Last fall I had a solo exhibition, "Elemental Vessels," at Mitchell • Giddings Fine Arts in Brattleboro, Vermont. In conjunction with the show, I had an artist talk with fellow artist and exhibitor, Karen Kamenetzky.
This talk is now available on-line. We cover many topics. I hope you enjoy it! Check it out here!
On February 9, I had bilateral anterior hip replacements: two bright new shiny hips as I think about entering my 70’s.
I spent almost a week in the hospital, first in acute care, and then in re-hab, before coming home to begin the long healing process. My time in the hospital reminded me of how recovering from surgery is a mindfulness practice, in a way that is similar to a train trip.
Traveling on a train (which I do frequently, to visit my kids) is like suspending your life, your responsibilities for a day. Yes, I can still do computer work, but internet access is spotty, and so I don’t really try to be connected. I have text conversations with very few people, so it does not require my attention. My cell phone hardly rings, and when it does, I rarely answer it.
All of this puts me in a kind of ‘bubble’ when I am on the train. There are no expectations, no responsibilities. The day is mine. I can choose to read, to eat, to gaze out the window. I usually do all of those things. The choices are totally mine. It is enforced slow-living; I relish the time.
During the first night in the hospital, post-surgery, I found a semi-comfortable, drug-induced position, and never moved. I was wakened frequently, to take more drugs, to have my vital signs tested. The breathing and thinking I was doing during that time, and during the other times of restfulness, reminded me of my train trips. It was a freedom. There were no expectations; I didn’t need to pay attention to e-mails or politics. I was again in my own little ‘bubble.’
It was, and still is, a time of paying attention to multiple small details. How to walk, for example: keep your foot straight, lift it up, bring it forward, press down the heel, then the toe. Repeat with the other foot. Repeat. Repeat.
Is this drug-induced rambling? Perhaps. I hope that I am more able, in the future, to still be appreciative of every skill, to take nothing for granted.
“From the age of 6 I had a mania for drawing the shapes of things. When I was 50 I had published a universe of designs. But all I have done before the age of 70 is not worth bothering with. At 75 I'll have learned something of the pattern of nature, of animals, of plants, of trees, birds, fish and insects. When I am 80 you will see real progress. At 90 I shall have cut my way deeply into the mystery of life itself. At 100, I shall be a marvelous artist. At 110, everything I create; a dot, a line, will jump to life as never before. To all of you who are going to live as long as I do, I promise to keep my word. I am writing this in my old age. I used to call myself Hokusai, but today I sign my self 'The Old Man Mad About Drawing.”
An artist is an explorer. He has to begin by self discovery and by observation of his own procedure. After that he must not feel under any constraint.
"Go into the arts. I'm not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous award. You will have created something."
From the "Wonder" exhibit at the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian Museum:
"It is through wonder that men now begin and originally began to philosophize; wondering in the first place at obvious perplexities, and then by gradual progression raising questions about the great matters too, for example, about the changes of the moon and of the sun, about the stars and about the origin of the universe."
Airstotle, 4th century BCE
Untitled by Tara Donovan: "Employing mundane materials such as toothpicks, straws, Styrofoam cups, scotch tape, and index cards, Donovan gathers up the things we think we know, transforming the familiar into the unrecognizable through overwhelming accumulation. The resulting enigmatic landscapes force us to wonder just what it is we are looking at and how to respond. The mystery, and the potential for any material in her hands to capture it, prompts us to pay better attention to our surrounding, permitting the everyday to catch us up again."