This month’s issue of National Geographic has an article about the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which the federal government recently reopened to oil drilling. What the f?$$?... The images of sweeping tundra, blue ice worlds, and the rare and regal species that inhabit that fragile landscape leave me feeling sick and defeated. Why am I not there, flinging myself beneath the treads of digging machines? Why am I not out chanting and waving my protest sign on Pennsylvania Avenue? Why am I still driving a car to and from work? I have no good answer to these questions. I can only say that I feel so small and the problems seem so large. I know that so many others feel this impending sense of loss. The radio tells another disheartening story of environmental protections dismantled as we shuttle ourselves to work in the morning. We relay the troubling news to a coworker. We carry it like a wound. We are bearing this collective burden. It is heavy and overwhelming, and I wonder, when the unraveling gets to a place where it begins to tangle our daily lives on more than just an emotional level, when we are breathing polluted air and drinking polluted water, will we all collectively sigh and say “we should have done more”....?
As the political and social climate in this country grows increasingly volatile, I find myself frequently brooding over what, as an artist, I can and should be doing. I lay awake at night scheming elaborate, frightening art installations involving icebergs, skeletons, semi-automatic weapons, and live rabbits. (Those ideas never pass muster in the light of day.) I write songs about thoughtlessness and rivers on fire. (You can listen to those songs on soundcloud.com/thankyou-einstein). I take odd photos like this one of a porta-potty in the moonlight, that somehow seem to me like messages or metaphors. Is the porta-potty our humanity? Is it a different, rarely documented angle of the white house? Is the moon representing hope? Does it symbolize ambivalence? I really can’t say. I only know that my typical urge to build lush bright images of thriving root formations and curious creatures has been replaced by something morbid and unsettling.
It is time for me to start a new body of work. I feel it. I know it. I need it. The thing is, the looming, vacuous, terrible thing is, I can’t find an idea. I’ve tried long walks on the river, sketching pages and pages of rough awkward drawings in my sketch book, scouring the web, lying awake late, but I am not receiving insight. Blahhh! Merrr! Fleckgh! This is a sloggish murky feeling. SO, to all you shimmering, hovering, luscious ideas out there, I am available and interested!
I completed all the stitching on this work before I happened to glance at it upside down and realize it might hang the other direction. Now I am torn. It feels to me like it says different things depending on it’s orientation. With the earth below, rabbit is climbing up and out, into the great beyond full of unknown potentials. With the earth above, rabbit might be climbing away from the formidable chaos of earthly life toward some intimate safety where the viewer resides. Ok, I may be over analyzing, but I am excited by how much the feeling shifts for me when I simply flip the quilt around. Such a literal reminder to routinely check how my emotional positioning affects my perspective of a given situation.
up up and away!
If scale was a more fluid/shifting variable than it is, I would sew a fabulous dress from a rose petal, and roll my giant penny down to the car dealership where I’d purchase an ultra efficient 10 seater in robin egg blue and small enough to fit in my pocket. Scale does matter though, and the way artist Ron Mueck plays with it is arresting! I got to see this giant, naked, stunningly realistic sculpture at the Hirshorne Gallery in DC last week. I want to see more of Mueck’s work in person. I googled him and was transported to a world of achingly life like, profoundly intimate visions of imperfect humanity. Mueck exaggerates or diminishes his figures, leaving me reeling a bit with a sense of a throbbing (expanding and contracting universe). It is now on my bucket list to go see a body of his work in person! (pun intended)
I feel a bit like doctor frankenstein (except in slippers and sitting at a sewing machine) when I am making the bodies for these odd little heads. I used some of the doll eyes I found recently and they give the clay forms an eerie realism that I am mesmerized by. I keep swapping heads and bodies and giggling to myself in a gently maniacal way.
These odd and beautiful contraptions were in the bottom of a bag of buttons I just bought at goodwill. I am intrigued by their funny metal workings and how alive they seem. The lids blink independently of one another, the pupils are all dark depths, and the irises are surprisingly complex patterns in shimmering plastic. A pile of eyes gaze at me from the table top with a creepy, lazy, half hearted, disembodied stare. They are sort of imploring but not really caring (they are heartless, after all), "What do you intend to make with us?".