Is it possible to always move forward as I go from one place to the next in this creative work? I doubt it. I plot out markers for myself to move along, and getting to each point is sometimes a series of going backwards, side to side, then (hopefully) forward. I look at what others are doing, and where I’m at can seem so small. Or maybe it seems grand. But then I realize it doesn’t matter, because I just have to get to the next spot in the road.
Plotting out ways to move my practice forward can seem insincere at times. I place expectations on where I want to show my work, how I want to engage with the arts conversation, or how I want to fund my work– it seems like I’m starting from the outside, in, and it can seem backwards or superficial. It seems I’m telling myself that I’m going before I’m sure where I want to go. But sometimes there’s no other way, I have to find a way out of where I’m at. Telling myself I’m going, and making it almost urgent, is a way to acknowledge I have to get on the move. So, I show up in the studio, and I start to work. And I work more. The work inside the studio is the source of what I am looking for. And I realize what it is that I want to say. Then I realize where I want to go. I start on the outside, I go in. I start to work. That’s when I move forward.
After the events in the winter, I was back to evaluating why I am doing what I am doing. In the face of great loss, of death, I wanted to know why I am living my life this way. I know enough that who I am necessarily involves making. I have to make, and I have to make with meaning. So I found a way to get myself into the studio. This work didn’t start with knowledge of what I wanted to say through my work. It started with the task of making myself say something, anything, then I had to figure out what I wanted to say & how to get it right. So in March I compelled myself to do two things: I wanted to make works on paper and I wanted to send small pieces out to people who I wanted to thank for acts of generosity. These people did specific Grand (in my opinion) Gestures of giving for me, some of which began outside of an established connection (which made them all the more surprising). Some of these actions happened over a year and a half ago, and some (they insisted) were small gestures, ones in no need of thanks. But I felt that these collective gestures on their part had become part of the sense of community that had specifically advanced my studio practice forward. In a way, making these pieces became something that got me working again, when the studio had gone so quiet. I created this task for myself. I needed to become a part of the cycle of reciprocity, not to repay a debt, but to create work as part of a continuing positive ripple effect, so that I was not starting from scratch but I was continuing an action that had already begun. As ideas, actions, and things disperse, they maintain their connection with the whole. I wanted to work in the studio with this in mind, and I made the second set in my When the pieces series, then mailed them out. I began the project with two outward ideas, then went to work and found what I was looking for.
I have more markers set up for the next few months, years, and so on. And I have to create tasks for each step in between, tasks that send me to work in my studio. I get ideas for these outside markers from the paths I’ve seen others take (residencies, organizations, non-profit spaces, awards) & I also think about what hasn’t been done. While I don’t look to replicate, I do look to learn. I look at places to show, and I think about how to fund ideas. I look at the way other Bay Area artists have made use of resources, and I see where they’ve gone & what they’ve done. I see how others push themselves to investigate and I take note to do the same in ways applicable to my work. Mostly, I see these markers as buoys in the water, giving me a sense of how to get from one place to another, usually when I can’t see any land. Or maybe this is sort of like running (which I don’t do much of); when I have gone running in the past, I need to look at the next goal in front of me (I will make it to that signpost!); the end of the run just seems so far away. So even the short term tasks I make for myself, in a way they are separate from the harder work I consider studio time, but I’m establishing a framework to get me to the next spot. Right now I have a very small project in mind. It’s forcing me into acts of discovery, and it’s making me commit to the long term work I have in mind. It’s just a little thing. But it’s how I know what’s next in this work that has no end.
* Work besides mine pictured in first photo at Gallery Ehva, Provincetown, June 2012, the “Good Vibrations” show. Curated by Laura Moriarty. My work is center. To the right, work by Lynda Cole; to the left, 2 paintings by Kim Flora; far left, I believe that’s Bonnie Leibowitz’s painting. Each artist was in attendance at the Sixth International Encaustic Conference.