I’ve had a decadent couple of weeks! Walking, napping, baking and eating, and mostly staying out of trouble. I didn’t go to the Hive until yesterday—it’s been cold here—and when I did, I discovered Didi the Hive Beast had been using the place as party-dog central. As I cleaned up I sang a new song to the tune of Through with Love:
I’m through with dogs / No more dogs for me / Through with dogs / I’ll kill the next one I see.
There was another verse about guns and knives but that seems gratuitous for a family-oriented blog.
Through with Art
While cleaning up, I asked myself why I hadn’t been in the studio since, like, December of last year. It wasn’t just Didi (though reason enough, right there). I wondered if I’d arrived at a stopping place with encaustic. In the last eighteen months, I’ve studied the material and the technique very closely and practiced good work habits, just like Dad would tell me to do. Some of the art is okay, and I have shown improvement. All good. And yet…I didn’t want to make art as I had been making it. I felt done.
I went back to my journal and found a couple of simple sentences, one from a post here on the blog and the other from an ages-old short story. I wrote them out on some French cold press paper and then added and removed wax. I have no images yet—the pieces aren’t done. But I have to say that for the first time in months, I felt meaning at the heart of this work.
Words at the Heart
What was this new meaning? Text. Until yesterday, I had been experiencing a sort of writer’s block, even though I was still writing all the time on stories and other projects. Visual art had become a wordless zone.
Many artists use words in their visual art. Think Cy Twombly and Anselm Kiefer, for instance. In my work, I don’t see words as a gesture, comment, or descriptor but as a sort of window that makes other kinds of thinking possible. For one thing, my handwriting isn’t as pretty as Kiefer’s. For another, what if I decide I don’t like those words…what if I want to change them later?
Writing process as meditation
Words are history as well as story, identity, and yes, even visual substance. But one thing writing doesn’t do is give you time to just exist. All those words want thinking about, editing and rearranging. So why couldn’t my visual art use the same tools as writing, words for instance, and work them like objects that contain literal, visual and even temporal aspects?
Final word on words
So, I’m back where I started eighteen months ago. Writing, painting over, rewriting and revealing words.
For a nice description of a similar artistic process, but with very different results, check out this post from wax legend Linda Womack.