I paint with my back to the world

 
Yesterday I moved home and studio. Body and mind need R&R. What could be better than a cup of tea and some wry wise reminders from painter Agnes Martin about what matters? I love what she shares about staying in bed until she knows exactly what she wants to paint. Ahhh.

 

Agnes Martin - Gratitude 2011

Agnes Martin – Gratitude – 2011

 

I don’t have any ideas of my own
and I don’t believe anybody else’s,
so that leaves me a clear mind …
– Agnes Martin

 

 


the creative imperative

 
As a postscript to last week’s post – in the hands of alchemy – I’d like to share this video.

It’s called the creative imperative. Poet David Whyte and artist Jerry Wennstrom cover some wonderful territory, including

the discipline of innocence

keeping wonder alive in your heart

reverent attention to possibility

and

claiming your own happiness

 

 

You must learn one thing.
You must learn one thing.
The world was made
to be free in.

Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which
you belong.

Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which
you belong.

Sometimes it takes darkness
and the sweet confinement
of your aloneness
to learn that anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.

David Whyte


[Transcribed directly from the video – apologies for any errors in line arrangement.]


in the hands of alchemy

 
Sometimes finding the truth of one’s work – and one’s life – costs everything. How much of our belief structure, our convictions and habitual behavior are we prepared to relinquish in order to allow space for the utterly authentic to express through our voices and hands?

In 1979, at age 29, Jerry Wennstrom destroyed all the art he had created, gave everything he owned away, and set out to discover the rock-bottom truth of his life. He sensed an inner and outer world in perfect order and became a willing participant in that order – he leaped into the void, the ultimate creative act. He began a life of unconditional trust, allowing life to provide all that was needed. He lived this way for 15 years.

Wennstrom’s wish was to open to the energy of life itself. In releasing the structure of daily habits and routines, he learned to trust and appreciate the significance of each moment. This entailed relying on intuition, listening keenly to the deeper nature of feelings, and wisely observing the ways in which our inner world reflects the outer, and vice versa.

In 1998 he moved to Washington State, where he eventually married Marilyn Strong and produced a large new body of art.  Marilyn and Jerry’s charming Whidbey Island home is now filled with his unique interactive sculptures and paintings.  Jerry also built a 40-foot meditation tower on his property, which is featured, along with his story, in a book by Laura Chester called Holy Personal.

 

Jerry Wennstrom - The Confessional

Confessional
Interactive sculpture – 8ft in height

 

During a trip to Italy I was moved by a few ancient, worm-eaten Confessionals I saw in several of the older cathedrals in Assisi. The oldest ones were small and simple and appeared not to be in use any longer. They were often placed off to the sides of the smaller chapels or in out of the way places. These old confessionals were so well-used over the years that the places where knees touched wood were worn in shape of two half moons. There were places on the hand rest where finger nails dug deep into the wood. The inspiration for this art piece was the power and energy of guilt, angst and forgiveness that these confessionals embodied.

I call the piece Confessional and it is made out of an 8′ X 26″ hollow, cedar log that I drug up from the ravine below our house. The outer, female figure is a double door that opens down the middle and around the face to reveal the life-size, fully carved saint inside. Turning the Danger High Voltage switch that is situated under the lower mask turns the saint into a devil — his halo disappears, little red horns appear out of the figure’s head, a forked tongue comes out of his mouth, a tail wags from behind and his hands offer an apple.

– Jerry Wennstrom

 

Jerry Wennstrom - Confessional interior showing saint
Confessional interior showing ‘saint’.
See more details of this work on the blog (see link below)

 

Jerry’s story is told in his book, The Inspired Heart: An Artist’s Journey of Transformation (foreword by Thomas Moore) published by Sentient Publications and in the Parabola Magazine documentary film called In the Hands of Alchemy: The Art and Life of Jerry WennstromThere is also a Sentient Publications DVD with the same name, which includes a short new film called Studio Dialogue.  Studio Dialogue is a presentation Jerry did before a live audience with music by Susan McKeown, sung by Marilyn Strong.  Jerry travels internationally lecturing, teaching and presenting his film and work and he writes a monthly piece on the spirit of the times for a New York City consulting firm.

Most of the above information is sourced from  Jerry’s website. The images and his comments about Confessional are sourced from his blog.
 
Jerry Wennstrom's blog - In the Hands of Alchemy

Click on the screenshot to visit Jerry and Marilyn’s blog.

