Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Art is Weird

I poked around in my studio yesterday on my day off. Having a little room which is designated solely for creativity is a powerful thing. Flips a switch in my head. On! Go! Zoom!

Within a few moments of arriving I was putting together yet another sculpture, this one similar to earlier work around the topic of women and fundamentalism. The new piece is created with one of those diorama boxes with a glass pane in the front. I started to cram a Barbie in there and started playing with an ancient First Aid Kit I'd found in a closet in my last apartment. I was thinking about the idea of safe ... how being in my old fundamentalist church felt safe in so many ways, protected, this little world where you knew best and you were special because you had the keys to the Kingdom. I had a very specific role and duty, a structure to rely on. Solid ground under my feet, and black and white answers to everything. A comfort, but at the same time it was so suffocating and dull and airless, just like that box. It is a weird feeling, creating this image that represents my feelings when I was 14 years old, now 18 years later. How creating it returns me to that time and place. And the fact that I feel compelled to recreate it, to make this image so that someone else might understand how it felt to be me then. I'm always amazed how this symbol-making happens. It's so instinctive. I certainly did not enter my studio with a plan to make a fundamentalist Barbie box, a Sleeping Beauty Coffin.

That's how art happens to me. When I started playing with the box, this is just what happened with my hands, without any conscious process. I think, hm, what would happen if I cram this in here. And then this. And then this. And then, hey, what happened? What does this mean? And if I put this in, does that make sense? Then I usually get frustrated and tired and weirded out, and I have to set it down and let it all stew for a while. A few days later, I revisit it, and with the space I've gotten, suddenly I see a corner that now needs something new. And it all starts over again. Obsessively working on it, tinkering, fiddling. Putting it aside impatiently and storming away. Tentative return. Over and over again until somehow it is done. Or I just can't bear to tinker any longer. Sometimes that is the same thing. Approaching, withdrawing, looking, not looking. Peeking. Seeing something out of the corner of my eye. Pounce. Yes, no, almost... there.

It's an odd little dance. I'm still getting used to it, still learning the steps, trying to learn how to listen and not force it. I have never experienced any of this before, at least not so consciously. The hardest part is that I'm not really that much in charge of it. It is truly like a dance that way -- and I'm not leading the dance. If I try and lead the whole thing gets strained and stupid and awkward. Only when I relax and let this other thing take hold can we move forward. Consciously trying not to be overly conscious. Whew. I guess that's the best way for me of describing my muse, the possession of creativity.

So the box is waiting now for my next move. I can't do anything on it until it's time. I just have to wait and see. Which, I suppose, is part of the mystery and part of the joy of the whole damn thing.

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