Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Process Begins

So a concept for my next series has begun to take shape, from memory and identity to loss of memory and its impact on identity. I've listed out twelve ideas. Each with a story and underlying imagery. Some I've written about in this blog, the memory jar, blowing kisses. Each has some context relevant to how one can support a family member with Alzheimers. The memory jar offers an example of assisted remembering, how we can help someone recall treasured memories. Blowing kisses relates to my mother interacting with an image of my father on a digital picture screen that keeps images actively before her, reinforcing her memory of loved ones. I work in series so I want to be sure that I have enough to work with. Twelve is enough to begin. Some will fall away and new images will emerge.

I remember a book I read on memory, Moonwalking With Einstein, which spoke of the memory palace as a vehicle to help us retain memory. You take a childhood home or place you know intimately and place visual imagery in each room, often in absurd combinations that are memorable. You remember through imagery, through a spatial sense, through the unusual within the familiar. When I last visited my mom I took pictures of the little vignettes throughout her home, the things in which memory is vested. My mother's home is a memory palace that anchors her memories. I am thinking of a painting called the Memory Palace, small paintings that form a whole, the little elements with embedded memories. Larger paintings will complement the Memory Palace.

I begin to write a grant to fund this effort. Midway through I begin to think about exhibiting this work. How will I get it out in the community? Always a good thing to address in a grant. I email several people who run an Alzheimer's support group for caregivers. I went to it for a time. They are tied in to organizations that address this issue. I outline my idea. They have seen my earlier work and heard me speak, hopefully they liked what they saw. I am asking for their help on spec as I haven't yet begun this series. A few days later they respond with an invitation to showcase my work at a Caregiver Conference, to contribute to a video as part of their PR. Things are beginning to move. I'm tickled to have an invite without the work to show.

Now the challenge with grants is timing. I suppose the bigger challenge is getting them. I've had occasional successes, but all efforts help me to hone my concept. Once I send them in, I let go of expectations. What I think is a great idea might not speak to them. I don't let my sense of self or the value of my work rest in their hands. Artists that do probably don't remain artists. A tough skin is a requirement when you lead with yourself, especially in unfinished, tentative form.

So timing...They fund as of a specific date so I don't want to get too far ahead of myself. But that's OK, I need to figure out my approach and that will take some experimentation. I don't experiment enough for the sake of experimentation, too busy trying to get somewhere. It is hard to shut off my driven personality. It will be a luxury to have the time to play. Perhaps I will use a sketchbook or small panels to try different approaches and themes, a preparatory stage.

I stop in at the art store and buy inexpensive papers and surfaces on which to experiment. I look for semi-translucent qualities, things that suggest holes, lend themselves to layering. Memory is layered, elicited by a word, or deeply buried. How can I express that in a way that adds visual interest?

The topic of the Artists' Lab next year is water. That seems to fit with memory. Memories submerge, bubble up, flow. There is a fluidity to memory. Perhaps there is a way to connect these concepts.

So this is my process, how things come to be. My thinking side explores a framework, then hands it over to my creative side to flesh out. Then the thinking side comes back to build a structure and narrative around the artwork. This duality is both blessing and curse. My challenge is always in knowing how to shift between modalities, how to let each complement the other rather than block.





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