But then, when it was unseasonably warm before this, it seemed odd. Not right. Disturbing.
So, I can't have it both ways. I love the seasons. Cold? Just wear more clothes. I even bought a way-too-big coat for the pup.
And then, in my art, I do this oddly similar mind game. I see over and over again that I somehow manage to put myself into a crummy mood at the outset of a project. I'm lousy company for myself. All this kind of low negative self-talk happens inside. It's an impediment to the process. And I believe it's just useless history that I allow to remain active on some level.
But the fact that I know it and can see it helps. It's like the end of autumn. I don't look forward to the cold coming. But once it's here: it's exciting. I get to build a fire and get cozy. I have this seasonal experience that only winter provides: with the snow and that beauty.
And with my art, it's a season of my interaction with what I love to do. A rite of passage, each time. "Okay, you think you know what you're doing? Well this time, with this new idea... I dunno".
In that dear Monet book, when the best friend didn't like what he heard, he would use English, not French, to say a much more potent: "Just shut up!"
I continue to be surprised when I read, Ross King's book, Mad Enchantment, about Monet. What I find is this wonderful narration of discovery. And it intrigues me to read about how an artist finds their way.
To roughly share my latest delightful "a-ha!" moment for Monet: in 1871 he was buying spices from a shop in Holland. When he unwrapped his goods he noticed they were covered in this beautiful paper - in fact, a woodblock print. He went back to the store and purchased all that exotic wrapping. It had come over on the boat with the spices from Japan and were prints by Utamaro and Hokusai! What a start to Monet's love for Japanese art.
Intriguingly, one aspect that he found so compelling about Japanese art was not the use of line or color but... the "common" subject matter: local scenery, everyday activities. I had not realized that that permission to paint his garden scenery came from looking at Japanese art. And that it all was instigated by something so unexpected and easily overlooked as food wrapping paper.
For me, it was a reminder that art is in the eye of the beholder. It reminds me to trust my own instincts. It reminds me that the larger world of art moves forward because of what the artist responds to. What the artist then creates. And what that artist shares.
Minus the dock... still not quite Monet. The fall colors are just about gone, and yet they still shimmer through the early morning mist.
Apparently, Monet's eyesight was very bad in his later years. So much time outside in the sun had stressed them, and by his late seventies he was suffering from cataracts and had very limited vision. This is when he was doing what is considered some of his most exceptional work: the water lilies. The huge paintings that move from one into the next, water reflecting sky. He was struggling to see as he painted those giant pieces.
During those later years, his impressionist friends passed away one by one. Each death was sad for Monet. But Renoir's was particularly poignant.
Renoir had been unwell for a time: wheelchair bound and then bouts of pneumonia. However, he maintained a wonderful attitude by continuing to create art. The myth that is told about his death was that he asked for paper and pencil and drew a flower. His final words were: "I'm just beginning to understand it."
How's that for an artist's last words? A life of painting and drawing. At the end... the beginning. Doesn't that astonish you?
And yet, I know I always feel like a beginner. If I'm familiar with a shape, if I draw it again as I "know" it, I realize, I don't know it. I THOUGHT I did. But that was yesterday. And I don't have cataracts. Not yet, anyway.
Vision. It can be limited. Or not. But it's always an exploration. Always.
Peaches. Her name is Peaches. Well, if you want the long version: Peaches en Regalia (thank you Frank Zappa - via Martin). And she is... a distraction.
If she didn't already merit the attention she receives by how much she loves to cuddle and engage, the trainer for her puppy classes just sent me an email describing how crucial the first 12 weeks are in a puppy's life:
While not a perfect analogy, a puppy’s openness to learning social skills is similar to the way young children learn new languages effortlessly. Studies have shown that children younger than seven years old easily pick up new languages because their brains are wired to readily incorporate the words, grammar and structure of multiple languages. Like the puppy socialization period that ends at 12 weeks, this window closes for children around seven years old, after which language acquisition becomes far more difficult.
She's 9 weeks old now... it's all about the present! I've been given a long list of experiences for her to encounter. Thank goodness it's not colder outside: I can show her the dock and some water. Crucial for any lake pup.
And for me? It gives me a chance to have her learn how to be an artist's pet: I'll give her attention , then keep an eye on her as I take time to create. Hmmmm. That process will be what is referred to as "a work in progress".
This weekend, Ariella was here with 2 friends. One works at the Stimson Center where I'll show next spring. I jokingly told her, I may walk in with the puppy on a leash... "Here's my piece!"
But then, I do wonder how Peaches's presence will infuse the work I do? Nothing is ever separate. Her energy. My energy. The lake. My art.
The weather. That topic. It has been strange lately. The forecast was for 3 inches of rain. Did it mention high winds? Shall we say HIGH winds. And LOTS of rain. This is fall. Dry season.
So the rivers flooded. Trees toppled. Power went out in pockets everywhere.
But not here. Unusually, I was fine. I might not have paid attention if I hadn't gone out and not been able to reach the town nearby. Or if my daughter in Maine hadn't phoned to say her power was out along with all the power in the area, including stop lights. That trees were hanging on downed power lines.
