I have been thinking a lot about attention. Attention comes up a lot in my life. What we attend to and how it literally creates our life. At 48 years old, I feel like I am learning to hone my attention.
Through distraction, or a nicer way of saying it, curiosity, I have learned a lot of things, a Jill of all trades so to speak. I am someone who says yes to most things and then find myself on some path that I didn't intend to be on. Luckily, I have enough sense of myself to come back to center. The pros are that I have had tremendous experiences and insight into myself and this world. The con is loosing my way and wondering where I would be had I attended to a vision. I couldn't help it, there are so many interesting things to investigate!
Again, a silver lining of this pandemic is the ability to slow down and see and feel what is happening, allowing for more thoughtful choice, more decision making capabilities. My attraction to nature is its slowness and cycles. This is what is needed to continue in a thoughtful way. Our attention is so strained with the internet calling for us constantly. We loose our awareness of what is happening and who we are.
I am working toward a more consistent practice of art and awareness. Not only consistency in making but in thought, process, routine, and language as a way to formulate and reflect.
Time is so much about perception. We have all experienced this together since March. I have become fluid and in no rush. There are no outside forces telling me what to be and how fast to go. The mind is at rest. I always think that this leaves room for the next 'thing' the next Shabang! And now I am thinking this is such an American conundrum. Maybe being fine with not much is what is happening.
The end of the summer can often feel heavy, like a quiet anxiety creeping in. That fluid time of summer will end, the outside forces will return. My mind will again race.
I always thought that there are so many ways to go through life. People always think there is this route we are supposed to take. Like school.. who says we have to learn the things 'they' say we do? Things can look different and it is so evident watching the country struggle through all the things it has over the past few months, a pandemic, school closing, Black Lives Matter, Police Brutality a botched election and now reopening schools. There are so many solutions, and none are being taken. Instead there is this incredible drive to force things into the way they were before. School must continue... work must continue.... didn't we learn anything from all this downtime? Didn't we learn that there was no room in our minds before because we were racing through our lives but not actually absorbing anything? Didn't we learn from our countries upheaval that there needs to be systemic change? And yet we continue to drive ourselves back into the way we were.
I have taken to trampoline jumping. Really it has only been a few days. But the lightness it brings me is remarkable. I look forward to it each day. In one way it is daunting, it isn't easy, I try to do a variety of things but amazingly I am learning quickly. For the rest of the day I feel upright, stable and energetic. I am using this practice to move forward. The lightness of my physical body can transform my mind. Onward!
Everything changes on a dime. I have gotten so used to the incredible looseness this lifestyle has brought. It has almost been directionless. I of course impose my own work on myself, but there are no outside forces. It reminds me of my son, he went to public school and felt completely suffocated by the structure, routines, and repetition of the work. Now he is at a free school which is guided by the students, democratically run in many ways and he loves it, but his internal discipline has eroded too. He is fine doing not much. He is slow to transition, he takes his time and could care less about a lot of things. I am wondering when all this will sprout into who he is. All this space, time and lack of pressure must lead to the next thing. Although maybe 'the next thing' is an American conundrum... maybe this is it. Being fine with not doing much.
I walked through the area where my sculpture park is to someday be. In March I could see it, taste it. Today it felt like the season past, maybe this season was the season to really imagine it rather than finish it. In order to do it, there are a million steps before it can happen, Each step is a day's work and days float by, and days are used for other things, other works. This is the process of making art, and as we age these timeline of the processes slows down. Even if it isn't actually any slower, in your mind it all seems like slow motion. Time is relative and truly a perception.
Fear is also relative and a perception. I decided I am trying to live the way that I make automatic drawings. I start with an image, (object) line or shape and just work off of it. Like a train of thought. Keep on keeping on...
I wrote this near the 4th of July, as I looked around my neighbors homes in the Catskills flying the flag. Even on a trip to Buffalo NY, I saw flags everywhere. It has always made me feel uncomfortable. To me the flag is a sign of exclusion. As well as the history of genocide, slavery and racism I imagine so many people here now who feel the exclusion of being ‘American.’
