Wednesday, January 5, 2011

the wide white empty

Today the earth is pressed against this wide white emptiness and there is still this gap in me, this hesitation.

I've been thinking about painting.  

I remember in college making the best art when given many rules.  
The still life was constructed.  The lighting already determined. 
 Stand here.  Paint that.  
And so I did.

My fear was the blank canvas and nothing to paint.  
No model, no instructions.  
A painting.  
I'd cringe.  
I still do.

I think that I tend to live my life way, feeling for the boundary.  
Just tell me what to do and I'll do it, I'll find a way to make it mine. 
Whatever it is- make the best of it.  
Bloom where you are planted.

I like limits.

I love the nights when I haven't bought groceries in weeks and our pantry is nearly bare and I see that we have potatoes and I think, ah, potato soup .. . and then I remember I still have a little bacon in the freezer, and a hunk of cheese, and I'll bake bread, and there is that cake mix I need to use, and frozen peaches, and suddenly this is sounding like the best meal all year.

But I can walk through the grocery store unable to think of one thing to make for dinner.

This is Art- 
This is Life:
you find your materials:
the still life of junk-
the ugly sweater-
the lump of clay-
the useless, the forgotten, the awkward, the ordinary- 
the lonely-
 and you work, and rework, and see, and see again, and change directions and look, and turn it upside down and step back and see again . . . you get a cup of coffee and find a new cd and sit down and stand up and look and wait and see . . . and then you dip your brush and your hand is shaking just a little but you're getting a little bit excited too because you're thinking that maybe you've found something- and you keep digging, you keep painting- aware now that you are the magician, redeemer, the fairy godmother . . . releasing, liberating the thing, it's up to you . . . but you're sure now that it's in there . .. the beauty . . . now it's all you can see . . . and you keep painting, or sculpting, or writing, or maybe just waking up every day with all of the life that is in you and trying,
again . . . 
until the beauty comes.

(Picasso- Tomato Plant)

Tonight I am still sitting and looking.  

It is the hardest part: the waiting, the empty canvas . . .
 the search for beauty in what is not beautiful, meaning in what feels meaningless.  
There is no lonelier place than before a blank canvas.

It is an act of faith, 
this making art- 
this making a life.
A long and usually lonely process of waiting,
and looking.

Of believing
and seeing again-
the beauty finds you.

It may be that when we no longer know what to do,
we have come to our real work
and when we no longer know which way to go,
we have begun our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.
-Wendell Berry


ali said...

Jess, I love this. I don't really paint, at least not canvas, sometimes things...pottery, depends. But I write, and knit, and cook and create. I love the process you described. Whether its yarn or canvas or ingredients, its a beautiful lovely process. Thanks for writing. As usual. :)

Jo@Mylestones said...

Oh friend, I love this. Every word resonates. I know that fear, the need for limits, the ache, the waiting that is part of making this life, this art.

ShortyRobs said...

Beautifully written! Love the line, "There is no lonelier place than before a blank canvas."

Fijufic said...

Out of the box you go!!!

Ruth said...

Jess, I LOVE your blog. This post brought tears to my eyes. Thank you.

Misha Leigh. said...

I've thought about this post a lot. Have you read Walking on Water (L'Engle)? I think pushing myself to make art that was a process and not at all perfect was one of the best things I started this last year. It changed so much more than my art. I think you are brave and I can't wait to see what it does for you!

Heather of the EO said...

*big sigh*

I needed this. A lot. Thank you, Jess.

Again :)

Anna said...

Thanks for this... just what I needed today. I found you via Kelly Sauer's blog today.

Sarah said...

I am SO glad I found your blog. :)