Wednesday, February 28, 2007

shades and hues

The last two days have been filled with "pull a string, get an elephant" activity. It's good. Actually, I'm cleaning out my studio. It really isn't very functional when you get right down to it. I have a very small space for my easel, chair, pencils and paints and the rest looks like (or looked like) an art supply flea market and junk explosion. So I began "concepting" about what I want, what's most important, and then began throwing away. I basically threw away the past year. As I looked at the work I saved and had planned to show from this time last year, I truly could not believe how bad it was. I'm certainly capable of less than compelling artwork, but technically I'm usually right on. This was way, WAY off, even off the refrigerator. It was more than that, actually. I'm amazed at how much my art endeavors chronicle my life, my moods, my actions, like a living journal. Add to that the fact that my studio space was my son's bedroom.

Along with the truly regrettable art that I tossed, feeling a creeping shame about even talking to a gallery representative at that time (I did show some of it!), I found photographs I had forgotten about. The photographs then reminded me of things I did and felt at the time that I no longer feel or do. There is only a residue of memory left from a relationship, a time and a need I had then that somehow is lost to me now. I found the clothes my son wore for his initial hearing. He needed a decent outfit for his court appearance, and I remember rummaging through jeans, dockers, polo shirts and loafers at Walmart thinking he'd never have been caught dead in this stuff before prison. I just sort of looked at it and realized the person who used to fit into these clothes doesn't anymore, physically or any other way. I found letters, old show cards, things I don't know why I saved. I filled two lawn and leaf bags.

I was thinking to myself as I was doing all of this cleaning. I was able to open a window in the room today and watch my cat, CJ, jump into the sill, with a quivering meow and a twitching tail as he watched the birds flutter and chirping outside. Soft light filled the now mostly-empty and clean room. I thought about a time when I was probably 13, and I got a really bad case of the flu in the middle of the summer. I couldn't stand the light, so I slept my room all day with drawn shades. The extreme brightness of summer covered by shades made the room this strange sort of gray, and the noise of children outside and summer sounds seemed muffled and mixed together nonsensically in the hallucination of fever. I remember my mother's cool hands and wanting desperately to enjoy the orange Hi-C she brought me without being nauseated at the slightest intrusion to the stomach. At a time when I most wanted to be well and do the things that healthy people do in the neon days of July, it would have been the worst thing for me.

Somehow I imagine now having had an emotional fever for the last year or so. Somehow I think the Holy Spirit sometimes draws the shades over our consciousness when it would be too painful to view the brilliant light of reality, even the good things. We are kept from being totally drained by life and given a gray and quiet room just big enough to adjust to it again. There were many things I couldn't hear well or see in full color. That my artwork now is competition grade once more tells me I shouldn't fear diving into the pool again and running full tilt into life. In fact I feel the restlessness of too many days confined. I have to go build a set a shelves for my room and mount a pegboard for my empty frames. I really can't wait to the fill them!


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