Monday, February 2, 2015

Emotional Memory

I've been hard at work painting and writing. A new year seems to have brought me new energy. Deadlines help also. I have a show scheduled for my loss of memory artwork so I need to make a dent or it will begin to weigh on me.

I last shared a post with the beginning of a painting based on a Toni Morrison quote that equates "flooding" with "remembering". She talks of how the Mississippi River was straightened and in flooding the riverbanks, water finds its way back to the path it once carved. She spoke of it in terms of writers and the flooding of imagination. I think of it in terms of the emotional memory that leads us back to our well-engrained identity even when functional memory no longer exists.

Emotional memory leads us to the places and people that give us comfort, that feed some sense of who we were and how we still see ourselves. For example my mother likes when I come in because we do things together. Now the things we do are rather limited by her physical capabilities, but she associates me with activity and exploration because that was our history as we traveled together. It remains her emotional memory even as the details of our trips are long gone. Likewise her teaching years were very satisfying to her and hold warm emotional memories, hence her current activities of "cutting and pasting" (collaging) harken back to those times.

This painting is metaphoric, representing the path of emotional memory finding its way home. It is both painting and collage.To move it forward, I found I had to do something that seemed strange. I had to flood it. In my "omnipotence" I had created a river and land masses, together with the suggestion of homes. Now I had to extend the waters to obliterate them. It felt like a creation process in reverse as I let my flood take over, slowly rising over the land and trees I had so carefully created. I'm still debating writing a sentence from the quote over the painting.  You can see I began to do that and then took parts of it out.

The creation-destruction cycle actually is not an uncommon process for an artist. We often get too attached to a painting that is almost right, but not quite. Afraid to destroy our creation, we can remain paralyzed. The only way we can save ourselves is to let go and start over. I find covering a painting with white paint is my favored flooding technique on which to build anew, but here I was actually trying to mimic a flood.

This painting may do double duty in both the memory series and as a piece for the Jewish Artists' Lab exhibition on the theme of water. As a metaphoric piece it can work in many ways and certainly mimics the creation and destruction process contained in Biblical passages.

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