The good luck: Nika and her husband are coming to stay with me until they get power again in four days. I'm thrilled. Yay!
The outside world, how can it manage sometimes to so readily match the internal? I was having my own "bad weather" inside. It was not limited to one day. It was on and off for a while now. It was not high winds, but kind of a damp valley swamp brew. The way to handle such weather was to be uncomfortably sluggish. Well, uncomfortable because I didn't know myself as sluggish.
But after a while - it seemed like a LONG while, sluggish became less bad. More okay. Am I really saying that? I would not have dreamed I could admit to slow and easy. But, pinch me - I went through a week of NO exercise. Meditating, sleeping long hours... Completely low-key. And lived to tell.
My art, my reading, my home : they all benefitted. My dear mind suffered - "This is not how I know myself." I was not loving the swampiness. Until I noticed, even my darn mind was settling down. Feeling content, possibly?
Then Nika called.
Look closely. Can you see those last few leaves just clinging to the ends of branches? If you could look at that tree again tomorrow, they'd be gone. Last glimpse.
That's what we love about nature. The cycles. Those leaves go. It's quiet. New leaves come again. No question. We rest on the sweetness of that knowing. We love each part of the evolution.
And so I'd love to mirror that in my art process. Let the last leaves fall away. Allow the barren time, and trust in that prospect of gorgeous new growth. Easy. Flow. It's natural.
What happens to me, so often, is that fall quickly slides by and then...I'd just as soon skip winter. Who wants the lack of color? Nothing to show? Who wants to honor what can't be seen?
I just realized that I did this on the piece I started - straight out for DC. I didn't come up with the idea and then let it incubate/gestate/ spend some time in the quiet before going into it full on. I know myself well enough to recognize this "rush" pattern. What happens is that, as a result, I lack the deeper sense of what I'm after. Without that, the connection from inside me isn't the driving force. I need that. That connection.
It's fall now. Letting go time. And the ideas for later, for spring. And then it's inside. Inside the earth. Inside the self. Winter.
I need the winter season for each new development of my art. I need to honor the time when it's all below ground. For this new idea for a piece, I'll give it just that.
Let the last leaf drop off the tree. And then... quiet. So essential.
A human life is the most complex narrative of all: it has many layers of events which embrace outside behaviour and actions, the inner stream of the mind, the underworld of the unconscious, the soul, fantasy, dream and imagination.
~my favorite John O'Donohue
I'm quoting him here because I seem to have let go of my connection to some parts of myself, I realized only today. Today. The day I finally felt a slight bit better after 7 days of something that was meant to bring me to a standstill. Only now am I beginning to feel appreciative.
And very appreciative.
I got sick. I pride myself on being healthy. But this one got me. It got me when I was going too fast and sensing I still wasn't going fast enough. I was so stuck on the outside, so not in touch with the inner stream.
One of the pieces of art I was creating was this huge ocean/tide piece. I looked at it today and this crazy thought crossed my mind: I don't want to make that. (!!!!!) I was going to push myself to do it. I had it all planned out.
Now, possibly tomorrow I'll wake up and think otherwise. But today, NOW, in this moment, what I want to do is create this a piece whose idea is much more exciting to me. I can't wait to make it. Wow! I could not say that about the other piece.
Well, there are some technical issues to figure out on this nascent idea. But I can get help with them. It can happen.
Perhaps 7 days of doing nothing saved me a ton of days of doing (you fill in the word). These kind of moments make me feel such a sense of relief. I'm reassured that the self will find a way to be whole.
That the lake water will rise up to join the clouds.
(photos of this glorious time of year)
You know, I don't like all stories. I was just at the "transfer station" (dump) where there is cute little swap shop. I dropped off two books there: stories about people. They were true. But not of interest to me.
To my surprise, though, I'm really enjoying a book about Monet. Monet? I mean, wasn't he blissfully happy and boring? Somewhere that myth is floating around.
Not only was he super temperamental: ripping up canvases, and at times taking days and years off from painting, but his discoveries were radical. Yes, the Impressionists all were radical in their time. But what made Monet unusual was that, after they had had their moment, when the attention was turning to a new wave of art, he was making his most revolutionary work.
And one aspect of great interest in his late work was that he eliminated perspective. He took out the horizon line. By painting the water lilies and the water around them, he put the sky in the bottom of the art: the sky was in the water.
In this day and age, with all our media and perspectives that can shift all over the place in an instant, it's hard to imagine the viewer's amazement at Monet's art.
Yet it caught my attention, even now. The gift of perspective shift. And one that surprises.
I love that story.
Quiet. The lake is almost still. I love the lake when it's still. Why is it so difficult for me to be still? Even slow down?
I love to move. I love to be impressed by "what gets done". Looking forward to a busy day.
In that schedule is, yes, meditation. It's on my "doing" calendar. It's done! Check. Move on...
So, I was ruminating about times in my life when I've noticed slow as being admirable. And this very distinct image came to mind. It was Ariella running. It was a BEAUTIFUL moment in time.
Ariella ran on her high school track team. She is not tall. She was not the super speedy. But she ran. She ran regardless.
