Thursday, January 19, 2006

the transitory act of creation

Yesterday I received the first piece of art from which I am to write a poem, or other creative response, for class. The artist, known to me only by the initials M.E., chose to leave a wet oil painting for me to transport to and from the University. Presumably, I will be transporting paintings such as this, one to two times a week for the next seven or eight weeks. The artist in me has no objection to this. If I were to leave a wet painting for someone else to take home, I would not be uncomfortable with the high probability of said painting returning to me in a state differing from that in which it was left. It's wet paint. And art is, after all, somewhat transitory in nature.

However, I watched in horror as I stood in the studio while the art instructor (the closest I'll come to actually meeting my artist all term) casually tossed the painting into a plastic bag to which the paint immediately stuck. Part of the project is to be open to having our own work changed by our partner, but I did not envision that I would be made to physically effect change on their work. On the other hand, anyone leaving a wet oil painting to be handled by strangers should be well versed in the zen art of detachment. In that sense, I act as a reminder to not become overly attached to things, because, in the immortal words of Ruth Gordon, they're "incidental, not integral, if you know what I mean." Still, this experience got me thinking about the ephemeral quality of the very act of creation.

How rare is it that one accomplishes with exacting precision the very thing one set out to make, creatively speaking? Usually it is a process of discovery, a work metamorphosing each time one spends time with it and, in the end, turning into something quite different than first imagined. That is part of the beauty of the whole experience. So, I'm excited to be working with M.E. (though I can't help but feel like I'm having a strangely self-reflexive moment every time I write a sentence like this), and look forward to whatever it is we will ultimately create together. It is a unique opportunity to be seen and judged solely on the basis of one's work, and to have that work responded to with complete and total honesty, having no other information with which to muddy the process.

Who is this M.E.? Are they male or female? Does knowing a person's gender have a bearing on the interpretation of their work? Will we understand each other? And later, once we've met, will we find our assumptions to be terribly correct (or disarmingly inaccurate)? Will we be compatible (or incompatible) in ways unforeseen throughout the project? I'm curious to know. Does anything matter outside of the art itself, whatever the medium, and the pure expression of it? Even timeless works, by virtue of the piece having outlived its creative impulse and moment in history, are they not somehow ephemeral too? Can we actually hold onto anything more than the process itself, knowing that though components may change, the impulse is one of the most basic in all of humanity? Could I possibly find a way to include in this post yet another question?

Monday, January 16, 2006

butterflies and jesus jokes

I've just finished revising a short story I wrote entitled Mariposa, nearly doubling its length, for a class I am taking with fiction author Whitney Otto. Huzzah! It is now a satisfying 5,902 words total. As I write this, it occurs to me I have no idea at which point a short story ceases to be a short story and becomes a novella. Hmm... a question for my teacher I guess. I am hopeful (rare this time of year) about the productivity of the coming months and the creative projects (including painting!)I have ahead of me. And I'm especially excited about my other class with poet Michele Glazer, exploring the relationship between the written and visual arts and the processes employed by their makers. I don't have much more to say tonight. I put it all into my story.

Part of me wishes to share a bit of it here, and part of me feels strange putting my writing (my real writing) up on the web for anyone to see. I'm not (yet?) published and only recently have made this foray into fiction. Most of what I write is poetry, but I'm proud of both. And though I plan to continue writing until the day I die, though I intend to make a living in a way somehow connected to the craft, I'm uncertain of putting it out there to be judged by strangers. Funny, then, that I keep enrolling in courses which provide me with exactly that opportunity.

On a completely unrelated note, I keep meaning to say something about this post about this page and the related feedback in response to it. This is sheer madness. To begin with (and I'll state upfront I don't think any topic is beyond reproach and firmly hold that humor is one of the best ways to get people to talk about issues that are difficult, painful, and/or mired in a history of conflict), I'm sure that Jesus has a better sense of humor than he's being given credit for and that he's not in need of anyone rushing to his defense, if that's what you'd call this nonsense.

I also can't imagine Jesus, or any other prophet or holy person in any of the world's other religions, being at all pleased with the kind of hateful, ignorant, and spiteful comments that have been made. In fact, Jesus would be appalled by this kind of behavior. So, lighten up folks, and for [holy name omitted to protect myself from flamers]'s sake, practice the love and goodwill towards others that you profess to believe. If people spent more time worrying about their own lives and how they treat others and less time worrying about what everyone else was doing, this would all be a non-issue anyway. And that's all I'm going to say about that.