Monday, April 14, 2008
Not much time to blog lately. I have been busy tearing down walls and ripping up flooring in my new house. Someone commented that all this destruction seems to be energizing me. It is true that there can be pure joy in raw movement, more restrained passion in the finesse needed for building or rebuilding. But the most energizing thing about destruction is the space it creates for envisioning a different future. While I am prying boards or crumbling plaster, my mind is seeing room for a kitchen, a bigger studio, better flow through the hallway, more storage. In the same way, when I tear or cut into one version of a piece I am working on, I am reordering a pattern that has become too staid, improving the balance in a composition, making a hole to drop in an unexpected element or even creating the occasion for an interesting repair.
I love how the Hindu goddess of destruction, Kali, is pictured with many arms to hold both the weapons - tools of destruction - and trophies. I want to hold several aspects of each piece even in the midst of changes - parts that work, parts that will fall away, parts that work and still will need to go to make way for the new and most especially the parts that I will discover in the midst of the destruction, the line of color exposed by a tear, the niche that can now fit into exposed framing.
I was making a quiche this weekend and thinking about the saying - "You can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs." Even as I am holding the perfect smoothness of the egg, I am looking forward to the rich yellow custard surrounding broccoli. The crack against the edge of the bowl, the blow through the plaster, the ripping of layers, the stark sounds of destruction echoing with the whisper of new beginnings.
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
I tend to find the bigger holidays - Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter - rather complicated. I enjoy the smaller, sillier days of celebration - Groundhog Day, April Fool's, Arbor Day - markers of the season that have the smell of paste and construction paper. In elementary school, they were often an excuse for artmaking - maybe that is the appeal.
Today I was thinking about the the ability to be fooled and how it changes over time and circumstance. I have memories of times when I was able to truly fool someone or times when I was totally taken in. The masked anticipation of the fooler, the necessary innocence or distraction of the foolee and the joyful, rueful moment when all becomes clear.
The best pranks are lightly constructed - relying on a structure already in place and then diverting from it just enough to make the joke. The fooler and the foolee share a vocabulary which makes the joke work and more connections can take the prank or story to a deeper level. I may laugh at the NPR's clever fake news stories but I can be taken in completely by the custom-tailored tall tale. The one to be fooled must be open to the trick on some level for it to work. Children, who are so often open and present, are easy to fool. As we build our layers of experience, it is harder to reach through our defenses but unexpectedly rich and satisfying when we do.
I have been thinking about all of this in relationship to the connection between artist and audience. As audience, we connect to art that references our daily life in some way but also presents possibilities we haven't imagined. We have to be open to a new way of thinking, feeling and seeing, willing to be tempted away from our usual paths and constructs, vulnerable to the uncertainty of the unknown.
As artists, we use just the necessary amount of skill and craft to construct a world and then wait with anticipation for our viewer to connect - to "get it." Stretching ourselves, we rely on others to come out on the limb with us, pulled along by details that resonant with their own lives. We can set up the situation and create the initial impulse but the art happens - like the joke - in a space we can not control, in the space between what we have created and the willing audience.
So let us all be open to being fooled, today and every day, open to making art, smelling paste and diving into that space.