There are harder things than sewing water but while I was under the sea level of June’s edition, I couldn’t think of any. The best way I know to share the struggle of June with you is post the letter sent to my subscribers. It goes like this:
You are receiving June’s edition of 10Y12M Art Subscription. It is a wall hanging of lightweight kite making paper sewn together with a polyester thread in an organic process on a Calanda 18 hand crank sewing machine adapted to a Phoenix foot pedal cabinet. I have chosen this subject and medium with the intent of sharing a part of my art that may not seem obvious but is the common thread in every venue in which I work.
With preparing June’s edition of the subscription, I found myself in a unique position, a sort of exposure epiphany to my own work. It seemed suddenly so apparent. The theme of the subscription of highlighting ten years of projects and inspirations, the extended returning to the project to analyze different aspects from a large span of time, and the current condition of the studio’s transient status seemed to be a perfect combination of circumstances to open my eyes to a new dimension of my work that I would like to share with you.
When the idea came to me for the art subscription, I was quite excited because after ten years I had consistently been working in a continuous stream with the idea of energy and communication linked. I had experimented with different venues and mediums and for the subscription I was looking forward to highlighting the diversity of my work.
The trouble was, I have been unsettled with the diversity. There is an idea that artists must market themselves to one subscribed medium, one element of iconic value to be successful. I won’t go into the definitions of success, it means something different to all of us, but on some level it does translate in the creative fields as being able to support a creative lifestyle through continued creating. I have struggled with this notion of creating singularity for many years because, well, let’s face it, the business formula works. However, my creativity seems to naturally expand into many mediums so it doesn’t work for me and has left me slightly uncomfortable about my curiosity to follow my varied interests.
Even within a same medium I see the diversity. One medium, changing and changing, how many times can one thing change and be changed. I even see it from the very beginning when I opened the studio to draw but my first piece was not a drawing. I will explain that a little later but for now, I was wondering at a time that I am rebuilding my resources and networks do I want to make it more complicated on myself by going in different directions again? Six months into the subscription I am noticing all the different avenues my creativity flowed. Wouldn’t it be easier not to acquire so many tools and supplies again, wouldn’t it be easier to keep it simple. Do I want to return to a tendency in my work that is a proven marketing formula for disaster? I asked this question to myself as I was holding a handful of mismatched tools and the answer came to me, Yes, I do.
Within myself, it is my sort of icon – change. I can take something seemingly as simple as a period and show it so many ways; I can do the same for a line. We have all heard the saying by Confucius, “The only thing that remains the same is change.” I have been asking myself, “What comes with change?” The same thing as what we recognize as no change, one step after another, one decision then the next. Movement. Continuation. Will I finally embrace my creative flow to change with commitment? This is what happened in the process to decide.
I found that life had changed and it never showed more than in looking at it through retrospective eyes. The studio had been dismantled and minimized to provisional. I no longer had access to an inventory of supplies, resources or tools. I was working on a makeshift space the size of a desk. Everything I needed to relate work from the past was out of my reach. For this subscription project I have been trying to get back to that comfortable working condition where I had everything I needed, all the tools, the space, and the supplies; resources to create art that was capable of highlighting my past ten years. It has not been a convenient attempt.
As a matter of fact, it has been a struggle. I think learning to use a hand crank machine without the handle but adapted to a foot pedal cabinet is poignant to this month’s struggle. A thought has been growing within my mind each month that I returned to the subscription to work that my current situation of attempting to celebrate the last ten years while being removed from everything of that time was to my disadvantage. Pushing against the difficulty made me think more, analyze deeper, push harder to understand. However, I found that it was an advantage, it brought me to the realization that I was in a universal position of viewing my last ten years not from being in the center but from the outside, and that is not to say the outside from the inside but the outside as a wholeness.
