Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Short Fat Weaver on an Artist's Date

I grew up in Yokohama, Japan, and though it has some pretty spots, I didn't live in particularly beautiful neighborhoods. So when I ventured into this art/weaving journey, I was suspicious of artists who said their work is inspired by nature. My immediate response: "What a crock!"

I heard too many stories of mainly rural children receiving personal instructions from Mother Mary, dressed suspiciously like the sisters in our school, to go somewhere or do something or win a war, so I'd come to regard "inspiration" as something one experienced after being struck by lightening.

Even whilst living in Nelson, I stupidly thought it would be easier to experience such awe-inspiring nature if I lived in places like Minneapolis, or Montana, or New England, but what was I to do here? Still, I desperately wanted to be artist-y, to "see things differently" and thus embarked on the biggest hoax of my life.

Those of you who have done Artist's Way know our creativity guru Julia Cameron makes us take ourselves on weekly Artist's Dates. In 2002, I tried that, and the entire 12-week program. In addition to going to galleries or the library, (which I always enjoyed), in addition to playing with paint or shooting a roll of B&W film, (for which I discovered renewed enthusiasm), I tried going outside to observe "nature".

For a kid who grew up in the big city and spent long hours on the train going to school and then getting back home, then growing up to swap school for work, this was a difficult talk. Looking back, even in my 10 years in Minnesota, I experienced nature through wind chill factors and not a whole heck of a lot else, (except during the third week of September, when even I strolled the streets and down Mississippi River in slack-jawed amazement.) I wasn't in the habit of looking at nature, though I've always appreciated architecture.

So in 2002, I invented a persona: a successful, taller, svelt weaver who moved quietly and observed the world. I can laugh about it now, but I really had to play-act. I walked alone, deliberately slowly, on Tahunanui Beach. During these walks I stopped and stared at one spot or one thing, then moved 10 or so meters forward and stared again, explicitly training my eyes to look and pretending to understand. I wasn't sure what exactly I was meant to see, or if I'd know when I was "inspired." But I did a lot of this. But on the rare occasions when I did find something mildly intriguing, I was disappointed because nature was never as exciting or precise as architecture.

In August 2006, Ben bought me a small digital camera which has helped me enormously, even though what I thought most interesting can out to be not at all so. These little experiences may not have the excitement of a lightening, but they are pleasant and painless, and accumulate to make me stay aware. Nature isn't so bad; it has its own rules, different from architecture; it's a little kinder, maybe gradual, and sometimes so subtle. And in Nelson, it's far more accessible than good architecture.

I've been playing with the idea of taking my sketchbook out there, because I know the drawings and paintings need not be accurate or presentable, as long as I enjoy the process. I have experienced seeing things more carefully, if not differently, when I sketch. And the slowness of handweaving has taught me to enjoy the process as well as the result.

I've come a long way in this respect, and I am pleased with myself. I have no art training, I didn't pass art in my second term of First Grade, and my extended family collectively turned its back on visual art long before I was born, because "we are people of languages and education."

I still envy people who can pick up a pencil and start drawing without care, people who were encouraged to paint or sculpt, people who inherited the ability to see things differently. I'm not a natural, so it's always going to take effort, but that persona disappeared in the last few months without my even noticing it.

I had fun at Tahuna Beach yesterday morning. No sketchbook, as I just jumped off the bus at the spur of the moment on my way home from the gym. And I love paw prints.

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for the opportunity to get to know you, Meg. We have a lot in common, from what you've written in this post. I'm from Los Angeles, now live in Eureka, wasn't raised to love nature, but can't live without it now. Your photographs are beautiful.

    Hope we stay in touch. I'm already thinking about some kind of cultural exchange of our own, being in sister cities. We have a lot of fiber artists in Humboldt County, maybe we could arrange a visit here for you, and a trip for me to Nelson!

    Happy Day, Connie

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  2. Hi, Connie; that's sounds like a fabulous plan for the future.

    Mind you, I still find human activities, internal and external, and architecture interesting and they are the first things I notice. but at least I look at nature, too, now. And there's quite a bit of it around here.

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