This week, something amazing happened. In between the sixty hours of activity for the center, regular study courses, early morning meditation, driving class, and all the rest, somehow, dinner with friends, girls brunch, and an excellent birthday party that included twilight pool time and my first ever game of pétanque–surprise spoiler: I was actually kind of good at it–managed to find their way into my schedule. My toenails are painted for the first time in two years, and despite having only managed to fit in a teeny bit of time to draw, I somehow feel recklessly confident enough in my potential to continue creating work that I’ve started gifting drawings and paintings to friends. After the personal benefit of creation, the second value of art for me is its ability to be shared and to bring benefit to others. Up until now, I’ve had a hard time letting go of work. Something along the lines of a sense of “poverty of creation,” if you will: fearing that what I make will not be good and when I do create things that I feel have some merit, cherishing and being miserly them. In this mindset, free time is often a nagging question of what is the most important project to work on in whatever precious minutes remain to me. At times I feel as though, despite all of the abundance around me, I lose myself in a mental state of poverty…the worry of not enough: not enough time, not enough skill, not enough discipline, not enough courage. And in fact, what lacks is perhaps none of the above, but rather simply…not enough space to see that no matter what we do, conditions in this life are limited, so we might as well just relax. I don’t mean become indolent or put aside goals and projects. From what I am discovering, relaxation seems to be an inner state that allows for outer changes. When I accept that I’ll never be able to master everything, it’s easier to let myself engage in explorations that I don’t fully understand the value of, like nail-painting and pétanque, or actual painting and devoting more time to relationships. And when I manage to find the space for these things, often unexpected values show up. New ways to be joyful, to care for others, to let go of my expectations and just…see what happens. Every part of life is an opportunity to practice, to just observe what arises and remain with whatever it is, though of course…some leave you with sparkly toenails and others don’t. 😉
It is painted. And on the wall. With friends!
Since I came back to town, I’d pretty consistently think, “Dang, the art scene here is pretty dynamic and burgeoning. It would be so cool if I could be involved in that in some way while I’m in town.” Bang. One Facebook chat away–the chance to reconnect with old friends, make new friends, and make art.
I find it truly awe-inspiring each time a person or opportunity finds me from out of the ether to invite me to make art. Perhaps we artists have a tendency to feel disowned by society; I certainly do. Too much talk of “artists on the fringe” when I was young or some such thing. For this reason, I am continually stunned to discover, as my work and career progress, that, actually, the world wants creators. There is space for us and a place for us and appreciation for what we do. Magical mysteries, these. I am grateful.
This is a grainy, rain-dappled photo of the Institute. This is the focus of all of my thoughts and energy lately. There are fewer and fewer words left to me. They are falling off the edges to make space for actions, of which I need to commit ever more.
This is the first of ten paintings for the installation that opens in three weeks. This is the sense that madness is part of understanding, and maybe it will all work out if I can hold that grace in mind. This is my heart beating in my head, calling out urgency and singing low strength. Wish me luck.
Recipe after the jump…
I didn’t think I’d have time to bake a cake today. I woke up this morning intending to drive to Los Angeles and hand-deliver a CD of images for a juried show submission that apparently needed to be in their hands today, rather than postmarked, as I’d thought. I woke up this morning beating myself up for somehow misreading a form I had purposely read two weeks prior just to avoid this sort of last minute kerfuffle. I woke up this morning litanizing two paintings for their lack of promise and direction, and the fact that they would have just as little promise and direction this evening on account of my ineluctable journey and the lack of opportunity to work on them, and the fact that I need them to be stellar and presentable by Thursday for submission to a gallery in town I really respect, run by people I know who I don’t want to let down.
It felt like I either compromised the LA submission or ran the risk of compromising the one here.
I get no points for resolving this situation. My sister saved me. She lives in LA, and she agreed to take time out of her workday to make a CD of my images, fill out the entry form, forge my signature, and drive to West Hollywood in midday traffic. The only thing my sister hates more than being woken up and being hungry is driving, especially in traffic. So yeah…my sister is awesome AND I owe her bigtime.
Sometimes, when panic sets in, the thing to do is ask for help. And sometimes, if you’re lucky, like me (and your sister is a saint who loves you more than you know how to say thanks for), you get the help that you are seeking.
But sometimes, you don’t.
When I sat down in front of the easel today, I knew the time I had been given to work was a gift, and a lucky one. But I was angry at those paintings for not coming together, for possibly throwing a wrench in the immediate plans of my career and the persona I want to present of myself as an artist. Prepared, prolific, professional. I also understood that being frustrated with the work closes me off from allowing it to grow, from anything other than being frustrated, honestly. Chögyam Trungpa puts it best: “When you get really angry, your eyes are bloodshot and you can’t see properly; you begin to stutter and, you can’t speak properly. You become a mean vegetable.” With a painting, I can be much calmer than foaming at the mouth and still reach the “mean vegetable” stage.
The practice of painting is like any other practice; you have to be gentle with it for it to grow. It’s hardest to do this when panic sets in, but that’s also when it’s most needed. All I can say for today is that I’m really grateful to my sister for giving me the time and space to work with my panic – and make cake too, once the paintings had started to come alive – and that I hope I remember this on the occasion that I don’t get the help I want and I do have to make a compromise, when I have to summon the patience to leave off berating myself and berating work that can only unfold if I am nice to us both.
Recipe after the jump…
This show is the first opportunity I have ever been given to take a space and make it mine. And I did. Although I am most frequently a painter, and occasionally a maker of three dimensional things, I am finding more and more that my (he)art lies in creating a space, in holding an experience in place for the viewer to inhabit in the time that they are present and take with them once they have gone.
To paint the walls, hang the paintings, and put the installation in place is one thing. To have people walk in, stop dead, then utter some form of “Wow,” is wholly another. People walking down the opposite side of the street told me that what they glimpsed for a mere moment diverted them from their intended course to come and see the work.
Yes. This is what I want. For my work to be an offering. For it to give you something that matters to you.
It comes from me. My work is pictures of my own life: my uncertainty and doubt, aspiration and longing. After all, we each have but our own life to go on. But it is meant for anyone who wants it. The hope is that my stories, told abstractly, speak to others, that the sense of our own human life can be found in another’s.
To have other humans living other lives affirm that this indeed occurs – for just a moment, I want for nothing. Gratitude completely subsumes all other emotions. Just this remains: Thanks Universe. Thanks fellow humans. This is a right path, and one I intend to follow.
To see more images of the work, including individual titled photos of the paintings, check out my website.