Finding my way

Marsh Watcher

What is the roll of creativity in an angry chaotic world.
To echo
to mirror
to distract
to remind
to transport
to speak truth
to provide haven

My response, when the tension tipping point is reached,
is to grab my cape, in a wild, Severus like fury,
and circle it as armor and take my soul to refuge in the studio,
there to tease apart the angers from the truths and sit with where they both intersect and where there might be something of meaning to be found.

I have a keen sense of the stairway that leads to that chamber of secrets in my artistic soul. It is a well traveled road and the passage way is woven deep into how I chose to live on the planet.  As I walk that path now, the intensity of the emotions informs the process, and there are familiar touchstones left on the stair treads as I wind my way down and deep.
I am not afraid to go there, only fearful I won’t go far enough.

In carrying along this dialogue I am having with myself, and a few other artists, about what it means to be a Mature Artist, I am pondering this part of the creative process, where we go to understand the profound tragedies in our world, in ourselves. How do we, as artists, make some sense of the pain and loss and fear and find the balancing beauty… both in that darkness, and in the light. And how, as artists who have been swirling their capes for half a century or more, do we recognize that pathway differently than we did when the brushes were new.

What you focus on expands, and for me, at least for now, the channels are wide open.

It is my day job, my all consuming career, to push paint around on a panel until it sings. When I started this full time, 16 years ago, I was well into middle age, but I had been dabbling since high school and there are some scraps of drawings left to remind me of the innocence of those early strokes.

This week I have been looking back at the portfolio on my website, which begins in 2000. It surprises me how autobiographical the paintings have been. No viewer will ever see it, but I can remember when, and why each of those compositions were chosen, and, upon review, how much has evolved in the ensuing light years…both technically and personally.

With each painting I have insisted on raising the bar. Sometimes that is noticeable, sometimes I slid back in a heap. It was always a conscious decision to work harder at the craft of painting, but what strikes me today is the unconscious way that the depths of the narrative seemed to drag my wayward soul into a different place.

Some wise woman along the way said that, as we grow older, it was easier to recognize what one doesn’t want, or need, and after jettisoning that…there is more room for the mystery. I made that last part up, about the mystery, but, as the years creep up on me, I am so much better at letting go of the noise. I’m finding much more to satisfy my curiosity in the silent spaces. I crave silence. That is what I need of the swirling cape of escape now.

The subject came up this morning, Herself and I talked about the cliche of artists needing angst and turmoil to plum creative depths.She had read of some artists who go to great length to fabricate a self destructive atmosphere of a narrative in order to tap into their genius.

Now, this topic may have, in some way been tweaked into her consciousness after she had hurried across the icy path from cabin to studio…in her slippers… to see why I had not answered her phone calls, only to find me furiously wielding the vacuum in the kitchen seeking out and attacking the tiny evidence of a most unwanted creature who has chosen to do battle with me…now…in the middle of our already most challenging winter.
I was indeed awash in drama…albeit achingly justified.

But…

searching around to create some artificial angst…Not me.
Been there, got the T-shirt..s, and can tap into those dragons in a flash as needed.

But, as I was saying about the silence…that source is currently the cauldron of creative juices.

There now, I have gone on a ramble, again.
Among the slurry of emotions this season,
I’m working through my feelings about the loss of the Langmuir’s Camp Sunrise.
I received a photo taken from Squibnocket Beach, just a couple weeks ago, and the top of that dear sweet roof line no longer peeks above the horizon of cliffs.

Of course, I knew it was coming.
What I didn’t know is how the actuality of the void would choke my soul.

So, I’ve been reviewing my portfolio. Lining up all the paintings I have done of that camp. The count is well over fifty. Almost one for each of my “oh so mature” years.

My job now, the challenge I am setting before the easel, is to tell the last chapter of her story.
Sitting in the silence.
Listening,
for where the story of the life of that old chicken coop, intersects with the lives of her caretakers, and artist squatters, and with the island itself.

I know where to start…
now…
can I go deep enough.the-temple-of-my-familiar


Passages…

It’s a beautiful day for a birthday.

Friends have been checking in and the cake is out of the oven. A nice morning sitting in the sun in the garden looking for signs of spring and catching up with an old pal. Might even get a little painting done before the day is out but mostly I’m just enjoying the peace and love the this stage of life is bringing and the great fortunes of good friends.

Another passage of sorts is being played out on the island and our long loved refuge and retreat, Camp Sunrise, is finally facing the ravages of mother nature.

the-shell-seeker

Here’s a painting of the bluff in front of camp from about 2003… and here is a photo of it now…

camp

We’ve all known this day was coming. And I am forever grateful for the decades of opportunities to sit on this very porch and ponder the sea. As well as the gift of being able to chronicle some of its corners and quirks and patina in the paintings over the years.

But now it is time to say goodbye. As you can read in the article in the MV Gazette, http://www.mvgazette.com/news/2013/04/04/second-stonewall-beach-home-teetering-cliff-must-be-moved
the house is now done. The main Camp house will be demolished…I can barely stand to write that…but the garage,

the-temple-of-my-familiar

and bunkhouse,

Retreat

will be moved in tact out to the back of the property…

Sophie's-Passage

way out to where that stone wall stands.

So I will take the lessons from this sunny spring day and look forward and ahead to many more years of walking this earth, and what’s left of this bluff and be grateful for each one of the flowers along the way.


American Art Collector

Many thanks to John O’Hern and the editors of the American Art Collector Magazine for showcasing the painting Temple of My Familiar in their latest issue. You can access the magazine on line if you are a subscriber or find it at most book stores to read the entire article. Above is a link to the AAC website and below is an excerpt from the article. The painting is on exhibition at the Granary Gallery on Martha’s Vineyard.

John O'Hern

AAC July09