Thursday, October 2, 2014

Arriving Home from Vacation: Where the Sublime meets the Quotidian

I'm just back from two weeks on Cape Cod, trailing clouds of its glory, trying to keep  the shimmering light alive in my mind, but immersed in reconciling myself to the quotidian practicalities of life in West Hartford Connecticut.

As I face both backward and forward at the same time, my mind on the Cape but my body in my kitchen, I'm thinking of contemporary art quilter Nancy Crow, who, in a recent manifesto, stated that she goes to bed early, gets up early, spends 10 to 12 hour days at her art, bans phones from the studio, and spends 30 minutes a day on the computer.

Her words are especially poignant to me right now, as my need to create art has disappeared behind piles of laundry and mail.  I envy her focus and find it inspiring but intimidating.

Meanwhile, I'm trying to sneak some time for art on the side.  For example, though last Sunday's New York Times still sits on the kitchen table, I'm compiling all my photos that are filled with Cape sky and putting them into one file, which I'll call Cape Light.  I'll install that file on my digital frame and play it all winter.  Examples:

How can I continue to sit in this room at this computer and live with the knowledge that scenes like this are available a mere four hours away by car?

By hoping that these images, played on my digital frame, will take me there.

I'm also compiling another photo file of sand ripples.  These, I hope, will get me through the winter by providing artistic inspiration.

I've had good luck working with these sand ripple images in the past.  They speak to me.  So strongly that I would like to throw this computer out the window and do nothing  but create sand ripple images all the livelong day until the day I die.

Can't do that, though.

Instead, on arriving back home from two weeks in the sand and the maritime light, I had to readjust to quotidian exigencies, not only unpacking and putting away, but also reestablishing the normal order of grocery shopping, cooking, and yes, even working for money, in my role as a free-lance legal journalist, a gig that I greatly enjoy 

But aside from practical responsibilities, I still want to carve out time for art, even if I can't focus like Nancy Crow.  I want to start with new Cape images.  But it seems to me that before I can turn to new work based on my inexorable affinity for sand ripples and fog, I should finish work on projects I already have going, for goodness' sake.  Don't you think?  Like this one.  Is it worth finishing?  If so, should I not finish it before doing new Cape inspired work? 

Or what about this little sand ripple image, which I created with Inktense pencils while I was on the Cape last week:

It's not done yet--not to my standards, anyway.  Should I finish it?

Should I even be working on this blog, when I could be creating?

I know what Nancy Crow would say.  Crow, a respected contemporary quilter, had an exhibit at the Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, Vermont last summer.

I visited the exhibit with my husband Joe on a trip to see our daughter Lucia, who lives in nearby Burlington.  As part of that show, Crow posted the following description of her stringent work habits and the genesis of the exhibit, called Riffs on Repetition:. 

In case you can't read the photo, and just to rub it in, I'm going to reiterate Crow's manifesto here:

"I am walking the walk.  Totally focused.  Paying attention.  To bed early.  Up early.  10-12 hour days.  Dedicated computer time reduced to 30 minutes per day.  No phones in the studio.  All necessary preparations predicated on efficiency.  Wet studio organized.  Using the fewest tools to facilitate mark-making and drawing.  Stack of fabric prepared.  Corralling black thoughts.  Going forward.   Making mistakes.  Not looking back.  Learning.  Loosening up.  Feeling the thrill.  Day after day.  Keeping the routine.  Short ones.  Long ones.  Over and over.  Riffing on repetition.  Seeking beauty.  Believing.  Self-portraits of who I am. "

Now, I'm telling myself, is not the time to berate myself for the gap between my work habits and Crow's.  After all, everybody, even Nancy Crow, has extra work to do on arriving home from a vacation.  And I must admit I do like the part about making mistakes, learning from them, and loosening up.

Meanwhile, I'll take the rest of her words with a big grain of sea salt.

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