People who work and pay taxes with no sign of ever becoming a citizen
People who cannot speak the dominant language of English
People who came here as children and have no place to return to in their birth country but are never granted access to the benefits of citizenship.
Looking back on this writing after a flood of ideas I drew last night, I am happy to begin working on a quilted 'flag' filled with many colors and patterns in an interconnected design to hang high among the trees in the front area of the house.
I am also working on so many new ideas for the sculpture garden here. It has taken me this long to get started. I learned how to use a chain saw today and trimmed down an edge off of a tree stump. I only wish I could work as fast as my thoughts.
Pine Mountain - a large mountain of pine needles
I have been thinking a lot about materials and craft. It is amazing how we can be a product of our circumstances. I now have the time and mental space to think about such things. For some time I felt as though I were getting the job done and now I am thinking, what would it be like if I made it like this....or like that... the meaning can change, the feel can change. It is pushing the work around and making it be in its best form
I crave stillness and quiet. There is something unsettling about not having so many distractions. I have always seen life in motion, moving to what you want to be; talking, and going places. Seeking out the world constantly. Looking for new experiences to thrill myself.
Now I seek stillness. I want to bath in it, sit in it and absorb the subtlest change and movement. The sound of an unseen creature moving, the wind, a pinecone dropping, Water lapping. I want to see the slow change of the seasons and notice each aspect of the cycle of things growing, changing.
I have submitted to my place on earth. Standing in a forest of giant trees, walking on a mountain and seeing how the scale of everything changes as I walk about. I am always trying to understand this aspect; my perception of the space I am in and when I am in it. A tree is in one place for hundreds of years and sees the landscape change. I am not physically connected to the earth but depend on it.
The work I make is slow in this way, coloring something in, drawing in repetition. The imagery is of my perception of this land as space and time.
In a workshop this weekend the presenter asked us what drawing is. Everyone responded with things like, it is really learning to look and observe.. it is representing something... creating images etc. And she said what it really is, is a record of yourself at the moment of drawing.
Looking at the drawing I did during that workshop was a record I could not stand to look at! As mesmerized as I was during the process of drawing them, I look at them as being lost, disconnected and a filler for when the real work comes. It is the part of making art that is the hardest. The in between of when things come together and start to flow. These phases always seem so long. I keep drawing, knitting making things until I see the connections, the meanings and the work starts to develop. Even though it is painful I have to trust the process and keep it moving.
Working with Mike Estabrook and Vandana Jain has been a great experience! Here is the before and after picture of our space. We made mobile walls so we can keep the space flexible and we are planning what events, and work we will do here! So exciting to start fresh!
In preparing for Lithuania, I made a slide show of my work to present to the community. The work spans about 13 years and it was a great moment to realize that the whole 13 years has a conceptual thread. I began when I was making Black McLean in search of an identity based on stories of my heritage. I always looked to other cultures and other people in search of a sense of place. Then I began to Make work incorporating house imagery and imagery of waterways. Looking back, alot of the work during this time was almost like a search for home. A search for belonging. I did the floating picnic with Pauline Marcel in NYC. We were exploring ideas around connections through waterways. I also made House Truck which was driven to Miami and open to the public during the art fairs. It was shown in Grendal an exhibit put on by Jack the Pelican Presents and I also showed Tunnel an animation installation in an old walk in freezer in which we cut out the walls to view the animation. It is an animation of me digging a tunnel to a house off in the distance. There is a real sense of searching during this time.
At this point I began to make work drawing from experiences of my own history rather than drawing from stories I heard or imagined heritages. I began to draw the floor map of every house I ever lived in from memory and created an installation of the street I grew up on and how the events on the street contributed to who I am and how and it impacted my understanding of the world.
From there my work became more present. I started making work that related to our relationship to landscape as seen in projects such as black mountain and sky dome. The most recent piece still incorporating a house is Hammock House which is held up by a quilt made from family clothes. It is my most recent version of home.