Body of Work

IMG_9218-imp

For the last few months, I’ve been working in my studio on a new painting series with the working title, “Mother Trees.” And in the last 6 weeks or so, my work has become more and more intense. The exhibit I am preparing for opens November 20th and my work must be completed by the week before that. Ack!  Sometimes it’s just really hard to make the time to paint! 

Even though my studio is attached to 1+1=1 Gallery, I have to carve out my studio between running the gallery and mounting two exhibits, doing chores around the house, hanging out with Tim and having somewhat of a social life. I have to make painting a priority and sometimes … it just isn’t. And that’s okay.
I’m enjoying the way the season has turned this week — brilliant sunlight alternates with rainy skies and cold, dark evenings. In my studio the sun is lower through the skylight. On rainy days, I’m forced to use the overhead light. At night, I can see a few stars in the black rectangle above my work table. The colors of the season are turning up on my canvases. Darker colors– blacks, metallics, crimson, blood-red, forest greens. Richer for the changing light.
Some days the studio is quiet and I can hear the sound of rain or ravens on the skylight. Other times I listen to music. Depending on my mood it might be a soul/r&b-funk playlist or soulful cello or 10,000 Maniacs.
I’m a little melancholy. I think that has to do with the shortened days, the gathering dark. But even more — it’s sometimes the way painting makes me feel. It’s hard to explain the contradiction of feeling completely in the flow and soul-filled and satisfied, while also emotionally drained by the act of creating art. I’m working on a body of work that lives in my deep gut. It’s a story that’s part of my own story. I am full of feeling, yet I sometimes struggle to get that feeling out onto my paper or panels. Sometimes I step back and think I’ve just painted a bunch of crap. Like, who’s going to want to look at these? Or who even cares? Or I might finish a brush stroke and be reminded of some dark piece of my past and there it is again — the pull towards self-criticism. 
Other times I am delighted. And I know there are people who will come to the exhibit, who will connect with what I’m trying to express, who will find their own beautiful rich stories in the work. And be delighted in turn.
I work in many layers. I work on multiple pieces in the same day because of the drying time between layers. It’s hard to do this with interruptions, so I usually work when the gallery is closed. Yesterday I was so tired in the middle of the afternoon, I took a nap on the floor in the basement, using shipping blankets for pillows and covers.
Charlie slept beside me. So, sleep definitely helps. I went back up to the studio and worked hard. Dancing. Flow. I didn’t want to go home for dinner. 
IMG_9214-impNow I’m adding layers to the stories of forests. Of what’s beneath the soil surface, of roots and generations, of mother trees and child trees and grandmother trees. Of what First Nation people have always known that ecologists are just discovering. Of the way we are all connected. Of the way knowledge passes from one tree to another to another and how humans betray that story with our destructive ways.
Today I paint between customers. Beneath my feet Charlie lies ever watchful for me to decide to take him for a walk. 
CharlieAtMyFeet
This afternoon we are listening to Van Morrison sing In the Garden from his album, No Guru, No Method, No Teacher. I paint inside the music. Inside the words, in the garden, I feel the presence of Nature inside my heart. I am trying to say this. I am trying. To. Say. This thing. Ignited in the daylight and the darkness and with all of Creation. In the garden.

The streets are always wet with rain
After a summer shower when I saw you standin’
Standin’ in the garden, in the garden wet with rain

You wiped the teardrops from your eye in sorrow
Yeah we watched the petals fall down to the ground
And as I sat beside you I felt the great sadness that day
In the garden

And then one day you came back home
You were a creature all in rapture
You had the key to your soul and you did open
That day you came back to the garden

The olden summer breeze was blowin’ against your face, alright
The light of God was shinin’ on your countenance divine
And you were a violet colour as you sat beside your father
And your mother in the garden

The summer breeze was blowin’ on your face
Within your violet you treasure your summery words
And as the shiver from my neck down to my spine
Ignited me in daylight and nature in the garden

And you went into a trance, your childlike vision became so fine
And we heard the bells within the church, we loved so much
And felt the presence of the youth of eternal summers in the garden

Alright, and as it touched your cheeks so lightly
Born again you were and blushed
And we touched each other lightly
And we felt the presence of the Christ
Within our hearts in the garden

And I turned to you and I said
“No guru, no method, no teacher
Just you and I and nature
And the Father in the garden”

Listen, no guru, no method, no teacher
Just you and I and nature
And the Father and the Son
And the Holy Ghost in the garden wet with rain

No guru, no method, no teacher
Just you and I and nature
And the Father and the Son
And the Holy Ghost in the garden
In the garden wet with rain

No guru, no method, no teacher
Just you and I and nature
And the Father in the garden.
~Van Morrison

IMG_9216-imp

[sharethis]

Comments

  1. Phyllis Lefohn · Reply

    Thank you, Maureen, for sharing deepest artist thoughts. I have been in a very similar space, but could not yet find the words…you have written from inside my Being. With gratitude for you and your gift of being able to share in multiple media from the very deepest places.

    • Maureen

      Phyllis, I am glad you and I often ride the same wave(length.) It is my pleasure to share.

  2. Wayne · Reply

    I say it looks as if you have moved the nature you are so connected with into the textures, more than the shapes and colors, Maureen. Your writings about your process, getting ready for the show, should connect people well to the full story of the work, personalizing it, while hopefully shifting viewers from their own ideas so they can see each piece and the whole collection from different eyes than they would have without the shift. It has me wondering how else one might incorporate the story in interesting and compelling ways to augment a body of work.

    *BTW, if haven’t heard of Anne Rea, she’s an artist on the West Coast who has made it her mission to eliminate the “starving artist” myth. You might enjoy her energy, I know I do. Search her name and “artists who thrive”.

    OH, and for Sure you’ve chosen a wonderful song for this post; Van’s been a major fave of mine since 1971!

    • Maureen Shaughnessy

      Hi Wayne, it’s been exactly a year since you left this comment and I *just* saw it! Was revisiting my post and realized I’m in a very similar mood today. Must be the season. Thank you SO much for your keen observation and way of expressing your view. I really miss the early days of Flickr before yahoo took it over. When my Flickr photog-artist friends and I would give thoughtful and helpful critiques and encouragement beyond just a “like.” You were and are one of those friends. Thank you, my friend. Hope you are well.

Leave a Comment