Saturday, January 25, 2014

turning the page: the adventure continues

Got the green light .  Got the green light to continue.

The show is up, the dust is settling, my breath is slowing and relaxing a little.  I’m reminded of that poem by Ryõkan:

The rain has stopped, the clouds have drifted away,
and the weather is clear again.
If your heart is pure, then all things in your world are pure.
Abandon this fleeting world, abandon yourself,
Then the moon and flowers will guide you along the Way.

Often, when one chapter’s closed and I don’t know What’s Next, I love to look around and notice what jumps, what naturally, effortlessly, sparks curiosity.  Especially after dealing with the logistics of framing and promoting and recording — maybe a week’s gone by without much creative work, maybe two — it gets hard again, to enter the studio, the mystery of it.  I feel a little out of practice. 

So for well over a decade I’ve kept an Adventure Book.  It’s a place to chronicle my wackiest creative ideas, annoying tasks, routine actions, moneymaking schemes.  A notion strikes — no matter how mundane, no matter how majestic — and in it goes.

I took this suggestion from Carol Lloyd in her book Creating a Life Worth Living, and I carry it most always.  There’s a beauty in writing all these ideas down:  I’m not committing to them.  I’ve more than enough ideas in the books to last me two years.  As she puts it, the Adventure Book “engenders proactive dreaming rather than passive peeving.”  It’s a record of my creative spurts and slumps, and serves as a catalyst … I can browse past ideas and discover which ideas still hold meaning years later, which I fulfilled easily, which fizzled maybe.  Artists to explore, music to revisit, pie-in-the-sky dreams, wines, gift ideas, questions.  I can see how I directed my energies, and have this enormous well of ideas I can draw on for inspiration, amusement, and action. 

So as I return to work, I browse their pages with wonder.  Noticing what continues to beckon. 
get a pair of scissors that cut metal (a la Sandy Calder)
would a quince tree grow here?  if so, plant one in backyard
do a little painting and give it to JT
I could listen to Bach minuets ALL DAY LONG
start a band with Mark
do a portrait of Martin Hayes
propose an exhibit at the downtown PL—small images inspired by the building—
expand my definition of myself.

This is also a moment for gratitude, to the Frenchman, to Linda, to the TurkeyLand Cove Foundation, to le petit garçon, to Andra and other partners in crime, to friends and family who’ve been guides and angels along the way.  Gosh what luck, what good fortune, what gifts.  

And so back to work, with wonder. 

Faith Ringgold:  American People Series #2: Woman Looking in a Mirror, 1966.  Oil on canvas.  Courtesy ACA Galleries

Thursday, January 9, 2014

light at the end

 .  .  .   .   .    .    .     .     .      .      .       .         .  

Courage and confidence took a nosedive last week when I picked up my work from the frame shop.  Wasn’t there supposed to be a huge pile of impressive, weighty paintings and drawings?  Surely you must have left some in the back.  These seem — well, this stack is rather small and tidy-looking.  How the hell will these fill a whole half a gallery?  Who the hell do I think I am? 

I returned home, deflated, a shell of my formerly cheerful self of that morning — consumed by a familiar hollowed-out feeling I should have recognized right away as evidence that The Voice Was Here.  What the hell was I thinking?  This is crap!  Crap doesn’t need titles and prices.  And proMOTE it as well?  PLEASE DON’T COME PLEASE DON’T COME.  Stay home.  Don’t bother.  Nothing to see here.  Jeezus.  What was I thinking?!?  This is insane. 

Tears tugged and tightened at my throat.

And yet  . . . .  somewhere, some little flame flickered and I didn’t disconnect completely.  Part of me knew that this was to be expected.  The finish line is in sight.  The work’s nearly finished.  Resistance and The Voice were joining cruel forces in one last push to keep my goal and me apart.  Damn those bastards!

I needed reinforcement.  So I wrote a quick note to one person I know who gets it, who faces similar foes, who’s seen it from the start.   Andra is wise and kind, and has such a beautiful and sincere way with words.  

Dear Una, kindly escort the Voice to the door. 
You have this.
The resistance is just letting you know you are really showing up ~ & that investment of hope & muscle & imagination is absolutely magnetic. 
And in accordance with my new mantra, “Have the courage to enjoy it.”

Wow.  Wowee.  What brilliance — In all my obsessing I’d not even considered the enjoyment part.  The weight lifted a little.  I kept moving, remembered that critical success wasn’t a chief goal for this project anyway.  This is an inside job.  We self-validate round here.  I framed one piece at a time, looked at the group, and was reassured.