At this one particular meet, the run was in laps. The competition was fast. I mean fast. As I recall, I think Ariella was recovering from an injury. All the others on their respective teams finished while Ariella still had two laps to go. And I watched her as she ran those two laps. On the field. By herself. At her pace.
I was soooo moved. No winning a ribbon. A tiny audience.
Afterwards, she felt good about it.
That story is not exactly about not moving. But what I saw was the beauty in her rhythm, in her less-than-winning pace. And her attitude about that.
Like a lake with a few ripples. Not so fast. Beautiful.
I don't feel good - I have this kind of really lousy chest thing going on; so I used that as an excuse to go into full-blown worry. "This could be the end" kind of ridiculousness. Oh yes.
Thank goodness I had arranged yesterday for Fred, my carpenter friend, to come by and bring me slats for hanging my work. I had had it kind of roughly situated on these other boards - drooping in wave-like forms. It took several tries to move the cloth onto the new slats (or the correct length ones). In the process, the precious waves went totally limp.
These things happen. Make it. Mess it up. Go back at it.
But see it now? See it all kaffuffled? Isn't that an open invitation to jump in, move it, make it work?
Yes, to keep that invitation going. That's the key. To have that edge leading me from one incomplete area to the next, to pull me forward and draw me into the art. Day in day out.
And then to leave the finished piece a bit incomplete. To invite the audience to participate in the play, visually. Finish the line...
Did I say I felt lousy? Well, honestly, I still kinda do. But I also am kinda excited about playing.
I was so thrilled that I got such an early start on my day - cloth on the hill just soaked with dye. And then.... I hear in the not so distant range, this high-pitched "beep - beep - beep"!
I think to myself, "No! Not my driveway!"
I had placed a bright red cooler on top of the hill so any driver could see it. Any driver except an oil truck, backing up. Thank goodness I was outside and heard it coming. The driver sees me (not the cooler) and stops. He gets out, assesses the situation - I know his hose can reach from the top of the hill to my house. This is NH. The hoses are looooong here, for good reason.
So he backs up as close as he can come to my dripping cloth and then I stand next to my cloth to prevent the hose from running across it. He's, shall we say, not so thrilled.
But, he has time to regroup while filling the house tank. (And yes, sadly, I do use oil. I'm not a wood stove only person.) So, then, he's done and he's now looking at this rather colorful cloth and asks me "What is that?"
I tell him it's my art. He's quiet for a minute. Then he says, "In all my years, I've never seen anything like that!" and breaks out in this big grin. He stands there, taking it all in.
And I realize: this is a show. He's at my live performance. And he seems to be beautifully affected by it.
What a moment. Unexpected. Someone just "beep-beeping" down my driveway.
I have my ideas about the color of water. The water that I know. Water that I remember. But what color is water, anyway?
According to O'Donohue, Colour is the language of light.
And water is more affected by light than anything, doesn't it seem? I took the photos (above) of the same body of water at three different times of day. As the light shifted, so did the color.
I'm working on the large wall piece for DC and it's about water. About waves. In it, I want a sequence of the waves moving toward shore. The farthest has the most lead-up and the closest is crashing onto the beach. Well, maybe not crashing. It's cloth, after all. So, maybe it's perhaps lapping gently onto the shore. Because I'm not supposing any distance - i.e. the viewer is as close to the far wave as to the close - the color differentiation I'm making corresponds to the appearance of deeper water as opposed to shallower. And by deep water, I specifically mean the water I know: Maine water. It's cloudier, murkier, denser with tiny microbes than the clearer water of the Caribbean, for example.
So my water is the remembered water of coastal Maine at one time of day: early afternoon. The color of the water, is a mix of sky blue, deep purple, dark dark green, a smidge of turquoise for the shallowest parts. But perhaps I'm stealing that from memories of more tropical oceans. I mean really, is my water accurately the color of that water, the water I remember? Is it true?
It's wild how important color is and yet how elusive. It's light, it's memory. And, in the end, it's how it's received/perceived by the viewer. What color is water, anyway?
Moving into fall.
It's the time of year where color is noticed. I mean noticed. Not that we aren't super happy at the first shoot of green in the spring. Or delighted by the color of tulips, roses, peonies come summer. Of course. Of course. But fall? What is fall except this light show on the trees? It's so out of our planning, pruning, determining. It's nature, showing off.
And we are part of it all. We are in that unfolding of time. And we can watch the passage - of the light, the color, the season. That movement. That dance.
Because we carry the weight of the world in our hearts, we know how delightful it is to dance. (O'Donohue)
And the dance is what we all want.
By making my art large, covering a lot of space, I want to entice your eye to move. By softly merging one color into the next, I want that shift to feel soft, subtle. And then, by allowing light intermittently, I want the eye to include the space surrounding the piece. To move through art that includes the space its in.
Noticing the color. And watching it move. I love the dance.
Two days in a row. Polar opposites. How do we deal with unwanted, then - the so delicious?
Yesterday was colored by news I wish I hadn't read. That information was not good. And it made me wish I hadn't encountered it. Wish I hadn't been "colored by it".
