Art Meets Life: Climbing down from the Ivory Tower

We designed my studio with glass French doors that open to the playroom, imagining a happy convergence of art and life, and allowing for the practical necessity of being near my playing child while I paint.  Despite this generous gesture of the transparent barrier, I have always been very protective of my studio space and studio time.  I crave the silence and the solitude to make my work.  Given the opportunity, I will shut the French doors. As my son has gotten older, he is more often playing outside with his friends and no longer needs my constant supervision, so the doors are closed more often now.  For many years I have secretly believed that art happens in my Ivory Tower, separate from life.

I am starting to climb down from that Ivory Tower.  I am starting to recognize that the informal drawings I do in my sketchbook, outside the studio, are perhaps the most vital part of my work. These drawings are not separate from life, but inspired by life and imbedded in life.

One day this December, I opened the French doors and invited my husband and son to come in to see my work.  A Lego spaceship came too, and flew into the landscape of my paintings. It zoomed over mountains and hovered above the clouds. It dove into the ocean liked a winged submarine and explored the depths of a crevasse. We were laughing and playing and flying the ship on many adventures together throughout my imaginary lands. This felt less like an alien invasion to my studio and more like a homecoming celebration, as if the paintings were coming alive before my eyes, and welcoming their audience with open arms.  The people I love most in the world were accessing my work on the most intimate level of joyfulness and play.

Can my art be generous enough to allow for the serious and the silly, the awesome and the awkward?  Can I embrace all these things in myself and in my work?

The paintings in the background of the photos above are from my most recent body of work, the Momentum Series.  This group presents a personal narrative as told through an iconography of invented landscape elements: mountains, oceans and clouds conspire with small boats, winding paths and garden gates to act out the story of creative struggle.  This imaginary land is the place I go to explore my conflicting desires for solitude and community, surrender and ambition, safety and risk.  A small boat yearns for adventure far out on the horizon, but always returns home to the safe harbor.  (See images and read more about the Momentum Series on my website.)

In this next phase of my work, I am confronting these themes more directly.  My old avatars may remain, or be replaced.  Perhaps the curtain will drop, the masks will come off. The imaginary world of islands, waves, clouds, and boats will converge with the physical world of Lego ships, coffee mugs, tree-lined streets and neighborhoods.  But form and content must dovetail.  This project cannot be just an illustration of My Suburban Life, but rather an enactment, created in the moment. The subject is the process; the process is the subject.

Here are some new drawings I made this week, remembering to allow room for play, and the tumble of life as it unfolds in the moment:

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One thought on “Art Meets Life: Climbing down from the Ivory Tower

  1. And the “small boat yearning for adventure” catches a wave under a shooting star.
    Heading for the shoreline of your Montgomery Ridge neighborhood?
    Or simply floating out at sea, waiting?

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