Part 1 is here
I have just completed another piece that began with a gift. There is a place along the Perkiomen Creek I go almost daily to to hear the sermon of water over stone. I have posted previously of the gateway into Faerie that rests on the edge of this spot. No one notices me here as I journey and sculpt and listen to the stillness in my heart that the voices of the water bring to me. So really the entire spot is an unsurpassable gift to me which I return with offerings made there daily.
A few weeks ago as I sat long by the creek this interesting stick floated right up to where I was sitting. Another present from the creek! It had a fascinating shape so I drug it back to my lair. For many days the bit of wood was silent. And then my friends Crystal and Mary asked if I come to Bethlehem to sculpt on the sidewalk as part of the Artswalk. Having no idea what I would decide to create there, the piece of wood was in the assortment of “art mess” I scraped from the studio storage area. I decided to use the piece and took a bit of time to walk along the very small tree line behind the store.
I turned the stick this way and that and felt immediately muscle memory of twisting and stretching as if simultaneously waking up and emerging from something. I could feel in my body how it would feel to twist and pull along the twists and turns in the wood. Then an image of leaves bursting from fingers and feet. It was an interesting sensation and a lovely vision I at once felt the need to express. And so I began the piece on the sidewalk in the middle of town.
I am rarely sure what a piece is saying to me or anyone else as I am working and sometimes even long after. But I think for me there are two major themes in the work. The first is gifting. The stick was given to me by the place I spend so much time because I return giving to the place. This creates a debt, an energy in me to do something with what I have so generously received and pass that gift along via expressing in clay and bits of moss the feeling and vision it brought. Hence the gift is increased it once more. So now the stick is a duet, it’s form and story and my sensation and vision. It has become more than it was and it can connect to others differently than it could before. In this way tree and creek, artist and audience are connected by the act of giving. Had I hoarded the stick and done nothing with it, there would be no connection, no increase.
The stick was badly decayed and spongy in spots. I almost think of the spirit sculpted into it as a sort of fungus. Taking decay and transforming it into strange and wonderful things. So my stick spirit tells me a tale about decay being fertile soil for greening. Others will have their own reactions and feelings when they look at her or read my own thoughts on the piece. This is the task of creativity. Not to suffer for your art, sell tons and tons of work and get a book deal, be technically perfect. To focus on that creates fear.
Rather your creativity is a gift akin to my lovely chunk of driftwood. I think Van Gogh in a letter expressed exactly what creativity and art in their best form really are:
“When I see young painters compose and draw from memory, and then haphazardly smear on whatever they like also from memory, -then keep it at a distance and put on a very mysterious, gloomy face to find out what in Heaven’s name it may look like, and at last finally make something from it, always from memory, – it sometimes disgusts me, and makes me think it all very tedious and dull.
“They cannot understand that the figure of a laborer, -some furrows in a plowed field, a bit of sand, sea and sky, -are serious objects, so difficult but a the same time so beautiful, that it is indeed worth while to devote one’s life to the task of expressing the poetry hidden in them.” -Vincent Van Gogh