Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Artist Within


One of the most difficult things artists do is to represent conflicting aspects of life simultaneously.
The Dream: I am at Hunky's house, but it doesn't look like her waking life house. It's one story with lots of off-shoots. Art is everywhere. Looking through the window I can see an outside wall, at an angle to the room I'm in, hung with primitive masks of heads painted in earth colors.

There is a very large studio in the back where Hunky is working. I comment on how much I like the way the art is displayed along the outside wall, and she tells me that her son has made the masks. They are hung as if no thought were given to their arrangement or spacing and yet . . . there has been. It's very sophisticated. Hunky says this is where her son hangs his work to dry as he churns it out; it's not a planned arrangement of paintings as in a gallery.

Hunky talks about her process: she puts down shapes and color and then responds to them. She works abstractly; her art is unplanned. She loses herself in the process. I think this must be enjoyable and that I'll have to try it, but then remind myself of the pig's breakfast I get whenever I attempt to work this way.

As Hunky talks about her work she shows me a piece she is starting. It has a large tear-drop shape in red lined with blue on the left side of the paper. Hunky will start with this and then move on. As she talks about her work she begins to look like an obsessed artist: her hair becomes messy, her clothes paint-stained. Clearly the only thing that exists for her is the moment of creation. I contrast this with my meticulous rendering in egg tempera, concluding I must be a lesser artist. Hunky talks about her two lives, or roles: one as a suburban matron responsible for creating a certain sort of living space for the family, and the other as a committed artist. As she talks I see Hunky split into two people, although I realize this isn't possible. Both are working at their very different jobs. One is tidy and organized and on top of the housewife job; the other is messy and focused completely on the art she's creating.

As I awakened I was dreaming about putting a wax finish on Pomona. The top of the painting had a pattern of water, and as I waxed it part of this pattern began to dissolve. I liked the softer effect but I didn't want it to dissolve to the point that it no longer existed.

Interpretation: Hunky's house (my house, where I live) is one story with lots of off-shoots. In other words, my life has a consistent theme that has been expressed in many different ways. Art is everywhere; that tells me it is the ground that nurtures the off-shoots. The primitive masks in earth colors reinforce the idea of art as something primal for me.

While Hunky's (my) studio is very large (the work takes up a lot of my psychic space), it has been relegated to the back of the building. Its location hints that, while the activity may be primal, its status is not. Although I like the work, not only has it been hung outside, with no thought given to its display, but another stand-in artist has appeared: Hunky's son. My inner artist is twice removed.

After showing me how I denigrate what I do, the dream goes on to show me what this inner artist (if not the waking life one) is capable of. First of all, the son artist churns out the work. Apparently he's so creative he doesn't have to give it a thought. Then he hangs it up any old way, and it looks marvelous. His mother tells me about how she works with total absorption.

As Hunky demonstrates her artistic fervor, a basic dilemma emerges, presaged by the teardrop in her painting. The problem? One most women face: how to balance life and work. The conflict is so strong that she (I) splits into two separate people. And then it becomes apparent that the dream has been talking about polarities from the start. Inside, outside; planning, spontaneity; thought, passion; tidy, messy. How do I reconcile these opposites?

The dream tells me to live with them. The pattern might begin to dissolve, and it will look better for it. But the structure will still be visible, only softened (more integrated).

2 comments:

Carla Young said...

The friend featured in this dream, Hunky, sent me her comments via e-mail. I'm posting them for her.

1st paragraph:
...one story...  I pay attention to my passion, one story (perhaps I dream for my blog), one day at a time (my life).
...lots of off-shoots...   Many aspects of my life are very important, and I give them attention as well time for my art.
...primitive masks...   I call on something primal / indigenous / when I work with my imagination and intelligence. 

2nd paragraph:
This paragraph represents my self-discipline.  When I apply this part of my intelligence, the results of my efforts come together beautifully and satisfyingly. 

3rd paragraph:
I've tried other ways of working, questioning my own way.  I have decided that working the way I do is best.

4th paragraph:
I lose myself when I work, go to the zone, so to speak.  I am confident.  I function responsibly and successfully as an artist.  At the same time, I function successfully as a wife, mother, friend--and socially.  The medium I choose for making art is egg tempera.  I have perfected a craft that engages my interest in chemistry and love of natural materials.  It also challenges and satisfies the perfectionist in me.  

5th paragraph:        
The use of wax summarizes the essence of who I am.  
Wax is a natural substance that I apply to life.  I let the natural way of the universe wash over me.  I apply wax to to the water area (life) on my painting Pomona, the goddess of fruitful abundance.  
Wax is a process.  Wax is a sealer.  Wax covers and treats.  It protects vulnerability.  The "wax" I apply to life provides a beautiful, warm, and alive finish.  It puts a subtle shine on it (my life). 

Carla Young said...

Hunky had some further thoughts on the meaning of the dream image. I was very glad she did, since the image was very specific, and I didn't look at its meaning in my interpretation. As before, I am posting these comments on Hunky's behalf.

Hunky: I start with a tear-drop shape in red lined with blue ....

The chemistry of tears is water and salt.
Tears make me think about painful feelings, which are part of life. Salt gives flavor (to life).

What can be drawn (pun?) from what's within a single drop (an idea, a particular thought, an image or a dream)?

...tear-drop shape in red (alive/blood/emotions) and lined with blue (encased in intuition)

...on the left side... The left side of my brain does well with logic, language and analysis.

Carla: And we're using our analytical faculties as we attempt to figure out what our dreams mean.

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