Sunday, January 4, 2015

An Annual Ritual

cc courtesy of Win Naing- floating bnw  on  Flickr
Any resolutions this year? I've long given up on them. The fact is I do what I want to do anyway. Instead I build on the natural patterns in my life through my annual number counting ritual. We are what we count and what I count is telling, revealing the focus of my efforts and the gradual shifts of emphasis over time...books read, paintings completed, exhibitions of artwork, blogs written, speeches given. Expression in its many forms. And once I start tracking an activity it begins to grow.

Yes, I know this is a bit compulsive and yes I am. I've learned that I need to feel a sense of movement and this is my way to track my efforts. When I first left my job I think I was fearful that I would lose my drive and dissolve into a pile of mush. Hasn't happened yet. I've learned that driven people are driven no matter what the circumstances. The only difference is that now I find my own path on which to drive. Because I write about my path in this blog you will likely be hearing more of some of these themes this year. So here is both a preview and post view.

This year I hit a new high in books read, 60 of them. Now to confirm any thoughts you might have of my compulsiveness, I not only counted books but pages, about 24000 of them. A separate blog entry will address those books that left the deepest impression. Books often feed ideas that I address in these pages and in my artwork. They are an important element in offering me new inputs when I run out of internal inspiration.

I've been busy exhibiting my past artwork from the Jewish Identity and Legacy Project (JILP) in both solo and group shows. If you missed their development in these pages, you need only click on Interview Project at the top of the page. I just hung the work for one more solo show and am winding down this series that has occupied the last several years. It will feel official after I send off some paintings I sold when the show comes down. My new show is called Capturing the Stories and my talks about it will explore the oral history aspect behind the artwork. I've added in paintings from the Dvora Stories which also grew out of interviews.

I make prints of paintings I sell so I can continue to exhibit them which of course fails to free up any room in my studio. This year I solved that problem by adding space. My husband and I had shared a studio for many years in a building of artists' studios. Recently the space next door opened up and we leased it and inserted a door between. Side by side studios, an artist duo's dream. Now I must commit to making the space my own. I am still adjusting to it and mentally taking ownership.

My new series of artwork that I have begun to rough out is focused on loss of memory. I have a show scheduled for May so I need to dive in and tackle this subject, one I've often written of in these pages. It is a personal theme in many ways as much of it is based on my mother's loss of memory. Writing and painting is how I process the events in my life, trying to find both meaning and understanding. As I develop the artwork, I will share the work and underlying stories here.

This year I again serve as the Resident Writer for the Jewish Artists' Lab which involves writing yet another blog. The Lab has a theme of water, a subject that is frequently used metaphorically in the Bible. I am considering how to marry the theme of water with my other theme of memory, an association our language often makes. Things bubble up in memory or we experience a wave of memory. It offers some rich material for both artwork and writing which you will hear more on.

My genealogy consulting continues to grow as I did research for a number of clients in Australia, Israel and the US. Often their focus is on their Jewish Polish roots, an area I've become rather adept in. As I've largely concluded much of my own research, I enjoy applying what I've learned to others' puzzles. I've written about some of the puzzles in this blog and I often use them as examples in talks I do on genealogy. Family history has been the engine for much of my artwork and will always be an important thread in my explorations.

My public speaking continues to expand in scope along with my interests. I do genealogy talks, talks on oral histories with elders, talks on my artwork and talks on the Holocaust, the latter in conjunction with a dear friend who is a survivor. I am beginning to work in association with the Mn Historical Society and have a series of talks scheduled through them. If you had ever told me I'd be on the speaking circuit I would have stared at you in amazement. Oddly enough I enjoy it and find the feedback and interaction informs my other efforts.

Writing is something I pledged to explore more deeply in 2014. I write this blog as well as the one for the Lab. Between the two of them I am writing every week. Blog writing is practice in both thinking and writing, something one does with some consistency which is an important element in practicing. I am often surprised when I encounter someone who reads this blog and has knowledge of my life. As an inward person I sometimes forget that I am also rather public. Your comments and likes are always appreciated and help sustain the effort of writing.

This year I took several writing classes and workshops at our local writing center and found that essays are very much my medium. I hope to take those learnings and carry them into a writing/art project that will grow out of my last series of artwork and interviews, or perhaps my next series. I think a deeper marriage between art and writing is a direction I will test over the coming years. As this deepened focus is new to me, I seem to be circling it unsuccessfully thus far, trying to muster the discipline required to tackle a new direction. I remind myself that every endeavor started with that toe in the water. I think the trick is to do it without outcome in mind as that creates too much pressure. Once you are floating out there in the middle, it is easier to add in your arms and legs and voila, swimming!

I actually have the gift of time. At the end of 2014 I left a board I have been very engaged in over the past eight years and calculated that it frees up over two entire work weeks of the year. That is just shy of two hours a week. I am framing my challenge for this year as what would I do if I had two extra weeks? Or two extra hours per week? Paint, write, read? Perhaps float in the middle of painting and writing?

Those tasks I used to think I'd get to, organizing my home, working out more often...You know the list, we all have it. They used to be resolutions that never got done and may well continue as such. The reality is we do what interests us and fortunately I have no shortage of interests.

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