Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Patience, Why?

Over the years I've made a number of quilts. I learned about quilts when I lived in Indiana, and I quickly discovered that the whole process was more enjoyable and relaxing when done without a sewing machine. So I starting making quilts by sewing all the pieces together with nothing but a needle, thread, and a thimble, and then I stitched the pieced top to the batting and the back—again entirely by hand. Obviously, it took a long time to complete a bed-size quilt, but, for whatever reason, getting it done quickly wasn't the point. For me, I loved the process. 

One day someone was looking at my work and said, "I would never have the patience to do something like this." The comment confused me; it didn't make sense. I never thought that I needed patience to make these pieces entirely by hand. And now, thanks to Theresa Sweeney, columnist for Stone Voices, I understand why the comment didn't make sense to me. 

In the spring 2014 issue of Stone Voices, Sweeney begins her column, "The Art of Patience," like this:
As an artist I work in all media, but drawing with pen and ink has always been my first love. When people look at my intricate and detailed images, they often say, "Wow, I would never have the patience to do something like that!" I tell them that it really has nothing to do with patience. Patience is what you need when you're standing in line at the register and the salesclerk calls for a price check for the woman in front of you . . . . Times like those are when you need to willfully summon restraint to cope with the gap between what is happening and what you wish were happening. 
So I understand now why the comment about patience didn't make sense to me; patience is not what's needed when making art. In fact, Sweeney says that if you need patience when engaged in an artistic endeavor, walk away. It's quite possible that you are tethered to your expectations, fixated on the outcome. 

Art is a voyage of discovery. Leonardo da Vinci advised us: Do not be tethered to your expectations. By wanting a certain outcome we jeopardize what wants to have life. We endanger the passion and joy and flow of the process—and that is art. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Hope: The Last to Die

Sometime last week I received in the mail a complimentary copy of Indie Spiritualist: A No Bullshit Exploration of Spirituality. I've been spending a bit of time every evening watching the Winter Olympics, but I still have to have a book in my hands, and this seemed like a good choice.

The work of Chris Grosso, the book starts like this:

"Hope, it's the last to die," said an elderly man sitting across from me some years ago on a bus in Rome at 2:00 AM. He'd just read the word hope tattooed across my knuckles, and I have to say that, in my own personal life experience, man, was he right. Life is full of terror and beauteous rapture, and I've experienced both on numerous occasions. From a life filled with despair, jail, emergency rooms, detoxes, and rehabs, to one of hope.

C. B. Cote, Beyond (8)
Hope . . . I remember telling a therapist many years ago that I had a lot of hope and a good amount of faith, but I struggled with love. I've always been very hopeful . . . an optimist, a dreamer, focused always on what is possible, fully convinced that good will always overcome evil and light will always pierce the darkness. During the very lowest point of my life, when I found myself gripped by the emotional and physical pain of depression, I still had hope; the darkness was thick and dense, but I could sense a tiny, dim light. Eventually the light grew stronger and I was restored to full life. From my experience, I have to agree—hope is the last to die, perhaps because without hope, we would die.

In this way, hope is like art. Without it, we have nothing. It occurs to me that art may actually be a physical manifestation of hope, and hope, I now realize, is what I manifest every time I work as an artist; hope, I now realize, is what I feel every time I connect with art. Art centers us, holds us in the moment, and in that moment, with everything else have fallen away, we experience hope.  

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

The Big Picture

I'm captivated by small things in the natural world—leaves, seedlings, flower buds, snowflakes, tiny baby birds pointing their wide open mouths toward the sky. I watch them, examine them, touch them, collect them, and photograph them. But I'm also mesmerized by the big picture, the part of the natural world that I can't get my arms around—the landscape. Landscapes may well be my favorite subjects for art.

So I decided to show landscapes (see our current exhibition), but with a little bit of a twist—landscapes by day and landscapes by night. The exhibition is wonderful—many amazing images of the world by day and by night. A few need special mention, and I'll talk about some of these special images over the coming weeks. (The exhibition closes April 30, 2014.)

The nighttime landscapes of photographer Bob Avakian are nothing short of stunning. They illuminate the unique color palette, the rich shadows, and the glowing warmth of the night. These landscapes do indeed show a part of the natural world that is big—too big to get your arms around, but not too big to sink into and absorb into your pores. Look at these images and be mesmerized.