It might have been easy for me to say, I have drawn so here is a drawing, I’ve written poetry so here is a poem, etc. but that is not what I have been finding in crediting my work. I found that I have not just been creating work. I have been following a creative path. Sometimes in blind trust; many times sluffing off the boundaries imposed by society or even myself. These past months have required me to study and get reacquainted so that I might understand how my different venues have grown organically from and with each other. They compelled me to see how the smaller diverse units of the body of my work fit together to make up a whole that carried with it an invisible unity.
So the real trouble was not that life had changed, or even that I had not changed with it. It was that I didn’t understand the role of change in my work. I was attempting to create an art subscription as though I were still inside my previous studio with all the accumulation of the past ten years, unchanged. I was struggling to go back, to be able to go forward. The separation in my energies of recreating a past environment and simultaneously reestablishing a new studio was not a division but a completeness in my progression. I saw the wholeness because I was standing on the outside of something that no longer existed. I was unable to reenter and this strongly persuaded me to move through the cycle.
Accepting change was not the epiphany. It was the catalyst that helped bring me to the insight. All the struggle and frustration of lack and feeling slowed down led me to a quiet place. I stopped one afternoon, sat in my space, looked around me and then decided to take inventory of the tools I chose to bring with me to the new studio. I laid them out before me. They included three pencils, a leatherman and case, a pair of needle nose pliers with oil stains on the handle, an exacto blade; a handy tool that is described as a paint scraper but its really multipurpose; a laser equipped level and a neon green 25 foot tape measure with the name Strange written on it. I thought about the odd and incomplete set that doesn’t seem to make sense together as a group. They don’t fit a project category. They don’t even hint at my work, yet they speak for me. I chose them. As I held their arrangement in my hands I wondered what connects them, what qualifies them as the combination that I would rebuild my studio?
To anyone else, the pile of tools might appear to be a rubbish group, but to me it was a designed unit. As the artist, I could see each one clearly. I could see their purpose and their importance. I could see how they fit exactly in my working routine. And with this idea my vision was broadened to the diversity of my work. Why had I not seen it in terms of my work before? I could see each venue clearly. I could see their purpose and importance. I could see how they fit exactly in the whole of my creative journey. And like that, the epiphany of seeing my work in a broad spectrum from the outside, in the midst of change, gave me an understanding of my creative unity. I found that invisible thread that unified the diversity in my work.
So the epiphany was a well-rounded insight born out of struggle. By being pushed out of the center, struggling with lack, conflict with change, I came to a place where I could see a wide spectrum. I could see the unity was in the language of the process in which I create. It was in the whole.
This month I have shown you imperfections, limitations; elements that I have mistaken for disadvantages. In counter, I have also revealed a process for change. So for June’s edition I present a piece that has its roots in generating change from the beginning. It represents the vulnerability of searching. Often times searching leads to change and movement and this can cycle through an uncomfortable phase. It can sometimes expose elements about ourselves we might like to hide or deny but recognizing them is part of the rebuilding or growing process; part of the learning curve. The discomfort can be the element of motivation to keep us moving.
The very first piece I created in my studio is a work titled Searching the Sea. You can find it on my website under sculpture if you are interested in referencing it. It is now upgraded to a concept shown as a temporary installation. It is appropriate that it was my first professionally created work because I didn’t realize at the time that it went ahead of me to show me this artistic journey would be a continual breaking out of the bounds of expectations.
When I opened my first studio, a place where I could work – I viewed it as a space I could draw, to my surprise, the first creative endeavor was not a drawing. I took a detour and created a beautiful piece that hung as a window covering between my private space and the public world. At first and for a short while, in my mind I didn’t really consider it my art because one, it wasn’t a drawing and it was utilitarian.
I have since learned to continue broadening my concept of what I think is my art. I have learned to allow the diversity in my creative energy to take a form. I have followed creativity off my known paths many times and been rewarded with remarkable results. It seems during this subscription as I have been looking at the whole of ten years I have learned that lesson one more time. That is why I have chosen to reference Searching the Sea, a piece that is inspired by my fascination with the sea, an ever changing fluidity.