How deeply we understand color. We know we carry its essence in our beings. How we feel - is it not so easily felt as a color? And can we not communicate that directly - "I'm feeling blue... I'm red-hot angry... that tickles me pink." We recognize color.
But what about when, in fact, we don't want to let that color in? Like the leaf with the wet rain water. Keep that wetness off - don't absorb. Let it be beautiful in its own right. Translucent. But not penetrating.
AND then... it's a new day. Friends arrive. Spirits lift. Art happens. And it's feels soooo good. Yum.
Drink it in. Soak it up. All of it.
As Sallie Tisdale says, describing her experience of viewing art: To see the desired...that is not enough. One wants to consume it, make it part of oneself.
Merge. Be colored by it. Yes.
Did I ever tell you about my horse named Nydia? She was trained for competition in England before she came to us - my childhood family. She had been schooled for steeple chase but was sold because she was too high-strung. She would do well on our long, leisurely rides through the woods, we thought. And she did. In her own way.
Nydia was my horse. I rode her for years. And I knew she was high-strung. I could feel her excited energy pulsing through her even as we began our rides. I could feel the contained excitement as we traveled for hours. And then... there was the ride up the back side of the mountain when we were almost home.
Nydia knew this. She knew it was the home stretch. A straight shot to the mountaintop. And... no way, no way could a rider keep her from running full speed up that slope. Held back for even a minute or two and she would spin in circles. She HAD to run. And she did. Surging forward and driving hard, full-out!
Who wouldn't want to be on top of her for that stretch??? She lived for that exhilarating run, every time. And I lived to be on her.
Yes. That kind of energy. I sometimes feel that Nydia energy in myself. I feel its intensity. And I know what I'm looking for is that joyous place, those joyous moments to express it.
I can turn in circles, too. I've done a lot of that. But give me a hill. Give me some large pieces of silk. And the opportunity to lay down the color.
And feel the energy flow.
Color is the language of light...Light is the greatest unnoticed force of transfiguration in the world: it literally alters everything it touches...
~John O'Donohue, "Beauty"
If you were able to see this orange cloth where it is lying now - if you could walk around and witness it straight on - you'd notice the grey wall through the translucent cloth. You'd see the c0lors combining; one color on top of another. The thin cloth lets the light through, and with the light, you can see the color beneath the color.
But what the camera fails to make obvious is that the colors also shift according to the contour of the wall. The lighter orange moves into red. The shade from a nearby tree doesn't help sort out the confusion. But then again, it's all light, it's all color. And the mind can shortcut, maybe not notice, the color shift.
For me, color shift is magic. Where and how one color drops deeper. Or shifts hue. The shift allows the original color to become more. More light. More orange. More of its original self. And the new color - well, it's already the intruder, already drawing attention to itself. At least, I hope so. That juxtaposition. That's everything.
And, yes, today is October 1.
Summer, still lingers so sweetly. Sweeter than ever. But fall is here.
And, yes, I'm loving it. Loving the sharp, clear air, the cooler temperatures, the welcome warm indoors. Loving the quiet lake, the crunchy leaves, the hard, hard apples.
From summer, it's changed. And all because of light. Deep felt shifts in nature.
Color shifts in cloth.
Light: ... the force for transfiguration. (O'Donohue echoed from first quote)
September 27th: it's hot outside. All summer we had cool weather. Rain. And now, the crowd has gone. The lake is a mirror of calm. And it's just me, swimming. I feel like I'm in heaven.
My sister, Julie, who lives in Virginia, once said: "It's not summer til you can't move." It's not summer now, but it feels like that. And, thanks to the water, I can move.
I go into the water anticipating an opening, freedom. I have a sense that, even as I'm moving, everything else, even in its stillness, is moving. I feel that wherever I was when I left land will not be the same when I return. Not the same in my perception. Not the same in my expectations. Not the same in my journey going forward.
Lifted. Lighter. Easier.
And it is.
As William Stafford wrote (in "Crossing Unmarked Snow"):
The things you know before you hear them - those are you, Those are why you are in the world.
To go for a swim?
And perhaps see my perceptions move and shift?
That's water. That's art. That's why.
I don't know why but that cloud looks to me like it's moving headlong into the mountain. Whump!
No really, it's a sweet fluffy cloud. Not like some thoughts that can run around with such abandon. "Listen to me!" "Listen to me!" Listen to me!"
Then evening comes. It's quiet and I look out at the mountains, and I see something that takes me away from my inner dialogue. This crashing cloud.
My latest philosopher of choice, John O'Donohue calls these times, moments of "reverence". Where the mind shifts away from the small to something larger. Where it notices something not understood immediately.
But what I particularly love about O'Donohue's idea is that play is part of reverence, that it's not all pious dignity:
Playfulness, humour and even a sense of the anarchic are companions of reverence...they insist on the proper proportion of the human presence in the light of the eternal.
~ from "Beauty"
I love that. "Play" and "light of the eternal" in one sentence.
I'll go for the play, and clouds bumping into mountains, and perhaps, some light, too. Take that into my art. Yes.
I'm starting a new piece. Large. I just let the gallery in DC know that I'd take them up on their invitation to hang another work on their 30 foot wall next spring. And I'm just hatching my idea.
