Studio view, South Boston

Art making is, for me, a zone of inchoate nonlinearity, one that does not have the Wallace Stevensish delineations* to mark direction or any measure of “progress” (a word that, these days in particular, seems to always need to wear a pair of quotes.) Mostly I am thankful for having worked that portal for so many years that the path in is a well worn one.

But there are times when a little more form can help, and a deadline serves that purpose. So I’ve been in the studio nonstop for the last 2 weeks, coaxing “works in progress” to consider changing their status to “named and signed.” It’s still uncertain how many made the jump.

There are moments in that full immersion when a glimpse of existential detachment emerges and asks with some harshness: Why you are doing this? What does it mean? There’s the personal answer (which is quite simply, I can’t NOT) but I was heartened by a reminder of the larger answer. Thanks to Maureen of Writing Without Paper whose energy and intelligence fills her blog with the useful and the inspirational, I was led to a memorable post on Venetian Red. Referring to a recent address by Bay Area sculptor Bruce Beasley at an Art in Action event, the post recapitulates the societal value of making and viewing art including pattern recognition, whole picture viewing, more multidimensional decision making.

These are topics I’ve written about here before. (Here’s a sampling: Thoughts about the work of Ellen Dissanayake, Finley Eversole and Ralph Waldo Emerson.) But timely reminders are a good thing.

In the meantime (and in the future), it is just chop wood, carry water.

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*By this I am referring to the last two stanzas of my all time favorite poem, “The Idea of Order at Key West,” by Wallace Stevens:


Ramon Fernandez, tell me, if you know,
Why, when the singing ended and we turned
Toward the town, tell why the glassy lights,
The lights in the fishing boats at anchor there,
As night descended, tilting in the air,
Mastered the night and portioned out the sea,
Fixing emblazoned zones and fiery poles,
Arranging, deepening, enchanting night.

Oh! Blessed rage for order, pale Ramon,
The maker’s rage to order words of the sea,
Words of the fragrant portals, dimly-starred,
And of ourselves and of our origins,
In ghostlier demarcations, keener sounds.

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