Jerry Wennstrom is also featured on my website ‘the awakened eye’: the way of trust and transformation


all finite things reveal infinitude

 

All finite things reveal infinitude:

the mountain with its singular bright shade

like the blue shine on the freshly frozen snow,

the after-light upon ice-burdened pines;

odor of basswood upon a mountain slope,

a scene beloved of bees; silence of water…

– Theodore Roethke

 

Imagine my surprise to discover that artist, writer and poet Claire Beynon now lives in my hometown – Dunedin, Aotearoa New Zealand – the very city I could not, as a teenager, wait to escape – lured by the attractions of life and culture in North America and Europe. She moved there from Cape Town – living and working nowadays in a gracious old villa overlooking the Otago harbour. What a wonderful addition she is to the cultural fabric of this nowly buzzing city.

Claire’s blog . . . all finite things reveal infinitude . . . is one of my cherished oases of nourishment. I go there for sublime poetry – her own as well as others’, for insightful new thoughts on old topics and artists’ work, for sneak previews of her own works-in-progress, and for an ever-reliable, refreshing, immersion in wonderment.

 

Painting by Claire Beynon
The Stilled Thread of Flight
Oil & steel strings on canvas

Making art is a way for me to connect the physical and spiritual worlds. It is also a means of establishing connections between people and place.

The foundation of it all is not having to know where I am going. I have to trust that there is something out there and in here that will connect. This trust leads my hand to make visible what is invisible. I start out with nothing. The process itself leads me and at some point along the way, I almost always look back and say “ah”.

… when I work, the work takes me to the necessary place of stillness and calm that is essential to my overall wellbeing. Whilst there, trust is like a fountain that energizes me and fills me up. I find I often create visual compositions that counter the outer chaos. Curiously, the more chaos and busyness there is in my outer world, the quieter and more balanced things seem to become in my internal worlds and the steadier and clearer my work becomes. TS Eliot wrote: “At the still point of the turning world is the dance…”  I reflect on these words often.

Excerpts from a conversation with Lawson Bracewell

www.clairebeynon.co.nz
 

Claire Beynon's blog: . . . all finite things reveal infinitude . . .

 


john macormac art

 
Irish artist John Macormac came into my view via interaction with this blog. I was delighted to meet another artisan who shares some of my idiosyncrasies – there’s a magpie here too, gathering bits of information and stuff, never disposing of anything, and always amazed that she has the ‘perfect’ bit of (whatever) for the unfolding of a making. The way he works in layers – scraping and over-painting, cutting up and creating anew – is right up my alley. Hmmmm. Might have to drop in to Belfast some time soon!
 


 
My work deals with an overload of information. I am like a magpie drawn to intricate detail, collecting and manipulating pieces of visual culture. I combine collage, oil paint, acrylics, emulsion, ink, spray paint, conte crayon, chalk, felt tips, pencil and anything else I can find. Found photographs and fragments of text can be included because of a personal sense of meaning, or purely as passages of visual ‘noise.’
 
John Macormac - Shoreline

John Macormac – Shoreline

I wanted this work to echo the feel of a beach in winter.
I employed a muted, faded colour palette.
Scrim was glued to the surface and resembles fishing nets.
The piece is an irregular shape, this also recalls pieces of flotsam and jetsam
worn with time and tides.

My work does not start with a finished image in mind. Rather it carries a sense of practical progression; each new area suggests the context and space for the next aspect of the piece. I often work on several at a time. The work is in a constant state of evolution and reinvention. Layers are added and scraped back. Each finished piece displays evidence of this process of revision, editing and adding new elements until it feels right to stop. Sometimes pieces become overworked. I often recycle them by cutting them up and using parts that ‘work’ to create new images.

– John Macormac
 
John Macormac Art

Click on the screenshot to see more of John’s work.


Edited to include Shoreline – a piece that particularly speaks to me.


textures shapes and color

 

Being an artist is like breathing.
It’s this incredible urge to create, that you can’t question.
Like breathing you just have to do it, or else you will die.
– Marina Abramović

How could you not love a blog with a quote like this displayed in prime screen-space? But even without it, I’d still love Leslie Avon Miller’s collages and creations – and the way she writes about her creative process. Her need for “solitude, contemplation and stillness” resonates here, as well as her profound appreciation of Life as rich and miraculous.

 
Artwork by Leslie Avon Miller

 

On her profile page we read:

Leslie Avon Miller experiences her work as a means to observe and honor the world around her. This requires solitude, contemplation and stillness as the work evolves.  Once the finished pieces are shared with others they become a conversation between the artist and the viewer. Each collage is as an entry into a journal, keeping in mind, as Heraclitus said; we can’t step into the same river twice. The compulsion for creating collage comes from experiencing life as beautifully wild, poignant, and fleeting. The process of creating collage clears space and light for experiencing the moments.

And in a recent post she writes:

Pausing to deeply enjoy the stars and moon before bed and hearing the bird song in the early morning brings me enjoyment and satisfaction at the beginning and end of the day.  It is enough. Life is rich.  Life is a miracle.

