What difference does it make if I paint? What difference does it make if I ’express myself’ ? Does it really change anything? What function does it really serve? Does a single atom synapse differently because I have painted this or any other painting? This is the voice of my Resistance.
Both of my parents were immigrants to the United States, before the depression and before WWII. They were not only survivors but enhancers. But above all, they were innately practical. We used the same Christmas wrapping paper year after year. My mother never threw away string but wrapped it carefully in a ball, to use again, long after it was no longer necessary. They thought my wish to go to art school was, I guess they would say, useless. Serving no purpose. You can never earn a living as an artist, they repeated.
So when I started dyeing fabric I didn’t become a textile artist, I became a textile entrepreneur and employed over 100 other women to earn their living, dyeing textiles and sewing them into garments. Useful. When I did work as a textile artist and I painted textiles for a hotel in Tahiti, they weren’t hung on the wall, they were the wall, 4’ x 10’. I did exhaustive research so that the textiles could endure as a part of the architecture. When a super cell cyclone devastated the hotel one night, the textiles were the only recognizable thing on the site the next morning. We relocated them. Useful.
I went on to develop Inner Portrait, where I created an interview process to assist a person to uncover their deep longing, their purpose, and then do a painting for them symbolizing this discovery, for them to have as an esoteric guide. (www.inner-portrait.com) More ephemeral, to be sure, but still, serves a purpose. Useful.
If my artistic expression has a ’function’ then the voice of my resistance is quiet, or at least quieter.
As I’m writing this I begin to wonder if my function resistance is really a bad thing? It has driven me to create quite alot. Maybe it’s functional resistance?
And yet… Even so, I remain with my own deep longing to be free, free just to create! Free to waste paint. Waste paper. Waste canvas. Waste time!!! Just to see what happens. Free from that undercurrent of a voice murmuring at me from the shadows; Is this going to come to anything? What do you think you’re doing? You’re just wasting materials. You’re not really an artist. Go do something useful. I’ve been working in Nigeria creating a network for women entrepreneurs for the past six years. Useful. I’m currently workng with co-ops in Rwanda teaching them how to dye sisal. Useful. And yet I jumped at the chance to join the Caerus Artist Residency. So there is that longing in me, still and again.
What is the voice I want to hear? Can I tell myself, and really believe …..
”You are generous with others, be generous, now, with yourself. Feel the brush against the canvas. Against the silk. Feel the color blending, touching you, moving you, expanding you. Take your time. You have permission to expand, out to the farthest reaches. Out to the timeless space where a part of you is waiting for you. This is purpose enough. You are purpose enough.”
I am purpose enough.
I have been so pleased with myself that it was so easy to convert my studio into a guest bedroom. The guests are gone and the room was just as quickly converted back into my studio. But I was not so easily converted back into my studio. I am dragging my feet. What to do?
I will go to my studio and read, again, this note I have pinned to the wall, a gift from my old silk painting partner. And begin again.
My heart of silk
Is filled with lights,
With lost bells,
With lilies, and with bees,
And I will go very far,
Father than those hills,
Father than the seas,
To ask Christ the Lord
To give me back
My ancient Soul of a child.
– Federico Garcia Lorca
What are your deeply motivating thoughts and feelings?
What gets you back into your studio?