Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Unexpected

I have a friend in Chicago who told me that she's started painting. Some time ago, her apartment was burglarized--thankfully, she said, the only thing they took was the laptop, which, in my case, would be the pinnacle of horror--but when the policemen were there writing up the report, they paused to comment on her new work. How strange it was, she wrote to me, that the first people to see the paintings were strangers, and she hadn't even given herself enough time to sit with the idea.

I'm always interested in the combination of faith and uncertainty that artists must put up with. Or, rather, maybe uncertainty is part of faith--that's what faith is, right? Either way, you have to trust yourself, trust your process, and trust your instincts. All of this, of course, in the back of your mind as you push the paint across the canvas, or pull the clay up from the table. Or push the keys to make the words. There really is no difference. Meanwhile, our self-doubt is also creeping in from all sides, pooling like water anywhere it can collect.

Another friend of mine, who's now living in Seattle, was showing me some pieces from this new series--Shannon's a photographer, but not always. She works in all sorts of media, and is even devising a massive community-centered event on her home street in Brooklyn which, if it ever actually moves through the urban bureaucracy, could manage to really amaze. This new series she's doing--it's pictures of films taken with her cell phone camera. Only it's a million times more interesting than that sounds. The grainy-ness, the removal, the intimacy and immediacy. Tonight, over my fish and chips and her bison burger at Fanelli's, she showed me a few of them. "I can't decide what size they should be?" she kept saying. "Bigger," I said. "Eight by ten." Then I had to clarify. "Feet. Eight by ten feet." I always want photographs to be huge.

Last weekend, Kip and I end up watching a new documentary about Sally Mann, "What Remains," and I'm loving watching her figure things out. I love watching her look. Seeing the way she looks at something, framing it, cropping it, creating focus.

How is it that the art-struggle is so universal, and yet so personal? So mystical? What is the universe trying to tell me by giving me all this evidence?

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