Art meets Object

Art is my Way. And my object. I promised I'd show you some good out of all the hairballs of my life in a previous blog. Okay, meet the felted nouveau Edelweiss!

There is this distinction in the arts, the Fine versus the Applied. The High and, then, ahem, the Low. Art (the rarified ballet slipper) and Craft (shoes cobbled by hand). As a lifelong maker-doer the whole dichotomy is objectionable. What is the hierarchy of making objects, save some qualities of origin or what passion asserts their arrival: when exactly do instinct and practice conceive art? Abstractions are imposed after the fact. Invalidation also. I hit the wall in every sense this week. I could not sit to ease my ache to work in larger pieces as my heart broke with fear. Don't diss my Edelweiss, world, I warn you. I mean what am I actually going to do, run down debilitation and gesticulate at it? well if I could...but I couldn't get my hands on a walker.

There is the devotion to making and doing, and then those who cannot or will not show up in their own lives enough to grab on and wring out of being alive whatever satisfaction they can, facing up to the endless losses and changes with at least some curiousity. I refuse to be in-valid. So, sobbing, I stab into the furballs, to slice, carve, do surgery on them. Make of the food for a vaccuum something one would reach to touch instead. I am not ready to be thrown away. How do I feel about powerlessness? Inability to push ahead my own mending from this last operation to my head? I used razor blades and big shears on those soft, round orbs, the hairball skulls.

I cannot enjoy being this disabled. After years as a professional helper I cannot help myself or force myself out of this disease that steals my life in chunks. I danced classical ballet 4 times a week, 3 hours a day from ages 5 to 14, then ethnic dance my entire life. I feel humiliated as I struggle to stand and windmill like a broken stork until I end up a plank on the floor. I performed music when my mother, a coloratura, stopped singing. Now I can't hear the most precious sounds, or even necessary ones; the doorbell or locks, having no indicator but cats dashing that something comes around. Fear, this is the worst part. What happens, the falling, the silence, these I can learn from. Edelweiss object to crippling fear.

Art is how a curious mind gives courage to hands. I venture into what I don't understand and use my eyes and hands to recycle fear into something else. To make some use of reactions that would otherwise paralyze or overwhelm me. I make and I calm down. This I learned as a little girl from the screams and sounds, being unable to make large people stop brutalizing those who weren't as big. Like I said, she stopped singing. Completely. Unless I sang descant to her melody, then she was not alone. Audible screaming had to be muffled or transposed into something. She sang until she couldn't. I may be pinned and unable to escape, but I leave visible proof that someone was there. Someone you should wonder about and search for. It may be as slight as the torn napkin flowers I left at the counters of the gas stations or cafes before he'd force us back into the car, moving again, to the next neighborhood where no one would stop him or call the police.

Art was always my bigger voice and strongest signal. It gives me rights. I am able. I am valid. I can express anything, everything, honestly, deeply or as bluntly as I will. If my challenge has always been to make something out of nothing, why not Edelweiss from hairballs? But now you know their pedigree. These are the fleshy cousins of those lost napkin flowers. Delicate species but a sturdy genus. They are my objects, my objections, aren't they? Who would know seeing them on a shoulder bag, or hat, and read their actual message? Would you have guessed? Now this: what was my mother's favorite song?


Art meets Unknown

Art has always been ahead of me. This dinner plate emerged out of a time of upheaval, as appearances fell away, doors closed, windows opened and simple fixtures of life were swept aside, including, ironically, my place at the table! The outside world was in flux, and my internal landscape was a moving mosaic.

After a divorce and 2 floods, my children and I moved back to land from 5 years of living aboard a 44' sailboat outside the Sauvie Island Wildlife Refuge. Our family was immersed in the ways of birds and animals on those woodsy banks. The flooding in some areas was a seasonal occurrence, but we actually faced 2 major disasters which left the world swollen with fouled water, contaminated by cow corpses and other stranded animals. Yet, unbelievably, the community rallied and by 10 months time, surroundings and people had largely recovered. In the beautiful times, there was nothing like living richly with wildlife, while sparsely with electricity and other resources, maintaining a handmade life aboard. It was an important period which left me and my daughters stripped down and grateful for essentials. We hit our cultural detox from typical American consumer mentality hard and early.