And then, miraculously, more angels arrived.  

The Frenchman reminded me what my original vision was.  Sweet Shannon and Nicki and Eric turned up and oohed and aahed.  Patty — hooray for Patty! — swept in to give it one final look and to help and provide just the right dose of encouragement and conversation.  I was going to make it.  I could maybe probably stop apologizing for it.

And then this morning, in the early blue light of a snowy Wedneday, just as my sacred morning studio hours were cropped chest-clenchingly short by le petit garçon’s cries, I looked up at a quiet little collage and wondered, Is that a green-blue or a blue-blue? 

 .  .   .   .    .    .     .     .      .      .       .         .

And then I knew my own mantra, at least for now.  To bring me back to the wondrous present; to corral, just a little, the leap-frogging mind; to soothe the panic.  Not the impossible “Who the hell do I think I am?”, nor the discouraging “Where the hell should I be that I clearly am not?”.  Instead, a simple, curious, “Is that a green-blue or a blue-blue?”

It’s enough for now. 

Friday, December 27, 2013

not prepared, but ready

Perle Fine    
Since this will be a two-person show — though really more like two solo exhibitions in the same space — and we’d never met, with excitement and apprehension I made a date with my fellow exhibitor this week.  I was a little nervous, having built a rather romantic image of her after seeing a few pieces, nearly convinced that the world would fall in love with her work at first sight (and, natch, ignore mine).

I’ve been thinking a lot about flowing lately, that whole ‘going with the flow’ — a phrase I’ve often dismissed as trite, too laid-back and passive, too faux-surfer.  I’d noticed that, in dreams especially, I am often trying to back-pedal, reverse, pause the action to get my bearings.  Survey the hill, and then down; arrive at the crest of the next, stop to assess.  I seem to not fully trust my capacity to make and savor decisions as I go, flowing from one to the next. 

I often remember a phrase Reb Anderson said to me once:  Not Prepared — But Ready.  Not thinking ahead, not under some illusion of Control, but alert and accepting.  

I thought about the notion of stepping into the stream and moving along with it as I sat waiting for her to arrive.  Faking it, till I’m convinced otherwise.  

I thought about inadequacy, and as usual The Voice took its cue from that slight opening to rush in with YOU ARE NOT PREPARED FOR THIS WHO ARE YOU TO THINK YOU CAN DO THIS YOU’RE NOT THIN ENOUGH YOUR SKIN’s NOT CLEAR ENOUGH for you to have the gall to exhibit your work BLAH BLAH BLAH….  And then, brought to my senses, I thought, well, maybe I just get in this stream and flow with it for a change.  Maybe this Here is the right Here.  Maybe there’s no such thing as a fearless warrior anyway, so might as well hop into the driver’s seat of this careening-out-of-control bus and take command, if not Control.

Maybe acceptance, rather than complacence or passivity, equals fluidity.

Maybe I can stay upright in the midst of all this through accepting what’s happening, accepting a new addition to my identity, accepting reality. 

As it turned out, she was very human, and quite nice really, and imperfect in the way we all are, and we talked and shared a bit about our stories and I tried to bring myself back when I’d get caught in a little eddy of self-doubts and How Dare Yous, to climb back into the driver’s seat and return to the bloody conversation for pete’s sake. 

That same day I brought my work to a framer for matting, and I felt so exposed again, all that work and all that time, just sitting there on the counter like a commodity.  We discussed dimensions and colors and edges without once talking about the image, like designers behind the scenes at the catwalk, fussing over the surface of the model, ignoring whatever life’s underneath.  And the owner came by, and I wanted his approval, which I knew was so screwed up, and I also knew that I may well never get it and never know why, and then I realized I need some serious therapy. 

But let’s close.  Let's return to important things, the stuff that matters.  

Janice Biala: Untitled (Landscape), mixed media collage, 1958.  courtesy Tibor de Nagy Gallery 
Two artists came into my field recently when I by chance picked up Suitcase Paintings: Small Scale Abstract Expressionism.  These diminutive pieces, their texture and action, had such big impact.  From the pages, out jumped Perle Fine, and out leapt Janice Biala.  Long overdue, I’m so glad to meet them at last.

Perle Fine:  Untitled, collage of ink, charcoal and pencil on paper laid on board, 1961. courtesy  

Janice Biala: Japanese Maple II, oil on canvas, 1960.  Tibor de Nagy Gallery
Back tomorrow.