This image below is of one of the most recent paintings I've completed. The "I" in that sentence is definitely misleading, though. It isn't that I am unwilling to take any credit for it- after all, I made the panel, I bought the paint and then I showed up, sitting after sitting, and painted the image you see.
Yet when I feel my work is 'on,' when I have birthed something surprising and new (to me, at least), when I feel I have created something that goes beyond my identity, my personality, my ego, AND my pre-conceived notion of what 'my work looks like,' then I know it wasn't "I" alone who completed it.
For many years I charged at the surface of my works and I battled with them. I painted with brushwork that slashed and slathered and slapped images to life. That emotive, angst-ridden fury often kept me separate from the piece until it all came together; until I had risked destroying it's beauty so many times, that a new beauty arose, almost in defiance of me, and one I didn't understand at first. I would then often feel that the work created itself and I had little to do with it.
The process has evolved and changed in many ways. Most recently, I am doing a lot more waiting, breathing and allowing than ever. I am waiting for guidance. I am listening for the inaudible. I am breathing in the mystery of where I will be led next- to what color, to what stroke or line, to whether my eyes will be open or closed as I work. I realize that if I am going to bring something new into existence, I must listen from that place- the intangible, the mysterious and the infinite.
Today, as I was coming through a crowd of movers in my ecstatic dance class, my teacher invited us to consider a threshold we are crossing in our lives.
Immediately I thought that every time I paint I am crossing a threshold. I am in the unknown; and every time, I am confronted with an almost palpable terror. There is excitement, for sure, yet the word I heard in class so clearly was- 'terror.' This was new and very surprising to me. I'd never associated something I draw so much joy and pleasure from as being initially 'terrifying.'
The truth is, there is an edge that I must meet every time, a barrier of my own creation. This is where the breathing makes all the difference. Through the breath there is, to the best of my ability, a dissolving of all pre-conceived imagery and notions of 'how' to paint that I begin aiming for. There is an essential desire to empty my mind and let go of the controls. And, there is the necessity of silencing so many voices- "What if you fuck this image up?" "What if this one isn't as strong as the last one?" "What if you aren't as inventive as you have been before?" "What if you don't reveal the purity and truth of yourself in this moment, right now?"
Nothing like a little pressure, eh?
So, I will pause to laugh a little at myself and breathe in the intensity of me, knowing that in all of this, there is a dance.
There is a dance of letting myself be as fully present as possible. There is the dance of moving between the fire and the flow of the process. And, there is the possibility of dancing more 'with' the work than battling against it.