Saturday, May 10, 2008

Flight Path

The phrase, "don't get out much", must certainly apply to me. I spend most of my days working steadily in the quiet of my sewing or dye studios, connected more to my inner world than in touch with the pulse of the larger, bustling world outside my doors. I miss more art exhibitions than I attend, although I try to attend some. Yesterday was an exception. I mailed 120 postcards out of 500 to friends and family and then drove on to distribute the rest to galleries and arts-oriented locations around the city of Rochester. What followed over the course of the day was a myriad of visual stimulation that had me both laughing and wondering at this mysterious activity we call "art making" in human culture.

Since accepting the invitation last summer to exhibit a body of my work in a university gallery, I have felt like a migrating bird that travels instinctively along a flight path, propelled by an inner compass. I have come to see the opportunity as a challenge to focus my energy on a very specific target within a non-negotiable time frame -- that of producing a cohesive, unified body of work and hanging it up, for better or for worse, by May 20th, 2008. The milestone for me has been to produce work around a central theme -- and in the powerful currents of energy that engaging in this process has created, I have come to appreciate that what fuels me as an artist, gives me purpose and direction, is the stimulation and challenge of translating ideas into images, using materials to express ideas without depending on words.
Given that current immersion in my own ideas and work, emerging from my own little pond yesterday for a bit and circling and touching down quickly over the space of a few hours into a variety of other ponds made for some interesting insights and observations.

Zebra Car, Betsy Phillips.

On one of my first stops, Image City, I talked a while with Betsy Phillips, one of the owners of this lively co-op gallery. She's a great person and talented photographer who actively shows and sells her work -- at the gallery and at outdoor art shows. Her work looks at ordinary objects with fresh eyes.
Bareroot, 2007, Alison Saar.

At the Rochester Contemporary Art Center, I encountered a somewhat more introspective exhibition by California sculptor and print maker Alison Saar, whose work explores identity, fertility and aging and brought to my mind the imagery in Frida Kahlo's paintings.

The Harvest, 74" x 63", Lynne Feldman.

At the city's Arts & Cultural Center, I viewed Lynne Feldman's current solo exhibition of textile tapestries (her term for these works), composed with commercial fabrics that she collages onto canvas and over-paints with acrylics. Her subject matter ranges from Judaic celebrations to portraits and landscapes and are filled with an air of festivity, connectedness and community.

Struck by the diversity of styles, processes, materials and subject matter, I read resumes and collected postcards and absorbed the atmosphere of each venue, some quite somber and minimal in tone and others bursting to the seams with numerous works by a variety of artists. It's the end of the school year so several galleries featured exhibitions of student works from elementary and high school art classes, colorful and diverse and wonderfully spontaneous.

Of course the day gave me a lot of fodder for thinking about why we create and how we choose our particular large or small "ponds" as artists. Maybe there are as many different reasons as there are artists. Perhaps I approach art-making with more focus on process than outcomes because I am freer at this stage in my life to do things just because I want to do them and not because I need them to produce certain results. My "career" has been a brief one in comparison to artists who have spent 35-45 years producing bodies of work and yet my work would not be taking the directions it is if I had not been a writer before I discovered visual art. So while I may or may not have three or four decades still ahead to continue to develop and refine my processes and master my medium, I do have today...and what I make of this one day may be as significant as a half-century career. You may already have discovered this timelessness idea, but I'm just starting to get it. It's fascinating to think the real culmination of a lifetime might be in a single, seemingly small and insignificant encounter or action -- a random moment that may be the most fulfilling, important, defining one of an entire lifetime.

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