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I’ve been intrigued by the Tower of Babel for a long time, so I’ve decided to really dig into it via art (and maybe writing) by making it my Lent project. Every day, an exploration of some aspect or interpretation or tangent of this very brief (nine verses, Genesis 11:1-9),  enigmatic story. Here’s the first.


Emily Dickinson, #1055 ("The Soul should always stand ajar")

The Soul should always stand ajar
That if the Heaven inquire
He will not be obliged to wait
Or shy of troubling Her

Depart, before the Host have slid
The Bolt unto the Door —
To search for the accomplished Guest,
Her Visitor, no more —

Emily Dickinson, #1055

More or less done.  I might tinker with it; I’ve been thinking of adding a border, maybe of the same plastic that makes up the skin, but I need to stare at it for a few more days.


I’m happy with it.  Tomorrow morning is my dedicated art time and I’m not sure what the project will be–maybe just drawing.

I’m working on a piece that I think of as my “little green men.” Joy calls it my “little molting men.” They are, or rather he is, molting; it consists of many virtually-identical figures, each with a skin of plastic, and each skin in some degree or another of being shed.

Detail of work in progress (tentative title "Shedding")

I started work on it probably two months ago, with many hours of painting the papers, cutting out figures and then again cutting parts of them out of plastic, gluing the plastic on, outlining each figure . . . All a lot of fun. I worked on it only in short bursts over the last month while I was occupied with Spanish class and a little stumped about what to do next with this shedding person. For a long time, I’d planned on putting the figures in a spiral form, which kept me occupied with interesting technical problems; I had thought I wanted a Fibonacci spiral, which required a compass, so I’d bought one, leading to a fun afternoon of me and the munchkin drawing with the compass, but not much else, as the compass wasn’t really up to the task. What do you want for seventeen pesos. Besides, after looking at all the Fibonacci spirals I was drawing, I decided I wanted a spiral more biological and less mathematical, shaped like a snail’s shell. That didn’t work any better, though (the figures are too big–the piece would have to be something like 5’x5′ to hold them), and I didn’t have any other satisfactory ideas. So I fretted, and to make it worse, I fretted far from the piece, avoiding it as if it were the cause of all the trouble. This seldom works, and it didn’t work this time. To overcome a bout of creative sterility, I usually need to have the piece before my eyes and the materials in my hands.  That’s why I’ve been doing art during this sabbatical; it was time to stop thinking about art and actually make it.

Finally, today, done with Spanish and free of parental responsibilities all morning, I sat down with the figures and within five minutes knew how they should go, which was not a spiral at all but an undulating path. Then I realized they needed to walk on something and I knew what form the ground should take too.

I love this part. I love it when the piece is starting to match the vision (with lots of surprises along the way, but pleasant ones) and I can just sit there contemplating the piece in progress as I cut paper into slivers and glue to my heart’s content. It occurred to me at one point to wonder whether rubber cement fumes can be fatal, but I thought, Well, I’ll die happy.

My friend Karen brought me the rubber cement (3 jars!) when she visited last month. I hadn’t thought to ask for any, but she’d read on here about how I couldn’t find it in San Miguel, and I’m so grateful for her thoughtfulness. I don’t see how I’d have made this piece without it. Now I’m in the home stretch and having so much fun it’s hard to stop and sleep, but I’m tired.

I’ve been doing less drawing and more collages over the past two weeks. I’m almost done with the tree drawing, but I’m waiting to be able to meet with my teacher, who has some advice on it but who has been out working on a mural every morning for the past few weeks. I’m glad for the impetus to spend more time on these abstract pieces, because their topic is important to me: the tensions and balance between continuity and change.

The one I’m working on now has a long way to go, but here are two from earlier this spring on the same theme (weak quality–the best I can do with my little camera). I looked up skin in the encyclopedia for the second one and loved what I found: “The basic function of our skin is to protect the organism from infection and the introduction of foreign materials, yet at the same time, it is an organ of respiration, secretion, the regulation of body temperature, sensation, and excretion.” In other words, our skin has the responsibility to be a barrier–quite an incredible one, flexible and impermeable to water–and also to allow exactly the right things out and in. It’s a model to emulate in the life of the soul, trying to maintain equilibrium while being open to the new and releasing the no-longer-necessary (which, as in the bodily metaphor, can quickly become toxic).

image 169

Continuity and change, #1

image 170


image 171

Continuity and change, #2

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