Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Embracing the Risk of Loss

I’ve learned over time that creativity requires space and time to emerge. That runs pretty counter to my tendency to fill my life full of activity. Last year I went against the grain. I consciously cut back on nonstop reading and on regular blog writing. What I really wanted to do was focus on my artwork and some broader writing objectives and those are things that fall to the bottom if my life is too full. 

We do what comes most easily to us. For me that is my analytic side which is fed by the genealogy research I do for others.  I’ve also learned that it can crowd out those quiet creative pursuits if I don’t make sufficient space. I certainly don’t want to abandon those analytic pursuits, but I am always working to balance the analytic and the creative. Both are strong threads within me and I try to honor them with my attention and energy.

Many creative people speak of establishing a practice, a time and place where one writes or paints. It is something I’ve done in fits and starts, but not, I must admit, with the real discipline required. “Next year,” I think. “I’ll do better with that practice.”   

This year I did some painting, but not with the focus I sought until later in the year. I worked with a project where I partnered with an Israeli artist and began to experiment with collage as a means to incorporate her work into my own. I liked the results and decided to do some small collages (12”x12”) as experiments. I sold one of them recently and even as I hated to part with it, I was delighted at the connection the buyer felt to the piece that also spoke to me. 

Now I am working on a project within the Artists Lab that is focused on the environment, global warming and climate change. I am finding some themes I was exploring about people – Absence and Presence, might also bear a connection to climate as our world changes around us. I am often taking a step back to see the still larger and all-embracing theme. It is in part about loss, a theme built into life itself. But it is not just human life, the bigger theme of loss embraces everything in our world. Some loss is natural, part of a natural life cycle. Some is hastened by our actions and has broader consequences for the world in which we live. 

I began with the familiar, with paintings overlaying past paintings and have created several that please me. Then I decided to continue with my experimental collages, but with themes related to nature and its elements that are under threat. 

As I work with collage, I think of my mother. She became a collage artist late in life as she lost memory. She had been an avid reader and could no longer retain the thread of a story. Loss created a space that she sought to fill with new purpose and meaning. I consider whether loss well-used is really a gift. We just need to recognize it as such.

One day as I sat with her at the kitchen table watching her collage, I asked her how she got into this and why she did what she did. “Everybody does something,” she said. “This is what I do! And you could do this too, Susan,” she added.

I chuckled at the time, but now I find myself wondering if she knew something I didn’t as I experiment with collages, forming semi-abstract imagery that speaks to something within me. It begins with photos, whatever captures my eye. I walk each week with friends and am often taking photos of trees, clouds and reflections. I have a file of photos titled Trees, another Clouds, and often draw on them as I begin a collage. I must confess that when I embark on a collage, it makes me a bit nervous, definitely a sign that it is forcing me out of my comfort zone. Once I glue it down it is harder to remove or cover than paint. I remind myself that worst case it is only a small loss of canvas and an unsuccessful effort could result in a new and interesting base as I sand and scrape it away. Creation and loss are two sides of the same coin. Sometimes you have to let something go, to re-create. There is a subconscious process involved with working with form, image and color. I am finding that it can result in great satisfaction when it succeeds.

So as the year concludes, I look forward to building on what I've begun, exploring a process that makes me nervous because I can't control it, unless I learn to embrace and build on the risk of loss. 

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