Take the long view, starting from any horizon where it gathers like rain. Then try a movement in time, leaving reason behind. Go from moment to moment to moment, but no bridges between them. Cellar doors will do, no stairs. This allows for the sudden drop from one to the next.
We move these tiny flames on sticks, and then wait. One sign is the flash of sunrise around the window. Another is a breath of letters flooding the veins, flowering tongues, chiming the ear.
These are useful reminders. Let go, syntax, let’s go. There are more ways to arrange a voice beyond the tired grooves of your worn paths. You can cut the ankles again on low thorns, catch webs in the mouth, know your face by the cheek kissing the cat tail, and forget the mirrors.
A glossary of charcoal footprints on paper: here a slash, there a fat wave of liquid line, here the smear of a hot and urgent press. Who made these? People asked, of the aging artist’s early work. I was alive and singularly free, she told them. Having neither fame nor proximity to greatness, she had no reason to attempt real art. Not yet. These were only experiments, rehearsals for a greatness to come later. They may be her best work.
In preparation for visiting a local Georgia O’Keefe exhibit, I came across this article suggesting the technical superiority of the artist’s early work in charcoal and watercolor on paper. The title of a spring exhibit featuring this early work (at MOMA) is To See Takes Time.
Here are studies in unknown shapes. The first bloom? In service of spontaneity, a perpetual reorientation. How useful in a landscape of discontinuity. How lumpy this world feels. I can only build by stumbling, my clumsy hands fitting one incongruity into another, and these into the rising wind.
In the center of a city, one draws a garden, vast and wild with unnamed fruits, a forbidden abundance. Who does she think she is? Vines twining around her calves, half an open orb cupped in each hand, juice running between fingers, in rivulets down forearms, to her weeping elbows. She lowers her face into the flesh. It clings to her chin, and she dares to look back with a wild grin, breathing.
Notes while reading this interview with Tara Geer, discussing her current installation, Unstill World. I am grateful to find her work, which aims “to translate unknowing into the work and not just more and more kinds of knowing.”
An ongoing installation project.
There was no title for the New You, a liminal masterpiece of clay and accumulated objects. It morphed in size: now handheld, now too big to fit through a doorway. Scale is an attitude, you explained. You had a similar view of materials. Now you are an unassuming carboard box, full of surprises, now the breathtaking choreography of of bright colors on canvas. You repurposed materials from earlier works. One day, you surprised us with a large floor installation we had to rotate around to take in. This One is For You, you called it.
Given a long enough silence in a large enough group, someone will eventually ask the question. When someone did, wondering What’s it mean? you laughed, but gently. I don’t think about the meaning in my work, you said. I only find it in working.
Inspired by Ethan Greenbaum’s delightful interview with his wife, the artist Sun You, which I found this morning in BOMB magazine.
Field notes from the ground.
Once I ached to mature into a kind of effervescent grace of quiet luminosity, but it is something else to recognize that I am still the child on the floor, stacking pieces from a pile of scattered blocks like some aftermath. My hands have traded their dimples for veins, having somehow passed straight through elegance without so much as a pause, in their haste to build some appeal, but to what?
Perhaps to a continuance of the possibility of making anything, especially when it has become so obvious to go without saying (but, clumsy as I am, I’ll note it here): so much ends with falling. Or perhaps to this insistence: because it always falls in the end, I will build.
It will not last. It is a double-edged marvel, the not lasting and the way it sometimes holds just long enough to find a witness. Once, I felt the brush of the toddler’s eyelash at my cheek. One day, before the next fall, it still seems possible to climb some crumbling arrangement of dream fragments––and leap.
The first chance of vision comes with the arrival of its flaming eruption. It was in us, then far, then near again. After that, many of the early lessons consisted of reminders not to touch.
Imagination is a fire, but so often misunderstood as a decorative tool for embellishing what is already known.
What is this understanding, except an answer to what came before? A firm No, it is this way now.
Immersion in radiance is so different from controlling light.
Still, this want.
To stay in a body and stay porous,
To maintain devout involvement
with the shattering senses.
To salvage in a moment
some rescue for the next,
riddled with punctures
and verging brittle
is needing renewal
To look long and listen to the stone before making any alteration, so that the sculpture that follows may be a collaboration. To follow paint over surface and sense its wants. Above all, to hear an eloquent silence before it moves to speak, and resist the impulse to offer the first word, even in greeting, for the customs of this world are something else, and care nothing for any pilgrim’s feeble attempts at making pleasant forays toward the familiar.
Unless some energy comes to haunt, there is no movement in these words. But where does it come from? Things remembered, things observed, the contents of a collector’s shelf, or some displacement. A long drive will find it sometimes, the quick flash of wild creature crossing the road. Other times, it’s a matter of grim execution. Always the question of how much to push in the effort to grow a nascent being without killing it with overwork. We all move between the given language and the first, this waiting muscle bared and tense, all attention.
These dazzling portraits.
When the artist came to visit, we were moved by the shining colors in attendance.
We had questions. One was, how would you describe the world you are building?
There are all these characters, see? Part divine and part human, all in a state of transformation. During each metamorphosis, a being glows these wild colors. It’s magical.
Are these self-portraits?
A lot of them are, partly. Also, part fiction, part archetype.
Can you talk about your materials?
They are loaded. They appear to be surface-level decorations. And yet, the objects themselves emerge from grief. So many people were dying. I was thinking of memorials, how decorative they are. And then I had all these sequins, and was like, I know what to do with those!
Because people are so much, you know? All these glittering layers, and then when they are gone, you have all this extra sometimes, this overflowing sense of all you see, all you wanted to say, all that they were beyond the simple obit.
It wasn’t long after I started down this path that I was like, I am going to need a lot more sequins.
Inspired by the work of Devan Shimoyama. The title of this post comes from one of Shimoyama’s paintings.