the reach of your compassion is the reach of your art


Today is my birthday:  sixty six wondrous orbits of the sun.  Many people comment that Life seems to turn up the screws around one’s birthday time, and it’s certainly been the case here.

About a month ago wonderingmind studio began being dismantled.  Materials, paints, equipment disappeared into cartons.  Some found their way to the art department of a local school for autistic kids.  Some went to a charity that organizes art and creativity events for city youngsters.

Works-in-progress and completed pieces came down off the walls.  Shelving was flat-packed, books sorted and passed on.

It was like packing up a life – which is exactly what it was.

And what a timely opportunity to take stock!  I was over at Zen Dot Studio recently and found that its author is also in the midst of moving house.  I loved the way she had penned her thoughts and observations about the moving process and all that it reveals, and wished I’d had more energy to blog my own.  But it was all too exhausting at the time.

It’s one thing to move from one home/studio to a new one and quite another to pack up a life without knowing when – or where – it will emerge from the boxes again.  My boxed life has gone into a storage unit.  My unencumbered life is moving on.

It demands to be let loose again; the circumstances that constrained it for the past decade (caring for precious parents) have changed.  There have been long months in that intense and deep place called Griefland, which I have come to understand is really a place of R & R.  And of adjustment – to absence.  It heals.  Allowing the energies to bubble to the surface of the lifestream, embracing them and loving them, has worked wonders.  The stream enters deeper waters, vast, silent, unknown. I know this ‘place’ – I call it the via creativa.  Another chapter begins …

Joseph Campbell wrote that the reach of your compassion is the reach of your art.  I feel that the gift of this past decade – the gift my ancient, beloved Mum and Dad gave me – was the swelling and bursting open of a heart that had become pretty dried up by life’s apparent disappointments.  From a shriveled up pea it has slowly unfurled into a quivering flower.  Its perfume is Compassion.

How will it express itself?  Will there be more art-making?  Perhaps.  Meanwhile, it is reaching out to simply share.  And so, I scribble on this little blog.

I find my tribe

stash for a bricoleur

Years ago I took a deep breath and belly-flopped into the deep end of an immersion course in French – in France. One of our assignments involved presenting a lecture to the class about our professional work. I took out my PowerPoint slide-show and staggered along in my very basic French as images of my artwork appeared on the screen. My classmates were very supportive, and so was the tutor. At the end he said, “Vous êtes une vrai créatrice!”

Hey, that’s cool, I thought. I feel more like a “créatrice” than an artist; I’ve never really found my niche in any of the sub-groups that make up the contemporary art world. I don’t really have things to say – I simply have things to make.

It’s amazing that, given the complexity and scope of the English language, we have no word for people who see themselves as run of the mill makers or créatrices. The former term is reserved for Sunday hobbyists, and the latter doesn’t exist. And we certainly have no word for the artisan whose work is not planned or premeditated and who has little or no mental construct regarding the finished product or how it will be achieved.

But the French do. It’s bricoleur.

Bricoleur definition

Bricolage … is a French word that originally meant something like the English tinkering and, referring to the way the home handyman, for example, makes do with whatever tools and bits of material he happens to have to hand, improvising where necessary. This homely term was raised to the status of a theoretical concept by the late Claude Levi-Strauss, founder of structural anthropology, in his book La Pensée Sauvage (1962; translated as The Savage Mind, 1966).

The bricoleur, in Levi-Strauss’s account, becomes the paradigm for the way of thinking of tribal people, as opposed to what he calls the “engineer”, who epitomizes the rational and scientific mind. The engineer plans his operations in advance, secures the appropriate equipment and materials, then carries out the project. The bricoleur feels his way towards solutions, without conceptualizing the project from the outside, and essentially by rearranging the already available materials.

Ultimately, this is part of a cultural fabric that changes and adapts, but without progressing in a linear or historical fashion.

– Christopher Allen, art critic
Object Lesson in The Weekend Australian Nov 14-15 2009

Les Bricoleurs are my tribe. I love the notion of being part of a creative culture that “changes and adapts” leaving no historical trace and possessing no need to “progress”.

Like life itself, the work of the bricoleur flows endlessly out of the immensity of the moment – and includes the materials and equipment at hand, the techniques and skills amassed, all stirred up with the content of one’s consciousness at that moment in time.

The bricoleur remains clueless as to what might end up on the canvas, the paper, the loom. She makes. And later – sometimes years later – meaningmind catches up with wonderingmind and a title appears on the work.

And she thinks, Crikey! So that’s what that was all about!

Image source – Public Domain

creating from wonder 1


This is the first of three brief extracts from book eight – creating from wonder – in my series of free e-books: empty canvas : wondering mind

wonder is a wonderful word to wonder about:
wonderful – wondrous – a wonder – with wonder – to wonder – wondering –
to do wonders – wonderland – wonderment – wonder-worker – wonderstruck…

We can talk about wonder and wondering in so many ways – it’s one of those English words that baffle foreign language students.  We call something ‘a wonder’ when it is an astonishing thing or accomplishment like the Seven Wonders of the World, or when it is miraculous like the birth of a babe.  It is also the “emotion excited by the perception of something novel and unexpected, or inexplicable.”  And sometimes this emotion of astonishment can be “mingled with perplexity or bewildered curiosity.” (Shorter Oxford Dictionary)  And again, it’s the state of mind in which these emotions are held.  When we observe something marvelous, wonder-full, we are filled with wonder, which is like being infused with awe.

But then we sometimes say “I wonder…” and there is a shift in meaning.  To simply say, “I wonder…” usually implies doubt.  Yet to preface a phrase with “I wonder if…” is to imply curiosity.  In French, one says “Je me demand…” – I ask myself.  Then it implies that I’m going to explore, to inquire in and of myself about something.  The way I’ve used the word wondering in this book embraces all these meanings.  For to wonder in the sense of exploring, with doubt and curiosity, is to never be far from the wonder of marvel.  Perhaps the greatest wonder of all is that we have the ability to wonder, to reflect.  And to have that capacity as a natural by-product of being alive is simply amazing.

Marvel and wonder go hand-in-hand, and their offspring is true learning. [Continued…]

– miriam louisa simons

creating from wonder 2
creating from wonder 3