Saturday, May 12, 2012

It's all about the boundaries...

 Several years back I discovered the art of Angela Wales Rockett through ECVA, and ended up purchasing one of her pieces.  So over the years I've continued getting occasional email updates from her, showing me what she's working on now.

Three or four weeks ago she sent another email, containing this image (which I adored) and the sketch (see below) from which it emerged.

The two images stayed with me, in the way images and movies and books and music sometimes do, haunting our dreams and tickling our memories with hints of a larger understanding.  And though I no longer remember which came first -- this urge to paint abstractions, or Angela's images -- they somehow became intertwined.

So when I went for a drive with my artist friend, Gillian Bull, and she helped me realize it might help if I found a teacher, I thought of Angela, who lives a little more than an hour away.  She was receptive to the idea, though we each agreed a teaching relationship might not be what was called for, and yesterday she drove up for a visit.

We spent a marvelous day together, much of it outside in balmy weather, walking the beach and exploring the island, and the conversation ranged all over the map from food to books to relationships to art and faith -- a truly wonderful and inspiring time.  And (bless her heart) she brought her sketchbook and showed me the sketch from which that wonderful image emerged.  I was fascinated, and spent a good deal of time examining it closely, trying to see how she got from dark to light.

Thinking, this morning, about that sketch, I realized that the struggles I mentioned having two days ago, when I was trying to paint with so little success, are intimately entangled with the current guiding issue in my spiritual life: it's really all about exploring the boundaries.  The enchantment I found (and actually often find) in Angela's images is the way she has of making the boundaries between colors, and between light and dark, seem permeable.  And the consistent underlying theme of my meditations lately has been about the dissolution of boundaries between self and other -- between inside and outside, between me and the cat on my chest, between present, past, and future; between myself and the people around me, between republicans and democrats, between religions, and, ultimately, between the Divine within and the Divine without.

Which explains the struggles I had with the painting you see here, the one I had such issues with on Thursday.  I really liked the initial effects I got in the large blocks of light and dark.  But I couldn't seem to get the transition to work properly, couldn't get the colors I wanted, couldn't get the textures to resolve the way I wanted, and in trying to achieve that transition I ended up wrecking the big blocks of color, too, arriving at the sort of uniform boredom you see here.  So finally I just -- quit.

But now I see -- that's exactly where I NEED to spend my energy; that's exactly where my soul WANTS to spend its energy right now, and it's entirely appropriate and understandable that there will be failure, because dissolving those boundaries is the work of a lifetime.

AND -- that space between is exactly that liminal space I feel I've been in for simply ages, the space between what was and what is to come; the space I write about so often in my poetry and have been feeling so intensely of late.  There's no way that problem will be solved quickly or easily, because it's all about staying completely present to each prompting for color, for brush stroke, for form; about listening.  As Kandinsky says, "the artist must watch only the trend of the inner need for expression, and hearken to its words alone... The inner need is the basic alike of small and great problems in painting.  We are seeking today for the road which is to lead us away from the outer to the inner basis."

And now I see that boundary is also the heart of the little play I wrote (for a local play competition) a few weeks ago, and the heart of all our struggles with creativity.  And I could imagine an exercise that would go something like this -- perhaps using elements of collage?

It would start with three boards of some sort, and a lot of magazines.

On the first board, using paint, or markers, or crayons, or things you find in magazines, build a collage depicting what it feels like to be blocked and/or all the things that block you, and/or the dark night of the soul, and/or your inner critic.

On the second board, build a collage that somehow conveys what it would feel like to be at your most creative: might be favorite colors, words, shapes and forms, favorite images... You might even begin by imagining "your happy place," a place you where you feel totally at home, fulfilled, the most "you" you can be, and then somehow depict that.

And then -- and this is the hard part -- put the third board between the first two boards and build something -- some set of words, or images, or colors, or shapes -- that connects the two outer boards and builds the three into a single cohesive image.

Wouldn't that be fun?  Well, maybe not for you -- I don't know.  But I'm thinking I would find it a marvelous exercise -- but something that would take some concentrated time, maybe candles and music, and no family in the house.  So -- since it's the weekend -- I'll have to wait.  But it's something I'm looking forward to; can't wait to see how it comes out!

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