There truly is a method to my madness. Apparently a slow learner, I have been creating art for 40 years and it finally hit me--when I have the ability to explain my work there is an increased appreciation. I recently had donated a painting titled, "Fearless," sell for asking value at Living Art of Montana's annual Light Show. Equal to the works they accepted were the words that accompanied them: "How does this art reflect what people are going through with terminal illness?" My description was: "Every flower, every leaf is amazing to me. They are little works of art that nature has created and gifted to us, if only to last a day, maybe a week, we don't know and it doesn't matter because we appreciate and love it, here, at this very moment. As an artist, to recreate any form of nature is to transport us to that space of soft breezes, hypnotic fragrances and the soul-filled essence of every summer day we lingered and lollygagged in places that mattered to us. Whether we create, or whether we are the spectator, art will put us there, in that spot, to honor who we are.
Yellow has a reputation for being a color of caution, of cowardice. I don't believe this for a minute. It is a color that grabs us and screams, "Look at me! I am bold and exemplify all of the warmth of the sun, and you can not look away from my exuberance." So I named this painting "Fearless" because we are all as strong as the flowers that hold their heads up to the sky."
So---the marbles. Yes they represent innocence and a time of life that seemed softer on the soul in some ways (sadly, not an era for women and minorities and gays throughout those decades but that's another story). The marbles in my paintings represent humans. "MUTINY!" was my response to the political parties. "Comrades" was my response to losing another friend to cancer. "Introverts" is showing love to my quiet friends who are the creamy center we all long to get to.
If you've made it this far, thank you, for trying to understand my art and for your indulgence. I have had sad doubts recently about what I do. It came to me that maybe no one knows what it's about. It has a life all its own. And, we carry on.
Elation and Trepidation...A Fine Line Walked In the Life of an Artist
Georgia O'Keeffe's "The White Place in Shadow" 1942
In August of 2015 my husband and I visited what Georgia O' Keeffe referred to as "The White Place." This place of rock pillars a few miles from O'Keeffe's Abiquiu, New Mexico, home is in a remote area known as Plaza Blanco. It is on private land currently owned by Dar Al Islam (house of Islam) but is open to visitors. O'Keeffe described it as "a vast area like something dead but startlingly alive in its beauty."
She also wrote in 1940, "It is so isolated I don't go alone." I too felt this foreboding. We were the only visitors. Having spent the bulk of my years in Wyoming and Montana, I am no stranger to places of solitude but I was suddenly stricken with an unsettling sensation of being stranded in this place where no one knew we would be visiting. Ravi (14 years old at the time and lovingly named after Ravi Shankar, being a Toyota Rav4), was the only vehicle in the lot above the trailhead. I was consumed with a mix of elation at being in this beloved place of O'Keeffe's, which had inspired five paintings, and a feeling of unease.
That pretty much sums up the life of a full time artist. It's a bit of "beyond here, there be dragons." O'Keeffe herself was famously quoted, "I've always been absolutely terrified every single moment of my life and I've never let it stop me from doing a single thing I wanted to do."
We have this fierce need to explore but it does not come without fear. We have this overwhelming desire to create but it does not come without reserve. We want to get our name "out there" in the world, and yet there is a cringe-worthy essence when so many of our days are spent solo in the studio, days contemplating if we are producing a body of work that will go into The Faraway Place, another of O'Keeffe's terms of endearment. Who is seeing our art? Do they understand it? Am I building a legacy or will other generations know nothing about me?
Every submission to a gallery or museum is a test of reserves. Are we brave? Are we okay with rejection? Are we ready to accept accolades? Are we alone in this remote area?
Yes. We can be brazen. The fear of being stagnant, for me, has to be overpowered by my willingness to try. Forward movement. It's is a risky place. The world might not like us. We may have put far too many hopes on this one venture. But there is that, a life of risk and hope. Chances taken with dismal results might set us back with disappointment but long term will propel us to the places we want to be. Trying equates to exploration.
You'll want to visit the unexplored places, white or black. There are lessons. There is joy in knowing you tried, that you conjured up enough confidence in your work that it was worth the fear of forward movement.
Georgia O'Keeffe saw the White Place as a refuge. Our artistic goals can be that, simultaneously foreboding and welcoming. Fear and refuge can go hand-in-hand.
Going into this new year let's make a pact with ourselves to be brave. To take risks. Those dragons may be loving lizards.
As a side note: I wondered who would ever find us in this remote place should we have problems. We drove back to Taos without incident, but the next day after brunch Ravi was stranded, unable to start, in a parking lot. We found he needed a new battery and were fortunate on a Sunday afternoon to find someone to do the work. So perhaps foreboding has a bit of logical influence on our lives, but don't rule out graciousness.