Every time I take a moment, images are morphing in my mind: when I'm running, when I'm maybe meditating, when I'm driving in the car. It's times like this that I treasure my time alone.
I had a really full, really special summer. I loved everyone who came. I thought the entire time: "I LOVE PEOPLE". But, by the end, I was so ready to have no one around. No one talking to me. No one interrupting. No one.
How long will that last? Dunno.
But right now, a-a--a-a-a-ah. Feel the quiet. Hear the water. Answer to my art, only my art. Feels soooooo good.
It's a calm day. Beautiful. Warm even, after a summer when it's been much cooler than usual. It's a day to go out, be on the water, in the water, relaxing. Or to do art, uninterrupted.
I think back on one of my mother's favorite stories about her grandfather. It would be a day such as this. A day to treasure. He would contact all the family members and friends he knew; let them know a picnic was in order. Come! Get together, outside, play and have fun. He would organize someone to get a boat ready so that all that agreed could get on. And did all agree? No question. He was there to greet them and celebrate.
And then, when the boat was full, he would stand on the dock and wave them away! What did he want? The day to himself.
So, here I am. It's so peaceful. And I am aware that some wonderful, extraordinarily special friends of mine are all gathered in Spain together. There they are even taking their time and their trouble to mount an art show where my art will be included. And here I stand. On the distant shore.
Lots happening in my life. But today: quiet. And art. And such thankfulness to those who jumped on the boat, (took the airplanes) and are having more than a picnic in Spain.
A lot of what I've heard about in the last while is the oncoming hurricane. My dear friend, Kristin has been here. Her home is in southwest Florida.
Water. Rising water.
And here I am dyeing fabric and what I want is ... water. The feel of water. The sense of being wet . That visceral connection to immersion in liquid.
I work the color into the cloth. I leave the fabric on the ground, coated in the dye. It's on a hill. Some of the dye will gravitate downward, meld with colors below. Some will dry faster and create odd delineations. It's liquid. Then it's not.
I have an innocent piece of cloth. It suggests water. But its fabric. Hand-dyed silk. Dry. Soft. Comforting, even.
And, in the background, I hear the news: water is rising.
Show me the way! Guide me down the path!
Otis is waiting. He's very clear that he's ready to go and that I am to take him out. I lead him. I know the way.
In fact, several days ago, I took him on a walk with my friend. I love steep, but she was less keen on that angle, so we turned off the trail onto an unknown path. In a short while we were on a trail "less traveled" and ... as we walked ahead, I slowly realized that we'd entered a space that was exquisitely beautiful: old, old trees with spaciousness around them. Calm. Soothing. I was transported - the place was dynamic and deeply quiet at the same time.
That path. My hope is that someone can guide me on a path such as that this fall. Or that I can find it with trust, myself. It's a time when there are many changes happening for me: looking for a new place to spend the worst months of winter is one of them. Family activity is at high volume. And other compelling but not - art - related involvements demand attention. And then, there is the art itself: my dear, talented and fast-moving online art group is gathering in Spain and mounting a show of art from all the members. I watch as they are making this happen in so many ways - and the trust that is there: within each and for each other.
They are moving forward in Spain. I feel the connection and am thankful for their love. And I notice the density of the decisions here.
I hold the image of the forest I came upon. I was on one path and then found another: completely unexpected. But even more beautiful. Calm. Soothing. Right.
How I want life to unfold.
It's green out still. Muggy. It reminds me of Virginia, my childhood. Where it wasn't really summer until you couldn't move. That was summer. Humid. Hot. Slow.
I loved it then: running barefoot til your feet were tough. And playing endlessly in the huge sand pile. Whole worlds would be created. Come alive. In the shade, the sand was cool under foot. And if you dug down just a bit you got the damper dirt that could be formed and shaped so that small trucks and cars and animals made tracks: you could design the landscape and then move through it.
Hours and hours of hot summer nothing time. No sense of next, no sense of a larger world. Summer that existed now. And now. And now.
It's August now. Summer is most poignant now. Still green now.
In between: Bedlam.
Change is not an aspect of the matrix but the matrix itself. It is because nothing is permanent that we are not separated from anything... ~Sallie Tisdale
I LOVE that. Here we are on the brink of an eclipse. Change. Looking at something sooooo far away. And it's not separate.
And I just had so many really really fun (and very active) 20 somethings (and young 30's) here for 3 days (here, now gone) and - yes - their energy was infectious. Endless talking, swimming, game playing. And great for me to be doing my art in the background.
For thinking? Writing? Less realistic. But for seeing the uplifting side of humanity: could not have been better.
Nothing can eclipse that.
On and On and ON and On the Water...
How we want to spend our summers: lying down on the tippy bow of the fast-moving sailboat, looking into the depths of the ocean as the water splits open under you: that swirling, shifting, swooping wetness, every so often sparkling with a shaft of sun.
That's your day. Endless. Ongoing. Deeply soothing. Intensely exciting.
All just for you. All yours. Summer.
