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Who designed this?

The Harness is off.  It’s over there on the floor.

Curious, to see this thing I’ve worn for 30+ years…  Who made it?  Why so tight?  Why the rough rope?  It’s ingenious, actually.  There’s a pull cord I see that will jab thumbtacks into my backside when I’m slowing down, and simultaneously tighten the collar around my neck…  added incentive to get through the last 10% of every project?

I recognize that this harness was designed by me, however unconsciously, from the inherited protestant ethic of Work as Suffering.  Life is work, therefore (inevitably) Life is Suffering.  Extrapolated:  If you don’t suffer, you’re not working hard enough.  This idea can take the joy right out of any task – even if it’s your highest calling.  It can in the extreme lead to the wearing of hair shirts, to self-flagellation, martyrdom/victimhood,  the false rationalization of the need to live like a starving artist …

up next.  Two paintings about how we choose to use our energy - to engage, or not.
up next. Two paintings about how we choose to use our energy – to engage, or not.

To be clear – I’ve had a super-productive, satisfying time since April, when I began work on the #Selfie project.  It’s been an experience full of engagement, surprise, transformation – rich with reward on every level.   I also met my harnessed self full-on several times, too, and recognized someone driven in a way that is not healthy.

With several new projects on the table now – each one full of promise, potential and fascination, I find myself wondering about this.  As I take the breath one takes before diving in, I wonder

Do I really need the thumbtacks?

Does it need to come to suffering and self-denial, this finishing?

Must it be a battle, every time?

 

resist underpainting
resist underpainting

At the very least I need to radically alter the design.  To find and use material that I like – softer, padded. No thumbtacks, no injectors full of anxiety, no neck collar.   Maybe it should be more like a well-crafted tool that will help me to pull a heavier load.

Or maybe the work isn’t heavy, and I don’t need a harness at all.

This is quite a thought.

dance step 2 resist underpainting.  The power is in the space between
dance step 2 resist underpainting. The power is in the space between

Maybe I just need to change my mind.

This is exciting.  So is 2014-2015.  So many neato, challenging collaborative and solo projects ahead.  So many Incredibles to work and play with.  Without suffering for any of it.

So, Honoured Protestant Ancestors.  What you lived and suffered in protest to is no longer life-threatening; the ethic no longer applies in any way that’s healthy and life-affirming.  Sleep in peace, with big smiles.  Grins, even.

 

“If you bring forth the genius within you it will free you. If you do not bring forth the genius within you, it will destroy you.”

– Jesus, gnostic Gospel of Thomas (which didn’t make it into the bible.  Too bad.)

 

 

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How do you know?

We were in my studio where almost every inch of wall, floor table and shelf is crammed with stuff in process and use, with tools, & paint & vine charcoal & buttons & books & thread & blank paper & other paper covered with notes or ideas or solo, duet, trio, quartet or orchestral music.  Even the chairs here carry drips from paintings long sold, are saddle-worn from 20 years of rehearsals; ready for more of both.  Almost everything emits light, or energy, if you prefer that – either because it’s becoming something, or it’s ready to be of use in the becoming of something.  It’s noisy with work, here – louder than the cars and sirens outside, distorting the seconds as the retro-industrial clock strives to maintain regularity, but often concedes it’s rule to some other God than Time.

IMG_9446She looked like a dry ocean sponge soaking up water when she asked me how I knew what I wanted.  I felt privileged  – as if by asking she put me in a club I’ve often wondered about,

<thought bubble even now: “I’ve no idea.  But maybe … They Get It.”>.

Thanks for the rehearsal, L.  More therapy.
Thanks for the rehearsal, L. More therapy.

Hope my answer was ok.  It was something about what your heart tells you.

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shovel

Imprint:  A rapid learning process by which [an artist] establishes a behavior pattern of recognition and attraction to another animal or an object (artistic license generously applied)

Drawing is like that, for me.  The translation of an object or a face or a scene from eye to paper or canvas leaves a permanent impression in my artist mind – an imprint.  The work I’m currently doing in my studio is like this.

I’m working on a series of painting/drawings about simple tools:  Shovel  Axe  Hammer  Pencil  clamp  wrench  etc –   things in common use as extensions of our physical needs –  to garden, clear, build, keep warm (firewood), communicate and figure out.

Simple tho it may seem, the shapes and planes in a shovel (this one is a spade) are as complex as those of a human face – especially since I’m drawing an old one that still shows it’s history – mortar, rust, paint.  As I draw I’m amazed at how specific each slope is to the function of the tool.  If I were an anthropologist examining this object  2000 years from now I could easily discern it’s use – the shape speaks.

But I know more than she, because this is MY spade I’m drawing, and I have physical memory of using it:

Digging digging, hitting rock, finding the rock’s edges, then straining the long ash handle to lever out great slabs of limestone, great chunks of granite.  There is no bottom to this pile of soil – I’m down through four feet of strata – weeds, topsoil, clay – all of it growing rocks for harvest.  Loosen roots, turn soil, break solid clods with the back of the spade – whack, whack, clunk.

Right foot bruised on the push edge of the spade,  fingers slippery with mud, knees and boots caked and heavy, face smeared – I am utterly content.

Shift to my studio. My face and clothing is smeared with charcoal and paint.  I am barefoot, staring staring at this painting I collaborate with.

Now at my draughting table, write, sketch, play cards- anything to catch the next right decision out of the corner of my eye – then leap up in the aha moment to make an adjustment, addition, or big sweeping change.  I am utterly engaged, utterly content.

Early stage of the shovel painting. It's come a long way since then - looking a little like a prehistoric cave painting now, tho that may change.

The next painting is an axe.

I’ll keep you posted.