i was having difficulty sleeping. i was researching things at night that i shouldn’t, and the result was that i was still up at 1 (which is very late and very unusual for me) and unable to settle my mind. i think this is a common problem now. on the third evening after two bad nights, i was nibbling on a piece of chocolate and casually picked up the january edition of ‘poetry’. the shift i felt in perspective was immediate. the poems realigned time in the way a chiropractor realigns spines. reading poetry aloud is my most grounding ritual. give it a try! here’s my recommendation for today, on the occasion of the new moon in aries:
Sometimes the Moon Sat in the Well at Night by Marie Howe (from The Kingdom of Ordinary Time)
Sometimes the moon sat in the well at night. And when I stirred it with a stick it broke. If I kept stirring it swirled like white water, as if water were light, and the stick a wand that made the light follow, then slow into water again, un-wobbling, until the wind moved it.
And I thought of all the moons
floating in the wells and rivers, spilling over rocks where the water broke: moons in the sheep water, the chicken water, Or here or there an oar bent it, or a woman spread out her skirt and let it pool there — the light I mean, not the moon in a circle, not the moon itself, but the light that fell from it.
I love pussy willows. The bareness of the long branches, the otherworldly softness of the catkin tufts, the contrast between the dark branches and the light, almost iridescent catkins, and that they signal (and perfectly embody) the end of winter and the beginning of spring. They are, in some way, sensual and erotic. I had some hanging out in a vase from last spring and well into summer. By fall, I had popped all the catkins off and placed them in one of my small ceramic bowls on my alter. There they sat for a few more months. I knew they would work their way into my art, but I wasn’t sure how.
And then one day (in December) I knew. I found the roll of metal mesh my mother had given me and got to work. I draped a piece of cloth along the bottom edge to protect my arms from scrapes, with my left hand supporting the work underneath while my right hand worked above with the small needle-nose pliers and catkins. The work reminded me of embroidery, and what Ann Hamilton has said time and again about her own work:
“My first hand is a sewing hand. A line of thread drawn up and down through cloth influences how I think about the confluence and rhythms of space and time. . . . Drawn, sewn or written, a line contains all the attention present in its moment of making, the rhythms of breath and body, the weather of hesitations and the stutter of the hand orbiting in the body’s immediate periphery. Folded, cut or accreted, the line’s incessant horizontality returns to itself and takes a circular form. It is simple work; it requires the body to be slow.”
Remembering that led me to listen to these lectures by Ann Hamilton about the process of making and her body of work:
Sometimes I work in silence, sometimes I watch/listen to movies or shows while working, but most often I will listen to lectures by or about artists. I don’t remember everything I listened to in the course of making this particular sculpture, but here are a few others:
I listened to Audre Lorde‘s “Uses of the Erotic” three times so far. I highly recommend it. So many powerful and still very relevant ideas.
The erotic is a measure between the beginnings of our sense of self and the chaos of our strongest feelings. It is an internal sense of satisfaction to which, once we have experienced it, we know we can aspire. For having experienced the fullness of this depth of feeling and recognizing its power, in honor and self-respect we can require no less of ourselves.
About three quarters of the way through this sculpture, I realized it would be a good idea to more carefully choose the catkins, so I emptied the bowl to spread the catkins out in front of me. That’s when I saw it. The interior of the bowl (which I made several years ago) had the same color and pattern as the catkins in the mesh, and I felt something that can only be described as a full-body gasp. It was a visceral reaction, and to be honest I started crying. Just a little. But I didn’t dwell on it for too long and finished the work last night, the end of the first day of the new year.
When I first started making visual art, I was surprised to see that my work across mediums (ceramic, wire, textile, drawing, sculpture) was coherent and of a piece. At this point, it’s kind of freaking me out. The same patterns keep showing up, and it’s not intentional or done on a conscious level. I’m processing something, but I don’t know what.
And I love this work, this sculpture. I don’t just like it or really like it; I love it. I want to hug it, but I can’t. I want to understand it, but so far I don’t. This is a new opportunity for self-awareness, and I’m excited by it. I can’t really name all of these feelings, but I think they might be touching on joy, on the erotic that Lorde speaks of.
For the erotic is not a question only of what we do; it is a question of how acutely and fully we can feel in the doing. Once we know the extent to which we are capable of feeling that sense of satisfaction and completion, we can then observe which of our various life endeavors bring us closest to that fullness. The aim of each thing which we do is to make our lives and the lives of our children richer and more possible. Within the celebration of the erotic in all our endeavours, my work becomes a conscious decision — a longed-for bed which I enter gratefully and from which I rise up empowered.
I can’t really name all of these feelings I have about this new sculpture, but I think they might be touching on joy, on the erotic that Lorde speaks of. So here’s my wish for 2020: May it be a year of erotic exploration, of little leaps of the heart, of making and doing, of understanding and self-awareness, of poetry in all its forms.
Many things have happened since my last post (in September of last year!). Perhaps the most significant change is that I am now spending more time in the ceramics studio. Now I’m there every Friday for most of the day, plus every other Wednesday evening for 3-4 hours. I go no matter how I’m feeling or what kind of day I’m having, and I never regret it. This last time I glazed two pieces and wedged a bit of clay so that it is useable again. And that’s it.
Actually, that’s not it. My teacher/mentor and I spent some time talking about an exhibition submission we’re preparing. We edited our project idea and divided the prep tasks so that we can get all the paperwork in today. I’ll be thrilled if they accept the project, because I’ve really been wanting to make a larger sculptural work with wire, but since I have limited space in my apartment I really needed a reason to do so. The exhibition is called the KM of Sculpture, and it’s a month-long, outdoor sculpture event.
I created a Project board on Pinterest, so you can track my thinking about the project over the course of the last month or so. Click here to check it out. In the end, we’re proposing something quite different, but I always think it’s interesting to see how projects develop, plus these ideas related to change and metamorphosis are still fascinating to me.
It’s been three months since I posted v1 of eyes and ears. And three months since any progress reports. But a lot has happened in that time — I definitely haven’t been lazy! First, I moved. Then I became very busy with (paid) work. Then I signed an employment contract (I’m still doing some freelance work, but considering I was only freelancing for over seven years, this is a BIG change). Then I spent a week in Vilnius with Jonas. Then I had the joy of dealing with a lice infestation. My first real holiday in many, many years started this evening, and my mother arrives for a visit on Tuesday (it’s been four years since she last visited me in Estonia and 1.5 years since we last saw each other at all). I’ve also completed a number of sketches and ceramic works (progress reports to come).
Well, anyway. Below is some inspiring art I discovered recently and keep going back to. It amazes me to gather these images and see what a coherent grouping they form together. I clearly have an interest in texture and in single/unified subjects.