I was reading this Sallie Tisdale essay about writing and teaching writing and I quote it here with the idea that the same, THE SAME thoughts can go to art:
A recent textbook says: "For your writing to improve, you must learn to read like a writer". I believe it would be better to write like a reader. Most of what I know about writing I know from reading - but reading whole, as a reader reads, lost and unfettered, wandering into another's world without a jaded eye. Wandering free of all jaded things is part of the joy of reading; how dare anyone take it away? We can surrender to a master of rhetorical sophistication without need to wonder how or why. Maybe literature lives only in the reader - born in the changing life, a different story for each person who reads it..."
WHEW! I love that. ... "unfetterred...without a jaded eye..." Their own image for every viewer.
I was just at the opening for my show at the Chocolate Church in Bath, Maine, and my work was shown alongside the work of two younger artists who are just freshly out of school. The subject of education came up and how one of the artists almost didn't "make it" through the process. Thank goodness she wasn't totally discouraged. Thank goodness I got to enjoy her vibrant work that is part of the show there now.
I don't want to sound against art school. Like many things, there are two sides. And the side I'm on is always the side that keeps that love of art alive, whatever path that takes.
When I started this piece, my intention was to work with dark and light. I'd done the rich color: now, I thought, how about an absence of color...? I thought I'd put 1/2 light next to 1/2 dark. But the light - the light was so much stronger than the dark. I started to take away the lighter rolls of silk: less and less light was needed - look how bright the light still is! And yes, color did come in. I admit, I could not resist. That color.
It's as if, in denying the color, it demanded to declare itself more stridently. And why not? Isn't that what my work is always about?
And doesn't it mirror life? The light, the dark, the play. I think I'm setting out to do one thing. Another happens.
Yesterday I was helping Nika install my large piece in the show in Bath, Maine. It took longer, much longer than expected and several of the threads broke in the process. Repairs take time. In the end, I left several hanging pieces out. I thought it looked fine. Changed but not noticeable.
And the other pieces in the show? They did not get hung. Only positioned where they will be hung today. My piece took a lopsided amount of time - most of the afternoon, yesterday. Thanks to the enormous efforts of Nika and Scott, the show will get hung. And the light and color in all the art, in the show, will work as a whole.
Process: Dark. Light. Changes.
And then, somehow, it all comes together.
I'm not showing you the whole garden. I'm showing you one peach because all around it looks to me like A MESS. The plants just keep growing. And blooming. I've had peas since July 1 and they are STILL coming. A month of peas? Isn't that surreal? Let's not mention the other vegetables and fruits... the darn flowers.
When I bought this property in 1988, I focussed on this 1890's boathouse that I loved. Secondarily, there was this equally old bunk house next to it for the guys back then to sleep overnight rather than climb the hill to home (not on my property) after a day of fishing and likely enjoying a drink or two. In addition, there was a more recent garage added near the public road so that the former owners didn't need to descend down the steep driveway in winter storms. AND something I didn't pay attention to ... there was a not-so-small garden with peach and pear and apple trees and raspberries. And a lawn to mow.
Okay, so I used my push lawn mower today to at least deal with the lawn. And I munched on some peas and raspberries. And admired the pears that are coming along. But the place looks like a total jungle. In other years, I would spend hours daily attempting to maintain a semblance of order. But this year, there has been so much rain AND so much travel time AND... more focus on my art.
I love my garden. I love it as an art form as well. It's metamorphosing right before my eyes. I have this idea of how it should look - how, in past years, I've edited what grows. This year - no editing. Wildness. It's different.
Is it worse? Is it okay? Can I see it differently than what I've expected in the past. Can I allow change?
And how much does the permission I grant to my garden reflect the permission I grant myself to see my art, my "indoor" art grow wild and change?
aaaahh. This is the life. Quiet. Sun. A good book.
And yet? This moment follows the day Ariella and I drove 11 hours back from Toronto (thanks to a 2 hour wait on the border). And, in a short while, there is the trip to her plane today... another 3 hours round-trip drive.
But doesn't that moment of peace look soooooo sweet? Yes. Yes. Yes.
And I do feel good. I feel good because I'm on the other side of traveling. No matter what. No matter the really AMAZING time I had in Toronto - thank you Hunter and Lynn and Lynn's fabulous family - I always am a little on edge when traveling. I know there is history behind this, but it would be nice to be past it all. The up side of it is that I feel especially good on return.
AND, with the long drives, I had all kinds of time for ideas about my art. I had one DEFINITE idea move into the next "no this is better" MORE DEFINITE idea. Etc. I have learned over the years to not trust that my mind is going to necessarily be right about these seemingly certain ideas. But, in the moment, I feel charged up and energized by them.
Aside from the actual visual images, though, I was contemplating the deeper source of where my art is coming from, that place that I keep mining even as the iterations can look different as they are formed.
For me, I'm guessing that it has something to do with my early years (pre 3 years old) of seeing with blurry vision and then clarity, no control. Perhaps that raised the value of touch for me. That fabric. That comfort. Those bearings, perhaps. And, perhaps, paramount, that feeling.
When I was in Maine a short while ago, one sister mentioned a trip we took years ago, together. She remembered the specifics, what we did each day. What I recall was the emotional sense. The blur. The color of it all. My immersion in feeling.
