Friday, January 25, 2008

Flow along with the tide

The type written text on my old painting to the left says " to day. Each of us should be willing to flow along with the tide and not set up resistance against anything that comes. This is necessary so that growth and redemption can occur." I wish I could say where this text originated, all I know is that it came from a free bin book I retrieved from the Smith Family bookstore in Eugene Oregon. The text then became a part of my art in the book series I did in 1999 for my B.F.A terminal project. This message has come up for me in many places in my life, and was an unexpected gift when I started writing my blog today.

I was stumped for the first time, I just didn't know what to tell you this week. Then I thought about returning to my origins and sharing some of my older work with you and the process that inspired it. I knew I liked this piece of mine, but I didn't remember this powerful note on the cover. Those words must have struck a chord with me when I was 27 and they still do today at 35. There is so much resistance to battle inside ourselves, especially when it comes to creativity. I remember that book was supposed to be my artistic version of an imagined "cult deprogramming manual." I put duct tape on the spine of this flimsy book, painted it a stark white and glued my red and black paintings in the middle of the taped together and painted white pages. The idea was that the imagined cult member would look at the book and the images would reset their memories and they would be restored to the person their family remembered from before the cult. This was when assuming characters and scenarios were an important part of my work. In school anything was possible as long as I could convince my professors of it being authentic and fully considered. Nothing was for sale, so I was truly free to explore all the levels of my creativity. It was hard, and sometimes ridiculous "art school" fodder but it was so rewarding. Today, I explore my creativity, dream up stories and conceptualize my current work as well, but it has changed.

The photograph below is the first black and white photo I made and developed in a dark room. I took one photography class while in school. It was the most nerve wracking experience. I was always a nervous mess in that class. I was so out of my element, but I found a voice inside of me that I never would have known about, if I hadn't done it. The dark room for that term became my anxious friend, long hours in that warm darkness with the chemicals. I felt so accomplished when I spent time in there.

The photographs I took were all about detachment and abandoned living. I was living in a slum apartment in downtown Eugene that I dearly loved. I loved it because of its decrepit beauty. The enchanting style of the 1930's courtyard apartment was still easy to see even with the gangs and junkies nodding off on the stoops. The cast of characters that lived in the apartment became my family and sometimes my subjects. This photo captured one of my neighbors on his stoop, a day in the life. He was extremely tall and lanky and I liked his fluid movements.

We all have origins to our art, I am now known for my use of color washes and texture but the origins of my work are black and white with dark dirty colors and text. What makes us do the work we do and what makes us change? I was living in Oregon, and feel sure the rain and atmosphere of where I lived helped to inform my work at the time. The freedom of being able to create art for art's sake while living frugally on my student loans and work study surely influenced my work as well.

Here is another page from "the cult deprogramming manual," and this was my favorite page of the book. The book consisted of a cover image
(at the top of this post) three images inside, and then an image on the back cover. On this page, I loved the way the charcoal and white gesso
swirl together to create a cloud like form. I actually think this piece is one my favorite pieces I have ever created, yet it remains closed up inside this book, except for times like this when I pull it out. That was another thing about my books, the paintings were closed up tight and not on display. They required action by the viewer to get to them and to receive them. At this stage all my peers in school were painting large glossy abstract paintings, and I was vehemently opposed to them. I enjoyed their work but at the time I didn't want to go along with the crowd. I now make much larger, sometimes glossy abstract paintings full of color and I am not living off my student loans anymore, in fact I have paid them all off. I may have compromised, but I have also expanded my ideas as needed to fill a need in myself and others. Back to that statement above, " to day. Each of us should be willing to flow along with the tide and not set up resistance against anything that comes. This is necessary so that growth and redemption can occur." See how this keeps making sense?

There are many serious artists, art lovers and collectors in the world. There are also people with plenty of judgements. I think artists are the harshest judges of themselves and their work and each other. We want to make "real" art, not something easy to digest and gentle on the eye. We want to stretch, we want to impress, we want to feel something and for others to feel it as deeply as we do. Yet, to live this artistic life money is now required. Sometimes we resist this, sometimes we hesitate and we second guess our authenticity.

In this photograph, on the left side is an old and abandoned child's wheel chair, and on the right a close up detail. This was found in the "prop closet" in the drawing room at the University. What always struck me were the wooden toys across the arms of the seat. How long was this child going to be in this chair? I had never seen a chair like this. The toy's wooden beads were now faded, and an old colander was in the seat. I liked how beaten up it was. At the time the photo was made I was focused on the objects beauty but I was also probably grateful that I was never required to draw these items.

Where are your works' origins? Do you question the work you are doing? Are you making the work you want to be making? Will you compromise in order to really make a go at this? And how much? Are you judging yourself or others too harshly? All I can say, as I ask myself these same questions is...
Keep moving forward, keep flowing, and keep fighting.

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  1. Hey, I thought I was supposed to be the writer. This is really nice.

  2. Wow! Great blog this week Megan!!
    It's like you read my mind while I was working on my painting this afternoon!

    All the questions that you asked are questions that I ask myself on almost a daily basis. My fiance is currently in graduate school for his MFA and I know how much he struggles with these questions too.

    For myself, when I start to think about all these questions, my answer is to just keep going. Like you said Keep moving forward, keep flowing, and keep fighting. That is so important because at the very least you are still working, and that is THE most important thing.

    One of my closest professors at PSU gave us the scary statistic that maybe, MAYBE, one in ten students would go on and continue to make art after graduation. I decided then that I wasn't going to be one of the students that stopped. 3 years later I'm still going!

  3. Great blog! I love the idea of a cult deprogramming manual. Deprogramming from the cult of bitter competition, hyper-critical judgement and anxiety! I can't even paint if I'm too much in my head judging and calculating - I start freaking myself out and it makes me freeze up!

  4. thanks for sharing some of your early works, Megan. I love the b&w photos you took in Eugene. it's really interesting to hear about that chapter of your life. thanks for sharing :-)...

  5. this is the most inspired post so far megan.
    i read this post late friday evening and decided not to comment, instead, think about all the things you mention over a couple of days..
    which i have done..
    a few things struck me, the book, the action of the viewer to receive.
    this again reflects for me in your new work, the layers, the hidden depths, the reveal, always a bright light/band/zip beneath, this is just my own personal interpretation of your work;
    and may not be yours.
    but this is what i see, a hidden and deep foundation to your work that goes further back.
    all of which takes actions from the viewer to reveal.
    i cannot possibly post all my views in this one 'comment'
    simply thank you for your work/friendship & thoughts.
    beautiful post megan.

  6. your imagery and words are reminding me of Francesca Woodman.