What Artists do

Greetings from Mammoth Cave National Park!  I will be living and working here for the next 3 and a half weeks or so and hopefully updating you as to what I am discovering along the way.  Today is only my 2nd full day and already I am brimming with ideas!

It is an interesting thing, to leave home, travel, and experience a new place – especially on a longer term, such as this month long residency.  For me, even on vacation, it takes awhile to really sink into a place.  And with everything that has been happening at home recently, a good chunk of my soul is still back there, wrapped up in quilts and words of solace, beautiful glass and steel… and more words.  So first, let me fill you in on last weekend’s quilt show and sculpture dedication…..

These two events were put back to back so that family and friends from out of town could attend them.  It was so wonderful to see all of these folks and that we could be together during this emotion filled time.  It was tremendously moving to be such a part of both events and by the end of the weekend, I for one felt like a wrung out wash cloth.  I know I was not the only one.

Art work is often accompanied by words to help viewers interpret what they see.  I’d like to share some of these words with you here.

There were many breathtaking quilts on the walls at the YWCA but one of my favorites is this work of Lisa’s, May She Be Strong Whatever Comes. I have learned what little I know about pictorial quilt making from Lisa and am simply in awe of this recently finished work.

If you are in the Cincinnati area at all in the next few months, I urge you to stop by and see all of the quilted works on display in this show.  So many stitches.  So much power.  So much love.

Our next event that weekend in the culminatory art realm (alas, we had a wedding and a Bar Mitzvah to attend this same weekend!!) was the dedication of Jessie Henson’s stunning Stardust (You Were Only Waiting For This Moment To Be Free). There were poems read that stirred the heart, and music played, and songs sung.  It was so beautiful.  Like the artwork.  Like our dear friend Esme.  A couple of things were said that have stuck with me.  Jessie spoke about her intentions for the work and ended her speech with “You are all so necessary, you are all so loved”.  Esme was someone who never tired of reminding everyone she met of this very fact.

Lisa also spoke about the very beginning of the process that would bring this work of art into being.  She said something to the effect of “we just decided to do what artists do.”  Meaning, we would make art.  I think the last 18 months have been a lot about doing what artists do, simply to stay on top of some really tough stuff.  And I have been thinking that the timing of my residency here at Mammoth Cave is asking me to keep doing that.  To do what I do.  Grief and it’s unpredictable emotional tentacles don’t go away – especially just because some art work gets completed. But I know I am not the only artist in my amazing village of fellow artists who is going to keep working to keep trying to make sense of things.

So that leads me to the here and now.  I have been asked a lot over the past few days what it is I “do” and what my plans are for the work that will happen as a result of this gift of a residency.  I am not really sure.  I am in quilt mode lately so naturally, that is where my brain is.  I have some ideas.  Having taken a couple of cave tours though and seen the amazing surfaces underground created by gypsum (calcium sulfate), I felt like I was looking at wax paintings.  So we shall see.  I have only just gotten my feet wet so far and there is much to come.  I will share what I can with you here while still carving out time to make a few drawings and figure out some broad avenues to research.  The trouble with Mammoth Cave is that it’s mammoth.  So big.  So much.  Of everything!

Did I mention it’s hard to draw in the dark?  While standing?

Tomorrow I am off to see some freshwater mussels in the process of growing at a research facility and I am trying to track down the guy everybody keeps telling me I need to talk to in order to see things I want to see. (I hear he took a film crew down into the cave with kayaks today.  I am hoping this will happen again!!)

But for now, I am off to embroider a bug.  I’ll keep you posted.

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