 

Texture Shapes Color: Leslie Avon Miller

Click on the screenshot to visit Leslie’s superb blog.


blessed are the painters of the sublime light

Deborah Barlow: O R B I L I N I A

JMW Turner: TURNER FROM THE TATE


 

Deborah Barlow - Peridawna

Deborah Barlow, Peridawna, detail

Orbilinia is a series of abstract paintings that explores the nature of otherworldliness. Rarefied, meditative and serene, they hang together to round out a suggestive sense of celestial sanctuary and sacred retreat. Complex and meticulously layered, their atmospheric materiality shows no trace of brushes or traditional painting tools. Their surfaces grow by slow accretion similar to the way nature marks the land, with each layer exposing as well as veiling its elements.
– Orbilinia website

Deborah Barlow: O R B I L I N I A – A PAINTING INSTALLATION

March 11 through March 16, 2013. An opening and artist reception will be held on Tuesday, March 12, from 5-8PM.
The public is invited to attend.

Woodbury Museum
575 E. University Parkway N250
Orem UT 84097
801.863.4200

ORBILINIA website
Deborah Barlow
Slow Muse


 

JMW Turner - Sun Setting over a Lake

J M W Turner, Sun Setting over a Lake (c 18400)

Turner was supreme …  in his response to real places. In the notebooks and in the many watercolours of sites in Britain, Switzerland or Italy, he is able to see and to reveal to us something that all too often remains invisible before our very eyes: the wholeness and life of nature manifested in the light that dissolves all particular things into unity.
– Christoper Allen in The Weekend Australian

TURNER FROM THE TATE: The Making of a Master

To May 19
Art Gallery of South Australia
North Terrace  Adelaide SA 5000
(08) 8207 7000


we go on making, we go on dancing

 
There’s been a long hiatus from studio work and blogging – so long that it amazes me that any readers call by this little corner of the cyberworld at all.  But the stats tell me they do, and I thank you – all of you.  I hope you found something worthwhile among these postings; a little inspiration or encouragement, or something to ponder, perhaps.

While I’m still without a workspace, energy is returning for the beloved creative work/play – for color and texture and shape and form.  I’m inspired anew by discovering the ways in which the inexpressible displays its wonders in the micro-universe.  Whether I’m attuned or not, whether I’m aware and amazed or not, the miracle of Life keeps on making, keeps on creating, inexhaustible and immeasurably.  And artists never lie down exhausted for long.  Their passion – if it’s honored and fostered, given time and space – will always be a source of their healing.  They don’t create because it’s fun or recreational (although it often will be); they create because they must, because if they stay away too long from ‘the dance’ they fall ill.

I gaze in utter wonderment at the dance of creation displayed in this photomicrograph of soap bubbles. And I feel the sap rising.  How will it express?  How will it release and focus energy within the field of capacity and skills that make up the playground called ‘me’?

 

Wonderingmind Studio: micro-photograph of soap suds

 

Yes, we live in a quantum world where there is only, in TS Eliot’s phrase, ‘the dance’, and the dance is always changing, both in the sub-atomic world of particles, and in the visible world of objects.  We construct our world so that we can apprehend it, we make our ideas visible so that we and others can enjoy them and debate them, and usually destroy them at some time or other, but we go on making, we go on turning energy into objects.  The object itself is provisional, the energy, though changing, is permanent, and is a feature of the whole universe.  What art does is to release and focus energy in a particular way, and I would argue that what we call art objects are places where energy is especially intense.  It doesn’t matter whether it is a picture or a book or a piece of music, or a performance, it is a concentration of energy.  This is why the arts occupy relatively timeless space, and why one of the tests of art is that it should go on working on us long after any contemporary interest in its subject matter is extinct.  We don’t go to Shakespeare to find out about life in Elizabethan England, we go to Shakespeare to find out about ourselves now.  The energy in the plays goes on being released.

Jeanette Winterson


For more micro miracles visit the National Geographic website.


memento mori :: steve jobs

Steve Jobs

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.

Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked.

There is no reason not to follow your heart.

– Steve Jobs

From an address at Stanford University on June 12, 2005

G R A T I T U D E   S T E V E


Memento mori is a Latin phrase translated as “Remember your mortality”, “Remember you must die”, or “Remember you will die”;  taken literally it means, [In the future] remember to die, since “memento” is a future imperative of the 2nd person, and “mori” is a deponent infinitive.  It names a genre of artistic creations that vary widely from one another, but which all share the same purpose: to remind people of their own mortality.  The phrase has a tradition in art that dates back to antiquity.
Source – wikipedia


memento mori
creativity and autonomy
I find my tribe
it is for that smile and for those tears that I work
when I met my muse