Once in a house that didn't move (boats are always in motion even at rest) visual art resumed its primary role. I salvaged fiberboard and test glass pours from a local art glass manufacturer. Their dumpster filled weekly, and they let me glean all manner of slabs. The moving mosaic of my interior life on the water was breaking itself out of me piece by piece as I made this large work freehand. Instead of using traditional methods of tesserae, which are highly uniform, I needed the freedom of varying glass shapes and sizes and working directly onto the board with adhesive, without sketching. We think of drama with seascape, but the river is a subtler world of contrasts. There was an immediate and panoramic intensity to those days on the water at the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers. The force of the river was fast each spring driving up through the bottoms of trees in the wash, while the boughs greened up and clouds stretched their wings. I was wrenched by leaving, and struggled to trust I would not be ultimately washed away in all the loss. And I was not.

Aboard a boat and in the sailing community, I maintained the ballast of my own identity through music and dance. 3 years after returning to land was when the diagnosis of Meniere's Disease was made. I brought the sea back in my body, always seasick and dizzy. Dance has been passed on to my daughters instead. Menieres has progressed so that I cannot tell when I will fall; some internal lighting strikes and spontaneous face plants occur out of nowhere. But, it has left my visual art which like this mosaic, still has it's own internal press. Art still leads, and now what I do with my hands reflects more and more my choice of how to navigate the rough waters of particular physical limits on a given day or over a period of time. I see music now. I see bird songs, breeze in trees, as deafness changes my senses. What helps me now is to enjoy this visual music and dance of my hands in the art. I recycle everything I can, from sensory input to my own physical being, moment by moment as if under the water about 40 feet. Each day is it's own and all I can handle. The inside story of the mosaic just means more now. The plate tells more than I knew at the time. I am facing an even bigger unknown within this body culture than any I have learned about before. I trust art to show me what comes next. Fortunately, I don't read it as I do it. I treat it more gently than I have my body, a hard lesson now. But more than ever before in life, it is how I will express my culture and share it with you. What leads you? What gives meaning to your unknown?


Art Meets Soul

Wool warms the soul. Especially when it comes from a true friend and fiber artist. After nearly 20 years, she found me again. Going back to the last time we'd visited, she told me her inspiration for this exceptional wool: "There you were at Christmastime, unravelling a present you'd made because you had to take the yarn back to the store for the money to keep the heat on. I swore I'd get my alpacas one day, and their first yarn would be yours. It's taken me this long, but here is my yarn for you!" Have you ever seen such lovely, finely spun, soft wool? Have you ever had such a friend?

As a serious, though amiable, introvert who worked long hours in some rough places, I tend to keep what I've seen close to the chest. It's not suitable for social hour or a direct answer to 'so, how was your day?' I find yarn able to handle any tangle of the soul like the woman who spun it. It brings a unique comfort in hard times. Only she would remember that challenging Christmastime which I had long forgotten. Her art form shows the same tender attention, a requirement for changing mounds of matted animal hair into delicate wool. Her work in fiber is a steadfast, sensory melody. I am so grateful she spun the straw of the past into the gold of years. She accomplished her dream and helps restore mine. How huge is that?

Now from the sublime to the ridiculous. My friend is as attached to her alpacas as I am to the originators of these fur balls. Most people see a cat like this and think Dyson-on-steroids. So, this is odd, and I know it. Getting through a few rounds of surgery can do this to you so I don't advise that particular route, BUT: I admit it! I needle-felt the fur of Zeebear & Stein (aka "the persian brothers legal defense team") and their feral hitgirl, Killer. They are a copious manufacturing concern, delivering early and often, providing fine quality silver chinchilla persian and himalayan feline wool.

Being couch-bound after surgeries makes one rethink the ordinary. Who needs expensive roving? Of course, I have yet to carve and sculpt these shapes. You'll get to see that another time. Oh, and please wish me and the surgeon in the upcoming round, sure hands and sharp knives. Too bad he won't get to decorate his work with tiny beads.

My question today is: What simple action helps you rethink your ordinary life? What art can you make of the stuff around you today without spending a dime, that will lift another's spirits while you green your life?