Dear Reader, I’ve reached the end of the residency. These last two weeks have passed rapidly.
Sharing this journal has turned out to be an integral part of the experience. I appreciate your support and comments. Thanks for coming along.
February 18 : From Art Making To Art Teaching
There are so many things art can’t do: It can’t bring the dead back to life. It can’t mend arguments between friends or cure AIDS or halt the pace of climate change. All the same… it does have some odd negotiating ability between people…it does have a capacity to create intimacy… --Olivia Laing, The Lonely City
There’s a message in my inbox this morning reminding me that my MAC workshop, Painterly Collage, starts in just one week. Tom’s coming tomorrow to take home all my oil and wax pieces and materials, leaving me with just the water based collage media. I’m not ready to stop working with oil media, but the world is coming back to me, moving things along. My work here has been concerned with seeing the landscape through the painted surface. Few pieces are finished. I wonder how they will find their way.
February 20 : Every Workshop Is Different
In preparation for teaching, I have been reviewing some of my reading. Dipping into Daybook, I find the Anne Truit who is a teacher as well as a studio artist:
The roots of art could not be more mysterious to the students than to me. Art, obviously, cannot be taught. Techniques…can be, but these are essentially exercises…serving to stretch, strengthen, to prepare. —Anne Truitt, Daybook
Although the Mendocino Art Center has few requirements, leaving artists to explore at will, each artist in residence is encouraged to take on a teaching obligation, an opportunity to share with others some of one’s individual processes. My workshop occurs the last weekend of my residency. I have chosen to teach Painterly Collage—a combination of printing, drawing, gluing and painting with water based materials. It’s a departure from my usual oil based work, but the essential processes, the exploration of adding and subtracting layers to create a mixed media painting are much the same.
I believe Truitt when she says “art cannot be taught”. I also believe Louis Pasteur who, speaking of chance in discovery, famously claimed that “Fortune follows the prepared mind”. I have heard students dismiss a beautiful stroke or clever solution in their art work as being merely a “lucky accident”. I wonder if, instead, this might be evidence of the right brain at work. I am hoping that by learning and practicing techniques, students will be creating opportunities for art to appear.
Week 6 : Endings
February 23-25 : Painterly Collage
A concept of any importance seems to carry with it the responsibility of inventing methods for its actualization, the energy to do so. —Anne Truitt, Daybook
It is a challenge to teach techniques and processes while encouraging the rhythms and states of mind (or no-mind) that invite art. I am in need of what Anne Truitt calls a “touch of grace”.
I like getting lost, conducting experiments and heading off, for better or for worse, into the unknown. But much of making art depends on problem solving, on finding ways of getting from here to there with the skills and materials at hand.
This workshop is filled with quiet risk takers. Students are learning new things while using their own strengths to make work that is individual and personal. One student says, “I keep asking myself how I will make all these ideas and techniques my own”. I love that question.
In the middle of the second work day, another student comments that our studio is really, really quiet—only ambient noises and the subtle shifting sounds of concentration. Each person is sticking with her work, dealing steadily with unfamiliar processes and materials, alert to possibilities, trying new solutions. Many are working larger than usual, experimenting with new color combinations or constructing new compositions.
We end on the third day with work that rewards us all. I love teaching—the excitement and wonder of seeing what emerges, the creative expressions coming through each individual. It is a strong beginning. Everyone makes three or four pieces. Here are some of them:
February 28 : Leaving
To define a mission for art, then, one of its tasks is to teach us to be good lovers: lovers of rivers and lovers of skies, lovers of motorways and lovers of stories. And—very importantly—somewhere along the way, lovers of people. —Alain de Botton and John Armstrong, Art As Therapy
In the last few days everything rushes toward the end—cleaning out the studio for the next resident, securing artwork and materials in the car, packing up the apartment.
There are last, long walks along cliffs, beaches and familiar streets; a drive into Fort Bragg for an art supply check in at Racine’s, and the night before I leave, a quiet dinner out with friends.
Morning and the window blinds are opened a last time to the garden, where there is a pale sunshine that will soon cloud over and turn to rain.
“So, did you do everything you set out to do here?” asked a fellow resident last night as we walked back to the art center under a soon to be full moon. I wasn’t sure how to answer. I hadn’t come with a particular plan. I had come to be alone and to see where that would lead me.
The tabby cat that roams the studios at the art center wears a red heart shaped tag dangling from her collar. It reads, “I am not lost”. I’ve been exploring for six weeks—walking around, making artwork, reading and writing and meeting other people who love art. I haven't discovered the magic charm that will transform my life or my work. I suspect I’ll always be a wanderer, but I am not lost.