I did not get around to making an entry yesterday. I was too busy getting ready for my next installment of "The Art of Outrage" for Artscene Visual Radio. I have had the opportunity to interview three noted artists in the past couple of days, and their voices will be heard on my podcast about the show in which they are included at the Orange County Museum of Art, "Disorderly Conduct: Recent Art in Tumultuous Times." It's always a pleasure to be in touch with creative minds, and the material I gathered will create, I know, an interesting montage.
Speaking, though, of the creative mind--and it does seem to have been on my own mind in the past couple of days (see Thursday's entry in The Buddha Diaries)--we spent the evening before renewing old friendships with an artist and a fellow writer who live in our immediate neighborhood but with whom, for all those ridiculous and inexcusable reasons, we had lost touch for a number of years. It was a particular pleasure to discover that we have been following, each in our own way, much the same kind of path in the intervening years. Our artist friend, like myself a man of respectable--but not yet venerable!--years, has been known chiefly for his works of public art, scattered in various locations throughout the country. Recently, though, he has chosen to withdraw from that arena into the intimacy of his studio, making works of much smaller scale in more malleable materials--a choice not unlike moving from the world of publishing into the blogosphere, where I have been able to do my writing without a moment's consideration for what might be expected of me, for reasons disconnected with the simple desire to engage in the art of writing.
My friend--I won't give his name, because I'm unsure whether he's ready to have his new work known through this particular medium--has been doodling, noodling with lengths of simple gray felt, working them into small, exquisitely-wrought spiral towers and quasi-figurative forms and, more recently, into larger, complex abstract compositions whose twists and folds engage the eye in smooth, flowing surfaces and shadows. Like all sensuous forms, they tempt the hand, too, begging for the caress and touch that a personal studio visit allows. I wish I had pictures to share of these delightful, modest objects that carry all the authority of a mature artist who's still willing to venture into the unknown. It's highly personal, hands-on work that emphasizes the process of its making and clearly evokes both the labor and the sheer joy that its making involves.
As much a pleasure as that studio visit was the opportunity to share with friends, at our dinnertime conversation, the sense that the advancing years bring not only the aches and pains, but a growing freedom from all those contingencies of the younger ones--the need to make a living, make a name, outpace the competition in one's field, and so on--and, with that freedom, a kind of wisdom and a growing understanding that what can be done without the material or critical reward is satisfaction in itself. One's needs and expectations diminish appropriately. In the terms of Buddhist teachings, it's action without attachment to the success or failure of the outcome, a permission to find joy where it can only be found--in each passing moment, in each small step along the way.
That, anyway, is what I brought away from our evening. We parted with good intentions to make it happen again before too much time slips past.