Changes

It's been a while since I've been here, or anywhere of note. I've asked a thousand questions, over and over again; the answers are both different and true, each time.

I am still working on a creative life, though it's more quiet and internal. A very small percentage of my work ends up in the world for public consumption, anyhow.

My focus has shifted, is shifting.

I am 29 weeks pregnant. (Some things I've missed: tuna melts, yoga inversions, oil painting. Some changes I've found delightful: my beau waiting in a long queue of a trendy patisserie to find treats for me, feeling my baby grow and move.)

I've always struggled with the balance of a conventional and creative life. I worry that this struggle will become more acute, and that my creative life will be buried. During one of my times of battered internal dialogues, of raging self-doubt, I found this essay from an artist.

Teresita Fernandez's speech at Virginia Commonwealth University

It may be a constant touchstone. I will read this and remind myself, This is exactly where you are supposed to be.

Perfection

The last six weeks have been transformative for many different reasons. Among them, I decided to give up my Mission studio. I have been cleaning, reorganizing, putting things away (a kiss of death for a working artist.) I have tried to take advantage of the remaining weeks to finish up some works in progress, but I have been paralyzed by sadness.

I spent this morning in my home studio, organizing the space in preparation for the move back. I'm mentally reorganizing, too: I will have to begin again, in a completely different way. How do I proceed?

Later in the day, I went to see an Arnold Newman exhibition at The Contemporary Jewish Museum and encountered the photograph below (minus the copyright labels). I am in awe of its flawless composition.
From Getty Images, portrait of Franz Kline by Arnold Newman (1960).

I love everything about this photograph. Its line, light, contrast, emotion. It took me away from my preoccupations with painting, reestablishing a studio, the heavy contemplation of what lies ahead. Or perhaps it drew me in because I subconsciously identified with sitting in a bright studio, surrrounded by work and looking obliquely towards some vanishing apex.

I recognize that the practice of art requires looking, experiencing, acknowledging. Being open to the slightest touch that may change the trajectory of your own inertia.

I might be ready to begin again.

You taste / the honey of absence

One of my favorite poets, Mark Strand, died today.

He wrote the lines that title this post; they are from his poem "In Celebration."

I pull his books off my shelf and begin to reread.


#OrangeOctober


Companion

Untitled 2 (2013) by Clare Plueckhahn, from the "First We Fall" exhibition
"There is the hidden presence of others in us, even those we have known briefly. We contain them for the rest of our lives, at every border that we cross." 

—Michael Ondaatje

Simpatico

Perfectly stated, from Henry Rollins:

"I don’t get lonely anymore ... I do, however, get a feeling of hollowness now and then. A Camus/Beckett/Céline sense of futility that makes me want to walk forlorn like Harry Dean Stanton in the opening scenes of Wenders’ Paris, Texas on some kind of emo-quest for meaning."






Read Henry Rollins's full post here: http://www.laweekly.com/westcoastsound/2014/08/07/henry-rollins-fake-city?showFullText=true.

Memory

I just returned from a two-week, whirlwind trip. Experiencing new things hones all my senses in spectacular ways. I feel like my entire being opens up for an interval as I breathe different air, look at new art, speak different words, taste new foods, stroll different streets.

Interestingly, these experiences also bring some memories, often forgotten and completely unexpected, back into my consciousness. It's like my mind, in trying to process the new information, forges back on dusty paths. The retraveling clears the overgrowth. The memory becomes sharp and forefront.

"I had forgotten that," I'll often say.

I remember an assignment for one of my painting classes. We were to paint a multipaneled work about a memory. I chose a tryptich, two panels in portrait format anchored by a long panel (shown below) running the length of the other two.
Bottom panel of Fall 1996 (2000). Oil on canvas, 30" x 15".
My memory was about a boy. I painted the texture of grass, abstracted greens and browns. I depicted a wall and the bottom two-thirds of the Breakfast at Tiffany's movie poster. Finally, I painted (above) what I remembered of the Black Forest, the mystery and peace I felt while driving alongside it in the dead of December. During the critique, my instructor commented, "I love this assignment because the things that comprise memories are so arbitrary, so irrational, and yet they come together logically in one's mind."

I have since separated the three panels of the tryptich. One panel hangs in our guest bedroom. Another got trashed during a move. The panel shown above is with a friend. I'm pretty sure he sees the painting differently from how I see it.

And that's the point of memory, right? It's personal and flawed, an imperfect truth.

Intermission

Anyone who knows me knows that I have a very complicated relationship with time. Hours can pass in a blink when I'm working, but seconds are critical when I'm sprinting after a bus to take me to work. I'm always running against some clock, internal or standardized.

Currently, I'm reading Jeanette Winterson's "Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal?" I've always enjoyed her work. I love her writing, her perspective, her insight on being a woman and being an artist.  

A chapter—or interlude—titled "Intermission" struck a chord.

She writes,

In my work I have pushed against the weight of clock time, of calendar time, of linear unravellings ... In our inner world, we can experience events that happened to us in time as happening simultaneously.

... I recognize that life has an inside as well as an outside and that events separated by years lie side by side imaginatively and emotionally.

Creative time bridges time because the energy of art is not time-bound. If it were we should have no interest in the art of the past, except as history or documentary. But our interest in art is our interest in ourselves both now and always. Here and forever. There is a sense of the human spirit as always existing. This makes our own death bearable. Life + art is a boisterous communion/communication with the dead. It is a boxing match with time.

I don't make art to have something that exists beyond myself. I make art to get to an essence of what being human means.

So

I've been in postpartum from delivering a commission. I've been regrouping, moving, reorganizing, reestablishing normal. Seeing friends and smiling. Practicing yoga.

Finally, now, working again. For the past year, a new series of oil paintings has been percolating. I've been thinking about what motivates the series, what I hope to communicate in the work. I've also been doing research, experimenting with materials.


I love this part of working. I love the learning and the discovery. I love making mistakes and forging ahead. The most difficult part is suspending judgment, allowing myself to stay in sustained play and exploration.

Spring

I have been up since 4AM. It's the first day of spring.

Perhaps my wakefulness is from jet lag, but from a mere 3-hour difference eastward. Perhaps it’s because I’m starting to feel “normal” again. Today marks the 79th day of 2014, and my year has gone like this: 71 consecutive days of work, 7 days of vacation.

I feel like today could mark a new beginning.