Blur. Color. Immersion.
These deeper questions that move me : re. "From where does this arise?" Will I ever really understand and get an answer? Is it an endless search?
Or not. Instead...perhaps, maybe, over time I will discover a sense that my works of art resonate in a way that is that answer? Somehow captures some essence. And somehow that essence echoes outwards.
Not "an answer". Rather: Answering. Ongoing. Evolving.
Love the sun. Love the quiet. Love summer.
All winter long I had time alone. Lots and lots of time alone. Good for art. And for dreaming about summer. Summer full of friends and family. Full of people.
And yes, here I have it. I have that summer that I dreamed about. In spades. I have so many people coming and going, more so than any other summer. And I'm doing the same. I'm here, then Maine, then NYC, next Boston, then Toronto. And that's just July. For each of these journeys, or rather, long car rides, I have hours and hours to talk with someone(s) in the car. Great for conversation. I love it. And then, on arrival - the people I'm visiting. Back here at the lake, a constant flow as well. No night without a guest, long-term or breezing through. I'm with people.
And the art?
In Maine, there are those trees. In NYC, there is that art (I enjoyed some great galleries while seeing fun theater), and here at the lake, that input/ that feedback from others about my art. It's rich. It's really rich.
And there it is, in my art: the dark top. The much lighter bottom. Juxtaposition. Alone and then NOT. Very dark hues and then ... not.
Those trees I saw in Maine. They aren't like the ones here in New Hampshire near me. They are old and covered in grey crinkly lichens. And they have ancient dead limbs climbing horizontally up to the living green above. They beg to be drawn. To be painted. The lines, the spaces, the character.
I didn't have my camera along on my runs. And I don't have those trees to study now, nearby. But I have the idea. It's churning inside as I return to the work of color - only color- that is in front of me.
I've been drawn to Giorgio Morandi lately. His palette is subdued. His lines are so sensitive. It's all nuance.
The future is luring me. I'm steeped in color and seeing the next, or what I THINK is the next chapter ahead. So exciting to be somewhere and be so stimulated. And to come back and want to GET what was offered.
When I came back from DC, I was sure I was ready to move on to the next phase in this evolution of my silk creations. But no. That was before I picked up my frames from the framer and started to finalize the pieces that went into them.
And there I was, back in the stream of thought re. that project, nicknamed "stubborn color". Nothing but color. Singular colors made up of many colors. As I mounted them into their frames and had the endless fun (if I never anchored them, truly endless) of arranging them just so. Just so that they somehow lured the eye from one piece to the next - in the series pieces - and also, just so they were not quite settled.
Not quite settled. That's what I need to create. Color that moves and keeps moving.
And within this same stream of creation, what do I want/need to do next? Well, of course, black and white.
The black that is full of color. And white. The white that also is full of color. And black. The absence containing the fullness. And vice-versa. No color with color. I'm excited to see how this plays out. And how it feeds into these pieces that I'm assembling now.
On that note, it's hot out. Time to jump in the lake. The cold lake. A sense of winter in summer?
Let's not get too carried away...
You love red. You've always loved red. Why not? Lots of red. Only red.
Like that one kind of jellybean you wanted most. Or one time of day you like best. Or only that one pillow that you prefer. One favorite cup you love to hold.
That one thing. Make it everything. Make it so sweet, so right, so fulfilling. Your best, favorite, all the time and only - what YOU like.
Can you see the small "sumac" (bush) behind Otis? Freshly planted, near the lake, it's our memoriam to a very special pup that was ready to leave his physical body. Loving to the end. Otis? He misses his dear friend.
Rumi will never really leave our hearts, but he no longer needs to be in pain, worried over, patted incessantly... And his timing was remarkable. Right before my trip to DC to do my art talk. Hunter and Lynn were here to help me with the hugely emotional last week of Rumi's company. Nika and Scott came that weekend before we headed to DC.
On the road to Washington: TRAFFIC. Summer. Anyone who owns a car was in it and on our road. We crept along, listening to ridiculous podcasts (thank you, Hunter). Once in DC, we had a day to see a phenomenal exhibit at the Sackler Museum on how a small community in Kabul had rebuilt a neighborhood using their traditional arts. There was stunning woodwork ("touch this", said the examples), fabric dyeing, pottery, jewelry, weaving, etc., showing the truly uplifting and financially rewarding ways that art can transform a community.
Later, at the Stimson Gallery, I was pleasantly surprised by how many showed up on a Tuesday night in June for an art reception! Ahead of time, I had rehearsed a 3 minute speech. Somehow, I spoke for much longer ~ perhaps I got swept up in the excitement of being NEAR my Virginia mountains (?). Regardless, the reception continued afterwards, long into the evening.
That night, we dismantled the show and packed the art into the car. We left DC the next morning. We now were four in the car - until NYC -- when we added Samsun. Another 12 hour drive, and we were back in NH.
Summer. SUMMER. Many gathered for the holiday weekend. Many meaning 12. Close family. And they have left slowly, which has given me the luxury of sweet time with an ever smaller group. Tomorrow I drive to Boston to pick up my friend from Portugal who will be here for the next few months, escaping the heat of her home.
