Me and my Scots DNA in this long swelter.
I’ve taken to soaking my shirts in water, then putting them in the fridge. When I trade my hot shirt for the cold one I get an initial shock, five minutes of goosebumps and a good hour of clear thinking. Two hours later when the sweat drips into my eyes again, I ease myself, inch by inch into cold bath water. Not as effective as jumping into Georgian Bay, but it’ll do.
I live in the top two floors of an old century house where heat rises and stores itself in the double-brick walls; at present, I live in an oven. No complaints, it’s just what heatwave is in this place. My house is a sauna; I sweat out toxins as my brain melts into soup between frozen shirts and cold baths. There’s no such thing as moving fast in this heat.
Slow can be good. I notice more, can shift focus when I choose. The subtle parts of my mind, where wonder lives, light up. This prolonged heat wave reminds me of the moments in our first lockdown when I allowed myself to feel relief in the stillness, the quiet. To drop the armour of anxiety and just be who and where I am. Neutral, aware.
It’s appropriate, then, that I’m pulling together the installation and materials, the content of a December show, called After Lockdown. From here I can see the 2020/ 21 fragmentation and collapse of my former trajectories, the permanent erasure of people and relationships I’d assumed were basalt-solid.
Parts of me most definitely died; I can now understand why those deaths were necessary. Other parts of me were broken, dropped, left behind; from here I can see which of these still have value, are worth reclaiming. I follow the dropped bits of me like a trail of crumbs in a forest. Lockdown in isolation – so many of us wandered that labyrinth alone, without another human to witness.
Is it possible that art can witness our internal experiences? this is one of the things I’m wondering about, here in my slick sweaty skin. Lockdowns were a necessary unfolding of me, for me. As I talk with others about their experiences I hear an echo of this. Not comfortable, sometimes dark, often fragile. Sometimes magical in what was, oh-so-gently, revealed.
Another artist I love dearly and honestly asked me Why, just last week. All the effort, the time. What FOR.
Wow, there are just so many reasons to do this work, if you’re called to it. Some day soon I’ll write an illustrated essay that embraces this beloved, difficult Why and gives it voice. Here, in the context of sweat and slow unfoldings, I’ll offer this.
Why all of this making? It’s not food, clothing, or a tool that can be used for anything practical. I wonder if the why of art is to acknowledge and express our internal vulnerability, our powerful, fragile ‘humanness’. I wonder if art might be an expression of our collective resonance, or dissonance – a public and private mirror. If a made thing resonates it is a reflection of you; you recognize yourself.
This morning’s heat is not so heavy after the thunder a day ago. The drawing puzzle calls me to the studio where there’s a blessed a/c unit and a big fan. Feels like a good day from here.