Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Exploring Shelter - Escape


                                   I seek the shelter of my escape 
                                  and by faith, I will find my way.

                          Merino wool roving, wet felted, resist 
                              formed,  immersion dyed, blocked.
                                     Photograph by Douglas Foulke

     What is your escape?   Where do you seek shelter when you feel a bit disconnected, lost or out of synch with life or your journey?  For me, one place is definitely my art.  As a person of faith, there are times when I'm creating and feel so connected to my source of inspiration, to God, the creative process becomes a form of worship and prayer for me.   There's something about the flow of how a piece starts to come together, how it evolves and unfolds and almost takes over for me, that sometimes the greatest effort is to not break that ebb and to just let it be and go with it.  To trust the process, and listen, and do, and watch.  The irony of it all is really quite wonderful.  While I might begin in a state of mind that's uncertain, questioning, perhaps pondering some life crisis or simply trying to figure out a direction and whether I should take it, the very act of being lost and seeking shelter in my art and then getting lost in that, is inevitably how I find my way.  
     I can always tell when I'm not in that frame of mind, when that connection isn't there. Instead of working on my art, it feels more like just "making stuff".  Not that this is a negative aspect of creating, for imagination comes in all forms and simply exploring and making and seeing what happens can be the perfect vehicle to bring me to that place of connection, to that higher level of creating.  And while the results can be great, inside is where I feel the difference.  Whether the difference is only within me and my perspective of the finished piece, or is within the piece itself, I'm not sure.  But I can say, the response I see in others to those pieces I feel more connected to, more involved with, is markedly different than those pieces I've just "made".  Perhaps the connection actually transcends the piece and the message is more clearly discerned because of that connection, beyond what would I would have created with only my own interpretation to direct me.  
     I've heard artists, musicians and other people who actively create express similar experiences with their art and the idea that the process and connection was guiding them and not the other way around.  And how when the connection released, they knew the piece was complete.  Finished.  Nothing more to add or take away.  It was done and they were grateful and fulfilled. 
     In the Christian faith, the word Amen is a declaration of affirmation, an "it is so" or "so be it". When I made Escape, where this piece ended up isn't even close to what I had planned when I started ("I" being the operative word.)  One thing after another seemed to go wrong, the process turned in odd directions, and it would have been easy to throw up my hands in frustration, quit the piece and walk away.  Intuitively though, I knew it was going somewhere and I just needed to calmly go with it.  Then,  almost suddenly, all the odd turns and mishaps seemed to come together into something unexpectedly whole.  I had found my way.  I felt deeply grateful and fulfilled and I knew it was done.   And I  looked at the piece and simply said "Amen."   

Monday, March 8, 2010

Exploring Shelter - Guarded Vesssel


                                                 Guarded Vessel

                    Guard the heart of your world too tightly,
                       and you may fail to discover what's true.

                  Hand-dyed merino wool, landrace batt wool,
                                wet felted, resist-formed, blocked.
                                       Photograph by Douglas Foulke

     Ah, the heart.  The shelter for all we feel and desire.  The guardian of what we love and hold precious. Our most trusted vessel, the one that guides, directs, and pushes forward can so easily become the vessel that tells us not to trust.  The guardian becomes guarded and what was once the vessel to hold others dear becomes the force to keep them out. 
     How deep is that line within? The one we know not to cross, the etched mark born out of experience.  The line that has come from every life lesson ever taught at our expense and now shouts instructions to pull away, hold back, close up shop and to not get involved.  What was once an inviting shelter, our chest of treasures, that place to seek and find, has somehow evolved, ever so slowly, into a lonely hollow cavern, echoing back memories of who we used to be, when we were free.
     There’s something admirable about those who can travel life’s journeys and never feel a cut too deeply, never create a barrier that stops one in his or her tracks.  Instead, they collect and gather abundantly and their heart is so full, it must be bound up simply to keep all it contains from spilling out. 
     Therein lies the nub.  As with any physical shelter we might come across, it’s impossible to know what’s really inside, until we venture in and see.  And from the outside looking in, there’s really no telling who is open and who is not, until we share ourselves enough try and find out.