And for my art? Yes. It's happening. Happening alongside all this activity: dyeing new fabric, looking at work I've done in that past, pouring over a book of 1900's Austrian woodcuts that were beautifully inspired by the Japanese, imagining retreats for artists and writers (and musicians). All woven into all this, yes, art.
Art, like my sweet pup, like my loving family, never leaves my heart.
In time, this peach will become ripe, I hope. Yum- yum. Do you know how good a peach right off the tree tastes?
But, yes, I have to wait. It takes time.
And this morning I was talking to Hunter about time. About non-linear time. You remember non-linear time, right? When you were a child. Biting into a peach. Or, even now, biting into a peach.
But, in fact, we were not talking about that specifically. Or not even specifically about Einstein and the person on the train experiencing time differently than the person observing the train. Or colonizers labeling indigenous cultures as "backward/behind time" with no regard to their experience of time and the impact of that. But more about how, when you talk about time in one way, it's difficult to also talk about space. And vice-versa.
And so, when I make my red art and I make it today in this space and this time... the red might not move or change (much) in time, but it might travel who-knows-where in space. Wait, no. That is NOT Einstein. It's just my stubborn red.
And so, when will the peaches be ripe?
I tend to associate monochromatic landscape with the winter months. But, yes, summer has foggy, damp, grey days. And this one follows a day that could not have been clearer, more vibrant with color. Such a contrast.
Samsun is here this weekend. He's visiting with a wonderful group of writer friends. They all arrived late Friday and after a sweet dinner I and before I turned in, I told them, "Please sleep in." And they did. One couple did not wake up until the afternoon on Saturday. We had a glorious number of hours of time and talk together in the sunshine of the afternoon and beautiful light of sunset When I woke this morning at 5, they were up. Up and swimming. Their second swim since I left them in the evening...
Now, I'm someone who thinks of the night as dark. For sleeping. For them: hours and hours of talk about writing and time together. Lots of light for the soul. Dark and light together.
I didn't stay up with them. I met them in the grey of early morning. I met their vibrancy as it was ebbing. I was slowly waking up, transitioning into my time awake.
It's quiet now. I'm up. Moving about. All others are asleep. Peaceful.
On this day. This grey day.
AAAAAAhhhhh. Feel the nice cool water on your feet. Quiet lake. Monday in summer.
Hunter and Lynn are here and life is good. They arrived yesterday in time to overlap with Samsun and friends and the talk was lively in the short overlap. So when someone asked the question, what do you do? and I heard the answer, "I'm dealing with the question of what it means to be human, I thought, wow, that's the best answer I've ever heard. Isn't it? Don't you want to believe that about your work?
I've giving short shrift to the profundity of Lynn's answer, starting with the most primitive notion of heaven and earth, and then watching how Copernicus's discovery of the atmospheric components repositioned that divide, which led to the notions of some people "closer to God" than others, onward, onward. That's short shrift.
And then, of course there are the Chinese, on their own path of understanding heaven and earth, and somehow along the way, the pictographs (v. the alphabet) led to a much more nuanced, less "scientific" interpretation of reality or what it means to be human. More allowance for emotion, even an appreciation for it.
Which is what Matisse found and loved about Chinese art.
Bringing all this back to simple, simple, simple... Just color. Just noticing. In the color pieces I've been doing...
Yes summer is here. Summer days. Feet in the lake. And my tight coils of red? Look at them loosen up (on the right):
This is my pup. Normally he is up and at it, bossing me around, insisting on whatever is next in his routine. But not lately. Lately, he's like this.
If he could talk, I might know more. Meantime, the vet took x-rays and suggested that his "knees" were so sore from torn ACLs over the years that he now was too uncomfortable to run. But he went from full speed to zero so quickly... (?) My medical intuitive friend tells me that it's because of the lentil sprouts I decided to start sharing with him lately - which have an acid in them that perhaps caused inflammation. I stopped feeding him that snack, which he loved, and slowly he's detoxing, she tells me. She has never been wrong about my health. I do hope she's right about the pup. He's so unlike the pooch I've known all these years.
He can't talk. But you know how he feels. He's a companion, tuning in to the sense of what's happening all the time. Alongside. Nonverbal.
Nonverbal communication. Visual art is - well, not always nonverbal. But if you take out the art that contains words, you have art with pictures or symbols. And then, if you go further, and take out all art with those references, you come into abstract art. Within abstract art, there are artists who only care about color. White. Black. Blue.
Lately I've been fixated on color. But not one color, but rather, the whole mix of colors that can together be defined as "red" or "blue". It's the movement and play of the myriad of hues that have one overall designation - that, THAT is what fascinates me.
I recall hours in the summer, lying on the front of a sailboat and looking over the bow, mesmerised by the constantly changing color of the water as the boat cut through its depths. Blue. Looking down into that whorl for hours. It was moving; it was never the same; it was a gillion colors; it was always blue.
My dog lies quietly beside me. My cloth I've dyed is heaped nearby. The quiet of the pooch communicates so much. The color blue never settles.