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Week 21: Day -To - Day Painting Life in the Time of Coronavirus (part 3)

In times of crisis we ask ourselves, “What happens when I feel I can’t handle what is going on? What are the stories I tell myself? Where do I look for strength, and in what do I put my trust?” ​Pema Chodron from Comfortable With Uncertainty.

Like every other crisis, this crisis has increased our existential self-awareness. These are uncertain times, the threat of disease, the fear of what the eventual outcome could be for us and our loved ones has caused us to see clearly that we control very little in our lives. Further, as we are removed from general society and the activities that fill our normal lives, we are not able to distract ourselves and are confronted with exposure to our assumptions about life. I think it makes many of us feel our vulnerability more acutely. This piece from October fits the somber mood that accompanies our current sense of some ambiguous loss. In this piece, I left the seduction of color behind and continued with the floating forms .

Help me to be less fearful of the measure of time, and more fully alive in the time that simply is. Help me to live time, not just to simply use it; to breathe it in, and return it in acts of love and presence. Avis Crow

These days as we are confronted with the fragility and randomness of our lives, we must exercise self compassion and extend compassion to others. Just as it is difficult for us to articulate our loss of any sense of security, so it is for others. We witness people acting foolishly defiant, refusing to accept the safety recommendations and some who find it necessary to police the activities of others. Both of these impulses are an attempt to control what cannot be controlled. ​Looking back to the last days of October I added color but continued to work with the, increasingly, abstracted floating rings using a limited palette of monochromatic colors.

'April is the cruelest month breeding lilacs out of the dead land mixing memory and desire...' T.S. Eliot

Almost everyone I speak with is "mixing memory and desire" into their current mental state. The last few weeks have prompted a lot of reflection for many of us. It seems that everyone's historical memories have been activated. Some people talk about personal losses: grief for people who have passed, expressing regret at actions that were not taken before the other died or regretting rash speech or behavior that can never be retracted. Others revisit cultural or historical loss, speaking of the Holocaust, how the people who fled survived, not always consciously drawing the connection between historical choices and their current choices and the outcome that results. The thing is, all of this is natural and normal given our current state of uncertainty and stress. Just as many of us are deeply moved when a celebrity dies ( I think especially of how many people reported being moved to tears during Princess Diana’s funeral or how shaken many are by an actor’s death ) we mourn not so much for that individual as for all the loss that we have had in our lives. The losses we have never truly grieved, as we did not have the time or the capacity, or felt the judgement of our society which values efficiency over emotions. ​ ​ Back in my studio on 10/28 there were more variations on monochromatic rings which transformed into vortexes that in some way became a monolith.

When we meditate, and when we contemplate qualities such as love and compassion, we dissolve emotional states and allow our mind to come to rest, stability, and peace. —Dawa Tarchin Phillips, “The Three Principles of Awakening

If we can stay in the present, not looking at what is lost or fearing what is to come, we can become witnesses to the good in our life, right now. We may see beauty that we had not noticed before. ​On 10/30, the work went in a different direction, the smaller spheres were encapsulated in a larger all encompassing sphere. The marks create a sensation of fluidity. The light is refracted across the surface giving a feeling of objects obscured by dense atmosphere, fog or water.

“The Pursuit of truth and beauty is a sphere of activity in which we are permitted to remain children all our lives.”– Albert Einstein

I, of course, understand this quote and the “sphere of activity,” in terms of art making. Art making directly connects me to my childhood self, I leave behind my intellectual constructs and constraints. It encourages me to react to the present moment, to the particular painting I am working on. Your pursuit of truth and beauty may look different, we each have our own. ​ On Halloween, I disciplined myself to paint, when I really wanted to just read or watch TV.... but once I started and in between trick or treaters I did this painting. Again, the movement between light and dark creates volume on the flat surface even though the treatment is of all over painting, and there is no object in the painting. The browns lend a warmth to the beiges and greens and grey. The marks contrast with softly blended areas and scribbled and scratched lines.

There is a gift in this time, we have been forced to look at our complacency and recognize the things we take for granted; our suppositions, those foundational assumptions about life. We have been reminded that there are universal laws of impermanence and entropy. Those laws have always been there, and we have always known that. While it has been difficult to be jolted out of our personal and social complacency, we have been invited to reconsider those assumptions and open our minds to new understandings and appreciations. We can embrace this complete upheval as an opportunity to view our life from a new perspective, we might see a new truth. I’ve reconnected with some of my past relationships and I feel a sense healing from the guilt and pain of unresolved partings. While we cannot predict when this phase of our existence will end, we can start now, to make plans for when this period of sequestration ends. Thinking of the future will make us feel less hopeless.

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