Sunday, March 21, 2010

What is dying to be reborn?

A Short Testament
by Anne Porter

Whatever harm I may have done
In all my life in all your wide creation
If I cannot repair it
I beg you to repair it,

And then there are all the wounded
The poor the deaf the lonely and the old
Whom I have roughly dismissed
As if I were not one of them.
Where I have wronged them by it
And cannot make amends
I ask you
To comfort them to overflowing,

And where there are lives I may have withered around me,
Or lives of strangers far or near
That I've destroyed in blind complicity,
And if I cannot find them
Or have no way to serve them,

Remember them. I beg you to remember them

When winter is over
And all your unimaginable promises
Burst into song on death's bare branches.

This is the poem that appears on the front cover of our bulletin this Lent, and week after week it never fails to move me. Today what I love most are those last two lines, and so I went looking for an image to put with the poem so I could share it with you.

The first candidate was far prettier than this image: beautiful shiny bare maroon branches, with green plants and purple flowers behind them (Lupin, I believe -- which I adore). But this one stirred me in the same way the poem moves me, with a sharp arrow to the heart, and so I used it instead.

Because I've been thinking quite a bit, this last day or so, about the impact of images. My blogger buddy Maureen sent me a link to a photo contest which "seeks photographs or photographic-based work to project for one hour during the exhibition, after which the work must never again be shown to the public, reproduced, or sold."

The more I think about it, the more fascinating this concept has become. I began by going through my work to see what might be worth looking at for an hour (not much — not many of us have the patience to stare at ANYthing for an hour). But then, for the few images that might conceivably meet that criteria, I have to decide if I'm be willing to let go of them and never see or show them again. The idea of not selling them is not a problem, as I don't sell all that much. But would I be willing (since most photos that fall into this category have either already been sold or have accompanied one of my blogs) to pull it off the website?

There are a lot of factors operating here. There's the loyalty factor: I don't want to deprive the audience I know and love of something just so it can be shared with some other unknown audience. And there's the vulnerability factor: is there really ANYTHING I have shot which merits that kind of attention? Some part of me wants to share an incredibly peaceful image; one which will lull the viewer into a softened, receptive state. But there's another part of me -- the part that is still hanging on to a few pairs of beloved jeans that no longer fit -- that thinks, "but wait, this might come in handy someday!"

But the process -- and I still haven't decided what I'll do -- has been a wonderful opportunity to assess the impact of my images and assess what kinds of impact I most want to achieve, not just for the contest, but here, on the blogs, and in the other exhibits in which I participate. And those are really good questions for ANY artist to ask from time to time in her career.

I'm still reading William Bridges' book on Transitions, and yesterday it said there were two questions to ask yourself during a transition: what are you giving up -- or what is ending -- and what is waiting in the wings for you to take on. I'm finding the questions -- particularly the first one -- very challenging, and started to blog about this yesterday, but wasn't quite sure where to go with it (which is why you got Rumi instead). But the questions don't go away, of course. What AM I ready to die to? Or, as it's been worded off and on for the last several weeks, the perfect question to ask on this, the first day of Spring: "What is dying to be reborn?"

I still don't have the answer. But I still think it's a question that deserves to be asked -- and pondered. And this way of searching through images provides as good -- and safe -- a hook as any. What am I willing to give up? What has come to the end of its anointed hour, and may now be set aside? And what is there within me that is dying for that kind of intense attention; whose turn has come?

Guess I get to keep pondering...

1 comment:

Maureen said...

That poem is one of the most beautiful I've ever read, and I read a lot of poetry. Thank you for sharing it.

The photography project is fascinating. The head of the Katzen is teaching Curatorial Practice this semester and the person doing the project is one of his students. Adam Good, he said on his blog, "needs the participations of many, many photographer". I'm glad I live close enough (just a few miles away) that I'll be able to go see the results, which are to be shown in May. In many respects, the questions asked are, as you say, questions any artist might ask of his or her work. And that letting go seems always to be so difficult, even when we know in our hearts, some things we create will never see the light of day.

I enjoyed this post so much. And your image.