Archives for posts with tag: Life as Art

I’m sipping my coffee and thinking about life as art. Authenticity, creativity, beauty… transcendence of pain, finding voice for those things in life for which we lack language or words… isn’t a life well-lived, itself, an artistic endeavor? Life, lived, as an art form, itself… means… what? Another day in the studio. Today, a lot of questions, consideration of the day behind me, work already started, unfinished – like life.

Who is the artist? A question for answering, individually, subjectively, personally. There is only one answer, for any one artist, really; gnothi seauton. The journey to the answer, is the life as art.

A woman told me, once, some long time ago in another life altogether, “I don’t have a creative bone in my body – I’m not an artist. I don’t do anything creative.” I took that at face value, at the time, and it fit my understanding of the world, then. I later saw her in her home. Her home struck me as a piece of fairly wonderful artistry, and the lack of paint staining her jeans, or dust under her nails, or bits and pieces of creative moments needing to be cleaned up didn’t detract from that impression at all. Her home was lovely, orderly, cared-for – each piece of memorabilia, each ornament, carefully selected, an impression exquisitely crafted – how is this not also art? Wherever she moved, she appeared to be quite carefully placed to communicate a mood, a moment, or an idea of beauty. The point I’m trying to make is that, as an artist, it isn’t really for me to define “what is art?” – only to define who I am, as an artist, myself. Those choices are not made of words – they are conveyed by my actions. By my art.

Words over coffee. It was a good day in the studio yesterday. Playing with paint – and chaos. I choose my materials with care.

A pair, 11″ x 14″ acrylic on canvas w/glow and UV. “Chaos Theory”

I did several pieces as pairs yesterday, specifically indulging my fascination with chaos theory. I started with two canvases, the same palette of colors for each, the same measured amounts of those pigments, placed similarly on each canvas, the canvases placed side by side, and worked as a single larger piece, to the same playlist. Mood, movement, brush strokes, technique – all as much the same as I can easily make them.  In every instance, of course, two different canvases still result. Not just different-as-in-separate-and-individual, but also just… different, as in – not the same. It was a fun day in the studio, playing with science, chemistry, and philosophy.

I spent the day in a meditation made of movement, color, and music, contemplating differences and similarities, considering the way I’ve carved up my life into “separate canvases”; the life of the artist, alongside the life of the analyst. The lover, alongside the angry woman. The professional, alongside the free spirit. The citizen, alongside the protester. I spent the day thinking about life as art, and contemplating this vast broad canvas of experiences as a single unified whole. I spent the day free of any constraints aside from those I have assigned myself. I answered a few questions – I asked a lot more.

I spent time in the garden, too. Another living metaphor.

I gardened later. I grilled a lovely summer evening repast. I meditated as evening came, and watched the dwindling twilight become night. It was the sort of day I could single out from among many and say “this is some of my best work”, as an artist.

Happily enough, it’s already time to begin again. The day stretches ahead of me, a blank canvas. You, too. What will you do with it?

A quality of The Art of Being struck me with force yesterday; there is no ‘blank canvas’ once we get started, not generally. We only get the one blank canvas, and ever after must add, correct, adjust, change, modify, paint over, or enjoy the work in progress, as is it is. I’m not complaining; it’s the biggest canvas ever, and when we get started it seems as if there is no likelihood of filling it with our vision – it’s that huge. When we start, we lack vision, we lack composition, we lack technique – but we also lack doubt, and we are not self-conscious about The Art of Being; we begin the thing fully engaged and present…and doodling, metaphorically. I mean…few of us are, as children, what we will become as adults.

"Broken" 14" x 18" acrylic and mixed media with glow.

“Broken” 14″ x 18″ acrylic and mixed media with glow. 2012

Yesterday, a bad bit of earlier work beneath some lovely very new work on the canvas of my experience produced a predictable enough moment of misunderstanding. I’ve spent enough time wading through the wreckage that it feels fairly normal…I forgot that it is ‘wreckage’, and shards of chaos and damage. Violence and ancient pain have left their mark on me, and although most days it’s just a smudge on the corner of my canvas, yesterday it was as if India ink had been spilled, blotting out a bit of the good work of later years, seeping through from underneath.  For just a moment, it felt as if perhaps the whole piece was ruined – it can so easily look that way if I forget that my metaphorical canvas never dries, and is never completed.

"You Always Have My Heart" 8" x 10" acrylic on canvas with glow.

“You Always Have My Heart” 8″ x 10″ acrylic on canvas with glow. 2014

The challenge, and the life lesson, are once again about attachment. Attachment to outcomes, to emotions, to people, to moments – however lovely, moments are still quite fleeting, ephemeral, and in a sense quite unrepeatably unique. Life is always ‘live’. People persist in being quite human. The shadows cast by past violence are but shadows, however ‘real’ they feel in some later moment. Then there’s this; because so much of my experience is ‘made up’ content built of my assumptions, my thoughts, and my memories, filtered through my values, prejudices, and perspective, I am very much at risk of becoming attached to something that doesn’t really exist, isn’t what I perceive it to be, or isn’t shared in the way I may want it to be. The Art of Being is art because the limitless power to create even who I am has no rule book, no instruction manual, no single scalable process with a reliable error-correction cycle, no universally shared measurable quality that all agree is ideal…I choose who I am, I choose my words, I live my life…but it isn’t ‘paint by numbers’, and some days it obviously lacks technique, or skill…some days the art doesn’t move me, some days it isn’t pretty.

Unfinished canvas...what will it become when the moment arrives?

Unfinished canvas…what will it become when the moment arrives?

Take a moment to consider how little technical mastery, great design, composition, fame, or expertise actually matter when we see something that delights us aesthetically. I have been as captivated by a child’s unskilled painting as by a masterpiece; the engineering and craftsmanship are not the defining qualities of ‘art’, although some art certainly shows amazing engineering and craftsmanship.  I am finding this true of life as art, too. What moves us isn’t always easy to understand. Certainly, what moves us isn’t always understood by others.

"Kuwait; Oil Fires" 26" x 48" oil on silk.

“Kuwait; Oil Fires” 26″ x 48″ oil on silk. 1992

The Art of Being as an approach to learning life’s lessons, living beautifully and mindfully, and being the woman I most want to be is a powerful act of self-compassion, and self-nurturing; as a metaphor it allows me to take a step back, and view life from another perspective, as an artist at work on something wonderful might be inclined to do, reconsidering something on the canvas, and taking time to touch it up, or understand it differently.

"Communion" 24" x 36" acrylic on canvas w/ceramic details 2010

“Communion” 24″ x 36″ acrylic on canvas w/ceramic details 2010

Today is a good day for a metaphor. Today is a good day for life as art, and to study The Art of Being. Today is a good day to feel pleasure in spite of heart ache, and to love the canvas in front of me enough to keep working on it – and to do my best work, mindfully, and with love.

"The Stillness Within" 8" x 10" acrylic on canvas with glow.

“The Stillness Within” 8″ x 10″ acrylic on canvas with glow. 2014