It’s impossible to ignore the impact of the CoVID-19 pandemic on our lives and the way we interact with the people we are used to having around us. As an artist, I find it difficult to ignore the impact of the situation on my art and creative process.
Even though my full time job and my artistic life and creative process intertwine, it still feels strange and uncomfortable not “going in to work”. Spending time in the studio creating, pondering the questions around the role of art in our culture, or what it means to be an artist, still feels like something I should be spending some small part of my “work week” on, not the entire day.
However, there is still the endless drumbeat of, “do something, be productive, don’t waste your time, have something to show for all these hours and days and weeks slipping through your fingers.”
As a Christ-follower, there is the added angle of somehow transforming this time into some sort of spiritual experience. What am I learning from this time? How am I stepping into transformation? How will I, and the community of Christ following people emerge from the other side of this experience, somehow stronger and more aware of our place in God’s Kingdom? It’s a two edged sword — the questions are certainly valuable and worth asking, but again, there is the buzzing pressure to be “spiritually” productive with the time, to not simply let it walk past me.
I created this sculpture, “Quiet”, shortly before the world all went crazy. A pottery friend had just given me a 50lb batch of a new kind of clay to experiment with. It was very similar to the Black Raven clay which I have used before, but with a higher level of grog. I created this piece largely as an experiment with the new clay, trying some new techniques. I was delighted with the results, especially the the glistening surface finish I liked so much in the Black Raven clay. However, I also ran into some technical difficulties, in particular, in some severe cracking in the body and legs of the figure.
I found an interesting way of “redeeming” these cracks when they have shown up in some of my work. I have a bright, gold colored resin which I work into the cracks. Much like the ancient Japanese tradition of Kintsukuroi (or Kintsugi), it takes something which has been marred or broken, and transforms it into something more beautiful than before. For this figure, rather than hiding the crack, I acknowledge it as a precious part of who she is.
I struggled to find the right name for this piece. I created it out of a guttural sense of the form, flow, tension and feel of the pose, rather than having an explicit sense of the “meaning”. Now, as we walk in the middle of the insanity, darkness, and uncertainty of these times of pandemic and fear, the sense this figure gave me was of “quiet”. She doesn’t necessarily have a sense of “peace”, for there is little of that around. Rather, she is sitting still, allowing the quiet to flow over her.
This is what I am trying to see, to walk into, to let myself dwell in — quiet. Taking time to consciously step off of the treadmill of doing “useful” things. Stilling the noise and buzz of what is going on — things that I cannot deny and cannot stop — and allowing myself to simply hear the still, small sound of the Father, breathing.
(For a fascinating talk around the tradition of Kintsukuroi and the way it parallels our lives, see this TED Talk.)