This would be the sequel to the New Year’s resolution post a couple of weeks back, in which I vowed to part ways with years of art projects from past classes and phases, and future artworks that just are not going to happen.
I used to help people shed their clutter for a living, so how hard could it be to take my own advice? Clear the decks and clear the mind, yada yada.
But it really does feel like a bit of my soul is being destroyed when I finally get down to chucking out a drawing or a collage, or face the strong probability that I will never master weaving or silk-screening. I know something has to give or I will be Rusty in Orchestraville, that annoying kid from the ancient record of the same name we had growing up. (Rusty kept switching instruments so he never mastered any one, and got kicked out of band. Or something like that.)
The Buddhists would say that it’s important to let go of material objects and the ego embedded in them, but I also see there’s something to learn from those past studies and explorations, so I’ve come to a workable compromise.
Thanks to one of my favourite art school instructors who required we keep a well-stuffed sketchbook for our Creative Processes class, I’ve kept up the habit. It takes me about a year to fill a spiral-bound hard-cover sketchbook with my notes, clippings, found things, sketches, pattern studies and painting tests for bigger artworks. The collection of bulging books are more important to me than any particular painting or sculpture because I refer back to those ideas and bits of inspiration as I move forward.
Cutting a section out of a painting and gluing it onto a sketchbook page feels like cutting my ego down to size. I get to keep the idea without the fetishistic need to hold on to every little thing just because I made it.
Who knew letting go could feel so good?
BEFORE: Transforming plain cardstock paper into a multi-coloured burst pattern was a useful exercise but the finished project was just hanging around, taking up space.
AFTER: Cropping the piece and gluing it into the sketchbook gives it new dimension: a process to refer to in the future.
My New Year’s resolution this year is D&D: Divest and Dance.
The idea is that if I clear some space by divesting myself of my art stuff I’ll have more room to dance. Or maybe it was: I'll be doing a happy dance if I can get rid of some of that stuff. I don’t recall, as the resolution-making may have involved wine.
The problem is I have a lot of ideas for artwork involving accumulations of specific objects and have been collecting bits within those categories for years. Broken plastic toy bits. Corks. Buttons. Beach glass. Bone-china saucers. Vintage matchbooks. Souvenir spoons. Doilies. I wish this was the end of the list but it’s not. One-pound coffee bags. Lurid 1970s’ recipe cards. Wooden spools of thread. Mid-century ladies’ home magazines. Wooden embroidery hoops. Plaid flannel shirts. Antique photo frames. Glass tesserae. Other people’s jeans. Chandelier crystals. Banal postcards.
I got the gift of a visual feast for Christmas: a date to see some performance-art mastery by Cirque du Soleil. And it was no less a sensory experience than the first show I saw when Alegria debuted in Vancouver in '03.
Amaluna also has an operatic storyline but I looked past that to better focus on the abstract. Narratives can be distracting, in the same way that lyrics in music distract me when I'm in the middle of a creative process. Instead, I let the spectacle of sound, light, and unimaginable feats of the human form wash over me.
I was close enough to the stage to feel the velocity of Olympics-level gymnasts in fiery costumes swinging through uneven bars while others scrambled below and pushed them into the air, in a kind of choreographed chaos in the dark void, set to a hard-rock soundscape and mesmerizing light show.
This is my kind of Olympics. All of the technical ability but none of the brutal, singular competition and nationalism. No instant-replayed technical errors, no ranking, no tears, but instead a slightly psychedelic viewer experience of human physical and creative potential.
Acrobatic coach Stacy Clark told thestar.com that she challenges the highly trained gymnasts to find ways "to strip away some of the intense discipline they had as a gymnast and turn it into a much more expressive experience."
I could see it on the faces of the mostly female cast from as far as China, Japan and Russia that they were fully engaged. Some of those talents were not found in elite training schools but in the world's most egalitarian performance space: YouTube.
Compared to Cirque, Olympics gymnastics — and the whole Games — feel too hard-core, too political, even fascist.
But I have to admit I'm a little puffed up with nationalistic pride myself as this wildly successful French-Canadian company displays new possibilities for showing off what bodies can do in creative collaboration.
A taste of Amaluna:
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