My main sabbatical project is to make art, with a goal of doing so for several hours almost every day. The past few weeks, however, have been mostly “preparing the studio”: packing up our house for the renters, cleaning and repairing and buying and sorting, getting all our traveling ducks in a row (traveling ducks, how cute), and once here in Oaxaca, house-hunting and such. And I was on study leave for four weeks, so was doing a lot of writing and reading. I read Christ for Unitarian Universalists, by Scotty McLennan, which was well-written and interesting; and Promoting Diversity and Social Justice: Educating People from Privileged Groups, by Joan Goodman, whose interesting topic was overshadowed by the prose, which was dire even by dissertation standards (it clearly was written as a dissertation); and a boatload of fiction, including, at last, Octavia Butler’s Xenogenesis trilogy–well, the first book and a half of it so far.
All necessary before the arting could begin. But I knew I would be glum if I didn’t do some art along the way, so I’ve been drawing, doing ceramics, or sketching notes for future pieces, and am now in the rhythm of doing some art every day. I’m almost done with my first piece in clay at Ishuakara (I don’t know how it came by a Japanese name; I keep forgetting to ask), and have another I’m hankering to start. All three of us can work there and have been doing so.
Several nights ago, in the fertile time of half-sleep, I thought of a series of pieces that seem so obvious and in keeping with things I’ve been thinking about for years that I couldn’t believe they had never come to me before. I won’t write about the project here except to say that it’s about the ambiguous nature of decay. I will post photos as I begin to make the pieces. One wrinkle: I am completely ignorant of printmaking and I am pretty sure that this series wants to be prints. An iron for the wrinkle: Oaxaca turns out to be a positive hotbed of printmakers, printmaking teachers, graphic arts collectives, and printmaking history. So I’m going to learn printmaking. While I am occupied with other things I am doing a little research on the different kinds of printmaking (I am telling you, I’m ignorant–I have heard of lithography and etching and monoprint and silkscreening, etc. etc., but since I don’t know how each technique works, I have no clue which one/s is/are best suited to the vision in my head).
Last night, on the way to a dance performance, I picked up a seedpod with such cries of delight that my peri-adolescent daughter treated me to half-disgusted condescension: “You’ve never noticed those before? I have.” Nope, never have, and don’t know what they are–I’ll have to go back and look at the tree–but this morning I drew it, intending this first pass to be very simple and monochromatic, almost schematic. As is always the way with drawing from nature, the process helped me see things about this lovely subject (I was going to say “object,” but it’s a subject) that mere looking hadn’t shown me. Can you see the mistake?: at one point, not yet wise to the necessity of keeping a finger on the podlet I had just drawn, I lost track of where I was and mixed up my figure and ground. Escher would have made something brilliant of that, but I just laughed at myself.