Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Painting's Edge: Day 2

We were up in good time and out for breakfast at a local eatery with our new friends, Don and Micaela. Very pleasant, sitting out under the pine trees in the already warm mountain air, and breakfast was... generous. I ordered oatmeal, and managed about a half of what was served--and I'm one who hates to leave food on his plate.

(As an aside, I was inspired this morning by a conversation with Don--a long-time martial arts practitioner and now, in his retirement, a hang-gliding enthusiast!--to try out a meditation on the skin. My body scan, when I do it, usually takes a path through the internal parts, so it was a fascinating change to concentrate on that part where the body meets the external world: scalp, forehead, eyes and eyelids, the inner skin of ears, nose, mouth, the chin with its multitudinous follicles of hair, neck, shoulders, down the arms to the fingers... well, you can trace the path. I found it particularly moving, once I had it all together, to let it go, releasing everything that defines the external image of the self and watching that image dissolve into thin air. I recommend this as a wonderful meditation experience.)

After breakfast, we headed back to the campus where Micaela and I fulfilled the second part of our guest speaker duties--meeting with residents for a half-hour encounter with their work. I hesitate to use the word "critique", though that's the one most often used. Speaking for myself, I don't actually "critique" anything. I look. I ask questions. I ask about intentions and their fulfillment. I ask about new directions. Where are you headed with this work?

I worked with thirteen artists, between nine and four-thirty, with an hour's break for lunch in the campus cafeteria. It proved to be an exhausting but tremendously rewarding day. If you've read the lecture that I gave the previous night, you'll know that my own intention is always to go deep, to keep digging until I find out what it is I need to say. The implications of my approach lead into extremely personal, sometimes painful areas of experience, and in many cases on this day I found myself listening to those kinds of inner investigations and self-revelations from which I believe much creative work emerges; and I felt, at the end of the day, that I had managed to meet up at some depth with each of these fellow human beings, fellow-strivers in the world of art.

After an intense day's work, we took a break in our hotel room before returning to the campus for the keynote lecture by Peter Plagens. A man of extensive knowledge of the current international art scene--and of acerbic wit--he took a quite different, and rather more skeptical approach than mine. An unreconstructed formalist and a self-confessed contrarian by nature, he takes a pretty dim view of much that passes for art in the galleries and museums today, with its emphasis on the spectacular and the commercial. A frequently funny, always interesting hand-held tour with a critic who is clear about his own opinions and preferences.

Ellie and I had the opportunity to spend another night at the Idyllwild Inn, but chose instead to drive down the mountain in the gathering dusk and back to Laguna Beach for the night, in anticipation of the early arrival of workers at the cottage. All in all, an exciting and provocative weekend.

1 comment:

hele said...

The more I read about your workshops the more I feel like making art again.